Every year, at the midpoint of winter, Modern Mrs. Darcy publishes her list of what is saving her life right now. Big things, small things, doesn’t matter. I participated (I think for the first time) last year (hahaha, I called it COVID edition because I thought COVID would be done by February 2022).
Last year I came up with seven things. I read my post again before drafting this one. Some of it made me smile. A lot of it made me sad. So much of what I’m feeling right now reflects exactly how I was feeling last year (although now the feelings are even stronger after another full year of the pandemic), right down to the difficulties I’m having reading, one of my most important anxiety-management strategies.*
Coming up with a list this time around was HARD. As I have written here and here, I have been really struggling over the past few months. And I think you see this in the things I’ve chosen because they are all little in the sense that they ask little of me and they take little time.
I don’t have the bandwidth for anything larger.
Mel put me on to Wordle at the start of December. I have played it every day since. It is the first thing I do when I wake up (although I stop until I’m more awake if things are looking dicey). I feel deeply pleased with myself when I get the word (especially if things had been looking dicey). I have a perfect win record and a streak in the mid-high 60s (it took me multiple days to write this post). I love it. I especially love that I can only play once per day as this is exactly the kind of game that I would find addictive (cough Wordscapes in spring 2020 cough). E. has started playing it too. I am sad that the NYT has bought it and may well move it behind a paywall, but I also respect the developer’s decision to take the ‘low-seven figures’ offer for a game that he made to be a bit of fun for his partner.
MARVEL SHOWS ON DISNEY+
I guess it’s hard to argue that these are saving my life right now since there isn’t new Marvel content appearing weekly (and they delayed the release of the Hawkeye Assembled episode by three weeks so it won’t be out until the 9th), but they provided so much joy in 2021 that they still make the list; even thinking about new content or reading about fan theories about new content makes me happy. Today I read that season 2 of Loki is scheduled to film this summer and it seriously boosted my mood. The end credits scene from the season finale of Hawkeye made my entire winter break – it was like Marvel had read my mind. (It did take me weeks to get the earworm out of my head.)
I love these because a) I love the MCU and getting more time with characters overlooked in the films or with new characters in the slower-paced world of the tv shows is great; b) When a show is streaming I get a new episode every week so I always have something to look forward to (and then something to read about online once I’ve seen it); c) The shows take less commitment than a movie. I’ve seen the new movies that have come out on Disney+ too (Black Widow, Shang Chi, Eternals) and enjoyed them, but it is really hard to find enough time to myself to watch a movie these days. One episode, though? I can watch that during lunch on Wednesdays when the kids are at school and Q. is teaching and that makes it a little treat just for me. (There is very little that is just for me in a house where more often than not all four of us are home.)
FUNNY PEOPLE ON TWITTER
I’m not actually on Twitter, but I spend a lot of time (more than I should) (doom)scrolling Twitter, mostly checking COVID stuff from the people I trust or keeping tabs on what’s happening in the province’s schools. I’m not on most other social media, so I’m usually way behind with memes and things, but I do really appreciate a clever take on things. Neoliberal John Snow (‘Addressing preventable disease through deregulation and individualism’) is fabulous. Just recently, Noelle has been dedicating her days to listening to the Zillow channel for the ‘trucker’ ‘protest’ in Ottawa (scare quotes because most of them aren’t truckers because the truckers are vaccinated and doing their jobs, and because it’s not a protest so much as it is a temper tantrum). What those on the channel are saying is not meant by them to be funny, but it really, really is. Again, short time investment, big boost to my mood. (Also, this tweet, also about the ‘protest’, in my opinion, won the internet.)
HAWKS IN THE CITY
We have a pair of red-tailed hawks who live in our area plus some smaller raptors. It makes me happy to see them circling overhead. It reminds me to look up. It reminds me to slow down. It reminds me how blue the sky is, how lucky I am that my legs work, that my lungs work, that my body does all the things my father’s body no longer can. Hawks help get me out of my head and into the present.
The best blue skies come on the coldest days when the snow squeaks as you walk on it.
Our semester ends in April. Neither of us is teaching in the summer. If we can just get to April, we will have some time to try to put ourselves back together, or so I tell myself about fifty times a day. I know it is bad practice to put goalposts on uncontrollable things because when those goalposts are met and things don’t change it makes it harder to keep on keeping on (the appearance of Omicron really hurt. I hadn’t realized how much I had been counting on my kids’ second vaccination as an ‘end’ point.) So many things could still prevent the summer months from being restorative (school closures for all of May and June, as an example). I am maybe setting myself up for crushing disappointment. But right now, the thought of April is the only thing that keeps me from curling up under my desk, covering myself in a blanket, and crying pretty much every day, so I am going to hang on to it.
And that, I think, is it. Everything I said last year about privilege and what’s actually saving my life still holds true. In the grand scheme of things, we remain immensely fortunate. But even with all our privilege, Q. and I are shadows of our former selves. So when I find a moment of lightness, I try to really acknowledge it.
*Taking suggestions for a fairly light, well-written series, bonus if fantasy/sci-fi, MG or YA target audience welcome – something like Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers, or Rick Riordan’s Trials of Apollo [which brought me so much joy last year] or Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache. Ooh I just learned Guy Gavriel Kay has a new book coming in May so that’s something to look forward to.
If you read all the way to the end, please tell me, dear reader, what’s saving your life right now?
There’s probably a lot of things I should write about it on here – it’s been six weeks since I last posted. But since my brain has been nothing but a Sam Wilson & Bucky Barnes stan account ever since the finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier dropped on Friday, I thought I’d put up a post with my thoughts in the hope that I then might be able to think about something else.
Lots of spoilers, don’t read if you haven’t finished watching TFATWS(or if you don’t want to go down this rabbit hole with me)
I have never cared about Bucky Barnes. Pre-2021 me was bored senseless by pretty much every scene he was in. Why did Steve Rogers (my least favourite Avenger) care so much? Blah blah, end of the line, blah blah, Hydra, blah.
Sam Wilson, I liked a lot. And the only times I found Bucky even moderately amusing were in his scenes with Sam (e.g., the car scene in TWS and the banter with Spiderman in Civil War).
So I wouldn’t have described myself as excited about TFATWS, in the same way I was excited about WandaVision, but I’d always been planning to watch it because, duh, new Marvel content.
Six weeks later, I’m a ride-or-die Bucky fan, so well played, Marvel and Disney+. Well played.
It didn’t hurt, at all, that Sebastian Stan looked really really good in this series, with the short hair, and the stubble, and the eyes, and the ‘Bucky goes to war’ outfit.
But really, what happened, was that, just like WandaVision, there was finally time for these secondary characters to shine.
And Bucky just lit up the world.
I think WandaVision was a braver show, a more interesting show. Possibly a better show, although they’re so different and it’s tiresome reading social media posts comparing the two and criticizing one because of the other.
TFATWS needed eight episodes (at least). At times it felt way rushed. The Flag Smashers storyline was a mess (almost certainly because of the pandemic arc that they had to cut and reshoot because, COVID). There were too many villains who weren’t villains. Too many shades of grey. Walker gets rehabilitated in the final episode but Karli becomes irredeemable? I’m not opposed to Sharon Carter, Power Broker, but I feel like her history in the MCU meant we needed more backstory to believe her 180 degree turn. Zemo, I will broke no criticism of (except maybe having his guy blow up the Flag Smashers in that frantic rush to the finish). He was a (Turkish) delight.
The heart of the show, of course, was Sam and Bucky, and the writers rarely set a foot wrong with them. It’s so obvious from press tours in the before times (and virtual ones for this show) how much Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie like each other, and that came through in spades (please, please, release the thirty-minute therapy scene that Mackie has said is out there. If you can give us the #Zemocut, you can do this). Watching the growth, as Sam wrestled with and ultimately chose to embrace the complicated legacy that Steve had just foisted upon him in Endgame, as Bucky shed the Winter Soldier like an old skin, as their relationship shifted and deepened and shifted again, was marvellous. I think episode five is the best in the series (I would watch an entire show of Sam and Bucky fixing the boat and training with the shield and staring at each other and making smart ass remarks), and I am beyond excited that its writer (along with the show’s main writer) is tapped to pen the just-announced Captain America 4.
Some random thoughts (mostly about the finale) to try to get them out of my head:
When Bucky gets knocked over the edge in the battle with the Flag Smashers – he lands in the stereotypical ‘hero’ pose (one knee, one fist to the ground). Pair that with Karli’s “give him someone to rescue” and the stunned look on his face when he does do the rescuing and people thank him for saving their lives, and we see what the MCU might hold for him. There was a lot of nervous chatter on social media during the show about the possibility that Bucky might be killed off – that the character development was being shown because his arc was ending. I’m so glad it didn’t – I think it’s so much more interesting to show Bucky determined to find a way in this new world than to give up and suggest that he’s an empty shell with no meaning once he’s been deprogrammed. (On that note, one of my few complaints about Bucky was handled was how short his final scene with Yori was – we should have been allowed to see more of what Bucky said.)
I kinda wish Sam and Bucky had been allowed to be mad at Steve. I’m not a “I’ll hate Marvel forever because Endgame ruined Steve’s arc” fan, but even I (with my limited interest in Steve and Bucky) recognized that Steve’s decision in Endgame was really weird [don’t get me started on the time travel/ alternate timeline issues]. And I get that Steve had five years of dealing with shit that Sam and Bucky missed because they were both blipped and maybe he was tired of all of it, but it never sat right with me that he finally got his friends back and then he just handed the shield to Sam and left. (I did feel very smug when Bucky confirmed in episode five that Steve told him in advance what he was going to do, because I’d always believed that had happened after Bucky said “I’m going to miss you” in Endgame.) The bit in the therapy session when Bucky says “and if he was wrong about you, then maybe he was wrong about me” and his voice breaks, was fabulous, and I wish there had been more of that. At the same time, I’m really glad we didn’t see old man Steve (or young flashback Steve) in the show. He was an imposing presence and both characters needed room to discover who they were without him. I loved that Bucky left the book with his (terrible, let’s face it) therapist – showed he truly was letting go of the past.
What do we all think Bucky said when he looked up at Sam and saw him in the Captain America suit (that, let’s all remember, Bucky ASKED the Wakandans to make)? My best guess (after much time spent studying the many, many GIFs of that moment) is “Oh, man!” (like whistling through teeth admiration). Many people want him to be saying “Sam” but I think the lip movement is wrong.
Did anyone else have a literal “Awwwwww” moment when you realized that Bucky asked the Wakandans to make another Redwing with Sam’s new suit? Even though he always complained about Redwing?
I love that the composer for TWS and Civil War (Henry Jackman) scored TFATWS. I loved hearing the echoes of the previously established themes. I love that Zemo’s theme came back, and the Winter Soldier’s, and the Falcon’s (which, as Jackman himself has said, was able to be expanded out to a full theme). But I think my absolute favourite musical moment was when Sam first came through the window as Captain America and the music did the two big beats that normally lead into the Captain America theme, and then the Falcon (extended) theme played instead. I thought it was so clever. I’d been waiting to see if Jackman was going to pull out the Cap theme, and then he teased it, and then he didn’t use music that would have made Sam into Steve Rogers’ shadow, but reminded us all that he is his own person. So I guess mentally I need to start thinking about the original theme as the Steve Rogers (Captain America) theme and the new one as the Sam Wilson (Captain America).
The ‘not my Cap’ brigade (aka the ‘shoulda been Bucky’) on social media are just gross. So gross. The Captain America twitter account changed its image on Monday to be the new poster just released by Disney+ and I can only assume this has provoked howls of outrage. But I LOVE IT. I love Anthony Mackie and I am so excited for him. And Sam Wilson proved over and over again in this series why he should be Cap.
I will admit I thought Sam’s speech was a bit much, and it was pushing the willing suspension of disbelief to accept that the US, after covering up what they did to Isaiah Bradley, would just turn around and make a museum exhibit telling his story for all to see, but I also want to recognize that I have NEVER seen a Marvel movie even try to engage with the issues that TFATWS repeatedly raised (the profiling scene with the cops in episode two where the cops ask Bucky if Sam’s bothering him was so important). So yes, the work isn’t done and it could have been done better, but there was (I think) a sincere effort here, and Carl Lumbly was spectacular.
We have to talk about the ending (or, as I like to call it, the scene that launched a thousand fanfics). I don’t care WHAT Marvel and Disney thought they were filming, the sight of #sambucky walking off into an ACTUAL SUNSET with Sam’s thumb brushing against Bucky’s neck as he pulls him in closer will live rent-free in my mind until the end of time.
Not gonna lie, all I want now is for Captain America 4 to have a very early scene where Sam’s at home, on the phone to someone, lots of ‘yep’ and ‘uh-huh’, ending with ‘right, we’ll be there soon as we can’ and then Sam hangs up and yells ‘Buck? We gotta go!’ and Bucky comes in with his shirt off or toweling his hair. Like they don’t need to make it a THING. They laid all the groundwork they needed to. Just move forward.
I know, I know, they’re not going to do this. This is Disney and Marvel, after all. This is “we’ve made 23 movies so far but the only LGBTQ+ representation you get is Joe Russo’s nameless cameo”. This is promising representation, hinting at representation, but chickening out at the last minute, again and again and again. So I shouldn’t expect anything but disappointment.
I recognize that even if my interpretation is completely off, it’s still a good result to have two men onscreen as friends who are that comfortable with each other. We need more of this.
But we need LGBTQ+ representation more.
And I just love the idea of them SO MUCH.
Did you SEE how Bucky looked at Sam in that final scene? And when Sam was giving his big speech? And when Bucky saw Sam in the Captain America suit for the first time? And even back in episode 5, when they said goodbye after training with the shield and Bucky was BITING HIS LIP while giving Sam heart eyes?
Ok, maybe this is just how Sebastian Stan looks at everyone?
But let me tell you, if Bucky looked at me like that??!!
You could do worse than finding somebody who looks at you like Bucky looks at Sam, is all I’m saying.
The New York Times published an article last week that really spoke to me (and to many of my friends when I posted it). We’re all languishing.
These Disney+ shows have been one of the brightest spots in my week. They’ve been one of the few things I’ve been genuinely excited about. I haven’t had as much fun as I did going down the #sambucky rabbit hole this past weekend (because let me tell you A LOT of people read that last scene the same way I did) in months.
So yes, they’re silly shows about superheroes, but in a very real sense they’re saving me.
I was a late-arriving fan for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The history of my chat thread with my sisters tells me that it was in November of 2018 when I pinged them looking for a fun movie on Netflix to watch on a rare day off. One recommended Black Panther, if I liked Marvel movies, and the second chimed in with Thor: Ragnarok, at which point the first changed her recommendation to Ragnarok as well.
I watched Ragnarok.
I liked it so much that by the time Endgame was released the following April I’d worked my through all twenty-one previous movies, including heading to the theatre (by myself) to watch Captain Marvel. And then I watched Endgame in the theatre four times, which at the time seemed both ridiculously frivolous and utterly necessary (I was in a bad space with work and needed the outlet for crying), but now seems more like a dream (an enclosed space with lots of other people – what was I thinking?!).
I recognize that Ragnarok as the gateway drug for the MCU is a cliché, but I think it came at just the right time in my life when I was a) ready to embrace a big new universe and b) old enough to no longer care about going to the movies by myself. Having easy access to most of the films via Netflix and/or the public library also helped.
I realized as I worked my way through all the movies that I had seen a couple of them before. I think Q. and I saw the first Iron Man in theatres in 2008, but Q. is not into superhero movies, which possibly was only made clear on that occasion, so we didn’t make the effort to see more (especially after E. came along). I maybe have memories of watching the first Avengers film on a plane (or possibly it was Age of Ultron). I hadn’t quite realized just how many Marvel movies had been made, until I devoured Ragnarok and turned my attention to the backlist.
And it was GLORIOUS.
So many films to track down and watch, in order, with a recurring (ever-expanding) cast of characters. So many great moments. I devoted myself to the MCU with the same fervor that resulted in me being able to identify every ST:TNG episode within the first forty-five seconds as a teenager. When I decide to love something, I am ALL IN.
I get that some people don’t believe that you can be a ‘real’ fan if you discover something late, and want to make it a thing about how superior their perspective is because they loved it earlier. I recognize that there is a difference between discovering something right at the outset and coming to it later, when it’s already complete (or nearly so). But both are equally valid, fabulous ways to love something. The people who watched Endgame who had been travelling with those characters since 2008 would have had a different experience than I did, the newly-minted fan. But their experience would have been different again from those people who had read the comics. Not better, not worse. Different.
It didn’t matter how we got to that theatre, just that we were there. And I, the newbie, cried just as shockingly hard as a seasoned fan might have (or perhaps harder, let’s face it – I’m a weeper). My opinions (*cough* should have been Hawkeye *cough*) might not have been grounded in years of speculation or decades of comic book narratives, but they were still valid.
I think we don’t celebrate this enough – how glorious it is to find something you love only after it’s been around for a while and there’s heaps of it to discover. I see the difference in E’s experience of the How to Train Your Dragon series (the books), which had all been published by the time he was old enough to read them and his experience waiting (and waiting) for the fourteenth book of the Wings of Fire series to appear. Burning through a dozen novels in the space of a few weeks (and then reading and rereading them, often out of order, for months to follow)? Fabulous. Awaiting that magical moment when the library shows how many copies of the book they have (and your position in the holds queue) rather than just “copies on order”? Also fabulous.
I’m now entirely caught up on the MCU content. I am a WandaVision super fan. I watch the new episode every Friday and then I go on Twitter to see what everyone else thought. I am thoroughly unaccustomed to having to wait for a new episode. On Netflix, I binge my way through anything good (unless I’m watching with Q. who has more restraint). Every week it feels weird (and somewhat uncomfortable) to reach an endpoint without actually reaching an end.
I don’t know how the MCU and I will get along in the future. Their universe is getting bigger and more complicated in Phase Four. Will I care about these new characters? Will it all get to be too much for someone like me, with minimal comic book knowledge and limited time? When will I feel safe in a theatre again?
Whatever the future holds, it’s been a glorious romp over the past couple of years, and I’m positive I’ve enjoyed the movies more than I would have if I had been watching them as they were released. They really reward a binge. And yet, I also think WandaVision works better on a drip feed, as if I had been able to binge the entire season, I know I wouldn’t have appreciated some of the moments which have stuck with me over the past few weeks.
Do you like to get in at the ground floor with new things or discover them once they’re already completed, so you don’t have to wait for the end?Are you also watching WandaVision?
Every year, on the 1st of February (midway through winter), Modern Mrs Darcy posts about what is saving her life right now. Big, small, doesn’t matter. It’s an opportunity in a difficult season to take a moment to recognize the good things in your life, the things that make getting through each day easier. In a year like this one, these positive things (big or little) are more important than ever.
My list follows (posted, of course, on the 2nd because that’s how I roll right now), but I wouldn’t want to publish it without first acknowledging that what is REALLY saving my life right now is my privilege – my two-income household; my job that I can do entirely from home; my stable, high-speed internet and multiple devices that allow Q. and I to both teach over Zoom while the children are building with LEGO and playing video games whenever they think we’re not looking learning in online school; my car that lets us pick up the groceries we ordered online so we can avoid the stores; and, of course, my husband who divides up each and every work day evenly with me so that we both get a concentrated block of uninterrupted time in the study without kids (ok, for me it’s mostly uninterrupted time since both kids burst in at least once per session, but it’s a far cry from trying to work at the kitchen table while supervising the four year old’s school day). In this day and age I feel like that last one should be a given, and not a rare feat, but I’ve lost count of how many of my female friends are married to enlightened, modern men, who are wonderful, involved fathers, and more than capable of completing any household task, but who, ever since they started working from home, have disappeared into a room at the start of every work day, shutting the door behind them, and reappearing only for meals, leaving my friends to juggle the school needs of multiple kids, the household chores, and their own jobs, because those jobs are “less important” or “more flexible” or “part-time” or “less financially lucrative” or whatever other bullshit society has offered up to let these men think they get a pass. It’s infuriating.
Anyway, on to the good! In no particular order, here are five, six, seven things that are truly saving my life right now:
There’s so much screen time in our house these days. SO.MUCH.SCREEN TIME. We get the kids out of the house at least twice a day (usually once to play in the yard and once for a walk), but their lives (and their parents’, let’s be honest) revolve around screens. Skating on the weekends has become a much needed break – a chance to get some fresh air and exercise that isn’t just walking, a chance to do something that feels like “winter” (since we’ve had very little snow and we’ve twice now had to abandon plans to go sliding because the hill felt too crowded), and a rare opportunity to do something all together.
Skating feels safe – masks are mandatory on and off the ice (even when they were just mandatory off the ice earlier in the winter we wore them on the ice too) and the capacity on the rink is capped. You have to book online for a specific 45 minute time slot at a specific location. The system is a bit crazy and reminds me of trying to register the kids for swimming lessons in the before times, since the daily time slots open at 8 a.m. a week before. I’ve now set alarms on my phone for 7:45 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday to make sure I’m logged in and ready to book for the following weekend, since our preferred rink fills almost instantly (and I’ve yet to succeed at booking the skating trails, despite my best efforts).
But once we’re there, the hassle of booking and the chaos of trying to get everyone out the door at precisely the time I think we need to leave to eliminate any possibility that we might be late and lose our spots all melts away, replaced with blue skies, crisp air, and the comforting rhythmic scrape of blades on ice. I think a lot about my Dad when I skate, as he loved to skate and never will again. I try to pay attention to the small miracles of my body as I move and turn and breathe under the sun. I try for those minutes not to take it all for granted, as I usually do.
E. does endless laps of the rink, lost in his own imagination. Q. doggedly works on improving (having learned to skate only after the mad Canadian he married brought him to the frozen north). And I skate with P., who really “got it” this year. She visibly improves week after week and now skates so quickly and with so much confidence that when Q. circles round to trade off, I no longer feel like I need the break to actually get in some skating of my own.
RICK RIORDAN’S The Trials of Apollo
At the end of last year, I was in a reading slump and was struggling to a) finish books and b) enjoy them. I was overwhelmed with work, the aftermath of the US election, the decision to pull the kids from school, and the terrible pandemic numbers in our province. I had this giant pile of library books next to my bed (the quarantine procedures mean my library isn’t charging late fines at the moment, so I can horde them without penalty), but I didn’t want to read any of them. Reading is one of the most important ways that I manage my anxiety, so I knew I couldn’t stay in this funk for long without repercussions echoing through the rest of my life.
At some point I discovered that Rick Riordan had published a third series set in the world of Percy Jackson. I’d read his first two series and enjoyed them both; I’d particularly liked how receptive he’d been to criticism about the lack of diversity in the first series and about the (likely unintentional) connections he’d made between classical mythology and white supremacy (certainly not the first to do so). I put The Trials of Apollo on hold and absolutely devoured the books when they became available.
They are a HOOT. I know a lot about classical mythology but (no spoilers) the context for this series is even more in my field of expertise. I’m sure these are great books without a background in the field but when you can pick up on and appreciate every single nuance, they’re truly fabulous. Q. would regularly find me snickering away on the couch or shrieking with outright glee as something I’d predicted many chapters before finally came to fruition.
They were a fantastic romp and once I’d burned through all five books I found myself eagerly reaching for books that had been languishing in my bedside pile for months. Reading mojo restored, I read ten books in January, still below what I would consider to be my “normal” reading rate in the before times, but more than I’d managed in any month since July 2020. The number of books I’ve had out from the library for an embarrassingly long time is dwindling (labmonkey’s story about having to pay for a library book that was three months overdue because the library had assumed it was lost might have also helped in this regard).
SOMERSBY’S BLACKBERRY CIDER
Not gonna lie, Q.’s and my alcohol consumption has skyrocketed this past year. Had I put together the equivalent post for this past spring/summer, alcohol would have featured heavily on that list as well (especially fancy drinks made by Q. with herbs from our garden that we then sipped while sitting on our patio). We’re not drinking as much as we were during that first lockdown since the kids are more pacified occupied with online school and we feel not quite as strung out (although I suppose we’re only at the equivalent of May, so there’s still time). But we’re certainly drinking more than we usually would in the before times.
While in the grand scheme of things, we are totally fine, as we have been this entire pandemic (there’s that privilege again), Q. and I are SO VERY TIRED. The kids were back in school for long enough for us to get our massive two-book project off to the press, which is wonderful, obviously, but we’d just started to talk about taking a couple of days off to decompress and spend some time together when the in-person learning came to an abrupt end and we were thrown back into the chaos and juggling act of lockdown, only this time with exponentially more synchronous meetings for the kids and a much heavier teaching load for Q. and I.
This semester, this winter, is a grind. So a drink on a Friday night, while the kids are eating dinner and Q. is squeezing in a bit more work time before he cooks our traditional ‘date night dinner’, is always appreciated. I like many ciders, but Somersby’s Blackberry Cider just makes me happy every time I drink it. At one point in the spring it wasn’t in stock anywhere when we did an alcohol order, and I started drinking other flavoured ciders to see if I could find an acceptable substitute because I felt guilty about its massive carbon footprint (drinking cider imported from Denmark when my province has dozens of small-batch options was hard to rationalize). I found a decent peach one, but nothing was quite as good. And then, this fall, when we were making another online order, I discovered that a) it was back in stock and b) now IT WAS MADE IN CANADA.
I ordered every can the store had.
I’ve been savoring one (or two) every week. Q. and I always share a bottle of wine over the weekend, but I don’t share blackberry cider with anyone.
MY BOSE 700 NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES
Let me say from the outset that this is another example of my privilege speaking, because I was able to use my professional expenses fund to get my employer to pay for these ludicrously expensive headphones. Would I have bought them myself if I had to spend my own money? Probably not. Am I unbelievably happy that these were considered eligible expenses in these unprecedented times? YOU HAVE NO IDEA.
They’re not perfect – the app that you’re meant to use to control them is incompatible with my computer; they’re a bit fussy to charge using the laptop’s usb port; they’re heavier than I was expecting – but when I have them on, with the noise cancelling cranked up, I don’t hear ANYTHING, even if E. is shouting with enthusiasm at his class on the other side of the wall. They’ve got great sound quality, my students say I come through clearly on their end, they’ve got a solid battery life, and they look good (I went for the triple midnight).
The ability to work without hearing P. having a meltdown when I’m not the one on with the kids?
We have an elderly and much beloved cat, who, as she has aged, has developed a habit of roaming around the house in the wee hours of the morning, yowling at the top of her lungs. Is she lost? Is she lonely? Is she bored? Is she deaf? We have no idea, but when she’s asleep on the bed, gets up, wanders down the hall and then starts yowling, only to sound SURPRISED when she finally comes back to the bedroom and discovers that WE’RE STILL IN THE BED WHERE SHE LEFT US, we feel like we’re losing our minds.
It was getting really bad. We’d have nights where she wandered in and out repeatedly, yowling, jumping on and off the bed, climbing on and off of us until Q. and I both felt like we’d barely slept. When she started waking up one or both kids most nights, we knew we’d hit our breaking point.
We felt awful, but we banished her to the basement. She has everything she needs down there – food, water, litter box, cozy blanket – but it didn’t assuage our guilt.
But – she doesn’t seem to have noticed the change. She’s happy to see us in the mornings and doesn’t appear to be stressed. She sleeps in all her usual places during the day (she’s on my lap as I type this). We’re worried that she’ll get cold and drop weight (she’s a slim cat who’s never put weight on easily), so we’ve ordered her a heated bed, which seems only fair, since the difference her banishment has made to our quality of life has been nothing short of astounding. The kids are both sleeping in until 8 or later, and Q. and I are so much more rested. Q., who has for years joked that the next cat will be called “Sleeps In The Basement” and who has been advocating for this move for a long time, has resisted looking smug.
THE PELOTON APP
I know this is a pandemic cliché, but it’s so worth it. In November Q. and I signed up for the one month free trial of the Peloton app. We already had an exercise bike sitting unloved in the basement (Q. occasionally used it, I hadn’t ridden it in years) and we were trying to find ways around our new sedentary lifestyles. In the before times I’d regularly walk 4-7 km in a day without even trying – all the school runs, walking to transit to go to work, errands in the neighbourhood, etc., really added up. When the first lockdown happened, that all abruptly ceased. I’d go for a walk with the kids every day, but that was it. I tried to start a C25K program partway through the spring but my weak ankle gave out after three weeks. I need physio if I’m ever going to run again, but I wasn’t willing to see a physio in the pandemic for something that didn’t feel like an emergency.
When the kids went back to school in September, Q. and I tried to restore some of what we’d lost. We went for walks after lunch a couple of days a week, but we knew it wasn’t enough. We also knew that it would be months, probably closer to a year, before we could return to ‘normal’. This lifestyle couldn’t be brushed off as a holding pattern. We had to figure something out.
For the month the kids were in school and we had the app, it was brilliant. We both had enough time and space to work that we didn’t feel guilty or stressed about setting aside time for the bike. I really dislike exercise bikes, but I’ve found a style of class (80s music all the way) and a few instructors who work for me, and I can see the improvements in my stamina and strength.
January was hard. Q. used the bike a handful of times at most. I got on three times each week, but every time I chose to ride I knew I was leaving work unfinished. I feel like I have to prioritize it, even though I’m overwhelmed trying to squeeze all of my work this semester into the kid-free hours I have each day – most of my time with the kids is in the morning, which is when their schedules don’t align to allow them to go outside at the same time. That means Q. is usually the one who takes them for a walk, and I often go days without leaving the yard. I went for a walk by myself a couple of weeks ago (which was glorious), but I could only rationalize it because I needed to get bloodwork done, so I walked to the lab. I spend most of every day sitting, staring at a screen. The Peloton classes help to counteract this. They’re not enough, not on their own, not for how often I log in, but they’re much better than nothing. I might even keep riding a few times per week when the pandemic is over and my regular walking patterns have been restored (which is high praise indeed!).
This one was so simple and has provided so much joy I wish I’d done it much sooner. Q. and I had been saying for months that we needed to get a proper stash of cloth napkins since our kids are past the “need a wet cloth near them at all times” phase but not yet out of the “will wipe dirty hands on chair if necessary” phase. What kept us from making a decision? Inertia? Mental overwhelm at the thought of yet another decision? Fretting over what felt like an unnecessary expenditure? Probably all of the above. One night in January I sat down, did some googling, ended up on Amazon (I know, I know – we are trying really hard to stop buying from there) and bought these and these (not affiliate links). They came, I washed them, and we’ve been using them ever since.
As I have precisely zero interest in ironing them, they wrinkle and crease at the edges and don’t lie perfectly flat when I fold them. But who cares! They are a lovely generous size, they feel nice, they have a great weight when you open them up, and they make me smile every time I put one on my lap.
If you have made it all the way to the end, please tell me, dear readers, what’s saving your life right now?
Last night, as Q. and I were getting ready for bed. I’d just suggested something I thought we needed. Q: “I need to order new swimming goggles, so we can just do an order on Amazon.”
Me: “Good plan. Wasn’t there something else we needed from Amazon?”
Q: “Yes. Yes there was.” We spend a few minutes trying to remember what that something was, to no avail.
Q, this morning, triumphant from the kitchen: “Nit comb!”
Q: “That’s what we needed to order from Amazon- the nit comb!”*
Me: “Double high-five!” *finds Q. and does the high-fives*
Q: “Along with swimming goggles and that thing from last night.”
Me: “What was the thing we were talking about last night?”
Q: “I can’t remember.”
Me: “Me either. I don’t think it was something for the kids?”
Q: “I think it was your idea.”
It seems that it’s not good enough to write all of our calendar obligations down. We now have to write EVERYTHING down the moment we think of it, or we’ll forget.
(Q. remembered after his shower that we had talked about buying another pair of Yaktrax since if it’s icy enough to need them, we’re both likely to be walking somewhere.)
*Neither of our kids has had lice yet, but we’re sure it’s just a matter of time. The most recent lice check at E’s school found that 25% of the kids in his class had it. It makes my head itch just thinking about it.
We had a big blizzard come in yesterday. It started in the late morning and it didn’t stop until the wee hours of the morning. I took P. in a sled to the school when it was time to pick up her brother.
As much as I would have loved a snow day (today being Terrible Tuesday #4), there was no such luck: the snow stopped in enough time for most universities in the area to decide they could resume their normal operations by this morning.
And so, while I showered and got dressed and made tea at 5:45 this morning, Q. went out into the dark. He got the car ready. He shoveled the parking pad. He shoveled a clear path (as wide as the car) into the unplowed street until he reached the middle, where there were established ruts the car could follow. He ran along behind me until I reached the intersection, in case the car got stuck when I tried to push through the pile of snow left by the plow (which had only just made its first pass along that road).
The car skittered and jerked and slid, but I got out successfully.
Q. waved in my rear-view mirror, and then turned to tackle the 30 cm of snow the plow had just dumped on the sidewalk in front of our house. I know him- I know he was thinking that he had just enough time to clear that section of sidewalk (again) before going in to shower and get both kids up for the day. No one would struggle to walk in front of our house.
He made sure I would be safe. He made sure we all would be safe.
I’m not usually one for new year’s resolutions, since I’ve always felt that my new year actually starts in September. But I miss this space, and I miss making time to write about all the random parts of my life, so I thought I’d try to fool myself into thinking that starting to write again now was a most logical decision.
We’ll see how it goes.
I finished a five-year journal at the end of 2018 (I use this one and and love it). When I looked back at the start, before I boxed it up and tucked it away and opened the new one, I saw that my goal word for 2018 had been ‘less’. I wanted less. Of everything. Less stress. Less pressure. Less chaos.
It’s not that 2018 was a terrible year (unlike 2016 which, birth of P. not withstanding, really was). It’s just that, as I discovered, working full-time when your partner is also working full-time and having two little kids isn’t conducive to ‘less’ in any of the ways I was hoping for.
2018 was when I dropped the balls, over and over and over again. Sometimes little balls, sometimes big ones. I learned (the hard way) that if I didn’t write down EVERY.SINGLE.DEADLINE in my online calendar, I’d forget important things, even if I’d just been thinking about them the week before.
2018 was when I felt like I could never quite catch my breath, could never quite catch up, could never quite get to everything I really needed to.
Q. and I felt like our household was on a high spin cycle for most of the entire year.
I’m not expecting the first half of 2019 to be much better. I’m still on the postdoc, which means I’m still expected to be working full-time hours. Things are improving slowly on the domestic front because as P. gets older she’s happier to spend forty minutes playing by herself (usually an elaborate game involving dolls and Playmobil people), which means I can cook dinner without a screaming toddler attached to my leg,which means that Q. isn’t trying to cook all the dinners on the weekend and freeze them, which means our weekends gain some breathing room.
Still, our weeks remain action-packed, including a truly ludicrous arrangement on Tuesdays this semester that sees me leaving the house at 6:45 a.m. and only getting home again at 9:30 p.m. after teaching two courses at two different universities in two different cities. I don’t see the kids on Tuesdays. Meanwhile, Q. has just enough time in the mornings to drop E. at school and P. at nursery school and still get to the university in time to teach for four and a half hours straight.
We call them Terrible Tuesdays. E. made a countdown calendar with a huge sad face and we put happy face stickers on the numbers every time we finish another one.
Our schedules for the rest of the week are more sensible, but there’s no getting around the fact that at this point in our lives, having the first parent get home at 5:30 on workdays is not working well for our family. I’m looking forward to the second half of the year when the postdoc will be over and Q. will be on sabbatical and we will have some breathing room to sit and think and determine what comes next.
In the meantime, we’ll just keep trying to stay afloat. I made nachos for dinner last night, because they are fast and easy and, as it turns out, E. will devour all the ingredients that he would usually refuse to eat if I put them in a chilli (including spring onions, red peppers, tomatoes, and six kinds of beans). Turns out if you cut out the rice and add tortilla chips and a whole lot of cheese instead, it becomes “one of my favourite dinners ever”. Neither Q. nor I really believes that nachos are an appropriate food for dinner, but whatever. He didn’t have to cook and the kids ate it. In this current phase of our lives, we call that a win.
E. “P., can you say Mercury?”
E.: “P., can you say Jupiter?”
E.: “P., can you say Pluto?”
E.: “P., what planet do we live on?”
P.: “Purple planet!” *giggles*
E. *laughing* “No, P. Not the purple planet! What planet do we live on? I’ll give you a hint- it’s the third one from our sun.”
P.: “Purple one!” *shrieks of laughter*
E. *laughing even harder* “No, P.! Ok. What planet do we live on that’s not purple?”
P. *long thoughtful pause and then, delighted* “Rubber boots!”
E. *howls of laughter*
Several days later, home again. P. and I are in the bathroom for her nightly “sit on the potty for 0.3 seconds” routine. On the floor in front of the toilet are E’s socks, both crumpled into little balls. E. abandons his socks as soon as he gets home from school and leaves them wherever they were peeled off. P. often retrieves them when she finds them hiding behind the couch, under the kitchen table, or on the floor of the upstairs hallway.
P. “Socks! Socks! Ee-mon’s socks!”
Me: “Yes, P. Those are your brother’s socks. Just leave them. I’ll get him to pick them up when he comes to bed.”
P. *picks up socks in one hand* “Yah!” *throws socks towards the toilet where they both land in the bowl*
Me: “No! No, P.! We don’t put socks in the toilet. We don’t put anything in the toilet except toilet paper.” *fishes socks out of toilet and drops them into the cloth diaper laundry bag*
P. *unrolls astonishing quantities of toilet paper the moment my back is turned*
She is the most disruptive force in his life, and he loves her fiercely.
Conversations I’ve had over the last twenty-four hours:
Me: *snuggling up to Q. after getting in late from teaching* “How are you feeling?”
Q.: *sleepily* “Not a hundred percent. I ended up stopping at the shops because I didn’t think I could stand to make the risotto like I’d planned.”
Me: “What’d you get instead?”
Q.: “I picked up some Atlantic salmon and chips.”
Me: “I bet the kids loved it.”
Q.: “I made some salsa verde to go with it. And I cooked extra salmon and then made rice for L. and P. tomorrow.” Faced with the same situation, I would have fed the children some combination of the following: scrambled eggs, pancakes, toast, or cereal. ‘Breakfast for dinner!’ is my go-to when cooking just feels like all too much. Only my husband would consider making salsa verde from scratch to be an ‘easy’ dinner.
Me: *sticking my head in the door* “Good morning, E.! I didn’t know you were awake already.”
E.: *looking up from his book* “Hi Mummy. I’m just reading until the big hand is at the six.”
Me: “Ok! Do you know what you want for breakfast?”
E.: “Pancakes with maple syrup please. Look at this!” *shows me page in space encyclopedia* “I’m reading about Ceres and the other asteroids. Did you know that mini meteorites hit Earth all the time? Maybe some are hitting the roof right now! They probably make noises like this” *makes clicking and popping sounds* “After school I’m going to climb up on the bridge I built to see if I can see any of them on the windowsill.”
P.: *from her room* “Peppa get up! Poopy!”
Me: “P., come help Mummy get dressed.”
P.: “Unwear! Unwear! Unwear!” *stampedes into my room, pulls open the top drawer of my dresser*
Me: “Yes, I will need underwear. Do you want to pick for me?”
P.: “Purple! Purple unwear!” *digs through my collection of smalls until she finds the lone purple pair*
Me: “Thanks, P.! Can you give them to Mummy?”
P.: *firmly* “No! Peppa!” *drapes underwear artfully around her neck, closes drawer, stampedes back down the hallway*
I’m not sure how NaBloPoMo is going to go in the last week. I’m three posts behind at the moment, I have a seminar paper to give on the 30th, and my mother really wants me to come look at potential condos with her on the 29th since I’m her unofficial real estate consultant. I can make the time to write, but, as I’ve discovered over the last couple of weeks, doing so almost inevitably eats into the time I have for academic writing. It’s been hard to find a balance, and I don’t want to post something just because I have to- I’d like my posts to be thoughtful, to have a point, something for the reader to take away with them.
Here is an incomplete list of what is on my desk right now:
a recycling bag with old artwork of E’s that I had been hiding in the winter clothes bin until it was safe to put them in the recycling- I had to get them out when I dug out the winter clothes and I haven’t had a chance to take the bag out to the bin with me. If I put them in the recycling bin in the house he’ll find them again.
a bag from a Banana Republic Outlet store with a work shirt I bought at the start of November
a collection of completed schoolwork E. brought home last week that I’ve looked at but haven’t yet had time to decide whether any of it should be kept
a pair of waterproof mittens and a pair of waterproof gloves that I bought E. but have turned out to be ever so slightly too big- they need to go into his storage bin for next year
one pair of pjs that E. really has outgrown
three white shirts that need to go into P’s 2T bin (the rest of the newest round of hand-me-downs are in a box upstairs after being washed last night)
two onesies and a pair of pants that P. really has outgrown
the vocabulary quiz my students wrote on Tuesday
my teaching prep for the last two weeks
the textbook for my course
my good camera
my iPad and its keyboard
a hydro bill
two credit card bills
two packages with Christmas presents for the kids
three separate piles of receipts
E.’s report card
a library book I’ve read but I don’t want to return yet because I haven’t had time to type out the quotes I want to keep from it
a toy house my mother made for E. when he was two- I got it out for P. two weeks ago but she’s not quite ready for it yet
two felt flowers P. pulled off of the house that I have to glue back on before I put it away
I have said on here before that one of the biggest challenges I have found in going from one child to two is the lack of time to keep on top of what I call “life admin”.
So my desk has become a dumping ground, and every couple of weeks I freak out when I look at it and take an hour when I should be actually working to clear it off. It remains blissfully clear for the rest of that day and then, inevitably, things start to pile up again. (I don’t work at my desk, but I find it difficult to concentrate on work if I know it’s messy, even if I’m working outside the house.)
I don’t have a good habit for managing the stuff that ends up on my desk.
I don’t have a good habit for flossing my teeth anymore. I used to floss in the morning but my mornings are so rushed with getting the kids ready that I can make time to brush my teeth but taking the extra minute I need to floss seems indulgent.
I don’t have a good habit for cleaning the litter box. We have two and only one cat now, so if I miss a day occasionally it’s not a major issue, but I have been missing much more than the occasional day of late because I can’t figure out when to do it. I’m either rushing in the morning to get E. to school, wrangling both (tired and crabby and needing connecting time with me) kids by myself after school, or I’ve got the kids in bed and by the time I go down into the basement it’s so I can brush my teeth before I can go to bed and I’m so tired the idea of one more thing seems overwhelming.
What has become clear to me over the last couple of months is I won’t get anything done well if it’s not a habit. My brain feels like it’s running at its maximum capacity all the time. I can make to-do lists and plan my calendar and keep my agenda up to date, but I only ever stay on top of the things that have to be done in that immediate moment. I never forget to pay a bill. I (usually) get my library books back on time. I remember the permission slips. My kids have seasonally appropriate clothing at all times.
It’s the little things that need to be done on a regular basis that seem to be always slipping through the cracks.
Do you also struggle with this? Any tips or suggestions for me?
Just your average married, infertile, Canadian woman. I spent the first half of my thirties focused on two goals: motherhood and a PhD. IVF/ICSI brought us our son (E.) in 2011, but a sibling eluded us, despite our best efforts. In between pregnancy, parenting, and trying again, I wrestled the PhD into submission and defended in 2014. In the summer of 2015 I made a number of diet changes that led to the ultimate triumph over PCOS: a completely unexpected natural pregnancy. Our daughter (P.) arrived in June of 2016. A perpetual student, I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up, except write and run.