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 ( lambschram.blogspot.com)writes. . . "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!