When your children are born, you hope you can be a role model and good parent. 

When your children are out in the world, you hope they take the foundation you laid and find their happy place and live the life they want. 

Basically, you hope you don’t mess up. 

Today, the youngest of my children turns 25. Our roles these days are often reversed; blurred lines abound. She inspires me and encourages me with her focus and drive. A prime example was a few days ago when she woke up with a nasty head cold and still got on her bike and rode 122 km in the pouring rain, up and down (mostly up!) mountains from Vancouver to Whistler. She was cheered on by her amazing family of friends, the like minded, good people she has surrounded herself with over the past several years. She set this goal some time ago and participated with her dad. He felt encouraged and challenged every step of the way. 

Also in the ride, crushing his own goals, was her fiancé, the guy who won her heart many years ago. That dynamic duo, the adventure team, is charting a path of community connectiveness and truly exemplify ‘living life out loud’. 

I wish my amazing daughter a happy birthday and a life full of inspiring dreams and fellow dreamers. 

Commemorative practices

During my undergrad, I spent time investigating burial practices from 1830-1898 in a local cemetery. My interest was in how people chose to commemorate the dead and what were the economic, cultural, religious, or other social factors impacting those decisions. I wish I could say I came up with an answer but that is not what happens in these types of studies. You come up with (hopefully) reasonable and well researched theories.

The cemetery reflected practices from people’s country of origin, often blended with the practices in the local area or practices of their adopted country exclusively. Of course, there were outliers: the monument that was in a category all on its own, skewing everything.

I also engaged in a study of the concept and the reality of multiculturalism in Canada: were people given the space to maintain their own country/cultural/religious identity or was assimilation the actual goal of multicultural policies in Canada? Again there is no one “answer” to that question; in a vast country, there are vast experiences and outcomes. 

These two interests are making me wonder (possibly in a masters thesis kind of way): Why is there a recent surge (or perhaps resurgence) of expectation that people who are immigrating need to ‘assimilate’, utilizing only the social practices of their adopted country, rather than blending with or maintaining practices of their place of origin? In a time of grief, loss, or significant change, it is more common for people to seek the familiar.

Commemoration practices on the large scale, including statues and monuments, are presently at the centre of controversy, both “what” is being commemorated and “who” the person was and what they represented. One of the benefits of looking at small scale displays of belief systems seen in cemeteries is that those social practices are often indicative of larger, communal commemorative practices.

The tie to multiculturalism and inclusion comes down to looking at history and using past patterns to help understand the present: Were people given emotional and physical space to commemorate the dead in ways most meaningful to them? Were other social practices as inclusive/exclusive? How does this relate to present day commemorative practices – or does it?

I don’t know if enrolling in a Masters program is the next step but I do know that I have a lot of unanswered questions yet to pursue. 

The moment

The other morning, as I stood on my paddleboard something unique happened.

I want to try to explain it without sounding pretentious or silly or like an ad for a wellness retreat. I also know there is no way to recapture that moment.

I went out on the board at about 7 a.m. The water was much warmer than the air, so there was a mist; it was a truly breathtaking sight. I made a conscious decision not to take my phone or my camera. I can be more present without concern for documenting the moment.

So, I headed out. At 7 a.m. on our river, there usually is no boat traffic. The water is often rippled due to the breeze. That was not the case on this morning. The water was misty and very still.

As I moved away from the cottage, I looked at the reflection of the clouds and the trees. I looked at the reflection of me, the board.

It was quiet, except for the occasional bark of a dog, somewhere, over there.

When I paddle, I meditate. I meditate by counting the strokes on each side of the board. By counting, I am freeing my mind from thinking about all the things our minds like to think about. This morning, I stopped paddling numerous times. I was listening to the silence. Not thinking of anything at all.

As was inevitable, a little bit of sound began; a boat was approaching. There were a couple ripples. The mist was lifting.

I was seeing and feeling the change. It was tactile.

And here’s where the part that is really hard to explain, the schmaltzy part, happened.

I felt the place I am in my life, in that moment.

The future is coming, my new future. This new job, it’s somewhere just out of sight, like the approaching boat. There’s a bit of noise already happening around the job, but it’s not quite here yet. There’s some ripples, some things that I have had to do. The unknown, the mist, is clearing. What that future looks like is becoming clearer.

I love, really love, my mornings on the paddleboard. It is the richest experience I have on my own. I have loved, REALLY REALLY loved being a full time student. I know that who I am shifted and how I am in the world has fundamentally changed forever. I have no regrets anymore. I only have expectations, an understanding that university set me up to live a richer, fuller life.

So, let the mist rise. Let the ripples and the noise begin. I’m ready.

On Sunday, I went out for a quick paddle midday. A huge boat went by and created a ridiculously big wake. There was only one option for me: head into the waves and hope for the best. I knew – and admitted it out loud – I was not going to stay standing. That’s a whole other metaphor for taking on a new, big job. There’s going to be waves and some of them are going to knock me down.

Just like on Sunday, though, I’ll get back up. University has given me a top notch life jacket full of problem solving skills.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  – Thoreau

I can, I am, I have

I can do anything.

I am living my dream.

I have the life I want to live.

On International Women’s Day, 2016, the theme is #PledgeForParity. Although I can do anything, I am living my dream, and I have the life I want to live, I am squarely in a place of privilege. Millions and millions of women and girls around the world cannot say those statements with any certainty. They cannot imagine this life.

It is from this place of privilege that I must not only appreciate all that I have, but commit to parity, not only between wages and opportunities of men and women. I have to commit to parity between myself and women around the world.

I am safe. I am well fed. I am loved and cared for by others. I need to recognize and acknowledge what my responsibility is to others and what part I play in perpetuating situations of inequality. Which of my actions (or inactions) contribute to those inequalities?

Today is not only about celebrating the achievements of women and girls around the world. It is about recognizing all of the ways and means of working for parity.

Baby, baby, baby….

It’s (mom)ents like this that making it all worthwhile…..working in special education is a gift that keeps on giving…..

I wish the government could be a fly on the wall to see how important educators are in the success of children. They need to see the difference appropriate levels of support mean.

writing in the (mom)ent

Yes, that’s a line from a Justin Bieber song. I hear that song every day, Monday to Friday. One of the students I support LOVES it. The student often bursts into song, singing loudly. At moments that some consider inappropriate. Like circle time, when the teacher is taking attendance or reading a book. Or in the washroom. Full blast. It was, actually, the first thing I ever heard the student say. Other times, when the student needs calming, I call it up on my phone and play it. Justin Bieber is one of my least favourite role models, but he is part of one of my most successful strategies: redirecting.

When I began working with this particular student, last September, the student was never in the classroom for more than 1-2 minutes at a time. There were rarely interactions in any way, verbal or otherwise, with other students or staff.

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Living each moment

A reblog….a reminder to myself…

writing in the (mom)ent

Back in February, I posted about Living in the Moment. That day was memorable and remarkable, reminding me to enjoy that moment.

Today, I am reminding myself – and everyone – to fully live each moment.

Photo 23

I learned recently about two amazing people who have each been given a challenging cancer prognosis. Both are women who have inspired, impressed and impacted me.

One is the mother of a friend, and although I have not spent a lot of time with her, our few interactions proved to be memorable, uplifting and showed how impacting a sense of humour can be. Her son, one of my husband’s best friends growing up, has all of the best parts of his mom and it is through him that I know how much of an influence she has had on the world of her family.

The other person is someone who truly shaped who…

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Something to ponder

Originally posted in January, 2015.

Reposted due to its continuing relevance.

writing in the (mom)ent

Although I am currently on leave from my job, I keep in touch with my peers through social media and otherwise. This step back has given me a different perspective and not always an upbeat one.

People in special education have an incredibly difficult job and oftentimes their/our work involves being injured by students. This is not to say that students purposefully hurt those who support them (although this does happen), but nevertheless, it happens.

Yesterday, I caught a bit of a radio program that was discussing the legalities of being injured on purpose. I do not know the entire back story, but apparently two young people had agreed to fight and one of them had been injured (I know, right? That’s a whole other story for a whole other day). It appears it had gone to court and the courts, not surprisingly, said that one cannot agree to be…

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“Here come bad news, talking this and that”

Flowers - 1

Given the way educators in Ontario are being treated of late (to borrow from Pharrell) it might seem crazy what I’m about to say I could not resist the chance to pick up a supply job and hang out with some amazing students and staff today.

There’s nothing quite like actually being in the classroom….

I was so pleased to find that I was working with a student from last year sunshine she’s here,

I knew today exactly what Pharrell was talking about:

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
I worked with the student, saw her progress since last year, was reminded of what it feels like to anticipate reactions, the ways to make progress while working with the student’s disability, taking into account both strengths and areas in need of improvement – to be able to spend my day and energy with a person whose value seems beyond the understanding of politicians at Queen’s Park these days.
I remembered why I did this work for 12 years. We sat and listened to music – sang a little, rocked back and forth a little, connected.
The building was not overrun with talk of strikes. No anti-government sentiment to be found. Not the time or the place. Just a lot of talk about the students and their progress, upcoming events, funny anecdotes. And caring. So much caring, everywhere.
When you’re out in the world, you forget that’s what it looks like. Out in the world it’s all sorts of bad news talking this and that. 
If possible, I am more ready to fight the attack on public education. Liz Sandals and the Government of Ontario, all I can say is:
…..give me all you got, and don’t hold it back,

I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine….

No offense to you, don’t waste your time

Here’s why

Bring me down… can’t nothing…

Today I felt there is nothing that the government can say or do that will convince me that the fight for bargaining rights, for classroom working conditions, for students, is not worth our time.

I do not want to be in the fight. There is no doubt though, it’s on our doorstep.

I’ll be just fine because I know the truth.

(The song I spent all that time listening to was, of course, Happy by Pharrell – it’s amazing how many lyrics fit the fight we’re in….)

Living in the moment

After seeing many of my peers last night, I was reminded of the work done in education everyday. Hard but rewarding work, done by people with dedication to the success of students.

Don’t let anyone make you believe it’s all about the money.

writing in the (mom)ent

“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.

Betty Ford Botanical Gardens, Vail, Colorado

Yesterday really was a “favourite” day.

In working with students with autism, we often need to build a student’s repertoire of language by scaffolding skills. We use visual symbols and, if the student is verbal, teach them the corresponding words as we show them what the symbols and words mean. For instance, when we show them the visual for “dry hands”, we do the activity. Sometimes, we have multiple steps for activities (taking off winter clothes can involve a ridiculous amount of symbols/words!). The process is long, but over time, it is hoped that the student may themselves either point to the visual symbol to request an item/activity, or they may use the words alone.

I have been working with a particular student for 4 months on requesting preferred activities, such as…

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Let it go

No, this is not another tribute to a song from Frozen, but it is about letting go.

I am, excuse the use of yet another cliché, living the dream. I have wanted to return to university almost from the day I walked away from my first university foray. I’ve wanted to maintain and grow my relationships with my hubby and children as our lives change and expand beyond our home. And, because I’ve always loved writing, I’ve always wanted to find a way to have a job writing.

In the past 8 months, all of those things have arrived in my life.

On Friday, I was offered the opportunity to write and have someone pay me for my time. This is an incredibly humbling experience because it came about so unexpectedly although mostly because it is working for a cause I believe in deeply.

I continue to be amazed at how letting go of “coulda, shoulda, woulda” type of thinking has changed my life so deeply. As my favourite son once said, using a set of questions that began this ball rolling, “why not you” and “why not now”. Why not me and why not now?

Apparently, it is me and it is now.