I would have to be stupid, or incredible naive, to think that racism doesn’t exist in this country. I mean, the last residential school closed in 1996. I was 15 by that time and I had never been told about this brutal part of our history. We have First Nations reserves that haven’t had running water for more than two decades. Two decades of broken promises and many, many Canadians who somehow feel that “those people” brought it on themselves.

Yeah, how dare they live in a country that we wanted to colonize.

I have been sitting uncomfortably in that colonialism for a few years, trying to figure out the best way to help and learn without interfering.

I had assumed that Canada was, in general, better at dealing with our immigrants than our First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

There is something about having racism thrust at you as a wedge issue during an election campaign. Something about discovering that, quite literally, your neighbours hold such hatred in their hearts and minds. It just pushes you right out of your comfort zone and you can’t quite get back in.

In fact I will probably never feel quite as comfortable around my fellow Canadians as I once did. Foolish as that might have been.

And I have to sit with this discomfort being fully aware of the privilege I have. I was born here, a full citizen – no dual citizenship either. I was born white in a good neighbourhood in a city. I went to good schools and I have a university degree. I spent unaccented English. (Well, a little Ottawa Valley twang gets in there sometimes).

The Harper government would have to search pretty hard to find a way to discriminate against me, except for the whole ‘woman’ thing. But even there, because I am straight, married and a mother I am put in a better place that single women, gay or trans folks and non-parents. I get all the tax breaks and non of the condemnation. The dirtiest word they can come up with for me is ‘socialist.’

The media and the pollsters are telling us that these issues – these racist issues – are moving votes in this election campaign. That, in fact, all of Quebec is moving to the hated Conservatives because they care so much about banning women from wearing niqabs. And if that is the case I am going to feel very uncomfortable living in this country with these voters under this government.

So uncomfortable that I can’t even begin to imagine what Muslim Canadian women are feeling.

When October Goes

October 5th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #MommyScholar | Parenting | Personal - (Comments Off)

It’s October now. That means the election just two more weeks away, and after that I’ll have fall reading week, which will be a great time to revive myself from the campaign and re-focus on my studies. It also means that it will be Halloween soon.

I am very happy to say that I found the kid a great costume before the campaign started, and it’s in her closet all ready for her when the day comes. It should even be warm enough.

But every time I think of this Halloween I think of last Halloween.

Joe was away for work, there was a football game that I wanted to take my Dad to, but it just didn’t seem to be working with the kid wanting to trick-or-treat. And then I asked Dad if I could bring the kid to his place and take her around my old neighbourhood.

As it turned out my sister (world’s greatest auntie) and I took the kid door to door while my mom and my dad’s long time partner sat inside and had tea together and Dad answered the door for all his trick-or-treaters – one of his favourite things to do.

Last Halloween is probably going to be one of my favourite memories of my dad, and my family, for the rest of my life. It marks a time when my parents were interacting again, I think because they were both big fans of my daughter.

It’s a memory of trick-or-treating at Grampa Joe’s house for my daughter, which is something that my sister and I always did. Sometimes we tried to trick him and see if he recognized us. One Halloween he found us at the door and he told us to wait right there for one second and he came back to take our picture. It sat on his bookshelf until this year when we cleaned out the house.

Two little girls, knocking on his door, asking for candy. (It should be noted that in that picture I was wearing a store-bought costume – the only year our mom did that – but I have done my own makeup, which consisted of taking face-paint crayons in a bunch and rubbing them all over my face. I was supposed to be a Cabbage Patch Doll).

The pictures that I have from last Halloween aren’t perfect. They’re blurry and the kid and Grampa both have red eye in one, but they do show a little bit of the joy I think they both felt that night.


He wasn’t always the greatest Dad, but he made a pretty good Grampa.

Tonight, so bright

September 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #MommyScholar - (Comments Off)

Tonight I left my class and I didn’t go to work. Instead I went and met my mom and my little girl and had dinner and a conversation.

She was happy and talkative and the worry that I’ve been feeling balled up in my chest dropped away. School is okay. She started Sparks and that was fun too. We’re getting back into our routine.

She’s okay.


And I think it was exactly what I needed. I got readings done, I got my assignment done, I’m moving forward. There are now less than four weeks in the campaign. It doesn’t seem like a long time. Twenty six days from today change is coming. It’s in the air. And we have no idea what it will look like. But we’re making history.

The other day I saw one of my colleagues from my time on the Hill. He’s been traveling with the leader so I hadn’t seen him yet, and he asked me if I was having fun. And I paused and then quickly said yes. I am.

I am back to doing something I love doing for a cause that I have to believe in. I am making a difference, and working my way towards making more of a difference.

Tonight I feel like it’s all good. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

And so it goes

September 21st, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #MommyScholar - (Comments Off)

I’m working 50 plus hours a week. I have 12 hours of classes. I’ve got readings to do, and assignments. I’ve got to move from place to place, eat occasionally. Oh, and sleep. Sometimes I get to see and talk to my kid, though not enough. We’re both struggling there.

I spend most of my days stressed out, thinking about what else I could be doing, grumpy, tired and stressed.

But underlying all of that is the feeling that I am doing something important. Well, I’m doing one thing that’s important for me and one thing that’s important in general.

Underlying all of that is this feeling that I’m on the cusp of change. I am getting ready to hit bottom and bounce back.

That’s what I feel, just out of reach.

This weekend I actually sort of sat back a bit and tried to figure out what that is, this feeling.

Part of it is that I’ve stopped biting my nails again. I have been biting my nails as badly as when I was a kid for the past few months but last week I put some clear polish on and just stopped biting.

And that got me thinking about stories my mom has been telling me about my dad.

One day he had the idea to start jogging. So he did. On my desk at work I have a picture of him running his first marathon. (Decent inspiration for a too long campaign).

Marathon 3

When he was 60 and his doctor told him that he was at risk of a major heart attack unless he changed his lifestyle he did it. He just did.

I have that in my blood, somewhere. I am a Scanlon.

So what is this inkling I have? What’s there, in the bad of my brain? I don’t know yet, but I think I’ll figure it out soon.

In 1976 my parents bought a house together. It was where they lived when I was brought home from the hospital. It was where they lived when the marriage ended. And then when I was four I remember my sister and I helping with the move by filling up our red wagon and pulling it around the corner and three houses down.

My Mom kept us in the neighbourhood, walking distance to where my dad was now living.

Picture Mom took of Dad. He was dressed up for the  annual Press Gallery dinner.

Picture Mom took of Dad. He was dressed up for the annual Press Gallery dinner.

She tells me that she fell in love with the house as soon as she saw it, and my Dad did too. He kept on loving that house for 39 years. In fact, he died almost 39 years to the day that they moved in.

Even after we moved around the corner that house was always available to us. As we got older, even when my Dad wasn’t at home, it was our clubhouse. We played in the backyard and the garage, the basement, and finally the attic, where the damage that we did as children was still visible when we went to clean out the house – even though the attic had become my father’s office.

(We wrote on the walls, peeled off wallpaper – but not all the wallpaper because it was hard, and some of the paint because of the wallpaper).

That house hosted us for years of Boxing Day dinners, Thanksgivings, sometimes Easters and lots of get-togethers just because one of my older siblings was in town.

That house hosted the rehearsal dinner for my wedding – an October day so warm that we all sat out on the back deck. My brother-in-law barbecued and Dad’s partner made my favourite dessert and I was glad to have them involved in the day.

The day after my daughter was born we stopped by to see my Dad and sat in his living room – an odd, elongated room that fit our large family quite nicely. We were talking and Dad said, and I’ll never forget: “Do I get to hold my new granddaughter?”

Last Halloween Joe was out of town and after trying to figure out trick-or-treating and what to do with her I asked Dad if we could go over there, visit and take her out. Halloween was one of his favourite days. He used to count the number of kids he got at his door. I think he just loved talking to all his neighbours.

The kid had a great time hanging out at the door with Grandpa Joe and handing out candy, my Mom came with us and chatted with Dad’s partner, even my sister came with us trick-or-treating in the old neighbourhood.

The day after we all got the news that Dad had died his five kids met at the house – the only place we regularly saw each other – and started to clean it out.

I will never forget that week. It was hard – physically and emotionally. But the it was so much better grieving all together. It was therapeutic.

None of us had an easy relationship with Dad, I don’t think, but we are all who we are at least partly because of him.

Soon the house won’t be ours any more. It’s been conditionally sold. It will be the first time in my life that there’s no place to be in that neighbourhood. That I won’t have that house to just go to. I can’t drop in any more. I can’t hang out on the porch and watch the world go by while I talk to my Dad and ask him for advice.

I went to pick some things up the other day and it occurred to me while I was there that the house is going to be gone. Changed. Someone else’s. It hit me a lot harder than I thought. It’s been a place in my life. A hub. It’s not just a house.

When I decided to go back to school, and again when I decided to work and do school at the same time, I knew I was going to be making tough choices. Having to tell my daughter that this year I would not be there to put her on the bus on her first day of school.

I won’t be there for the pictures, I won’t meet her new bus driver. I won’t be there to do her hair or help her pick an outfit.

It’s the first first day I’m missing. I took her to preschool, I was there at the bus last year (and I cried). My whole being tells me I should be there, but that I have to go to class. I have to.

I cannot and will not mess this opportunity up.

I can only keep telling her why and hoping she understands.

Where I’m struggling the most is that I’m really enjoying being at work, and I’m legitimately interested in what I’m doing at school and both of those things are working together to fuel a passion that burned out a few years ago.

So right now I have to be there for me, not wasting the opportunities given to me, and assume that she will watch me thrive and understand that these are the things that life is about.

And I have to assume that in the grand scheme of things, my not being there to put her on the bus on her first day of senior kindergarten will not be a big deal.

Swing swing

Swing swing

Losing and finding

September 7th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Personal - (Comments Off)

I cried at work this week. More than once actually. That photo, that story, thousands of people walking from one country to the next.

Thousands of people in a situation I can’t even imagine, and one father having an experience I can imagine too well.

I always enjoyed watching the news for a living. Wanting to know what’s happening right this second is part of my DNA. There are days when it has been fun and fairly easy and days when it has been very, very hard.

But at the same time this time back at my old job has been a reminder of how much I love this work. Just like last year was a great reminder of how much I love politics and policy discussions.

I missed being in the middle of it all. I missed being allowed to know what was happening in the world all the time in real time.

Even when that meant seeing the worst of the world. Maybe most of all. Because you get to see the ways people react, and that can usually restore your faith in humanity. Most humanity. Spending days weighing the good and the bad.

In my head not knowing is always worse than knowing.

Of course, being at work or in school and knowing what’s happening in the news takes me away from always knowing what’s happening in my own house with my own family, and that’s a price I’m currently paying.

Something that’s hurt my heart that day of that picture. That I was here without my daughter, and she was at home without me.

But one day last week, after I arrived home around 1 am my daughter came out of her room. She was half asleep, maybe she heard a noise or had a bad dream, but she was walking in to see Daddy. I saw her lift her head up and I saw her see me and that smile erased any of the pain and sorrow I had been feeling.

It’s like she knew I needed that hug.


Children. They are magic. And the idea of the loss of one, just one innocent soul and the pain that would fill that void is too much to bear.

We don’t stop until the job is done

August 30th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off)

Last night I was lying in bed trying to sleep. This is a situation I’ve faced a lot recently because I’ve got a lot of things on my mind.

School starts tomorrow, I’m working two jobs. I’ve got this kid that I miss desperately when I can’t see her.

But last night something so strange happened. I was lying there and a small part of my brain asked ‘can you actually do this?’ another part shouted it down – Of course you can, you have no choice.

The fact is that I’ve done this before, it’s been hard. I’ve done a lot of hard things. I get them done. Because I have to. I refuse to fail.

Orientation starts in 24 hours.

Shots rang out

August 27th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Personal - (Comments Off)

I’ve been thinking about the shooting in Virginia a lot today. It’s not the worst one – and I’m really sad to say that, two people having lost their lives live on television. But I will never forget the day of Sandy Hook. Never.

But today Joe sent me a note about this shooting when the news broke, and I went to Twitter to find out what was going on, because I’m a newshound and I like to keep as informed as possible. And that’s when I found out that not only were these two young people, they were two people who were in romantic relationships with colleagues (just like Joe and me) and that the cameraman’s fiancee was in the control room, watching live when the shots rang out and the screaming started.

And I can picture her sitting there, trying to think of everything that could be happening that wasn’t the worst possible thing.

I cannot begin to imagine losing Joe at all. But to imaging losing him in a brutal crime like that, witnessing it happening. I just can’t. It hurts me just to try to put myself in those shoes.

What makes it all worse is the inevitability of it. Something like this was bound to happen. There will probably be copycats. People trying to become infamous. And I won’t be surprised then either.

I will continue to not be surprised by mass killings and politicians who talk a big game but can’t actually face down the gun lobby. I will continue to not be surprised that their are Americans who think a 200 year old document provides them with the right to carry an automatic weapon and that that right is more important that thousands of lives each year. (And by the way – more guns does equal more deaths).

I can’t pretend Canada is above all this. We’ve had our Polytechnique and our Dawson College. My own hometown proved not to be immune last October and it shook me to the core. We have bad cops and racism too. We have our problems to fix and that I will never deny.

But at least I believe that we’ll actually try to fix them.

Gone again

August 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off)

We buried my Dad today. The wooden box chosen as an urn looked very small. Smaller, even, than the last time I saw it. And we left him there with his parents and maternal grandparents. Family in a family town.

It’s hard to believe it was so long ago, and such a short time ago, that we got the news and started reacting.

When I went in to see him at the visitation I talked to him and I told him how angry I was, because I wasn’t done with him. We weren’t done yet. My daughter wasn’t done with her Grandpa yet – and dammit he was a better grandfather than he was a father.

It occurred to me today that part of the reason I wasn’t done is that I have now lost a huge part of myself I still had to figure out.

We were getting there. I was getting over being angry and wanting him to be someone that he just wasn’t. I had figured out that a lot of the barrier between us was my own doing.

So now I’m sitting in regret. Regret for things I will now never be able to fix.

Why did it take me so long to realize that he didn’t have pictures of me up around his house because I had never given him any?

Why didn’t I ask him to please stay for pictures after my wedding?

Why didn’t I get pictures of him with my daughter every time they were together?

Why didn’t I ever get a chance to apologize and ask for an apology?

But there are things I’m glad of and lessons to learn. And because I know how much like him I am, I also know the strength I had. I can find his confidence, his determination.

When he was in his 60s his doctor told him he had to change his entire life – every habit – if he didn’t want to die. And he did. Somewhere in me, there is that. I just have to dig a bit.


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