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I’ve talked about my fatness here before. I’ve talked about Lindy West and what she means to me. (Buy her book, listen to more about it here).

I have many frustrations with my weight at the moment – the chaos it causes with my hormones, the pain it causes in my legs – both because of shin splints and bad knees, the asthma that has made an unwelcome return from my childhood.

But while I work on the whole get fit and healthy thing, there is one thing that affects my confidence on a daily basis, sometimes in a good way and sometimes in the worst way – My clothes.

Good dress

Good dress – bought it online

Recently I went on a bit of a rant on Twitter about the bras available for someone my size. Good ones are expensive, and even those often feel big and bulky and more utilitarian than you necessarily want every day, always. But I also want to take some time to talk about plus-sized clothing.

I do not take offence at being called plus-sized. It is what I am. Even at my thinnest I was at the top of the “normal” sizes. I have big hips, a large chest. I have been able to shop in plus-sized stores most of my life, though I have gone from the smallest sizes they offer to not the smallest sizes.

I have found clothes that I love at this size. Clothes that I feel comfortable in. Clothes that I wear over and over again. My main issue is that right now there are only a handful of stores I can go into and find my size. There is another handful of stores that I can order from online – but I don’t like to order from stores that don’t see fit to carry my size in their actual store. Fat people deserve to try on their clothes before they buy them too. Especially since women’s clothing sizes seem to be totally random.

For example, I heard recently that H&M had plus sizes – not in store, but online. I went to the website, as I need to update my professional wardrobe, and there I found about 20 items in the “plus” section, most of them t-shirts.

This is why when we were in Toronto this weekend and walked past the new Torrid in the Eaton Centre I nearly started jumping up and down. This is why I stopped at Lane Bryant twice while we were in the US on our trip to Washington.

Here’s the thing: Fat people are not few and far between. I am not alone in my desire for options. And yet you still see designers who don’t want to “debase” themselves by designing for the average body type. Seriously, I saw actual up-and-coming fashion designers on Project Runway regularly who would FLIP OUT when they had to design for someone who was not a model.

Who in the hell do you think you’re going to sell clothes to?

Google tells me the average American woman is 5’4″ and 140 lbs, about a size 12 or 14. An average woman who is a size 14 falls into the plus category. The average Canadian woman is about 5’3″ and 153 lbs, which puts her decidedly in plus stores.

Would it not make sense for more stores to sell clothing that fits the average?

When I was 10 or 11 – I think it was 1992 – my mother took us to Toronto for three days. We stayed in a fancy hotel right on Yonge St, we shopped down Yonge – at all the giant music stores that have since gone out of business, we got to rent a movie to watch in our hotel room. And she took us to see Phantom of the Opera.

The theatre – the Pantages at the time – had been specially renovated to look like the Paris Opera House where Phantom is set. I remember sitting in the third or fourth row and watching the chandelier fall from the ceiling and come crashing down on stage. I remember being totally enraptured. I spent the rest of that summer listening to the soundtrack and playing Christine, until I saw Les Miserables and then that was thrown into the mix as well.

Now, a couple of decades later the Pantages isn’t the Pantages anymore. It was the Cannon when I saw Wicked there a few years ago and now has been renamed the Ed Mirvish Theatre and that is where Matilda is playing. I go to take my daughter to her very first live musical in the same theatre where my mother introduced me to this magic.

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I hope that Matilda has introduced to my daughter the same fire that I felt when I saw Phantom – and then Les Mis, Cats, Miss Saigon, Les Mis again, Tommy, Wicked, Mamma Mia, Spamalot, Avenue Q, Hairspray, Book of Mormon, Wicked again and again…

There is something special about the mix of acting and singing, something wonderful about the stories that break into song, something amazing about watching these actors that can do it all. I wanted to be one of them, and if my daughter dreams of that too – which I get the feeling she might – then I will encourage it. It’s a beautiful thing to do for audiences.

She cried when it was over, just because it had ended, and I promised we will see it again.

Convocating

July 20th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #MommyScholar - (Comments Off on Convocating)

Three times in my adult life I have planned trips to New York City. The first time we were going to go with friends and explore for a couple of weeks, and then I found out I was pregnant and budget priorities changed drastically. The second time Joe was going to have a work meeting, allowing me to tag along and explore the city while he had a hotel room paid for by expenses, and then they opted to change the location.

A few months ago I bought tickets to see Hamilton. Three tickets for a matinee performance on November 12.

My convocation, where I will receive my Masters degree, is scheduled for November 12. I figured this out this morning.

I posted about this on Facebook and many people have said that it’s obvious – skip the grad and go to Hamilton. But for me it was pretty obvious. For Joe it was even more obvious. I am crossing that stage.

For two years I have worked very hard, spent time away from my daughter because I had class or I had to study. For two years I have worked on rekindling a passion I thought I had lost. When I was 16 I thought about dropping out of high school. For years I never thought I could or would get a university degree, let alone a Masters. I certainly did not think that I would get top marks. I didn’t think I would come out the other side feeling so good about myself, about my purpose and about what comes next.

I will walk across that stage. I will do it for my daughter, who has lost time with me and needs to understand that it was worth it for all of us. She needs to see me standing tall, being proud and achieving what I set out to achieve.

I will do it for my father, who first suggested I apply, who would be proud of me, who for a long time thought I was lost, because I was. For my husband and my mother who took over childcare and proofread assignments and gave me time to nap when I was desperate. I will do it for me, because I did this for me. I will do it so that I can see all my classmates and professors and we can celebrate together.

Hamilton will be on Broadway for more than one day, and soon we will have a bigger budget and can plan more than a quick weekend away.

My graduation is one day that is worth so much more.

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Taking back tomorrow

July 18th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off on Taking back tomorrow)

Today went south on me. I was doing okay – the kid was at camp, I got some work done, worked on my jigsaw puzzle, took a nap, did some banking, found a recipe to test out on the spaghetti squash I picked up when we grocery shopped yesterday. (I recommend it, but next time we’ll use more cheese and pair it with a caesar salad).

And then, as squash roasted and the kid was tidying her room, pain crept into my chest.

I’ll go to the doctor tomorrow, but I am almost certain it was an attack of the gallbladder. There’s family history, and my weight is a factor. The pain came on quick and was harsh. It hurt to move, it hurt to breathe deeply. I felt nauseous.

It has happened before, I have Googled the symptoms of a heart attack in a woman, I have asked my doctor.

Joe is out of town.

I was standing in my kitchen, in pain, alone in the house with my six-year-old. That is scary. I thought I knew what was going on, but how could I be sure that I wouldn’t end up suddenly incapacitated? If I passed out what would she do? She knows how to dial 911, she’s smart enough to think of running to a neighbour. But panic sets in. Panic and fear.

I tried not to let on that anything was wrong or that I was scared. I knocked things over, a hook fell off a wall. Everything was suddenly more frustrated and harder.

I called my mother.

She came and had dinner with us, the pain subsided, she took the kid out for a while and I tried to relax. I sat out on the balcony and took deep breaths. The pain is faint now.

I am determined to be better for the rest of today and tomorrow. I got on my treadmill, I tidied the kitchen, I made her a lunch and her snacks, a smoothie for the morning. The coffee maker is ready to be turned on. I gathered the garbage from around the house. I took a shower.

I will give myself credit. Tonight I tried something new – a vegetarian recipe for my daughter – and it was good and it was easy. Today I took care of myself, I got some rest, I got some exercise. My daughter is happy and healthy today, safely sleeping in her bed.

Tomorrow will start with a delicious smoothie for her, good coffee and some Shredded Wheat for me. I’ll drop her off for her second awesome day of camp, and come home to a scheduled phone call with a supportive friend. Tomorrow I will go for a nice walk with my puppy and think about the future that is around the corner.

A bright outlook

A bright outlook

Shining, Gleaming, Streaming, Flaxen, Waxen

July 15th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting | Personal - (Comments Off on Shining, Gleaming, Streaming, Flaxen, Waxen)

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Right now I’m reading a book of essays about women and their hair. It’s fascinating because I understand the deep relationship some women feels, and how much hair can matter but I also understand that it’s never really mattered that much to me.

I’ve had my hair very short – a delightful mushroom cut around Grade 3 or 4 – and what I considered long, but others would decidedly not, just past my shoulders.

Except for one very short cut after the baby was born and a failed attempt at bangs, I’ve had basically the same hair since I took a picture of Neve Campbell to my stylist at age 16. A layered bob is easy and it suits me if I do say so myself.

And now it’s going grey.

My theory of hair has always been that it grows back. I let it air dry and I avoid product because I don’t know what products I should use or how to use them. For a few years I coloured it regularly and then I just sort of stopped. My hair is one part of me that contributes to my overall feeling that I’m never quite put together. There’s always a stain or a tear or a hair our of place.

When my daughter was born she had a full head of hair.

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I was nervous about having a daughter for a whole bunch of reasons, but hair was a pretty big factor. What if I have a daughter who wants me to style her hair and all I can offer is pig tails?

What will her hair mean to her over the course of her life?

The fact is she has been blessed with beautiful hair. It’s thin, but she has so much of it. She has natural highlights that glow blond in the summer. She has also been cursed with thin hair that tangles easily, particularly when she’s rolling around, sleeping restlessly. She’s had it short, she’s had bangs, and now she wears it long and loves pig tails (which I can do!) and pony tails, headbands and braids. She likes buns (which I can’t do – but Daddy can) and grew it longer than ever to get the perfect bun for her dance recital this year.

I’m sure it will turn colours – pinks and purples and reds and blues. I’m sure she will someday take a picture of some celebrity and ask her stylist for just that look.

Overall I hope that when she grows up her hair, like mine, is always just hair that will grow back.

One for him and one for me

July 13th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off on One for him and one for me)
My husband and I have been talking about our need for a second car lately. My mother moved out a couple of months ago and took her car with her. We didn’t need it often, but it was nice to have it available if and when.
But once I finished school and started working on my internship, going to meetings and applying for jobs it became pretty clear that sometimes a back-up is a necessity more than an option.
We live in the suburbs. It can take me an hour or more to get downtown by bus. There are days that Joe needs our car at work because of meetings or events, because he’s teaching or some other reason, and that means that I am home without it. In an emergency, or if the kid got sick and had to come home from school, I would be stuck. It means I can’t run errands all day. I can’t arrange meetings because I need to be back in time to get the kid off the bus.
Right now she’s in summer camps, so I have to keep the car home to be able to drop her off and pick her up on time, which leaves Joe on the bus to and from work, and to campus when it’s a teaching night. He’s also taking classes now, working on his Masters now that I’m done mine.
It’s becoming more and more clear that we’re not going to be able to be everywhere we need to be with one car.
The first week we rented a car, but this week Ford Canada was kind enough to let us test out a Fiesta.
The first car I ever had that was mine was only sort of mine – my grandfather broke his leg, my mom took over driving his car and I took hers back to Belleville with me. It made life much easier, especially since I was in journalism school and needed to go places to cover stories. I seem to remember that buses in Belleville either didn’t run on Sundays or stopped mid-afternoon. The first car I actually bought myself was a 1995 Pontiac Firefly. I didn’t so much choose it as it was the only car in my price range in the town I moved to, population 9,000. It was a decent car with low mileage, no air conditioning, no power steering and one back door that wouldn’t open. When I eventually sold it, I found out it was illegal for them to sell it to me that way.
When we started dating Joe had a Suzuki which he then traded in for a VW Jetta he fell in love with, which we together traded in for one Tiguan and then another. I love the Tiguan, it’s a good size, fun to drive, it’s a great car to parallel park, but it still feels like more his than mine.
This time, if and when we start shopping for a second car it will be the first time I’ve ever really gotten to choose for myself. I am very excited. I get to choose a car that feels comfortable for me, that I like to drive, that has all the features I want in a colour I get to pick.
There are three real options based on my wants and my research – the Hyundai Accent, the Ford Focus and the Ford Fiesta. All three are small, not too expensive and come with features I want.
We have seat heaters and I’m never going back.
The first car I ever drove was a Hyundai Accent, back when it was a brand new model. My sister owns one now, and my mother moved up to the Elantra, so I’m very familiar with Hyundais.
I was lucky enough to drive a Ford Focus Electric last year and found it an awesome car to get around it. This year when we had the opportunity to take the Ford CMAX to Washington I got to learn more about Ford’s SYNC system and I’m a fan. And with the history, it’s hard not to trust the Ford brand.
I wanted to test drive the Fiesta because I know it’s a big smaller than the Focus, and a bit less expensive, but it still has everything I’m looking for. I thought it could be the one. (Also I’m a fan of the ‘Molten Orange Metallic’ colour. Who wants to drive another grey car?)
My Fiesta friend

My Fiesta friend

I’ve now been driving the Fiesta for almost a week and I have decided that I don’t want to give it back. At first I wasn’t sure because it felt so small, but once I got the seats and steering wheel adjusted it started to feel better. I find the Fiesta does not have quite as user-friendly a console as the CMAX and Focus did – it took my a while to find the button that unlocks the doors, but once you get comfortable it’s fine.
Got the kid and her bike to camp and the dog to the groomer all in one trip

Got the kid and her bike to camp and the dog to the groomer all in one trip

See? He likes it too

See? He likes it too

The biggest discovery for me is that the voice recognition hears me. It hears me and gives me what I’m asking for. This is super rare. I have always had terrible luck with those automated phone systems – they’re more likely to hear Joe in the background than to understand me talking directly into the phone. But the voice recognition system lady in the Fiesta, who I will name if I buy one, understood me and go me un-lost when I took a wrong turn.
Also a big fan of the rear camera to help me judge the space behind me, because I’m not so good at that.
Soon my pet, soon we will be together.

Where you lead

July 12th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off on Where you lead)

I’ve been re-watching Gilmore Girls for the past couple of months. I love the show when it was on the air, it started when I was 16 and Rory was 16 and I felt a lot of the things she and her friends were going through.

I re-watched it with my mother when I was in my 20s and loved it the same. Now I’m 35 and I’m re-watching it as someone closer to Lorelai’s age, a mother with a daughter. I had no idea that it would affect my reactions to the show so much. I thought maybe I’d feel closer to Lorelai, but I find myself empathizing deeply with Emily. She has a husband she loves, a daughter she loves – and as a wife and a mother some of the things I see Lorelai do to her mother hurt me as a mother who only wants the best for her child.

(My growing respect for Emily may also stem from my growing adoration for Kelly Bishop who plays her – the woman was one of the original cast members of A Chorus Line, for which she won a Tony, and that made her perfect as a cast member on Bunheads, another show by Amy Sherman-Palladino that I loved dearly before it was stupidly cancelled).

Now I am almost done. I am rounding the corner on season seven, but now I know that there is more coming – and the more that is coming will be how it was all meant to be. Those last four words that she promised us all those years ago. I kind of hope it goes “Hockey puck, rattlesnake, monkey monkey underpants,” or maybe “Oy with the poodles already.”

Rory will, once again be my age – will she be married? Will she have children? Will she have parlayed her job following the Obama campaign into a position in the Washington press corps?

Everyone is talking about Dean, Jess or Logan – or maybe Marty and all I can say is: None of the above. Let Rory have lived some more. Let Lorelai have her inn thriving. Show us Emily’s strength. Let us mourn for Edward Hermann and for Richard Gilmore. Let Paris and Doyle rule the world. And Sookie, dear Sookie – the best Melissa McCarthy ever was. Bring them all back and let us love them again.

Every time I re-watch this show I realized how much I have missed these women. Every time. Now there will be more to love, more to re-watch.

I will follow.

I saw it coming. I knew there would be a day when she took her knowledge of where meat comes from and chose to become a vegetarian. I knew it was going to happy and so when she told me today I was not shocked. Just worried.

I’m not a good eater. I have never had a lot of variety in my diet, I don’t handle spice well and I’m scared of a lot of new things. All my life I have eaten and enjoyed meat. One of my favourite winter meals is meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans. I love roasting a chicken, making burgers.

I don’t have a problem with my kid going vegetarian, I fully support that. I just want her to do it without me having to.

This also means that I have to find and test new recipes. Luckily I have friends already sending me links on Facebook and I’ve got my Pinterest working. I foresee teaching myself how to best cook and serve various beans. When she asked me, timidly, what’s in hamburgers I told her it was beef, but that I think people make burgers with black beans and we can try it out.

I haven’t talked to her about bacon or sausage yet.

I did, however, talk to her about the different kinds of vegetarian she can be – she said she’s okay with eating some animal products like dairy and eggs, which is a big relief. I’d hate to try and feed her after cutting cheese out of her life. And I just perfected my chocolate chip cookies in the past few years, I am not taking the eggs out of that recipe.

We are also going to have to have a conversation about how picky she’s been getting lately. She used to eat almost everything I put in front of her, but lately she’s been complaining she doesn’t like this or that – my homemade macaroni and cheese, bell peppers that she used to eat like candy, sweet potatoes. She’s going to need to expand a little bit if she’s not going to be eating meat any more, and promise to at least try the new recipes I experiment with. We’ll all have to.

Meanwhile, today I ate some cereal, some bread and cheese and ice cream. Oh, and coffee. So really a kickstart to thinking harder about what we’re all eating is not a bad thing.

Most importantly, this kid is non-stop energy – on Tuesday she spent the entire day at camp playing, then had an hour in the splash pad and asked to jump on her trampoline when we got home – and she needs fuel. I need to figure out how to feed her right.

Holding her entire body weight with her arms

Holding her entire body weight with her arms, like you do

Family Ties

July 6th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off on Family Ties)

When we were cleaning out my father’s house after he died we found a garbage bag at the bottom of a hall closet. On top of this bag were at least two sets of golf clubs (I think we found five or six total in the house and garage), a broken vacuum cleaner, some other stuff that had certainly been sitting there for a while.

In the garbage bag we found pictures, documents and records that must have been sitting there since my father cleaned out my Granny’s house after she died in 1992.

Granny Scanlon - from a slide

Granny Scanlon – from a slide

I assume he just didn’t want to deal with it all, so there it sat for us to find. And what we found was a treasure trove. Not only was there a scrapbook put together by my Granny when she went to Almonte High School, there were my Grandpa Scanlon’s records of most of his life. My grandfather fought in both World Wars and I am now in possession of his official war diary, several proofed versions of an itinerary he put together for the 1939 royal tour stop in Ottawa.

I’ve also found, among Dad’s papers, a plethora of genealogical records and I have used them to kickstart my family tree on ancestry.ca. In fact I spent most of today entering information and following clues from both sides of my family and I think I’ve tracked all sides back to the part of the UK they came from. (Yes, very Anglo-Saxon family. VERY. One of my ancestors ever enlisted to fight against the Fenians).

I have learned over the course of the past year that my Grandpa Scanlon – though he might have preferred Grandpa Jack, he didn’t live long enough to meet any of his grandchildren – was one of only three Canadians to fight at Passchendaele at survive the rest of the war, that in April 1915 he was in Ypres and noted in his diary that the city was “on fire.”

I have learned that in my father’s family most every man is named after a grandparent or an uncle. (My father was named after his grandfather and an uncle, an uncle who also had a son that he named after himself. Ask my how many Johns, Jameses and Josephs there are, go ahead).

Dad’s sister was named Kathleen after her Aunt Kathleen, and Grandpa had a sister named Margaret who could have been named after her Aunt Margaret Scanlon or maybe after her Aunt Margaret Kelly.

I remembered that one thing Dad asked me to try and find when I told him I was playing around on ancestry.ca a couple of years ago was the record of his father immigrating to Canada. He wasn’t sure of the year and he didn’t know the name of the ship. Imagine my surprise when, among the records from the bottom of that closet, I found a note that told me exactly what Dad wanted to know.

Grandpa Jack was born in 1885 in Middlesex, England. He sailed to Canada aboard the Megantic and landed in Halifax in April of 1911. And now I have the record of it.

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And in the end…

July 2nd, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #MommyScholar | Parenting | Personal - (Comments Off on And in the end…)

I am reaching the end of a few things. The end of my daughter’s school year, the end of my internship, the end of the final project that will mark the end of my Masters degree. At these ends marks the launch of a whole new beginning of things, again.

A big blank slate stretched out in front of me.

I have created my own space. I have a proper office with no guest bed in it. I have a wall of photos and inspiration around me. I am ready for whatever opportunity knocks on my door next. Waiting with baited breath.

The only constant in my life right now is laundry.

It feels like a hangover. I have been so stressed for so long, working so hard and here I am at the finish line, exhausted and confused. Breathless.

I want to know what the next step is. I want to know what the right answer is – what path to take. What’s right for us, best for me, best for her.

At any moment I could laugh or cry.

For all the work I have done, the hours I have put in over the past two years, this is the hard part. Here is where there are no easy answers, there is no due date. This is where I start reaching out to the people I know who know me who might know where I would be an asset.

Here is where I rely on the good will and trust of others, as much as I’d like to be forging ahead by myself. I have always – ALWAYS – relied on myself. And as much as I love helping other people, I hate asking people to help me.

I never assume that someone likes me, or thinks I’m competent, or even more than competent. Hell, I never assume someone remembers who I am. I spent the better part of my adolescence feeling forgettable, even invisible, and that has never entirely gone away.

Let me do work for you, I will prove myself. I work hard and I love doing it. But please don’t make me explain why I love doing it. My work speaks much better than I do.

You see, I have spent a long time assuming that the things that come easily to me come easily to everyone. I have spent a long time assuming that I don’t know anything that everybody else doesn’t know. I now have to work to remind myself that’s not try.

I can write, a lot of people can’t. I know how Parliament works, a majority don’t. I think quickly, I type quickly. I care deeply about a lot of things that many would rather forget about, or just have solved already.

I love this country and I believe in it.

O Canada.

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