Updated: 2 days ago

Gawd am I homesick!!

It always hits me this time of year. Seeing all the fields turn to gold, yellow, and deep green.

At my childhood home in Cloverdale, we have the field behind the house that the local big wheeler farmer works. Each year it can change: yellow for canola, gold for wheat or oats, and my favourite, the blue flowers of flax. For a while, it looks like the land-locked log house is lake front property. Sometimes it has corn, but I have to agree with my brother, Matt, that it looks perfect for a gruesome, farm in the middle of nowhere, axe murder movie. It’s not a favourite.

And it’s flat where I grew up. Like I said in an earlier blog, trees are there for a purpose, to block the wind.

As it says in one of my favourite books, ‘If you’re not from The Prairies, you don’t know wind’ . But it is that wind that sweeps across the blue flax flowers to give our ‘lake’ its waves.

On Neil’s inaugural visit to the homestead, (yes the same Dad & chairs visit) we were heading back from town, and Neil was a bit unnerved that I was driving down the middle of the road. Which I couldn’t understand as he believes lane markers are mere suggestions. And I was saying as much, when he, trying to change the subject, switched the focus to the dot down the road, also in the middle of the road.

I shall note here, as much to my defense as to educate, that on country roads we need to drive in the middle of the road as the gravel pushed to the sides of the road tends to grab your car and throw you into the ditch. And these ditches, designed for spring thaws and their flood waters, are deep. It’s just what you do. But I digress.

We have a running joke in The Prairies: you can watch your dog run away for 3 days, so we were focused on a spec approximately 2 miles down the road, only disappearing occasionally with the slight swells in the road.

"Well, you’re going to hit that car coming!’"argued Neil.

"Oh that’s no car, darling," I smirked knowing that there is only one type of vehicle you can spot 2 miles down the road. And as we raced towards each other, my car and that dot, the ‘dot’ grew bigger, and so did Neil’s eyes.

"That is a Big A’"I presented, as the 2 story tractor passed us. In truth, we probably could’ve have driven under it if it wasn’t for the massive front tire that introduced this colossal three wheeler. I waved to driver who I knew from nearly day dot, Curt McRae, family friends from the farm down the road.

I also remember an August evening, a warm dog-day sun going down and we 3 kids were helping Dad with some straw the farmer of the next field had left for us to bale. The golden light was full of dust and straw particles created a dance of first harvests and me and my siblings joined in as the empty hay trailer made for an excellent stage (and a safe place for my ballet moves).

Mom wasn’t there for some reason, I think she was taking an upholstery class at that time, so Dad was in charge of the dinner.

"Watcha makin’?" we all asked.

‘Tom Surprise’ was Dad’s answer. We all looked at each other with dubious looks. But nodded our collective agreement with the menu chosen.

"I’ll call you when it’s ready", he promised.

Seated around the table, Dad presented his one pot dinner.

‘It’s baked beans?’ I pulled back in huff, slamming my body back into the chair, arms crossed, lip pouting, after peering under the lid.

"What’s so surprising about that?"

Matt took the serving spoon and dug in to the reddish brown mixture and Pop! up sprung a full hot dog straight into the air.

"Surprise!" my dad exclaimed, arms wide as his grin.

He never failed to entertain.

I guess I feel homesickness more keenly this year as I haven’t been to the farm in a long while and Neil is away at the Olympics. I’m not alone, and I’m not lonely, but parts of me are missing, namely the security both Neil and the farm bring, marriedhood & childhood.

When I stop to think why I’m a bit down I immediately think it’s because I have no one to share the day to day things with. And then that takes me to thoughts of my mom who has been widowed for 17 years and my father in law, a widower for 3. How do they do it? And then I shake my head and I say to myself, ‘you weren’t always married, Niki. You were a very independent woman….whoa wait ‘were’?

And it has changed. I brace myself every time Neil goes away as inevitably something BIG happens. And I mean big things. Big A things. Such as kitchen flooding, cars breaking down, contract negotiations, renovation decisions, company, health & life insurance renewals, sicknesses, hospital visits, and my all time favourite.......it all happening at once.

This time it was a car accident. Brooke’s first one and I’m not silly enough to think it’ll be her last. But I immediately went back to Canada. I’ve been driving in the UK for longer but there I was, looking for my parents to tell me what I should do next.

When did I go from solid, instant decision making on my own, Niki to waffling, doubting, fingernail biting Niki?

Then it hit me.

It’s when my decisions impacted directly on others. When my path selection affects those I love and their paths. It’s a sobering thought. And it's not just the old adage - it's not all about you anymore when you get married and have kids. It’s about how it affects the family, sure, but it's also about asking how are they going to react to this situation. Someone's life path is a big responsibility. They should have some say in it. Except for young kids. That is a straight up dictatorship.

It’s not so much I need guidance, but reassurance that this decision, this path altering plan is ok and they are ok to join me on it.

So I get it.

And it’s only something that you get once you’ve been through it.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

All of sudden, not having that sounding board and the reassurance that your choice is ok, is scary. It might not be correct once we’re down the road but at least you know your partner has given you the promise they’re with you on that chosen path. It’s sharing the responsibility of the outcome.

So does independent mean lonely? Or just alone?

Does being a waffler mean weakness? Or just careful?

Like anything, it’s the perspective you bring to it and the question then lies within how you identify with each.

I realise now that my homesickness is not only about not seeing my family or the farm but the inability to relive childhood memories in situ or the ability to recharge in a safe place ready to take on the next segments of life’s surprises.

Who knew baked beans could hold such potent life lessons?

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Updated: 2 days ago

I was kicked out of Holland.

No mean feat from a country where weed and prostitution are legal and regulated.

It’s not something I put on my CV.

I was a Rotary Exchange student in what the Brits call a Gap year.

My year lasted 3 months.

That’s why I leave it off my CV. It brings up more questions than it does promoting any strengths I could purport.

It could read like a school report card:

Language Arts: A :very talented with the provocative vernacular (means I learned the swear words first)

English: D :although obviously fluent, constantly correcting the teacher is seen as a disruption. A total disregard for the Queen’s English v her native tongue: American. (He drove me up the wall with his ‘Americanse’ - I never spoke English according to him)

PE: A- : an all round great athlete ready to try anything. Says the word Fuck a lot. (The teacher had to look this up, therefore the minus.)

Social sciences: F : is suspicious of authority, will not conform, and is much too popular with the troublemakers. (Why not? They were the interesting ones)

Every kid has a time where they test the boundaries and mine was in Holland, I guess.

I chose The Netherlands so I could continue with my Judo and to be fair, it was the dojo that was my safe haven there. I could be myself at the dojo, not a version my host families wanted me to be. It wasn't a Canadian. They didn't want me to teach them about Canada. They just wanted me to learn how it was to live there. I need to give a big shout out to my sensei there, Eddy van der Pol, who was strict, but extremely fair and told it to me straight. Bedankt Eddy!

I landed there on my 18th birthday and was immediately wrapped in cotton wool.


Straight from the airport to a tourist hotspot where they dress you up in cultural costume… in July….over your clothes and which consisted of a wool dress, apron, sleeves, hat, neck scarf and wooden shoes.

If I hadn’t already a body image problem, that mirror image and subsequent tourist photo sealed the deal.

It was suffocating. Especially for a person who had been travelling the world on their own since she was 15. And for a country which seeming had no rules, I had to abide by 4 big ones:

The 4 D’s - no drinking, no dating, no driving, no drugs and the unofficial one by the Exchangés - don’t get caught.

I got kicked out for ‘dating’.


The host brother took an unhealthy liking to me, (he followed me everywhere- even when I moved on to the next family) so instead of getting him gone, they got me gone.

When they told me I was on the next flight home they asked if I wanted anything in my final hours. I said, ‘Yes - a joint, a pint of beer, and a BMW, please. Might as well go out in style!’ They were not amused.

So I was labelled the troublemaker.

And if you asked any of my former teachers, they would have told you that wasn’t a label they would have attributed to me.

Curious, yes. Trouble? No.

I was speaking with a friend the other day after a Wellness course on athlete identity. We spoke on how important it is to recognise each facet of our identity, and not to put all our eggs in one basket under the title of elite athlete. This, as well as manage any labels given to us.

This is the tight rope we walk: identities we want to live by and the banner we want to stand under, having chosen them in one way or another. And then the labels we are given which we either decide to accept and appropriate or not.

I went from Olympian to girlfriend to wife & stepmom to mum in the space of 18 months at the speed of FOMO (fear of missing out, a common retired athlete trait).

So let’s unpack that:

Olympian - IDENTITY: proud to be, worked hard for, want to be known for (sometimes)

LABEL: super human, scared of nothing, super fit, super strong, basically a Marvel character.

Girlfriend - IDENTITY: proud to be, excited to be, dedicated to being

LABEL: Neil’s ‘bird’, ruffler of feathers, a curiosity

Wife - IDENTITY: head over heels in love, dedicated to, a partnership, soulmate

LABEL: homemaker, potential baby maker, possible nagger, ‘the other half’, mate

Stepmum- IDENTITY: transparent, fair, honest, protective, no former experience but trying my best for all concerned

LABEL: potentially wicked, or so the stories go, pinch hitter, mum but not mum.

Mum- IDENTITY: protector and defender of all those under her roof, creator of lunches, dinners, costumes and school dioramas as well as the occasional: I-forgot-my-PE-kit note, master boo-boo kisser

LABEL: money dispenser, totally unfair and knows nothing of the ‘real’ world. Oh, and soooooooo embarrassing! 🙄

So I’m thinking during this unpacking that what we make our identity is really the ideal we aspire to. The labels are the societal constructs and both can burden us with the responsibility to be or not to be.

And it is a question of whether we just sit back and stick the label on or educate people to who or how we want to be treated? #educatedontappropriate

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‘Niki Jenkins is a bitch’

was written in bold, black marker on the bathroom stall door when I looked up.

Not even a capital B.

Honestly, if you’re going to insult someone make sure you mean it, and maybe with a bit more originality?

I had excused myself from class, probably Grade 8 Math, where I tried everything to get out of the headache of numbers and the drone of Mr M, to go the bathroom.

And there it was in black and….well….orange was the colour of the metal stall walls that surrounded me.

I just stared at it. Mixed feelings really, as I cocked my head to the side.

Perplexed as to why someone would single me out, if not slightly flattered that I had made an impression of any kind at Lockport Junior High. I guess I should feel relieved it wasn’t precluded by the usual, ‘For a good time, call…’

I’ve always been different. Not to look at me, other than being of larger status (taller and rounder) than my class mates. And I didn’t subscribe to any particular group such as the mods, jocks, geeks, punks, or popular. That’s why I found this little message perplexing.

I just stayed out of everyone’s way and did my own thing.

Thinking about it now, that was probably what did it.

I had a great group of friends and that was the beauty of my friendship group, we were all eclectic in our own way: I was sporty, got good grades, was in music and wood shop, for the most part - all rounder, I would say. So why single me out?

Thinking back I’m struggling to remember if I was hurt by this. If there was a significant change in my mindset and demeanour because of it, and I can’t. All I can remember thinking is, ‘well, I rattled someone’s cage.’

And that’s what has stayed with me. That’s always been my goal, not to BE different but to DO different things that would set me apart from the pack. To make my mark and leave a lasting impression, and hopefully a good one. I want to enter a room smiling and leave it with everyone smiling behind me, making their day brighter.

Be me a Bitch or a Witch, a mother & a step mother, a judo player or just someone who dares to play, I’ll do my best at it, I will endeavour to do it differently than anyone else in hopes of making my mark. #bitchplease

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