Hi, my name is Renee Tougas. This is my variation on the Now page. (It’s wordier than most now pages I’ve seen because that’s how I roll.)
Click here to follow the bread crumb trail of old About & Now pages.
standing in my garden, July 2023
I finished my job as a homeschool parent in 2020, when Covid-19 hit the world stage and everyone’s lives were altered, when the Black Lives Matter protests fomented in the US and across North America (& other places in the world), when so much got turned upside down in our individual and collectives lives. It was a big year for many reasons.
That year, our youngest started post-secondary schooling, ending my 16 year run of overseeing, guiding, and resourcing the kids’ (there’s three of them) formative education. A responsibility my husband and I choose not to share or hand over to the state or any other institution.
Self-directed, interest-led, parent-supported, non-coercive, non-authoritarian, and family-building - these are just a few of the phrases I’d use to describe how (& why) we homeschooled. We did not homeschool because the institution didn’t work for our kids, they never went to school so I wouldn’t know. We homeschooled because we didn’t want that system with its implicit and explicit forms and functions defining our children’s formative years, or our family life.
I currently study the forms and functions of schooling at the graduate level, so I kinda know what I’m talking about.
Why do I lead with this particular piece of my life story? Because it speaks volumes about who I am - my values, my purpose, and what I think matters in life. Family. Relationships. Freedom. Responsibility. Sovereignty.
Our introductions to new people often lead with "what we do" for work vs. who and what we love, for example. The same applies when we talk to others about someone we know. We often lead with their work. This makes sense since work consumes a lot of our time, and therefore defines our lives in a big way. But additionally, we live in a culture where people are defined, categorized, labeled, sorted, and ultimately assigned a particular cultural value by the financially compensated work that they do. And that part rubs me the wrong way.It's ironic then (that cultural tug is strong!), that I'm seeking, working towards, and trying to develop a paid work trajectory that could fit under some kind of title, a career.
I don’t want to just labour at jobs. I want to commit myself to and participate in work that I believe in, that aligns with my values and allows me to embody my vision for the world in the same way that homeschooling did. That’s a tall order. Being a stay-at-home mom, a homemaker, and homeschooler has so far been the most sustained, meaningful, values-aligned, vision-embodied work I’ve done.
Writing and communicating is a close second. And quite similarly to my kin-keeping, homemaking, relationship-building, educating and caregiving work, this labour has been mostly unpaid.
I’ve been on this second bloom (the first was raising a family) career quest for a few years, and grad school is one piece of that puzzle. But the career-like job, or self-employment track that is an expression of my values and vision of the world, while drawing on my skills, experience, intellect, and expertise, is still in formation, destination unknown.
Check back in a year or two to see if I’ve got a career title.
I am very grateful that I can work part-time hours from the comfort of my home to earn money to support family needs, my education, and other interests. The satisfaction in this work comes from developing relationships with colleagues and clients and in using my analytical, organizational, and research skills to help those people meet their goals.
I experience and frame my identity primarily in my relations, and in my roles and responsibilities in those connections.
I’m a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and kin to many living family tree relatives. I’m an Earthling. I’m a human. I’m a student of life, homemaker, writer, thinker, keeper of family and story, caregiver, and receiver of love.
My body, my self’s, response to the world is deeply spiritual and intellectual. My internal compass is oriented to seek connection based on the recognition (hey, I know you!) of the Divine in the human experience within the greater cosmos. I am mostly energized, though sometimes completely exhausted, by the effort of finding a true and beautiful path for living in response to this drive.
I currently caretake a very small piece of land (my backyard) in Montreal, where I attempt to create a space of beauty that provides a small measure of metaphysical and physical sustenance, for humans and other-than-humans alike. I live in relative (no pun intended) harmony with my husband and two of our young adult children who are in university.
In spring 2024 my husband and I will be moving to Lunenburg county, Nova Scotia, to the family Sanctuary (it’s actual name) my parents have built there. We will live across the driveway from them and hopefully share many wonderful years together as their children, neighbours, friends, and one day caregivers.
I nurture a deep appreciation for contrasting ideas and experiences - city vibrancy and rural reprieve; rootedness and wandering; homemaking and traveling adventures; spirituality and intellectualism. This exploration and appreciation for non-dualistic living, thinking, and open-mindedness extends into many political, philosophical, sociological, and spiritual corners. It’s what I believe and how I live.
Inspired by Yanis Varoufakis:
I seek ways to disagree with myself in order to discover what my true thoughts are.
This orientation influences and is reflected in what I write here. I have strong beliefs and values (including political values), and I'm acutely aware of the complexity of being and living and am a fierce defender of diversity of voice, experience, opinions and knowledge. My writing is long winded because of this, riddled of asides and digressions and parentheses.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about my writing.
I don’t want to inspire you. Inspiring people is not of interest to me.
I want to process my own experience. I want to tell my life story, or the parts of it I feel compelled to share. (Trust me, this includes the hard and the beautiful.) I want to teach through my experience and life story. I learn all the time through other people’s stories, so I figure my own stories might do the same.
I want to make you think, and re-think.
I want to provide some language and context (mostly sociological, philosophical and spiritual) to help you articulate and understand your own experiences.
Although I’m deeply practical, administrative, and managerial, I have no desire to provide practical ideas for you to implement in your own life. (That was an earlier season in my writing.) Rather, what you can expect here are questions, ideas, challenges, and conundrums about how to be human and how we might evaluate/re-evaluate our beliefs and behaviours for the sake of ourselves, each other, and the Earth.
I write because I have to. I’m compelled to make sense of my life and experiences with this particular human tool and process. I publish (vs. just keeping a personal journal) because publishing it how we connect our individual ideas and experiences and create a collective understanding. That sharing is one of the ways we make meaning and create knowledge.
I introduced this now page with my homeschooling, homemaking, mothering and relationship-based work because that’s who I am, it’s how I “identify”. Because of this, I suspect the “who” of my readership may understand themselves similarly. I’m not writing for a particular demographic but I realize my own experiences will resonate more with certain people based on their own life experience and values. Are you reading these words? Well then, you’re who I’m writing for.
Right now, I publish here and Instagram. (Nearly everyday I microblog in the morning in IG stories. It’s like my writing warm-up.) Through the years I’ve published for other small online projects. I do a lot of writing in my 2 paid jobs as a marketing assistant for a software company and as an administrator and operations manager for an online membership site. And now that I’m in school I publish a lot of my writing in assignments.
Until this year, I haven’t desired to publish elsewhere, either in book or print/online periodical format. But the flame of publishing for a wider audience and a teensy bit of confidence that I have something to say and the skills to say it, is now flickering. I’m hoping to become more “published” in the coming years.
Weekday mornings, before my paid job, home, or school tasks start. As per my publishing desires stated above, it’s my goal to extend my writing time into my paid labour time, also replacing some of my school hours (when I’m done school). This might be achieved through employment that allows me the opportunity to write and publish, or through advancing my own paid writing projects.
I started writing this blog in Sept 2004 and it’s gone through many changes. (See this old Blog About Page for a synopsis.) I’ve been in a prolonged period of writing cultural and personal analysis essays and blog series. I have a desire to return to more memoir and story telling, especially with my upcoming change in life circumstance of moving “home” to my parents. There will be many stories to tell about the practices, people, and place of that life change and I think memoirist blogging might be a good medium for that story.
We’ll see how it all plays out. The writing. The working. The living.
I’ve been here, writing publicly on the Internet almost 20 years and I have no plans to stop.
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