Derailing dreams & goals

“I can do this, yes I can.”

That was my mantra, literally, a few weeks back when I walked a half marathon.

Actually, the mantra was drowned out in the last 5 kilometers by heavy rains and winds. But I repeated it over and over and over for the first 16 kilometers, sometimes out loud, and it worked. Really well.

Then, negativity set in and I almost gave up.

Going into the race, I had a plan. I had broken down the race into sections and time goals.

The first 3 km: 8 minutes, 20 seconds per km = 25 minutes. I came out of the first kilometer at 9 minutes but I easily made up the time in the next two kilometers.

Kilometers 4-6: 8 minutes, 15 second per km = 24 minutes, 45 seconds…..and so on.

Up to kilometer 16, I was ahead in every section. The downhill middle section was AWESOME for time, although painful on the hips and feet (I’m still nursing black toenails).

At the end of kilometer 16, I looked at my watch and it appeared I was 2 minutes behind for that section.

I quickly reset my watch and started the next timing section, not verifying if I was actually behind; I’m still not sure, but the damage was done.

I began to believe I couldn’t make my goal, that my plan had failed.

Two big “whoops” here:  I had made up so much time in previous sections, it really didn’t matter if I was behind. I was still ahead of schedule by several minutes.

Equally problematic, I didn’t have a Plan B.

I didn’t think about ‘the margin of error’: the wind and the rain; the fact I had trained with a backpack hydration system (which allows for consistent, slow re-hydration) and the race required you to gulp water at aid stations; or that I dropped half my fuel in a gutter.

I had no backup to achieving a personal best. And so the negative self talk began in earnest.

At one point, I actually slowed to a crawl.

Someone nearby told me, “Don’t give up, ’cause if you give up, I’ll give up.” Nice: Guilt.

It worked.

I picked up my pace and I got to the end.

The fact I got 16 km in before that negativity started is a win for me. I used to begin to berate myself early on: in races, in new activities, pretty much anything. I could convince myself “I can’t” more often than not.

There’s a lot of factors that changed that mind-set. University was a HUGE contributor to the shift.

This summer, I was able to spend time with someone who had completed his first Ironman triathlon. I picked his brain a lot – not because I have lofty goals (given a triathlon requires swimming I’m definitely out!), but because he is good at sharing his life experiences and explaining the need to focus on our mental health as key to overall athletic and life goals.

Talking to many people, listening to their honest and brave stories of self-doubt, anxiety, negative self talk and their ongoing ability to be successful in their goals has been inspiring.

With my race, in the end, I got to the finish line and I was two minutes behind my goal. I quickly let my disappointment go. Given the way I spoke to myself in the last 5 kilometers, finishing at all was a major achievement.

I have recently begun weight training. I often joke that I have 30 minutes of fun and 30 minutes of hating my trainer. He makes me work REALLY hard. He makes me work well beyond what I think I can do.

In 5 short sessions, I am convinced that “I can do this, yes I can” because, just like the race, it feels so good to dream and achieve big goals.

Lack of funding = lack of safety in schools

On November 19, 2017, CBC Radio’s Cross Country Check Up discussed Violence in Schools.

There have been several media reports on this topic including a Ottawa teacher, Tony Lamonica, speaking out about his experience of violence on the job. Lamonica’s experience was horrendous and life changing. Violence is not something any person should have to deal with at their place of work.

As I listened to the CBC call in program, I was deeply troubled and I doubt I was alone. The show shed significant light on the consequences of insufficient funding in education. The calls and discussion focused on the issues facing educators, parents, students, and communities when it comes to aggression in schools.

It also highlighted the range of understandings about what constitutes aggression, what should be done about it, which students should/should not be held accountable, and what are the responsibilities of educators, Boards and the government when it comes to solutions.

It is a hot mess.

And, it is a situation that for many staff and students is a daily reality and not ‘new’ news. It is a system wide problem.

Many Educational Assistants have had multiple trips to Emergency rooms in a year; many have to go on sick leave; many have lasting injuries. I have had three trips to the Emergency Room and two other times when I probably should have gone.

I do not hold the students who harmed me responsible for my injuries. I have worked with students identified with special needs wherein aggressive behaviours are one way in which they cope when they have not yet learned the skills to self regulate, or they are unable to learn those skills. In order to teach those skills to a student, I need time to observe what triggers students and try different techniques to help them acquire those skills. That time is rarely available in the system as it is currently funded.

I am not naive: some students, like some people, have control of their behaviours and still harm others. That is one category of alarming behaviour within education systems across the country.

I am looking at this through the lens of special education and I worry that some people are lumping all students into one profile: a purposefully violent person.

Other types of violent incidents are happening on a daily basis for many educators and no one incident can be considered to be representative of the wide range of violence within any one system, or across a province, or certainly across the country.

One caller to the CBC show, Bonnie Dineen, was an Educational Assistant with 20 years of experience. She discussed the issue of not having enough information prior to walking into a classroom.

There is no funding for pre-planning meetings for teaching teams. The time needed to get to know the student, their needs and the appropriate supports is not funded in the current model.

A guest on the show, Shelley Hymel, a UBC Education faculty professor, stressed the importance of training and supports that meet the changing needs of students and staff. Hymel stated, “My feeling is that we’re running on an economic model as opposed to a child-focused model”.


This is also, sadly, not news. Education systems have been financially gutted over the past decades to pay for priorities (or errors) of the government. The result is that there are not enough experts or resources or trained professionals to deal with the needs (educational, social, emotional and physical) of students.

There are not enough hands on deck for the number of students with exceptional learning deficits and needs.

The lack of funding means there is a lack of safety in our schools; this has created the crisis for students, educators, families and communities.

We need to listen to people on the front lines and we need to give them the support to effectively do their job and be educators who can support student success, whatever success looks like for individual students. There is no one size fits all model for appropriate supports or ‘success’.

Society and governments owe it to students to create the system where professionals have the time and resources to listen and observe students and create education plans that work for their abilities and needs – not rush from one crisis to another, putting out fires without ever having time to discover the source.

Right now there is insufficient funding in education coupled with outcome expectations which are not meeting the needs of students.

We need to sufficiently fund education systems so that educators can go to work and be safe.

growing up with my imagination

A neighbour recommended The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna. The book is highly visual and, as with many self help genre books, promises to take you to that quintessential moment – “oh right, that’s what I am supposed to do with my life!”

I spent a lot of my early motherhood years reading self help books, trying to figure out how to do the thing that, once I let it happen naturally, well, happened naturally.

After dropping out of the world of work for two years to pursue my degree, followed by a year of hellish work/school juggling (resulting in early retirement), I struggled to figure out everything. “What’s next?” didn’t even begin to cover it. I had a lot of big life stuff already handled. Still, I was a bit adrift. The years of a direction, a schedule and goals were suddenly not before me.

I read the book. I wanted to rush to the end and find my passion (as the subtitle suggested I would) and then follow it.

Instead, I discovered something else.

One of the activities is to look back and ask: “What were you like as a child?”

I took a bunch of sticky notes and wrote down things I remembered. Of course I wrote “Chatty” (seriously, every single report card had that comment).

The one that stuck HARD was “alone with my imagination”. I guess the idea of remembering being alone could be construed as sad, but that wasn’t it.

I was happy to be with my imagination. I loved to make up stories and adventures. When life felt scary, I had an escape.

I had grown up with a self published story book in my mind. I frequently accessed it at night, after my light went out. I would turn the pages in my mind and pick the story, written by me. Sometimes, I’d edit it, but mostly just let it unfold as is.

I remember reading Harriet the Spy and then spending weeks wandering my neighbourhood with notebook in hand, making observations and then conjuring up stories about the things I saw. I loved that sense of self-produced adventure.

I don’t know if the secret to my “must” or passion is inside this learning; I do know that two great realizations came:

  • I love my imagination: what it can do and the great comfort it has always been
  • I was a pretty cool kid

I know what and who made me stop writing and making up stories, but the last few years of growth and self-care have taught me – the big bad wolf can’t scare me anymore.

So, excuse me – I’m off to observe the world and see where my imagination takes me today.


I am baffled about the recent spate of hashtags telling educators, specifically during ‘Treaty Recognition Week’, to #teachlikegord.

This is not intended as an insult to Gord Downey; he recognized that his social status and impending death allowed him to focus people’s short attention spans on issues affecting Indigenous people in Canada. Good on him.

I never thought he was an expert on Indigenous issues. Downey was using the last days of his life to learn and bring attention to issues of significant importance.

I have begun following a wide variety of people on social media, from all around the world and Canada. Sound bites, whether they are 140 or 280 characters, are not enough to help me learn in depth information about issues. Yet, I am finding that having a variety of people, from wide ranging backgrounds, saying similar things, makes me uneasy, a sure sign that I need to go looking for more information.

To try to combat the ignorance I possess about my own country and its history, my education involves reading literature and opinion pieces and pretty much anything written by people who do not come from the same place that I do – and by place I am talking not just geographic, but also who have had different experiences due to economics, structural injustices, ancestry, religion, politics – all things which have not impeded my life in any significant way.

Biggest need: to LISTEN.

The #metoo movement (second movement?) helped me: having people listen to my story and acknowledge that I suffered made a difference. Even if those people cannot take away my pain, or change my narrative, having an opportunity to open up the dialogue made a big difference.

So how can I take that experience and move forward?

I have an ongoing awareness of my ignorance on many big issues; a kind of ignorance that comes from being insulated by privilege. I grew up without a lot of money, but I never went hungry. I always had clean water and clean clothes and a solid roof.

I never had to worry that by going outside my home community to a different high school could mean I had a higher chance of being murdered.

I cannot imagine. So I have to listen because I do believe (cliche alert), if I am not part of the solution, I will remain part of the problem.

I do not know what to do to make a difference.

I am not going #teachlikegord. I am going to keep listening to the voices who have first hand experience and keep learning the lessons they want to share.


Hear. Ignore. 

“Do you have kids?” Societal label: mom

“What do you do for a living?” Societal label: valued/not valued 

I used to work in special education (teaching assistant).  People always said, it’s takes a special kind of person to do that job. Special, maybe. Well paid, definitely not (not valuable).

I took two years off work to go to university (student, later learner) and then worked full time and went to university part time (crazy).

I raised my children from home for many years (stay-at-home mom). My husband does the cooking (failed housewife).

I am presently not working for money (unemployed).

I am busy, doing things all day long (aspiring writer. volunteer. support for elderly family members. engaged in self-care. half-marathoner. queen of laundry. friend. wife. mom. Netflix connoisseur. reader. citizen.)

Without a tidy label, society cannot put me into a box and without that box, I don’t fit. If I cannot say – justify really – how I contribute to the world in a way which fits society’s labels, do I matter? 

Labels/boxes/descriptors/narrow categories: Small impact for me and my life. Big contributor to societal discord. 

If people cannot label you, they cannot decide if they have common ground with you (us/them).  But, if they can label you and decide you do not have common ground with them and their beliefs (threatening) they can ignore you (marginalized), or belittle you (harassed), or overthrow you (colonized) – ‘other’ you.

Labels do not bring people together.

Canada 150 celebrations did not unite people, did not make people know what it means to be Canadian. It bubbled up to the surface – for those who paid attention – that Canada was a label imposed on a place by those who came after and labelled those who were already here as ‘other’, ‘not like us’. Not valued.

Consider this: when people walk down the street and mentally label someone as homeless, the label allows society to walk by, negating and ignoring the other ways that the person is/has been in the world: father, mother, brother, sister, human. 

The current state of the world has made ‘othering’ a full time job for those in power (president, dictator, supreme leader) and a spectator sport which has brought greater division and less common ground (left/right/extremism). 

I do not know how society can move beyond labels, specifically labels that discount, displace and demean. It takes time and work and effort. 

And if that label gives/implies/affords power (white, male, heterosexual), what motivation is there to move past the simplistic categorization one has been socialized to employ?  

Should we start small, with dropping the labeling of people in our day-to-day lives, so that we retrain our brains to think deeply? Think about who we are and who the people we live and work with actually are, beyond the labels society has given them?

Hear the story. Ignore the label. 

(The photo with this post is the cover of The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss. I discovered it attached to an article about the book by Raelke Grimmer. Moss writes crime novels. The problem, it seems, is that Moss began working originally as a “model”. She has been accused of not writing her own successful novels because, as some people seem to believe, a model could never write intelligent works…”she continues to be defined by dualistic cultural labels”.)