I was always lucky with money. Not good, really, in that when I wanted something, I usually just bought it without thinking. I never really budgeted or haggled or clipped coupons or shopped at Boxing Day sales. But I made enough money to live within my means, and my tastes are simple, so paying the credit card off at the end of each month was never an issue. I was not a splurger.
Once I had kids, the idea of spending money on myself went from a sometimes-thing to a total no go. Even buying myself things like a new pair of shoes or a new t-shirt felt frivolous. I turned down trips and events with friends and my sisters because it felt wrong to spend money on just me. Money was for the family! It was for the kids! It was for everyone but me.
About two years ago, I snapped. I bought something just for me. I didn’t ask anyone, or seek approval. I just took the money from our savings and spent it on something really expensive. Something I wanted for myself.
This was right around when I turned 50, and since then, I’ve been in kind of a spending spiral. I mean, what am I waiting for? Old age? Already I huff and puff when I go up and down stairs and I have to buy new pants every three months as I get softer and softer. What makes me think I’ll be able to spend my money and enjoy it when I’m 80? I can barely do it now.
But more importantly, that turning point made me realize that I, alone, just me, am worth it. I am worth the good china. I am worth beautiful things that bring me joy. I am worth adventures that feed my soul and trips that give me stories that I’ll be retelling for years to come.
Now that I’m on my own, I do realize I can’t just have *everything*. I’m trying to rein it in a bit.
But also: treating myself right feels right, whatever the cost.
I can’t believe I used to really dislike shopping at thrift stores.
It wasn’t out of snobbery or anything like that. It was just too overwhelming, all the choices. You’d go in and there are literally a thousand different one-of-a-kind items, and each one required me to look at it, consider it, and make some kind of decision.
It was just too much, at least when the rest of my life was overwhelming already. When you’re mentally and physically maxed out, being presented with a massive treasure hunt isn’t fun, it’s just stressful.
But now! Life changes, things shift. And now I love the hunt.
It’s so pleasant to just hit up the Value Village on a Sunday morning with no particular agenda, looking for little treasures.
I’ve learned it’s all about the vibe. I don’t need to catalog everything in the store, or power through looking for the best deal. I used to be so focused on getting stuff DONE, getting the WIN, checking off the lists.
Now I go there and just wander. I let my eyes skim over the china shelf, looking for things that jump out at me that are pretty – I know I’ll know it when I see it.
I like to go to the jeans or jackets area and just let my hand trail over the pieces. If it feels right, it’ll jump out at me.
I like to look at the jewelry and the art and wait for something dazzling to catch my eye. If something sparks joy, $3 later it’ll be sparking joy in my own house, that I own, with no one to tell me it looks dingy or weird or out of place. It’s mine.
If nothing jumps, that’s okay. It was the wandering that made it all worth it.
I’m learning to trust that the journey is the good stuff, and I’m learning to trust my own likes and dislikes. I’ll find the good stuff, the stuff that is worth it – for me.
I’ll see you at the thrift store, looking for treasures, and finding myself.
One weird thing about getting divorced (she says casually, dropping it in there light and airy like cotton candy) is that it’s hard to know who your friends are anymore. I mean, no one really wishes you ill, but there is a line now dividing people I felt I could confess to, looking down, shuffling my feet, like a failure, and people who I just didn’t know how to tell, so I didn’t.
I mean, it’s not like you can take out engraved invites or anything. Save the date! RSVP! I’m registered at Value Village!
This blog has always been a lovely space for me to talk about me, and share that with people who only know me, people who don’t neessarily see me as only half of a whole now. And I’m still me.
I’m pretty sure.
(In fact, I’m kind of becoming an awesome version of me, so it’s nice to come home, even if it does kind of feel like the beginning of a romantic comedy where the small town girl couldn’t hack it in the big city, and now must lick her wounds in a safe place, surounded by nagging but loving family members and her sassy best friend who deserves a better storyline. Do call me when the cute bookstore owner / local sheriff / kindergarten teacher enters the scene, won’t you?)
I like having a word of the year, and this year, when everything is new, everything is different, everything is a fucking RESET, I’m going with this one:
Because I have promise, and this life has promise, and even though I am, as they say, on the way down the far side of the hill, I still feel like there is forward motion to be made.
I can still fulfill all the promise of my youth. There’s still time, and no time like the present.
That’s my promise to myself.
Let’s see where this wide-open, undefined, glorious year will take me.
I saw an article the other day suggesting we think about a “word of the year” for 2021. It seemed way too early to be thinking about such things, 2021 is ages away! Months! And then I looked at a calendar and it was somehow already December and 2020 is almost over.
I like to have a word of the year and I never did get around to settling on one for last year but that was probably for the best. It was probably going to turn out to be something totally nonsensical like “travel” or something full of irony like “health.” Looking back, with all the craziness and life changes and world changes for 2020, I think a good word of the year might be “survival.” I read another article recently that talked about how surviving 2020 was the major accomplishment of the year, and we did, so that’s good.
I think we’re all hoping for great things in 2021. Perhaps politics will be friendlier and more cooperative and people will learn to value compromise and listening. Perhaps we will find a good vaccine for the virus, and enough people will be willing to take it, that we can go back to normal – or some kind of new normal, at least. Perhaps we will learn something about longstanding social problems like health care for the elderly and the adaptability of school systems and implement exciting new solutions. Perhaps my mother will learn to video chat and we can continue to keep closer in touch with those that are far away, because we’ve had many months of practicing even with those who live next door.
Like many people, I had dark days back in the fall when the whole shutdown felt too long and bleak and endless. I’m feeling more cautiously optimistic now. I have no idea how the government is going to recover and how we are going to restore people’s faith in the world this coming year, but I believe it could happen.
So for 2021, I wish you peace and love, and good health. But most of all, I wish you JOY.
My husband and I love the song Fairytale of New York by the Pogues, featuring Kristy McColl. The Pogues were part of our alternative radio loving days in the early 90s and this song of theirs, a Christmas song, has been a staple of our December playlist for years.
But my kids don’t like it, and that’s because it uses a homophobic slur in the lyrics while the two main characters are having a fight. I myself don’t like that word, but this year their discomfort was obvious and made me think a lot about my position on the matter. I decided I was overdue to take the song out of the rotation.
There’s a lot of debate online as to whether or not this song should be “bleeped” when played on the radio, or outright removed from radio play. Considering it is used in the song as an insult, I come down in favour of bleeping. It’s just not cool to use a word like that as an insult. My kids know it, and I should have known it too.
I missed the song itself, though, and I thought there must be other people who feel the same way – so surely someone must have made a cover version with some reworked lyrics. I went over to Spotify and listened to literally every single version of Fairytale of New York they have. There weren’t many that deviated from the original.
I eventually settled on three versions to add to my playlist:
by The Longest Johns – not a great version in terms of music and singing, but substitutes the slur with the word “CARROT” shouted by the entire band, which is so hilarious it is already legend in this house
by The Bay Street Bastards – uses another rude word starting with “F” and ending with “head” that fits the vibe of the moment in the song quite well
by Saints Analogue – reworks the whole two lines of that stanza to in order to use the word “tosser” in the problem spot and still have it rhyme
All three are not bad. Not quite having the slurry charm of the original or and missing the gorgeous voice of Kristy McColl, but acceptable. I was surprised to find that of dozens of covers, there were so few modified versions. I’d love it if the Pogues would make their own updated cover, but they stand by the original version as, it seems, many other artists do too.
What do you think – should this song in its original form be retired? It’s similar to controversies over “Baby It’s Cold Outside” which, to modern ears, can sound like a pushy man taking advantage of a woman, and that’s a trigger for some people; and the use of the outdated word “Eskimo” in songs like The Christmas Song and Winter Wonderland (recommended: Serena Ryder’s version of The Christmas Song which changes the line to “folks dressed up in ties and bows” which is an absolutely perfect solution).
Gal Smiley is starting a swim class this coming weekend. It is the second half of part of her lifeguard training process.
They called yesterday to give her a list of things she should bring on the first day. It included a lot of documentation from the first half of the class – apparently she is supposed to have a bunch of signed forms and a workbook proving she completed the first half, which she took over a year ago now due to the coronavirus shutdown.
Last night around 10 p.m., as I was going to bed, I heard Gal Smiley rustling around at the table.
Me: What are you doing?
Her: You don’t want to know.
Me: I really do.
Her: Well, know how I was supposed to have completed that workbook in the first half? I’m doing it now.
Me: I don’t get it. It was supposed to have been signed by your instructor last time when it was done.
I send around a Christmas newsletter with our cards and I always have it printed at Staples, because we don’t have a colour printer.
This year I uploaded the file and sent it in to be printed and after I clicked to pay and everything, I realized it had been more expensive than it should have been. So I double checked my receipt and it turned out I had paid extra for “rush, same day print” service.
I totally did not need rush service, but I did not want to have to call and cancel, or talk to people on the phone, and it seemed like such a hassle to change it, so I just went with it, because a few dollars extra to avoid any kind of confrontation seemed worth it.
But then, several days passed by and I didn’t get my email saying the print order was ready, and then I was mad, because I’d PAID for rush service, and even though I cared not one whit for rush service, it was the PRINCIPLE of the thing.
So I called the Staples, and they apologized profusely. It turned out a trainee had printed my order on the same day I ordered it, but hadn’t realized she had to mark it as “complete” in the system to trigger the email, and so I hadn’t been notifed.
And because they were so sorry that I had missed my RUSH deadline, they refunded the cost of the printing.
So I call this a nice little gift from the universe – I got a great deal on printing through my own incompetence. The only drawback is that I felt obligated to drop everything and head over there to pick it up right away, because I had to maintain the fiction that I was desperate for those printouts immediately, rush rush, in order to justify my refund.
Still a win, though.
Story Number Two:
Several years ago I decided to stop having regular dental checkups because I did not like the hygienist in my dentist’s office.
My dentist actually had several hygienists and we had a system going where I’d take all three kids at once, and all four of us would go in for a cleaning simultaneously, which each of us getting a different hygienist. They would then re-book us for six months out with everyone with the same person they had had.
So I got into this locked down situation where I always got the same woman and I really disliked her. She was very aggressive with the cleanings and I always left her chair bloodied and bruised, with soreness for days afterwards.
But I didn’t know what to do about it. It felt so awkward to ask at the desk to please book me in with someone else. Plus, then, I’d either have to come back on my own at some point, or I’d run the risk of one of my kids getting her instead, which I did not want.
It just seemed completely insurmountable to complain about her work, or go behind her back to transfer to someone else. It was an IMPOSSIBLE SITUATION.
So I decided to just quit going to the dentist.
(Side story: the very first appointment we had after I quit, they gave Gal Smiley to the woman, as I had feared, and when Gal Smiley came out, she said, “That woman was…aggressive,” and I was like, “VINDICATION.” And also, “Oh shit, now I have to complain about her,” but that turned into a non-issue as we changed the day of the week we were going and then none of my kids ever had her again.)
Anyway, I was happy not going to the dentist and I took super good care of my teeth in terms of cleaning and all seemed well.
Then this year, we missed a set of appointments for the kids due to the virus, and I started having a weird feeling in one tooth, and I actually had to have another tooth extracted, so when our office reopened, I decided to make an appointment for all of us, myself included.
For the first time in ages, I was booking over the phone, instead of in-person at the desk with the hygienists hovering, so I was able to find the strength to (very quietly) ask the receptionist if I could be booked in but with a different hygienist from last time.
And then she checked the records – she had to go pull my paper records, because the last time I was there was before patient records were computerized, that’s how long it has been – and it turns out Aggressive Hygienist doesn’t even work there anymore!
So, WIN. Through total inaction and avoidance of conflict! My whole existence is now justified.
I was telling this whole story to Little Miss Sunshine after my appointment this week, which was 2.5 hours long because they had to update all my records, and also revealed that I have a cracked crown that needs replacing, two new cavities, a chipped filling, and three other older fillings that are pulling away from the teeth and need replacing, and now I have like, 10 dentist appointments over the next three months.
“But the hygienist was so nice,” I said. “So I WON.”
I totally forgot to mention in my joy post a couple of days ago the thing that is bringing me the MOST joy, and that is my laundry room light switch.
The laundry room is actually a very tiny laundry/mud room combination that opens to the outside, and the house, and the garage, and has no windows. It’s where we keep all the coats and shoes, as well as the washer and dryer, and it’s the place you go whenever you have recycling or garbage to chuck out.
So between the five of us, we go in there probably a few dozen times a day, and so the light switch takes a beating (although Sir Monkeypants would like it if it got used to turn the light OFF a little more often).
After 16 years of living in this house it has died a slow death, and a couple of months ago it just completely gave up and refused to turn off. It’s a weird three-way switch because of all the entrances, so we were able to turn the light off using one of the outdoor switches but that made it dark in there all the time, which was annoying and inconvenient.
And then Sir Monkeypants fixed it! We are not handy people but he watched some YouTube videos about three-way switches, and two trips to Home Depot and a whole Saturday later, we have a new, functional switch!
Every time I go in the laundry room now, which is several times a day, I feel a little PING of joy just from turning on the switch and having it work.
It’s so fascinating to me how such a small thing can be so huge, and how such a minor inconvenience resolved can feel so incredibly satisfying. It’s like a Christmas miracle!
I know a lot of people who find November to be the saddest month, as everything turns cold and grey.
But I love November! It’s actually my favourite month. It’s my birthday month, which always feels exciting and fun and leads me to reflect on my life and the past year, usually with positivity. There’s tons of leftover Halloween candy to get through, plus birthday treats, and Diwali usually falls in November too (it was this past weekend), so the food is good. Christmas season officially opens after my birthday but I can usually sneak in a bit of shopping and card writing before that, so the whole month starts to feel festive.
Plus, I have a lot of very cute jackets and adorable ankle boots that are only suitable to wear in Ottawa in November and April, so it’s officially Cute Jacket and Little Leather Boots month, which is awesome.
So I’ve been in a cheerful mood, and I wanted to blog about all my favourite November things that are making me super happy right now.
Christmas Advent Calendar Boxes
My kids like an advent calendar but due to food allergies they can’t really have a chocolate or treats based one. Up until now I’ve bought them a toy-based one like a Lego one or a Funko Pop one. These were a hit when they were young but now they are older and less enchanted with getting more stuff every day.
So I wanted to do a food one for them, and I wanted it to be cute, so I downloaded these three adorable printable box sets from the Etsy shop Little Llama Shop (bonus: she’s Canadian!).
My friend Sheila (hi Sheila!!) wanted the link after seeing them in Instagram so I have shared it here, but I warn you – the assembly time on these is crazy. After printing them onto cardstock at Staples, each set probably took 5-6 hours to cut out, score, fold, and then glue together.
So it’s not really a project I would recommend unless you really, really want to do it. But I’m super happy with them, they are so cute, and it kept me busy and cheerful for several evenings at home. Hopefully they will be reusable for a few years to come, at least.
Watching Star Wars with Captain Jelly Belly
I love Star Wars, and that is an enormous understatement.
The oldest kid, Captain Jelly Belly, loves Star Wars too, maybe even more than I do. He paid, with his own money, to get a couple of months of Disney+ so he could binge watch all the Star Wars content.
This led to a lengthy debate between us on how to rank all the Star Wars movies, and to settle our disagreement, we agreed to watch all 9 of the central story films and then discuss each, and it has been SO MUCH FUN. It’s one of those things where you experience the true joy of having had children. We are about halfway through and I can’t wait to watch more.
(He still believes that Revenge of the Sith is the best movie. He is very wrong, but he has at least managed to convince me it belongs at the #4 spot, behind A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and the super-divisive The Last Jedi. Please do feel free to debate us in the comments.)
Reading Poetry in the Bathroom
I’ve gotten really into poetry lately and I’ve bought a few books of modern poetry, pretty much exclusively by women but I think that is a coincidence. I leave these books in the bathroom and a few times a day I go in there and read a poem and then think about it until my next visit.
Hopefully that was not too much information. Really I want to convey the fact that a few poems a day has brought me a lot of joy, and I find it to be really fun, and I recommend.
Netflix has already started with holiday-themed romantic comedies and I am salivating. Little Miss Sunshine (my rom-com partner in crime) says I have to wait until after my birthday on Wednesday to dig in.
But I plan on watching every cheesy one I can get my hands on. They are, for the most part, pretty awful. But does that stop me from watching and enjoying, with a hot chocolate in hand, next to my gas fireplace? No, it does not.
Scented Foaming Hand Soaps
We went to the mall on the weekend to do some Christmas shopping, and I went into the Bath and Body Works which is a place I usually never go. But I had remembered that a few years ago, someone gifted us a foaming hand soap from there in a Christmas scent, and we all loved it.
It turns out you can get 5 foaming hand soaps for $25 so I did, in fun festive scents like Candy Cane and Sweater Weather and Vanilla Snowflake, and I placed them all around the house at various sinks so you can go through the house on a Scent Adventure now. It is fun! And our hands smell really good!
For some reason, I have not really felt like reading during the pandemic. But I bought myself a new I Spy book for Halloween – this one – and it was so fun. Little Miss Sunshine and I used to do these all the time when she was younger, especially in the afternoons after school or while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, and we both loved them. We still do the Christmas one we have ever year. I think I might buy more.
I also got this awesome book for myself for no reason – Timeline of World History by Matt Baker. I watch his YouTube channel faithfully – it’s called Useful Charts – where he puts together timelines of history and family trees of famous historical figures. (Bonus: he’s Canadian, so there’s even some Canadian content on there!)
You can buy his charts as posters but this is the first time he has bundled several into a gorgeous hardcover book. It has four big fold-out poster-charts along with a bunch of associated stories about people and times on the charts and if you have a history lover in your house, GET THEM ONE.
Christmas Shopping and Card Writing
Lastly, it is officially Christmas Gift Shopping time and that always makes me so happy. I love the gift giving! Mostly I love the gift-picking-out. I went to the mall this past weekend and got pretty much everything for my nephews and nieces, and looking at the items and thinking about bringing up my Huge Bin Of Wrapping Paper and digging in is making me happy.
Plus I think I Christmas Cards might see a resurgence this year. I love sending cards and I bought some pretty ones and I am cheerfully singing Christmas songs as I think about filling them out and posting them and people getting them in the mail and smiling. And maybe we will get a few, too.
November, man. It feels hopeful, and happy, and joyful, don’t you think?