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Capping off 2015:

I spent the day cleaning our bedroom so when we wake up it will be fresh and clean.

We went to dinner at St. Hubert’s just like I used to do with my mom and my sister every year when there were more St. Hubert’s in Ottawa and one was walking distance from our house. Joe and I shared sangria.

We drove home dancing and singing, When we got here we had an early celebration – as the clock struck midnight in Britain because we have a five year old and why not.

We popped some Christmas crackers and played Happy on Just Dance and then I decided to give the dog a bath so he’s fresh for 2016 too.

I look like Jughead

I look like Jughead

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In 2016:
I will turn 35
I will celebrate 9 years of marriage
I will have a 6 year old and she will start Grade 1
I will graduate with my Master’s degree
I will kick off the next part of my career
I will draw and paint regularly
I will read 50 books or more
I will watch TV while I complete jigsaw puzzles
I will push myself past more limits

2016: Challenging myself

December 30th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #MommyScholar | Personal - (Comments Off on 2016: Challenging myself)

I’ve been thinking about things I want to do in 2016. There are the obvious things – finish my degree and get a job (or find several jobs), get healthier, learn more, do more. But more specifically I’m trying to remind myself to do all the things that I love doing. Because I have spent part of 2015 remembering all the things I love doing.

And so I’ll take on some challenges for myself. Perhaps like my friend @yumikid I will give myself checkmarks every day I go to the gym and like @MavenofMayhem remind myself of the good I’m doing and the successes I have. I will challenge myself to actually feel better. And given my health of late that seems more important than anything.

I have been doing some painting and drawing lately and have discovered that while I enjoyed acrylics as a child I now really enjoy the effect of pen and watercolour to create. I love sitting at my desk with brushes and paper and Pinterest for inspiration. It doesn’t have to be great as long as I enjoy it. And I do, much more than the adult colouring book I tried.

I will challenge myself again to read 50 books. I’m not going to make it to 50 in 2015 but I’ve cut myself some slack given the challenges I faced this year. I’ve been in school most of the year and I lost a lot of time in the summer after my father died. But I have enjoyed book bingo again this year, and if I manage to finish The Turn of the Screw in the next 48 hours I will have completed my card. I have shelves full of fiction and non-fiction, books about politics and books to help with building my business. At some point I’ve got to ban myself from buying more books until I’ve gotten through them all.

Bookstores are so enticing.

I love to read and reading begets writing. I took on #NaNoWriMo again this year. I didn’t finish, but I do have about 20,000 words of a story that I think I like and that’s success enough for me. I have to remind myself that writing, no matter what form it takes, is great exercise for my mind and soul. Whether it’s a blog or putting pen to paper it’s cathartic, always.

Especially when you match a really good pen with smooth white paper.

Finally I’m going to allow myself time with a good puzzle and some trashy television. Something to give my brain a workout while the other one destroys it a little bit.

2016 is going to be a bit strange. I know what the first half has in store for me, and after that it’s anyone’s guess. I’ll do an internship. I might get a job in an office. I might get a job telecommuting. I might create my own job. There will be ups and downs but I fully suspect that I will come out of 2016 better than I started it. And I will have some special people by my side the whole way.

Husband

Husband

Baby Girl

Baby Girl

And a puppy

And a puppy

To the new homeowners of my father’s house

December 22nd, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off on To the new homeowners of my father’s house)

Dear new family,

I hope you are enjoying the first month in your new home. You may not realize this but you will be celebrating the first Christmas there that’s really been celebrated in about 30 years. You see, my parents bought that house together 40 years ago. They were married, my sister and I were born, and we celebrated our first Christmases there. But then my parents split up in 1984 and since 1985 when my mother moved us to a different house in the neighbourhood that house, the beautiful old house you now call your own, hasn’t had a real family Christmas.

You see, my Dad didn’t get us on Christmas. Dad’s day was Boxing Day.

I used to tell my friends that out family Christmas was a week long celebration – we would have Chinese food from our favourite place on Christmas Eve, and in later years we would open presents that night too. Then on Christmas we would have dinner and probably watch White Christmas. On Boxing Day my sister and I would head over to Dad’s and see the whole Scanlon side of the family – sometimes for the only time of the year. The next day was my sister’s birthday, so there’d be a celebration for that, and then right on to New Year’s.

I have no real memories of living in that house, but I do have memories of sitting in front of a roaring fire in the living room with conversations going on all around me. And I know Dad loved to sit in his designated chair looking out across the room and see this whole family, each one of us at different stages in our lives.

So my Christmas wish for you, new family, is that you too celebrate great family Christmases with a roaring fire and family all around. That you spend summer days out on the porch watching the neighbourhood go by. That young children discover all the secrets of the attic crawl space. That you take advantage of everything that neighbourhood has to offer.

I wish you 40 years of Christmases, every one of them a great gathering of family full of great conversations and lots of laughter.

My first Christmas

My first Christmas

Dear Baby Girl,

December 21st, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #MommyScholar - (Comments Off on Dear Baby Girl,)

I used to regularly write to you, Baby Girl, telling you what you’re up to so you can look back and see how amazing you’ve always been, but lately it’s been hard. You are stuck between two places right now, part of you is still my baby girl and part of you is so much more grown up. I can see how hard it is for you sometimes.

You’ve grown taller again, over four feet now, and your face is changing. I can’t explain it. You still look like you, but sometimes not. I can see a grown up kid in that face and it’s so strange. It feels like no time has passed at all. It’s impossible.

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You’ll be six soon. I remember being six. I remember Grade 1.

You’re going too fast. And sometimes you can feel it too. Sometimes you still want to just cry or cuddle me or be held.

You have such pride in yourself (and a bit of Daddy’s cockiness) and all the things you can do. You play by yourself now. Sometimes you just go to your room and hang out and entertain yourself and I think back to the times that I wondered if that would ever happen. You just lie on your floor reading a book because you can.

And sometimes you still grab onto me and refuse to let go because you just want Mommy.

And you have this big, huge emotions that I try me best to help you through. You put all of your efforts into feeling the most out of everything, experiencing the biggest of the highs and lows. You’re so mature and then sometimes so not. Everything is hard and then it’s so easy.

But you know what Baby Girl? You are only five going on six. And we have a long time together of more highs and more lows to figure this all out. That’s the silver lining. You may be growing up too fast for me and not quite fast enough for you, but I get to always be here on the sidelines to jump in when you need help.

It’s my job.

On the duty to be loyal

December 18th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Work - (Comments Off on On the duty to be loyal)

The public service was in the news a lot this election and continue to be so now that we have a new Liberal government. First when they applauded a visit by the new Prime Minister to Foreign Affairs and now because of a report put out by Canadians for Tax Fairness.

The report consisted of interviews with anonymous current and former public servants at Canada Revenue Agency who made claims that politics were getting in the way of audits of corporations that may be evading taxes with offshore accounts.

You can find the full report here.

Now the question is whether these anonymous public servants are acting for the public trust and deserve protection as whistleblowers or whether they are breaking their vow to remain “professional and non-partisan.”

Public servants have a duty of loyalty to their employer (the Government of Canada) as outlined in the Values and Ethics Code of Conduct. But this code of conduct also refers to a “fundamental role to play in serving Canadians, their communities and the public interest.”

As such, it is up to public servants, and possibly the courts, to decide whether things like these anonymous interviews are a breach of the code or that these public servants were acting in the public interest.

The Conservative Party in particular is upset about this report and is calling on the current government to investigate what happened here. There is an irony here in that the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper was elected on the promise of an accountability act that included whistleblower protection.

These protections were meant to allow public servants and, in fact, all Canadians to report government wrongdoing: “These changes will help create an environment in which employees and all Canadians can honestly and openly report wrongdoing in the federal government without fear of reprisal.”

These particular public servants opted to go to Canadians for Tax Fairness to report what they felt was government mismanagement and political interference that meant that tax laws were not being fairly implemented.

This case highlights two aspects of the Duty of Loyalty specifically: 1) The duty of loyalty owed by public servants to the Government of Canada encompasses a duty to refrain from public criticism of the Government of Canada but 2) However, the duty of loyalty is not absolute, and public criticism may be justified in certain circumstances.

But those circumstances have to fit into specific categories:

the Government is engaged in illegal acts;
Government policies jeopardize life, health or safety; or
the public servant’s criticism has no impact on his or her ability to perform effectively the duties of a public servant or on the public perception of that ability.
In this case the public servants would need to explain publicly that they believe that one of these circumstances apply, presumably that the government was engaging in illegal acts. It would be difficult to argue that tax evasion either jeopardizes life, health or safety or that this criticism would not impact their ability to perform their duties.

The facts of these case seem to require an investigation, as the Tories are calling for, though there is a chance that the anonymous public servants would be vindicated in an investigation.

When to worry about a concussion

December 18th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Health | Parenting - (Comments Off on When to worry about a concussion)

We had a bit of a situation here a week or so ago. Around bedtime one night the kid told us she had a headache and then explained that she had hit her head at school. The teacher didn’t see what happened, but our daughter was crying. She was sent to the office for ice and apparently seemed fine at school for the rest of the day.

We didn’t realize anything was wrong until she told us that night that her head hurt. We didn’t realize anything was potentially very wrong until she woke me up the next morning and told me she had thrown up and her head still hurt.

That’s when it dawned on me that she might have a concussion. I tweeted for advice and called Telehealth and all signs pointed to getting her to the ER, especially since we didn’t know much about the actual event that caused her injury.

We are very, very lucky in Ottawa to have the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. I spent time at CHEO during my childhood and now I have it as a resource for my child. I believe it is the best place for a sick child to be. We arrived in the ER and ended up spending only about an hour as it wasn’t very busy. The doctor did an assessment of the kid and told us that she “examined beautifully,” meaning that we didn’t have reason to worry, but we needed to keep an eye on her for the rest of the day to make sure.

Since I have a passing awareness of concussion symptoms I knew that I should probably be concerned, and the friends I have on Twitter were a great resource as well. I also know that some people don’t have the same awareness, so I wanted to share our story and some information here for other parents.

CHEO gave us a great handout and you can read it here. It’s fairly easy to do an assessment if you see the injury and the person loses consciousness. But not losing consciousness doesn’t mean it’s not a concussion. There are other physical symptoms that could mean your child has suffered a head injury:

  • Headache, neck pain
  • Nausea
  • Lack of energy
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, loss of balance
  • Blurred or double vision and sensitivity to light
  • Increased sensitivity to sounds
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Loss of sense of taste and smell
  • Change in sleep patterns, especially waking up at night

The kicker for the nurse at Telehealth was when the kid confirmed for me that she was having neck pain as well as complaining of a headache.

We were very lucky that our kid was okay after her accident, but I think it’s especially important for parents of young children to be aware because if you don’t ask your kids might not know to tell.

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And since we have a very active kid who is involved in sports like gymnastics and soccer I’m going to keep this information in my back pocket for the future.

Living the dream

December 17th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #MommyScholar - (Comments Off on Living the dream)

I am now done my first semester of my Masters program, which means I have one more semester of classes and then an internship. Right now I don’t have any real idea of what’s ahead in my next courses, except for who will be teaching them, so, of course, I’m looking past those classes and thinking about my internship.

Last week I sat down and had a long talk with a professor who was able to offer some insight into some thoughts I’ve been struggling with around where I go next. And then yesterday a friend asked me what my dream internship would be. I have some idea of my passions and issues I would like to be able to help address.

It’s pretty clear that women’s issues are at the top of my list, and over the past few years I’ve had the privilege of learning a bit about Inuit culture and the struggles Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples face. I want to work as an ally for them, for women, for our LGBT population.

But above all, I would love to dedicate my internship time working on the inquiry the Liberal government has promised to the families of missing and murdered indigenous women.

Part of this desire is, of course, selfish. To be part of history, to be doing something that matters. But part of it is also that I want to do whatever I can to make sure that the families get what they need out of this inquiry. That change happens. That whoever conducts it has the information and support they need to make the inquiry matter.

That was the thing I love about doing my job on the hill as a media monitor – It was up to me (not only me, but still) to make sure that the party leader had the information he needed to answer questions he was asked and to ask questions that needed answering. That little element that I could provide, that job that I did really well, that meant something in the bigger picture.

I’d also just love a chance to meet and work with our new Minister of Justice and an opportunity to learn more about indigenous culture across Canada.

So, here I am, putting this out into the universe to see what happens.

Merry Chris-moose.

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On COP21 and the missing mandatories

December 16th, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues - (Comments Off on On COP21 and the missing mandatories)

The signing of the climate change agreement by 196 countries this month was hailed as historic. Canada’s new Prime Minister called it ‘ambitious.’

The actual agreement is only 31 pages long and the signatories agreed to a goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees or less above pre-industrial temperatures.

Living in Canada’s capital, where meteorologists are forecasting a green Christmas at 15 Celsius – which would mark the warmest Christmas on record for Ottawa – I have to wonder what the Paris signatories might actually be ready, willing and able to accomplish.

I have in the back of my mind the Kyoto agreement. Jean Chretien’s Liberal government signed on to the agreement in 1997, didn’t ratify it here until five years later and then failed to create any changes to help this country abide by that agreement’s targets before. The Liberals were then duly outraged when the Harper government when they pulled out of it in 2011 after announcing that Canada would not enforce any climate change regulations before 2015.

And here we are, in 2015 with a new government and COP21.

I first became concerned about Paris when word spread that the word indigenous had been taken out of the main text of the agreement. Indigenous peoples are now referred to only in the preamble and indigenous rights are not included in any of the legally binding text. This should be of great concern to Canada since our Inuit are the first and most affected by climate change.

Luckily it seems that Prime Minister Trudeau does understand the need to include indigenous peoples in climate change discussions, and hopefully he and his Minister of Environment and Climate Change will bring First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples into the conversation here at home.

You can read more about the basics of the COP21 agreement here. This article notes that the goal is a carbon neutral world sometime after 2050 but before 2100. So that’s a good long time but there are a whole lot of attitudes and behaviours to change. In fact, according to a Suzuki Foundation climate change policy analyst, it would require a change to around 100 per cent renewable energy in the next 35 years.

That switch would require major investment in greening the economy. There are almost 33 million vehicles registered in this country and the vast majority of those are not hybrid or electric. Most provinces and all three territories rely on non-renewables for electricity and heat, which are necessities in Canada. The territories, in particular, will need help transitioning.

And all of this in one generation.

Of course, the agreement allows for individual countries to set their own emissions targets and those targets are non-binding. But they will have to publish their targets and update them every five years, which allows citizens and NGOs to hold governments to account, but there is the obvious problem that governments can and will change over the next 35 years.

Like so many other things in politics, actions will speak louder than words.

Related reading:

Vice: We spoke to the Indigenous protestor who called the Paris climate conference on its bullshit

CBC: ‘Historic’ Paris climate deal adopted

I haven’t been posting here as regularly as usual. My brain has been caught up in other things. And not just the assignments that have brought me to the end of the first semester of my Masters degree.

One more semester and then an internship and it’s all done. It seems almost unbelievable, this small journey I’ve been on, and I spend a lot of time (probably too much) thinking about what comes next and what I want.

Because here’s the thing: I’m not a very good partisan. When I worked on the hill I love my job and I was good at it. When I did it during the campaign I proved to myself that I’m still good at it and I still loved doing it. I also proved that when I get my own real income back we’re going to be just fine, which was nice to know too.

But the whole ‘doing politics’ thing I’m not good at. It drives me a bit crazy, actually and I’m a bit tired of the games that go on.

At the same time, working on the hill is a privilege, so I’m struggling with two parts of myself. And, of course, the facts of my resume. People will either make assumptions or they won’t, and I have virtually no say, except that they should please let me prove myself. I am passionate, I love to work and when I take something on I follow through as best I can. That is all.

I want to do something that feels important, I want to come home every day to this face feeling good about the world I’m helping to build.

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Going back to school as reinforced my love of politics, my pride in our system and the desire to use the system to do good work. But I didn’t expect to feel so charged and so lost at the same time.

Politics should not be about winning for your party’s sake. It should not be about sticking to your promises to save face even after it’s been made clear that those promises were bad ones to make. It should not be about calling someone out as “flip flopping” when they change their mind because they have more evidence to judge from. It should not be about division and hatred and arguments. It should be about making things better. I want to make things better.

Lord help me, I’m going to make the world a better place.

Hard bounces

December 1st, 2015 | Posted by Amy Boughner in #MommyScholar | Parenting | Personal - (Comments Off on Hard bounces)

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I am almost done the first semester of my Masters. I am overwhelmed and exhausted, even though I have completed all the readings and assignments due in the next week. I am tired and stressed and I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling so off.

I know that part of it is the weather. It’s dark early now, and it seems like it’s been dim all day for most of the last week. I have learned over time, and particularly in the past year, that sunshine matters to my mood.

But there is something else. Part of it is a desire to just be done. To have some time. To read or knit or nap or just be.

The other part of it I just figured out today. I’m spending a lot of my day afraid.

My daughter has extremes. She gets very active, very talkative and lately she gets very, very angry. She rages. Shouting and stomping and throwing her toys or hitting her door.

Wondering when the next outburst will happen is wearing me down. Every night trying to get her in to bed and hoping that she’ll stay there and fall asleep without coming out with a problem or something she suddenly needs to talk about, hoping that telling her to go back to bed won’t result in a two hour screaming tantrum.

Wondering every morning if she’s going to happily get on the school bus or if it’s going to be today that I have to physically put her on it while she cries and screams. Wondering if I’ll make it through it this time.

Wondering if she’ll ever calm down. Wondering if there are things she’s not telling us.

We had a good meeting with her teachers, and they talked about her keeping all her emotions in check while she’s at school and how that probably results in the extremes we’re seeing at home. It makes sense, and we’ve come up with ways to deal with getting her to feel okay at the end of her school day – quiet time, watching her iPad, just being alone.

But still, we just never know when she’s going to explode.

It’s all the more difficult because she’s always been a pretty happy, easygoing kid and now suddenly it seems as though she’s never happy. At least in her mind she isn’t. She’s only ever okay. Things are bad or they’re so-so.

I just want to fix it all.

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