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Three words to define 2014

December 31st, 2013 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off on Three words to define 2014)

I put together my list of three words for 2013 and when I was talking with some friends and looking back on those words I gave myself a failing grade.

Upon hearing this, and after reminding me of the steps I took this past year (like going to spinning classes, getting to the gym…) she told me that I need to be nicer to myself.

This has always been true.

The failing grade I gave myself on the word health only applies to the last month or so, before that I was doing pretty well, very well at some points.

This year I will take ownership. That means my life is mine, my work is mine, my choices are mine. I have to choose my priorities, make things work, and put myself out there to get more of what I want, and I have to be careful with my choices to get less of what I don’t want. Right now I have a list of things to accomplish by 2015 and all the progress towards those goals has to happen this year, which means I need to be smarter and more in control or myself.

Being active is very important for me. Mentally, physically, socially and politically active. I have lost a bit of that recently. I was busy doing other things and stopped paying as much attention as I like to.

Now, if I may cheat a bit, mind, body and soul will be my three-word third word. I will focus on my health, on learning, on building. I will focus on reading more, spending more meaningful time, playing and laughing more and being more fit and more healthy. There will be more vegetables, there will be more thought, there will be less crap. There will be more making the hard choice now to make things easier in the long run.

This is for me, this is for my family, my little girl who keep growing up. I can’t seem to stop it.

Long may she converse with the puppet king

Long may she converse with the puppet king

It’s a big year for us. My business is growing and by the end of the year the kid will be in full time school. If we play it right we will be positioning ourselves well.

Business Cards: Keep It Simple

December 30th, 2013 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Work - (Comments Off on Business Cards: Keep It Simple)

One of the jobs I’ve been completing for a new client is entering information from business cards she has collected into a spreadsheet that she can then upload into Outlook, MailChimp or other databases. From seeing literally hundreds of business cards I have come up with a list of things you need to be careful about when designing your own:

1) Use a clear font

Script fonts do not belong on business cards where they will be reduced to a very small point size. You want people to be able to read and understand the information you’re giving them so they can easily see who you are and what you do, which brings me to point two;

2) Have the most pertinent information

Your business card should have you name, your business and a way to contact you.

3) Have only the most pertinent information

How likely is it that people you’re handing your card to will need quick access to your fax number? A business card is a very small space and some of that space should be left alone. Keep it simple, keep it legible, keep it clean.

Save the funky designs for your website.

4) Tell people what you do

If your business name is not clear or your title is generic then your business card needs to tell people what you do or what your business does. Once people walk away your card is all they have to remember you, and when they file it away they’re not necessarily going to remember what you said to them.

Don’t force them to your website just to remember more, because chances are you’ll just end up recycled.

 

Be at peace

December 30th, 2013 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off on Be at peace)

When I went to sleep last night I knew from Twitter that George Smitherman’s husband Christopher Peloso had been missing all day, that there was concern because this was not the first time he had gone missing and because he suffered from depression.

When I woke up this morning I found out quickly that the search ended in the worst way. Smitherman had released a statement saying that his love and co-parent had been found dead, and that “we will find comfort somehow in knowing that he has found peace from the depression that has wreaked havoc on his mind.”

I didn’t know Christopher Peloso, I don’t even know much about George Smitherman, though he was an MPP and a mayoral candidate in Toronto, but I feel so sad this morning seeing this.

There but for the grace of god, they say.

The last time I thought about suicide was not as long ago as I’d like to think. I have been battling depression since I was a teenager and I’ve been in the darkest places three times – around age 16, again when I was about 21 or 22 and at the very beginning of last year. More than once since the kid was born I have wondered if she would be better off if I just walked away, disappeared into the darkness while she’s young so she’ll forget me.

Selfishly I have stayed and fought back because I would miss her so damn much, because I want to know who she’s going to be. I have imagined leaving her, but I’ve been through it enough times that I know I can turn around.

My husband is also frustratingly optimistic. He just believes that we are smart and hard-working and we will come out with our heads above water.

The sadness I feel this morning is about how tiring it can be to fight, how heavy the world can feel, and the deep belief that everyone will truly be better off without you. There is fear that I will start drowning again, that the tools I know will not be enough, that the darkness will overtake me again. Always fear.

And then there is family.

My condolences to Christopher Peloso’s family, his children and his husband. There are no words.

Merry

December 25th, 2013 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting - (Comments Off on Merry)

It’s the end of Christmas day here and we’ve been overwhelmed with gifts and family and food and loveliness. The kid has been well spoiled, but was also very excited about having us open her gift to us that she made at preschool and about handing the presents out around the room.

She was too excited to sleep last night and eventually asked us to bring in Grandma’s rocking chair so that I could rock her for a while. This was a request I was not going to pass up.

And so last night and tonight I rocked her for a while and I remembered rocking her when she was a baby in her dark bedroom before placing her back in her crib. I could lie her across my lap and she fit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow her legs and arms take over, she’s twice the size.

Soon she will turn 4, we will be registering her for kindergarten, a whole new kid will be with us next Christmas again. A whole new year to to and improve our lives for her sake.

Joe says 2014 belongs to us, and so the plans begin.

 

My year in books

December 24th, 2013 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Books - (Comments Off on My year in books)

I set a goal this year of reading more than I did in 2013, but I’m coming up about three books short (though I am currently reading two).

But I did find some great new authors this year that I will be following and reading as long as they’re writing, and I got to see a few authors speak about their writing, which is awesome and inspiring. I’m hoping to make my attendance at the Kingston Writers’ Festival a tradition in coming years.

Now I wanted to write a little post about my top books of 2013 so others might pick them up. Nothing like sharing the love of a great story:

1. Born Weird, Andrew Kaufman

Kaufman was the reason I went to the Kingston Writers’ Festival. I read a short review of Born Weird in a magazine and when I saw it at Chapters the next day I decided I had to read it, and I’m so glad this book called out to me. It’s the story of the Weird brothers and sisters. It’s strange and funny and awesome. I read Kaufman’s other two books as well this year, but Born Weird is by far my favourite.

2. Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell

I can’t remember where I first heard of Rainbow Rowell, but I was anticipating her book Eleanor and Park when it came out, and I really enjoyed that one, so I bought Fangirl as soon as it was released. Fangirl is a YA novel and a really great story about a girl who reminds me a bit of me. In fact, I’ve now read three of Rowell’s books and every single time two of the characters have a conversation that I swear I have had.

3. Transatlantic, Colum McCann

I read McCann’s Let the Great World Spin last year and loved it. McCann’s specialty is writing about several different people and having the stories eventually intertwine. You start off wondering how on earth everything relates, and then he makes it happen and it’s marvelous. While Let The Great World Spin was about a group of people existing in the same place at the same time Transatlantic goes through decades and across the ocean. It’s a really beautiful book and I will be highly anticipating his next project.

4. Life After Life, Kate Atkinson

I’ve been reading Atkinson’s mysteries for a few years now by Life After Life was an entirely different project. A life that stops and starts and changes. It’s beautiful and strange and lovely.

5. Fall on Your Knees, Anne-Marie MacDonald

This book has been one I’ve been meaning to read probably since it came out and never got around to, and I’m sorry I hadn’t read it until now. When I started reading I wasn’t sure what I thought or where the story was going and when I finished I was in love.

I have a pile of books left on my shelf that I will work my way through in 2014. I hope that the kid will be learning to read this year and I can start sharing some longer favourites with her and I’d also like to finally get around to re-reading some of my old favourites like the Anne of Green Gables series and the Thursday Next books. Now that’s 15 already.

I’m going to need to watch fewer TV shows.

 

Christmas, all over

December 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting - (Comments Off on Christmas, all over)

I was excited for Christmas this year because it’s the first time the kid has been really aware of what’s happening, and we’re having lots of family to our house for the celebration, including all four of her grandparents in the same place at the same time.

But this Christmas has also proven to be more stressful for me and for the kid, because this is the first time she’s really aware of what’s going on and all the family is coming to us.

Turns out that lots of family in the house and a pile of presents under the tree leads to an overwrought, over-tired and over-excited preschooler.

The kid has a very hard time settling down at night, she isn’t staying asleep, and she keeps talking about the day after the day after tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and how low the advent candle is getting, how many patches on her advent quilt, etc.

Tree trimmer

Tree trimmer

 

There will be a payoff for all this on Christmas morning. There are a few presents that I really can’t wait for her to open, and seeing all the family watching her is one of my favourite things.

But right now my body is sore and I’m tired and I just want her to have a good sleep.

Shining, gleaming, streaming flaxen, waxen

December 21st, 2013 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #ToddlerLife | Parenting - (Comments Off on Shining, gleaming, streaming flaxen, waxen)

The kid was born with a small mop of dark hair.

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We thought it would fall out but it never did. Instead it became this awesome stand-on-end fluff.

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When I found out we were having a girl – even before that, when I thought about having a girl – I was terrified of the idea of hair, and in the future make-up. The fanciest thing I’ve ever done with my hair is a pony tail. What if I had a daughter that wanted French braids and updos and clips and whatever it is you do with bobby pins?

The first time I cut her bangs it went really well, which I guess made me over-confident for the second time…

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Now we’ve arrived at the time that she asked me for ponytails and pigtails, clips and braids, but refuses to let me just comb her hair a lot of days. She decided not long ago that she wanted to grow out her bangs, and I let her make that decision, but now she spend so much time with hair in her eyes. I think I need t start carrying a comb and hair clips in my purse with me. I feel as though I’m going to need to take classes to keep up with her.

Her current favourite: Three pig tails

Her current favourite: Three pig tails

 

What are you doing New Years?

December 19th, 2013 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting | Personal | Sponsored - (Comments Off on What are you doing New Years?)

I struggle to remember the last time Joe and I had actual plans on New Year’s Eve. I mean, we certainly haven’t done anything since the kid was born, and before that I’m not even sure.

This year when I got an invitation to the Starfish Events New Year’s Party and Casino Night we took a look at each other and decided we would do it. It’s a little out of character for us, but it’s been a tough year. So we booked a room at the Marriott in downtown Ottawa, and  on December 31 we will head out to party in 2014 and let loose for a little while. I love to dance, and maybe I’ll even be able to coax Joe away from the casino games for a while.

Focusing on just the two of us at midnight will do us some good as a married couple and be a great start to our seventh year of marriage, looking out over my city.

And then after the first kiss of the new year there’s a dessert bar – what better way to kick it off?

They’re even giving away a trip for 2 to the real Las Vegas, which is one of the things on my bucket list.

All proceeds from the silent auction at the event, plus a portion of the ticket sales will go to support the United Way Lunch Box Program. The Lunch Box program helps Ottawa’s 1 in 5 children living in poverty, ensuring they have healthy lunches and teaching them food preparation and food safety skills.

Tickets to the What Happens in Vegas Party are available here.

Disclosure: I received two complementary tickets to the event from Starfish Events. 

Here in Ontario I gather they have removed cursive writing from the school curriculum. I vividly remember learning cursive in Grade 3, because my teacher made fun of my Rs and Is in front of the entire class.

Eventually I developed my personal style, my own handwriting. My signature has grown and changed over the years.

I have always been a person who carries around notebooks and pens and hand-writes things. I’m not a bad typist, but sometimes the ideas flow more freely in a good notebook with a smooth pen. I hope that my daughter will take joy in writing, pen to paper, the way I do. It’s a wonderful feeling.

The idea that she might not have her own, real handwriting is so bizarre to me, and now we’ll have to help her learn at home, and hope that watching us writing on paper is enough to inspire her to do the same.

I assume that cursive writing has been given up for other, more computer-centric learning, and I understand how important computer literacy is now, which it certainly wasn’t when I was in elementary school, but overall I vote for a more well-rounded kid.

There will always be lots of pens and plenty of paper in our house and there will always be people who put them to good use.

Her sign for Grandma and Grandpa

Her sign for Grandma and Grandpa

Speak as one

December 17th, 2013 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Work - (Comments Off on Speak as one)

For community managers and bloggers writing in a voice that’s not your own can be difficult but the ability to change your voice based on your audience and the clients you’re writing for is a very important skill to possess.

What factors should be involved in deciding what voice to use?

1) Focus on the brand

Every brand is developed with some personality behind it and the brand you’re writing for should factor in to the voice you’re using. Is it a playful brand or a serious one? Will you converse with people or use your channels just to broadcast information? Are you going to answer questions you get or even jump in to conversations as they happen?

One of the most difficult things about developing a brand voice is deciding what tone you want to take and where you want to speak to your clients. Once that is decided you need to be consistent, especially in cases where more than one person is posting from your accounts.

2) Don’t be afraid to change your mind

If you plan on broadcasting only but find that you get a lot of questions from customers that you could easily answer, directing them back to your website, maybe you need to consider changing your strategy. A lot of people who are new to social media are very nervous and need to test the waters before they feel comfortable.

Some people will tell you you’re doing Twitter wrong, but I don’t personally believe there is a wrong way. Set goals, if you’re reaching them then you’re not doing it wrong.

3) Don’t jump in everywhere

Some businesses feel that they have to be on every network, but maybe your business doesn’t belong in the fast-paced, character limited world of Twitter. You don’t have to jump on the every channel just because you see other businesses succeeding there.

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