“Here come bad news, talking this and that”

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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….)

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.

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Nothing succeeds like excess

Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess – Oscar Wilde

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If the above quote is true, then Vegas is a place that succeeds in its excess. Sitting here, thinking about another -30 degrees with the windchill day, I would take the excesses of Vegas without a complaint. The weather was incredible – no boots or hats or scarves.

Vegas is a place that you cannot describe fully to another person. It is something to be seen. The people on the sidewalks, the costumed people – characters from movies and TV – willing to have their photos taken with you for a price; the people handing out trading cards of naked women; the hordes and hordes of people carrying their drinks from one casino or party to another – the place is non-stop. I felt on sensory overload whenever we went out walking.

Outside the city, there is such simplicity to the landscape in comparison, and yet it is teeming with interesting features. Its naturalness is such a wonderful contrast.

The water fountain shows were gorgeous and for a minute or two, you could just slow down. Or take hundreds of quick shots, as I did. Either way, it was a focus away from the chaos.

Perfectly imperfect

I have a knack, on occasion, for taking photos of flowers or plants that are stunning but perhaps have a flaw here or there. I used to reject those photos because I was looking for the perfect picture which, by extension, needed to be of a perfect plant.

Just as I am learning, through studying anthropology, that there is no one truth, there is no one definition of beauty. I think I take photos of those types of flowers because they represent a truth: there is great beauty in the flawed.

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Reflecting on 2014

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I chose this photo as my favourite from 2014 for one big reason: my children surprised me on my birthday with a blanket with this photo weaved into it. It was an incredibly touching and thoughtful gift. It speaks to who they are and how well they know me.

I often like to start my posts with a quote and when searching for one that might help encapsulate my year, I found that Dr. Seuss quotes seem to be full of snippets of my year:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”

I love this quote. I feel that returning to university is helping me appreciate my “brains”, motivates me to keep moving and growing and learning. The only downfall is that it has opened so many paths, so many options for learning, that I find choosing which direction to pursue next a hard thing to do – not really a downfall but rather a windfall!

“The more that your read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Every day I feel my brain expand, become stronger, more adept at working things out. I remember more easily, which is something I was warned would be a downfall of being an older student. Perhaps in comparison to my younger classmates I am deficient, but I certainly feel more capable and less scattered than prior to going back to school. I am definitely more efficient with my time!

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

I found it hard at first to “fit in” at university. Everyone is soooo young. I wandered around and wondered where I would fit in. Two things stick out from this year that made me accept and embrace that difference. I had a conversation with a young lady, as we walked between classes, and she asked me what was the hardest part of returning to school and I shared that I sometimes felt lonely, that I didn’t fit in. She stopped walking and turned to me and said, “Then you do fit in, because lots of people feel that way.”

The other encounter that put it in perspective was with a professor. He also asked me how I was finding the return to school and I shared that I was wondering what I could bring to the class given the age difference. He explained that I had a perspective that was unique and valuable. He said that I needed to “get over” the age difference and that my peers would follow suit.

When people ask – as they frequently do – how I find fitting in at university, I tell them it’s amazing. I do have difficulty, though, in explaining how and why it works, but it just does. Now, standing out is something I don’t feel is a negative. I embrace it and accept it and flourish within that framework.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

With children on both coasts of North America, there are hard, tearful goodbyes, even when another visit is in the works and not far down the road. The last goodbyes, ones we had in the last few days, are long goodbyes. We have no definite plans of when we will see each other in person. Yet, I have accepted that it is what it is. My children have wonderful, full, happy and fulfilling lives. They have people in their day-to-day lives who love them and care about their well-being. They have work that not only pays the bills, but that allows them to support and encourage those around them. They have launched into their own lives. My children are two of my greatest supporters and are transforming into two of my dearest friends. We are lucky to have close relationships and that is why I will always smile thinking of the times we share and look forward to the next opportunity to get a “squeezer” hug. They are happy, I am happy and I am happy for them. Life is good.

“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.”

Well, yes. Let’s call it love. For more than 33 years, I’ve been in mutual weirdness with my sweetie. Without question, I would have been lost this year without his support – beyond the 3 meals a day he prepares for me, his encouragement, understanding and boldface bragging have been a significant part of my successful return to school. We shared one of my greatest memories of the year – our cycling trip to France. It was an experience beyond words. I could not think of anyone in this world I’d rather be weird with, now and forever.

“Breathing in, there is only the present moment” – Thich Nhat Hanh

A few days ago, I was out with Kyle, Laura and Warren in Toronto. I was beginning to anticipate their departures and was feeling anxious and sad. We were walking through Queen’s Park and I decided, instead, to focus on how I was “walking as if my feet were kissing the earth”. This practice brought me back into the moment, the moment of actually BEING with the three young people whose departure I was dreading. The moments of departure did come, and they were sad, but I also “lived the moments” when the children were around.

One of the greatest gifts of this year of abundance has been beginning the journey of learning mindfulness. It has contributed to my life in ways that have been subtle and profound. I feel that 2014 was full of changes and experiences that brought me an incredible amount of happiness and fulfillment; mindfulness is the foundation that I am deepening those experiences through.

Hand in hand with mindfulness are other words of wisdom. When my friend, Lois, told me of her terminal diagnosis, I asked her what I could do for her: “Live each day to the fullest”.

Lois is with me every day as I try to do just that; she influenced me for all of the 30 years we knew each other. My life is her life.

And it is one amazing life.