Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Shared Inspirations

After twenty-one years of teaching and on completion of my Masters in Educational Leadership, I made the choice to work at home. I have teenagers who are passionate about their pursuits and I knew that I would spread myself too thinly if I accepted a job that required me to work according to a schedule other than my family schedule. Not everyone is able to make this choice nor do they have the desire to and so I am grateful that I was able to honour my desire.

I am a passionate homemaker.

I coined this phrase and referred to myself as this long before I ever came across this blog Passionate Homemaking of which I actively follow and encourage you to follow as well. It is this “same idea” phenomenon that I address today.

When I graduated from University with my first degree and embarked on teaching for a living, I realized that I had moved seven times in two years. My cats were getting used to this and loved playing in and among the boxes. This is when I decided to write a children’s story about a little girl who was fussed and stressed about moving but through the story begins to envelop the move by observing and playing with her cat who, like my cats, plays in and among the packing boxes. I thought it was a brilliant and supportive story and I envisioned the entire photo essay. One day while book browsing with a friend, I rounded a shelf in a beloved independent wee bookstore, only to scream out loud. My friend rushed over to see what was wrong and all I could do was point at the picture book on the shelf. There before us was My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes by Eve Sutton and Lynley Dodd. How was it possible that someone who lived on the other side of the world from me could have the same idea? Even though Sutton and Dodd’s book was slightly different from mine, it was too similar. I was absolutely and completely deflated so much so that I never did write that children’s book. However, being the granddaughter of an inventor who never saw all of his innovations brought to fruition, I did begin to realize that creative people around the world and over time, would continue to have parallel ideas that would fit each particular needs and that those inspirations might resonate within each one so deeply that they would need to express them in some manner - even if they were similar.

Have you had an inspiration that someone else has also dreamed?

My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


My just turned fourteen year old daughter Jillian in grade eight, has challenges on this earth that are very different from mine. These challenges of hers cause me to struggle with how to guide her.

The moment that the doctor placed that baby on my body my arms enveloping her, I felt a frightening surge of utmost responsibility. It was now my job to see to it that she lived in a world where she could do anything that she wanted to do without external society-created barriers. A world where each individual was honoured for her or his gifts. This has been one of my challenges, especially living in what is sometimes considered “Red Necked” rural Alberta.

Jillian was a quiet and demure wee baby who never cried. She had this quiet little whimper that would emit when she needed something – which was rare. At one year of age, she sat on the entryway step beside the key hook and spent one hour taking each key off, investigating it, lining each one up neatly beside her until they were all off of the hook and then she proceeded to put them back on the hook one at a time. She did this silently over and over again for one hour until her dad walked in the door to disrupt the activity. I’ve always wondered how long that one year old would have sat there otherwise. At two years of age she could sing full and complete songs and just belt them out from way down deep inside of her. At three years of age, Jillian received an office in a box for a gift from my mom. We had a little desk in the dining room and she would sit at it for hours and hours, making notes, paper clipping notes together, cutting and filing and organizing. It was also at three that she began to have severe stomach aches and we started a long journey to see what the cause of these were. At age five, she sat with small Tupperware® containers and a collection of marbles and she played with these items on the living room floor, one day for five hours, in a solitary state, sorting and pouring and transferring from one container to another.

And still at this age even, she rarely cried. She was so composed all of the time. No highs, no lows.

We continued working through the tummy ache issue. We tried everything with conventional doctors, that one can imagine, and then we sought alternative methods. I took Jillian to an amazing Intuitive who is also a therapeutic massage therapist. What she told me was life altering. She felt that Jillian harboured emotions and that they sat in that wee tummy of hers, festering. This made more sense than anything we had heard. This composed wee girly of mine wasn’t releasing her emotions and she was choosing to be sedentary more than physical, using her mind much and not expressing outwardly. Following the Intuitive’s wise guidance and over her short life here, we have provided her with many opportunities to emote and to release, be it helping to connect her with people to teach her how to meditate, providing her with tools and opportunities to write but also mandating and modeling daily physical activity as a way to release.

Starting School
- Jillian could hardly wait to get to school and when the bus arrived for her first day, she raced to it! This was a memorable outburst of emotion. She could already read but anticipated learning about the entire world and could barely contain herself. It didn’t happen in the way that she had hoped. She was boxed in. In September of her grade one year she wrote this,

“There once was a beautiful rare butterfly that wanted to fly. But someone captured it and caged it and didn’t let it out. And the butterfly was sad.”

My heart broke and I shared it with her teacher with the hope that we could find a way to work together to help my wee six year old. We both cried and the teacher was just plain shocked, having no idea that my girly was dying inside. I didn’t feel as if I was doing a very good job of paving a path for her to do anything that she wanted. We joined as a team and began to look for new learning opportunities for Jillian. I put her on a waiting list for private vocal lessons and she began playing the piano. Music is powerful and has played a huge role in her life. Through music, she has met three important mentors in her life for which I am grateful. Thanks to a wonderful grade three and four teacher, a few years soared by smoothly. In grade five Jillian had a classroom teacher who placed her up on a pedestal. He was in awe of her dedication to a task and allowed her to explore and take control of her own learning. Although I am grateful for so much of what he offered her, by putting her up on a pedestal, he also facilitated something that I didn’t like. Jillian began to behave as if she had something inside of her that was better than others. For as much as I tried to instill in her that she had just discovered some of her gifts early, that everyone has gifts and that those gifts are not subject to some sort of evaluation scale but work in harmony to bring about a healthy good balance to our world, she doubted me. After all she could think quickly on her toes and respond accordingly causing many adults around her to just back down and for kids to support her. Grade six was upon her where she met a teacher who had personality clashes with many students, fellow teachers and parents and made the decision to enter into power struggles with Jillian. This year Jillian gains control of the class and we deal with bullying issues with Jillian being the bully. With guidance and support from a wise friend and with my ability to reach out and research, Jillian and I begin working through this and by November, the bullying is no longer evident.

Junior High starts and she is in a room with her easy going, kind-hearted older brother and a teacher who has his own challenges in this world that collide with his ability to teach. Once again she begins to behave as if she knows “it” all and is better than others. Does she believe this? Not when we have heart to heart, one on one discussions. And so… we have many, and spend oodles of time together just the two of us. However her condescending behaviour towards the teacher continues.

Today, she is fourteen in grade eight, has a brilliant mind, beautiful voice and yet she continues to feel like a caged butterfly – I know this and know not what to do… and so this morning before school and inspired by one of my mentors, I challenged her – “Today”, I said. “I want you to look for the best in three people that you usually do not see the best in… feel how your life changes for the better.”

I am at a loss and feel that I should know what to do after all I am the mom - My invitation to you is to help guide me so that I can continue to guide her…

Thank you.

My Toothless Butterfly Girly

Monday, September 20, 2010

Locking Others Out?

When my son Max was five-years old, I took him to a public swimming pool in the city. We had a blast swimming but when we came out, our sandals were gone from the shoe shelf. The woman at the desk said that we should never have left them there and to remember to always take them with us in the change room and lock them in the locker. Being raised in the city, I should have known this but it had escaped me as I was now very much a rural mom. What I neglected to initially realize was that it was my young Max who was absolutely shocked, puzzled and devastated that someone may have taken our sandals - his sandals!  Surprised that someone would take something that did not belong to him or her.   
Now fast forward ten years with Max in high school – a new town... a new set of students... At first he decided he didn’t want a lock on his locker. He is trusting and optimistic and I am grateful that at fifteen he is this. Following the second day of school, Max arrived home dismayed that others might deliberately take something from someone else or that they would switch locks, put locks on backwards making it difficult to open and deliberately intend to cause frustration in someone else. I just smiled softly and listened marveling at this fella of mine who continues to have great faith in people. However, after a week, he decided that he needs a lock. Nothing has been taken from him and he is confident that no one will wreak any havoc with his stuff but he now senses the need to lock out others. In some small way, I feel as if I have lost a little part of this amazing soul whom I call son.
Max doing something he is great at - performing!
 I welcome your thoughts on the issue of locking others out, faith in people and/or all things parenting...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Early Learnings...

When you are raised on a farm, you learn to make hay while the sun shines - or so the saying goes...
Timing is everything on a farm and it does not matter if you are sick or tired or sore. If it is July and the sun is shining, you make hay. If the canola has finished flowering and the seed is ready to be plucked and the weather is just right, you harvest.
But I wasn't raised on a farm and so I have struggled with this early learned beahviour of my husband's.

My children however are being raised here and so when we were gifted with a load of white birch that had been knocked down already, we gratefully drove the tractor to the neighbour's coulee and began to load it and haul it home. We proceeded to have the neighbours over for dinner the next evening and gave them a bottle of their beverage of choice. This is how life works here. We piled the birch high and today, even though it is +32• Celsius outdoors, my 15-year old is chopping firewood for the winter. We cannot have this lovely wood rotting and time is of the essence.

My 15-year old Max never complains, does every job I ask of him, asks if there is anything else that he can do and continues to marvel at the wonders within a job and so I am always puzzled about how to "reward" him... Or should I?
My Marvellous Max!

Max receives an allowance for being a part of this family, because he is a teen and needs to have his own money for stuff. He does not get money for specific work at all. He was asked to work for a wage at a local business for the summer but I actually voted, "No!"And I was adamant that work for a wage will come soon enough.  So as he chops away at the wood, and works for all of us, he calls to me, "Hey mom, look at the rings on this one! I wonder how old it is?" and "Hey cool, I can actually see my name in the lines of this one." I smile and enjoy his wonderment and am grateful to have him home lots this summer... Work will come soon enough.


Monday, July 19, 2010

The Dance

I love the process of life. The planting, hoeing, tilling of the garden… The brainstorming, free writing, editing of my words… The planning, cleaning, preparations of a celebration… The choosing, chopping, sautéing, blending of ingredients for a recipe… The observing, listening, teaching, learning of child rearing… The winding expedition an author leads me on through characters in a story that I refuse to finish because I am not done with the journey that the book is taking me on… The chatter of the birds, the sway of the wind through the poplars and the redolence of the water hazards as I take to the golf course with a beer in my cup holder… The connection of my heart to my foot to the boot to my ski to the snow to the mountain to the Universe as I glide down the slope… The unfolding joy as my eyes open for the day and the gratefulness of a warm comfortable bed as my eyes close for the night…

My husband Brent works tirelessly to create a certain lifestyle and then wants to just rest and enjoy it. He loves the harvest… The celebration with friends… The feeling of a full stomach after a delicious meal… Happy, content well-behaved children…. The end of a very good golf game…

My husband likes a finished product…

And so, we dance…

Marriage is all about this dance – how do we honour what is important to our partner without giving up of ourselves?

I invite you to dialogue along with me and tell me about the dance with your partner…


Friday, June 11, 2010

Out of Boredom Comes Creativity...

Out of boredom comes creativity.

Like many of my generation, I have experienced this first hand but also have observed it vicariously through children, as a teacher and as a parent and I feel fortunate to have discovered this years ago.  Not only did I not allow the words "I'm bored" uttered in my presence but when sensing the feelings from my children, sent them out to be physical. Sometimes I joined them but more often than not, I let them be...

As a parent I choose NOT to fill up my children's schedules so that they have little time at home creating their own schedule. Sure I have involved them in organized activities in order to introduce them to things that might strike a chord in them, help them to see that they have particular gifts and talents that can be offered for the greater good in their lives and to help teach them about how to be in community. But... not so much so that they are unable to make creative choices when they are all alone at home with oodles of time - like during the summer. Until this year, when at the request of my teens, the television did not come on for them during the school week and on weekends it was limited. Yes they have gaming devices but the hand held ones were restricted to vehicle use and the Wii is just a sometime thing that I have been fortunate not to have to regulate.

What I do have are four treehouses in the yard, three of them built by Max and Jillian, a trampoline, tire swing, trapeze, cement pad with basketball net, scrap lumber and metal heap, a shed with tools, a paintball course built by my 15 year old, bikes, hoses hooked up to a creek and a dugout for what would seem unlimited water, and this year we will add a slackline. We have had a zipline built by my son and his friend, a variety of BMX courses, again built by Max as well as a tightrope. And I am privileged to live in a community where this is a typical yard. By now you may have gathered that I live rurally.  However, I would hope that living in the city wouldn't change how I have parented but that I would look to different opportunities for them to envelop the gift of creativity as well as the gift of relying on oneself for motivation.

Two treehouses connected by rope swing...

How does a parent go about instilling this in children?
  • by resisting the desire to fill up a child's schedule.
  • by resisting the desire to offer suggestions when they seem bored - instead let them know that you have great faith in them that they will be able to fill their time with constructive activities and that you can hardly wait to hear all about their endeavors and adventures.
  • daydream with them. (I learned this from Max when he was in grade one and a wise health care professional expounded with, "He's got the gift of daydreaming!")
  • ask them for their game plan for the summer. It doesn't mean that they have to meet every goal but just to have some set out. (Once again, I learned this from my son who is a goal-setter and sets one surrounding his athletics, music and school.)
  • model the behaviour that you want to see - determine what your own summer goals are?
As a collective, we are raising children and doing so to the best of our abilities right here and now and we can all improve on the ways in which we parent. I am in no way suggesting that I am doing everything "right" because, of course, I am not. I too am just muddling along the path in this game that we call parenting.

Above all else, as Garvin states, "kids need to be kids while they're kids", summer is about being wild and free, creative and... mostly barefoot.


Thanks to my friend Linda Garvin for her continual teachings...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


A book that seems to have caught my attention with utmost interest these days, is Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. I find it fascinating when a book crosses my path and resonates alarmingly so. The research that Elizabeth has conducted surrounding the history of marriage is extensive and compelling. Not only does she include a secular look at marriage over time but also the path that various organized religious groups have followed and espoused...

While reading this I find it interesting to have been contacted by two friends evaluating their own relationship with their respective partners in a discerning manner and what has captivated me mostly is how deeply ingrained our values are from the people we grew up with.

From my parents, I gleaned that one should be everything to one's partner. Is this unrealistic? Of course. Did they teach this to me? No, but it is what I learned...

As Elizabeth states in this unfolding story of a woman coming to grips with the idea of marriage, she does "not need a man in almost many of the ways that women have needed men over the centuries." She does "not need him to protect [her] physically because [she lives] in one of the safest societies on earth." She does "not need him to provide for [her] financially, because [she has] always been the winner of [her] own bread." In general terms a woman does not need a man to extend her "circle of kinship" nor "father her children".

If this is so in 2010, what then do I need in a marriage?

And... as husband and wife, what role do we play in each others' lives?

Gilbert believes that it comes down to companionship and adoring each other in the commitment of marriage.

As for me, I know that I want to share my life experiences and passions with my husband in hopes that he too will find joy in sharing his life experiences and passions with me. And I feel gratification in knowing that we could do this for the rest of our lives. Growing old through experiences together...

I know some who married in order to escape a situation, have a child, fill a need... When that desire no longer needs to be filled, when the child has grown etc. then what?

How important is the reason why one marries? Why did you marry? Have you had to reassess your marriage?


Sunday, March 28, 2010

That Original Feeling...

Recently a friend remarked on how his grandparents had been married for sixty-eight years and counting. This hit a chord inside of me. A very deep resounding chord. It struck me so much so that I felt compelled to bow in awe.

Many years ago now, I gave up wondering why certain people chose to marry each other and how some couples seemed to stay together while others did not. Back then, I had come to the realization that I couldn’t begin to comprehend the complexities of love, devotion, commitment, needs, beliefs… But sixty-eight years married is an amazing accomplishment indeed and I began to think about the challenges that they might have faced together or individually within that marriage.

On April 10th, my husband and I will have been married for seventeen years and I remember the day that I fell in love with him. Actually, I remember the moment. I was sitting in a hospital bed and this amazing man that I had known for only six weeks, dashed around the corner of my semi-private room divider with hope resting on his entire face, that I was okay. I was seated in bed and… I was more than okay. I grinned and just took this man in, watching his every move, listening to his every word. His care and concern for me wasn’t new. I had been fortunate to have been well loved my entire life and had had other men in my life who held me in high esteem. But somehow, this felt different. Brent and I were in our thirties with well-established careers, knew our strengths and what we wanted in life, when our paths intersected and we both knew that it felt right being together.

Now fast-forward eighteen years from the first time I met him and with two beautiful children that we have been gifted, the greatest challenge I face is to take the time to allow that awestruck feeling to continue to permeate my being, to not take him for granted and become complacent, to hold on to that respect that I have always held for him and to do so with gratefulness and joy. And so as I sit here contemplating my life in this marriage our girly asks if she can turn some music on. “Of course” is my response and the song that rings out is Natasha Bedingfield’s, which causes me to smile at this remarkable Universe of ours and I long for his arms to surround me because that original feeling never went away…


Friday, March 12, 2010

Equipping the Child for the Path...

As a Kindergarten teacher, when a child entered my classroom never having held a pair of scissors or not knowing how to tie her shoes, I felt it was my responsibility to teach those skills with support and guidance. It was not for me to judge that that child hadn’t been taught those skills at home before coming to school, but to assist in equipping the child with the skills that would be needed as she moved forth in life.
I feel the same way about preparing a child for entering the Internet and encourage you to ponder David Truss’ words that follow. David can be found at where he provides anyone in need with this available poster.

We Filter Websites At School!
• Students will not know what to do when they are at home and they come across malicious or inappropriate websites.
• Searches may confuse and overwhelm students at home as they will be in unfamiliar territory.
• While at school students will not be able to use many interesting and exciting websites that they can use at home.
• At school we will not be able to help students who have issues with social software sites like Facebook.
• Because we filter websites at school we cannot prepare your child to be net savvy. That responsibility now rests firmly on your shoulders. Good Luck!
~David Truss

And so... I continue to guide my own children with regard to discerning information, using security features, and knowing that it is a joyous and interesting privilege to have Internet use. Will they be duped by possible negative forces that exist? Possibly, but they also will know procedures that they can act on and that they can always ask me for assistance with the handling of a particular online situation.


Monday, January 18, 2010

The Internet is about… People

If, for many reasons, you view the Internet in a guarded manner and hold some negativity towards the advent of social media, you might feel anxiety surrounding these thoughts.

Many face-to-face discussions that I have been involved in recently, suggests just this. Some colleagues and friends frown upon my idea of having a class in school surrounding the teaching of social media. Please read Nicholas Bramble’s article entitled Fifth Period is Facebook These same friends and colleagues seem to think that I have my head in the sand or maybe the clouds - and yet…

I have developed a close relationship with a network of people residing around the globe and view the evolution of Social Media as a tool that assists me in engaging with these people, strengthening my beliefs, broadening my perspective and intensifying my commitment to personal and professional growth and I choose to use it as such, in what I see as a positive endeavour. Because of this, I would like to find out from youth, how they are using social media and encourage and teach them how to continue to use it in a beneficial manner…

Being that I have taught for the better part of the last twenty-three years, I believe that education is the key to learning about… changing, and/or strengthening our views and our actions. If the powers that be who make the decisions in education, would “stop thinking about how to repress the huge amounts of intellectual and social energy kids devote to social media and start thinking about how to channel that energy away from causing trouble and toward getting more out of their classes” (Bramble, 2009), then we may just create the opportunity to break down that wall that stands between many educators and students and see the Internet for what it truly is…


Monday, January 11, 2010

Thoughts About A Woman I Called Mom...

Books are made so differently now… This once dark green, now faded, copy of The Pitman Advanced Dictation Course, found its way into my hands this morning as I marveled at our little home library that my thirteen year old decided to organize yesterday.

The course book has no publication date stated in it and yet I know that my mother used in it 1957 when she attended the Oshawa Young Women’s Business College, also referred to as secretarial school.

As I leaf through the pages of shorthand squiggles that mean absolutely nothing to me, I wander back to the opening page where my mother has written her name, address and phone number. These are the squiggles that hold me captive. Repeatedly, I run my fingers over her first name… Now that she has left this earth, any scrap of who she was here, is what enthralls me.

I knew her as mom but she was more than just that, she had to be!

I invite you to engage in dialogue with me about your loved ones who no longer walk this earth... Hmm - or do they?