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Let the Games Begin - What the Winter Olympics mean to me

I don't recall watching the Winter Olympic Games in my early childhood years. I must have. My dad, my brother and I regularly watched football and hockey, both on television and attending live games in the city, cheering our favorite teams the Edmonton Eskimos and the Oilers. It was the 80's. It was a good time to be a fan of both.

But Olympic memories are hazy to me. Perhaps because they only happen every four years.

This is my twelfth winter Olympics.

The 1976 games were one year after I was born, so no recollection there.

my maternal grandmother, myself, my mom - circa 1979
I'm 3 or 4 in this photo.
That box on the right in the photo is my grandfather's snowmobile. I was probably getting a ride in the sled behind, while my mom and grandma skied.

I was five for the 1980 games in Lake Placid. Damien and I visited Lake Placid on a backpacking trip in the Adirondacks and that's as much as I know about the games there. I don't recall Sarajevo in 1984.

1988 in Calgary was a big year because it was in our backyard. We were caught up in the Olympic fever (all those cowboy hats!) but our family didn't actually attend any games (nor did we wear cowboy hats). That was the year of the Jamaican bobsleigh team. Who can forget the irony and chutzpah of that team?

(Another great story from that year was Eddie the Eagle in ski jumping. We watched that movie last year and really enjoyed it. Highly recommend.)

The ten year span between the games of 1992 and 2002 were the years of my life when I finished high school, got married, finished university, started a family, had two babies, and moved to a new country.  My only memories (helped along with a bit of google searching) from the those winter Olympics are of figure skating.  

American/Canadian competors: Brian Boitano and Kurt Browning, Michelle Kwan and Josée Chouinard. And the gold medal fiasco for Canadian pairs Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

All that beauty and drama.

In 2002 the games were in Salt Lake City and by this point I was living in New Jersey with my young family. 

I was a mother to two preschoolers, New Jersey was not exactly a hot-bed for winter sport and culture, and the Olympics did not even register on my radar. Plus we didn't have a TV. And in "those days" that's how you accessed popular culture and media.

February 2002
Laurent 12 months, Celine 17 months

Turin 2006 we living in Maine, three kids now and still no cable or basic TV service. We had acquired a television by this point but we used it for DVDs. You don't watch the Olympics, live, on DVD. I recall nothing about those games. Life looked a lot like this that winter.

February 2006, we had bought our house the summer before and were renovating the living room

Vancouver 2010. No TV, but for the first time we watched video replays on the computer, sitting in front of my big monitor which served as our media hub.

The Olympics weren't a focus in our lives that February, instead we spent a lot of energy preparing for our first winter backpacking trip to a cabin.

In the following four years there were a few significant changes. Internet streaming became a more viable option for watching television, we moved backed to Canada (to rural Quebec of all places), and we started skiing.

In 2014 we were living on the side of a ski hill in a snowy wonderland. We had been skiing as a family for two years  and were surrounded by a culture of winter sport enthusiasts.

We started watching the Olympics that year without any big expectations or previous memories upon which to draw.

We were preparing for our thru-hike, which we started the end of March. It was an intense season. The games offered release and escape from our preparations, and inspiration for the pursuit of our own winter sport and our big adventure to come.

I was living in rural snowy Quebec, a province that many Canadian Olympic medalists hail from; a landscape dotted with community ski hills and outdoor rinks; cities, towns and villages producing and exporting skiers and skaters with the same dependability as the maple syrup that flows in spring. 

During the day we'd stream the competitions on our laptops in-between our other work. And in the evenings we borrowed our neighbor's chalet with the big screen, and comfy couches, accessing more coverage and more stories from their "hundreds of channels" satellite connection.

I was hooked.

Something switched on in me. My latent Canadian patriotism. The history of winter sport given to me from my childhood on the cold prairies, remembered, re-lived. Skating at my grandparents farm, curling in phys ed class (yes, I learned to curl), downhill skiing with my parents in the Rocky Mountains. All those times I must have watched the games on TV, even though I don't remember the specifics.

All of it came together in 2014, watching the Olympics from the mountains of the Gaspe Peninsula, cheering our Canadian athletes from all over the country while feeling a special pride in our Quebecois contingent, hearing that so-familiar to me now French accent in TV interviews.

Home. Identity. Belonging.

Winter born (literally, a December baby). Raised on the prairie, most at home in the mountains, a Canadian from west to east, happiest on skis.

All of this is wrapped up for me in watching the Olympics. 

January 2018, Skating with my mom in Montreal.

I'm not one of those fans who follows the athletes. I don't remember their names. But I follow Canada and I watch the games for the love of winter, the love of snow sports, the love of inspirational athletic prowess, determination, and grit. The love of home.

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games officially started this week.

And the party is on at the Tougas' apartment in Montreal.

For the first time in our family Olympic history, we have a big screen. Come evenings, Overwatch will have to move to the smaller screen, that same one we used in 2010 to watch video replays at our house in Maine.

This winter I go downhill skiing once a week with the kids at Bromont in the Eastern Townships; and cross country skiing on the weekends with Damien, short trips through Montreal city parks.

I love all this skiing (I thrive on it), but it sure packs our schedule tight.

These winter weeks are flying by.

The next winter Olympics all my kids will be officially grown-up - 19, 21, 22. One, if not more, will have launched independently into the world (fingers crossed, ha!). There will be university schedules and study requirements. We won't be skiing together every week, like we have for the last six years since moving to Quebec. Will anyone still live at home? Will we be in this apartment? 

So much changes in four years.

These Olympic games, happening against the backdrop of our busy lives, are the moments I will look back on as the good times. The same way our family looks back on the games of 2014 with great memories. Living at a ski hill! Preparing for the AT! Life is such an adventure.

Remember the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic games when we were all still living in that Montreal apartment in Rosemont? And I had just started working, Celine was graduated and working (and recovering from the flu that month), and Laurent and Brienne were in high school, and everyone was busy with studies, work and creative pursuits.

The winter of The Greatest Showman and all that music! Remember driving to homeschool co-op on the west island twice a week (classes, karate, skating, swing dance lessons, and youth rallies), and skiing mid-week at Bromont, and all those birthday parties, and sleepovers, and family and friends visiting? Remember?

And remember how we gathered around our big screen for those two weeks in February? We watched those amazing athletes, all that speed and finesse, and those heartwarming stories of being Canadian and living winter as northerners do.

Remember that?

I will remember. Because winter and snow and skiing and being Canadian, in the west and the east, in English and in French, on the prairies and the mountains; that's in my blood. It's who I am. 

Sometimes it hits me hard: this is the life I've always wanted to live.

Twenty one years into marriage, nineteen years raising and educating three children, there have been losses and disappointments, setbacks and breakdowns, many moves and different homes. Sometimes I think, "this isn't the life I wanted! this isn't what I imagined!"

In the struggle and daily hardships, and coming to terms with past decisions and choices, it's easy to lose sight of what I have, the important things I've always wanted: a loving partner, children, a warm and safe home, community, and fun activities in the midst of a fulfilling and busy life.

The makings of good memories, a good life.

Olympic Games Book Recommendation

If you like memoir and athletes stories I recommend Clara Hughes' book Open Heart Open Mind. I read it last year. You can read my review on Goodreads.

Clara is a six-time Olympic medalist, and the only athlete to win multiple medals in both the summer and winter games. She also lives in one of my favorite Eastern township communities. The region I sometimes dream about living in once the kids are raised and launched (if we stay in Quebec).

On the blog this week

I shared my herbal mushroom chai recipe. It's been crickets, no response or questions or acknowledgement about that recipe.

Too complicated? Too many words (probably) about stress and cortisol and adaptogens. Scared of mushrooms? It doesn't taste like mushrooms at all. Maybe I should have mentioned that.

I'm glad I published that recipe, with all those notes. When I write through a process - health, spiritual, homeschool, whatever, I take that knowledge deeper, and I'm more adept at understanding and applying what I know.

In the Kitchen

It's time to make more hand lotion. This Kokum butter bar I made last year is my current go-to recipe for hand lotion. And using the deodorant container as a mold and dispenser was genius.

I'm also interested in trying this recipe from @mspayette, which I grabbed a screenshot of from IG.

Spiritual Direction

Looking for something different for Lent? I recently reviewed Heather Caliri's Word Made Art: Lent "devotional". (I don't like the word devotional so I use Scriptural Encounter, like she does.)

published that review on Amazon, as part of her launch team.

With my busy winter schedule I haven't been able to see my Spiritual Director, like I had been through late fall. I'm using the Pray as You Go app instead.

It's decent. It's free. It doesn't come close to having a real person to guide and teach you in contemplative prayer practice, but it's good enough for now.

Happy Winter Olympics 2018! Happy Winter.

If you're looking for me in the next couple weeks, I'll be skiing or gathered with my peeps around the big screen.

You're welcome to join. 

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure statement for further explanation.
Copyright © 2018 Renee Tougas, All rights reserved.

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