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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.

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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.

So a thing happened in Ottawa this week. It was handled badly.

The facts are this – Our Prime Minister strode across the floor of the House of Commons, grabbed the Opposition Whip by the arm while said Whip told him to let go, told the third party leader to “get the fuck out of the way” according to reports, and in doing so accidentally elbowed a female MP in the breast. Which, by the way, is something that can really hurt. I won’t compare it to getting a shot to the testicles because I have no frame of reference for that, just like cisgendered men have no frame of reference for getting shoved into a test and elbowed in the breast.

So this happened. The Prime Minister had not reason at all for his actions beyond the fact that his temper ran away with him. No reason. If the Opposition Whip was having an issue it would be the job of the Speaker or even the Opposition House Leader to deal with that. There was no delay to the vote – as both the current and a former Speaker have said – the Chief Government Whip had taken his seat and the vote could be called.

Instead the PM took it upon himself to lay hands on another member of the House.

He has since apologized twice. Once for the accidental elbowing of a fellow MP and once for not holding himself to a “higher standard.” These apologies have, I think, been accepted.

And yet.

The Prime Minister is being defending online, the Opposition Whip is being congratulated for how he handled the situation and the woman who was standing in what happened to be, completely by chance, the wrong place at the wrong time, is facing abuse.

Apparently it is her fault. She has been told she should resign, that she’s a disgrace, that she wasn’t in fact hurt at all. That she is “playing the victim.”

This is fascinating, because as far as I know Ruth Ellen didn’t say anything about the issue at all until she had to stand in the House to explain missing the vote. In fact, she still has only said that she was hit and it did hurt.

I’d like people to take a step back and ask themselves how a stupid decision by the PM became the fault of a woman who just happened to be there.

Dark Places, Bright Lights

May 20th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off on Dark Places, Bright Lights)

I was listening to the Rupaul podcast on my drive in to downtown for a meeting today – yes there’s a Rupaul podcast, yes I listen to it, go forth and be fierce.

Rupaul and co-host Michelle Visage were talking about teenager-hood and the dark places it can take you and how you have to let your kids follow their path our of that darkness. Just because you know they’ll be okay doesn’t mean they know it – they won’t believe you because they feel different than every other person on earth. But we all go through our struggles and figure out who we’re supposed to be eventually. Teach your kids trust in that process.

As a teenager I had very dark places. I was so sure that the rest of my life was going to be absolute crap. Hell, I was sure that the rest of high school was going to be absolute crap. I got stress headaches, I battled depression and suicidal thoughts, and I thought about dropping out.

That was Grade 11, I was 16. I was so sure.

By my Grade 13 (OAC) year things had changed dramatically. I had a plan. I was working a co-op and found that I loved working. I was applying to universities, I knew who and what I was going to be. I was on anti-depressants and I had great friends. I was still pretty sure I’d never date anyone but I was okay because I was going to travel the world.

I graduated in June, I worked all summer, I left for Toronto to start at university and before classes ever started I was back home. Everything in my body and brain was panicking, telling me that I had made a mistake. This life plan I had pieced together after my great co-op and my love of hockey was not going to work. It wasn’t a fit. I thought I was one thing and it turned out I wasn’t and then I spiralled.

It took me a month to find a retail job, it took me four months to decide on a new path, but by my birthday I had a plan and a college acceptance, and that’s when I went into journalism school.

I love journalism school and I was good at it. I was at or near the top of every class, I had natural skills (for everything but photography). I had instinct and I wrote fast – they put me on breaking news and I loved the rush. I had found my place and I felt good. Until I graduated and it took me two months to get hired. Once I was out in the real world of constant work for shitty pay I loved journalism a lot less, and without feedback I wasn’t as good at it either.

No one told me there would be that many bumps in the road.

After my second job at a local paper with terrible hours and a terrible salary I decided to go back to school and get some sort of degree, finally.

And there all of the pieces fell together. The piece I had missed in college – I love politics more than most people – led me to my degree program. The journalism skills I had led me to the student paper where I found my people. One person in particular found me.

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We moved in, got a dog, got married and had a kid – the most awesome kid. All things I never thought I wanted. Stupid Joe and his trickery.

My life is nothing like what I thought it would be at 16 or 18 or even 23, and it’s nothing like what I thought would make me happy either. But here we are. All because I went through my dark times and found my people.

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Other great podcasts, just because: 

Another Round – two great, funny black women talking about race and feminism, necessarily uncomfortable for a white woman sometimes.

Sword and Scale, Casefile  – if you like true crime, and I do. Casefile has the added bonus that the host is Australian.

If you listened to Serial you should catch up on Undisclosed and find yourself saying “why didn’t they bring this up on Serial?!”

Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me – a funny quiz show about news. Seriously.

No Such Thing As A Fish, the QI podcast, full of useless facts and weird trivia.

And I always recommend This American Life, but now I assume most people have already heard of that one.

This morning I came across a post from Entertainment Weekly listing 55 movies they call essential for kids to watch before they turn 13. I know I saw a lot of these as a kid and they were awesome. I also know that some of them I didn’t see until recently and felt as though they would have been more special to me if I had seen them earlier in life – The Goonies, Star Wars.

So I made a checklist. There are several we’ve already watched together. My favourite so far was Annie. I loved the movie as a kid, and as soon as the singing started the kid was hooked. I don’t think she turned away for the entire length of the movie. Her favourite movie so far has been The Peanuts Movie which she saw in theatres three times (once with Grandma, once with Daddy and once with me) and she has already watched the new DVD.

A few on the list that we haven’t watched yet were some of my favourites as a kid – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Sometimes I think to myself that she’s not ready for some of the themes in these movies and wonder when I will be comfortable showing her. And then I remember that I saw these films and loved them.

Going to movies has always been one of my favourite things. To this day I remember the brilliant lights walking into the theatre when my mom took us to see Follow That Bird. I remember snuggling in to watch a movie on our new VCR as a family. I remember heading out to movies with my friends and laughing all the way home remember bits. I remember in the months when I was unemployed, living at home and not sure what my next step was learning how freeing going to the movie by myself could be.

Just like I want my kid to love books, I want her to love stories. I want her to lose herself.

I should really add the Addams Family to the list...

I should really add the Addams Family to the list…

 

What are the movies you couldn’t wait to show your kids?

Politics and political people

April 25th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Ottawa | Personal - (Comments Off on Politics and political people)

Sometimes I meet people who tell me that they are not interested in politics. It’s fairly rare in Ottawa, giving how affected many of us are by government changes and decisions, but it still happens. And I find myself not believing these people. I am firm in my belief that anyone can be political, you just need the right issue.

Telling yourself that you’re not interested in politics is telling yourself that you’re not interested in your daily life. Seriously. Your daily life is affected by municipal, provincial and federal politics. Assuming you put out garbage, use the streets and sidewalks, send your kids to school and have deductions off your paycheque.

Politics is not just about the big, wide-ranging issues – though you probably deal with some of those every day too. You might have people in your life who are gay or trans and you happy to think they should have the same rights as everyone else – being human beings and all.

You might have a child with autism in your family and you think the delays in getting them programming they need is despicable.

Chances are at some point in your life you will find an issue – or have an issue thrust upon you – that you will be passionate about. (Take Amanda, for instance).

Hindsight

April 19th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Health | Parenting | Personal - (Comments Off on Hindsight)

I have always been the fat kid. At least it feels that way for me. There is photographic evidence to the contrary…

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…but I have certainly always been fatter than my brother and sisters, and way fatter than the sister I grew up with. I am now the mother to a thin, healthy, strong and active child and I wonder what people think of the two of us together. I’m at my highest weight ever and here is this child who never stops moving, eats all the vegetables she can get her hands on, knows when to stop.

I have never been a good eater. I have trouble eating on waking and breakfast has always felt like something others are trying to force on me. I eat late because I stay up late. I have always been a night owl. But life doesn’t work that way.

When I was in Grade 9 I went to visit my Dad and he asked if I had lost weight. I didn’t know. When I went and weighed myself after his question it seemed I had managed to lose about 40 lbs.

This happened because I had given up on the bus and started walking home from school, and also because I wasn’t eating anything during the day.

I would have the occasional muffin or box of Smarties, sometimes I would partake in cafeteria meals, but mostly I was just not until until I got home around 4 pm.

And it didn’t occur to me until the past few years that the way I eat, and certainly the way I was eating back then, is disordered. I lost 40 lbs because my caloric intake took a nosedive into unhealthy levels and my activity levels shot up the other way.

And somehow since then I have been focused on that weight lost as some sort of success that I haven’t been able to repeat. And somehow food has become the focus of all my emotions. And to this day my eating is disordered and I lack the capacity to feed myself, even as I worry about the nutrients my daughter is getting to make sure she has energy.

The same way I worry about her sleep patterns even though my own are ridiculous.

So where do we go from here?

Dear Dad,

Today I went to Blog Out Loud Ottawa and read the post I wrote after I graduated with my B.A. (Hons) in June last year. The post was a letter to you, telling you about making it. At the time I had finished my exams, graduated and gotten accepted to the MPM program.

It’s hard to believe that you died almost a year ago. That life was thrown off course and steadied that long ago. Because here I am, having finished all the coursework for my Masters. I’m doing my internship now, a good one, one that will help kids, and then I will be able to officially have B.A., MPM on my CV.

I didn’t know if I could do it, and then I became pretty sure that I could. In fact, at times, it seemed almost easy. Because I’m smart and I work hard. I’m dedicated and I found something that I’m passionate about. I have that thing that you had your whole career.

I am passionate about the work I do and I’m still the mom that my kid needs.

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Look at her Dad. I can’t fathom going on endless business trips and leaving her behind. I can’t imagine being away for weeks at a time. A few hours and I’m excited to see her again. I can’t imagine her not knowing what country I’m in, let alone when I’ll be home.

She cried for you tonight. She misses you, and I miss you for her. You were a better grandfather than you were a father to me, though some of that was undoubtedly my fault. But it almost feels like you’ve failed me again by dying before my daughter got to be your granddaughter. And by dying before I got to really be who I am now, instead of the me I was for so long.

I wish we hadn’t been so much alike, or at least both recognized it in each other. I wish we had been better people together.

In November I graduate. Probably the last time. And once again I will walk through the Field House and I will look for your face in the crowd like last time, and I’ll cry again when you’re not there to see me. We should have had more time, but I have things here that I need to make the most of.

A Master

April 8th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #MommyScholar - (Comments Off on A Master)

I had a great conversation today and I volunteered myself for something that I think is going to be awesome, and it got me thinking.

I learned a lot of things doing my Masters degree. I re-learned some things too. I put together documents that I didn’t have experience with, I learned about things like the Lobbying Act, I put together an advocacy plan. The program taught me a lot of things, including what I already know and what I am capable of (including working a more-than-full time job in an election campaign while maintaining good grades in a Masters program).

I think the best thing that my Masters program gave me was the people. The people who were my classmates, the professors and all of those people that took the time to come in and talk to us about their lives and their careers.

Being connected to people who are passionate about that same things that you are passionate about is a great thing. Having lively debates, challenging yourself and your beliefs, it all makes you a stronger person. And if you listen it teaches you about yourself and what you really believe, what’s really important to you.

It has not been easy. In fact it has been quite difficult a lot of the time. But hey, I have three letters to add to my resume and a whole lot more self-awareness. Plus a network.

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The final countdown

April 7th, 2016 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #MommyScholar - (Comments Off on The final countdown)

Two years ago I sat on the front porch with my Dad, trying to figure out what exactly I was doing with my career and where to go next and it was decided, somehow, all of a sudden, that I should really do the Masters in Political Management Program.

Two years ago I re-applied to university to start a two year journey that would end in a Masters degree.

Two years have passed. Many essays have been written, articles have been read, big thoughts have been had and tears have been shed. And today I finished all the last of my course work.

It feels like a long journey and also somehow like no time has passed at all.

I’ve met new people, re-introduced myself to people I already knew. I have been reinvigorated. Reminded of my love for politics. The important work that important people do here in my hometown.

I am more sure than ever of who I am and what my priorities are and also somehow less sure of what comes next. I could do anything. I feel like I could do anything. I can do good. And I know what good I can do.

I don’t know how to feel right now, except ready to keep moving.

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