Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Enjoying Christmas Vacation

So it is officially my first day of the Christmas holidays I have been able to relax. It has been a crazy hectic holiday season.

I often liken my job to a marathon race. It begins in August with the prep and the first bell on the first day of school is like the starting pistol. I remind teaching staff we have to pace ourselves or we won’t make it to the end of the June. We can’t sprint the whole way but there are certain times of the year it certainly feels like we are gasping for breath to keep going. The month of December is one of those times. It begins with report cards, followed by parent-teacher interviews which can be very stressful because not every student is above average. (Someone has to be average, some even below average but no one wants it to be their kid) Then comes the Christmas concert and the juggling of the timetable and everyone is out of routine. While it is supposed to be a joyous time of the year, in fact it is one of the most stressful. As the principal I try to hold everyone up while calming everyone down.

So in order to de-stress this is what I have done so far this Christmas:

• Shopped and bought gifts for the entire family
• Shopped and bought groceries for two family Christmases
• Celebrated the Olympic Torch arrival with the rest of the city!
• Picked up Jennifer at Queen’s (8 hour drive…..got stuck in Toronto pre-Christmas 5 o’clock traffic on the way back)
• Cleaned the whole house in preparation for Christmas company
• Entertained my parents for three days
• Hosted the McKelvie family on Christmas Day
• Hosted the Tromanhauser family on Boxing Day
• Posted all of my Christmas pictures to Facebook ensuring our “Creepy” Santa was in every shot
• Cleaned the whole house after the Christmas mess
• Had a great lunch with the neighbours up stairs
• Took Jennifer back to Queens (traffic good, made it in 6 ½ hours)
• Went on early morning walks most days (OK, not that early but considering it was holidays, anytime before noon is early)
• Watched the entire Season Four of Dexter in two days…..OMG!! What an ending!!
• Lunch with my friend Dianne
• Open house with the upstairs neighbours
• Prepared for our New Year’s party

Somewhere in there I also got word from editors of two different magazines for some freelance work I had pitched ideas. So now I have to make time to actually do some interviews and write some articles.

I’m tired.

OK, the most important thing here…..and yes, I am looking forward to some responses!

What did you think of the ending of Dexter?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Decor

It has been quite some time since I have posted. It is because of so many reasons. School got incredibly busy with report cards, Christmas concerts and assorted things. We painted the entire place. And………..Greg has moved back home!

But the real reason for not posting is procrastination.

So I am back.

As I have mentioned before, my husband and I recently downsized from a large two-story 4-bedroom house to a small condo. We had to get rid of so much stuff. One of the things I got rid of in the move was all of our Christmas decorations. Over the last few years I have come to detest Christmas. To me it had become just extra work, more expense and too much stress in trying to make everyone happy. It felt good to get rid of all of those decorations collected over the years.

This year I am starting to get the Christmas spirit back. I don’t feel so rushed and I no longer feel the pressure to make it a perfect Christmas for everyone. The kids are now grown, they can take care of themselves……..and they do!!

So this year we got a real tree. I bought new decorations for the whole place. One item I picked up was a little white Santa Claus. I bought it because I thought he would look perfect in front of our fireplace.

As soon as I took him out of the box Terry asked me why I bought a “Gandalf”. Not being a fan of The Lord of the Rings I had to have him explain exactly who Gandalf was. I was not amused.

A few hours later, Greg came home. The first thing he asked was why did I have a statue of Gandalf?

The icing on the cake was a conversation with Jennifer. She was telling me one of the Jessicas enjoys looking at my facebook pictures but wanted to know why I had a creepy looking Santa in all of the Christmas pictures.

So……..in my excitement to bring back the Christmas spirit into my life did I rush in my selection of Santa décor? Is my white Santa really that creepy? Is he really a tribute to a fantasy series which I never enjoyed?

What do you think?????

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vote for me........2189 times

Through Facebook I have reconnected with a classmate from high school. (His mother was my kindergarten teacher) I was very excited for him when I discovered through one of his postings he had been selected as a torch bearer for the Olympic Torch Relay. When I contacted him to discover how/why he was given such an honour he told me it was because he entered a contest. You know, the same contest I saw advertised by Coca-Cola for months but I never entered because I thought no one “real” ever wins those things. I was happy for my old acquaintance to have the opportunity to be part of the Olympic Games but at the same time I was kicking myself I didn’t enter the contest.

Then along came another contest. The Globe and Mail Journalism Dream contest. Enter an article about sports and you can win a trip as part of the Globe editorial team at the Olympics. It was designed just for me! I have always dreamed of being a journalist and I have always dreamed of going to the Olympics!

So I submitted my 500 word maximum article regarding sports and I completed the entry form and ta-da! I am officially entered in the contest. Now I just have to wait and get enough votes to win.

Currently the article in the lead has about 2200 votes………I have 11.

Originally I thought I would coerce my friends and family through facebook to log on and vote for me. A few kind souls did so and I truly appreciate their support. However, the gap between first place and my eleven votes I have to admit is probably insurmountable. I waffle between giving up or being obnoxious. Being obnoxious would mean wielding my authority as principal and having staff and students at my school log onto the computer lab each day and vote for me. Not only would that be obnoxious but I fear it would unethical as well. I am just going to leave it to fate and hope I get a few more votes.

OK………I will try one more time………shameless promotion! Just cut and paste the link below and vote.......one vote every day!


Only 2189 votes to go!!!

Just think………if I actually did win I could hang out with City Wendy in Vancouver during the Olympics and keep her company while Drew worked!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hockey Mom Deja Vu

I popped into the local arena last week-end. As soon as I opened the door the smell of artificial ice, stale hockey equipment and concession stand hotdogs evoked strong memories of my time as a hockey Mom.

I was at the rink to visit my cousin who was in town for a hockey tournament. As I sat with the other parents, I had a whole new perspective. It was déjà vu. Suddenly I was an impartial observer looking down at a big chunk of my past life.

Both my son and daughter played travel hockey. This meant ink-filled calendars identifying practice and game times, not to mention the fund-raisers, additional power skating sessions and of course the social aspects of the team. I believe the organizational and administrative skills of hockey moms can challenge those of any C.E.O.s of a major corporation.

As I sat in the bleachers with my cousin, I flash-backed to those years I was an active hockey mom. I heard the cheering for the goals for and the disappointment for the goals against. I also heard like I did so many years ago, the quiet whispers when a player made a mistake and of course the running commentary of how the coach should be doing his job. Between games there was also gentle kidding about the escapades in the hotel the night before. There is still disdain towards the parent who allows swimming prior to the game. Everyone believes all energy must be saved for the big game. I wanted to step in and tell these parents they are taking it too seriously. I realize now ten year old kids have energy for an afternoon swim, an early evening hockey game and post-game pizza party at night. I wanted them to learn from my experiences. I wanted to shout from the arena rafters it doesn’t really matter. Just let the kids have fun! I decided to keep it to myself. Hockey lessons, like most important life lessons, need to be learned through experience.

The unspoken thing is everyone dreams their kid is going to be the one. While parents know deep down the odds of making the NHL are greater than hitting the lottery, every hockey parent has spent at least a minute or two thinking somehow it might just happen, or at the very least their child will make the select team.

While the dreams of making the NHL never came to pass for my family I feel we have hit the hockey lottery. My daughter still plays pick up hockey with her university friends and my husband and son just headed out the door to play with their men’s league team. After the game they will probably stop and share a beer together while they tell each lies about how well they played. While in hindsight I would have taken my hockey mom duties less seriously, I wouldn’t have given up a minute of the time our family spent together.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Real Americans

Today I returned from a two day trip to the United States. My girlfriend and I went to the Seneca Allegany Casino resort where we spent a bit of time in the casino and enjoyed a great “Tragically Hip” concert. Of course I also met quite a few Americans.

Everybody makes fun of me because I will talk to anyone and I ask too many questions. I think I am just constantly quenching my thirst for knowledge……and OK, I admit I am really nosy!

One gentleman I met while outside during a break in the concert happened to be a manager of a Wal-Mart outside of Buffalo. (Near the Military Road Outlet Mall) I mentioned to him the peopleofwalmart website I wrote about in a recent post. He said he had seen the site and confirmed there really are people like that in all of the Wal-Marts across the country. He said there are 20 million transactions a day in Wal-Marts in America and a small percentage of each transaction are going to be by people who have questionable taste.

In the quest for more answers I asked a couple I met from Pittsburgh if they had seen the peopleofwalmart site. It must be a very popular site because indeed they knew all about it. They confirmed there really were Americans like that ……but they were all in places like Florida!

So while we may not always agree on American politics or policies, I can say the majority of Americans I met on this last little jaunt were friendly and pleasant. I met a wide array of Americans I am sure you will find in any culture. Although the girl who kept doing belly shots at the bar is a one in a million. By the way……we didn’t win anything at the casino …..except great memories.

Now my question is, why are so many people convinced they are going to win at the casino when the odds are so stacked against them?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Will the Real American Please Stand Up?

As Canadians we are inundated with American media all of the time. The images on television make the American lifestyle seem glamorous and carefree. But does reality match what we see on TV?

My new blog friend Ed put me on to a very interesting website, www.peopleofwalmart.com I shared it with Terry. He was on the site for hours. He couldn’t take his eyes off of it in amazement. You really have to check it out yourself as no words can adequately describe.

On Thursday I am heading south of the border (I mean the United States not Mexico). We are staying at the Seneca Alleghany Casino. I thought I would research and check out the place a little before I went. I am so glad I did. It is License to Thrill week! If I bring my hunting or fishing license with me I will have a chance to win 100 Seneca Slot Dollars! I wonder if my driver’s license will do?

Such a dichotomy is the United States of America.

My favourite youngest daughter just returned from New York City where she visited the MoMA and the Guggenheim. She window shopped along Fifth Avenue and actually shopped Canal Street. She went to a Broadway show and almost made it to David Letterman (stand by ticket #7 but only six available seats)

So, which is the real America? The one we see on Entertainment Tonight? Or is Wal-Mart where real Americans are hiding? And if so, how do the America media hide such a dirty secret? I can see how MSNBC might not air such a thing but I was sure it would be something Geraldo on Fox News would surely leak out.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Date Night

Pre-empty nesting our social life was controlled by the kids.

Greg played travel hockey and we got to know all of his team mates and parents. For about ten hockey seasons we hung out with these people pre-game, during the game, post-game and of course there were all of the out of town hockey tournaments and hotel-room fun. Summer was soccer games and rowing regattas with Kaitlin. Jen kept us busy just keeping up with her friends and her travel. Now the kids are all independent and out of the house, we are not needed for our taxi-service or our cheer-leading. Suddenly Terry and I finally had time to spend together. For quite some time spending time together meant staying at home on the couch recuperating from all of those years of trying to keep up with the kids.

We soon realized we were in a rut.

We decided to spice things up with “Date Night.” So unoriginal I know but it really worked. We have done lots of interesting things and lots of things not so interesting but at least we are together. The premise is we alternate weeks planning something to do. I scour the newspaper for anything promising. Sometimes it has to be kept a secret or I know Terry will find an excuse not to go. If he had known ahead of time about our trip to the library, I know he would have stayed home. It turned out to be one of his favourite stories to tell. Terry has learned when it is his turn to plan we need to start out early or I will be too tired and will wimp out.

So far we have spent lots of time walking the pier of Port Dalhousie and eating out at Scorecard Harry’s. We have gone to the theatre, lectures, hikes, and once even a hot air balloon ride. While we spend time together we also meet lots of interesting people. Last night was no exception.

We headed out to join the Haunted Pub Crawl of Port Dalhousie. We started at Port Mansion where we met our other group mates. Kerry was fabulous as our group leader making sure we got to the right place at the right time and more importantly, provided us with tickets for our food and drinks. The pub crawl consisted of touring six restaurants/bars in Port Dalhousie where we were greeted at the door with glasses of beer, shots, and a food speciality of the house. At one place we even had pumpkin beer. While I probably wouldn’t order again, it did put some “spice” in the evening. Each shot had a spooky Halloween name but tasted just fine.

Our group started out very quiet and polite but at each pub the crowd got louder and friendlier. We had a great time until near the end when one our new best friends suggested we could be facebook friends and no one else would need to know. His pimp outfit hadn’t creeped me out earlier but his line and the look he gave me certainly did. The creepiness was confirmed when I found out he said something similar but even more blunt to my friend Diane…..all this while his girlfriend was in the washroom.

Other than the creep, we had a great time and another story to tell.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

According to Wikipedia (the ultimate source) a guilty pleasure is “something one considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it Often, the "guilt" involved is simply fear of others discovering one's lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes, rather than actual moral guilt.”

Here is my top ten list of guilty pleasures:

1. Staying in my pajamas all day.
2. Eating chips and dip without anyone watching (no judging, no sharing)
3. Sunday night during the summer…….no setting the alarm….no work in the morning
4. Reading a trashy novel until it’s finished
5. Not wearing a bra
6. Re-telling a good rumour about someone who mistreated me.
7. Teaching kids an important lesson without actually covering a “Ministry Expectation”
8. Watching Fox news……..it’s like an accident, you know your shouldn’t be slowing to look but you just can’t help but watch the spectacle
9. Wearing jeans to work even if it’s not “Dress Down Day”
10. Creeping through Facebook and finding out your kids did OK

Are there any I missed?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Life's Questions

1. With all of the channels we get now, why is there never anything good on TV?

2. Why IS the grass green over there?

3. Why does time fly when you are having fun?

4. Why do my daughters say I sound like grandma even though when I was fifteen I vowed I never would?

5. Why are the attributes I was most attracted to when I first met my husband the most annoying ones now?

6. Why are we so kind and patient to strangers but the people we love the most – not so much?

7. If the seasons are all about the same number of weeks, why does winter seem so long?

8. Will I get arrested if I take that itchy tag off of my pillow?

9. Is there a gene we get at birth determining if we are a cat or a dog person?

10. When you are doing the laundry, where DO all of those socks go?

Anyone out there have any insights to some of these questions? Any questions you are currently pondering?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Glory Days

As an elementary school principal I often have to intervene when children feel they are being bullied. An unkind comment, not being invited to the “cool kid’s” birthday party, these are monumental moments in the life of a kid. To make them feel better I often try to explain to kids my philosophy of “Glory Days”. I don’t think there is a single kid so far that has ever understood what I am talking about but they often nod and say they do so I will stop talking and they can just go back to class.

I am going to try my Glory Days theory here:

When I was in high school I was very aware I was not in the popular group. I had plenty of friends and an active social life but I was not Cheryl. I distinctly remember Cheryl roller skating around the rink with her peroxide bleached hair. I thought she was so cool. If only I could be like her. (My mother would have killed me if I had tried that peroxide stuff on my hair)

After high school graduation I went off to university and was living the life of a poor student. When I went home for vacation Cheryl wasn’t in school she was already making real money as a teller at the bank. She wore cool clothes. Then I found out she married Sean (cool Sean) and they had their own apartment! I thought Cheryl had it all.

As time went on, I finished university, started my teaching career, had children and went back to visit my hometown. I ended up in the bank and there she was .......Cheryl! She looked exactly the same. I mean exactly! Years later she was still a teller, still looking like she did in high school. Then my theory hit me! Glory Days! Yes Cheryl had a very cool high school career, those were her Glory Days, but she had peaked! It was never going to get any better for her.

So I wasn’t a cool kid in high school. I wasn't and never will be a cool kid. I have a good life but I am still waiting to peak.While some people are sitting around reminiscing about Glory Days like in the Springsteen song, I am busy living my life knowing my Glory Days are still on the way.

As for Cheryl, I am sure her life is just fine. It just suits my theory, and my ego, to think her life was over when the peroxide lost its luster and her roots started to show.

And for the record, I had this theory long before Bruce Springsteen stole my idea for that song!!

Just one question………..how will I know when I have peaked????

Friday, October 23, 2009

Computer Addiction?????

In the last several posts I have been reminiscing about days gone past. I don’t believe they were necessarily the “good old days,” just different days. The last 24 hours has emphasized to me just how different they are.

My computer crashed.

For a 24-hour period, I didn’t have access to my lap top. No checking email randomly, no facebook, no googling. I had to resort to using pen and the newspaper to complete my daily crossword and Soduko.
After re-reading this paragraph I just realized how pathetic my life sounds.....I really don't think my life is that bad....is it???

When I was in university the common theme throughout many of my courses was we were on a new path. Computers were on their way in and they were going to change the world. Recreation and Leisure were the new courses to take because there was going to be lots of leisure time in our future thanks to computers doing our work. A 40 hour work week was going to be gone, replaced with lots of time off and no mundane tasks.
Computers during my university days were monstrous things, filling rooms. In one course we had to complete “Fortran” cards for an assignment. Each punch card represented one command for the computer. If one keystroke was wrong, the whole thing wouldn’t work. I still typed my essays on a typewriter. If you made a typo the best thing you could do was use “white-out” (White out was invented by the mother of the one of the Monkees but I digress….) My daughters could not imagine completing a university course without a computer. Wikipedia is step number one in research. They don’t even have to enter the library doors.

Going back to my 24 hour computer free dilemma…..

I realized how addicted I truly am to the computer. I was going crazy because I couldn’t immediately google something that came to my mind.

This morning I got up early to take my computer to the school board techie place. Within 20 minutes my hard drive was replaced and I was up and running like new.
I am back in business…..my world is under control once again. Yes, I can transfer the money Jennifer is waiting for.......

Is this computer thing truly an addiction or am I just part of the new world?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Women’s Liberation

Growing up as a kid in the sixties and seventies I was given many mixed messages which I am still confused about today.

As written in an earlier post, my up-bringing was very much “Leave It To Beaver.” My parents had very traditional roles. My father was the bread-earner accountant and my mother was the great cook and perfect hostess home maker. In a lot of ways I even took on the role of the “Beav”……remember the episode when Beaver decided to cut his own hair and kept cutting to fix it? Yup, been there, done that.

All around me were the traditional roles, but in the media were bits of pieces of news such as women’s lib and burning bras. Gloria Steinem was a name I was curious about. There were even Virginia Slim cigarette ads. “You’ve Come A Long Way Baby!” (Although they weren’t for sale in Canada) The hit song on the radio was Helen Reddy “I Am Women Hear Me Roar.”

There was never any discussion about my education. My parents expected I was going to university. I was not to even “settle” for a community college education. It was assumed I was going to graduate with a degree. I was always told I could do whatever I wanted with my life..... as long as it was a nurse or a teacher or some other traditional female role. In grade 13 (yes we had grade 13 in those days), ater taking my first flying lesson, I got up the nerve to confide to my high school guidance counsellor I wanted to be an airline pilot. He politely, but matter of factly, told me girls could not be pilots. It was 1978. I believed him.

Off to university I went to get my B.A. I went to Wilfrid Laurier in Waterloo. My friends and I laughed at the girls who went off to Western or Queens to earn their MRS degrees. (Western and Queens Universities were reputed to be the best place to meet rich husbands) I had no desire to even think about such things. I wanted to be different. I wanted to be independent. I wanted to do something unique.

About to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree, (double majors of history and sociology and a minor in physical education) I realized I wasn’t really qualified to be anything. I panicked. So I applied to teacher’s college (they call it the Faculty of Education now) thinking at least I would “be” something within the year. I also decided to get married.

What was I thinking???

On the eve before my wedding, my mother took me aside. I was cringing as I thought it was going to be “the talk”. I guess it was. My mother flatly told me, “I hope you are going to teach a few years before you decide to have children. We spent a lot of money on your education and we would hate to see it wasted.”

Hmmmmm…..Women’s Liberation all around me, but what did it really mean?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Count Down

The radio station we enjoy at the cottage is called “The Moose”. This is an appropriate name for a station geared for an audience of Canadians in cottage country. For the long week-end The Moose decided to play the top 100 songs of all time. Jennifer and I enjoyed ourselves by quizzing each other on the name of the band/singer etc. We also agreed to disagree about the choices of songs. Not sure who got to ultimately decide on the ranking of these songs but we did enjoy most of the song selection for the week-end.

Jennifer also told me her plan for my Christmas present. She is going to download a whole bunch of songs for my ipod. I am too technically inept to figure it out myself. I have Jen’s old ipod with over 3000 songs of Jen’s taste, certainly not my taste. She is into Little Wayne and Lady Gaga. The thing holding Jen back on her project is she doesn’t know what songs I do like. I decided to help her by making my own list of top songs:

-I Gotta Feeling (The Black Eyed Peas)
-Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
-Yesterday (The Beatles)
-The Weight (The Band)
-Complicated (Avril Lavigne)
-Hotel California (The Eagles)
-Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)
-Hit Me Baby One More Time (Britney Spears)
-Running With the Devil (Van Halen)
-Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac)
-Bennie and the Jets (Elton John)
-I Want to be Sedated (The Ramones)
-Rock Lobster (B52’s)
-Mack the Knife (Bobby Darrin)
-Last Kiss (the one from the one hit wonder band of the 70’s)
-Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)
-Dancing Queen (ABBA)
-Save the Last Dance for Me (The Drifters)
-Should I Stay or Should I Go? (The Clash)
-Highway to Hell (AC/DC)
-Hallelujeh (not sure which version I like best…..???)
-How You Remind Me (Nickelback)
-Going to the Chapel
-Wake Up Little Susie (The Everly Brothers)
-Alison (Elvis Costello)
-Spirit in the Sky (Norman Greenbaum)
-Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney)
-Runaround Sue (Dion)
-The Locomotion (Little Eva)
-Tiny Dancer (Elton John)
-Piano Man (Billy Joel)
-White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane)
-Under the Boardwalk (The Drifters)
-Since You Been Gone (Kelly Clarkson)
-A bunch of Back Street Boys

-The whole Jagged Little Pill CD

-A couple of Ace of Bass songs I don't the know the names

-A Joe Walsh Song (with the words “Sometimes I stay at parties ‘til four, it’s hard to leave when you can’t find the door”)

So many, many more I like, I just don’t know the name or the name of the band/singer

I always like songs when I know all the words and can sing along

This list is not in any particular order, just random songs I thought I might like on my ipod.. but, I realize I don’t have anything really “Hip and Now”….

HELP….I need suggestions! Please add to my list………

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Complaint Free World

At the beginning of the school year I gave every student and staff member a purple bracelet. The concept was to wear the bracelet on your right wrist, but if you catch yourself complaining, you must move it to your left wrist. I got the idea from a story I saw one Sunday morning on CBC. It was started by a minister of a small church somewhere in the southern states. They have distributed millions of bracelets world wide..

The premise is:

If you don’t like something, change it
If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
Don’t complain.

Something about our little campaign has really caught on. I put a small article in the school newsletter and someone at the board office picked up on it and sent it out to the community. We have been interviewed on the Hamilton TV station and this morning on the St. Catharines radio station. It is amazing how many people watch/listen to local media. We are becoming stars.

A no complaint school is a very simple concept, making a big impact. The complaining has lessened but sometimes continues. When it does I hold my wrist up like Wonder Women to deflect all complaints. By pointing to my purple bracelet the conversation switches from whining to positive problem solving. We have created a positive school climate which makes a great place to go to school or work.

If you are interested in creating a complaint free world where you live or work check out http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org/

Any complaints?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Footwear is Changing

The docks are put away. The water has been drained. The cottage is closed.

I woke up this morning and there was snow on the ground.

I went up to the cottage this week-end to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family. I packed everything I needed for our turkey feast. The only thing I forgot was proper footwear. I wore a pair of sandals up to the cottage and had nothing else to put on my feet. Who knew there was going to be snow on the ground?

It is official. Tomorrow I will put all of my flip flops to the back of the closet. I will pull out my socks and boots….maybe even shoes with laces. I really don’t like bending over to tie up laces. So much wasted time.

I love flip flops. Are there any wardrobe benefits to winter?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

This Job Never Ends

For those who didn’t get the memo, my husband and I are empty-nesters. That means after 20+ years of raising three children we have pushed them out of the nest and we are finally on our own. Two out of three of our children are living on their own nearby….in the town next door. Thorold is a small city where 20-somethings can actually afford to live. Our youngest however is away at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. It is a very prestigious school, and I am very proud to say my daughter goes there.

As mentioned earlier, it is Thanksgiving this week-end. One tradition of Thanksgiving is that it is the first week-end of the academic year when university students return home to reconnect with their parents.

As pre-arranged through Facebook, I picked up Jen at the bus station right after work tonight. She immediately jumped in the car and after a quick “Hi!” informed me someone had stolen her iphone. Her iphone is her only form of communication with the outside world and is her lifeline. After a few minutes of rambling, I realized it wasn’t stolen; Jen had left the phone in the cab on the way to the bus station in Kingston. It reminded me of the primary kids at school who say someone stole their pencil when in fact the missing item is on the floor under their desk.

Regardless of the reason why, the iphone is now gone and suddenly, as the mother, I am stressed about how to solve this problem.

Gee…..two months since I have seen Jen……a six hour bus ride to get here…..30 seconds before I am back in Mother role…..wish me well this week-end.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Canadian Thanksgiving

This week-end is the final long week-end of our cottage season. While generations ago it was Labour Day that signified the closing of the cottage, now it is generally Thanksgiving week-end most people do the dreaded closing up activities.

This week-end we have once again invited Terry’s family for our annual feast. While we do this because we actually enjoy each other’s company, the thing I am most thankful for is the fact Terry’s sisters enjoy a lot of the cottage tasks I find just plain work. I relegate myself to the kitchen to appear useful, but more importantly I keep busy in the kitchen just to stay out of the way.

The main job needing done at the cottage on Thanksgiving week-end is taking out the docks. This isn’t necessarily a difficult job but it does require some team work. In spite of being married to Terry for 17 years, I still can’t read his mind. In spite of being told this fact for 17 years, Terry still believes I can read his mind. This often results in friction as he tells me to get a certain tool or hold the dock a certain way and I am supposed to know what he really means. Nevertheless, Terry and his sisters seem to have a way to communicate in order to get these jobs done in a peaceful, if not often comical manner. This must be a blood is thicker than water type of thing.

Our thanksgiving feast will include the traditional turkey and stuffing and gravy and potatoes and veggies and pumpkin pie and of course the wine and beer and cottage snacks. It is definitely not the week-end to kick start the diet.

My American readers may think it strange we are having our Thanksgiving so early. I often wondered why we Canadians celebrate in October while our neighbours south of us wait until November. I decided to Google it and was fascinated with the results. It turns out Canadians were the first North Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving! Who knew?

If you Google it yourself you will discover all of the details. But basically the first Thanksgiving was in 1578 by Martin Frobisher to celebrate his safe arrival back home from trying to find the Northern Passage to the Pacific Ocean. (Global warming…sorry climate change….is making safe passage through the Arctic a reality now…. but once again I digress.) In Canada Thanksgiving has been celebrated every year since but often for a variety of celebratory reasons and the date was all over the place. Canadian Parliament actually nailed down the date to the 2nd Monday in October in 1957.

I personally believe it was a teacher that picked the October date. Right about now teaching staff (and kids) are in need of a break. We have got our routines back in place, but the bloom is off the rose, the honeymoon is over, etc etc. It is time to enjoy a day off before the snow arrives!

Americans and Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving differently. We don’t watch football and we don’t shop. Canadians are much more focused. We eat!!! Oh…and drink our beer (there is no question our beer is better) The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is at the cottage, with the foliage peaking in colour, but it is still warm enough to sit on the soon to be brought in dock with a beer in your hand…now that is Canadian!

By the way…..how do I break the news to my American friends it was a Canadian who invented basketball?

Note: By coincidence, it turns out one of our managers at the board office is now dating the brother of the couple who live across our lake (No, Canada isn’t really that small… it is quite a coincidence) Anyway….thank you Lana for taking a picture or our cottage last week-end. It shows our little white cottage surrounded by the beautiful foliage….hasn’t peaked yet….hoping it will be this week-end.

A Flower Child I Was Not

Being born in 1961, my most vivid childhood memories are of the late 60’s and early 70’s. When I went looking for a Google image to post with my blog, my search led me to very psychedelic looking things. It was considered to be the age of Flower Children, LSD, making love not war. It actual fact, growing up in Owen Sound, Ontario during that time was more like Leave it to Beaver. The biggest rebellion going on in my household was my brother’s desire to wear his hair a little bit below his ears. I do remember every time I visited my grandfather he would give my brother 25 cents to get a hair cut!

I also remember a variety of other moments:

Shopping: The only place to shop was “down town.” There was no mall. We parked on the street, put a nickel in the parking meter and walked up and down the street to buy our needed items. And they were needed items. Shopping was not a past time, it was a chore. If it was a day when my mother didn’t have the car we took the bus which came every hour on the hour. Because we couldn’t bring a bunch of groceries on the bus, the grocery store would delivery them to our house. My grandmother even just called the store and told them what she wanted and they would bring them to her door and sometimes even helped her put the groceries away.

This never happened on a Wednesday afternoon. Stores were closed then to make up for the fact they were open on Saturday mornings. The banks closed each day at 3:00 pm. We were strictly a cash society so we had to plan our purchases around having the money out of the bank and into our wallet. There were no ATMs or debit cards. My mother did have a credit card that she was only allowed to use sparingly. It was a Chargex Card. "Will that be Cash or Chargex?" The company eventually changed the name to VISA.

Playtime: Often my mother would kick us out of the house. We would get in the way of her cleaning the house, which was her job. We didn’t call Family and Children Services, we just joined all of the other kids in the neighbourhood who had been kicked out of their houses as well. We spent the entire day outside just doing stuff. Mostly we explored in the woods a block away that is now filled with houses. We built forts. We wandered. To be honest I can’t remember exactly what we did all day. My brother played endless games of baseball in the warm months and endless games of road hockey in the cold months. Without a watch, we always knew when lunch and supper were ready. After supper we often had a neighbourhood game of “Kick the Can.” The game was always over when the streetlights came on. We knew every kid in the neighbourhood five years older and five years younger.

I was five when we first moved into the new house I spent the rest of my childhood. Our new house was built on the vacant lot where all the kids had played ball. The first thing I remember was my new best friend Donna Macdonald telling me my family took their play lot away. We soon found another lot to play on until several years later a church was built there. By then we were in senior elementary school so we were too cool to go outside and play any more. We just went on bike rides instead. We always ended up in a different neighbourhood where Donna’s cute boy of the month (or week) lived.

School: School was our job. My parents did not give us chores. Our job was to do well in school, no exceptions. I never got in trouble at school, because I just didn’t. It was unsaid, it was not acceptable to talk back or misbehave. My parents ALWAYS agreed with the teacher. I didn't find out until just recently they actually didn’t always agree, but they certainly had my brother and I convinced they did.

Snacks: At school there was no snack time like there is today. For some time now it is expected we provide class-time for students to have morning and afternoon snack. When I first started teaching, kids had snacks with them, but ate outside. Now, because of garbage concerns, and so many kids with bee sting and food allergies, we don’t allow the kids to eat outside. Back in the day, when I was a kid (God, I’m sounding soooo old) we didn’t have snacks. We ate breakfast, lunch and supper. All meals were made by mother at home, and we ate them together with the whole family. Always. We never stayed at school for lunch. I walked home each day. Some days my mother would give me a quarter to stop at the store to buy bread. The bread cost 23 cents and I was allowed to keep the 2 cents change to buy candy. That was a real treat as that two cents would give me a little brown bag full of penny candy.

Food: TV dinners were considered a big treat. They were only for those very rare times my parents were not at home and we had a babysitter. Pop and chips were only for company. I distinctly remember a roast every Sunday night. In the winter this was always after my brother’s hockey game. While we ate the roast, my father gave my brother a play by play recap of the game along with “advice.” I took piano lessons….my father never had advice for me.

TV: Leave it to Beaver was a re-run I watched every school day at lunch time. As soon as it was over I knew I had to start running to get back to school on time. Later it was changed to I Love Lucy re-runs. My brother and I held Friday night sacred for TV watching. It was Batman and Get Smart. It wasn’t until many years later I discovered they were comedies. I took both shows very seriously. The Flintstones was the first show I ever saw in colour. I vividly remember that moment at Judy Cunningham’s house. On those few evenings there was a babysitter, she would let me stay up late to watch “The FBI”. That was when I learned the word “Epilogue.” They showed this word on the screen prior to the last scene of the episode. Whenever I hear the word epilogue being used, I always remember the baby sitter and "The FBI". I also vaguely remember being at my aunt’s house on a Sunday night watching the Ed Sullivan Show. There was some strange group called the Rolling Stones playing. All of the adults in the room were disgusted by their long hair……

I am beginning to see a common thread through all of this. We were obsessed with hair in the late sixties.!Maybe I should write a Broadway play about it......

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Growing Up In Mad Men Times

I have been home sick a few days. As I have been telling anyone who asks, and lots of people who haven’t asked, I feel like I got hit by a truck. Just the flu, which I am sure, will pass in a day or two, but I haven’t been able to go to work. One reason, because I haven’t been able to actually get out of bed, and the other reason, I don’t want to spread any of these flu germs around. It is OK if the principal doesn’t make it to school (no one will notice) but if the teachers don’t show up, them we have problems!

One thing I have accomplished since being home is a Mad Men marathon. Terry was able to find the first six episodes of season three on-line so I can catch up….even though we don’t get Mad Men in Canada any more…….

There have been so many scenes in Mad Men that suddenly bring back flashes of memories from my childhood. I got to thinking, (thanks fellow blogger Ed for the idea) to list things from my childhood that seemed so normal and yet in today’s society we would never do. It’s funny how my generation ever grew up at all without all the rules we now have in place.

Seat Belts: No seat belts in our cars. Well, eventually there were seat belts but only Donna McDonald's mother made us use them. Usually on long car rides my brother and I would fight about who got to lie down in the back window part.

Recyling: There was a scene in Mad Men where the Draper family goes on a picnic and afterwards the clean up is throwing all of the garbage away into the trees. I remember actually doing this! That was before the term “litter bug” came into our consciousness.

The Family Television: Growing up we had one TV in our living room. Another thing my brother and I would fight over was what channel to watch (there were only four or five channels at the time) I remember buying our first colour TV. It was a big wooden console colour TV. It was a huge deal since it was the first time I remember my mother going ahead and doing something my father didn’t like. He couldn’t understand why we had to have a colour TV since most of the shows were still in black and white anyway. When we finally did get our new TV we sold our old one to someone up the street. Why would any family own more than one TV?

Dresses: It wasn’t until grade seven I was allowed to wear pants to school. All girls had to wear dresses. Going to school in Canada made it very cold on the legs some days. Our principal relented one year and did allow us to wear pants to school under our dresses as long as we took the pants off when we arrived. In grade six, “pant suits” were all the rage. We were allowed to wear pant suits as long as the top part was long enough it could be worn as a dress. In grade seven we graduated to a senior elementary school and we were allowed to wear jeans. I still didn't wear jeans however since my mother thought only “those kind of girls” wore denim.

Smoking: While watching Mad Men, sometimes I want to start coughing. I do recall however life was really like that. Everybody smoked. Even when I started teaching, there was the smoke-filled staff room. Now smokers aren’t allowed to smoke anywhere except outside. The smoker’s circles are getting smaller and they certainly aren’t the cool group anymore. My mother smoked until 1970. That was the year her brother died of cancer.

Stay at Home Moms: When I was a kid there weren’t any “stay at home moms.” All moms just stayed at home. They didn’t have a title. They were just Moms. My mother didn’t go anywhere because she didn’t have a car. On Thursdays she would drive my Dad to work so she could have the car to buy groceries and go around and pay the bills. No on-line bill paying back then. No two car families. Eventually my mother even starting curling on Thursdays. That was once my brother and I were in high school and we didn’t need her at home. In my circle of friends, I only know one Mom who was a “stay-at-home Mom” She is working now because her husband left her. She is financially in dire straights as she doesn’t have the education and/or skills to have a higher paying job. At times she is very bitter that her husband “put her in this position” as she says. The thought has never occurred to me to rely on a man financially. (maybe to open tight jars, but not for finances)

Breast Feeding: Betty had her baby in my recent Mad Men marathon. At the hospital she was asked if she was going to breast-feed. She replied no and that was the end of it. When I had my children (in the late ‘80’s) I said I wasn’t going to breast feed and I had to literally listen to an hour lecture from a nurse about the benefits of breast feeding. I wanted to bottle feed because I was going back to work and I figured feeding this child was going to be a 50-50 proposition. (that didn’t exactly work out, but that is for another day) The Mad Men episode also relegated the men to the waiting room while the mom’s delivered the babies in a drug-induced haze. Times have certainly changed there.

I thought this was going to be a brief list of funny things but as I started writing I can how it turned out to be an essay on societal changes. Sorry for the seriousness of it all. As my daughter often tells me “Times change Mom” (that would be said with a tone of disgust on her part, because I obviously just don’t “get it”)

Does anybody out there have any memories of childhood that would seem outrageous now?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wanted: Balance in Life

I have finished two very busy, but uneventful weeks back at school. Uneventful is a very good thing. The first day of school the bell rang, the kids filed into the hallway and everyone found their class, had a desk and the teachers started teaching. Everything was the way it was supposed to be. In spite of the fact things are going smoothly, I am still busy all day long and find myself too exhausted each night to do anything productive. I hope this is just the usual “beginning of the school year” tiredness.

I must admit I probably spend too much time at night “surfing”. I am very intrigued by some blogs out there! I feel I have made a new friend in Ed from Germany but I feel like a stalker checking up on his daughter “City Wendy.” I also check up on the weather each day through Jennifer in cottage country. The exciting part of my life is actually reading about the excitement of their life!!

I can’t really complain (and shouldn’t as I am currently living and working in a complaint-free zone, but that’s another blog entry for another day). My summer was really busy and as my facebook documents, I have the photos to prove I had a great time. I need to get out of my rut I get into each year in that my job takes over my life. I need to keep a balance. I want to get fit again. I want to start writing again. I want to socialize again. I even want to spend time with hubby……I mean time we actually converse with each other.

Any suggestions out there, short of retirement, to help me stop letting school become the only facet of my life?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sex And The Cottage

It is a beautiful day at the cottage. The weather predicted all week has finally emerged. Sun is shining, water glistening and we are even wearing shorts and a T-shirt with no fleece anywhere to be found! Finally summer at the cottage…………..although it is Labour Day week-end not Victoria Day week-end.

My son Greg and hubby Terry are outside doing manly things. They have chopped and stacked wood. They have moved all of the tools around in the tool shed (or the studio I call it when I want to annoy Terry). They have used the pellet gun to shoot at pop bottles hanging from the trees. All of this is done while they “stoke” the fire in the fire pit. Now they have headed out on the boat to go fishing.

I am working on my laptop in between reading the paper, doing the crosswords and watching the family of ducks swim across the lake.

There are definite differences in how the sexes spend time at the cottage. (sorry if my title mislead some of you in reading this blog entry)

Are there any other differences in the sexes at the cottage? Is this a Canadian thing Ed?

Saturday, September 5, 2009


We are at the cottage again for the Labour long-week-end.

All week-end long the newscasts have stated over and over what fabulous weather we are having and how much better it is supposed to be for the week-end. In spite of the fact I still have lots of things to do in preparation for the first day of school on Tuesday, I am in the cottage looking at a cloud covered lake, listening to my husband and son cut up trees for fire wood with the chain saw. They think they are being very macho. I think they are being very loud. I am busy typing up my “School Improvement Plan” which needs to be ready for discussion with my superintendent.

Do I sound annoyed? I hope so, because I am.

OK…..I am jealous. Jealous of all those people out there who are retired and have an endless summer…………

My time will come…..2190 days…….

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer is Winding Down

Yesterday I officially went back to work. It was a workshop for administrators on the “Immunity to Change” I actually enjoyed it as we were walked through a process in identifying a goal and then how to create a plan to achieve the goal. It sounds quite simple but it was actually very deep……more on that at a future date I am sure as I “muse” on it for a while.

I have been quite frustrated this past week as I realize the summer is coming to an end and I haven’t had a chance to do what I really wanted to do this summer…..rest! I have been so busy hosting guests at the cottage, arranging the “reno” at the condo and lunching and meeting friends I am exhausted! But it is a good exhaustion.

Last night Terry and I finalized our purchase of new living room furniture which is arriving next week. We still need to paint the place and while I have the painter all lined up I have yet to decide on the colour of paint. I hope once we have the new furniture in place I will be inspired to select a colour. We had problems with the installation of our new counter. They left holes in the wall and there is an issue with the installation of the sink. So instead of enjoying our new kitchen, we are dealing with a fight to have the problems corrected. The counter people are blaming the sink people and vice versus. I don’t care whose fault it is, I just want it fixed, and I want water back in the kitchen….bathroom water doesn’t taste as good as kitchen water.
Today we are having a family picture taken. My mother’s 70th birthday is coming up and she is a very difficult person to buy a gift. She either has everything or if she wants something, she goes out and gets it. We decided to get a picture done to surprise her. She will be more surprised my brother and I organized something together without her than by the actual picture. My brother, sister-in-law, their two kids and my family are meeting the photographer down at the beach in Port Dalhousie to get our photos taken. It is raining outside right now. I wonder what the pictures will look like of a family drenched standing in the rain.

Tomorrow I am attending our first “Director’s Meeting” of the year. This is when all of the principals are gathered together so the superintendents and director can tell us their “vision”. Their vision is actually a list of jobs they want the principals to do. It will definitely be the meeting that signifies the official end of summer. Following the day long meeting I will come back home, pick up Jennifer and her cat and assorted belongings and drive her back to school in Kingston. It is a four hour drive and of course a four hour drive back. Did I mention I still don’t feel rested?

Summer is winding down…….it has been great….but still so much to do…..

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Parents Visit to the Cottage

I realize I did not tell about my parents' visit to the cottage.

While my parents are an integral part of the story of our cottage purchase…..a long story for another post….cottage life is NOT for them. My parents are afraid of water. They do not swim. They do not go on boats. My mother is a fan of sheets with a high thread count and laundered each day like at the Hilton. Cottage life is not for them.

Each summer my parents invite my niece and nephew for a visit with them in Owen Sound. Now in their teenage years, it is becoming more difficult to entertain them. My mother thought a trip to the cottage might be interesting. I was a little fearful of the visit as I wasn’t prepared for the advice that often comes with a parental visit. To add on top the fact my parents really don’t enjoy “roughing it” at the cottage I thought it would be a long 24 hours.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Their arrival began immediately with my father taking the kids to the mini-putt place down the road. My mother and I did what we always do. Plan the meal. We actually planned supper using ingredients I already had and my mother didn’t make any comments about some condiment, appliance or something I shockingly didn’t own. (Some day I will tell the story of the salad spinner but I digress)

My dad and the kids returned so we went down to the lower dock. The kids swam. My mother worried but not as much as she usually does. My dad read the newspaper like he always does. Then we BBQd supper, ate, savoured dessert…..provided by my mother….did I mention she makes FABULOUS pies? Then we did what we used to do all those nights growing up. We played euchre.

It had become our habit when I was a kid to play euchre every night after supper. Looking back it was a great family thing and maybe a contributing factor to my brother and me growing up to be OK people. At the time I hated it. At the cottage I had a flashback to those many evenings as a kid.

Euchre is a four person game. So being the good host, I volunteered to sit out. My poor niece and nephew, years of bottled up euchre advice came flowing out by both mom and dad. Each card laid was analyzed and explained. A family tradition was carried on to the next generation!

After a few games we had a bonfire giving me a chance to burn lots of things in the overflowing “burnable bucket.” We also made smores. Can you believe my niece and nephew had never tasted smores?? My father seemed to enjoy the fire….or more precisely enjoyed making the fire so big as to “get a rise” out of my mother. Nothing is funnier than my father and mother bickering the way they do.

The next morning my father took us all in to Huntsville for a big breakfast. My mother got to buy her napkins from a certain store in Huntsville she had been talking about for a year. She was thrilled with her purchase of ten dollar paper napkins that look like linen. I also stopped at Canadian Tire and bought plastic bins with lids to protect my food from the chipmunk or mouse or whatever is invading my cupboard.

My father never stays anywhere too long. They left within the 24 hour time line my father always obeys.

I really did enjoy their visit…….maybe I finally am growing up.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I have just a few hours to be alone at the cottage. My parents and niece and nephew just left. This morning my son Greg called to say he wanted to come up for the week-end. With his job the week-end means Friday and Saturday so he will be on his way up tonight.

The bear did not make a return appearance last night but I cannot say the same for the chipmunk...I think. I have cleaned my cupboards twice this week because of little black spots left behind by whatever animal is enjoying my baked goods in the cupboard. I had enough of my food being nibbled at so I did a quick trip into the Huntsville Canadian Tire and invested in plastic bins with lids. So after a third cupboard cleaning I put everything inside my new purchases and hope whoever this nibbly guest is doesn't know how to open the plastic snaps.

In spite of my wildlife problems, the weather is finally fabulous at the cottage. We seldom get this perfect weather so we can truly appreciate it. In Huntsville today it was actually too warm. With the lake breezes, the shade of the cedars and the bright sunshine, it is absolute paradise here.

While I am enjoying my few hours of peaceful quiet, I am looking forward to company once again. It is so perfect here it would be very selfish not to share...........as long as the company knows how to do their own dishes!!