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Lately I’ve been lying awake at night a lot. Actually, I’ve been staying up late avoiding sleep knowing that when I finally try I’ll lie there, awake.

I’ve got a lot on my mind. Reverberations from my Dad dying; nervous energy and anticipation before school starting in September; desire to have the best summer possible with my daughter because come September I could be very, very busy, at least for 36 days, and then moderately busy for the rest of the year; worried about the weight I’m putting on other people’s shoulders.

And the pain my daughter might feel if I do everything I say I’m going to do. If I understand how important it is, will she understand? Will she be angry but grow to understand?

And how do I not feel selfish trying to take care of myself while getting all this other stuff done for other people?

I lie awake thinking about how I need to get to sleep because if I don’t get sleep then I won’t be able to have the great summer I want my daughter to have. And I lie awake thinking about how exhausted I’m going to be all the time in September and wonder if I’m jeopardizing everything.

And I read all the pre-election crap that’s going on on Twitter and decide I hate politics and I’m wasting my life trying to work with all these heavily partisan people who ignore facts to make a point.

And that’s when I start to wonder if I’m really falling apart, because when I’m in class talking about issues and real change and solutions I’m always on fire. Because I do care, sometimes too much. And I do believe things can be better.

Not only can things be better, they have to be, and we can make them better.

And I see the tireless work some of my friends do and want to be more. And it’s all for her.

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I have to believe she knows that, or will understand.

 

On my way to my Dad’s house last week I drove past my high school. As I was passing it occurred to me that it was June 25, 2015. I graduated from that school on June 26, 2000.

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I had such a plan for my life back then. I was ready to spend the next seven years in school and become an Athletic Therapist and eventually work for a hockey team.

Fifteen years later I’m going back to university for the third time to get a Masters degree in politics. In between there is a whole lot of bad decisions, mistakes and hard times. There’s one day I spent living in Toronto, one month in Montreal, three months in a very small town in Alberta and four in a very small town in northern Ontario. Jobs that I hated, jobs I wasn’t very good at, jobs I loved and excelled at. Long talks on the phone with my mother, in tears. Long talks with my dad, seeking guidance.

15 years later I have a five year old, I have a diploma and a degree and I’m heading for a Masters, I have a husband. All of these things would have been a surprise to 19 year old me, I’m pretty sure. I didn’t ever anticipate getting married. I never thought I’d be a mother.

But I can also say that my life in 2015 makes a lot more sense to me than my life in 2000. (Though I’m not sure where exactly a lot of those years went).

These 15 years have not been wasted, that much I’m sure of.

Last night my sister and I took in the last show of the NAC Pops’ season. It was an evening my father had bought tickets to and we sort of inherited them. The night was called ‘Broadway Standing Ovations.’ It was the orchestra, four great singers and some great songs from broadway shows, including Music of the Night.

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Music of the Night is, of course, one of the best known songs from The Phantom of the Opera musical. Listening to that song, even though the singer was not wearing the mask, brought me back to the summer my mom took us to Toronto. It was probably about 1990, my single mother took us on our first trip that was just the three of us. We stayed in a fancy hotel, (she even let us rent a movie), we shopped on Yonge St., and one night we went to the Pantages Theatre, fully renovated to look like the Paris Opera House, and we saw Phantom.

Our seats were in the second or third row, right under the path of the chandelier as it crashed to the stage.

It was my first ever experience seeing a musical and I fell in love.

By the time I finished Grade 8 I had seen Phantom, Les Miserables, Cats, Miss Saigon and Tommy. I was listening to albums all the time – as much Andrew Lloyd Webber as I could get my hands on.

That summer seeing Phantom was the start of a great love of my life. I still try to get to shows, I’ve seen some here and some in Toronto as I’ve grown up. I watch the Tonys every year, and every year I see performances that add new shows to my lists of want-to-sees – Next to Normal, Fun Home, Mathilda.

The Mathilda musical is on the Mirvish program for next summer and I plan to take my kid to Toronto, stay in a hotel and take her to the show.

Hearing that song last night reminded me of that first show, that spark. It was a gift. Thanks Dad.

Dear virus,

June 19th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting - (Comments Off)

Dear viral conjunctivitis,

I just wanted to say that I never new you existed until this week. I mean, I had heard of and experienced your cousin, plain old pink eye, but I didn’t know that there was this extra bit of fun to experience on top of the pain and itching and awful drops twice a day.

Now that we’ve become acquainted, viral conjunctivitis, I just have to say this: Screw you. Screw you and all your stupid little virus parts.

Since you invaded our house my daughter has had daily crying fits because she feels so rotten. She’s had a fever going on five days. She’s never been this sick before. If you were a human being I would beat you to a bloody pulp and then spit on you as you lay on the ground.

And now you think you’re coming after me? You’ve got another think coming, sir. I have spent the better part of this week disinfecting and doing laundry. I have washed my hands raw every day. I’ve had the windows open to blow the germs away. I even convinced the five-year-old who has always hated sleep to take afternoon naps with me so her body could fight you harder.

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So I don’t know what you think you’re still doing here, viral conjunctivitis. I am running out of ways to demonstrate to you that you’re not welcome here any more.

You’d better be gone by tomorrow.

Stop the world, I want to get off

June 18th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off)

I need everything to just stop for like an hour, maybe?

I’m tired and I’d like a second to just think about all of the things that have been happening over the past couple of months. I’d like for there to be no news for a little while. No more shootings or attacks on black lives, or gay people or anyone more vulnerable than people like me. No more sexual violence, or stupid comments about the inevitability of sexual violence.

No more kid being sick, or Joe being sick or me being sick.

An hour to feel healthy. An hour without stupidity. An hour without my to do list hanging over my head.

Hell, another hour with my Dad so I can just ask him honest questions and know.

An hour to feel like I’m not stumbling around in the darkness. Maybe a second hour to just sit and cry. An hour to take a drive with the windows open, the perfect playlist and no particular destination.

Everything right now feels uncertain and it’s a very uncomfortable place to be. Nothing feels quite right. Nothing the way it’s supposed to be. I spend most of my time either dealing with things that are hard or waiting for the next hard thing to happen and I just want a little break. That’s all. Just a pause.

A pause to take it all in.

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I have heard reports from multiple teacher friends now that they have been on the receiving end of abuse from parents and I am now really, really angry.

Let me state right out: I am a supporter of unions. Though they have their issues, unions have done amazing things for people’s lives and the work that gets done. I am also a supporter of teachers. I cannot imagine how difficult a job it is to do. And yes, I know that there are some bad teachers – I had them too – but I also had some good teachers that probably changed my life.

I believe that most teachers love the kids and are dedicated to them. My daughter has had an absolutely wonderful year of preschool thanks to three dedicated and hard-working ECEs and now a pretty damn good kindergarten year thanks to a solid teacher assisted by a solid ECE. I believe that these experiences have paved her way for the rest of her school career.

I also believe that it is a parent’s job to support their child’s teachers. But right now there are parents across this province who are not only blaming teachers for job action that they believe is hurting the students (for which the province and the school boards should also receive blame) – I’m not even a teacher and I’ve been called naive for believing that our teachers actually do have the best interest of students at heart.

But the worst of it is that parents are being abusive towards the teachers.

This I cannot understand. It’s not just that people don’t bother reading about the issue and start blaming teachers for not doing work that they are actually doing. I want to know what you think you’re teaching your children by speaking out so loudly against the people you send them to every day.

I wonder about this because I think you’re teaching them that teachers don’t deserve respect, and that’s an attitude that will last with them through the rest of their lives. A damaging attitude.

*In 2012 the Ontario Liberal government put forward Bill 115, the “Putting Students First” Act. The act includes several measures that prevent basically any official organization from evaluating whether the act is constitutionally sound or whether it goes against the Human Rights Code. Any government putting such restrictions in any act should immediately be seen as a problem. 

The government/school boards says this is all about more money, the teachers say this is about not giving up control of their own prep time, not taking away restrictions on class sizes, etc. In fact, the EFTO says it has not brought salary issues to the bargaining table yet. 

Why do I trust the EFTO? Because school boards have already been caught lying – boards across the province told parents that there would be no report cards because teachers hadn’t submitted grades. Teachers did submit grades, the boards want the teachers to input the grades into their system and the teachers are not doing that because they are working to rule, which means doing their job to the letter of their contract. Entering grades is not in their contract. Unfortunately many Ontario parents seem to vastly underestimate the amount of extra time teachers put in, particularly around report card time. 

Just because someone has become a teacher (or a public servant for that matter) does not mean you own them. It does not give you a right to treat them as less than human. It does not give you the right to teach your children that these people are not worth kindness.

In the pink

June 17th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting - (Comments Off)

This kid has been very healthy her whole life. I think I can count the number of times she’s thrown up on one hand. Even when she is sick, she’s very bad at being sick – the relaxing, resting… staying still.

When I noticed the other morning that one of her eyes was swollen I assumed right away she had finally picked up her first case of pink eye. My mom took her to the doctor and my theory was confirmed. Conjunctivitis, highly contagious, eye drops prescribed.

By the time I got home that afternoon she was pink in the face too. She was hot to the touch and she told me she had a headache. She also wasn’t eating. I knew something was very wrong when I asked her if she wanted to just go up to bed at 5:30 and she said yes.

In the middle of the night she woke up, threw up and started bawling. And I was so sad for her because I know what it’s like to just feel rotten but I don’t know what it’s like to have never felt that way before.

After a few more hours of sleep she woke up crying again. Feeling rotten again. Her fever was higher than it had been in the middle of the night and she was just distraught. It didn’t help that we were supposed to go and spend one night in a hotel, just her and me. We were going to spend some time and go swimming, maybe hike, have a room service breakfast. But she knew and I knew that we wouldn’t be able to do those things.

That made her very sad and also mad.

All day I watched her – too hot, flushed but shivering, weak and shaky, no appetite. Just scared and uncomfortable. In the middle of the day she fell asleep on the couch, just drifted off.

I can’t remember the last time she just fell asleep on the couch.

Around this age

Around this age

I have never, ever seen her this sick. She has never been this sick. And I felt helpless. I talked to the nurse at our doctor’s office – viral conjunctivitis is a whole different ballgame.

I gave her the Tylenol and tried to keep her hydrated. I knew the fever would go down eventually. But on the other hand I wanted to rush her to the hospital and tell them to just make her feel better.

And I got lucky. By the end of the day she was acting like herself again. She asked for something to eat. She was making up jokes. She’s not all the way back, but she’s getting there, and I’m now cleaning the house and banishing all the germs.

And now I can sit back and hope that that is the sickest she will ever be.

 

After my dad died one of my nieces got a tattoo in his memory, and I started thinking about what I would get if I did such a thing. After all my tattoos all have some meaning – the forget-me-nots for two grandmothers lost to Alzheimers, the monkey for my kid, the Bert and Ernie for my marriage.

It took until this weekend for the obvious to enter my mind. My father was a graduate of Carleton University, as I am, as are many other members of the family. My father taught at Carleton for many years and was a supporter of the various teams, mainly basketball. In high school I did a coop in athletics and loved attending games. I am now back at Carleton, getting ready to earn my Masters. I plan to put my whole self into that experience and come out ready to thrive.

The teams there are the Ravens. So what about a Raven?

But isn’t that so simple? I don’t want a logo on me. I want a bit of art. And isn’t a raven a bad omen?

So, as the thought started growing I started searching around for what ravens can look like and what they might mean in different histories and cultures. And very quickly the picture became more and more clear.

Ravens stand for intelligence. The Norse God Odin was said to be accompanied by two ravens, one representing the mind and the ability to intuit meaning, the other representing the power of thought. The raven is curious.

In some Native American cultures the raven symbolizes the unknown and shows that every person sees the world in a different way.

The raven is the messenger – the spreader of news. Like my Dad, and me, in our careers.

It also stands for moving through transitions. Which I have been doing and will be doing for the next year or two. And then I can soar.

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It all just makes sense.

 

Summer of Awesome 2015

June 14th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting - (Comments Off)

It’s been a rough year, we’ve all been busy. The kid has had a great time in kindergarten but I think she’s glad to be done. I know I’m glad to be done school for this year, though I register for next year next week. All her activities have wrapped up, except for swimming, and I have a week to rest up before she’s off. And once she’s off we will drain every ounce of fun out of this summer that we can.

I also know that the quality time we spend this summer, even just hanging out together, is so important. These are the things she’ll remember as she gets older. Me too.

  1. Alice’s Tea Party at Billings Estate 
  2. Mom and Maggie trip to Montebello
  3. Rally for Change
  4. Teddy Bear Picnic (Rideau Hall, June 20)
  5. Family Reunion (August)
  6. Rideau Hall movie nights (August)
  7. RCMP Musical Ride
  8. Diefenbunker – a great rainy day activity and I’ve never been
  9. Mackenzie King Estate – we haven’t been since the kid was the baby girl
  10. Ottawa Farmers’ Market
  11. Strawberry picking
  12. Skyzone/Xtreme Trampoline
  13. Karters Korner – Got a recommendation from a friend
  14. Ottawa Fury FC – soccer is a great game live
  15. RedBlacks games
  16. Community garage sale
  17. Wild Bird Care Center
  18. Pakenham and Almonte – If you haven’t been to Scoops for ice cream, you’re missing out
  19. Swimming
  20. Splash pads
  21. Play dates
  22. Dog Park
  23. High tea at the Chateau Laurier
  24. Dance in the rain
  25. The beach
  26. Learn to ride a two wheeler
  27. Go for bike rides
  28. See Inside Out (comes out June 19)
  29. Gym/play room
  30. See Minions (comes out July 10)
  31. Terry Fox Exhibit at Museum of History (Also the Magna Carta is there)
  32. Spend an afternoon reading
  33. Take Gramps for a milkshake
  34. Library days

 

IMG_5322I’ll be keeping track here.

 

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Dear Dad,

Today I graduated with my B.A. Honours degree. This means I’m now half way through the journey that started when I sat on your porch about a year ago. Actually, maybe I’m a bit more than half way because getting my acceptance was part of the process too. Of course our last email exchange was me telling you my graduation date, so I knew you wouldn’t have been there anyway, but when I turned that corner as the procession left the field house my mind flashed to the last time. That’s where you were, and today you weren’t, and next year you won’t be.

There were a lot of small moments that make thing of you. When they mentioned the professors emeritus on the stage, when the same professor whose class you spoke to was the one helping me with my hood, when the honorary degree recipients was the father of a boy I went to high school with and when he talked about his kids spending time on Carleton campus, challenging themselves to dive off the tower at the pool. The pool that you took us to.

The thing is, Dad, I’ve grown very used to running things by you. I get assignments and we have conversations. I email you about resources. I ask you for help. Next year I will be taking on one of my biggest challenges – a challenge you helped talk me in to – and you won’t be there. You won’t be there when I celebrate my success either. You could have used your status as a professor emeritus to sit on the stage when I walked across as a Master in Political Management, but you won’t be there at all.

All my life I’ve felt as though I had to prove myself to you and now I’m there Dad. I succeeded. I got into this great program, I’m going to get a great job or jobs out of it. I’ve got a great husband and a beautiful home. I’ve got in-laws who were there for me on this day to celebrate, who love my daughter and have helped us so much over the years. They were there today understanding why I needed all the extra support.

I’ve got this daughter. Dad, she’s everything you could have ever wanted me to be. She’s bright and athletic and happy. She’s going to take over the world. You and her, you would have been quite a pair. But now she only gets faint memories.

I came around that corner, where you were last time, proud of me, and all at once I expected to see your face again and knew it wouldn’t happen. It’s not fair that I can’t share these things with you. It took me such a long time to get to this place.

But I did it, and you should know.

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