Friday, April 26, 2013

Random Round-Up (The "We Survived" Edition)

The "We" in the title above refers to all of us - you and me and the whole freaking province on ManiSNOWba who just lived through the never-ending winter from hell.  Today is the first day that I let out a grateful sigh of relief because it felt like it just might be over.   There is still a lot of snow in our yard.  And rabbit poop.  Lots of rabbit poop.  Perhaps more rabbit poop than snow.  Damn rabbits.  They chewed up our hedge this winter too.   Death to baby-bunny making rabbits.

I think it's funny that in Manitoba on the first day the mercury rises above, say, 8 degrees - you'd think it was 25 degrees outside.  I saw shorts, tank-tops, flip-flops, higher than normal slurpie consumption, and people having their Happy-Hour brews outside on patios.   "We made it" was the collective echo that was in the air.

I had class Wednesday night at U of W.  Only I didn't.  I arrived 10 minutes before class to find one of my friends standing and waiting for me on the sidewalk on Portage Avenue telling me the campus had been evacuated.  Strange but true.  There was a security threat (some were saying a bomb threat) called in to a different post-secondary institution earlier that day that referenced U of W.  The whole campus was shut down that evening and over night as the combed through the place looking for something suspicious.  Nothing was found.  I guess someone wasn't quite ready to write their final exam that night?

So the Jets are done.  What more can you say?  They fought hard to come back after their losing streak in March, but didn't quite make it.  I had the chance to go to two Jets games this season.  One in which they lost 4-0 to Washington (brutal game) and one in which they won by a huge margin and scored 7 goals.  There may have been a lot of hip bumping (my version of fist pumping with my friend Mary), high-fiving the happy filipino guys behind us, and general shenanigans.  My throat was hoarse that night.  So much fun.  Thoughts on the team?  I like Dustin Byfuglien way more than I thought I would.  He really grew on me during the season.  Evander Kane still has a lot of growing up to do.  Claude Noel gives really great sound-bites after a game.  Here's to next year.  And.... Go Canucks GO!!

I survived birthday party season.  The last of the parties was last weekend... one whole month late.  I'm never doing that again.  Parties should happen as close to the birthday as possible.    That's just how it's meant to be.

Hannah and Mike just pulled up from Hannah's marathon day with her Jazz Band.  They got to be in workshops and rehearsals all day with members of the WSO, then have supper together at The Spaghetti Factory, then attend a WSO concert.  She's a party animal.

Ellie is obsessed with the color "seafoam green".

I can't wait for my first taste of pistachio gelato.  Eating gelato in winter just isn't right.

I'm taking two classes in the spring term - "Family Therapy Plans and Interventions" and "Abuse in the Family".  I'm loving the first one and liking the second.

For my Plans and Interventions class we had to watch the movie "Parenthood" (you know the one ... ensemble cast way back from the early 90's?).   If you haven't seen it, you must.  It is SO good.

We cancelled most of our cable as we aren't watching much TV.  That is a good thing.  I've never been a big TV watcher.  If we watch something now we usually watch something on Netflix.  Since we've completed (THE BEST SHOW EVER CREATED FOR TELEVISION) Breaking Bad, we've begun watching Mad Men.  I can't say I'm hooked yet.  But let's face it - anything that comes on the heels of BB is going to pale in comparison.

I spent two days this week in a training conference on inter-personal violence with a focus on youth and technology.  A friend from my master's program is a detective with the Winnipeg Police Service and offered a spot to me and another friend.   I learned a tonne.    Youth have so much more to contend with than we ever did.

Our house is beginning to show its age.  We have so much that needs doing this summer.  Now we have to prioritize.  I hate spending money on "boring" things like new shingles.

Sasha and Mike are pumped.  They're gearing up for Sasha's first softball season.  Finally something that she is pioneering on her own without following along in footsteps her sisters have laid down for her.

I just finished reading an interesting book - Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gay vs Christian Debate   by Justin Lee.    I highly recommend it.

I'm pumped to crack open Carmen Aguirre's book, Something Fierce, tonight.  I remember hearing Anna Maria Tremonti interview her a few years back when her book first came out and I was mesmerized by her story.  Here's a interview she did with my boyfriend, George Strombolopolis, talking about the book.

Musically speaking, I've been playing Ruth Moody's sophomore solo album, "These Wilder Things" over and over again.  She did an interview and played live on "Q" a few weeks back.   Ruth has the most lovely, pure, ethereal soprano.  A Winnipeg treasure, for certain.

We had a spectacular dinner out with friends last weekend at "The Peasant Cookery" in the Exchange District.  Beautiful space and delicious food.  I think you should go.

I think Samosas and tamarind sauce from Water Lily on Meadowood are crazy-good.  There's something about walking out of the restaurant with the brown paper bag full of hot samosas, watching the greasy marks begin to appear through the bag as you drive home while the outrageously delicious smell fills your van that is unbeatable.

I want to grow A LOT of cilantro this summer.

I am hoping for an epic summer of blue skies and no mosquitoes.

I can hardly believe the school year is nearly over.

I am very tired of making school lunches.  Hanging on for dear life in this department.  Who's with me?

I'm planning to dig our BBQ out of hibernation tomorrow.

Spring gives me hope.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Warning: The Picture on the Box May Not Look Like What You've Got in Front of You (But that's OK)

I remember sitting across the table from my friend Dianna, seven years ago, this spring.

I was struggling with life and with  my reality.   Nothing looked like what I thought it should.  I didn''t look like the person other people wanted me to be, but even more painful than that,  I didn't look like what I thought I should be.  Nothing seemed to measure up.  We both agreed that night, that the chasm in between what we thought life would be like and the reality of what our life actually turned out to be  was where much of the pain and and difficulty in our lives lay.  Disappointment and expectations that were never met.  Failure.  Not measuring up.  Not reaching goals.  Second-guessing choices.... all of it filled that space and added to the disconnect of what was supposed to be and what was.

That conversation came back to me today in my quiet spaces.

I was thinking about who I am and how my life looks today, and how this isn't what I expected.

I didn't expect to be pushing 40 and studying for a master's degree.  Sitting at the dining room table with textbooks and journal articles strewn about with my head in my hands and a blank laptop screen in front of me wasn't really in my plans.

I didn't think I'd be substitute teaching.  6:30 am wake-up calls and classes of strangers (who become friends) wasn't on the agenda.

I didn't think I'd be lamenting over my (still) bad skin while pulling out the stray grey hairs.  I was going to be almost flawless, put-together, and coiffed.   Running into the school to pick up my kids with no make-up, a ponytail and ripped yoga pants wasn't really what I envisioned.

I didn't think I'd be reciting ancient liturgy in an Anglican church, standing and rising with order and tradition.  Sitting on hard wooden pews,  and having peace flood me as I  hear the bells ring wasn't supposed to be the way it went down.

I didn't expect to be on this side of the LGBTQ debate.   I'm not preaching to the choir anymore.  In fact, most of the choir has left the building.

I didn't think a bottle of pills would be my daily companion to keep me sane.   I can't forget to take them.  Maybe one day I won't need to.  But for today I do.

I didn't think half of my heart would live on the West Coast.  Having pictures and memories bring me to tears with sadness from what's been left behind was the furthest thing from my imagination.  Longing for ocean breezes and grey skies was not how I was going to spend some of my moments and days.

I didn't think I'd ignore the phone and find solace in the silence.  Being alone wasn't the way I thought  I would recharge and regroup best.  People feed me, but in moderation.

I didn't expect to irritate my thirteen year old daughter.  I was going to be the mom who always knew the right thing to say and who would always be a soft place to land.  Now sometimes I'm that mom.   A little out of touch and just doesn't get it.

"This" doesn't look like I thought it would look.
"This" is messy and rough and unfinished.
There are dog-eared pages and musty smells.
Dents and scratches and broken pieces.

But somehow it all fits.  It might not make sense, and it doesn't match, but it fits.
Other people may think it looks a little funny.
But when I stand back and survey the collection of mismatched dreams and plans, it looks alright.
It's not what I thought it would be, but it's mine.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Re-creation Preservation

When we moved to BC,
one of the things I loved the most was the thing most people would have hated the most.

I didn't know anyone.  Not a soul.

It was the most freeing, light feeling in the world.
No one was watching, or waiting, or expecting.
No one was looking for me to be what or who they wanted or needed.
I could just be.

The space allowed me the ability to do something I'd never really had the chance to do.
It was like I could lay myself down on a big fluffy bed and just watch as I rested awhile.
(Kind of like looking at myself from a bit of a distance.)

After the rest, I watched myself get up and re-create myself.
It was slow and there were baby steps because I wasn't in a hurry.
I didn't even know that a re-creation process was underway.
Opinions, feelings, plans, goals, intentions, beliefs, faith, relationships, style, dreams, preferences, passions, favorites, dislikes, hopes.... the list goes on and on.

Soon there were people in my life that surrounded me.
They ended up in my corner because of who I was and who they were.
They only knew the re-created me, so I didn't have to explain myself or justify who I was.
Sometimes they poked and prodded but it was OK - they only wanted to know more.
As I looked around at the great cloud of witnesses to my re-creation, I liked what I saw.
I liked who I saw.
Differences and extremes and craziness and strength.
Fighters and healers who didn't even know what box I came out of.

I wanted so desperately to hold on and preserve the re-created one -
Inked my wrist to remind me that change and growth happened in all the parts of who I am.
A wake-up call to say, "It happened.  It was real.  You are who you are now because of it."

I don't see me laying myself down on a fluffy bed anymore.
I see myself on tiptoes, holding myself far above my head as water pours in and threatens to drown the newness and the change.
The water is up to my neck and my arms are up as high as they can go in an effort to preserve the life that is left.
I am stretching and straining to hold myself higher, hoping the water stops where it is.
How much higher am I capable of stretching?
I don't know.
But if I stretch high enough, the air is clean and it gives me hope.

There are people here who knew me who are piling up the old boxes I used to fit in -
making a place for me to stand to get higher.
I may not fit into them anymore, but those old boxes are good for something after all.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bullying Adult Style - Another Reason to Support Bill 18

If I needed a new reason to get behind Manitoba's proposed Bill 18, I found it this morning as I read the Free Press with my breakfast.   You can read what I'm referring to here and here.

These recent events have convinced me more than ever that including the section about "Gay Straight Alliances" in the Bill was definitely not by accident and definitely not just part of a scheme by the NDP government to promote a leftist agenda.

The people who drove the gay couple out of the restaurant business in Morris and the vandals who wrote homophobic slurs on a man's house on William Avenue were not children, so you might be wondering about why I think Bill 18 has anything to offer in response to these recent events.    Bill 18 targets the children and teenagers in hopes of promoting values and respect in our schools that will hopefully spill over into the rest of society as they grow up.  The best case scenario is that in a generation or two, Bill 18 will have done its job and homophobia won't exist in our province the way it does now.

The adults quoted in the Free Press today about their feelings towards the gay restaurant owners in Morris are likely one child's grandparent, uncle, or dad.   If the message they are getting at home is anything close to the one their caregivers are sharing with the media, we better hope Bill 18 passes in record time.

The last time I checked, "Gay Straight Alliances" are not designed to promote the LGBTQ agenda.  They exist to provide a place to be heard, a place to listen, and a place to understand differences.  Here is a quote from the Canadian  GSA network website:

A GSA is a student-run group that provides a safe place for any and all students to meet and learn about all different orientations, to support each other while working together to end homophobia, and to raise awareness and promote equality for all human beings. In addition to being a group dedicated to support, it also strives to educate the surrounding areas and the community on different gender and equality issues.       (You can read more about GSA's on their website)

Doesn't sound too scary, does it?

Scary is what happens when your house is vandalized or you're driven out of town by verbal attacks because of your sexual orientation.

One argument I've heard over the past few weeks is the question of why the government didn't single out or make reference to other maligned groups in the Bill?  Why not specifically mention obese kids, or geeks, or the list goes on and on....  Here's a thought.  I can't remember the last time two obese restaurant owners were verbally attacked for being obese to such an extreme that they felt the need to close their doors.  I don't remember hearing about any adult geeks who had graffiti painted on their homes because of their taste in books, movies or pocket protectors.

One of my friends, who is lesbian, was sharing a few weeks ago about what it's like to walk down the street holding hands with her partner.  It's scary, she said.  Your eyes dart around looking for potential threats.  There are angry glances and rolling eyes.   What begins as a leisurely walk on a night out turns into a dinner consumed with talking about homophobia and the fear and caution you are forced to live your life with.  She ended this way,  "It's f#$%ing exhausting to be gay".

There may be all kinds of reasons to not support Bill 18.  It's not perfect.  It's not beyond reproach.  But it's somewhere to start.  Those two stories in today's paper convinced me of that more than ever.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Dispatches from the Sub Files Vol. 2

Things I dislike about subbing:

Never knowing when you're going to be working.  I can set out my week with skill and organization and then have it all fall apart at the drop of a hat when I get some subbing days thrown in to the mix.

Going stretches without work.  It's impossible to "budget" when you're a sub.  There is no way to know when the dry spells will come.  It seems it's either feast or famine with very little "happy medium".   Because of this, when sub days do come, I feel pressure to take them even if it means revamping one million things in my life that I had scheduled, because I never can tell when the work will come next.

Feeling powerless.  I'm not referring to the classroom here.  I'm referring to the chance to work.  I am only subbing at the girl's school.  It's a big one - 900 students in K-12, so there are lots of teachers and lots of chances to sub.  The hard part is, I'm just on the list.  It's not up to me or an administrator, or even individual teachers as to who they get to sub more or less.  It's the job of the "sub-clerk".  I've been at this for a few months now and I'm puzzled as to why some people get most of the subbing days and others get the scraps.  Other than offering payment under the table, I'm not sure what can actually be done to drum up more consistent work.  I am at the mercy of someone who doesn't know me, doesn't know my ability or like-ability in the classroom, isn't aware of my skill set and rapport with students and teachers, and owes me nothing.

6 am phone calls.   I like the subbing days I get in advance so I can prepare myself a wee bit.  The 6 am wake-up calls are disorienting and can throw the morning into a tail-spin.  And yes, you're right,  I did just complain about not getting more subbing days, so I suppose I should welcome the 6 am calls.

Lunch hour.  I sometimes go and sit in my van or hide somewhere else in the school when I'm subbing.  Making conversation in a tiny cramped staff room with people who are wondering why you're sitting in "their" spot isn't really my idea of a good time.

Turning in my keys.  What?  I have to turn in my keys?  Yes.  And don't worry, I'm not subbing at a lock-down facility or anything.  The idea is brilliant.  When you get the classroom keys for the day, you  hand over your vehicle keys so that you won't leave the school at the end of the day with facility keys in your hand.  Brilliant, yes.    Makes you feel like a teenager who is asking mom and dad for the car keys at lunch hour or the end of the day?  Hell, yes.

Looks.  I know the look, because I've given "the look".  You drop your child off at school only to see a strange face of a sub in the classroom door.  You're disappointed that your child will be spending all day with a sub who doesn't know your son or daughter or you.  I get it.

Classroom management with no relationship built in.  This is challenging, especially in middle years.  When you don't have the base of relationship built with students, you're ability to navigate situations and discussions is significantly affected.  I try like crazy to build relationships into the day whenever I can so that I've got a starting point.  Often, there is just not enough time.

Great ideas and nowhere to use them.  I'm full of ideas for how to make the school better, safer, and more relevant to lots of different kinds of students.  Ideas don't count for much on their own.  It's also frustrating to see holes where your skill-set could make a huge difference for a student, but there is no opportunity to get in there and make it happen.

The pay.  I'm not really complaining.  I'm happy to get my cheques when I get them.  I realize that to many, subbing is glorified babysitting and should be paid accordingly.  But as it stands now, I make about $17.00/hour.  The money is not great.

Occasionally feeling incompetent.  Subbing is crazy sometimes.  You are expected to "teach" or be the expert on something you've had 10 minutes to look over and understand.  There are unspoken rules in schools and classrooms that you are expected to know and follow.  When you don't know or follow them, you can be pretty sure that someone will point it out.  Then you can apologize for not knowing the rule or way of doing something that no one told you about in the first place.

Things I like about Subbing:

Being where my kids are.  Granted, if you asked Hannah, this wouldn't be on the top of her list for things she's pumped about.  She isn't thrilled when I sub in her hallway.  But this is my post, so I'll tell you that I like seeing my kids during little moments of the day.  Ellie even squeezes me.  That's pretty neat.

Being able to say "no" when you need to.  I like the freedom of letting work go when I've got a particularly busy week at University or when one of the girls is sick or has a doctor or dentist appointment.  It would be nearly impossible for me to work at a different job and have Mike share some of the carting of kids around with only one vehicle.  This affords us the freedom of having me continue to available to be the mom when a mom is what is needed.

Leaving.  When subbing in a particularly challenging classroom, it's a great feeling to send the kids on their way at 3:30 and then lock the door behind you knowing you won't be back to deal with it all over again the next day.  The same goes for looking at the immense amount of work teachers pour into projects and ideas and plans for their students.  That stuff takes time and energy and hours at home to make it all come together.  I don't have to give any of that time away.  I just get to leave.  That's pretty sweet.

Building Relationships.  I like kids.  I like teenagers.  Always have.  Sometimes in my head I still feel like a teenager more than an adult.  I love the chances during the day to just sit and chat.  To get to know kids and find out about them.  To ask them questions and find out who they are.    Those are the moments during the sub days when I feel alive.  Those moments are worth a lot.


As you can see, the list of things I dislike, is significantly longer than the list of things I like.  I feel it.  I need to find a job where I feel more like I fit.  I need to find a job where I know what my pay cheque will be every month and where I will receive professional feedback and follow-up based on how I do my job.  I'd love to find a job where I'm using the training I'm receiving in the master's degree studies in Marriage and Family Therapy I'm doing right now.    I'd love to work within school environments building and facilitating mental health programs and counselling students.  I'd love to do a lot of things. There's got to be a job out there that fits.

Let me know if you've got one for me.  This subbing thing is getting a little old.