My Ottawa

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I grew up in Ottawa. I have moved away a handful of times but I have always ended up back here. When I got to work on Parliament Hill it was a privilege every day. I almost had to pinch myself every time I got to walk up the steps into Centre Block.

This city is part of me. I am part of it.

And this morning I happened to have CBC News on while I was doing some work and I looked up and the picture said Breaking News and there was Parliament Hill, Centre Block surrounded by police cars. And suddenly the world spiralled out of control.

The place I used to work, the centre of my city and arguably the country was under attack, nothing was clear. My friends and former colleagues under lock down. I quickly checked in with everyone I could think of, and settled in to watch the news all day, following Twitter and trying to make sense of something that doesn’t make any sense.

But at the same time I had trust that everything would be alright. That the military, RCMP and police we have here would take care of us all. And they did.

I was not scared. I am not scared. I am angry.

This was an act meant to produce fear, but I’m not afraid. I am angry that you think you can come here and do that to us. We may seem meek but we are fierce. We are protective. We don’t take kindly to threats like this.

And we have a lot of friends.

Sometime in the next few days there will be a gathering on Parliament Hill to demonstrate our strength, our solidarity and our lack of fear. I will be there, I will be wearing my poppy. I will be surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of others.

Some people online were saying this is Canada’s 9-11, that Ottawa is comparable now to Newtown, to Fort Dix, Aurora. This doesn’t compare to that. There is no way this incident compares to the devastation that has happened elsewhere.

We lost a soldier, we lost some feeling of safety, but it could have been so much worse. So very much worse. We don’t know that pain.

We have to find a way to deal with what has happened, but for the most part our lives will just carry on.

IMG_1414It will be a very difficult Remembrance Day, as we gather around what is now a crime scene, these two soldiers that have died needlessly this week will be honoured, we will cry together, and we will push forward.

 

Bad guys

When I was a kid I was not good with scary.

We used to go to the movies and I would cover my eyes and put my head down until the trailers were over – we went to an old theatre that would show movies like The Blob and other scary 50s things. At home, once we got our first VCR (so exciting!) my mom would put on Ghostbusters and I would wait upstairs until they told me the opening scene in the library was over so I could come down and watch the rest of the movie. I don’t know why that scene scared me more than the rest – maybe it lacked an appropriate comedy buffer.

Then there was the time my best friend had a Halloween party and they were going to watch a campy horror movie and I was so scared about even the prospect of watching the movie that I called my mom to pick me up early.

Why yes, that did get me teased at school.

Flash forward a few years and my sister and I are raiding the Horror section at Blockbuster. For my 16 birthday we went to a triple screening – Scream 1, 2 and 3. And then there was that time that I spent all Halloween day watching the Friday the 13th marathon on TV and then we went to see Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the theatre after dark.

All this to say things have changed since I was a terrified kid.

Now take my daughter: More easily scared than I was at any age.

Scared face

Scared face

Books, movies, whatever it is, at the very hint of a bad guy she wants me to stop. She tells me she wants to watch princess movies, but not one that has a witch. Think on that for a minute. I want to show her all the movies I loved as a kid and classics I’ve grown to love since, but I always have to backpedal – what about this scene or that person.

To this day I have only seen the first half of Brave and less than 15 minutes of The Princess and the Frog.

I saw that Annie is on Netflix now and I know she would love the singing and dancing, but then there’s that scene at the railroad tracks and Rooster is chasing her…

The Princess Bride is wonderful, but the ROUSs…

On the one hand I get that she’s sensitive and I don’t want to be the mom that brings on bad dreams. I remember feeling that way when I was a kid, not being able to separate. I used to have terrible dreams. On the other hand I feel as though she’s missing these opportunities to watch really great storytelling – and the bad guys don’t get to win.

Thank you Jamie Lee

I’m a big fan of the movie Halloween and Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance in it. Because of this relationship it never occurred to me that I would be reading my daughter books written by the actress. It turns out, they’re pretty awesome.

It started with My Brave Year of Firsts (affiliate link). I found it in the store while we were on vacation, and I thought it might be good to read given that the kid was going to be starting kindergarten very shortly after we got back. Now we’ve purchased Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods That Make My Day and When I Was Little and she’s loved both of those too.

I love finding books that speak to her. The ones she wants us to read over and over again.

And so I was not surprised with the book she chose at the school library this week: I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off A Little Self Esteem.

There is something about the characters of these little kids that reminds me of mine. The writing and the rhymes get her right into the story. And the best part is that it’s a message I really want delivered. It’s okay to fall down, to stumble, to try and fail, you still have to like who you are at the very base of yourself.

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And any book that makes her want to read more books? I’m buying.

 

Chronicles of a night owl

I written about the troubles my daughter has with falling asleep. She’s afraid to miss out on everything that happens when she’s supposed to be asleep and we’re still awake. She has been this way most of her life. There were times when she was not quite two years old that she would stay up all night and into the next afternoon.

She gets this from me.

I am a lifelong night owl. I don’t go to sleep well. I used to stay up late reading by my night light – resulting in scorch marks on several blankets. My brain works faster at night, everything seems to run more smoothly. This means that when I have assignments to work on, I get them done at night.

This was a much easier task when I was an undergrad the first time around. Joe could go to bed and I would be up late writing away, trying to make one thought connect to another.

Nowadays I have a kid who likes to be awake at 6:30 am and I have to be up, dress and at the bus stop with her by a little after 8 am.

Coffee is my friend

Coffee is my friend

I don’t necessarily like being a night owl. In high school I used to work my way entirely around the clock over the summer. I missed the sunshine, and getting ready to go back to school usually involved me staying up one full day and night so I could get back into a normal schedule. And then there was that time I took a job that started at 7 am, and even sometimes, during election campaigns, required me to take the first possible bus downtown.

When the kid is happily off on the bus then I get to nap, and feel bad about the amount of daylight I’m wasting.

I try to sit down and work in the mornings. I try to get things done during the day. But here I am, 12:34 am, trying to figure out why Canada needs to be concerned with Third World development in 1983.

What is fat?

I knew it was a conversation we’d have to have eventually, but I didn’t plan for it so soon, and I didn’t expect the trigger to be Socks the cat.

We’ve been reading a lot of Beverly Cleary – the entire Ramona series, Ribsy and Henry and Beezus – and I thought Socks would be great because it’s about a cat. We can’t have one, but the kid still loves the idea of them. I’ve learned that with Beverly Cleary’s older books (published in the 1950s) there are things we might want to read around – holy gender stereotyping! – but generally we’ve done okay.

And then someone came to visit Socks’ owners new baby and said the cat was fat, and Mrs. Bricker decides that she and Socks both need to lose some weight.

“Why do people need to lose weight? You get bigger and grow and be healthy,” kid says matter-of-factly. And she’s right, that’s what we’ve always told her. She knows that some food is healthier, that eating the right foods is important for strength and energy. She knows that she’s growing and getting bigger. She knows we focus on her growth.

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So why would being big be a bad thing?

It was bedtime, the end of a long day, not the right time to get into the fat talk with my daughter. Should I use myself as an example? That sometimes people are not healthy and changing the way they eat can make them healthier? I will try to stick to healthy vs not healthy. Fat does not mean healthy any more than thin does.

The fact is that my kid is healthy and she also happens to be skinny. She eats well – loves fruits and vegetables. She’s tall and keeps getting taller. Sometimes I wonder if people think she’s not mine there’s such a difference between us. She loves being active and she’s very strong. She has set herself a great path in life. One I don’t think I was ever on. I am one of those unhealthy people who needs to lose weight. I have been most of my life. I’m not as good at being active or eating the right things the way my kid seems to naturally be.

I’m not ready to colour the way she sees the world like that, and I’m trying to figure out a way to explain it that won’t, but I’ve got a whole culture to fight against.

 

Mentally healthy

Today is World Mental Health Day and we have reason to celebrate in Ottawa. The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre has just received an endowment from the Do It For Daron campaign to create a chair in suicide prevention research.

We’re moving along nicely from that place where no one talked about depression. I am so proud and amazed watching the Richardsons – the pain they must still feel and the strength they show to make sure that others don’t have to go through what they did.

“The assumption was that because Daron died of suicide due to mental illness, we should feel her life is in some way diminished, unworthy of a memorial. Unworthy of publicly memorializing our daughter. We refuse to rewrite her story to allow shame, ignorance and stigma to shroud our daughter’s life, which ended too soon.” – Stephanie Richardson (as quoted in the Ottawa Citizen).

When I thought about suicide as a teenager I thought that it would be a relief for everyone, not having to deal with my crap anymore. Now that I have a daughter I have a much better idea of the hole I would have left behind.

Daron left such a hole that her friends created a campaign in her memory and have raised over $4 million to try to help others like her. The people who loved her have taken the opportunity to create a legacy for Daron that they feel she deserves.

War Cry of the Mature Student

I have been suffering from group work in my time back at university. I have always hated group work, I much prefer to work alone because I care about what I’m doing and when you’re in a group there is almost always someone who does not.

But there is the secret of being a mature student, paying my own way, working very hard and missing out on other things in my life. It is a pretty simple secret – I don’t care what these other students think of me.

I have friends, I have a family, a husband who loves me and loves to hear my opinions. Most of the time. Like every reality show contestant, I am not here to make friends.

I talk in class. I ask questions that I need answered, I answer questions if I have an answer, I jump into discussions. You know why? Because I’m here for my own learning process and I don’t care what you think of me.

I used to care, but now I’m old and I have learned that worrying about you can affect what I can actually accomplish. I learned that it makes much more sense for me to not care, because then you’re not standing in my way. As Rupaul says: what other people think of me is none of my business.

I don’t care if you think I’m bitchy, I don’t care if you think I’m asking something stupid, I don’t care if you think I talk too much. I am here instead of with my kid, who keeps growing up despite my reservations, so I am here to get the most out of this. I am not here just because after you finish high school you go to university, this has been a long and sometimes painful process.

I care what she thinks of me

I care what she thinks of me

I have a plan, this is part of the plan. Now I need a t-shirt – I don’t care what you think of me.

Possibly a second one: There are no stupid questions.

Push Pull

I was away at Blissdom this weekend, I handed in three assignments last week, I’m trying to keep up with my readings and my assignments while also working and having some sort of contact with my family.

There are the days when I feel it would be easier if I just quit. Think of how much free time I would have, how much easier it would be, how many naps I could take if I wasn’t in school right now. I brought this on myself.

I’m the reason my daughter misses me so much, I’m the reason all the laundry is getting done in a rush on the weekend, I’m the reason meals are ready and on the table when it’s dinner time.

Last year I went to Blissdom and I came back feeling right. I was inspired, in a good place, working towards a goal.

This year I went to Blissdom with the mindset that I shouldn’t be there because I had too many other things to take care of. That may have changed the way I experienced the conference. Another reason to be angry at myself.

There is no such thing as balance, there are only those times when I feel less guilt.

Time travel

About 10 years ago this time I went into The Charlatan for a job interview. I met with the editor-in-chief, the chair of the board and the faculty advisor to the board. The next day the E-in-C called and offered me the job, and I stuttered a bit before taking it. I started work the week of Remembrance Day.

By January I considered the E-in-C a friend. At the end of March we started dating. At the end of August we moved in together. In December we got a puppy.

Today we have been married for seven years.

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Ten years after that first year of university I started my fourth year, getting my honours year in after graduating with a general degree, with a goal of finishing next year with a Masters degree.

This man I met as a first year undergrad, who gave me an opportunity – because I was the most qualified candidate, and apparently there was no question or debate – is now supporting me through two more years.

And there’s that one little addition to our family who also needs to be supported.

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Ten years, we’re doing alright.

Finding my bliss

This morning there was a Women in Media panel at Blissdom Canada. It was the first session of the day, lead by Erica Ehm – who was an important part of my childhood.

And Erica took this picture of me with Dini Petty, another important part of my childhood.

And Erica took this picture of me with Dini Petty, another important part of my childhood.

The session was a collision of worlds for me. I went to journalism school, I wanted to be a sports reporter, and I was for a very short time. But it was a long, long way to work myself up in a world that I wasn’t entirely comfortable in. You see, I did really well in journalism school when I had guidance and praise, in the real world there is not so much.

I took a leap and restarted my life and threw myself into my degree. By the time I finished university I knew that I loved politics and I knew I loved Joe.

I still often think about how lucky I am to have found a great job with great people in my field. I got to work for one of the greatest politicians this country has known.

Now, politics and journalism are two fields where women are pushing to succeed. This was brought up on the panel – with Jane Taber there, you’ve got to talk about the hill.

I love politics. I loved it when I was in it, if I ever had any doubts then the classes I’m taking right now prove it. And I am also lucky enough to have great examples in my life of women who have done it, made their voices heard. I can do it. I can be the future of a panel like this – women in politics.

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