Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bless the hearts of those who go out of their way to MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

I know there are many people out there doing ordinary things every day to make a difference in the lives of those around them.  These people are not looking for recognition, payback or accolades.  They are simply looking to make a difference.

I am particularly proud at this time to be part of a community who knows how to make a difference, not only in small ways but also in big ones.  It has been truly inspiring to see so many people come together in support of a local family whose lives have been turned upside down since their little girl was diagnosed with brain cancer.  There have been bake sales, auctions, pub nights and cash donations along with a host of other activities as people go out of their way to support Andrew, Chelsey and Lilee-Jean.

One of the youngest fund-raisers must surely be Carys Bolan.  Carys wanted to help Lilee-Jean and her family so, along with the help of her mom, she organized and ran a bake sale at her school.  Now I know there were many people who baked and helped out and many who bought the baking, but without Carys' caring and leadership this bake sale may not have happened.  While Carys and her friends (and their families) set out to help others I know that they also helped their school and community become a more caring place.  They made a difference.

Tonight I watched a newscast from Edmonton, Alberta which focussed on a story out of Fort McMurray, Alberta.  Becca Hess, a former student of Agassiz Secondary where Andrew went to school, organized a fund-raiser in this hard-working community known for transience and big money.  No one other than Becca knew this family and yet they gave from their hearts and opened their wallets to the tune of $10 000.00 plus!  We kind of expect this in our small town but I was truly moved by the generosity of these people who were simply told that a family needed help and then stepped up to make a difference.

Another news article I read this week also touched me.  Five former students from the school I teach at formed a non-profit society in Golden, B.C.  Their goal???  "We are a brand new non-profit society aimed at building community spirit through events and sports in the Golden area."  These young men not only believed they could make a difference, they put that belief into action.  Greg Bodnaryk, Brian Coles, Eric Prasloski, Dan Rose and Brad Bokenfohr have started the Gentlemen's Leisure Club of Golden.  It is so great to see young people step up and take the lead in making their community a better place for everyone.  They too are making a difference.

We read so much about how the youth of today feel they have a sense of "entitlement".  Clearly, this is a gross over-generalization.  Carys, Becca and the boys (woops, I mean gentlemen) all come from a small town but clearly this small town is creating some big hearts who know how to go out into the world and make a difference!

What a great week for the youth of Agassiz!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Treasured Things (and the memories that go with them)

Over the 39 years that Bob and I have been together we have collected a lot of "stuff".  As we approach retirment we look at all that "stuff" and know it's time to start paring down.  I spent a part of yesterday cleaning out the old rolltop desk that shows in the back of this picture.  The desk belonged to our beloved Papa.  When Papa passed away it took Nanny more than a year to come to the painful, but sensible decision to move out of the house she and Papa had spent 52 years in, creating their own memories and raising their five children.  I don't remember how decisions were made about what went where but I ended up with Papa's desk.  I can still see him sitting there after dinner doing whatever it was he did.  Once he retired, he kept a journal faithfully and I know some of the time at the desk was spent writing.  I do know that Papa paid the bills and that some of his time at the desk was about looking after this part of their life together. I do know that when I look at the desk even now, I see Papa sitting there.

After cleaning out the desk I popped an e-mail to our four kids (really?? there has to be a better word for adult "children") asking if anyone had interest and/or room.  I should know my kids better and I should have thought a bit more before sending that e-mail because now we have to decide how to decide about who gets the desk.  This also got me thinking about other things around our house and the memories attached to them.

On the bookcase in our family room sits an old hand-held school bell.  When I look at that bell I can honestly hear the sound of it ringing out over the hutterite colony my Gramma Dot taught at in the 60's.  My two brothers and I lived with our Gramma Dot and Grampa Albert on that hutterite colony for a few months and we attended the one-room schoolhouse with the children from the colony.  I can't remember whether it was Irricana or Beisker.  I do remember it looked much like the one in the picture below.
Life on the colony was interesting and that is a whole other story in itself.  What I remember about the bell was that Gramma Dot could control the whole class of students (not that Hutterite children took much controlling:) with the promise of ringing that bell in the morning, at the end of recess and again at the end of lunch.  My Gramma Dot was a bit of a nomad in her retired years.  She had a trailer by the beach in Comox and a home in Calgary but spent much of her time travelling from coast to coast in her yellow truck with the purple home-made box/camper on the back.  While she was away travelling one year the propane tank in the trailer blew up, sent the whole trailer through the air landing several feet away from the foundation.  Lucky she was away!  Before she got back to Comox to deal with the insurance etc. much of what was in her trailer was ransacked and taken.  Gramma Dot was more than a bit of a pack-rat and I remember wondering if the old bell had been one of the items taken but luckily it was not.  My grandkids love it when they get a chance to grab that old wooden handle and ring that bell as loud as they can.  When they do, I can hear the laughter and noise that comes with a playground of children returning to class.  I can see the boots and dresses of the Hutterite girls and the black pants and jackets of the boys as they run up the stairs, eager, yes eager, to learn.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

We Day - 2011

The energy, the passion, the determination, the NOISE, it was all amazing. The power of 18 000 young people gathered together under  one roof in a room with people whose life's ambition is to unite them against world poverty, child labour and local issues is indescribable.  The noise was deafening at times.  When asked; Who is ready to make a difference? Who is ready to be the change? Who is ready to start today?  18 000 strong screamed back, " WE ARE!"

I had the privilege today of attending my very first WE Day in Vancouver with several students from the school I teach at.  While some of the students had been before and had tried to explain the power of WE DAY to me it's just not something one can comprehend until you've actually experienced it in person.

The day was filled with celebrities, music, dance, culture and passion.  Kids screamed for bands I had never heard of (with the exception of Hedley) and cheered and clapped for celebrities they had never heard of (Mikhail Gorbachev).  Shaq had them screaming WEEEEEE DAAAAYYYYY.  Spencer West, author of Standing Tall:My Journey, amazed them with what he had overcome in life, as well as his future plans to hike to the top of Kilimanjaro.  FRESH showed them all how boys can bust a move while Waneek Horn-Miller invited them all to join her Team Canada in efforts to support Canada's First Nations peoples.

While all of the famous people and the hoopla provided a backdrop for the day it was the young people and their passion and determination that touched me.  As face after face splashed across the jumbotron I couldn't help but notice the smiles, the cheers, the friendships and the pure joy that was evident.  There are simply not enough adults in this world telling our young people how truly powerful they are.  Imagine spending a day where EVERYONE told you repeatedly - YOU ARE THE GENERATION WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR.  YOU ARE THE CHANGE.  YOU ARE POWERFUL.  WE NEED YOU.  I work in public education.  Our job should be to send that same message.  I spent today listening to 18 000 young people being told they can solve the world's problems.  Tomorrow they'll have to ask to use the washroom.

It was great listening to Craig and Marc Keilburger tell their own story.  It was great listening to them tell the kids there not to listen to the people who use words like; impossible, never, can't, won't,  you're too young.  It was wonderful for the students of four schools to hear the story of how their contributions had changed the life of one girl and to see pictures of the school they had built, the well they had dug, the medical center they had built and the donations that had allowed a women's group to start their own business.

The most powerful moment of the day for me was when Michel Chikwanine, a former child soldier, told his story with large placards while honouring his vow of silence.  While the noise was deafening at times throughout the day, when Michel told his silent story it was the silence of 18 000 that was deafening.

Free the Children is the result of one child's dream and determination.  We Day celebrates the accomplishments of Free the Children while inspiring and mobilizing the youth of the world.  The message of the day was BE THE CHANGE.  The only thing I am asking for anyone reading this blog is to go the the We Day Facebook page and "like" their page.  For every "like" $1.00 is donated (by corporate sponsors) to Free The Children.

Thanks everyone!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, Christine!

Happy Birthday, Christine!

36 years ago tonight, almost to the minute, my water broke in the main isle of the K-Mart in Victoria,  Bob was at university and I was a young mom-to-be waiting the birth of our second child.  Bob and I were very young when we started our family.  Whenever the kids complain about unfairness, too harsh of rules or a variety of other parenting issues we tell them they should thank their lucky stars they're even around to complain:)

We pretty much knew nothing about parenting, weren't into reading about it, didn't have the internet and had no family close enough to be of any help on a day to day basis.  We flew by the seat of our pants and while I'm sure there were many things we could have done better we just look at the four adults that we raised and feel proud of the many things we did right in spite of our ignorance.

When I had Jason I was pretty sure I was dying and begged for whatever medication they would give me.  Pretty much they told me suck it up and get on with my business.  Christine's birth, on the other hand, was as all births should be.  When my water broke I went to the hospital where they admitted me and put me into a nice comfy bed.  The only real pain I had was the nurse who kept waking me up to ask me if I needed anything for the pain, which I didn't.  Bob spent the night in the waiting room waiting to pounce should the other dad get up off the one comfy chair.  Dad's didn't really go into the delivery room in those days and I'm sure Bob was glad of that at the time.  When the time came for me to deliver there was no one in the room and I had to call for the nurse, several times, to tell her I thought my baby was coming.  She treated me like I knew nothing and had to do a couple of quick steps to catch Christine as she was born.  The doctor showed up a few minutes later, collected his paycheque and headed home for Thanksgiving dinner:)  Christine was a bit of a shocker and if you know Jason, you'll know why.  Where he was dark, she was light.  Where his eyes were as brown as brown could be, hers were a sparkly bright blue. She was the prettiest blue-eyed, blond-haired little girl you could imagine.  It didn't seem possible she could be ours.  She was a perfect angel.  I couldn't have felt better and really, I could have jogged home from the hospital that day.  The three days (YES, THREE) that they kept me in the hospital made me twitchy and I was ready to take my perfect little girl home. 

The first thing we learned about Christine was that she should have been born with a little sign that said, "I can do it myself!".  She was no snuggler and right from the start she taught us all about determination (aka being stubborn:)   I tell anyone who will listen now that while Christine's determination made parenting a little more challenging it has stood her in good stead in her life. She has travelled the world, attended four universities, learned a new language and knows how to take care of herself.   I see a lot of myself in Christine but the part I admire the most is that she is so determined to live life to the fullest.  I didn't learn to do that until much later in life.  Our little girl has grown into a dynamo of a woman.  She is an energetic, creative teacher, a supportive loving wife and a fun-loving, adoring mom.  She has a strong connection to her past and great plans for her future, but most importantly, she makes the most of every day and knows how to enjoy the moment. She makes sure the people in her life know how much she loves them and does countless little things to remind them on a regular basis.  What we want her to know today is how much we all love her as well!  Happy 36th Birthday Christine!  May your year ahead be filled with love, peace and adventure!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Our Amazing Elizabeth - Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Elizabeth,
I will never forget the day you came into our world and changed it forever.  I'm trying hard to show you off to the camera in this picture but what I notice when I look at it is how happy I look just holding you up for the world to see.  You came into my world on a busy day.  I was a new principal and it was our school's big year end assembly.  There was so much to do and so many people coming to honour and celebrate their own children but the moment that phone rang everything else seemed just a little less important.  We got through the afternoon and me and Grampa hopped into the car for our drive to Vancouver, hoping you hadn't arrived before we got there.  We missed your grand entrance by just a bit but it didn't change how excited we were finally meet our first grandchild.

One of the things I remember most about you being a wee baby is how much all your aunties (and your dad) had to learn.  Auntie Carrie and Auntie Kelly were looking after you one day when you were still so little.  Daddy had forgot to pack diapers and by the time Grampa and I got there your two aunties had your little bum wrapped in a towel and they were a bit frantic about how to make you stop crying.  A quick trip to the store solved all the problems.  You've heard many other stories (like the one where Auntie Carrie held you while Auntie Kelly wiped up the puke after they fed you junk food and then put you in the car for a long ride to Agassiz).  Along the way we all figured things out (lucky for you!) and it seemed like there was always a big competition about who would get to look after you when mommy or daddy needed a bit of help. 

As you grew (by the way, MUCH too quickly) we learned more about you and who you are.  You always had the ability to entertain yourself and it wasn't long before we all were amazed by your incredible story-telling skills.  You could turn an ordinary couch into a boat in a storm.  A rope became a fishing rod that brought many beautiful things to us from the sea; mermaids, dolphins and that really famous starfish that your daddy ate!  A tree stump in Olympic Village became shelter from a desert storm even though it was pouring rain in our world.  One of my favourite days with you was the day at Kye Bay where you turned Grampa into your "matey" and I got to be the queen.  You dug for buried treasure, watched for pirate ships and had Grampa running to and fro at your every command!

Elizabeth, you are also an amazing artist.  This picture of the peacock was just one of the amazing pictures you took while you were on your vacation in California.  What I love most about your pictures is that I get to see the world through your eyes.  You always pic scenes with amazing colour and lots of movement and usually they involve nature!  The first statue that you helped me make was a great one and when I took it to the next show I was at it was the first one to sell.  You were a little sad that I sold it but you were very proud that other people loved it just as much as you did.  When we play together with arts and crafts you are always very careful to make sure that I don't "help" you too much as you have your own creative ideas about just the way you want your art to look.  I love it that you love art!

Lizzie, this picture of you at swimming lessons is one of my all-time favourites.  It's clear you were having such a great time but what doesn't show in this picture is how brave and determined you were while you were learning.  None of your aunts or your daddy were ever crazy about swimming so it's good to see you really learning to love being in the water!  This determination is something that you show iin everything you do!  Nothing holds you back when you are determined:)
It seems impossible to me that 7 years have passed since I first looked down on your beautiful little face.  You seem to be a little taller each time I see you and when you are with Kai you are such a kind and patient big cousin:)  Right now you are loving soccer and swimming and I don't know why but you seem to love scary things as well.  You are quite a trend setter with your fancy hats, scarves and beautiful clothes but you also love to get into your jeans and boots and go down to muck in the river with Grampa and Bailey.  You have been so gentle and loving with Bailey since he was hurt this summer and I know when he sees you coming that he gets all excited about getting his special Lizzie massages!

You were the most wonderful flower girl at Kelly's and Brady's wedding and you are the most wonderful granddaughter a gramma could ever imagine having.  Happy Thanksgiving, Elizabeth.  We are thankful every day for having you in our lives!
Love, Gramma

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thankful for my Grandson!

Dear Kai,
Tomorrow we will all be together (except for Uncle Derran:( to share our Thanksgiving dinner together.  The picture above is one of my favourites because the whole world can see how much you meant to your mom and dad even before you got here!  What you can't see in this picture is how excited we all were as we waited to meet you.  Before you were born your mom and dad didn't really want to share their possible baby names with us.  I understand that completely because really, you can't name a baby until you meet him and see who he is.  So. . . .for the last few months before you were born we all called you "Julio".  We don't know why we picked that name but we were all pretty sure it was going to stick no matter what your mom and dad named you.  To be perfectly honest with you I'm so glad they chose Kai because I wasn't really that fond of some of the other choices they had:)

Your mom had a long hard labour (I'm sure you're going to hear about this for years:).  Your dad and me and Grampa stayed with her through the night as you fought to make your way into the world.  After being at the hospital for the whole night I stepped out of the room to call your aunties and uncles to give them an update.  They had all gathered at Uncle Derran's and Auntie Carrie's and played cards through the night waiting to hear you had arrived.  While I had stayed at your mom's side for hours and hours you decided that the moment I stepped out of the room would be the moment you arrived!  I'll never forget when I stepped back into the room hearing your mom's voice say to me, "He's here!"  You can see from the picture above that we all look pretty terrific for having pulled an all-nighter.  What you can't see is that your aunties and uncles are all here in the room too waiting their turn to hold you in their arms and welcome you to the world.
This is your third Thanksgiving with us Kai and we can't begin to tell you how much you're loved.  It seems impossible that you weren't always here.  You are three now and I don't know another little boy that can bring such laughter to a room.  You are mischievous, energetic and one cool kid!  You make us all laugh and smile and you love being the center of attention!  When you're in a room you light it up with your laughter and your antics.  Always up to something, that's you!

I love this picture of you because it shows so much about who you are right now.  You're so curious about everything (especially my camera:).  Your shirt is covered in guitars and I have certainly see you rock it out with your own electric guitar.  I wish you were wearing your Batman cape in this picture because it seems to me that you have it on almost every time I see you.  Your new skateboard has been a real hit with you and we're all amazed at how good you are already! Imagine, our little Kai playing soccer, swimming, doing gymnastics, playing music, riding skateboards and making music.  Thank you Kai for who you are and what you bring to all our lives! 

Love, Gramma

Monday, August 29, 2011

It's Your Wedding Day!

Dear Kelly,
Today is your wedding day and you will be surrounded by so many people who love you.  I know too that Papa and Mike will be shining down on you from above and from within your heart.  Today is your wedding day and once again all I can think is, "where did the years go?".  This picture is one of my favourites of you, playing in the sand at Harrison.  You are deep in concentration, focussed on the task at hand.  One of the great things about you is that you have always done everything with determination and given it everything you had!.  It's hard to talk about you without talking about Carrie, especially during those early baby years.  I remember so fondly waking up early in the morning to nurse you.  Sitting in the quiet house with the light just beginning to filter through the windows with the two of you snuggled closely is one of my strongest memories.  I would nurse the two of you, put you back to bed and then sneak back into bed for a few quiet moments before Dad, Jason and Christine got up for school.  By the time they were off you were both walking up again.  It never ceased to amaze me how close the two of you were.  Sometimes, even when you were little, it seemed all you needed in the world was each other.  People have often commented to me how difficult it must have been having twins but really it wasn't hard at all.  But in spite of being a twin you have always had your own personality.

As I've mentioned before you were born determined and passionate.  This characteristic always shone through.  When you wanted a toy you simply grabbed it and hung on.  Carrie had to learn to crawl so she could get ahold of something and then scoot away so you couldn't win the tug of war that always came when you were playing.  You spent your whole life working hard to get the things you wanted and to stick by the people you care for.  Always have, always will.  You know how to set goals and achieve them in everything you do, from basketball to school to teaching in Korea.

The other characteristic that has always shone through is your compassion (except maybe with the Barbie dolls).  When you were very young Dad hurt his back and you spent a few days bringing him tea, turning on and off his heating pad and just making sure he was looked after.  You couldn't have been more than 3 or 4 at the time.  You cared so much about everyone at the hospital when you were a candy striper and always came home with stories of the wonderful people you helped.  You stand by your family and friends and they stand by  you!

It was obvious early on that you and Brady would go through life together.  In the beginning we wondered when the wedding bells would toll but as time passed we accepted that you may not do things the traditional way:)  After ten years of togetherness Brady asked Dad for your hand in marriage.  I'm not sure why, after ALL those years, but Dad said Brady was very nervous.  Brady started planning early to make your engagement special.  He put a lot of effort, time and thought into arranging a trip to Nanny & Papa's cabin, such a special place for you and used the ring that his grampa proposed to his gramma with and made the whole moment one none of us will ever forget.

Spending your life together will be great but it won't always be easy:)  When things are challenging just remember the moment he asked you to be his wife for that moment truly reflects all he knows about you and loves about you. We know you are anxious to start a family and know that you will be wonderful parents.  All we have to do is watch you with Lizzie and Kai. You know how to love, how to plan simple adventures and how to have fun together.  Your kids will be lucky to have you as parents.

You have a strong family close by to support you in all you do in life.  You have a network of amazing friends.  You know how to stay in the moment and make the most of all you do.  Life will be amazing and I can't wait to watch it all unfold.  Happy Wedding Day Kelly and Brady!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Full Circle

I spent a few days last week with our oldest daughter and her amazing son.  I know there are many mothers out there whose children and grandchildren live far away.  I am one of the fortunate few who have my family close enough to spend time with them on a fairly regular basis.  Our little man is growing up so fast and his mom is growing with him. 

Christine (our second child and oldest daughter) was born independent.  She didn't love nursing nor sitting on laps cuddling.  She was very much an "I can do it myself" girl right from the get-go.  While this was sometimes challenging when she was little (and a little more challenging when she wasn't little") we wouldn't have had it any other way.  She is who she is and her strength has stood her in good stead many times in her life.  It wasn't a surprise when she left home soon after high school and began to travel the world.

When Christine became a mother our relationship began to change and grow as well.  We see her and Kai (our grandson) often because this is the way she wants it. We feel so blessed that she makes a point of spending a few days with us when she can so that we know Kai and so that he knows us.  We feel blessed that we live close enough to pop in there when she needs a hand or to just hang out with them when they have the time.  It feels good when she asks us for help:)

As Kai grows Christine grows with him.  They have such a great relationship and it's beautiful to watch them together.  There is structure and there are rules, as there should be, but their relationship is mostly about fun and about exploring the wonder of the world around them.  Kai is an explorer.  He explores music, dance, sports, bugs, plants, rocks, animals, art, language, numbers and everything else in his world.  He is a daredevil child full of energy.  He never does anything half-heartedly.  Christine (and her husband Marc) are proud of Kai and he knows it.  While I don't know much of Marc as a child I see a lot of Christine in her little boy.  He is strong and independent just like his mom.  I have always been proud of Christine but I must say that my heart fills with love and pride even more when I see her with Kai.  She is a great mom and I feel fortunate to be able to share the world of motherhood  and grandmotherhood with her and Kai!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hot Summer Nights in the Fraser Valley

H - heavenly stench coming from fields freshly covered in manure:)
O - Oh what a beautiful place we live in! 
T - Travelling the countryside on my bike 'cause the roads are flat:)

S - Screeching birds scrambling from the trees as I ride by
U - Under the shade of a big old tree drinking ice water from my thermos
M - Monstrous shadows beginning to stretch longer and longer
M - Millions of mosquitoes coming to feast on me as the sun disappears:(
E - Exercise is so much easier on these long summer evenings
R - Ribbit, Ribbit, Ribbit.  Hope they're eating mosquitoes:)

N - Noticing all the sounds and smells and sights around me
I - Incessant balls of cottonwood floating through the air-a summertime snowstorm
G - Geese and ducks and red-wing blackbirds make such different sounds
H - "Hellos" from people enjoying the evening on their front porches
T - Taught wires overhead filled by blackbirds all in a row
S - Summer is MY time of the year!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

From Dusty Boxes to Emotional Memories

I got an e-mail at home yesterday from the secretary of the school I worked at as teacher, counsellor, vice-principal and principal.  For 20 years this school was my "home".  She told me it was time for me to come and take away the "stuff" I left when I left the school 2 years ago.  If you know Sheila, you know that you don't mess with her when she makes a "request".  It was time.  She had taken all my "stuff" from the back room where I had stored it not knowing when I left if I would be returning.  So many years at "my" school.  So many roles. So many projects.  So many wonderful students.  SO MUCH STUFF!

I wasn't quite sure where to start so I picked the boxes that I knew were full of files I had collected.  Some of it dated back to my teaching practicum. For the first few years I taught in tentative positions which sometimes involved teaching many grades.  After only five years of teaching I had taught from Kindergarten right through to grade 12.  Having "stuff" to take to a new position each year was very important.  However, I haven't taught Kindergarten since that first year and for most of my classroom years grades four and five were where I spent most of my time.  Most of the files were safety nets "just in case".

The files were easy to throw out.  They were lessons passed on to me.  Some were useful in the early years and some were never useful.  I just couldn't throw out the work of people who had so lovingly passed them on to me as I began my career.  At any rate, they were all full of worksheets and projects which I had used sparingly or not at all and they hit the recycling bin at full speed.  Next were the binders.  I'm a very organized teacher and my binders covered all of my subjects from September to June for a number of years.  I loved going through them remembering how much enthusiasm and time had gone into preparing lessons that I hoped would engage and challenge all those eager kids.  The challenge then and now was to keep them eager:)  I was proud of many of my projects but what really moved me were the student samples that I had kept to go along with the lessons. 

The student samples I kept reflected so much effort, so much creativity, so much care and time.   Many projects included a self-evaluation and peer evaluation.  These students were so proud of their accomplishments.  Their peers were so supportive and appreciative in their comments as well.  I was flooded with memories of students who had put their hearts and souls into these projects.  Their strengths shone through, in their work and in their evaluations.  The artists, writers, fact-finders, problem-solvers, mathematicians, scientists, musicians, athletes, comedians, anthropologists, organizers, challengers and so many more came into focus as I sorted through their work. 

There was the illustrated poem done by a young boy who got to school too late every day to get on one of our two computers.  He showed a full parking lot and the clock showing 8:35.  The details of his agony were everywhere; in his pictures and in his words.  There were many books of photographs the students had written beneath chronicling the many events of the years they were there.  We did a wonderful project on heavy machines while the school was under construction.  Our yearly trip to Green Point to gather moss, lichens, pine cones etc to picture frames with was a highlifht reflected in pictures.  Each of those picture frames included a class picture and each student enjoying their day at Green Point.  Three years ago a young man came into my office at Kent School to show me that he still had his picture.  His son had just been born and he had come to introduce me to his baby.  He talked about how much fun he had had at Green Point that day and left his picture with me as a gift.  I came across a Gold Rush game board that was so beautifully done I just couldn't throw it away.  That young lady just published her first book:)  The number of amazing works I came across today could be a book on its own.  I wished I could get in touch with each child whose face crossed my mind today.  I wish they knew how they had touched my heart and made me proud to be a teacher, not just "then" but today as well. 

I am quickly coming to the end of my career.  I probably have just a couple of years left before I transition to that next phase of my life.  I came to teaching late but I came passionate.  I am proud to say that I still have that passion and I know after today that the passion comes to me from the students.  The kids I taught this year challenged me, entertained me and touched my heart the same way that first class did 22 years ago.  I am so glad Sheila called me.  My day was full of plans before that e-mail but not one thing I would have done today would have been as enjoyable and as emotional as going back through 22 years of memories of such wonderful young people and the amazing work they did.  I wish I could say thanks to each and every one of them and to let them know that I think of each of them often.  Thanks kids!  Thanks Sheila!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Graduation Day

I've been lucky enough to attend many graduations with my family beginning with my own high school graduation many years ago.  While that doesn't seem like such an accomplishment these days I come from a family where education is met with mixed reviews (and results).  I left high school with barely a thought of going on to post-secondary.  First, it wasn't really a tradition in my family.  Second, I never really saw myself as the "university type", you know, one of the smart kids!  Third, my parents had a rule that we started paying rent the day we graduated high school so it was off in search of a job immediately.  While my boyfriend of the day (now my husband) knew from early on that he was university bound in the quest to become a math teacher (he knew in the primary grades it was a math teacher of a football player:), I had no such vision.

When we started our own family we knew that our children would grow up with the expectation that university was simply what you did following graduation.  Our son was always curious and thirsted for knowledge from the moment he was born.  We still remember those early years of driving around Victoria in our Volkswagen beatle listening to him yell out; STOP, THE BAY, THE RED LION, THE UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA and any other building or road signs that caught his eye.  He was, as most children are, a natural learner.  His early introduction to numbers was via changing channels on the television.  While we had limited choices in those days he could certainly find any of the numbers between 1 and 12 with little difficulty.  It was a joyous moment for my husband when he had his own little "channel changer" long before the electronic version hit the markets.

Last week, our little boy graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in elementary education.  As mentioned above, we KNEW this day would come:)  What we couldn't know then though was how long his journey would be.  Our son's university grad took place almost 20 years after he graduated high school.  He has had many life experiences along the way, including having a child of his own, that will make him a much better teacher.  Had he gone on to his chosen career straight out of high school, as we imagined, he would not be the person he is today.  He has faced many struggles and overcome them all.  He has travelled extensively seeeing places he would not have otherwise seen.  He has met people who have influenced him in so many different ways.  His daughter has had a profound impact on how he sees the world.  All of these experiences have had a profound impact on how he views the world and all of them will affect how he presents his knowledge to the students who will be lucky enough to have him as a teacher.

As an educator, I am constantly exposed to the data regarding students who do not graduate within the timeline expected from the ministry of education or the world in general.  I am constantly irritated by how these statistics are presented as a "failure" of our system, or even worse, of those individuals.  Anyone who has children, or in fact been a child themself, will tell you that we all find our own way in our own time.  To make your way back to education after time in the working world is a huge accomplishment.  The financial sacrifice of leaving a paying job and the sacrifice of time with your family makes the accomplishment inifinitely more joyous. 

As my son crossed that stage last week I watched with tears of joy and pride in my eyes.  I know the sacrifices he and his family have made in order to make this happen.  I know the challenges he faced along the way.  I know the amount of determination and effort that went into each one of his papers and each one of his lessons during his time in the classroom.  I know that having his daugher in the audience watching this accomplishment will impact her life as well.  I know that he will be a better teacher for taking the road less travelled.  I know that many things have come easy to him in his life but that this graduation was not one of them.  I have always been proud of him, as a person, as an athlete, as a scholar, as a dad and a son but I also know I have never been more proud of him than I was as he accepted his degree. Not because of the accomplishment itself but because the journey was difficult and he he simply stayed the course.  Congratulations Jason!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Red Wing Blackbirds, Caragana Bushes & Back Porch Music - memories of my Grampa

I was out for a walk tonight listening to my i-pod and a song by Delbert McClinton came on.  All of a sudden I was a little girl, sitting on a backporch listening to music I've come to call, "Back Porch Music".  It's the kind that just makes you tap your feet and bob your head (while at least that's the effect it had on me).  I can hear an accordion, a steel guitar, my grampa's mouth organ and drums and a wonderful fiddle.  Every time I hear this kind of music it takes me back to my childhood.  When I think of my Grampa Albert I ALWAYS think of music.  I know my brother Randy has the old reel-to-reel tape recorder they used back in the good old days but I'm not sure if he has any of the recordings.  I'm going to have to check on this. 

It seems the spring is always the time that Grampa Albert is on my mind.  I was at the garden center today when the overwhelming scent of caragana washed over me along with more memories.  My Grampa Albert was the master of the hedge.  He used to sit with the clippers in his lap sharpening them for a long time before he began his handiwork.  When my Grampa Albert passed away my Gramma Dot kept the clippers around.  I don't think my grampa would have liked it that she marked them with purple nail polish:)  Gramma Dot was like a dog on a bush with her purple nail polish.  She marked every belonging she owned with the stuff and we still joke about it today.  Every time grampa trimmed that hedge I could smell it for days.  When I think of Grampa Albert I smell caragana, even when it's the middle of winter!  I have never had a good sense of smell so it's unusual that the smell of cragana stayed with me over the years.

As if it was a day meant for memories, on my walk I also spotted the first red-winged blackbird of the year.  I always think when I see them that it's Grampa Albert checking up on me to make sure I'm living my life well.  Grampa called these birds "Sarge" because of the red stripe on their wings.  I golf at a little course near where I live and there is a family of Sarges that I see every spring.  I can honestly say that whenever I see one of these little fellas it takes me straight to my grampa.

My friend Rebecca, who writes a wonderful blog called Letters to the World ( . . "As I go about my workaday life I get an idea about something. I play with the idea. I toss it 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."  It seems today that Grampa Albert was meant to stick.  While I didn't inherit my grampa's gift for music I did inherit the love of a good knee-slapping, toe-tapping, singalong at the top of your lungs song.  He'd have been proud of the way I belted out the songat the top of my lungs along an old gravel road on a spring evening.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Elizabeth's photographs

Dear Elizabeth,
Your mom sent me your pictures from your trip to California soon after you got back.  I'm not sure why it took me so long to look at them but today I found the time.  It's amazing to see the world through the eyes of any six year old but even more amazing when looking at the world through YOUR eyes.  It's not just that the pictures are great ( and they ARE) it's that I get a chance to see what you see and to know a little bit more about what catches YOUR eye in this great big world.  Clearly you love animals and the outdoors and your pictures from the zoo and of all of the plants show this.  You love colour and you love motion as well.  This picture of the peacock is amazing and I can't wait to enter it in the Fall Fair next year.  You are amazing!

I'm Great!

Dear Kai,
I was talking to your mommy on the phone a couple of days ago and asked to speak with you.  As always, I start by saying hi to you and asking you how you are.  It always makes my heart feel full when you answer, "I'm great!" with such enthusiasm.  You never answer that you're "okay" or "good", you're always "GREAT".  I hope your whole life is filled with great days!  I love you!

Wedding Shower

Dearest girls of mine,
It was so nice to see you all in one spot with smiles on your faces and friends by your side.  As I knew would happen, there was lots of laughter and lots of good memories being shared.  Kelly, you look so happy as you prepare for your wedding.  You spend so much time planning it out and taking care of the little details that will make it so special.  I was so happy for you that some basketball friends, family, old friends and young friends could share this day with you.  Carrie & Christine, thank you both so much for all the thought and preparation you put into this day for Kelly.  The scrapbooking idea was a good one.  So many old memories got shared and the scrapbook will be a place that Kelly can look back on and remember both those old memories as well as the new ones that were created today.  Elizabeth, it was so great to see you, it seems like such a long time.  When you jump up and give me those big squeezy hugs, it just makes my day.  I loved watching you as you so carefully created your special pages for Aunty Kelly.  You are so creative and LOVE being with the big girls.  Lisa and Karli and Stefanie, it was wonderful to see you all here today joining your monkey sister in her special day.    Thanks everyone for making everything so special!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Such a remarkable girl!

Elizabeth, you are such a remarkable girl.  For the past four years you have been a regular visitor at Children's Hospital in Vancouver to deal with your ITIP.  You've been poked and prodded and you just deal with all of it.  Every day you spend there is a long one.  While the people there are amazing and obviously love you to death, they are still long days.  Last Monday you were there with your mom and dad for almost 11 hours.  We hope that this treatment will cure your ITIP but we know if it doesn't that you will handle whatever comes your way.  I'm glad you live close enough to just go for the day and I know that you meet many children there who have it tougher than you and who have to spend many months away from their families and homes just to receive treatment.  As I watch you grow I continue to be amazed by you.  You are now in grade 1 and I know you are an incredible reader and that you know your numbers inside out and upside down.  You are kind and loving and your smile lights up any room you walk into.  You are so curious, there's nothing you don't love (except for cooked carrots:)  You have a great curiosity and you explore science and music and art (LOVE your new splatter paint:), books and and flowers and animals.  You love to dress up and can't wait to show off your new bridesmaid dress this summer.  I want you to know how much you are loved and how amazing you are!