Everyday People

March 24th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Personal | Work - (Comments Off on Everyday People)

Intellectually I know that not everyone in the country cares as much as I do about what’s happening in Ottawa and on Parliament Hill. I know a lot of people don’t understand it as much as I do.

But in practice I have a really hard time acknowledging the fact that there are some people who don’t care at all.

Like, at all.

Statistically speaking this number is a lot higher than I’m willing to admit. These are people that I just do not understand.

I never felt like I grew up particularly immersed in politics, but the fact is that I grew up in the capital, not far from downtown. Both my parents worked on Parliament Hill, both were engaged. As a child my mother took us to Question Period once, we talked about politics around the house, we read and watched the news, we knew what was going on.

It never once occurred to me that what was happening at the federal level wasn’t important. This government creates laws that are implemented across the country, they collect taxes to run federal programs, they help coordinate between the provinces. The invest throughout Canada. With our money.

As hard as I try, I just can’t quite wrap my head around those people.

The people that can’t name their local MP and maybe not even the Prime Minister or their province’s Premier. The people who never pay any attention to the national news.


To me news is a major part of life. Watching events happen, reading about them afterwards, listening to analysis. Knowing and trying to understand. It’s fundamental.


For some reason recently I have been dwelling on that girl I was in high school. It might be a mid-life crisis, though I’m 36 now and had a quarter-life crisis at 23, so that math doesn’t work *at all.*

I have been thinking about the girl I was in high school and wondering how different things would be if all the strength I have now was in her. Except I know that I became who I am now because I went through all those years and experienced the things I did, reacted to them the way I did.

She was trying to balance herself – she wanted to be seen as pretty and nice and smart, but also invisible. She was terrified of the future and growing up. She bought into the old trope that she wasn’t good enough to ever be in a relationship. She felt wrong.

She struggled between trying to dress so that she would get noticed and trying to dress so she would feel good. Hell, I did that until a few of years ago when I realized my perfect work uniform was khakis, white shirt, sweater vest, Converse sneakers.

Yes, Converse sneakers. Good enough for my wedding, good enough for any other event.

I don’t have to try to wear dresses and skirts in winter. I don’t have to push myself to wear heels just because other women enjoy it. I don’t have to spend time in the morning doing my hair and makeup when I sweat all the work away by the time I get where I’m going.

I’m fine. I found this dude who loves me despite my terrible sense of humour. And I have a dog and a kid who both think I’m great, and they are excellent judges of character. Though she did go through a Barney phase.

I’m going through this thing right now that feels like history repeating itself. I go to school, I do well, I feel good about myself coming out of it, and I apply for jobs without getting any. It happened after college, it happened after my BA, it’s happening now despite experience, expertise and a Masters degree, plus great references.

I’m getting tired of being optimistic, and then everything being hard all over again.

In the past five years I’ve dealt with quitting my job while buying a house, going back to school while being a mother and trying to earn an income,  starting a Masters program and working an election campaign. I’ve had pneumonia, bronchitis. I lost myself all of a sudden, no warning. I worked a stressful job while dealing with my grandfather’s failing health.

And I wonder if it’s just always going to be this hard from now on.

Sometimes I feel like I wasted my time in high school. I was struggling inside my head and I didn’t allow myself to be young, really. Now I feel like maybe I wasted the easy times. That I spent too much time worrying about things I can’t even remember now and failed to build myself for this part of life where real decisions and bills and hard questions are coming at you every day.

But at the same time, so much of this life I would never have wanted to miss. Because now I can relish a bit in the me I am. That I’ve done so much, been a part of so many things.

And here I stand, still.

Not Appropriate

March 21st, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Not Appropriate)

There was a bit of a kerfuffle in the Niki Ashton campaign last week when a meme was posted on her Twitter account (whether that came from her or someone on her team, I don’t know). The meme used Beyoncé lyrics to demonstrate Ashton’s goals for the party – that it should move to the left, to the left.

She was accused of cultural appropriation. She then apologized and deleted the tweet. (Or her campaign did, if you prefer).

This I understand. To be accused of something like cultural appropriation, akin to racism, the first reaction should be apologetic, with an attempt to understand the mistake. But what I don’t understand here is the mistake.

I have vague understandings of cultural appropriation – Don’t wear things that actually mean things in a culture and its history when you don’t understand them and have no right to them. Don’t wear a warrior’s head dress when you haven’t earned it. Be inspired by these things, but do not take them as your own.

What I fail to see is how lyrics written by Beyoncé, Ne-Yo and two Norwegians in a song about kicking a man out of her house for disrespecting her is a defining part of black culture.

Another misunderstanding came when someone on Facebook asked whether white people should be allowed to wear moccasins or mukluks. While I understand the desire for white people to understand the how and why these things are made (which is pretty interesting and a beautiful art, by the way). But if you ban white people from wearing these things, are you helping a peoples history, or harming the craftspeople who are making them to earn a living?

Further, what do we gain from blocking white people access to great black artists like Beyoncé? The woman is the voice of a generation, a strong feminist.

Speaking as a white women (a place of privilege that I acknowledge), I understand the benefits of listening to other cultures, and I hope that my own heritage doesn’t become an issue in my desire to interact with black artists – or those of any other culture. What better way to reach understanding than by listening?

Reading the further tweets of Black Lives Matter Vancouver, their argument, when they weren’t calling it cultural appropriation, was sound:

Show us you are fighting for us. Don’t use people from other backgrounds as a prop and then ignore them when it matters. Totally fair. To label it cultural appropriation in the first place got the group the attention they may have sought by doing so, but it is also a war cry that turns a lot of people away from the left.

Ashton’s apology was widely mocked by the right  – those who point out that the left can never get anything done it is so busy falling over itself to be politically correct. This is a problem, this desire to be absolute open to everyone at all times and never hurt anyone’s feelings.

The desire to not cause hurt should not be a detriment, but in the world of President Trump and a right wing that often doesn’t give a damn about anyone if it’s not in their own best interests it makes success a battle.

It will be interesting to see how Ashton’s campaign continues through the leadership vote. She is not my choice, but she certainly will add something to the race.

Further reading:

Toronto Star: Why Niki Ashton’s use of Beyoncé lyrics isn’t about cultural appropriation: Paradkar

Ottawa Citizen: Spencer: The confounding dilemmas of free speech

National Post: Explainer: Is it cultural appropriation when a white politician quotes Beyoncé to boost her campaign?

Into Nature

March 20th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Ottawa | Personal - (Comments Off on Into Nature)

We spent part of the March break at Montebello, which was my idea. I took the kid there once before and we rather enjoyed ourselves, and I thought it a great place to get away, but not too far away.

Turns out Montebello is quite popular during March break, and they appreciate the business so much that they plan activities around the break week. I knew we would spend time at the pool, and probably in the games room and the bounce house they set up, and I hoped to hang out fire-side for a while (which we did, with board games and tasty drinks and snacks). I didn’t plan on the skating, curling or dog sled ride.

Enough activity that we could do it all again next year and not get bored. And even add things on like skiing or snowshoeing, because they’ve got all the stuff there for you to borrow. And even invite other families members to join us, because the place is big and there’s stuff for everyone. Even my mom who would probably sit by the fire and read.

And also partake of the spa.

Kid’s a natural

In fact, we did all of the above on our one full day there. And also had a delicious breakfast and dinner.

Breakfast buffet: Maple crepes. No more needs to be said on the subject.

And not only was it a lovely getaway just the three of us, and not only was it relaxing, and not only was it fun and activity-filled enough for the little one… I also got the opportunity to remind myself of a few things I love.

I love being outdoors. I went for a bit of a walk and felt the cold air and smelled the campfires and took a bit of care. I am perfectly able to exercise. We went swimming twice, and walked around and took part in activities and I was fine. Tired, but in the best way. Tired because I had done things with my body.

That I do enjoy spending time with my kid – with my family – and interacting and having a bit of fun.

This is not a sponsored post for Montebello, but we did have a wonderful time, I do recommend it, and if they want to sponsor a stay in the future I would be totally on board with that. Just FYI.

In dogs we trust

March 16th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting | Personal - (Comments Off on In dogs we trust)

We spent the first few days of March break out at Chateau Montebello – I will probably write more about that later. There were many activities, some regular and some special for spring break. (Ha. Spring. We had 20+ cm of snow in our driveway when we got back).

We were only there for one full day, but we packed it full, starting with a great breakfast followed by hanging out with my kid and some sled dogs.

It was a lot of fun. First watching the dogs who clearly loved the run – they barked and howled when they weren’t running and rolled in the snow when they were done. We snuggled in to the sled and off they went, following two other sleds, merrily on their way.

It was an odd experience. A man behind us and seven dogs, pulling us along. Nothing we could do but trust the man, trust the dogs and enjoy the ride. Bumps and all. (And there were bumps, we got air at some point).

The kid laughed the whole way – unbelievable giggles the whole way – except for when she screamed with delight. When that happened the man behind us couldn’t help but laugh too.

And I sat back, trusting we would stay on the trail, stay safely away from trees, land softly. Trusting the dogs, and laughing along.


Itchy, scratchy, wheezy

March 13th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Health | Personal - (Comments Off on Itchy, scratchy, wheezy)

Many moons ago when I was a kid I had a horrible rash on my arms. The doctor gave me a special lotion but it was so itchy all the time, and I was experiencing constant colds. My GP sent me to an allergist.

I have never forgotten sitting in the exam room with hives growing on my arm, waiting for the doctor to tell me which allergens they were linked to. I wasn’t allowed to scratch, I could not think of anything else.

I have never forgotten being forced to blow into a tube that was attached to a computer. The nurse stood beside me telling me to ‘keep blowing’ even when I had nothing left. I hated every moment.

A couple of years ago I noticed both my allergies and my asthma getting worse. The asthma had all but disappeared when I was a teenager, only to rear its ugly head again in my 30s – made worse by cold air, which we have in abundance here in Ottawa.

So my doctor gave me a prescription for an inhaler, and then another one after I got a bit of pneumonia and then bronchitis. And then a prescription for an antihistamine when the over-the-counter version just wasn’t cutting it any more, and then a referral to an allergist.

While I am anxiously anticipating the two hours of sitting, waiting for the hives and not allowed to scratch, the worse part so far has been the ban on meds for 48 hours prior.

Itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, itchy, irritated skin. All the things the commercials tell you. I’ve been waiting a year for this appointment, and the revelation that I had to go without meds for 48 hours nearly made me cancel.

But if they find out I’m allergic to my puppy, I’m just going to have to live with it. That’s my boy.

Today was the first debate in the race to become the next NDP leader. I don’t remember much about the last race. I was working in the leader’s office at the time and we weren’t allowed to openly support candidates. I also wasn’t a member of the party and thus didn’t have a vote.

At the moment I am once again not a member of the party, but I am curious to learn more about those who are running. The party has been a big part of my life since I was a child, and I remain curious, if less dedicated than I once was. And since the first debate was in Ottawa, I thought I might just go out and hear from the four current candidates.

When my father died I inherited a book about Tommy Douglas, signed by Tommy Douglas to my father. When I helped my grandfather move last week, one of the items I packed was a book by Ed Broadbent, signed and dedicated to my grandfather. I met him as a child, I knew he was an important man because my grandfather admired him.

And then I worked for Jack Layton.

Today at the debate Charlie Angus talked a bit about Jack, how Jack made you feel and it flooded me with memories.

Jack was a politician, but when you were in a room with him you felt like you mattered. You felt like not only was he listening to you, but he wanted to hear you. Working for Jack felt like something worth doing. It felt important. It still does. It always will.

Working on Parliament Hill is special, being a small part of history – the coalition talks, the prorogation (constitutional crisis), the 2011 election. All of that was special, but maybe wouldn’t have been as special if I hadn’t been working for a man that I believed in.

I don’t know what happens next for this party, I don’t know if I have a place in it, but I wish them all the best.

Nearly Wordless Wednesday

March 8th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Nearly Wordless Wednesday)

I went out to Costco on a Saturday because it was time, we needed the things that we always buy from Costco. While I was there I noticed the flower bouquets that I notice every time, but this time I took a second look. I decided that my office needed a little extra. Last week it was spring, and then the weather got frigid again and tulips were called for.

This whole daily gratitude isn’t a thing I’m good at, but I can make occasional random lists of things I am currently infatuated with and are making my life better in small ways. Maybe this will become one of my Sunday things.

  1. Leuchtturm notebooks. I was in Kingston a few years ago and found one of these – large size and dotted instead of lined or graph paper. When I used to buy notebooks I would get plain because I hate being boxed in by lines. So harsh and demanding. When I discovered dotted notebooks I was an instant convert. Dots! They provide a kind of grid but you can also be totally free. Really though, this should be some kind of personality test – lines, plain, grid or dots.
  2. All the pens I use to work in my various notebooks – seriously, how great are pens and paper? My current new favourite is a Faber Castell pen I bought myself on my birthday (speaking of, if you’re in Ottawa I also love the Glebe, which is where I decided to go on my birthday…). It’s orange and has grips and it’s lovely.
  3. Funko Pops. All my fandoms surround me in my office in all their adorableness. I now have two shelves in my office. (I also love my office, which I have packed full of things that make me happy like my Funkos and my pictures with geeky celebrities and books).
  4. Jigsaw puzzles. A love from my childhood that I have rediscovered. Jigsaw puzzles and binge watching – great way to spend a Sunday. 
  5.  Terrible reality television. I have hung in with the Teen Moms since they were 16 and Pregnant, the new season of Rupaul’s Drag Race starts at the end of the month. I’ve recently started watching Tattoo Girls on TLC since I don’t currently have access to Ink Master. Also, when 90 Day Fiance comes back I will be all over that. Also my KINGDOM for online access to Great British Baking Show. Great to binge watch while doing a puzzle.
  6. True Crime. Every since I was a kid and I took Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Time Life books about mysterious phenomenon out of the library I have been interested in true crime. This interest has been well fed in recent years by podcasts like Serial and documentaries and documentary series like Paradise Lost and Making a Murderer. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one with a favourite unsolved mystery or serial killer. I’m currently reading Columbine by Dave Cullen which is a fascinating account of how wrong all the things I have known forever about the attack really are – Trenchcoat Mafia had nothing to do with it, they didn’t go in with a list of targets they were going for mass casualty, they didn’t do it on April 20 as a nod to Hitler, they were going to attack on April 19 in homage to Oklahoma City but they didn’t get their ammo in time. Seriously.
  7. Schnauzers. Best dogs, all the cuddling. 
  8. And this here child. 


Age 18, April 1999

March 4th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Books | Personal - (Comments Off on Age 18, April 1999)

I have started reading a book about Columbine by Dave Cullen. I read a good review, and apparently the author has delved a bit deeper and looks at the case as more than just what was reported the day of.

I remember the shooting at Columbine very well, and it hit me hard particularly, I think, because I was in my last year of high school at the time. The timing of the shooting was such that I was home from school in time to watch the live coverage while students were still running for their lives.

I also remember that the next day I was sitting in my OAC history class and our principal came on for announcements and ask for a moment of silence – 15 dead – and one of the thoughtless teenage boys in my class laughed – turned to the guy next to him and LAUGHED, saying “oh yeah, did you hear about that…”

The memory stings all the more because it was only two years later that same principal – a lovely, much-loved man – and his wife were shot to death themselves during a robbery.

So much has happened between then and now. So much bad has happened, some of which surpasses what happened that day, but the fact that those killers were my age, going through the same day-to-day life that I was. The fact that what they did never would have occurred to me before then. It seemed totally monstrous.

It is even more so now that I know they weren’t bullied kids who were targeting people. They did this thing because they wanted to, and at least one of them thought it was fun.

Never did it occur to me that my daughter would be doing lockdown drills at school.

That’s some legacy.

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