Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Idiots, Losers and Non-Achievers

The debate is on again.  A middle school in Calgary has decided to end the practice of year end awards and replace it with a broader system of recognition.  The responses to the article in the National Post  ( http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/10/29/calgary-school-axes-honour-roll-saying-it-often-hurts-self-esteem-and-pride-of-students-who-dont-make-it/) are very negative and perhaps those responses themselves point to a need for change.

The comments that support this traditional practice use statements and language such as the following to support their argument:

"Thank our "progressive" education system, we don't reward those who work hard instead help the mediocre fool themselves into believing we are all "equal" (from an achievement / skills point of view)."

"Why demote the winners, our future, to appease the losers?"

We should push the non-achievers to emulate the performance and behaviours of achievers, not the other way around"

And my favourite. . .   "The world has their share of winners and losers, and geniuses and idiots. No amount of PC bull can change the fact that some are more able than others."

Winners and losers.  Non-Achievers and achievers.  Hard workers versus the mediocre.  Geniuses and idiots.  Is this what these people have left school believing about themselves and their classmates?  Is this what they want to perpetuate?

These statements make me even more sure that it is time for a change.  Contrary to what many people believe the education of our children is not meant to be a competition full of 'winners' and 'losers'. 

I was raised to do my best, to work hard and to be a good person.  Sometimes I won awards, sometimes I didn't.  This never changed how hard I worked, how much I achieved, how I viewed myself and my classmates.  Education is not about having one winner and twenty-nine losers every time an assignment is completed.  Working hard is not about being the best.   Working hard to be your best helps you live a fulfilling life and makes you proud of yourself.  You don't work hard because you want to 'win' some award or even view yourself as the 'best', you work hard because it's the right thing to do.

"There is no success. No failure. Only a fuzzy middle." Not winning an award should not be synonymous with failure.  There are many successful people who have never won an award.  There are many successful people who are successful because of their talent, their passion and their dedication. They are not motivated by looking over their shoulder to see where they are on the 'winner' and 'loser' scale or if they are stuck 'in the fuzzy middle'.

"Psychologically, humans crave praise and feedback, which serve as motivating incentives for further, future performance."  This quote was used to support the continuance of awards programs when I believe it does exactly the opposite.  If praise and feedback (this is a whole other blog) serve to motivate, shouldn't schools be using this for all students.  Don't we want all students to be motivated?

The perception of people that the goal is to make everyone 'equal' is also ridiculous.  Do you really think that by removing awards students won't know where they stand.  The outstanding athlete, academic, musician, artist, problem solver, scientist and world citizen will still be outstanding.  Nothing will change the fact that students (and adults) are all blessed with different talents and that those talents will shine through regardless of whether or not awards ceremonies exist.  Most of us know we are not 'the best' but it doesn't stop us from striving to be 'our best'.

Nothing will change the fact that some students come to school with full bellies, freshly cleaned clothes and an army of support behind them while others come hungry and dirty with only a few supports in place.  Our job is to support all of these students, to educate all of them, to motivate all of them and to help all of them recognize their own strengths and talents.  Not just the 'winners', 'geniuses' and 'achievers', but ALL students.


I have no understanding of how recognizing more students in more meaningful ways can create such negative dialogue. I am ashamed of being part of an education system that has produced thinkers who believe that children who do not step onto that podium in June (and that's the majority) to receive their 'award'  are 'idiots', 'non-achievers' and 'losers'.  And by the way, school is the 'real' world for everyone within its walls.

It's time for a change folks.  It's time.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Awakening My Senses

Saying Yes To the Moment - Day 2
 
This is our bridge
It crosses the mighty Fraser River
For 32 years crossing this bridge meant 'coming home'
The bridge is known by all who live near
So sad that it has no bike lane
which makes it almost impossible to cross without a vehicle
For young people this bridge signifies summer parties
bonfires and sometimes trouble
Nowadays, for us, it is a place to let our dog run free
as we walk along with the sun on our backs
and the crisp fall breeze softly blowing in our faces
The smell of rotting fish is familiar
and the bear scat reminds us to be watchful
A few fresh berries pop out on the fading
scraggly, mostly-dead blackberry bushes
which were ripe with fruit just days ago
The walks we take here are always peaceful
although we can hear the fisherman along the far shores
and a few farm dogs barking in the distance
beyond the freshly stripped cornfields
Garter snakes slither just beyond our steps
as we disrupt one of their last sunbathing days for this year
As we turn at the end of the path
with our dog bounding on ahead
we once again talk of how quickly the time passes
Today we are noticing that this is true with both
the seasons
and
the years
And we are grateful for the time we have
to
Just Say Yes To The Moment
 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Saying Yes To The Moment

I have been meditating on and off for about  2 years now.  I'm not sure why it's 'on' and 'off' as it is the best part of my day when I am 'on'. 

I read a wonderful article the other day, http://www.elephantjournal.com/2008/09/dr-reggie-ray-busy-ness-is-laziness/, about slowing down and making that quiet moment to ponder life an integral part of your day.  "People put meditation on their To Do lists. This is something I tell my students: “If you don’t put meditation on the top of your To Do list, it will be at the bottom, and it won’t happen.” I find that if meditation is not the first priority of my day it won’t happen. You know if I am
foolish enough to say, “Well, I have to make this phone call, check my email…,” then it’s over. Finished. “I’ll do it later.” It never happens. Look at your life and ask, “Am I being honest with myself? Is it really true that I don’t have time?”
 


I'm afraid that when I was working full time meditation wasn't even ON my list of things 'to do'.  They call it a 'practice' for a reason - it requires practice!  Oh how I wish I would have known then what I know now! But, even in my retirement, with all of the time in the world, I still have days where I don't consciously set aside the time and revert back to my busy-ness.  The things that keep me busy are not urgent things; dishes, making the bed, planning meals, reading a book, going for a walk/bike ride/swim, driving into the city to see our wee ones, knitting or crafting or just making time to take pictures.  None of these things are urgent but unless you set the time aside and make meditation a priority there are days where it just doesn't happen.  Then, something happens that reminds me again of how peaceful my days are when they start with a few quiet moments just 'being'.

This week those reminders came one after the other.  I  read Dr. Ray's article and it certainly struck home with me, especially the parts about our fast-paced North American lifestyle.  Next, my daughter wrote a blog,  http://cuchida.blogspot.ca/2013/10/saying-yes-to-this-moment.html?spref=fb ,  that reminded me once again to 'stay in the moment'.  As I read through her blog she referred to another blogger, Liz Lamoreux, who inspired Christine (and now me) to follow her on a 10 day journey of  "Saying Yes To This Moment".   I was just pondering what happened to my morning meditation and it's like the universe conspired to get me back on track.  This has happened before in my life and I am again reminded that if I just take a moment, one moment, to ponder life the answers will appear.

As I just finished  a photography course, part of my 10 day journey will be making a photo of one moment in each day that touches that quiet spot in my soul.  I hope you too can find a moment to 'just be' and join us on our 10 days of Saying Yes To The Moment.

Today's photo is from my photography course on Hornby Island.  What I love most about this picture are the rings of light in the front of the rocks.  It's all about the light :)

TAKE A MOMENT TO CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO REALLY SEE THE LIGHT!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Through My Lens

A few months ago when I signed up for a photography course on Hornby Island with Illuminate Photo Education (https://www.facebook.com/illuminatephotoeducation) I had one goal, to learn to use my digital camera off the 'automatic' setting.  Aside from the camera part of things Hornby Island is a place I love.  I have many fond memories of spending time there with my own family and our Nanny and Papa when we were all a bit younger.  Still, as with any new experience, I was a bit nervous.  I worried about my camera not being 'enough'.  I worried a bit about who I might be rooming with.  I worried a bit about not knowing 'enough' about photography.  I always worry a bit when I head out into the world on my own.

As I settled in that first day I was looking forward to meeting everyone.  It reminded me of my junior high years on the first day of school.  You knew everything was going to be okay but still you were a bit nervous.  I was anxious to get the first information session under my belt so I could relax about not being 'left in the dust' by those with more knowledge and experience.  Those first hurdles are important ones when you embark on a new experience and they often set the tone for the remainder of the experience.

On that very first evening I learned one new thing about myself.  I love pathways.  As you can see in the two photos above, things that lead to other things catch my eye.  I did not learn this on my own.  I learned this from someone else who was looking at my pictures. I hadn't, and wouldn't have noticed this pattern  myself.  I was a bit surprised to see that many, many of my photos from that first day had that very same perspective.  It was a great reminder to me that sharing a bit of yourself, in this case, through photos may teach you things about yourself that you didn't know before. 

The instructors in this course, Karen McKinnon (http://mckinnonphotography.com/) and Boomer Jerritt (http://www.strathconaphotography.com/) spent time on the personal aspect of photography as well as the technical aspect.  We, as a group, all wondered if my penchant for pathways reflected where I was in life.  Having retired a year ago, I must say that I have spent considerable time contemplating where life will take me.  This personal aspect of photography really appeals to me.

 
As we all headed out to the beach that first day it was so interesting to see how each of us found our niche.  Some people shot high, some low, some faced towards the open ocean, some back towards the beach.  Some contemplated a shot for many moments while others clicked away.  Some waded right out into the water, some shied away from the slippery, seaweed covered rocks.  Each of us found our own path in our own way in our own time and each of us made beautiful pictures that were all our own.  And this was only Day 1!  As we viewed each others' shots later that evening the group really began to come together.  As diverse as we were we shared a common passion.  In a few short hours we were comfortable enough to trust each other and that first night tears were shed and laughter filled the room.  The journey had begun.
 
For me, this is what new experiences are all about.  They take me out of my comfort zone, emotionally, socially, and intellectually.  While there is some initial discomfort the rewards in the end for all of us included new friendships, new insights, new knowledge and new or renewed passion.  The best part of this course was that we were truly all students and instructors and this made the experience that much richer.  Kudos to Karen and Boomer for creating a safe, nurturing environment for this all to happen in!
 
 
I loved my time on Hornby but I was ready to head home after the four days.  For me, one of the best parts of new experiences is sharing them with my husband.  I was so excited to show him my pictures and talk to him about the people I met and the things I had learned, about photography and about myself.
 
For all of you out there contemplating stepping out of your comfort zone, I highly recommend it!  Your life will be richer for having stretched yourself!  To end - one of my favourite pictures from the week:
 

 

 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Stories of Our Lives

One of my favourite movies is Out Of Africa and one of my favourite scenes from that movie is when Robert Redford's character challenges Meryl Streep's character to tell a story.  She tells him that when she tells stories to her nieces and nephews they must always provide the first line.

Robert Redford begins:  "There was a wandering Chinese named Chang Wan…and a girl named Shirley."Meryl Streep picks it up:  "who spoke perfect Chinese which she learned from her missionary parents.  Chang Wan lived alone in a room on Formosa Street above the Blue Lantern, and he sat at his window and in his poor, listening heart strange echoes of his home country…"

The art of story-telling is a gift.  While not many of us have Meryl Streep's character's gift we all have a story to tell.  Quite often these days those stories take the form of blogging.  There are many random blogs I read as I come across them on Facebook or on the internet as I go about my daily on-line activities.  There are also several blogs that I follow regularly.  I follow them because they tell me the stories of peoples' lives, people that I care about and people that I know through work or family. 

I'm always curious about this need to write, this need to share the story that is within you, quite often the story of your own life and experiences.  There are many people I know who do not feel this need.  They are happy enough to keep their stories to themselves and sometimes don't even understand those of us who do write.  So why do I write?  As my friend Rebecca describes it,  "I toss [an idea] back and forth and throw it at the wall like cooked spaghetti to see if it sticks. If it does, then I write about it."  A lot of my writing is done late at night (notice the time).  Usually I've gone to bed and then an idea creeps into my head and I just can't seem to get it out of my head until I've 'written' it down.  Then I can sleep.  Sometimes those ideas are memories of the good old days and sometimes those ideas are things that I've read about or heard about and I need to write to process my own thoughts or opinions on those topics.  Quite often I write about my family, to share my thoughts and feelings with them and also to act as a bit of a diary/journal for them to look back on later in life.  I know that some of what I have written has been read and re-read by my family.  I know I often wish my own relatives, especially those no longer with us, had written more. 

Over the last couple of years I have also followed other blogs.  I've enjoyed reading about my friend Rebecca's childhood, one so different from my own.  She is an eloquent writer and along with her stories I simply enjoy the language she uses and the pictures she paints with her words.  She analyzes and questions and reflects on her own experiences along with her interactions with the world around her.  I always feel better, more peaceful when I read Rebecca's blog.  This latest one is her conquest of the local mountain many of talk about scaling, but never actually do.  Rebecca did!(http://lambschram.blogspot.ca/2013/09/climb-every-mountain-or-at-least-one.html?spref=fb)

I also really enjoy reading my sister-in-law's blog.  She has had a writer lurking within her for many years now and has just found the courage to share her stories with the world.  She has gone from nervous blogger to published author in a very short time.  Sherri's writing often does not leave me peaceful.  It challenges me and causes me to reflect and question my own beliefs and practices about the way I live my life.  I love this about her writing.  While I know that it has been difficult for her to share her journey I also know that while it stretches her as a person it also provides both her and her readers with the challenge to just be who they are meant to be in life.  She encourages herself and the rest of us to enjoy the process of becoming our authentic selves.  This is one of my favourites http://sherrandmeyer.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/the-dance/

My daughter Kelly writes a beautiful blog as well.  Since the birth of her daughter, Ava, last November Kelly's blogs have focussed on the beauty of motherhood.  She writes monthly letters to Ava sharing the ways Ava has changed and grown and touched the lives of those around her.  These blogs are a gift to me as well as to Ava.  Kelly is a passionate person and this is reflected in her writing, no matter what the topic.  Kelly publishes her blog but shares it only with family and close friends.

Our son Jason also started writing a blog a couple of years ago and aptly enough it is called, Better Late Than Never.  Jason is a gifted writer and it is so wonderful to read his thoughts and opinions on a number of topics.  As a Gramma, of course I love the ones he writes about his family, especially his amazing daughter Elizabeth.  However, Jason also has written stories of his city, his roots and his  later in life journey to becoming a teacher.  The Olympic spirit touched us all and Jason wrote this patriotic and emotional blog during the Vancouver Olympics.  http://ifyouletmeplay.blogspot.ca/2012/09/lets-keep-painting-town-red.html  I believe that Jason has a novel inside of him waiting to get out.  He has also written a thought-provoking screen-play that I hope to see played out one day.

The original blogger in our family, the one that inspired me to start blogging, is my daughter Christine.  Christine has always been great at setting life goals, short term and long term.  This is clear in her blog in both her writing and in the organization of it.  Christine's main goal, much like mine, was to simply rid her head of all the thoughts that were swirling around in there as she lay in bed trying to sleep.  Her blog reflects on everything from yoga to veganism (is that a word?) to politics to simpler life reflections.  Of course much of her recent writing involves her role as mother, wife, teacher, daughter, friend, and woman in general.  One of my favourite blogs of Christine's reflects on balance. . . http://cuchida.blogspot.ca/2011/09/morning-thoughts-on-balance.html

I also follow blogs on education.  While I am retired I am still very interested in the goings-on in the education system.  I have strong opinions on many aspects of education and have become even more opinionated now that my precious grandchildren are 'in the system'.   I like to stay current and informed and do this through the reading of blogs, many of them written by practicing teachers and administrators.  What I love about the blogs I read (Tia Henriksen, Chris Wejr, George Curous, Pete Jory) is the sense of community and passion that these educators have formed through on-line learning networks.  It is a lonely job filled with change and challenges and it's fun reading about how these people seem to be able to do it all with a smile on their faces and still find time for their families.  Kudos to all of them!

And, of course, one could simply not write about writing and blogging and story-telling without mentioning Chelsey and Andrew and Lilee-Jean.  As I ponder their triumphant and tragic journey I am so sad. And yet I am grateful that they chose to open their hearts and share their thoughts and feelings and experiences.  The impact that this family has had on  thousands of people is simply amazing.  Chelsey and Andrew chose to dance in the rain and they took Lilee along with them, or perhaps she took them along with her.  The phrase 'dancing in the rain' was around long before Lilee-Jean entered this world but before her, they were simply words.  I don't think a day will go by for those of us who were touched by this family that we won't be a little more aware, a little more loving, a little more grateful, a little more adventurous, a little more caring and perhaps even a little more willing to open our own hearts and share what's inside of them.  I don't think a day will go by that we don't truly understand what courage it takes to dance in the rain.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Dear Kindergarten Teacher - Please take care of our boy!

Dear Kindergarten Teacher,
Our very special boy is turning 5 tomorrow.  He's happy not to be going to daycare anymore and he's pretty sure he's ready for school.  I thought I would let you know a bit about "Our Kai" as he belongs to a large crazy family who is crazy about him.  I know all parents and grandparents and families think their child is special but you know what, they're right!
There are so many things we want you to know about him but I think the most important for you to remember is that he is coming to you as a curious, imaginative, happy, confident, caring little guy who is eager to learn.  He is a boy who loves deeply and is deeply loved.
 
Kai loves to laugh and he loves to make those around him laugh too.  He might be a bit of a class clown (kind of like his gramma was in her day) and we know how important order and respect are in a classroom but we kind of think humour and laughter and good old-fashioned fun are just as important.  If he is laughing at the wrong time then please, please, please help him learn when it is the right time.  He  gets so embarrassed when he feels like he has done something wrong and sometimes he even goes and hides until he feels like it is okay to come out.
 
Kai is a busy boy, like most boys.  He's not too fond of sitting still for long periods of time.  He likes his hands to be busy and he is very, very social.  Sometimes he's a leader and sometimes he's a follower and sometimes he just likes to march to his own drummer.  I hope he gets the opportunity to do all of these in your classroom.

As you can see from the pictures below, Kai is a reader.  He loves books and has since he was a wee boy.  Reading is part of his daily routine, especially bedtime when he likes to pick out the books himself.  He has a lot of books at home and lives with readers of all ages.  He is so proud that he can already read a few of the small books he has at home.  We hope in  your classroom he grows his love of reading.
    
Kai has always been crazy about his older cousin Lizzie.  They have learned a lot of things together and he would follow her anywhere.  She loves it that he loves her.  In the last few months Kai has had lots of change, he has become the older cousin to Ava and Austen (better known as the A-team) and just last week he became a big brother to little Nico.  Sometimes it's good for us older people to remember that we're not the only important people in a child's life.
 

Our Kai, like most kids is amazing.  He loves to cook, snowboard, swim, take pictures, make art, skateboard, bicycle, swim and play Ninja.  He loves his cars and his books and his trucks and videos.  He can figure out Gramma's phone faster than she can, put on a dvd, program the GPS and face time with the best of them.  He loves to be outdoors and will find any puddle within 5 miles.  He knows how to stop and smell the roses (or pick the blackberries)and is willing to go on any adventure he's invited to.
 
Clearly, these are just a few things about our boy.  When he's with his little cousins and his little brother he seems like such a big boy.  I know that turning five is pretty exciting for him.  I know he is excited and nervous all at the same time about going to school.  We know he will be fine too but in our hearts we want everyone, especially you, to love him as much as we do. 
 
Kai, you may be five and you may be a big brother and you may be the most mischievous boy we know.  You may be the most loving big brother and son and cousin and friend but in our hearts, you will always be our superhero.    To mommy and daddy and the rest of our family you will always be our Batman!  Happy 5th birthday.  Happy first day of school.  Just. . .Be Happy!
 
From Kai's Family
 

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Return to the Water. . .


As I look at this drop of water I am reminded that each event in our lives ripples out and touches people and places we may never know of.  It also reminds me that over 45 years ago I began my own love affair with water.

At 10 1/2 years of age I decided (I think it was me, anyways) that I wanted to learn how to swim.  I took the bus to the local swimming pool and joined the group labelled 'non-swimmers'.  I was a little self-conscious because all of the other members of my group came up to my shoulders as they were all 5 or 6 years old.  However, I remained undaunted and did everything I was told, everything.  I was determined.  Thankfully, I spent only one session in the 'non-swimmers' group and was moved up to 'pre-beginners' and then 'beginners' over the course of a few months.  It was when I got to the next group that the seriousness of my quest was challenged.  I could float front and back.  I could bob like no one you've ever seen.  Bubbles underwater??? My specialty!  Flutter kick holding on to the side???  I could do that ALL day!   But, this crazy teacher wanted me to SWIM from one side of the pool to the other.  Hmmmm. . . wasn't quite there yet.  I don't remember my swim teacher's name or face but I do remember her telling me that I had to go home EVERY day after lessons and do 100 front crawl strokes against the wall.  I should focus on my style and make sure that I breathed properly, as if I was really in the water.  By this time I was 11.  Softball was my first love and this winter swimming thing was now crossing over into ball season, the season I lived and died for.  I reminded myself that I was the one that wanted to learn how to swim, no one was forcing me so EVERY night (sometimes 2 or 3 times) I did 100 front crawl strokes against my bedroom wall.  I moved from beginners to juniors to seniors in short order and swimming, while a distant second to fastball, moved up the ranks as one of my favourite things to do.

Fast forward to my junior high years when we were posted to Comox (a move I WASN'T enthusiastic about by the way) and that's where swimming became an even bigger part of my life.  We lived by the ocean!  We could walk there EVERY day!  The sand was warm and life at the beach soon made me forgive my dad and mom for making me move there.  I still took swim lessons and happily took on the challenges that come with the bronze medallion and the bronze cross courses.  My summers after grade 10 and 11 and 12 were spent teaching swim lessons and lifeguarding.  They called this 'work' and even paid me for it ($1.25/hr for teaching lessons and $1.50 /hr for lifeguarding).  The summer after grade 12 was great as I worked at the pool but then September came.  The pool closed, there was no school to go back to, my boyfriend had up and left me for university and my parents told me it was time to start paying rent.  Off I went in search of a 'real' job.  I soon landed a job at a bank and spent the next 15 years in a variety of banks in a variety of places as Bob and I married, he finished university and we started our family.  I made one valiant move and re-certified in my bronze cross after having our first baby but swimming soon became second to surviving marriage and motherhood ;)

None of our children embraced the water.  They all preferred the hardwood and the solid ground.  They all swim but none of them have a passion for it.  As a matter of fact, somewhere along the line I also lost my passion for it.

Fast forward again to retirement (Oh Happy Day!). When my husband joined me in retirement mode last June we took a few weeks to sort out our routines and rhythms.  We have done a bit of golfing, more biking and then a few weeks ago we started swimming.  Day 1 was okay.  Day 2 was better.  It's now been 3 weeks and we go 4 or 5 times a week.  I'm up to 40 lengths and when we get up in the morning it just seems right that we have breakfast and go to the pool.  I am reminded now how much I loved the water.  I get in, float around for a bit, swim my lengths and then just paddle.  Being in the water feels so right again.  Having the time to enjoy it feels so right as well.  It's also wonderful to watch our grandchildren learning to love the water at such a young age.  It was marvelous watching Elizabeth spend all day in the lake up at the family cabin and we took Kai to the pool last week where he practiced floating and blowing bubbles and pulling Gramma and Grampa under the water to watch him.

I am participating in the Deepak Chopra 21 day meditation challenge and a couple of days ago there was a mention of water and how water reacts to emotion.  This was all a reminder of how the energy we give off affects our own energy levels as well as that of the world around us.  I don't know if it's the water affecting me these days or the fact that I'm relaxed and enjoying it but I do know that if you've run into me in the last few weeks you'll have gotten a much more positive vibe than in the weeks preceding my return to the water.

As I dive in I watch the bubbles float up and the ripples spread out and I am so happy that I did all those strokes against the wall and learned to love the water all those years ago.  It feels like I have come home.
For an interesting read, check out the book, "The Secret Life of Water" by Masaru Emoto

 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

To My Son - On his 40th Birthday

 
Dear Jason,
As you can see from this photo we have both changed a bit over the years.  As it approaches the hour where I went into labour I think back fondly of the little boy who taught me how to be a mother.
 
Each year at the opening of the PNE I remember back to the year you were born.  We were living in Gold River at the time and had come down to stay at Nanny's and Papa's in Cumberland for the night before heading out to catch the first ferry.  You weren't due for another couple of weeks and we were excited about heading to the mainland.  However, events conspired to keep us away that August of 1973.  The B.C. Ferries went on strike on Friday, which is kind of too bad because I'm pretty sure if you deliver aboard you get free sailings for life.  Little did we know at that time how many ferries we would take over the years.
 
Dad and I stayed in the upstairs bedroom where there was an old-fashioned, flip the number down digital clock.  Some time during the night my back started to ache and I sat up and leaned against the wall rubbing my back to stop the ache.  Each time the number on the clock flipped it made a sound and before too long this was driving me crazy.  But wait.  If the clock hadn't been there I may not have clued in that my aching back only ached every few minutes.  Before too many hours were up we realized that "IT" was happening.  We packed things up and headed to the hospital.  While I have always loved driving along the Dyke Rd, that morning is unforgettable in my mind.  The sun was coming up over the water making everything in sight just a little sparkly.  The tide was out a bit and it was SO peaceful.  That trip to the St. Joseph's Hospital in Comox brought us the most marvelous miracle - you!
 
I won't gross you out with the details of the delivery and our family all knows what a surprise you were to everyone (so we'll leave those details out this time as well).
 
Jason, from day 1 to day 14 608 (I'm not going to figure out the leap years), you have been a blessing.  You were a happy baby and dad and I were so lucky to have such a good teacher.  You taught us that family is everything.  Our whole world revolved around you for those first few months and we learned as we went.  You let us know when you weren't happy, which wasn't often (oh yeah, except for that diaper pin thing with dad).  You slept well, you ate well, you smiled often and  you pretty much taught us all we needed to know about parenting;  love you, feed you, change you and play with you, and we did!  Dad was so excited to buy you all the toys he wanted to play with and lucky for me he was a great dad right from the start.  You were a curious boy who loved to learn.  I think anyone who was around will remember your early renditions of Rhinestone Cowboy, your laps around the coffee table at Nanny's and Papa's and your very cheerful, "Hi Guys".  You've heard the story about when you learned to read but just once more won't hurt :)  When we drove around Victoria you watched out the window and yelled out every word you recognized:  STOP, The Bay, UVic, museum and many, many more.  You never lost your enthusiasm for the written word!
 
Dad was a student at UVic at the time and our families were far away so you and I spent a lot of time together.  We didn't have much money but we were creative and lived during a time when many things were free.  We walked everywhere in Victoria.  Beacon Hill Park was a favourite and we saved bread crusts for you to feed the ducks.  By the time you could walk you had done many laps around the museum in Victoria, pointing to things and running from exhibit to exhibit.  We threw rocks in the water, window shopped and played, played, played.  Good thing those things were free!
 
We were happy as we watched you grow to see your love of reading and sports grow with  you.  School was easy for you and you made friendships easily.  Watching you on the baseball diamond and on the basketball court are some of my best memories, but only some.
 
I'm not sure where the years went but they did.  You have grown into an amazing man.  You have a wonderful family and my heart bursts when I see how much you love Lizzie and how important your relationships with  your family are.  You and Lisa should be proud of who you are as individuals, as a couple and as a family.  You took the road less travelled on your journey to becoming a teacher but as we've said before, you are a better teacher for it.
 
Jason, thank you so much for all you have given us over the years.  I can't imagine anyone having a son they could be more proud of.  Happy 40th birthday - we hope your year is filled with even more love and family time and travel and work and adventure than this past one.

 



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

An Ordinary Day. . . in Chilliwack

This morning I got up out of  my comfortable bed after several hours of  uninterrupted sleep.  I turned on the tap, waited for the water to get warm and washed my face.  I reached into the drawer and pulled out my toothbrush and toothpaste, turned back on the water for a second, brushed my teeth, rinsed my mouth with cool clean water and headed to the kitchen.  I plugged in the kettle and reached into the cupboard for some tea while I waited for it to boil.  It was a little chilly this morning so I turned on the fireplace and sat beside it to meditate for a few minutes while I warmed up and woke up.  I returned to the kitchen, made my cup of tea, put in a piece of toast, grabbed a banana from the bowl and settled in to read the morning paper.  I did this in the peaceful quiet that surrounded me this morning but sometimes I plug in my i-pad to the electrical outlet and listen to some beautiful music, made somewhere by amazing musicians and recorded somewhere by someone for my listening pleasure.

I read the paper every morning, the one that's delivered to my front doorstep by someone in the middle of the night, every night, all year long. The fact that I'm able to read and that I have glasses to help me see is not lost on me this morning.  I finished my breakfast and loaded the dishes into the dishwasher which I will turn on later this evening when it's full.  I folded the paper up and put it in the recycling bin which will go out onto the curb Thursday morning and be picked up by someone working hard to keep my house free of the many, many things I use once and no longer need.

I had some chores to do this morning so I went to my closet and picked out what I was going to wear from all of the clothes that I own and then searched for my comfortable, errand-running shoes.  I gathered my cell phone, my wallet (with money, credit card and bank cards in it) and my list of chores.  I went to my garage and opened the door with the remote and started my car, full of gas, in good repair and drove to the vegetable stand down the road.  I picked up fresh strawberries, cucumbers and tomatoes and enjoyed the smell of fresh food that filled up my car as I drove into town.  I purchased vacuum cleaner bags, picked out a new top for my nephew's wedding and stopped at the grocery store.  As I entered the grocery store I reminded myself to buy only what's on my list.  I am always tempted by the shelves and shelves of food as I go about checking off the things that I came for.

On the way home I stopped to buy a few flowers to fill my vase with and a new plant  to put into the pot my daughter and grand-daughter made me for Mother's Day.

I'm not sure why but today as I went about my routines I felt grateful for all that I have.  I thought about the people in the world with no roof over their head, no food in their stomachs.  I thought about the people in Calgary dealing with the aftermath of the world's latest natural disaster.  I remembered that I had all I needed and most of what I wanted and the means to get the things that make my life comfortable day after day.  While I am aware I have a good life I'm not always as conscious as I should be about the many, many people in the world whose lives are not so blessed and so easy.  I  hope you are able to find a moment today as well to revel in the luxury and beauty that surrounds us day to day.
 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Graduation (for a local 89 year old and, for my mom)

"On Wednesday, Ms. Eddison will become one of B.C.’s oldest high school graduates. The 89-year-old great-grandmother will receive her adult high school diploma from the Agassiz Centre for Education in Agassiz, B.C., east of Vancouver."

This story caught my eye for a number of reasons.  Firstly, I love that this woman is the epitome of  someone who really is 'a life long learner', a term you hear so much about in today's educational world.  Secondly, this story is happening in the small community where I lived for 32 years and where I taught for 25.  Thirdly, the administrator at ACE (Agassiz Continuing Education) , Sandy Balascak, represents a modern educator who thinks outside the box.  Her idea of combining high school students who sometimes struggle in the regular school system with seniors is pure genius.  I love that she had the idea.  I love that she thought it would work and then went about making it work. I love that her main goal was finding a way to integrate the seniors in the community with the students who attend her alternate school.  Those community connections, I believe, are so important to students who have struggled with the school system, with their home lives and with acceptance, in general.   I love that it is on the evening news and in the National Post.  Fourthly, and most importantly, it reminds me of another woman who took a risk, quit her job and went back to public school to complete her grade 12.  That woman is my mom.

I am not sure what motivated my mom to leave the work force in 1971 and return to public school to complete grades 11 and 12.  In hindsight, I believe it was about finding a better job more than it was about completing her education, but I will have to ask her the answer to that question to really know.  What I do know is that my mom, my brother and I carpooled to school several days a week.  On top of that my grandmother, a teacher, also attended my high school to upgrade in French.  I don't remember being too bothered by this.  Our high school was big, really big!  My mom took business classes, which were in another wing of the school where I seldom hung out, except for typing class (which I never attended anyways, but that's another story).

Sadly, I never recognized the courage that this took until I was going back to school myself.   Like my mom, I had a four children before I headed back to school.  My mom would have been 37, I was 26.   I went to university, she went to public school.  I went with friends, she went with her two teenagers and her mother.  She left a paying job.  My dad was in the Armed Forces and while he made a living wage, I am sure that there was no extra money around as there never had been, even while she was working.  I don't remember her complaining.  I don't remember her doing homework.  I do remember her excelling.

I was pretty wrapped up in my own world when I was going to high school; friends, sports, oh yeah, and school.  I will tell my mom when I see her in a couple of weeks how amazing I think she was/is.  There is so much in life you just don't get until you've walked a mile in your parents' shoes. 

It was great to attend the ACE graduation yesterday for a number of reasons.  But mostly, it brought a new awareness to me about my own family, about the support we had at home and about the example my mother had set about the importance of education, no matter  your age.

Thanks mom!

Me, my mom, my Gramma Dot (who also attended high school with me) and Jason and Christine
1977, Comox, B.C.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Ties to the Past

Last June eight of the women in our family got together for a weekend 'up the lake' at Papa's cabin.  In fact, it is Nanny's and Papa's cabin but somehow we all associate going up there with Papa.  It's not easy getting our families together which is true of most families.  While we couldn't all be there, those that could had a wonderful time.

On the way up to the cabin three generations of Watson women stopped at Papa's grave sight to share a quiet moment, remember some happy times and to pay tribute to a wonderful man.  We lay some flowers on his grave and remembered that day exactly 18 years before that we lost Papa to cancer.  It sounds like a sad way to start a happy weekend but it wasn't, at least not for me.  When I think of Papa the memories are always happy ones of a loud boisterous family led by a soft-spoken gentle man.

We hopped into the truck, stopped at the home store for the last of our supplies and hit the bumpy logging road that winds its way towards our little piece of paradise.  This was my grand-daughter Elizabeth's first trip to the cabin she has heard so much about.  We stopped along the way to take pictures of the beautiful lake vistas and as we got closer and closer she asked more and more often, "Are we there?  Is this it?" until that last turn that takes us down to the shores of the lake and our extremely rustic, somewhat patched-together cabin.  We are talking rustic here, outhouse and everything.  There is no power, no plumbing, no TV's or videos.  What there is, is peace.
It didn't take us long to unload the chairs and head to the dock.  The weather had been terrible during the week leading up to our trip but somehow Mother Nature pulled off a miracle and we had a beautiful, warm sunny day ahead of us.  As we sat on the dock a lone bald eagle circled overhead, dropping down just above us and tilted his wings back and forth.  I have been going to the cabin for 42 years and I have never seen a bald eagle up there.  Being the anniversary of Papa's death, it just felt like he was hovering above watching his grandchildren and great-grandchild enjoying a place that had been so special to him.  It was perfect.

Being 'up the lake' means not having to do anything, unless you want to.  For us it involved a lot of talking and laughing and remembering while we made new memories to add to the old.  It was so great to see Elizabeth exploring, dipping into the lake, finding a quiet moment by herself on the rocks and hanging out with all of adoring aunties and island family.
 

We cooked on the open fire, laid out a campfire feast fit for a king, slept squashed together in the tiny cabin, trudged to the stinky old outhouse and back and washed our faces in the cold, cold water of Comox Lake, a lake fed through the crookshanks  from the snow-topped mountains above.  The kids took their fishing rods down to the lake and pretended to fish while the rest of us just relaxed.

We did a bit of writing. capturing some of our own cabin memories and hope to add to it year by year, family by family.  The older we get the more important these ties to the past become for us.  It's important to all of us to have our children up there, and now our grandchildren.  It's important that they hear the stories of their great- Papa and great-Nanny and to know that this place exists and that it is there for them.  It is important that we spend time together with nothing to do but enjoy each other and to play and explore and laugh together.
 

This weekend will be our second annual Watson Women Weekend at the Cabin.  I can't wait!