Good changes and getting back to being me

Over the last few years, I’ve learned a lot of new things about myself and I’ve rediscovered things I’ve always known. It’s been quite an incredible ride and I’m enjoying a period of blissful quiet these days. It’s busy quiet, but mostly in the best possible ways. A lot of the quiet is due to my stepping down from my role as president of the WBN. I have more time to pursue some of the things I enjoy now.

Back in January, I started blogging again over on my other blog where I talk about marketing, writing and business. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sitting down to write again over the last couple months. I even managed to publish a post a week, which feels like an enormous accomplishment.

When the year was brand new, I also set a goal to read 70 books this year. I have an ambitious pile of books, but I’ve already managed to get through 23, which puts me 9 books ahead for this time of year. My reading pace in January and February was pretty intense. I’ve already slowed way down, but I’m enjoying reading in a way I haven’t in quite a few years.

I started reading ebooks way before they got popular. I was reading them on my Palm devices in the early 2000s. (In fact, the site I used to buy my books from is totally defunct now.) Last summer, I decided I wanted to really slow down during my vacation and I thought reading physical books was a good way to do that. So I stocked up on 3-4 books to keep me occupied during my week off and I spent as many moments as possible on our brand new patio.

Check it out! 👇 I miss patio weather right now most of all (go away, winter) and since I haven’t blogged about it yet, I can share it now and remember the loveliness of sitting out there on nice summer days.

Matt has some more work he wants to do in the backyard this year, and we’re hoping that we don’t have grubs return for a very long time. This was our second time replacing the grass since we bought our house.

I’ve been trying to be more intentional about taking better care of my physical, mental, and emotional health as well. The biggest change I’ve made is making sure I get in an absolute minimum amount of exercise everyday. For me, that equates to closing the rings on my watch (stand for one minute each hour for 12 hours, 30 minutes of exercise and burn X number of active calories).

This has been really helpful for me in working through some things. I’ve been doing more meditation and trying to ensure I get enough sleep. Though since I’m typing this at 2:47am, I suppose I’m never gonna be great at the getting enough sleep goal. Besides, I haven’t stayed up late writing like this in longer than I can even remember. So, I'm calling it a win. Especially since this is my fourth blog post I’m writing tonight. I’m on a roll and I’m taking advantage.

Outside of reading and writing, I’ve been advocating for children with autism - mine and others - pretty heavily this year. We had some good developments at Brandon’s school and I’m hoping we’ll be able to continue to work through anything that comes up as he moves into his last year of elementary school in September. Now, if we could get the government to roll back their hideous new Ontario Autism Plan. Parents all over the province are protesting in droves, including a 20km walk that’s scheduled for March 31 in support of a National Autism Strategy. If the government finally listens, it’ll be worth it for my kid and all the kids who need support.

It’s hard to believe my little man is turning 11 in a few weeks. He’s my musical partner and we’ve been having a blast going to musicals since last August when we both saw Wicked for the first time. We took a train down to Toronto and stayed overnight at a hotel, making it a little mini-vacation. We had so much fun we decided to go down again to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory during the winter break from school.

I don’t know why I didn’t take more pictures when we were back in Toronto for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But Brandon loved that show as well. It was our third musical and we saw Beautiful (The Carole King Story) a few days later back in Ottawa. This weekend, we’re going to see a show I grew up watching many times - The King and I. I don’t know if Brandon will enjoy it like I did as a kid, but that’s okay. I love how interested he is in musicals. And we’ve already got our tickets to go see Hamilton when it comes to Ottawa in 2020. Getting back into watching musicals has been amazing. Having Brandon take an interest too? I feel like I won the lottery.

As usual, the year is flying by so fast. I’ve officially hit double digits as a blogger, so I’m glad I’m still keeping it going even if the posts are few and far between. I think that will probably change now that I have more time to work on some of my hobbies and personal interests. So that’s something for you to look forward to!

What makes me happy right now

Coffee, daisies and a book to read. A beautiful combination, don't you think?

Coffee, daisies and a book to read. A beautiful combination, don't you think?

Happiness is one of those things that we're programmed into thinking is a life goal. Do what makes you happy. Don't worry, be happy. Live happily ever after. Happiness is...you fill in the blank.

I like feeling happy, but I also get how fleeting an emotion it is. I've learned to appreciate the depth and breadth of feeling joy - whether I feel happy or not. But happiness isn't something I'm going to turn away when it comes.

There's never going to be a list of things that make me happy that isn't topped by my family. Matt is the most kind, caring, funny, supportive husband. He's the yin to my yang. I'm messy; he's not. I'm a daydreamer; he's not. I drink wine; he doesn't (more for me). I don't like to vacuum; he does. I meticulously sort, fold and hang clothes (when I get to the laundry); he doesn't. I read and sing; he doesn't. I'm not into video games; he is. We also agree on a lot of things - both trivial and critical. 

When Matt walks through the door at the end of the day and smiles, it lights up my world.

Brandon's so much like Matt, it makes me smile. He's got his dad's quick wit and my tendency to tease. It's a combination that keeps us all laughing. But Brandon's also one of the most genuinely sweet children I've ever known. He's still an affectionate cuddler who isn't afraid to tell anyone how much he cares. I hope he hangs onto that as he gets older.

Every time I get a hug from my little guy, my cup of joy gets filled up.

I've spent the last few years focused on writing and stories, so I get immersed in story practically every day. The medium doesn't matter. I love a good story in a song, a book, a TV show or movie, pictures and more. I even make up stories in my head starring strangers around me. Most of those stories get lost in a vault buried deep in some unknown tunnel in my brain. This isn't a bad thing.

Stories help me see new perspectives, explore new ideas, and occasionally escape from the monotony of life.

When I was a kid, I used to think once you finished school there was no more learning. Back then I didn't think this would bother me in the least. "No more pencils. No more books. No more teachers' dirty looks," sounded awfully nice. But somewhere along the way, I realized how much I liked learning and I just kept doing it. There's so much interesting stuff in the world to learn. I want to soak as much of it up as I can.

Learning makes me a better writer and a better human.

I'm also blessed to have so many truly wonderful people in my life, from my family to friends to colleagues. Life is rich in unmeasurable ways when you're surrounded by so much good. Also, coffee. And daisies. Daisies are such a happy flower. :)

For the boy who made me a mother

You know those journals that ask you questions or give you writing prompts to tell your life story? I love them.

I got my mom one over twenty years ago and I think she filled out some of it. Then almost 13 years ago, I got a book that we were both supposed to fill out - it was a mother-daughter combo. It wasn't overly long, but it was a Christmas present for her in 2004 when she had just finished over 6 months of copious time spent in the hospital. After I gave it to her, she told me to take it back home and fill out my part first. So, I did. 

That trip was the last time I ever saw her. She died a year and a half later and the still-blank pages of that book make me sad.

Lately, Brandon has been asking me lots of questions about my childhood, so this Mother's Day, I thought I'd answer these as a gift to him. That, and I'll keep working through this book so he doesn't have to stare at blank pages when he's older.

What are your favorite memories of times you spent with your grandparents?

I never knew my grandfather on my dad's side; he died when I was only 8 months old.  And though I was 10 when my grandfather on my mom's side died, I really didn't know him well. He was a very nice man, but for various reasons, I hadn't spent a lot of time with him. However, I spent lots of time with both my grandmothers - they both even lived with my family (at different times). 

My grandmother on my mom's side is responsible for introducing me to Anne of Green Gables. She shared the movies with me and, when I saw they were based on books, I found and devoured them. That series is one of my all-time I-can-read-them-a-thousand-times-and-never-get-bored favorites. And, given that L.M. Montgomery is such a beloved Canadian author, it's interesting that I latched onto her books long before I ever even had a reason to think about moving to Canada.

My grandmother on my dad's side was a storyteller. My younger brother and I used to beg her to tell one particular story about her childhood over and over because it was so funny. And, since you are loving Captain Underpants so much these days, Brandon, you'll like this story, too.

My great-grandfather (my grandma's father) owned a drugstore in south Florida. One day when my grandma was about three or four, my great-grandmother (my grandma's mother) made Grandma a new pair of underwear and she loved them. She was so proud of them, in fact, that she went to her father's drugstore to tell him about it. When she got there, her father was in a meeting with a group of businessmen. But that didn't stop her. She yelled out to her father, "Daddy, daddy! Look at my new panties!" And she lifted up her dress to show him. In front of everyone.

What was your grade school like? What do you remember about your favorite teacher?

My memories of grade school are fading fast these days, but I would say that grade school was mostly uneventful. I attended two different elementary schools because we moved from a small town in central Florida to Tallahassee when I was eight, just before I started third grade. Up until that time, I attended the school where my mom was the special education teacher. Being in the same school as my mom was fine. I was a bit of a goody-two-shoes so the threat of teachers talking to my mom wasn't a big deal since I didn't get in trouble anyway. 

When we moved to Tallahassee, someone decided I should be tested for the gifted program and my mom agreed. I got tested and was put in the program, which meant going to "special" classes that most of my classmates didn't attend. This kept up until I graduated high school.

I have mixed feelings about being in the gifted program. I got a lot out of it, but it had some downsides too. That's a story for another day, though.

Who was your best friend? And what did the two of you like to do?

When I lived in central Florida, I had a best friend, but we lost touch when I moved. From 8 to 13 I didn't really have a best friend. Then Angie moved to town and started attending my school. We became friendly in 8th grade and got really close in ninth grade. We were tight all through high school and a bit of college - distance was hard to overcome back then. We go years now without talking, but she's one of a handful of people that time spent apart doesn't impact our ability to pick right up where we left off.

Angie and I liked to watch sappy movies and write sappy stories. There may be notebooks still in existence that we'd never give up because the memories are important. But we wouldn't want anyone else's eyes on those things.

Angie also happens to be one of the kindest, most amazing women I've ever known. I hope you choose your friends wisely and find good people who try to be as kind as you are, Brandon.

What did you do as a kid that got you into trouble at home or school?

When I was in third grade, I experimented with swearing for the first time. My first big, bad words were "shut up." Those two words seem pretty tame, but we didn't use them in my family. They were as forbidden as any curse word you could name. But one day at daycare, a little boy just would not leave me alone. I was really upset by whatever he was doing.

I remember shaking which means there were probably tears. I finally screamed at him to shut up. And he actually did. But I was terrified. I was sure the teacher was going to tell my mom what I'd said. She didn't, but I did. After hearing what happened, my mom wasn't even mad. She just talked to me about how I could handle the situation a bit differently if it happened again.

Sometime after that - the same year - a girl in my class did something (I don't remember what) that I felt warranted a scathing note from me. In this note, I decided to use every single real curse word I'd learned. Anyone reading that note could see it was my first time using them.

I don't remember what I wrote, but I remember my teacher talking to me about it and she knew I hadn't ever cussed before. I didn't get into major trouble because (once again) there was understanding that I had been provoked. 

However, I did learn very early that writing things down isn't a good idea. I don't know if the teacher told my parents about this, but now my dad will definitely know about it along with a couple of other people who still read my blog.

Growing up, what did you want to be?

For a really brief time, Christa McAuliffe inspired me to want to be an astronaut. And Whitney Houston made me want to be a singer. In truth, I didn't really have a clear idea of what I wanted to do until I was in high school. Up until then, I didn't really think about long-term plans. In high school, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Fortunately, I figured out before I went down that path that it wasn't the right career for me.

Outside of the family, what was the very first job you had that you got paid for?

Because I wanted to be a lawyer, my dad helped me get an unpaid internship at a law office as part of a program I was in at school. When school ended, the firm hired me part-time for the summer.

How did you meet Dad? How did he ask you to marry him?

I met your dad online and I've written about it before. As for the proposal, that's kind of a funny story. I was living in Florida until the week of Thanksgiving in 2000. I received my permanent resident visa from the Canadian consulate about three weeks before and I immediately gave notice at work.

Matt and I had planned for him to drive down in a minivan, we'd pack all my stuff into it, and head back to Ottawa. I still had to work two more days at the beginning of that week and I was filling all my free time with saying goodbye to family and friends - and packing, since I didn't get that finished before Matt arrived. 

On my last day at my job, Matt spent the morning running around to every building on the campus to grab empty boxes from the kitchens where the photocopiers were. After he'd collected as many boxes as he could, he came back to my desk to see if I would just leave already.

Of course, I hate leaving anything undone, so I said I couldn't and kept pushing through. Matt was frustrated - rightfully so - that he couldn't seem to get me alone and I was 100% oblivious to his frustration. At one point while I was working, he got down on one knee and asked right there in my cubicle. As he was about to ask, one of my co-workers was walking by and stopped to talk to me, but she saw what was going on and quickly detoured.

After that, Matt finally got my full attention. He asked. I said yes. Then I went around the office showing my ring to all my friends.

I think about that proposal and it's kinda perfect. It was such a stress-filled time and I love that Matt decided not to wait a second longer. He just pushed forward and did it. Because there's no perfect time and place, nor does there need to be.

What is the hardest thing that you ever had to do in your life?

Definitely moving to Canada. I knew I was leaving behind my family and my mom was living with chronic illness. I was going where I would be way too far away to ever help. I was going way too far away for us to be part of each other's day-to-day lives. I don't regret coming to Canada and my mom and family 100% supported my move, but that didn't make it any less difficult.

What is the greatest compliment that you have ever received?

When I auditioned to attend Florida State University's School of Music, I did so with four hurried weeks of vocal coaching on the two songs that I was singing in my audition. I had sung in choir at church all my life, but I'd never been in choir at school or had any real vocal training. My 18-year-old self had the audacity to believe that I was good enough without training. When I got in, no one was more surprised than I was. After my audition was over, it finally hit me that it was an extremely long shot. But I got in. Then I got an A from the faculty in my first jury. That was an amazing moment.

What is one thing you still want to do that you've never done?

Ever since I learned about Holland from my neighbor when I was a kid (he was from Holland), I've always wanted to go and see all the things in person that he shared with me in pictures and stories. When I finally get around to making that trip, I'm sure you and your dad will be with me. :)

Brandon, I hope you've enjoyed reading a little more about me this Mother's Day. You're the best kid a mom could ask for and I love you so much.


This list of questions came from here and I have to give a hat tip and thanks to my bloggy friend/fellow Spin Sucks Crazies buddy, Paula, for sharing it with me.