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My grandfather would probably scoff, loudly, if I even insinuated that he is a feminist. That’s not the world he grew up in. He went to university, got married and took care of his family. He still does. He spent his life doing what a man is supposed to do.

But without my grandfather in my life, things would have been very different for me, and I wouldn’t have become the strong independent woman that I am. I would be a completely different person, I think. If I hadn’t been so sure of being on my own and taking care of myself, I wouldn’t have the marriage that I have today. I wouldn’t have the daughter that I have today – I would be someone totally different, and so would she.

My grandfather would never call himself a feminist, but he prepared me for the world. He spent my childhood teaching me how to build and repair things. He taught me how to drive, and while he was doing that he also taught me how to change a tire, so I would never be stranded.

When I moved away for school he gave me a gift – my own tool box, fully stocked with tools I might needs to take care of my apartment. My hammer has my initials carved into it.

Perhaps most importantly, he continued to not only support me, but tell me how proud he was of me, through every misstep.

He wasn’t raising me to be a feminist, he was raising me to be a competent adult. I just became a feminist along the way.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am still in love with many of the things from my childhood. I saw something on Twitter tonight that said a little something to me about the things that I learned as a child, watching television and movies – Paul Williams posted his support for DREAMers. Paul Williams, the man who wrote Rainbow Connection for Kermit the Frog.

Now, Kermit and his Sesame Street buddies have been a huge influence on me. I learned more than just ABCs and how to count to ten in Spanish from those muppets. Some would say I got a lot of my sense of humour from Ernie. I get my enunciation from Grover Monster. (#TeamGrover #JustSayNoToElmo)

This isn’t the first time children’s entertainment has played into politics. Everyone should know the quote from Fred Rogers, the one we see whenever bad things shake us:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.

It dawned on me today that I want to be the adult that Mr. Dressup knew I could be. The adult Children’s Television Network raised me to be. My hope is the same as Jim Henson’s was, before he left us too soon:
When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.
 And what’s great about these things is not only that I can still lose myself in them, but that I can also share them with my child, so she grows up knowing to be the helper.

When I was a kid and I had a room with three painted walls and one wall covered in wallpaper I asked to change the colour all the time. I think that room was, at times, yellow, blue, purple, peach, pink, all with different wallpaper to match. For one birthday I got to choose my own wall-to-wall carpeting and I picked a gorgeous raspberry one that I’ve never forgotten.

We moved out of that house when I was 12.

In the next house, I kept changing paint colours – now often doing the painting myself – and the room was big enough that I could move my furniture around. My mother decided to get rid of a love seat, I took it and put it in my room. I arranged my bed, desk, bookshelves any which way they would fit. Most often this rearranging would happen late at night when I had a test I was supposed to be studying for.

When I got my first apartment upon moving out for college it came furnished. The one time I tried to rearrange the sparse furniture, I found that the owners hadn’t actually painted behind the bed, so it wasn’t going anywhere. They took a lot of shortcuts, those landlords.

In my next apartment, one big room in a converted garage furnished by me, I again tried all the arrangements I could think of – though I was really only living with a futon that served as couch and bed, a desk that housed my giant computer, a dresser and a TV stand.

When I moved in with Joe – and finally out of my mother’s house forever – we had a small apartment, a lot of hand-me-down furniture and not much money, and then we moved to a bigger place, and then inherited more furniture as my mom down-sized. And then we moved to a slightly smaller place, and then a bigger place because we found ourselves in need of a room for a baby.

All of these places were rentals. We did almost no decorating of our own.

And then came our house. This house that is ours, and will be for the foreseeable future. When we moved in there was one room that was obviously my mother’s room, as she was moving in with us. There was one room that was obviously the master bedroom – with a master suite that contains my dream tub. There was one room that we painted right away to be our daughter’s room. (A lovely yellow called Tigger’s Tummy, the name being part of the reason I picked it).

We bought new furniture that was our very own, we brought along some old favourites, and suddenly had a space we could decorate as we wished.

In the five years we’ve been here we have slowly painted different rooms, we have put up pictures we love, we inherited a grand dining room table that my grandfather built for my parents.

Last year my mother moved out and her room became office space – particularly useful since I now work full time from home – and I have made the space my own. I have bookshelves packed, toy shelves, two walls covered in pictures and inspiration, a fully stocked supply closet.

This year we built a deck and created a new, wonderful space for ourselves in the backyard, and the kid and I took some time to create a nice garden in the front too.

This weekend, in preparation for the coming school year, and the coming increase in the kid’s schoolwork that I am anticipating, we changed it up again. We added a little desk and shelves just for her in our office, so we can work together when she gets home from school, we painted her room like we promised we would if she kept it tidy through the month of August (which she mostly did).

Labour Day Monday this year is about tidying up, getting things all in order, making our space more ours again.

Out with the old.

 

 

I celebrate the leap from one year to the next in January, but the real ‘new year’ for me has always started with back to school. It’s a change in seasons, back to cozy sweaters, and it’s time to clean out, clear out and shop for new supplies.

There is little more that I need right now than a return to routine – wake up, get ready for the day, make sure the kid is fed and dressed, get her on the bus and get to work.

When she was little and I wasn’t employed full time, I love the summers we got to spend together. We could get up and go, whatever we felt like doing on a given day. It was fabulous and we made wonderful memories. We made some wonderful memories this summer too. But now I’m ready.

We are taking this long weekend to do some work on the house – some long overdue. We painted the kid’s room, reorganized it and purged some of her stuff, though she did a very good job of that with her toys a few months ago.

I went through my closet and am finally getting rid of some clothes that I love but will just never wear – and some clothes that don’t fit me now that I don’t want to hang on to ‘just in case’ any more. I don’t want ‘thin’ clothes taking up space. I don’t want clothes that, while very pretty, don’t suit my style. I don’t need to try to be someone else.

I wear jeans and gold Converse. Sue me.

I’ve cleaned three bathrooms in two days, built new furniture so we all have work spaces in the office, I’ve been hanging up new pictures of great memories from this summer.

I’m also taking personal inventory to get set for the fall – I reset my bullet journal (again), I started a list where I will keep all my work experience as I remember it. Because I’m really bad at remembering it.

It’s September. Let’s dive in.

I haven’t had the will to post recently because there is too much going on. I have started multiple posts and been unable to finish them. I have been trying to spend time lifting up the voices of the people we really need to hear from right now – those whose experiences are perhaps the most important right now.

I have chosen to amplify voices that can say what needs to be said better than I can, like Harry Leslie Smith, Denise Balkissoon, Shaun King, Joy Ann Reid

We have actual, modern day Nazis marching in the streets. People who claim to speak for the white race and proclaim that they don’t hate anyone, they just want what’s best for their children. Meanwhile, I had to sit down and tell my daughter that there are people in the world who hate other people for no real reason. And I had to remind myself of the privilege of being able to have that conversation on my own schedule.

I was born privileged in so many ways, and so was my daughter. We are white, middle class, Canadian, urban. We do not have to be afraid where we live. We have the privilege of being able to escape from the horrors that we see on the news every night. We have the privilege of turning away. But I can’t.

The fact is that these racists are almost fascinating – the denial that they’re Nazis, even while surrounding by Nazi paraphernalia, denying that they hate anyone while referring to the black woman interviewing them as a “mongrel.” The misuse of religion, biology, language and whatever else they need to distort to justify themselves. These people who will stay in their little, miseducated bubble, thank you very much.

You’d think it would be exhausting to hate that much, but I have a feeling that many of them are too stupid to realize. And one of them is the President of the United States.

I mourn for the ignorance I had before the past few years, the last election, when I thought racism was only alive in small pockets. But really, I should think of all the times I thought to myself that there was no one something was going to go the way it eventually did – the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, Ferguson, the election itself.

When the election results came in I felt a little bit of what it’s like to be so hated as a woman that people would vote for this fool. And that’s not even close to what it feels like to be black every day in America. Or Muslim. Or an immigrant. LGBTQ.

I fear this from my neighbours. The vile ignorance, the willful misunderstanding. I fear that my bubble is about to be burst and we will see these people in Canada more than before. These people who have never cared about the facts about Indigenous peoples and the land they’re living on. These people who didn’t care what the actual facts were about how citizenship ceremonies are conducted, they just want to see Muslim women controlled their way.

These people who would refuse desperate refugees for fear of terrorism, all while ignoring the fact that most terrorist acts on this continent are committed by white men with a history of domestic abuse.

Those people who are more numerous than I care to face.

I raise my voice, I add it to the chorus. It is wrong, it is ignorant, it is shameful and I will not allow it. Never again.

When I was a kid I used to live on my bike all summer. Our neighbourhood was pretty safe, with paths and parks, we even lived down the block from the parkway they would shut down for Sunday bike days. My sister and I would meet up with friends and just take off.

At some point after I got to high school I just stopped. I started walking more and biking less. For a long time I didn’t have a bike at all.

And then a few years ago, after we moved into the new house, I got a cruiser. It was my first time on a bike in probably over a decade. While the old saying is true, you never forget how to ride a bike, you do lose some confidence. After a long period of time things seem a lot more wobbly. I also never did a lot of busy street riding, and in this neighbourhood it’s kind of unavoidable.

Meanwhile, we put the kid in Pedalheads bike camp (it’s awesome, kid loves it, they got her off training wheels the first day). She loves to bike. Every spring she’s desperate to get her bike out and get going. But still I haven’t been on my bike for a couple of years.

And so today I took my bike out. We went to the park and she played. We biked back. Even took a detour.

I’m not going to say it was easy, but it sure felt good. And I know that I can reasonably expect myself to bike up to the coffee shop or the drugstore. Or even to the gym – bike there, use the pool, bike back.

It’s all doable.

Persisting

May 31st, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Health | Parenting - (Comments Off on Persisting)

I had a panic attack last Saturday. I couldn’t stop the tears. I was filled with fear.

I had just returned from a work trip to Toronto, I was tired, things had been moving rapidly and I was full of doubt. I signed up for a 5k race that I was not prepared for, but I couldn’t just not go. I’ve done that before – panicked and not let myself try. But I’ve done this before. I had to at least try.

But then getting downtown in time to get my race kit – first getting dropped off at the wrong place and having to walk up to a totally different location, fast as my shin splints could carry me, to make sure I got there on time, rocked my confidence.

If it hurt to walk for 10 minutes as fast as I could, how could I possibly make it through a 5k. Why was I stupid enough to not only sign up, but advertise the fact that I was doing this?

I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to quit, but what if I hurt myself?

And then my little girl wrote me a note. She wrote a note that said, quite simply: You can do it, I believe in you.

I swear, I don’t know what I did to deserve her. To have her there, not only assuring me that I was capable, but cheering me on when I did, in fact, cross that finish line, that was something.

And I crossed that finish line. I turned up my music, I pumped myself up, and I walked – with a bit of jogging – and I finished that race in less time than the last one. Not only did it take less time, but it also felt a lot better. So the next one – now scheduled for July 1 – will be even better.

 

Growth Rate

May 7th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting - (Comments Off on Growth Rate)

Something disturbing has been happening in this household recently and I can’t ignore it any more. You see, a few years ago I had a baby — it seems both forever ago, as she’s always been here, but also like it must have been last week — and I cannot now find that baby.

Here she is:

You see her? She’s sleeping soundly beside me on the couch, taking up less room than one full cushion on our love seat. I often place her there, until she figured out how to roll and it was no longer safe. Then she started walking and she had to reach up above her head to hold my hand.

She could barely see over the coffee table.

And even though we knew she was big for her age, she was always so little.

I guess it was happening gradually and I only sort of noticed. But then I walked downstairs and she was spread out on the couch and she was stretched from one end to the other. I look at her and I see a difference in her face. There are moments when it hits me right in the heart that she’s growing up and it’s happening faster than I was prepared for.

There are the good things – she can take herself to the bathroom, dress herself, make her own snacks. She’s got activities of her own, and friends she loves. We can have conversations and laugh together. She loves school and she’s a good learner.

She has her own personality. She is a person now.

But…

We are rapidly getting to that place where I won’t be able to pick her up any more.

We are getting to a place where we have to have more serious conversations because she is able to do more things on her own.

We are getting to a place where I am reminded, when I notice the rapidity of her growing up, that soon she won’t want or need me around as much, and then at all. And my heart starts missing her already.

Even though I can still sneak into her room after she’s asleep and pull her covers over her and kiss her forehead, and she might wake up just a little bit and smile because she knows her mommy is there.

 

 

Things that go unsaid

April 19th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting - (Comments Off on Things that go unsaid)

I’m watching you in the playground, surrounded by kids. Doing your own thing, enjoying the fresh air and the sunshine. And I’m wondering how we get from this you to that you. The seven-year-old who tells me sometimes she wants to be dead. Who is angry and scared about so many things she never voices. Who told me the other night that you were afraid of the bad guys who might get into the house. Who asks me regularly what your life means and why you are here.

You make friends so easily. You’re fearless and then suddenly you’re not. You’re so kind. Too kind. You’re kind to everyone but yourself and I wonder if I’ve modelled that for you.

Sometimes it feels as though I don’t know how to be more than one thing at once. I can be a mother or a wife, or a student or an employee, or a daughter or a sister. I can’t be all of those things at once. I’m constantly failing at something. I couldn’t even successfully be a daughter to two parents at once.

And amidst all the roles I play, I have lost the ability to take care of myself as well.

Sometimes I wonder if I am only capable of loving one person at a time and you take it all up, wrap it around you. I don’t begrudge the amount of love you take from me, I give it freely. You are everything good.

You are also exhausting. Always talking, asking questions. Always wanting to know more, do more, explore more, find out more.

Sometimes it feels as though I can never be enough for you any more. When you were a baby, I was enough. I could hold you and cuddle you and talk to you. I knew what you needed because your needs were so simple. Food, sleep, diaper changes and love.

Now you need compassion, help with your homework, a shoulder to cry on. You need activity. You need things to do and things to focus on. You need questions answered. And you still need food, sleep and love.

But you can also give now, in so many ways you couldn’t before. You give the most wonderful hugs. You tell me stories. You say that you love me and sometimes that I’m the best mommy in the world. The same kid that yells at me for saying no will come to me when all she needs to hear is that it’s going to be okay.

It is a gift that you can be your absolute self with me, for now, and I have to remind myself what a gift it is.

I currently have eight tattoos, two of which are cover-ups of previous tattoos – one that needed improvements and one that I had fallen out of love with. And there’s one more I might want to make adjustments to.

I got this little monkey when the kid was a baby. Practically brand new. It was drawn by a friend for her room and I decided to get it permanently on my left wrist to represented this wild creature that had come into my life and stolen my heart.

We did call her monkey.

Now it’s seven years later and this monkey, it’s not quite the representation I thought it would be.

If I had waited until I knew her better I could have done so much more with this tribute to her. Cartwheels and bubbles and smiles. A blur of movement. Bright colours and laughter.

She is nothing that I thought she would be, but everything I could have ever wanted. A monkey, but not that monkey.

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