Both sides now

Yesterday I was reminded of a day last November – Joni Mitchell’s 75th birthday and her music was everywhere. For me, it was a walk through childhood memories that I didn’t know were there. For me, it was back to 1972.

I heard Joni’s songs and was reminded of putting on records when I babysat, singing songs over and over and over again or dancing on the deck of my best friend’s cottage, or dressing up in her mom’s high school outfits in their Calgary living room, and creating entire stories based on lyrics that two young girls in the early 1970s knew nothing about.


Or maybe we never did in the way that Joni was talking about.

it’s clouds illusions I recall…




All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was — Ernest Hemingway

Books have always been my dearest and most faithful friends. I reread books – Charlotte’s Web being my most reread book, followed by The Diviners. I have become a Mary Oliver perpetual rereader and quoter.

Words and stories and poems. I feel like I live within the stories – I can smell the barn alongside the animals in Charlotte’s Web. I can feel the unsaid feelings in The Diviners. And I am driven to live life fully by Mary Oliver’s When Death Comes.

I have been fortunate of late to have been fully immersed by several truly moving books. I continue to move through Alicia Elliott’s A Mind Spread Out on the Ground. This book is a game changer, showing me a raw understanding of the effects of colonialism, past and present. It needs to be required reading for everyone living within the borders of Canada.

Michael Crummy’s The Innocents. Megan Gail Cole’s Small Game Hunting At The Local Coward Gun Club. 

These last two books are by Newfoundland writers and I am in love with their unique voices. I felt inside the heads of their characters and felt the cold winds blow as these characters faced adversity I will never know.

I want to continue to learn about words and writing and telling stories in hopes that one day, I can take someone on a journey. And reading is a very big part of that learning.

Thank you to the universe for the gift of words.


My instagram profile states:

I hate training, but I love finish lines. 

Today was a tough training walk. What was supposed to be 18 km turned into 19 for sure, but also 20 minutes (meaning several more kilometers) of lost in the woods.

I got very hungry but my food then gave me indigestion. Which is strange because it’s never done that before.

My right headphone stopped working (which given the lost in the woods thing was okay causes you know, the woods. Strange noises.).

My navigation skills are what keep me from wandering far without a map in hand (yes, I know, my phone was what got me out of the mess today!). But I thought I had it covered having been on the trail before.


I hurt all over and I’m hungry but too tired to go to the fridge!

So, I am posting a day late. And I’m whining.




there are no rules

“As long as you’re dancing, you can
break the rules.
Sometimes breaking the rules is just
extending the rules.

Sometimes there are no rules.”
― Mary Oliver (A Thousand Mornings)

It’s something I’ve heard all my life age is just a number.

I didn’t actually believe it until recently. Like the last seven or so years. No coincidence that has been since I turned 50.

In ten days or so, one of the youngest, most active people I know turns 60. In the last couple years, he’s done cycling adventures that included riding from Vancouver to Whistler, to the highest peak in Taiwan, and, just for fun, 100 km on a Sunday. He has rebuilt docks pretty much solo.

He’s breaking the rules all the time – or perhaps extending them so that people stop thinking that age is anything other than a signifier of the passage of time.

I met that guy when he was a few weeks short of his 22nd birthday. It floors me to think that we have spent 38 years together. Not because we haven’t done a lot, but because he seems to be Benjamin Buttoning his way through life – he got older and now he’s getting younger.

I guess Mary Oliver is right cause hubby is showing that there are no rules.

Put up and shut up

There is a term – armchair anthropologist – which refers to scholars (think colonialists) who would sit in their comfy chairs and read books or examine artifacts and draw conclusions about ‘the other’ – the ‘exotic’ – think: non-white, non-European. This lead to real errors in teachings and entire belief systems were developed based on no field work or actual observations.

I thought of this term rcently as I read comments following a guest article by an Educational Assistant, Laura Walton, who is also the president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions. Walton was explaining to Toronto Sun readers the reasons that education workers and teachers likely would be taking job action this school year (and by job action she did not necessarily mean strikes, but most people don’t get that). Walton laid out the concerns of people working in the system and why the public needs to get onboard to fighting cuts to education.

The comments that followed were ridiculous. Many, many, MANY of the people threw out the usual tirade about how teachers are overpaid and have three months holidays and don’t care about students, they only care about wage hikes, yada yada. (Other commenters repeatedly pointed out that Walton is not a teacher which prompted a remark that Walton should go back to school so she could get a ‘real’ better paying job.) Others repeated the Ford government’s party line about pouring money into the education system and that there were no layoffs happening.

If you are a person who works in education, you’ve seen and heard it all before.

So here’s the tie in to armchair anthropology. The vast majority of people in the province have had some sort of intersection with education. They attended a school, they may have children or other younger relatives in the system, and/or they may know an educator. But unless you have done the work, really been a part of the system, you don’t have enough information to say what any particular education system role does and does not entail.

People do not have the knowledge to know about how funding cuts are affecting students and staff.

I worked closely with teachers for over a decade and I couldn’t tell you all the details of their role because it is much more than just what happens in the classroom. I could not tell you all that the clerical staff, the custodial staff, the psychoeducational staff, or the multitudes of others do everyday. Frankly, I cannot tell you what ever educational assistant does. Each role is too different.

Why does Person Q Public feel that they can sit in their comfy armchair and confidently comment about education? How can they believe they know better than teachers and other education workers who are speaking about their workplace and how funding cuts are detrimental to students?

The Education Minister, the Premier, any member of government who are making decisions about funding – are any of them educators? Who is making the decisions?

Minister Lecce – communications expert. Premier Ford – businessman (high school education).

You know who does have a PhD in education? MPP Jill Andrews from Toronto. Sadly this perfect candidate for the position of Education Minister is with the NDP, not the governing party.

I know I am spitting into the wind by saying that people need to stop criticizing what they don’t know. I know that I am walking into a brick wall to encourage politicians to step into classrooms for a whole day, or better yet a month, to get a sliver of a clue why job actions are likely to happen.

And yes, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: wages. When I left my full time role in 2014, I was taking home less than $30000. Yup. I “had summers off”. Unpaid. Yup, I had Christmas and March break off. Unpaid.

I also have life long injuries from being kick, hit, and punched. I was not entitled to enough WSIB compensation to take the time and therapy to recover fully.

Wages are part of the equation, but they are not all of the equation.

So, to those commenters I say: don’t sit in your armchair and tell an educational assistant that she should put up and shut up. Person Q Public needs to get out and do their field work before making assumptions about Walton and other educators’ motivations.

One of the keystones of a good educational assistant is their observational skills. We have a lot we can teach the public. Here’s the first field research question: What is the antecedent to the behaviour of members of the education system and what is the consequence of the negative actions of the province?


prompted by reading

I’ve read a few (or many) books about writing and one theme that comes through is that you will learn a lot about yourself by writing. I think I learn as much, or maybe more, from reading. Not only the words, and the way people use them, but the memories and self reflections and subsequent knowledge that some words provoke.

Case in point: Cheryl Strayed compiled some of her Dear Sugar advice columns into a book. One of the columns was prompted by a query from a young woman musing about writing. Strayed used one line which struck me: “You have to tell us what you have to say.” Strayed had much more to say to the woman, including telling her to find humility and stop being so melodramatic about what it means (and doesn’t mean) to be a writer.

But it was the line about telling what you have to say that gave me pause. I know I need to write – not like I need to breathe or eat or sleep (talking about melodramatic), but I have ideas ALL THE TIME that I need/want to explore. I come across old writings and they surprise me. Not because they’re profound (talking about humility) but because of how far I have progressed, how much I have learned about how much hard work it takes to write and which ideas are worth pursuing.

Art and literature and design – all these things are subjective. To be acknowledged as a particular type of creative, you need to create something that someone will assist you in putting out into the world.

And yet, you have to tell us what you have to say. I cannot write in hopes of saying what someone wants to hear, but appreciate that it is within the uniqueness of what I have to say, that is where the value of my writing exists.

(Not to say that I don’t check my inbox everyday for that elusive response that someone has found that uniqueness interesting enough to publish!)