Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Gift is… My Words Part II

My gift is my words…
Today my friend Kaye receives her last Chemotherapy treatment. My heart surrounds her as she sits in that chair that I wish wasn’t so familiar, for the final time… When she comes home, we all wait… Wait to see how she fairs with this one.
She is a remarkable woman who has battled the beast and rid herself of this demon that invaded her life. However, within this demon, angels have emerged - Angels too many to mention. You see, when we give to the world, the world in turn, gives back. 
This woman I call friend, is and always has been
and she has remained so throughout her surgeries, consultations, exams and treatments, honouring this time away from her work, that she loves. This time has been about her and for as challenging as it has been, she has revered it as such.
Congratulations my friend – you did it!
And now we wait…

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Someone Else Thinks Of Me, Good Or Bad, Is Not My Business

There are certain things about one’s child raising that one is grateful for, and yet others that one is not. The ones that I did not like, I attempted to make changes with, in my own parenting. However, one aspect of my growing up that I am utmost thankful for, involved my parents never offering me any advice unless I asked for it. From a time when I was quite young, I made my own decisions, stood by those choices and basked in the glory or accepted any consequences surrounding said choices. As a young adult, when someone offered advice to me on any occasion, without me asking for it, I was incensed and insulted. Who were they to think that they could offer me suggestions with how to live?
At 50 years of age, I have learned that it matters not whether someone offers me advice on how to be, but on how I receive her or his intent. I needed to learn that the way in which someone views me and whether or not she or he is favourable to how I live, is of no importance. What is significant, is whether I am approving to the way in which I live.
It was difficult in my young adult years when someone freely offered me advice. I actually wanted to do the opposite just so that I could stand up for my own way of being. I was not obsessed with people pleasing in any way, and yet, I did not carry this behaviour over into marriage. I am thankful that I fell in love with, and married a sweet, kind soul who loves me and put me on a pedestal, but he had been raised in a household where people just fit in, complied with society at large and offered advice freely to each other. I felt as if everyone was living in my back pocket judging every choice I made and yet I was busy raising my own two babies in a way that contrasted with this. These two ways of being began to collide, eventually demonstrating to me that one was not right or wrong, just different.
A passage stated by many and that has shown up in my life over the last few years that has helped me to let this go, is finally beginning to sink in,

What someone else thinks of me, good or bad, is not my business.

While the particular happening was not advice offered, it did surround “taking offense” when the other evening a friend queried whether she had offended me by asking me a delicate question. I actually chuckled, smiled warmly and let her know that I am rarely offended by anything, but that on the occasion that I am, I look to myself to see what it is about me, that I would allow another’s words to have that kind of power over me. I am a human being and when I am presented with a feeling that is contrary to how I typically feel, I start to peel the layers back of my being, in order to understand, detach from and release, and be at peace ready to enjoy life once again.
Before I close this writing off, I want to turn back to why I have made the decisions that I have made, and that part of the challenge with making choices lies in the society that we live in and how the people within it respond. I mentioned that I basked in glory or accepted consequences of decisions, because as much as I have tried to separate myself from what another thinks, there may still be rewards or glory surrounding particular choices, which in turn may fuel the next decision I make. In the past, all of these positive and negative responses from others became muddled with each other until I reached a place where I irrevocably knew that a decision was not necessarily right or wrong but that it just – was.

Face your challenges or don’t and make your own decisions – it’s YOUR choice.

Soar by Christina Aguilera 
Now in life there’s gonna be times
When you’re feeling low
And in your mind insecurities seem to take control
We start to look outside ourselves
For acceptance and approval
We keep forgetting that the one thing we should know is
Don’t be scared
To fly alone
Find a path that is your own
Love will open every door.
See in your hands the world is yours
Don’t hold back and always know
All the answers you will unfold
What are you waiting for?
Spread your wings and soar.”


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

On Clearing Chaos and Clutter...

Come and find the quiet centre in the crowded life we lead
Find the room for hope to enter, find a frame where we are freed…

As I sit here with my pen in hand, this familiar and favourite Hymn from Voices United reveals itself, again.  
I am not sure how long it has been that I have consciously worked on improving myself, but as I turned 50 this year, I would like to say that it has been for 50 years. It has not. I know that in my teenage and young adult years I was egotistical and thought that I was at the top of my game and that during my 40’s I found myself lost, floundering and unraveling for a time. What I do know, is that I learned to meditate when I was 18 years old and for this I am utmost grateful. It saved me during my University years when the stress to perform, lack of sleep and desire to be free, took its toll on me. For some reason, and for a time, I forgot how to meditate and when I fell into a dark hole following the death of my mama, I had to learn it again. Meditation is now a part of how I live daily.
I am writer and I typically write daily, several times daily. When life circumstances are such that I am not able to be in my sacred space, writing, a lump forms in my throat and waits for me to pick up my pen. Through the practise taught to me by a few teachers, I have learned to clear this lump. But it always returns unless I attend to it and write.
A year and half ago, the lump in my throat reached a frustratingly large size. After only experiencing the discipline once, and not feeling that it did anything for me, I decided to give Reiki another try. Odonata was suggested by a friend, and because the name appealed to me, I made an appointment. When the practitioner and healer, Krysty, asked me to describe the lump in my throat, I told her that it was like I had swallowed a grapefruit, that it seemed fleshy and ruby red, and that I too connected with it being about the size of a grapefruit. As she worked on me, I felt it soften and was moved to tears at the beauty and diligence with how she worked. Afterwards, she enlightened me with the knowledge that it was indeed red but that it was much more delicate and larger than I had described – more like a Red Throated Frigate. You know those birds where the male has a large red balloon-like throat? Krysty also said that I could heal it myself and that it wasn’t for her to do so. How did she know this I wondered, as she proceeded to tell me that during the treatment it was my hands that guided her and told her how to soothe me…
In order to continue to soothe, heal and clear this throat of mine, I write. But here it is a year and half later and my throat still fills. I have begun to look at other activities or practises besides my writing, that may clear this blockage and offer me clarity. Once again, as has happened over the course of this life of mine, Yoga calls me, but this time I roll my eyes. How am I supposed to find a Yoga class living here on this farm in rural Alberta? I have taken Yoga classes before and not once did I feel that any minute part of the class resounded within me. However, I have learned to honour what shows up in my life and so I started to pay attention and Voila! I receive an invitation to join an online book club that is to be lead by a woman who just happens to be a Yoga instructor. Hmmm…. I am not really interested in adding yet another thing to my life but because it is going to be BrenĂ© Brown’s book The Gift of Imperfection that will be read and discussed, I say yes and I fall in love with the book, the club, the members and the guide, Holly. Time goes on and Holly moves to a nearby city and then one grey and cool afternoon I get an invitation for a 3-evening package of Yoga classes. I’m now very nervous because I want so badly to go but I also do not want it to be like the other classes I have taken. With encouragement from Holly and a few others, I enroll.
Sunday night was my first evening class and although I did not want to travel the 30 minutes it would take to get to the venue, I did, and it was spectacular! I was welcomed with kindness and warmth and although the poses were challenging, I soon felt as if I belonged. The Sat Kriya was such a powerful position and pose for me that even though it was difficult, I was compelled to stay with it. This one class cleared me of many toxins, the spinal cord stretches, the Sat Kriya and the practise of chanting Sat Nam as well as the collective energy that emanated, that I arose in the night feeling nauseous. I knew better and before sleep, should have consumed copious amounts of water, but at that hour and with a soft smile on my face, I instead, breathed my way through the upset tummy, and for all of this I have utmost gratitude.

Clear the chaos and the clutter clear our eyes that we can see
All the things that really matter be at peace and simply be.


Monday, November 7, 2011

On living with teens...

Thanks to The Yummy Mummy Club for once again posting a writing of mine. I am grateful for that wonderfully rich site!

Teens can be challenging beings but they are also are so much fun to be around. The thing is, you have to be with them, lots, and you have to let them know that you love being with them. For me, this means biting my tongue often and reminding myself that they have different lessons to learn on this earth than I had or have and that although I am friendly, I am not yet one of their friends.

I am their mom, one of their guides. My advice to parents of teens, is to keep them busy with something they love and then support it by finding a way to love it too. One thing that my teens love is music.

Jillian studied classical voice for seven years, is enrolled in her ninth year of piano and sings in her brother’s rock band. Max played piano for six years, took drums for one year and has played with a teen rock band for four years. For countless years, the kids jammed and practiced in our basement and I continually praised them for their unique beats and musical sessions even though there were times I wanted to wear ear plugs. This caused them to practice here more often and call on me to listen to particular riffs and sections. And I persevered with a warm smile because I knew where they were and that they were being creative. They recently have found a more permanent practice space and I actually miss them.

Because they are music lovers, I let them DJ whenever we travel together in the vehicle. They love introducing me to certain songs that they are learning, or just ones that they love to sing. When we are faced with a long road trip ahead, my 15 and 16-year-old start getting excited about the new music that they have just discovered and want to share, knowing that I will honour it.

Are there times when I would like to turn to the familiar and soothing sound of Stuart McLean or that I want complete silence?
But I know that that is coming all too soon.

How do you envelop living with teens - I would love to hear your stories.


Teen Theatre Group Voltage! that I had the privilege of directing. (Max and Jillian included.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Have Faith In & Gift Children with Independence

Thanks to the Yummy Mummy Club for once again printing an article of mine.

Dr. Martin Brokenleg who co-wrote Reclaiming Youth at Risk, impresses upon his readers that in order for children to grow into responsible adults who follow their hearts and are at peace, they must feel that they:

Are Masters of Something
Know Independence
Consciously Choose Generosity

Many years ago, I enveloped Dr. Brokenleg’s strategies and used them with each age group that I was teaching. With all students, including those in kindergarten, I wanted them to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they not only belonged in this place called school, but that they belonged with me. If they felt that they belonged with me, then I knew I could take them those extra steps toward greater confidence with ease rather than force.

Being a master of something is important to youngsters and assists in building great confidence. It is crucial to delve deeply and assist in discovering each child’s gift or talent and then having the faith in him or her to work with this and persevere with a deed, through practice. It is okay to buy Velcro® fastened shoes for 5-year-olds while they are learning to tie but it is also fundamental to continue to teach them to tie. The confidence that this offers a 5-year-old is immense and builds on the next success as does riding a bike, zipping a Ziploc® bag, and opening and closing containers.

My young Kinders held such belief in themselves when they could successfully cross the playground on the glider. I deemed it an important learning and stood and helped them and guided them across never letting them fall except into my arms, until they had mastered it and even though it may have seemed like a minor accomplishment, I knew it was great.

My advice to parents is, as your children grow, it is more than okay to have faith in them that they can perform age appropriate tasks, and to support them in mastering each little feat, as those achievements become overall triumphs that help them to be independent and in turn choose to be generous with their gifts and talents. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Making ToDo Lists

I love lists and learned long ago that I am okay with not getting everything done on my To-Do list and that as long as I create one, I typically get much done.

Today's list looks likes this:

- finish posters
- place ads
- clean bathrooms
- laundry
- roast and freeze beets
- make popcorn cake for Award's Night tonight
- clean up veranda flower pots
- make hair appointments for Max and Brent
- run
- write
- meditate
- read
- finish presentation
- be at school at 3:30 to set up for tonight

Although I meditate in the shower and before sleep, I also schedule in a specific one to do because otherwise I may get wrapped up in the todos of my day and neglect to take that time especially for me. I feel the same way about reading and exercise knowing that I function at a high level of gratefulness, if I make time for these.

Are you a list maker?


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Being at Sixes and Nines

I am at 6’s & 9’s today. At least that is what my mama would say, if she were here. I guess she is here, just in a different way. For those not familiar with the saying, it means being undecided. But undecided about what? I can’t quite be sure.
Sixes and Nines actually referred to long or short cigars, back in the wagon wheel days of our early pioneer life. For me, it captures exactly how I am feeling but really does not allow me to delve into what it is that I am so mixed up about. That is what my pen is for.
Today as I sit and write, my mama will have been gone from this earth for seven years now. Even though she left quickly, there was time enough to say good-bye, and for this I am grateful. She had just returned home from a wonderful trip to Ireland with a friend, where she had sat on the flight home for nine hours, with her skinny little legs crossed, reading a book. Upon arriving home, she had a sore leg - deep vein thrombosis had set in and she shot a clot to her brain, through her heart causing her to stroke. But it was the incidental finding of advanced liver cancer that took her life. I say took when in actuality, she gave her life on this earth up. She had many internal struggles and she knew that it was time to be at peace.
However, this is only one part of my mixed up being today – the other part sits in the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton in the form of my very good friend who begins chemotherapy treatment. She has actually won the battle to rid her body of the cancer cells that were invading. The treatment now is to ascertain that it will not return, and I am confident that it will not.
How do you comfort and support a person who has always comforted and supported others? She is not used to having anyone do anything for her, let alone ask them. There are times that I know she feels as if I am treating her like an invalid but that is not my intent nor why I have done, and want to do more, for her. It is because, there was a time when she saved my soul… a time when I was unraveling.  
And so, I will go to the ends of this earth to do anything for her.
Nola, Monica, Me and Kaye

A Letter to My Mama

I miss you.


Friday, October 7, 2011

A Little Gratefulness For Living This Rural Life

There are some drawbacks to living on a country road far from basic services as grocery stores and gas stations, but the benefits cause me to breathe deeply in gratefulness.
Parcels do not arrive easily to this community and businesses usually require a street address before they will take an order. The village is still in the process of developing addresses in this 100-year-old community and so we kind of make them up. I always put my street address as #1 Railway Avenue because there used to be a railway in town with a commercial grain elevator on the street. Couriers could easily spot this landmark and would drop a parcel off there. The arriving whistle of the railway trains are but a memory now and the elevator is a privately used one. However, I continue to use this address name. Sometimes parcels are dropped off at the Snack Shack or the bar but if they are dropped off at the school, the secretary calls me to make sure it is okay to send it home with one of my kidlets, as she certainly would not want to spoil a surprise if it was a gift for one of them.
The school is the heart of our community and it is run like a family, with the older students having to take responsibility for helping the younger ones. All of these young people have the opportunity to learn to be “in-community” early in life.
Yesterday was my daughter Jillian’s last day of school before Thanksgiving weekend and with utmost appreciation and awe, she told me not to make her a lunch that day because the teachers were preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for the students. She told me how excited the teachers were when they told the students about the menu and how much they appreciate these youngsters.
I think that I will take the shortcomings of this wee village, because the advantages overflow in abundance.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Madly Off in All Directions

This Stephen Leacock quote resonates deep within today as I work at sitting down to write. My family and I were away for the weekend and besides laundry, yard work, organizing a new calendar, meditating, running and daily chores, I have my daily writing work to do.
Although I love writing and know that I am a writer, it is hard work for me, always. Like my friend Annie says, “This has nothing to do with any kind of the fictitious creation commonly referred to as writer’s block—there is always a floodgate of thoughts…but simply the effort and discipline required” that can be daunting.
I am a disciplined person in most everything that I do, which causes me to schedule in my writing and at fifty years of age, presently am fortunate to be able to treat writing as a full-time job. I value the friends and relatives that understand this about me, not disturbing me during the day when I am at work. There are some people who have been told and they completely respect this time of mine and yet others who still phone me during my time at work, drop by my home or ask me to run errands for them, because after all, I am at home. One friend suggested that I lock the doors. I smiled warmly because the entryway that houses my cathedral style windows and keeps me bathed in sunlight, where I sit to write, has a front door with windows as well as a back door. I would not be able to hide. And the thing is, I don’t want to hide. I want to be honoured and respected for the work that I am doing. And so I pause to think… why have I invited this in? Am I not honouring someone’s work? I invite you to enter in to this discussion with me about your work be it writing or otherwise.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Being a Model for Our Children - Exercising for Fun and Fitness

When my youngest child entered Grade 1, I had discovered that I had become an uncomfortable size 14 with poor eating habits not allowing myself to ever feel hungry – snacking whenever I wanted on whatever I wanted. I knew it was time for a change but I live 50 km from the nearest pool, gym or program and for my own peace of being, I still needed to be available to my children when they were home from school. I taught two days a week and decided to run on the three weekdays that I did not teach. I could barely breathe and could only run for short stints, when I heard about John Stanton a confirmed couch potato who started the chain of stores and programs called The Running Room. Although he has inspired many marathon runners, his goal has never been to create them but to assist in helping people get off of the sofa. What follows is my program, that was inspired by John, that I have followed for almost 8 years now, without injury or ever getting bored with running.

Week 1 – 1 minute run/1 minute walk x 10 - 3 days a week

Week 2 – 2 minute run/1 minute walk x 6 – 3 days a week

Week 3 – 3 minute run/1 minute walk x 5 – 3 days a week

Week 4 – 4 minute run/1 minute walk x 4 – 3 days a week

Week 5 – 5 minute run/1 minute walk x 3 – 3 days a week

At this point I discovered that I could and wanted to increase it to 4 days a week and I wanted to run in a 5km race and began to train for my first one.

Week 6 – 6 minute run/1 minute walk x 3 – 4 days a week

Week 7 – 8 minute run/1 minute walk x 2 – 4 days a week

Week 8 – 10 minute run/1 minute walk x 2 – 4 days a week

Week 9 – 20 minute non-stop run – 4 days a week

If this is too difficult a task to start with, one can start with an even better/slower program suited to them. If one needed to repeat a week – one could!

After 9 weeks, I was able to continue to add time and km and started to run 5 km in 25-30 minutes. The first race I ran was that spring - 5km in 25 minutes. My goal has always been to just treat my heart well and run for health. Although I have run up to 21 km in one run, it is not my preference to do so. It took me a couple of years to drop in size to an 8 and for four years am a size 6-8 depending on the cut of the clothes.

And yet I still must push myself to go out. As I sit here writing, I must actually schedule in my running because I may still look for an excuse on a full day or on a miserable weather day. I use inspirational sayings and photos to help me get off of this desk chair and go for a run.

Why is this?

I think it has to do what has been engrained in me early in life. My parents were healthy thin people who did not need to work at being so and I don’t remember seeing them exercise for fun or fitness. For the most part, children will become like their parents or main caregivers, which is mostly a good thing. Let’s remember to show them we care about ourselves and exercise for fun and fitness.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Even though I had never really heard about intentional affirmations until about six years ago, they have come to play a huge role in my individual life and our family life.
When my teens come home with a particular ailment, the first thing they ask me for, is an affirmation, in order to rid them of the infliction. The first time it happened, I chuckled inside but gladly wrote out an affirmation to help Jillian with an aching muscle.

Before we exit we are reminded to create our own day...
 Infliction... In...

I believe that sickness comes from within and is tied to our emotions. Some years ago now, I began to use Louise Hay’s book, YouCan Heal Your Life as well as Feelings Buried Alive, Never Die by Karol K. Truman. These women’s ways of handling their health make sense to me. 
The statement below the mirror invites us to "Believe"
I remember at age fourteen when I had a crush on a fella in my youth group. I was looking forward to going to a weekend camp and seeing him for a few days in a row. When we all arrived at camp, he ignored me. In fact, he ignored me all weekend. I was confused and sad and when my mom and dad picked me up, when the camp was over, I was silent. Later that evening, my mom questioned me about my behaviour and I broke into tears, holding my chest because I could barely breathe and I asked her why it was that my chest actually hurt. She smiled warmly and held me and told me that when your heart is broken, you feel the pain there.
All matters of the heart hurt the heart, hurt the breast and so if we heal those matters, we heal the physical pain and dis-ease.
Statements are scattered throughout our house, beside our beds, by the light switches, above the shower and mirrors, over the family desk and anywhere else we may take time to read these important words. The few photos that I have collected to put with this post, demonstrate how we use some affirmations in our life and we always end each avowal in gratefulness.
Appropriately placed for anyone to affirm good health...
 If you use affirmations to heal, I would love to hear about your experience?


Monday, September 12, 2011

Running on Country Roads

I consider myself to be a seasoned runner. My last running themed writing, on this blog, states that I have been running for seven years, which presently makes it eight. I only run 3-4 days a week and sometimes go for weeks not running, but I can quickly get going again.
I love that I can run right out my front door, safely and peacefully on this beautiful country road. However, there are some hazards to running on a country road one of which hit me the other day causing me to trip. My Golden Retrievers run with me, and my male, Gus, loves to lead. When I turn and come back for home, he is sometimes out in the pasture. I always give him a warning that I am going to be turning back soon but the other day it took him awhile to catch up and pass me. He actually knocked me down. I was shocked, and rediscovered that gravel burn is not fun. Luckily that was all. I guess I would have had to crawl home if I had turned an ankle.
Other hazards that I have encountered are ducks and coyotes. Coyotes stay at a distant but I sometimes wonder what if one had rabies? I remember a young coyote following me once, until my dogs came running from the pasture to chase it away. Ducks really aren't a hazard just a little startling as they nest and swim in the little ponds in the ditch.
I love running and am wondering, if you run, walk or bike, where do you love doing this?
In 2004 and at Jilly's request we ran in a Mother's Day Race together.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Dinner Time Strategy

When my husband and I were both working away from home full time and our kidlets were in elementary school, my good friend Kaye offered me the most wonderful little bit advice surrounding meal organization. Kaye insisted on a few rules for this as many of you trying it may want to as well. Rules such as everyone must try everyone else's meal and only positive comments are allowed. Our children have always eaten a variety of foods and enjoy trying new ones and so it was unnecessary for us to do this.
We live on a farm and grocery shopping can be challenging considering that we like to eat mostly homegrown or all natural foods. I do not like to stop by the store for this or that and prefer to have our groceries purchased monthly and so this worked beautifully for us. I’ll change the tense here because we continue to use this handy little strategy.
At the start of every month, the kids and Brent each choose 5 meals while I choose 10 and then I write them on the calendar for the next 25 days knowing that some days will be leftover days. With the exception of a few fresh items, all of the groceries are then purchased. Every morning, or the night before, the meat is taken out to thaw and prepping becomes a dream come true for the first person to arrive home who starts dinner.
Here is our family calendar for the month of September with the only items not included being salads and vegetables that accompany every meal. 

Meals are highlighted in caramel.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Shift

The Shift
I feel the shift of fall.
Many years ago, my friend Carrie, offered me this sensation that resonated immediately and inspired me to write. Carrie says that she can smell the shift. I see it in the colour of fall. The way the evening sunlight bounces orange like over the dinner table and causes me to think that it is time to retire for the evening. Like the character Joe Fox, in the movie You’ve Got Mail, it is the time of year when I am compelled to buy bouquets of yellow HB pencils for friends. It is also that time when I find myself fortunate to be able to walk through institutional steel doorways, effortlessly, like I have been doing it all of my life. I almost have.

I started school forty-four years ago and there have been very few years since then that I haven’t started school. When I finished high school, I was tired of that place called school and had no intention of ever going to school again. Needless to say, my parents were devastated. I began working for a hotel, cleaning rooms, and when I rode the student packed city bus to work that first morning in September when University had begun, I yearned to be one of those rucksack-clad bodies with new clothes and a fresh new outlook. I knew right then, that I wasn’t finished with school.
I am a lifelong learner and although I miss being with those amazing little beings in a classroom that once filled my life with vigor and joy, I am content and satisfied knowing that that part of my life is finished. But not my learning about those little ones or that place called school…

Which brings me to this: School is not just a place but plays one of the most important roles in our lives. My wish this year is that teachers will honour this so that our students will as well. I want to wish each and every learner a transformational year.

Enjoy and envelop the shift...
Our Virginia Creeper climbs and climbs...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

There but for the grace of God Go I - Again

When I am feeling that someone has “pushed my buttons”, I find a quiet space within my being to take time to figure out what is up with me that I need to examine these feelings that are emerging?
What is it that I need to learn?
It wasn’t always this way. I used to actually think that someone else had that kind of control over my feelings. That it was somehow her fault! I have learned that it doesn’t really matter what anyone else does or says, but how I handle it… how I behave… how I feel... that really matters.
The other day, once again, an acquaintance told me an outright lie. The first time I noticed that she had lied to me, I was absolutely shocked, and I pondered about it for far too long. And then it happened again… and again… and again…
What causes someone to lie?
Is every lie equal?
When I sit with my dad through surgery and he asks me if there is a lot of blood, which I know if I answer affirmatively is going to cause him even more stress, is calmly saying, “No.” an acceptable lie?
To cite the humorous words of Jerry Seinfeld, are there must-lie situations?
As a teacher working with young ones, if a child lied, I felt that it was important to call her or him on it so that a pattern would not be set. This can be done with absolute gentleness and support. In my experience, children lie to protect themselves or to protect someone else and the more that they “get away” with a lie, the more they seem to do it. And yet, if I knew a child would be treated harshly at home for an incident at school, I too have lied, by omission of details, to protect that little one.
But when it is an adult who is pulling me in for what appears to be no particular reason, what then?
As I write, I am only beginning to come to terms with this, knowing that it is not for me to judge the liar as I too have lied and may lie again, but to hold her with compassion in hopes that she realizes the burden that her lying is creating for her. In the interim it is also crucial for me and my well being to step away from this person.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On Being a Snob - There But For the Grace of God Go I

     One morning a good friend gave me a virtual slap in the face. He didn't realize this until later, but it was a gift that I am grateful for. We were discussing advancing communications technology and our mutual love of gadgets and I was listing off all of the “stuff” that my teens possess. He began to wonder about those children who come from “have-not” environments and at what a disadvantage they might be at in ways surrounding belonging but also worldly knowledge and academically. His thinking immediately went into a “what can I do” mode. Mine did not. My thinking immediately judged particular families I have known, who do not provide the basic nutritional needs nor do they provide proper winter clothing for their children and yet with the resources that they do have, they buy them lots of electronic gadgets. 
     I live an abundant life and am grateful to be able to offer my children so much and in turn I know how grateful they are to have a safe and loving home that provides them, not only with their basic needs, but many wants. When one has the extra wants, it is easy to say that love, food, and shelter should always be the priority before any of the extras, but this is viewed through these privileged life eyes of mine.
     It is not for me to judge.
     There but for the Grace of God go I.

     Just as I am parenting to the best of my abilities, in this moment, with what I know right now, so are other parents. Just as my heart bursts with joy when my son opened up his electronic drum kit and my daughter her iPad, so do other parents’ hearts burst with joy to watch their children open up their treasures. 
     There is no hierarchy in this life that we live, no one person is better or worse than another and there are no excuses for being a snob and judging how someone chooses to parent. 
     Thanks Tim for the reminder as something could befall me and I too could be in a similar position.
     There but for the Grace of God go I.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Camp Teckla

This was my fourteen year old daughter’s 9th year at her beloved basketball camp. Jillian fell in love with this wicked, and aggressive game years ago and it quickly became one of her passions. It seems odd to see my composed and sweet little fair haired, pale skinned girly out there digging and giving it all she has but it is through basketball that she gets to be that part of herself and she loves it.
The main coach of Camp Teckla is the talented Leighann Doan. Leighann’s basketball career spans many years, involving University play as well as an opportunity to play in the global spectrum. She is a strong leader and commands an amazing team of coaches that have taken my girly and others far into the world of basketball.  
The people who created this opportunity and continue to host it are an extremely loving, yet non-assuming couple, actually grandparents to many, named Dorothy and Stan Anderson and as I type their names a lump finds its way immediately towards my throat. Dorothy’s and Stan’s granddaughter Teckla, lost her life on this earth at age sixteen. She was a vibrant young girly with a desire to “play hard or go home”. That is how she lived her short life and because of this, Dorothy and Stan started the memorial basketball camp that just wrapped up its 15th year. Teckla’s colourful spirit lives on and the cool thing is, is that Teckla’s basketball coach, Kim Poapst, who is very involved in school and teen sport, continues to manage this camp too.
Today is always a difficult day. It is the day that Jillian has to say goodbye to everyone, again. As we walked out of the gym on this final day she said, “If I grow up to be like anyone, I hope I grow up to be like Leighann.” I smiled warmly and was grateful that once again my girly has an amazing mentor that has touched and continues to touch her life.
Thank you Leighann, thank you Dorothy & Stan, thank you Kim and thank you Teckla for gifting us with your spirit…
Leighann & Jillian

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Gift is… My Words

Grade ten went by in a flash for my son Max. It has been the best year, since Kindergarten, that it could possibly have been, and for this, I am grateful.
A friend, whose son I had the privilege of teaching in Kindergarten, once said that she hoped that her son would head off to senior science classes with as much verve and anticipation as he headed off to Kindergarten with. I too hoped this for my fella and I am thrilled to say that he did just that.
To Max’s Science teacher this year, I am grateful for the time spent with hands on experiments and for rekindling in Max the wonder and magic that science holds.
To his English teacher who noticed Max’s creative abilities, was openly appreciative that he paid close attention and followed the class expectations, and nominated him for a Leaders of Tomorrow Award, I am thankful.
To his Physical Education teacher/coach/mentor, who inspired him to be the best that he could be, given his gifts and talents and for pushing him to go further beyond the school and into a different community to honour one of those gifts, I am truly grateful.
To Max’s Social Studies teacher who noted that Max works hard for every mark he gets but has a passion for maps and geography and makes connections between the past and present with regard to politics and history and who also nominated Max for a Leaders of Tomorrow Award, I thank you!
To his Aunt, when in grade one when Max was sad, held his heart as she let him sit on her lap during recesses and then once again invested in him while teaching him in grade ten about all of her passions for photography and graphic design, I am thankful.
To his Math teacher who was aware that Max made/makes good decisions surrounding schoolwork and deadlines and saw that although Math is a great challenge for him, with his diligence, he can do much more, I am so very grateful.
To the Principal who strives to create a dynamic team and not only asks the students to be responsible for all of their actions, but respects them and genuinely likes the students, I offer out my thanks.
My sixteen year old has many positive guides in his life and will continue to flourish knowing that he belongs at Gus Wetter School.
Thank you and create a great summer!
Max at the High School Christmas Banquet

Monday, June 27, 2011

Play On...

“in Just spring when the world is mud-
luscious”… beloved poet e. e. cummings writes
“and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

I first heard this poem when I was in my early teens and I immediately fell in love with it. It may have been because it was an easy poem to memorize and recite or maybe it was because it seemed simple. As I approach fifty, Cummings words touch me in a very different way, often with sadness and a yearning for the freedom that my childhood held. Simplicity, would be the last word that I would use to describe this rich poem.

For children, play is work. I love to see how young ones delve into their play in order to make sense of the world around them. How they slip into absolute freedom and joy with their play and then fall into bed, peacefully with utmost satisfaction for a day well spent. Children dig in the dirt with intensity of purpose and walk away when they are finished not when the “job” is completed. When working with youngsters, it has always been important to me to allow them to exhaust themselves with a particular toy or activity before giving it up to someone else or giving it up for something else. I never liked the idea that a child should have a toy for a set time and then pass it on to the next. I have had some accuse me of not insisting on sharing when in actuality I did, and do agree with sharing but only if a child is finished with the particular toy that is desired by another.  When my son was five, we bought him his first stomper rocket. It was a surprise gift that I had put in the trailer and was going to bring it out when we were camping. That particular trip, and along with a group of friends, we arrived in the pouring rain and set up the trailer. A few of the kids went into our trailer to play games and when the rain lifted, three other fellas, who had found the rocket, asked if they could play with it. “Of course.” I said, assuming Max would be included. Max was considerably younger. Max never said a word to me all the while knowing that I always let him play until he was finished with something. Finally, after a few hours, he asked me if he could play with his new rocket too. It was the only time I remember interrupting and asking others to “share” the toy. 
Kids in the Sand...
 Today, my daughter Jillian, begins her summer vacation and Max begins his summer job. At age fourteen and sixteen, I want them to remember the importance of play and although I do not want to schedule it in, I want them to value its importance and I wonder how I will continue to do this.
As an adult I have, at times, forgotten how important it is to play. I have a tendency to delve into the work, that is no longer play, and get fussed by deadlines and agendas. Although I specifically run for my heart and take time for activities like golfing and skiing, I wonder about the kind of play that young children immerse themselves in like skipping and swinging.
As I type this, my sixteen year old Max is figuring out the helmet camera that I just won while fourteen year old Jillian puts together a new Lego® creation.
And so I ask you,
“when the world is puddle-wonderful
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
do you play?
e. e. schaffner

Monday, June 20, 2011

On Spelling...

In my experience, spelling has not seemed to be connected to any other part of language learning. When I have a look at my own children and their spelling knowledge and skills this also seems to be evident.
Jillian learned to read before she went to grade one. She taught herself and at age 14, reads voraciously. She is also an awful speller having to use many strategies in order to spell well and she seems to have no attachment to caring about this challenge of hers.
Max learned to read along with his primary school classmates and has followed a so-called “normal” pattern with the learning of new material. He only reads what he has to read and prefers to ponder and create more than take in. He is a terrific speller making connections between like words and transferring his knowledge of one word to many. Phonics makes sense to him, as do exceptions to spelling rules.
In the box called school, Jillian is a straight A student with very little effort and Max works hard for B’s.
What does this all mean?
Well first off, it is only fascinating to me, not important, as I know what their gifts and talents are and how to encourage those to be used for good in this world. As a teacher, I felt that this was my greatest responsibility after keeping them safe physically and emotionally.
However, part of my responsibility was also to teach academic skills. I am a writer and know that one becomes a better writer by writing and so I wanted my students to write and write and write – freely. This meant that spelling had to be thrown by the wayside in the initial stages of writing. However, in order to produce polished pieces, editing was necessary and with editing comes spelling correctness.
One of the strategies I used was to have handheld electronic dictionaries available throughout the classroom as well as a variety of hard copy paper dictionaries. But the greatest strategy that produced far-reaching and long lasting results came to me when I had a triple graded class of 6-8 year olds. It unfolds as follows:
When you, the student, are doing a spelling edit on a writing piece and you come to a word you are not sure of:
1.       Ask how many letters there are in the word and then put that many blanks on a piece of paper, white/chalk board etc. eg: The word “like” would look like this _ _ _ _
2.       Attempt to fill in blanks – must be quick and brief or I would give hints and sometimes fill in the blanks with an explanation. Say child writes, lick for like, I then would put a check mark above l and i and erase the c and k and see if he/she can fill those blanks in.
3.       If child cannot, I remind them that there are many words that end in this silent letter and we must get used to remembering this. Invariably they write ke for the ending of the word.
This entire process should not take long - just seconds. Other students can take these same seconds to help their classmates and I would suggest students that may be a resource for each other. For instance: I remember a child needing to spell the word dolphin and so I asked that child if they could think of someone in the class who loved dolphins and might be able to assist them. Sometimes I would ask a child if they remembered someone else needing that word a few days ago and then the child would remember and ask said child to help them.
When I accidentally fell into creating this strategy, it was out of need and a noticeable desire for all. For the first two days it was mayhem and after that it was so smooth that one hardly noticed the goings on and spelling became a secondary focus.
What I did notice is that the students were becoming good spellers maybe it was because they were beginning to see and make connections and because the words that they wanted to spell were from their personal thoughts and vocabulary. I am not certain.
What I do know is – it worked!

(I hope that this is stated clearly enough.)