Monthly Archives: June 2013

Keep Your Chin Up

Keep your chin up. Those are not uncommon words to hear from my dad. Throughout my life, I have heard them over and over, finding much comfort in them. As a child, I usually heard those four words following a situation. Either I had made a poor decision, or I was hurt, or I was just really sad.

I recall being at boarding school for exactly 10 days when I had to call home to tell my parents that I was being suspended for smoking. Perspiring, I dialled their telephone number, while praying that my mom would answer. Mom might cry, but dad would yell. I simply couldn’t handle disappointment that would rear its ugly head through yelling.

Dad picked up. He sounded happy. “What’s up?” he asked. Oh dear.

“Well, I am in a little bit of trouble…” my voice shaked as I explained the situation. He grunted, “What the heck are you doing smoking!?” (It was almost a yell.) I burst into tears, blubbering something about being “sorry.” He then offered me kindness and words of encouragement. And just before I passed the phone to the Dean of Women, he said, “Keep your chin up.”

A couple of years ago, I received a voicemail from my dad. This time his voice shook. I was in the process of miscarrying Alex and I’s first baby, and my mom had informed my dad about the situation. Through just a few sentences, I could sense his confusion, concern, and condolences. As he was concluding his 23-second long message, I heard him say, “Keep your chin up.” Yet again, those words provided me strength from the strongest man I know.

More recently, since the birth of Alex and I’s daughter, I have heard that phrase many times. Weary and sleep deprived at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, I received a phone call from my dad, wanting to check in on his two-month-old granddaughter (and daughter too, I suspect). While we didn’t know the prognosis yet, we did know that she didn’t have meningitis, and that we were in the best possible facility to treat an infant battling infection. Sensing my exhaustion, doubt, and sadness, he says, “Keep your chin up.” In that moment, my chin stayed up, but it quivered. It quivered out of gratitude, knowing that there was strength and support behind the words he brought me.

While I could write many, many stories about keeping my chin upI will leave it at those three. That being said, I do want to convey my appreciation to the man that has uplifted me with those words so many times. I have come to find solace in them and in him.

And dad, if you’re reading this, I hope that I can someday return the strength and encouragement you’ve given me, providing you with comfort, confidence, and consolation. Happy Father’s Day.

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Be present.

Since making the transition from a career-minded woman to being a stay at home mom, I have found myself attempting to reconcile and validate how I spend my time. Each day, for better or worse, is a little bit like the movie Groundhog Day. You know, the film about how every day is the same. Trivial and the same. Further to trying to validate my time, I have tried to stay connected to the outside world – cabin fever has set in more than a time or two! When trying to get my daughter to sleep, for example, I often find myself checking Facebook, reading online news, or pinning on Pinterest.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with trying to feel validated or staying connected, I often wonder if I am missing something. Why can’t I just be present in the moment? As I was lying next to my 10-month old daughter tonight, trying to help her get to sleep for thousandth time (slight exaggeration for emphasis purposes), I found myself feeling resentful. But then my emotional angst halted when I had the epiphany that someday I will tell my daughter stories about how I had to make her feel secure when entering dreamland by lying near her for hours on end. And when I thought about these stories, I realized how short-lived this Groundhog Day existence truly is. I also considered what type of a character I want to be in this story, realizing that I want to remember the details of these intimate and special moments.

Ultimately, I decided I want to be present. Present in the small, mundane moments. Moments that if viewed correctly, can be deeply profound (if I let them).

So tonight as my daughter finally drifted into dreamland, I was taken by how her breath changed when she entered a deeper sleep, inhaling and exhaling faster. I noticed that when her face became completely relaxed, her bottom lip becomes like the shape of a W because her teeth aren’t big enough to push her lips out. I smiled when her tiny hand, once clenching the fold in the bed sheet, slowly slid to her side, opening palm up as if ready to catch dreams. I appreciated that her little foot was partially sticking out the bottom of her blanket, catching a glimpse of her teeny toes. I silently giggled as I noticed that her legs have dropped to either side of her body, making the shape of frogs’ legs. And after some time (when I think she’s asleep), I attempt to leave, only to have her roll over and grab the collar of my shirt and nuzzle her head into my neck. Tiredly I sigh, but when I breath in, my nose is tickled by her strawberry blond hair that’s getting longer with age, and I’m reminded of that delicious “baby” smell. Then I think, “What’s another 15-20 minutes of just being present?”

Today I am glad that I was present. I hope to be again tomorrow.

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