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This has been quite a week. I marked the five year anniversary of my former boss’ death, the first anniversary of burying my Dad, Joe and I watched the Tragically Hip concert and heard Gord Downie’s lyrics explain to us how to mourn him.

This week I have found a job, arranged for childcare for my daughter and bought a car. On Saturday I’ll be doing a hike that is the first of three race-type events I’ve signed up for over the next three months because, really, enough of this.

(Also important – this week marked the premiere of Rupaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 2. So my understanding is that I’d better werk).

Just like that our life is changing all over again.

But this time next month we’ll be in the swing of things. The kid will go to Grade 1 and then spend some time with a babysitter before we get home. I will officially be done with my Masters and working on new and exciting projects.

Today I am mourning this time I have had. Since I finished classes and my internship and I’ve been home, taking care of myself in a way I haven’t been able to for a long time. I’ve been taking naps, I’ve been reading, I’ve been watching TV and wasting time, gotten back to knitting, blogging more.

I’m going to miss this time. This summer, but we’re rolling along.

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Every night, when she’s supposed to be trying to fall asleep, the kid manages to find some sort of existential crisis.

Through tears she tells me that her brain just won’t stop. She tries to clear it – we give her colouring books, breathing exercises, tell her to count sheep – but she just can’t help thinking of bigger and more complicated questions. The thoughts just keep rolling through her mind. When she was not yet three she was asking me about the beginning of the universe and the first person to exist.

Last night she came to me and told me that sometimes she just doesn’t know why she’s alive.

And then I flash back. Me, much older, wondering why I was alive at all. What my purpose was. And I tell her that it’s simple: “You’re alive because I needed you.”

I don’t know if it satisfies her, but to me it is the absolute truth. Never have I been as happy, never have I felt this much love.

Even on the days that she’s most infuriating I miss her once she finally falls asleep. It’s so very strange this thing, motherhood.

At the same time I’m watching my daughter struggle with sleep and big thoughts just like I did, I telling her things that grown-ups told me, knowing she won’t believe me the same way I didn’t believe them.

That it does get better. That bullies being mean has more to do with them than it does with you. That sleep is important.

That someday she will find that just right passion to chase.

And sometimes you just need to dance in the rain.

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Five years since Jack Layton died, a year since we buried my father, a few days after watching Gord Downie perform his last concert in his hometown, some lessons that I’ve learned from these men:

  1. Always wear sunscreen. By the end of his life, my father had nine separate moles removed because of skin cancer. He wore big hats, long sleeves, slathered on sunscreen and asked whether we were wearing it.
  2. Choose your words carefully. When I proudly showed my father my first ever printed byline he pointed out the word unique in my lede.
  3. Following on that point: Have the arguments to back up your opinions. Debating with my father was always infuriating. He would ask you to defend your point of view again and again and again. As a kid I hated it. As an adult, I understand what he was trying to teach me. I have strongly held believes, and I can defend them.
  4. Love, hope and optimism can change the world. I’m not particularly good at any of these things, but Jack taught me to strive for them.
  5. Isn’t is amazing what we can accomplish? Every day I look at my daughter and this rings true.
  6. Don’t stop until the job is done.
  7. Canada is a great country. The more people we welcome here the better we are. The ideals we have, we have to defend and build upon.
  8. No dress rehearsals, this is our life. There are no guarantees. Each of these men had less time than any of us would have thought.

We’re all in this together.

This week is complicated.

Last night Joe and I watched The Tragically Hip concert together. On Friday I watched Evan Dunfee (who I happen to be related to – we share great-grandparents, the last time saw him he was about 3 or 4) race walk for almost four hours. He placed fourth, and then he was the bronze medalist, and then he was fourth again, and he took the whole thing astonishingly well. It’s also pretty amazing to read about his journey, and wonder how different my life could be if I had figured all this out the way he did.

Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the death of Jack Layton. We are also approaching the first anniversary of the day we buried my dad.

Right now, this day, I am finished my Masters. I am starting my career again. I am pushing myself to really go for fitness this time – I’m signed up for three races in the next three months.

I might have a real job, with an office and a commute and a salary and benefits within the next few weeks. For the first time in four years.

The rain suits my mood today. Dark, gloomy skies, time to sit inside and think.

In a week or two life will have changed again, for what seems to be the millionth time in the past five years. I’m going to take this day to feel feelings.

When the kid was still a baby I made a mistake. I signed her up for gymnastics at eight months. I did it because I have always loved gymnastics and I had regrets that I never really tried doing them.

I never really tried to do any sports, and so the kid had tried many, many sports in hopes that she would find one that she loves. And she has. She loves gymnastics.

And that is my fault. I put her in gymnastics before she could walk and she’s never stopped. The problem is that she’s only six years old and she’s already over four feet tall.

The tallest gymnast to ever compete at the Olympics? Svetlana Khorkina was 5’6″. My daughter is unlikely to make it to her 16 birthday before exceeding that.

But she loves it. She dreams of going to the Olympics in gymnastics.

Actually, quite often she just dreams of going to the Olympics. And I believe that there is a sport out there for her to excel in. She is so strong, and seems to always be getting stronger. She loves to move, she always has, she loves to run.

I just don’t think it’s gymnastics.

She’s mentioned that she loves soccer, I know she loves to swim. Those are sports she can do for the rest of her life. She could get a summer job as a lifeguard, she could coach her own kid if/when she has them. Because as fit and strong as she is now, I want her to stay this way for the rest of her life. I want her to love being active. I want her fitness to never hold her back. I want her to have fitness as a tool to help her get through tough moments.

It is something that I wish I had. That I wish I could go back to.

When I was in high school I started walking regularly, listening to my music, clearing my mind after school. It took me half an hour to get home and I always felt better when I got there. But I wasn’t an athlete as a child, and fitness slips in and out of my life. I want better for her.

And I want her to have the confidence to push through the awkward years.

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I want her to not stop swimming because she doesn’t like her body in a bathing suit. I want her to not stop running because she’s suddenly grown breasts and her body doesn’t feel as comfortable as it once did for her. I want her to have a team of strong girls around her who will support her while they all go through puberty together. I want her to go through her life being as brave as I know she can be. Whether that bravery comes in the gym, the pool, on a bike, on the field, or flying off a dying board.

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I would never call myself a huge fan of the Tragically Hip. I owned one or two of their albums, I liked their singles,  I’ve never seen them play live. There was a time in Ottawa when it was almost hard to avoid it.

But it feels like I’ve known who the are forever. And forever they have always belonged to us. I remember they played SNL once, and it was exciting, but they didn’t seem to yearn for greater success outside this country, and we rewarded them for that.

Hip music is Canada. They talk about our places and our experiences. And Gord Downie’s lyrics are poetry. Sometimes completely nonsensical, and sometimes exactly what you need to hear.

Whenever I hear Wheat Kings or Bobcaygeon, I start picturing myself in a movie, driving down a Canadian highway, prairie skylines along the road, and I wonder what kind of plot I would write.

No, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Tragically Hip, but I do believe them to be a constant in the Canadian consciousness. They are part of the landscape. They love this country like I love this country. And when it was announced that Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer it was felt.

I wish I could write like Gord. It makes no sense but it means something at the same time.

I maintain that Canada breeds great lyricists as well as all the comedians who leave us.

And so  tonight Joe and I will join about 30 million others watching the Hip’s last show – probably ever – in Kingston. And I will cry for the loss, not because they are one of my favourite bands, but because it is a loss to my favourite country, and I will miss them when they’re done.

(I have to note that while I searched for a the Wheat Kings video I found this one of the Biebs singing that one. Weird). 

We took the opportunity we had this week – me not working, Joe off work, the kid on a break week from her many camps – and took a drive up the 401. We stayed in Belleville for two nights and spend a morning at Sandbanks Provincial Park.

If you haven't been to Sandbanks, you're missing out

If you haven’t been to Sandbanks, you’re missing out

It was a lovely, short trip that I think we all needed, and it was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. We stayed at the same hotel I stayed at when I went back for my college graduation. I visited the old college, much changed since my graduation in 2003. Only one familiar prof was listed on the office doors, and he wan’t in that day. So much has changed since I studied journalism at Loyalist College.

So much happened while I was there.

We drove past part of CFB Trenton where I got to visit Operation Maple Leaf – meant to prepare soldiers from the base who were soon leaving for Afghanistan. When they actually left I was, for a short time, in the room with those same soldiers and their families as they all said goodbye. You could actually feel the emotions in that room. Later I would be on that base to watch four caskets arrive back on Canadian soil. I witnessed history.

During my summer in Belleville I would often drive up to Sandbanks with a picnic and some friends and just be. It was so calming. It was again this weekend, going the same with a husband and daughter that the person I was when I lived there would never have imagined.

So much has happened in the last 13 years that I never could have imagined. For example, I thought I was going to be a successful journalist.

And now here I am. I have used all of those skills and all the new things I have learned along the way, and all of the passion I have to build a new me.

I loved growing up in Ottawa, but going to school with the same people for 15 years can box you into a corner. Before I left for Belleville one of my co-workers told me she thought I was going to go wild when I left home. Though I do have wonderful memories of dancing into the early hours in the town I chose to call home for two years, I didn’t go wild, I just became me. And I’ve kept on building this person ever since.

Top Chef

August 17th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Health | Parenting - (Comments Off on Top Chef)

When I got the email asking me if I wanted to try out Chef’s Plate, a service that delivers a recipe and all its required ingredients to your door, I jumped. Meal planning has never been easy, and since the kid’s declaration that she wants to be vegetarian it’s gotten harder. Having it all there in front of me, the ingredients measured out and the recipe explained with pictures, is so easy I could get used to it.

And I got the whole family involved in our first recipe test after the refrigerated box landed on our doorstep. 20160816_152258

20160816_16004520160816_161652The recipe was super easy to follow, with each ingredient measure out for you (except for vegetables that need to be prepped.

 

and our final product, a white pizza with a green bean salad, was pretty good too.

I was surprised because I’m not usually a huge zucchini fan, but the flavour of the one included in our box was very nice. We did opt to leave off the red onion, though it would have added more flavour I was worried the kid would balk. She’s been very fussy about her food lately and onions are a no-go.

Next we will try the stuffed peppers, leaving the beef out of the vegetarian’s. She loves peppers and rice, so that one should be a hit.

Since I’m getting ready to head back to work, and we’re trying to ensure that our diets don’t go south when that happens, the opportunity to try out Chef’s Plate could not have come at a better time. Now I know we can easily plan two or three meals a week and have everything on hand to make those meals. It also makes it easier to get the kid helping in the kitchen – something we want to do to make sure she not only learns how to cook things, but also to give her an incentive to try new meals.

If you want to try out Chef’s Plate yourself, you can put #AMYBOUGHNER during checkout (where they ask for a code in the top right corner) and you’ll get three credits for free plates.

Disclaimer: I was given the opportunity to try two recipes in a family plan for free. All opinions are my own. 

 

The little things

August 13th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting - (Comments Off on The little things)

I very much enjoy seeing the memories that come up in my social media. I get them from Facebook and also from Google now that all my photos are stored there. Today Facebook gave me a very nice little memory.

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I remember the day vividly. Joe and I went for the ultrasound and when we got back into the car after the appointment we each pulled out our phones to call our mothers so that we could tell them at the same time.

I believe my mother whooped.

In the car on the way home from her day camp today I told the kid that this memory had come up, and what I remembered about that day. She told me she was glad that the baby in my belly (I swear, we’ve gone over the specifics) was her. Because who would we be without her as our child and who would she be if she was somewhere else being somebody else.

I remember that day because I was so scared to have a daughter, remembering vividly how hard it is to be a girl. I didn’t know that I was a strong enough woman to parent a girl. And now I cannot imagine what my life would be without her and everything she has brought me.

Just to realize that that day, seven years ago, I had no idea what was coming for us and I was terrified of it all going wrong. And here we are, and it couldn’t be better.*

 

*Most days

Two days ago I was feeling pretty good, and then yesterday I started to doubt my reasoning. I had a good morning – got some work done, got my exercise in, ate well. And then in the afternoon I decided to take a nap and I woke up less well.

Something moved that little switch in my brain from ‘we’re doing okay’ to ‘you’re fooling yourself.’ Again.

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I have been struggling with depression since I was a teenager. I usually pinpoint it as 16 – when I thought about dropping out of high school, perhaps at least partially because I thought it was a lot of wasted time if I wasn’t going to live that long. I have been on medication off and on since 17.

Recently a man on Facebook told a friend that he’s “not sure” if he believes that depression is a disease. You see, why would I need medication when meditation works for him when he’s “down.”

Here it is: I have always assumed that I am forgettable, or unlikeable. I have always ‘known’ that no one would care or maybe even notice if I disappeared. I have always felt unworthy of what I’ve been given.

The last time I was completely off my medication I slept all day and could often be found in the corner crying in the fetal position. I didn’t have strength or energy to try to live.

It is a very strange feeling knowing that you desperately need help but not wanting to ask for it, lest someone help you.

When my daughter was brand new, I knew that I loved her more than I had ever experienced, and I wondered – often – whether she would be better off without me. I wondered if, despite how much I loved her, she would grow up like me, questioning her worth, questioning her very existence.

Will she have the same little voice in her head telling her that she’s bound to fail, that if she puts in the effort to get out and go somewhere it will be a disaster, that people have a better time when she isn’t around.

When she becomes a mother – if she decides to become a mother – will she also think that everything bad that exists in her child is her fault. Will she look for the signs that she has passed on the worst of herself.

Will she think about just disappearing from life?

I am on medication right now – a very small dose – and I wonder where I would be if I wasn’t this time. Because I have spent the past 12 hours wondering about my own misplaced optimism and whether I have wasted all the time and effort of the past two years. I would like to stop thinking about myself as an imposter. I would like to see what my husband sees, what my friends see. But here I am. And I can’t meditate it away.

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