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My brain has been full lately. Fully engrossed in my own dramas. Wondering what comes next for me, and when it’s going to come. Who will I be when it shows up.

This has all led to thinking a lot about who I have been. This time I can feel change coming like I’ve never felt it before. In the past I have just changed as life came at me.

I’ve thought about the decisions I’ve made to not stay in touch with friends I once had, and the decisions I made to be who I was in high school. I could have been much different, but I wasn’t. I was a girl who had a small group of friends, spent her Friday nights at hockey games (Go 67’s) instead of parties, and spent as much time wondering why no boys liked her as she didn’t being terrified of what would happen if one declared his interest.

I could have come into my own so much earlier. But I didn’t. And still, here she is.

Part of me thinks old friends would be shocked at who I am now, and part of me knows that no one really cared who I was back then so the change wouldn’t affect them one way or another. It’s nice to dream though.

There is a phrase that I once considered getting tattooed on my body – like so many other memories. Non Sum Qualis Eram. I am not what I used to be.

But I am.

I am made up of all the pieces of who I used to be. And I have no idea what that is in Latin.

Who I am now is made up of all the experiences I’ve had, the failures. The things that happened to me that I didn’t even realized where making an imprint at the time. The relationships I’ve had and didn’t have.

The fact that I knew in high school that I was smart and I liked school and I didn’t like makeup or short skirts and all the things that I was combined to make me decidedly not cool, but almost 20 years later I can title a blog post with a later phrase I learned on West Wing and still think that I’m awesome, and know that other people think so too, that is change. That is not what I used to be.

Tall Enough To Reach The Branches

April 8th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off on Tall Enough To Reach The Branches)

I’ve been thinking about little Amy lately. About her outfits of matching sweatpants and sweatshirts, about her hiding behind her one best friend. Her terrible hair styling choices.

Or lack of hair brushing…

I mean look at her. She’s pretty cute. She looks a lot like this other kid I know, who I happen to think is beautiful.

I also happen to think that this person I’ve become still looks a lot like her. Which is weird for me, because I remember so little about her. I remember her having sleepovers with her best friend, enjoying school, being scared of jumping in during recess skipping sessions. I remember her riding her bike around the neighbourhood and climbing trees. I remember her adopting many Cabbage Patch Kids. I remember her being absolutely certain she was going to marry Joe from New Kids on the Block.

She met a different Joe.

I don’t remember her thinking a lot about what life had ahead. She had many different career goals – writer, teacher, lawyer, archaeologist. I’m probably missing a few.

But what about all the shyness and self doubt and fear.

I know that she felt like if she lost her best friend she wouldn’t have any friends at all. In fact, when she did lose her best friend she latched on to another girl as soon as she could. But that worked out, because that new girl was my maid of honour and continues to be an awesome part of my life. Usually she hung out with her sister and her sister’s friends – in fact I think more of my sister’s friends were invited to my wedding than my own high school friends.

When I graduated high school I wanted to leave all of that behind. I felt like I was boxed in by all of these people who had known me since kindergarten and to those kids I was always little Amy. The shy girl, the invisible girl – the one who faded into the background, had never grown up and figured out how to put herself together. The one who was scared to grow up and experiment in the ways a lot of the other kids were experimenting. Terrified of boys. Terrified of failing at life. Desperate to be smart.

I still have imposter syndrome all the time now, and I think I’m way more awesome than I ever did back then.

And sometimes I sit back and wonder what makes me dwell so much on what people might have thought of me back then. I think part of this stems from the fact that, while I left those people behind and I assume they won’t remember me, I remember them. Every time I encounter someone I remember I try to make a decision about whether to say hello, whether to reach out, what to say. Because I do remember them, I probably remember who they were friends with and what classes we had together. Not only do I remember them, but now that years have past I kind of what to know what they’re doing.

As it turns out, I grew up around a lot of really smart people. I also grew up with a lot of nice people that I’m really glad to see having happy lives and great kids.

And it’s nice because I have a pretty happy life and a really great kid.

I currently have eight tattoos, two of which are cover-ups of previous tattoos – one that needed improvements and one that I had fallen out of love with. And there’s one more I might want to make adjustments to.

I got this little monkey when the kid was a baby. Practically brand new. It was drawn by a friend for her room and I decided to get it permanently on my left wrist to represented this wild creature that had come into my life and stolen my heart.

We did call her monkey.

Now it’s seven years later and this monkey, it’s not quite the representation I thought it would be.

If I had waited until I knew her better I could have done so much more with this tribute to her. Cartwheels and bubbles and smiles. A blur of movement. Bright colours and laughter.

She is nothing that I thought she would be, but everything I could have ever wanted. A monkey, but not that monkey.

No Limits

April 4th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal | Women's Issues - (Comments Off on No Limits)

I got some good advice from a friend a little while ago – That maybe instead of focusing on how frustrating it is to feel fat and useless, instead focus on the things my body can do and what other women like me can do.

She had some recommendations – great, fit, strong women I can follow on Instagram or Facebook. I’ve been following a few and Annie helped me find a few more. One of those was Louise Green, who has written a book – Big Fit Girl – that I have only started reading and am really, really enjoying.

I have felt rather more at peace lately, realizing that my body is my body and it usually does what I ask it, even if I push. That maybe it’s okay for me to eat what I enjoy and do exercise I enjoy and be healthy without overdoing it or trying to be something I will never be.

The idea that I have about what a fit body has to look like is wrong. I can be me without limits. I can program my brain to believe in myself.

I need to stop thinking that I can’t be something. I need to start reminding myself that I can do anything. No matter what my brain and my biases try to tell me.

Further Reading:

8 Secrets from 8 Curvy Women Who Love Their Bodies

7 Assumptions People Make About Plus-Size Women in the Gym That Are Just Wrong

 

Pride of Country

April 4th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Work - (Comments Off on Pride of Country)

Canada’s Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould – the first Indigenous person to hold the position – has been in South Africa. While there, Wilson-Raybould spoke about the 150th anniversary of Canada’s celebration, which we are celebrating this year. She spoke about the fact that it is difficult, as an Indigenous person in Canada to celebrate 150 years of colonialism.

As quoted in the Globe and Mail: “For many Indigenous peoples, celebrating our country’s 150th birthday has its challenges… It is hard to celebrate 150 years of colonialism … What we need to do is make a 180-degree turn, so that our laws and policies are pointing in the direction of the future of reconciliation and transformation – not the past of colonization.”

Lisa Raitt, a former government minister and current candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada took issue with the minister’s remarks.

It, apparently, does not make sense to Ms. Raitt that any Canadian would be unable to celebrate this country and its history (including, as she pointed out in a later tweet, the 100th anniversary of our contributions at Vimy).

Now, Ms. Raitt is a smart woman. She’s been in cabinet leading three different ministries. She’s been an MP for almost a decade. I’m going to give her credit and say she probably knows about the history of Canada – the one that started more than 150 years ago – and the way settlers have treated, and continue to treat those who were here before us.

(I say us because my family, like the settlers, came from Scotland, Ireland and England and I’m white and have all the privilege that comes with that).

Living in third world conditions on reserves, without clean water or proper facilities. Schools in disrepair. Indigenous women missing and murdered at high rates across the country. The effects of residential schools affecting generations of pain, addiction, abuse and torment. Lost cultures, lost languages.

That, Ms. Raitt, is the part of the 150 years that is not worth celebrating.

Oh, and since you mentioned Vimy Ridge, maybe I could also point out that Indigenous veterans who fought for this country came home to find they had lost their status, and with it their homes on reserve.

Part of my pride in this country is that we can take the time to reflect on our history. ALL of it. And maybe spend some time being ashamed without facing wrath from our political leaders.

Insider Baseball

April 2nd, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Work - (Comments Off on Insider Baseball)

My brain has slowly been working on something over the past few days, trying to think this through based on all the information that’s come at me since budget day.

You see, I went to a panel the day after budget day and listening to some great minds, and I also read a bunch of post-budget analysis, and I’ve been paying attention to poli-twitter, as always, and watching a committee filibuster – because who doesn’t love a good filibuster – about changes to House procedures.

I have come to the understanding over the course of my life that many people don’t know what going on Ottawa, don’t understand it and, sadly, just don’t care. Our current Prime Minister knows this well. That’s part of the reason there’s this debate about changes House procedures – to make it so that he doesn’t have to spend as much time here, but rather can go out and about across Canada to meet with quote-unquote average Canadians (or middle class Canadians, or whatever the polls show is the best political language to use right now).

I have been thinking about this – this common knowledge that the current Prime Minister doesn’t like being in the House of Commons and thinks his most important work is done elsewhere – and then came a Saturday morning Twitter conversation that was really fun to follow (if you’re me).

Andrew Coyne, very smart national columnist who has been covering federal politics for the length of my memory, and Gerald Butts, long time friend of the PM and currently working in the PMO, one of the masterminds behind Trudeau’s campaign and one of his closest aides.

Coyne wrote a Saturday column that got a good amount of debate on ‘official Ottawa’ Twitter. It was fun to watch – if you’re me.

The rub is this – elections in Canada now run as though Canadians get to elect the Prime Minister. The campaigns have long focused on the leader of the parties and a lack of real civics educations means that a lot of Canadians vote for parties to elect the leaders rather than voting for their local representatives. Of course, once all those local representatives get to Ottawa they tend to tow the party line. It is the rare few who focus on what’s best for their constituents, so who can blame Canadians.

But we are a Westminster system, and that means that the Prime Minister is the man (or, hopefully soon, woman) who holds the confidence of the House of Commons. This is almost always the leader of the party that has won the most seats.

So regularly is that the case that when a coalition of parties who promised to maintain confidence suggested to the Governor General that she give them a shot the reigning PM went to the public saying the move was unconstitutional and a lot of Canadians believed him, even though it was a blatant lie.

So here’s the question: We know that Prime Minister Trudeau has no love for the House of Commons, he’s demonstrated that he thinks his time can be better spent elsewhere, and his party is now working on changing House procedure. We know that Trudeau currently holds the confidence of the House, by virtue of a majority government. We also know that Trudeau has broken some promises that have made many Canadians who voted for him angry *cough* electoral reform *cough* and that Liberal MPs are hearing from angry constituents.

All I’m saying is this – a PM who spends as little time in the House as possible, MPs who are hearing anger from constituents and maybe start to feel a bit neglected, two power-hungry parties on either side. This could get interesting.

I had a medical appointment this week with a specialist – a respirologist, who is trying to decide whether I ever had the asthma that I was diagnosed with as a child. The appointment took me through the neighbourhood I grew up in. A neighbourhood I love dearly and highly recommend growing up in.

We had a little house that I loved, with raspberry coloured carpeting that I got to pick out for my birthday. We had a play house in the backyard, and a deck on the back and a porch on the front. My dad lived around the corner and his attic was all ours. So was the garage, mostly. Down the street was a park, a public pool (indoor) and a public skating rink. A few blocks from that was my elementary school.

We live in a lovely neighbourhood now, with great neighbours, but one thing I miss dearly is having a corner store. We had a corner store that we called George’s, because we knew the owner, George, and his family.

I could walk to the corner store if we needed anything, and there was the pizza place kitty corner to that. My best friend lived 10 minutes away, my sister’s best friend was closer. We had a dead end around a corner that we used to ride our bikes. We had a bit of green space down the block with a hill that seemed huge when we sledded in the winter and looks absolutely tiny now.

And if you crossed the road from that green space you found the bike paths along the canal.

We spend all our time on bikes, riding around the neighbourhood, going down past the canal. We played in the park, we swam in the pool, we spent as much time outside and around the neighbourhood as we could, with our friends.

I drove up part of the alley we used to use to walk to school. I drove past my dad’s house and our old house (the one I loved so dearly, the one we moved out of when I was 12). I drove past the corner store, which changed ownership in the 90s and now has a sandwich shop inside where they used to stock VHS rentals. (My sister and I rented Clue every chance we got, and High Spirits, starring Steve Guttenberg, Peter O’Toole, Darryl Hannah and an unknown named Liam Neeson. I don’t think that one would stand the test of time).

I drove down the main street, where almost all the stores have changed. The video store we frequented burned down a few years ago and the sign is still there, the windows boarded up. The old movie theatre is still there, saved by local investors a few years ago, now next to a Shoppers Drug Mart instead of a parking lot.

The library is still there, it has a new name. My elementary school is still there, but it got a renovation after I left. There is still a good chance that when I go into that old neighbourhood I will see the parents of my childhood friends and classmates.

When Joe and I started dating I walked him through that neighbourhood, where I was still living at the time, in my mother’s house, and he laughed at me as I told my memories of virtually every block and landmark. The church where I went to preschool, the house where my teacher lived, the park where I stepped on broken glass – the newspaper box that my grandmother had to sit me down on so she could rest while she was carrying me home after I stepped on glass at the park.

It’s funny but wonderful to have all these memories packed in to one place that I can go back and tour. This place where all my people were.

My town, it’s right there, always available to me. Always changing, but never completely changed.

 

33 per cent

March 27th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Work - (Comments Off on 33 per cent)

In last week’s federal budget, the government announced intentions to give new parents the option of extending their leave to 18 months instead of the 12 months most are now eligible for under EI rules. (With the same conditions applying).

At first I had a good reaction to this change. Assuming that parents would still be able to split parental live, it would give both a good amount of time with a new baby and more time to find childcare. It would also help with one issue that I discovered when we were looking for childcare at the 12-month mark – Childcare spots for babies under 18 months are few and far between, and also tend to be more expensive than when your child is over 18 months.

I’ve said before that we were very lucky with the childcare we found. My daughter bonded with her caregiver right away, the cost was reasonable for our area, and the location worked for my husband to drop our daughter off and pick her up. I was also thrilled to get back to work after 12 months of being at home with my daughter, even though I loved the time we spent and adventures we got to have. Still, if my husband had been in a place to take part of the leave, I think it would have been fantastic for us as a family.

Diving further into this new policy, you start to see problems. Mainly, that if a parent opts for 18 months of leave they have to subsist on 33 per cent of their salary for that time. Now, some families will be able to do that, and some really, really won’t. I was very lucky to have my maternity benefits topped up by my employer, which meant that while I was off, I was still getting 90 per cent of what I earned – Except the deductions weren’t being taken off, which caused a high tax bill the next year that I wish someone had warned me about.

Presumably if EI is paying 33 per cent instead of 55 per cent the employer won’t be topping up to 90, that would be a huge cost outlay for them, as well as having to employ a maternity replacement for 18 months, which could cause additional problems. (My union contract stated that anyone employment for more than 12 months automatically became full time, permanent, which is actually how I ended up as permanent employee. I don’t know what trouble, if any, an 18 month leave would cause, but it’s something they would have to prepare for).

So, problem number one is the 18 month option isn’t really an option for everyone, only those that can afford it.

Problem number two is part of the bigger problem this government promised to solve – A lack of affordable childcare across this country.

As I said, we were very lucky to find childcare at a reasonable rate. That rate was $43 a day, or about $1,200 a month (roughly equivalent to one of my paycheques every month). In some regions (hi Toronto!), childcare costs much more. Much, much more.

The Liberal Party was elected on many promises, one of which was:

We will meet with provinces, territories, and Indigenous communities to begin work on a new National Early Learning and Child Care Framework, to deliver affordable, high-quality, flexible, and fully inclusive child care for Canadian families. This work will begin in the first 100 days of a Liberal government and will be funded through our investments in social infrastructure.

The 2016/17 budget includes $7 billion over 10 years, starting in 2017 with $500 million, with details of how this money will be used to be revealed later this year. It should be noted here that the Liberals are already in the second year of a four-year mandate, and that 10 years of spending takes us past both the 2019 election and the 2023 election. All of the provinces and territories also have to be involved in the planning, and over the next year they will all also go through multiple elections.

All of these moving parts may not be able to give us the national framework that was promised or the childcare that young Canadian families need.

Further reading:

Global News: Canada’s new 18-month parental leave offers flexibility — but comes with a catch

Toronto Star: Longer parental leave not for everyone, labour minister says

CP: Patty Hajdu: Wealthy Women Need Support On Maternity Leave, Too

CBC: What good is 6 more months? Parents weigh in on work-leave extension

Ebb and Flow

March 27th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off on Ebb and Flow)

There was a sea change last week. I felt it coming on. I felt it. I felt good.

I took a step back. I spent some time being quiet. I checked things off my lists. I went out and saw friends and talked about things that matter to me. I wrote. I did art. I did work on the projects I have to work on. I cleaned. I did some cooking. I got dressed up and felt great. I reminded myself that there are people out there who like me, and I like them. I laughed. I played board games with my kid. I took her on an adventure.

The weather was iffy this week – one day freezing, the next day gorgeous, and then we had snow, rain and sleet all at once. Even so, I took an opportunity to sit in the sun with my coffee and my dog. Just sit and feel the warmth and the breeze.

Something about this week made me feel good about myself. Something made me optimistic and happy.

I want a job. I want work, I want a salary and the opportunity to use my skills daily. But right now I have opportunity. I’m learning. I’m building on the skills I already have. I have time, I’m using it.

Moving on and moving up.

Things I Love This Week

March 26th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting | Personal - (Comments Off on Things I Love This Week)

Periodically I enjoy a list of the things that are filling up my bucket at the moment. Here are a few right now:

  1. Heavy, the new single from Linkin Park – I’ve been a fan of Linkin Park since Hybrid Theory came out. That album and Meteora are probably two of my favourites ever. When I first heard Heavy I was surprised by the different sound, but now I could listen to it on repeat all day.
  2. Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller – This book came up as a recommendation in Chapters, on my Amazon page and on Goodreads and by the fourth or fifth time I saw it I decided to just buy it and see what it was all about. I’m not yet half way through the book and I’ve been totally drawn in. The chapters switch between focussing on Flora, the daughter, and letters written by Ingrid, her mother. (Affiliate Link). If the ending sucks, I’ll update you.
  3. Bananagrams, The Game of Life, etc. – I love board games. My sister and I always played them together, we played with friends, family. As I got older, Joe and I played board games with friends, sometimes hosting them at our place, sometimes playing at someone else’s. The kid has a growing collection of board games, including The Game of Life Junior edition, but as far as I’m concerned that one pales in comparison to the original, which is still easy for young children to play. Soon she will have the necessary skills to play Scattergories. 
  4. Lucy Neatby’s Cat’s Pajamas Hand Painted yarn. Specifically in Fiesta. I love this yarn and its gorgeous colours. I’m working on a pair of socks with. I’ve got one sock done and am now realizing that I won’t have enough yarn to finish the second sock. I think I’ll be able to get the heel flap done, and that’ll be about it. This is a tragedy. But if I’m forced to order another skein, I can make the kid a matching pair… 
  5. The Summa Strategies weekly update email. For anyone interested in what’s going on on Parliament Hill this is a useful tool. And I’m a sucker for useful tools that help people stay informed. I also subscribe to iPolitics‘ daily emails and the Globe’s morning update. I’ve also signed up for updates on American news from Buzzfeed.
  6. The West Wing. We’re re-watching/watching. The first time around we got distracted sometime in season three and never finished. I’m not sure how that happened because it is such an excellent show. I was a huge fan of Sorkin’s Sports Night and the writing is just as good. The characters are amazing. And the stories are so very relevant now it’s almost as though Aaron Sorkin knew what was coming.
  7. Arrival and Moonlight. I have now seen a few of the Academy Award nominees. I found La La Land boring and Manchester By The Sea well… boring. Nothing really happened in either of those movies. Arrival and Moonlight were human stories that made me feel.
  8. Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 9 – The return of one of my favourite shows on Out TV (And OutTVGo for those of us without cable). At the moment I’m rooting for Charlie Hides, but I’ve heard rumours of some leaks and spoilers. We’ll see.
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