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I have been struggling on two fronts lately – the first is work related. All the where do I go now questions now that courses and internship are almost all complete.

The second is much more personal.

I cannot tell if I’m heading back into a bad place in my depression or not.

Yesterday I made a list of things that I used to enjoy doing that I don’t do as much or at all anymore. These activities include cooking, knitting, painting and drawing, going for walks. Lately I have had a hard time getting going on anything. I’m running on automatic it seems.

I can’t decide if I’m so far passed the point of burnout that this is just where I have ended up, or if it’s the stress of everything I’ve had going on for months now and the stress of the future, whatever comes.

I’m tired. So tired. I forget to feed myself during the day. I forget or I just don’t go to the effort.

I’m tired and easily distracted.

I’m tired and stressed out and my kid keeps asking me questions I don’t have answers for, like why she can’t have a baby brother or sister.

But none of the usual signs for me are there. I’m not sleeping all day, I’m going out and being social. Well, more than usual. We were just in Washington and instead of being terrified to leave the hotel room without Joe at my side to make sure we didn’t get lost I took the kid and found the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Museum of American History. Me and Google.

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Every bit of it was hard – she didn’t want to walk, and I worried that I was getting us lost, and she didn’t want to see the things in the museum that I wanted to see. But I was the cheerful, optimistic one. Normally I can’t push myself to smile and carry on like that. Not when things are bad. I still laugh and make jokes and I’m not putting on a front when I’m around other people. At least I don’t feel one.

Future's a little... fozzy

Future’s a little… fozzy

I’m definitely scared of the future right now. I want to do the right thing, despite my constant reminder to myself that nothing is necessarily right or wrong. I just have to do SOMETHING. I have to move in a direction.

The problem is that I’ve moved in the wrong direction before. After journalism school. My first job after journalism school – the first job I had been offered – was a really, really shitty job. I was put in a bad situation, I was lied to. When I think about how the person I am now would deal with that situation. I would stand up for her so much better. My first job after my BA I was in a shitty situation with a shitty boss and the person I am now would have done that all differently too.

I think that’s the main focus of my worry. Two times I thought I was going to be alright and I was wrong. Two times I didn’t stand up for myself and I wish I had known better.

I do know better now. I think.

I went to visit my Dad today. Joe wanted to go for a drive and that led to a plan and we ended up in Pakenham meeting my mom and my Gramps for ice cream (at Scoops, the best ice cream place in the Ottawa Valley). Dad is buried in Almonte with his parents, my grandmother’s parents and my great-grandmother’s parents.

My Dad’s father died in 1956, 25 years before I was born, but I’ve been learning a lot about him through papers we found in my dad’s house. Grandpa Scanlon – Jack – fought in both World Wars and wrote a daily diary. The more I learn about him the more I know I would have liked him.

Grandpa Jack

I mean, God knows how much I have benefitted from my relationship with my Gramps, and how much I love watching him love my daughter.

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This is the second time I have gone to visit my Dad’s grave. The first time I just felt like I needed to, today it was Father’s Day. He didn’t actually care much about Father’s Day. The crafts I made at school usually ended up as gifts for Gramps or for my Mom, both of whom were a lot more present in my life growing up than my Dad was. But still, we were nearby and it seemed like an appropriate thing to do.

It’s funny, when I go I’m never sure what I’m going to do there, but generally I end up talking to him a bit. When I was by myself I just sat there next to the headstone, and I talked to him.

Today, while I talked to him – which is something I’ve been fairly desperate to do these days, what with classes ending and finishing my internship and trying to figure out what comes next – I realized something.

I always assumed that someday I would have all the answers. Someday the path would be clear.

The path has never become clear.

Just about everything I’ve done in my life has been something I’ve sort of fallen into. When I’ve thought about something and made a decision over a period of time it’s almost never worked out. When I hated my job I applied to university to get out of it, when I impulsively invited Joe over we kissed and ended up married.

We bought the house we live in over the course of a week. The kid was not entirely planned…

I will never know all the answers. Dad would not have known the right answers. There are no right answers. I go with my instinct and seem to end up in the right place.

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Started from the bottom, etc.

June 15th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #MommyScholar | Personal - (Comments Off on Started from the bottom, etc.)

I had two very different conversations today on two different mediums. One was with someone who is just starting his career and trying to figure out the right path, the other was with a former colleague who has moved onward and upward. Talking to one about the other, talking about our career paths and where I’ve been got me thinking.

I’ve worked really hard.

I don’t spend time thinking about it. I worry more about the future than thinking of the past, but talking to my friend about the whole ‘start from the bottom, work your way up’ thing I realized that I did.

I didn’t just start from the bottom, I restarted from the bottom three times. I thought I had the answers three times and ended up flailing. Seriously flailing – like moving home from Toronto two days after I left to start university there flailing.

And then I found a job and fought my depression and changed my plans. I spent two years doing great at college, convinced I actually had all the answers now, this time. Graduated, went out into the world and flailed again. Journalism is a tough career path that demands a lot of time and energy and doesn’t pay well. I loved it, but I was far away from home and being pushed hard and eventually I cracked.

And so I started again, and that was the time.

My friend asked me tonight, as I explained to him the many times I struggled to kickstart my career, if I would change anything along the way.

I was 23 and I decided to take the degree program with the most courses that sounding interesting, because planning my degree around whatever career would result wasn’t working. I ended up back at Carleton, where I still had three years left of free tuition thanks to my father’s professorial career. There was a job opening at the student paper which I was well qualified for, given my diploma in journalism. The man who interviewed me then is currently asleep beside me.

During my BA an opportunity came along to work some volunteer hours with an MP and I jumped.

The combination of that volunteer experience, my background in journalism and my understanding of politics made me the best candidate for a 8-week contract that turned into a four-year career and one of the best experiences of my life.

If I hadn’t balked at going to Toronto, if I hadn’t chosen journalism, if I hadn’t taken that job in Northwestern Ontario that pushed me to switch things up again, if I hadn’t chosen to use my three years of free tuition to just go and get my BA. I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have a great resume, I wouldn’t have my husband and my daughter and my dog.

Husband

Husband

Daughter

Daughter

Dog

Dog

 

If I had changed any of those bumps in the road I wouldn’t be here.

And all the way through I worked hard. Even doing the shittiest parts of the shittiest jobs I worked hard. Even when I hated everything about my job at the Fort Frances Times the thing I hated most was that I knew I wasn’t doing a good job, so I kept working harder. Even when I got my first job out of university with the terrible boss who tore my confidence to shreds I worked hard trying to figure out what I could do better.

At every step, even when it wasn’t quite right, even when I wasn’t quite right, I have worked hard. Since my first job when I realized that I love to work – I really do, and I’m not afraid to work hard. In fact I, apparently, tend to forget how hard a job was when it’s over. Like that one time I worked an election campaign while doing my Masters and working two other contracts.

Sleep? Pfft.

So when I actually sit back and think I can remember a little bit about how hard it all was. Emotionally hard, physically hard sometimes. But here I am. About to finish my Masters, in control of my own destiny, a great education, a great CV with great experience.

And the knowledge that bumps in the road can lead to the best things.

 

For my child

June 13th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Parenting - (Comments Off on For my child)

When Sandy Hook happened I spent the day crying in front of the TV. My daughter knew I was really upset but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her why. When we went to the Museum of American History I didn’t take her to the African American history section because I didn’t know how to start explaining slavery and segregation to her. I have not told her that 50 men were slain this week because they were gay.

My daughter is six years old. She doesn’t like movies that have bad guys. I don’t have the heart to tell her that bad guys are real.

At the same time I know I have to prepare her for reality. I have to break that childhood trust in the good in the world. Not everyone feels the way we feel, not everyone loves. Some people choose hate. Some people express that hate in the worst ways. Some people decide they have the right to be judge, jury and executioner because they don’t like the way someone lives.

How do I tell her what her own ancestors have done to people who were different?

How do I tell her what risks she faces just growing up female? The laws men will make about her body, the things they’ll think they have a right to say, or worse do to her? The questions they’ll ask her if and when something happens. How will I give her the confidence to fight back and the knowledge that it is not her fault? How to I empower her to fight back when it comes? Unapologetically fight back.

What if she’s gay? What if she’s trans? How will I explain that people will hate her without ever knowing her? That will assume the worst of her because of who she fundamentally is. No, no, I’ll have trouble even explaining that to a little girl who would never understand why some of her friends are afraid, unsure of where they’re allowed to fully be themselves and where they’re not.

How do I tell her that if and when something happens to her it will not be her fault and she cannot ever believe that it was her fault despite all the people sending her that message.

I cannot change history, but for my child I will work to change the world. I will believe survivors. I will stand with the LGBTQ community because love is love and human beings are human beings. I will not stand silently when someone is wrong. I will not allow bigots to go unchallenged.

I will stand and listen to all those people who are fighting to be just as important as those of us who were born privileged – western, white, middle class, cisgendered.

I will cry over the senseless loss of life, but my tears will not be the end of my actions.

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There are no words, there is only action to be taken

June 12th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues - (Comments Off on There are no words, there is only action to be taken)

This week has been a week of pain for a lot of people. From watching people jump to the defence of a man who brutally attacked a young woman while she was unconscious and put his life and future ahead of hers  – 20 minutes of action – up to this morning when gay men were attacked and killed in yet another ‘worst mass shooting in US history.’

I’m pretty sure I’ve lived through about five of those now – Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora, San Bernardino and now Orlando. Fifty dead. Fifty.

I am enraged, I am in pain, I am so tired of all this. I am not as enraged or as in pain or as tired as the people who fight and fear every day of their lives. The parents who are still calling to find out whether their sons are okay and getting no answer. The friends who have blood to clean off their bodies, wondering why they have more people to mourn and whether anyone will care this time. The men who are hearing sympathy from politicians trying to score points on the backs of dead whose lifestyles they have railed against.

I’m at a total loss.

I have no words, I have no way to help, there’s nothing I can do but offer my heart and say I’m so, so sorry. I’m sorry that you have to fight for the right to be yourself and that safe spaces are taken from you. I’m sorry.

And so I pass on love. I put love out in the world.

Love and support and acceptance.

I teach it to my daughter – that she may love whoever she loves, that we will accept whoever she chooses to marry, and whether she chooses to marry at all. That she, and any of her friends, will always have a safe space in our home.

We will work to make the rest of the world safer too.

Her first pride

Her first pride

We had a long drive today – though man is it faster to drive through states than provinces – and I took the opportunity to catch up on some of my magazines.

Here is where I tell you – unsponsored – how much I like the Texture app for magazine reading on my iPad.

So I was catching up my magazine reading – like really catching up, post-grad school. I was reading an issue of Real Simple from about a year ago. Yeah.

There was an article in this particular issue about body image and how to help your kids have a good body image. The first part of the article was obvious. Don’t be hard on yourself or make comments about things you’re unhappy about, like how you hate your thighs or you feet are ugly, etc. And then the article said you should not use words like fat around your kids.

And that’s where they lost me.

Hi, I’m fat. I’m fat and aware of being fat and when I tell my daughter I want to exercise more or eat differently she knows that it’s to be more healthy, not to be less fat. Because, you see, fat is not a bad word, it’s not an insult. It’s just a word. It’s a way of being, like thin or tall. It’s a description.

I refuse to be afraid to use the word fat to describe myself because I refuse to teach my daughter that being fat is bad or that fat people are less than her.

My daughter is thin. She’s active and tall and thin. Sometimes I worry about her weight, I worry that she’s not eating enough, except that I know that she is because I’m the one she’s always asking for snacks. Someday someone will tell her she’s too skinny, or call her a beanpole or some such and she’ll feel ashamed.

Someday she’ll grow hips and breasts like mine and she’ll feel so different – foreign in her own body – and along with that will come more comments, more pressure, more appropriate words to use to describe herself.

If I do my job right she will be able to shake off those words.

I am curvy, I am plus sized, I am fat.

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Also my feet are not ugly, they are great because I can pick things up with my toes, and so can she.

The world is a vampire

June 4th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal | Sponsored - (Comments Off on The world is a vampire)

Tomorrow we are bound for Washington, and we’re headed there in a Ford CMAX. It’s a hybrid, which puts my mind at ease about money and environment.

I love driving this car – quiet, smooth, with extra little features like the rear camera that we don’t have on our car but I find very useful. Today I even used the navigation system to get us from gymnastics to the kid’s hair appointment in the allotted time. It also has that cool Ford sensor thing that lets you open your trunk hands free, which is genius.

If/when I head back to work in a real office or we need a second car for some other reason I am going to want a Ford hybrid. I’ve driven the Focus and now the CMAX and become a fan, despite my family’s Hyundai/Toyota history.

Actually my grandfather owned many, many cars in his life before giving up his license in his 80s. Maybe that’s where I get this love of driving.

Because I love to drive.

I have loved to drive since I got my license and first discovered the freedom of driving with the windows down and your own favourite music playing.

And thus we come to the thing I love the most about being allowed to borrow media fleet cars because I have a social media following: Sirius satellite radio. I love Sirius satellite radio. I love the Broadway station, I love 80s on 8 and 90s on 9, but today I mostly love Lithium. The Lithium station is me in high school. It’s 90s angst and blown out guitars. It’s beautiful.

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I took myself to a movie today – Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, totally inappropriate and hilarious with many cameos – and along the route there and back I heard Shine by Collective Soul, Glycerine by Bush, El Scorcho by Weezer, Where it’s at by Beck, In Bloom by Nirvana and Fell on Black Days by Soundgarden.

All those songs that I still remember the lyrics to, that I can still rock out to. I had a Soundgardern Superunknown t-shirt that I wore to pieces in high school because Black Hole Sun was awesome but The Day I Tried to Live was more awesome.

I recently referred to the early-90s as a golden age, but really the early to mid-90s is where my music lives.

I mean, I still listen to new music. Just last year I went to an Ed Sheeran concert and was totally blown away. And I love music from the 80s – the pure cheese that abounds. But the 90s, that’s where my taste in music was really born and where it’s stayed.

 

I was having a conversation on Twitter the other day with a couple of friends when the subject fashion led to the subject of high school and then into the subject of makeup.

I noted that I used to sleep in my close to maximize the time I could sleep. Ten minutes to out the door and on the bus. One of these ladies said she would never be ready in time because she had to do her hair and makeup.

I didn’t wear makeup in high school. Nor did I do my hair.

I still don’t.

Some days I’m halfway to someplace trying to remember if I looked in a mirror at all before I left. She replied that she had never had the confidence to go without makeup. I replied that I never had the confidence to go with.

Despite reading hundreds of issues Seventeen, YM, Teen People, and whatever else the magazine racks offered me, I never learned how to properly put on makeup. I don’t know what goes first or how eyeliner works or where you contouring should go. I tried to buy and wear makeup a few times but I never understood what my undertones were and what shade of red was right – orange red or purple red?

I was convinced that the minute I stepped out of the house in makeup people would notice right away – in the worst possible way.

Too much?

Too much?

It would be all wrong. I’d look like DJ Tanner on that makeup less is more episode of Full House where Aunt Becky gets to teach the special lesson.

Now I’m an adult and I’m expected to wear makeup and sometimes look presentable. I ever had professional makeup done once that I really liked and she told me all the products she used which I then bought.

I have tried. I have tried to wear makeup to work and for special occasions. I have tried to look pulled together.

But the fact of the matter is I’m still that girl that spills something on her shirt ten minutes after getting dressed. I sweat on the bus and rub my itchy eye without remembering mascara and I just can’t walk in high heels.

I’ve tried.

Instead of getting better it gets worse.

So here I am, 35 years old. I don’t wear makeup, I don’t do anything with my hair, I only occasionally wear fancy clothes and when I do I’m probably not comfortable, and I’m in Converse 95 per cent of the time.
And while having a child has hindered my abilities, when responsible only for myself I can still get out the door in 10 minutes flat.

Do you know Slick Breadstick?

May 23rd, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting - (Comments Off on Do you know Slick Breadstick?)

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The kid has become a Shopkins fiend. We were introduced via YouTube – Gracie and Mommy talk about them a lot – and she started collecting. This weekend she collected all her duplicates together and invited a friend over to trade. It’s quite a process to watch.

They know all the names – all puns – what season they’re from (we’re now up to five) and whether each one is rare or ultra rare or coated in diamond dust or whatever.

It took me a while to wrap my head around until I realized that it’s just like when I collected stickers and traded with my friends at recess. Except more expensive. And with excess little plastic shopping baskets that really don’t need to accompany every single purchase.

And apparently collecting and trading Shopkins has taught my kid that everything with a moustache is Italian. At least that’s what she said today. Though there’s at least one moustachioed Shopkin that’s French because he’s a baguette.

On the one hand this is teaching my daughter some weird consumerism, on the other hand she loves to play with them for hours at a time.

Still gone

May 22nd, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off on Still gone)

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This weekend for some unknown reason I was drawn to my father’s grave. When we buried him I didn’t expect it to be a place that I would go back to, except to take my daughter there to see it. He’s in an urn – well, a small box – buried at the foot of a gravestone. We added his name to the gravestone with family. On one side is my father, his parents, my grandmother’s sister who died at 16, and my grandmother’s parents. On the other side are my great-grandmother’s family – two brothers who died young, one very young, just over a year, her father and two wives.

I felt drawn there to talk to him this weekend.

I drove out at dusk and sat there. I don’t know if it’s inappropriate to sit in a graveyard, but I sat there, next to him. Thinking. Not thinking. Talking out loud.

I had no idea how I would mourn my father. None. I had actually wondered for years how it would feel when it died. It turns out I found out much sooner than I expected to.

It’s been over a year. I’m about to get my Masters degree. For over a year things have come up that I would have talked to my dad about, assignments I would have asked him to read, issues I would have debated with him. My kid has done a multitude of things I would have wanted him to know about and see.

So I sat there and I cried a little bit, and I wondered what I was doing. Sitting, feeling like I needed to stay for a while. Wishing I had taken a notebook. I don’t know why I wanted a notebook – to be able to draw or write or do something with the feelings and thoughts that I had there.

Perhaps all of this is part of that feeling of mild desperation I’ve had to write of draw, paint, sketch do something creative. It’s on my to-do list but it’s not an item I’ve gotten to in the past month.

Take a breath, do some yoga, take a walk, remind myself that I am part of my father and he is part of me. That somewhere inside of me is everything I need to move forward. His confidence, his willpower, his intelligence. If I am as much like him as my mother says then it’s there. I just need to take a step back and grab hold of it and start, one step at a time.

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