Memoir, Princess, Raves, Suburban

Bark, bark, barkin’ at heaven’s door: A tribute to the world’s best beagle

Rest in peace, sweet girlie. We love you.
Rest in peace, sweet girlie. We love you.

Our sweet old girlie enjoyed her last treat today. Four sausages, at last count. She died like she lived – well fed and well loved.

She has gone to join all of the other beagles in heaven, where the mountains of meat loom large and the bunnies and deer are free for the chasin’.

Maxie was the best dog a family could ask for. We adopted her just over 9 years ago. The ladies who gave her to us were only fostering her and they didn’t know exactly how old she was. They said they were told she was around 6 or 7; however, they also warned us against getting ‘two dogs and a goat’, so I don’t know how much faith I put in what they had to say. 😉

Maxie gave us many, many good years and despite ailing health over the past few, she managed to secure herself a place in our hearts and minds forever.

She will be dearly missed.

***********************************************************************************************************************

Despite rumours to the contrary, I do not have a direct line to the big guy. But, if I did, I would be placing a call today and it  would go something like this.

Operator: Heaven’s Gate. How may I direct your call?

Me: Hi, may I speak to St. Francis of Assisi, please? You know, the Patron Saint of Animals guy?

Operator: Uhh…yes, I know who you mean. One moment, please. (pause) I believe he’s in the field throwing sticks, but I’ll find him for you.

(Sound of the phone being muffled: “Frank! Frank! Phone’s for you!”)

St. F: Hello? (sounding slightly out of breath)

Me: Hello, Saint, sir. Sorry to bother you. But my dog Maxie is on her way to your place and I just wanted to tell you a few things about her before she arrives.

St. F: Certainly, but…

Me: I’ve made a list of reasons why you should let her in. Can I read it to you?

St. F: Of course, but…

Me: OK. Here you go.

Top Ten Reasons Why Maxie Should be Admitted to the Land of Bacon and Free Range Bunnies

  1. Seriously…look at that face. Have you ever seen a cuter face in your whole life?
  2. Maxie could put a smile on our faces when nothing else could. My kids have come home from school angry, frustrated and in tears and immediately gone to the dog for a hug. She always responded by licking away their tears and reminding them that there was something else they could be doing, ie. getting her a treat.
  3. Maxie smelled like an angel…of course, that was only just after a bath. But even her stinkiness was part of her charm.
  4. She was the least fussy eater I have ever known. She ate everything from fresh baked donuts to dirty old lobster shells. Eating was both her job and her hobby.
  5. Maxie was also the most gentle dog…unless you were trying to take her food away. Rocky, the beagle up the street, learned that the hard way. (I know it was your food dish, Rocky, but you should have known better.)
  6. She taught my children how to love unconditionally. Even when she peed on their beds, ripped open their garbage, and ate their birthday cakes, they always forgave her.
  7. She taught us that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and colours…and species…and breeds.
  8. Maxie helped the local wildlife stay fit and healthy. The deer and the rabbits in the woods around our house got a regular workout when she was still able to run. One sniff and the howling would begin. If we opened the door (or she managed to push it open by throwing her substantial girth into it) she’d be off like a shot.
  9. In the end, she taught us, To everything there is a season. Translation? Eventually, we all have to say goodbye.
  10. Finally, not to appear biased or anything, but I’m pretty sure she was the best dog in the whole wide world.

(pause)

Me: So, what do you think St. Francis? Is that enough? Can you open the pearly gates and let my sweet girl into the land of unlimited bacon?

St. F: (chuckling) I’ve been trying to tell you that she’s already here. Who do you think I was throwing sticks for? Seriously…was there ever any doubt?

*************************************************************************************************************************writing79

“Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission — to be of service to them wherever they require it.” St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Animals

Memoir, Princess, Suburban, Teacher, Uncategorized

Roots and Wings – Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

writing66Yesterday, I put my 14-year-old son on a plane and sent him 1,400 km across the country.

No, I haven’t completely lost my marbles. (If that were the case, I would have put his brother and his father and his senile old dog on the plane with him.)

He’s actually taking part in a week-long national program for youth called, Encounters with Canada. I already miss him like crazy, but I’m not worried. I’m confident that he is going to have an incredible experience. And it’s not just because he’s 14 going on 40 or because the program has been running for 31 years or even because his cousin just got back and said it was, like, totally awesome.

It’s because I know he’s resilient. He’s got the roots;  it was time for him to stretch his wings.

In his new book, Building Resilience in Children and Teens, Kenneth R. Ginsburg, says adults need to help children develop the seven crucial ‘C’s:

  1. competence
  2. confidence
  3. connection
  4. character
  5. contribution
  6. coping
  7. control

Ginsburg, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, says helping children develop these seven character traits will not only help them succeed in life, but it will also allow them to bounce back from whatever challenges life might throw at them. It makes them resilient and gives them roots.

To me, teaching is much like parenting. We need to trust that by the end of the school year, we have provided our students with the solid foundation they need to move confidently to the next grade or stage of their life. We also need to have faith that someone else will pick up the line once we let go.

As the end of June looms near, teachers often begin to panic. We worry that we haven’t given our students everything they need to be successful once they leave our classroom. We fret and wring our hands and say, “I don’t know what will happen to little Teddy in September when he goes into grade 1 (or 3, or 6 or 12 or university). He won’t get this kind of support next year.”

And yet he will.

One of the joys (?) of never having a permanent contract is that I have had the opportunity to work with students and teachers at almost every grade level, including a stint teaching ESL at a university. And I know that while elementary school teachers work their butts off to help their students, so do middle-school teachers and high school teachers. Even university and college professors will spend one-on-one time with struggling students. It’s something all good teachers have in common.

Letting a student or a child move on without us doesn’t mean we are throwing them to the wolves. It means that once we’ve done our job, we have to step back and trust. We have to trust that we have planted deep, strong roots that will help our children feel solid and secure and grounded. Then we have to trust that our children will remember these lessons and use them to guide their decisions.

Dr. Ginsburg says our goal should be to “think in the present and prepare for the future”.

He says that as teachers and parents we should aspire to help children become successful 35-year-olds. We shouldn’t always be thinking about the next grade or the next stage, but instead about how all of these experiences will come together to create an independent, self-sufficient happy adult. It’s about raising our children to be emotionally and socially intelligent.

Loving parents and strong teachers naturally give their children roots. That’s the easy part. Giving our children wings is a little harder. It means you have to let go. We spend so much time holding our children tight and keeping them safe, that letting them go seems to go against the very laws of nature.

It’s not easy, but when you let go and you see them soar?

It’s worth it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have to go see if my son texted me. (He can fly free all he wants but he still has to touch base with mom every night.)

writing68

Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Raves, Suburban, Teacher

The Sunshine Award – Yes, it’s all about me.

Sunshine Award

You like me! You really like me!

It appears I am a Sunshine Girl! A lovely lady over at http://1tric.wordpress.com/
nominated me for this blogging award. She follows me, I follow her – everyone wins by getting to read interesting posts on a regular basis.

I’m not really sure what a Sunshine Award means, but it’s a very pretty icon and I guess it’s better than a kick in the pants, so I’ll take it. Hooray for me!

The award comes with some rules that I must follow. They are:

* Make sure to post this award on your blog site. – Done
* Nominate ten fellow bloggers. – Done (see bottom of page and everyone over on the side, as well.)
* Please answer the ten questions. – and…Done-er-i-no.

1. What inspired you to start blogging?

I was tired of stifling my voice. As public servants and members of a union, teachers are expected (and actually required, in most cases) to keep their opinions to themselves. As someone who is, how shall I say it nicely, not exactly quiet about her opinions, I needed a place to vent, share and express myself.

2. How did you come up with a name for your blog?

I have always wanted to write a book called, Confessions of a Suburban Princess. I figured this blog would put me on the road to that goal. But the name, Suburban Princess, was already taken, so I tagged ‘Teacher’ on to the end and decided I actually prefered it.

3. What is your favorite blog to read?

http://thebloggess.com/ She makes me laugh with every post. She also inspired me to write this blog. After I read her best-selling book,  I thought, “Damn! That girl is crazier than a cat in a paper bag and she wrote a blog and a book. Maybe I could, too!”  Check her out…you won’t be sorry.

4. Tell me about your dream job.

I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up but my dream job should include beagles, George Clooney, wine and chocolate.

5. Is your glass half-full or half-empty?

It’s usually completely empty…I’m a chugger.

6. If you could go anywhere for a week’s vacation, where would you go?

Barcelona, Spain.

7. What food can you absolutely not eat?

Liver. It’s disgusting. I had to eat it once a month when I was a teenager because my mother was convinced it would raise my iron levels when I was men-stru-ate-ing. Helllooo? Had we not heard of iron supplements in the 80’s?? There’s really no need to eat an animals’ internal organs.

8. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

I’d like to say dark because it’s politically correct and all, but no…I could eat milk chocolate until it flowed from my orifices like lava. Pour it overtop of a soft gummy bear and you have my heart forever.

9. How much time do you spend blogging?

Not a lot. I don’t like it to get in the way of my “Vampire Diaries” watching.

10. Do you watch TV? If so, what are your favorite shows?

Of course I watch TV…what do you think I am? Amish? I LOVE TV and now that I have Netflix, I may never go back to work. I’ll just sit at home, eating my milk chocolate, watching series after series…ahhhh, bliss. Favorite shows? Vampire Diaries, Days of our Lives, The Good Wife, The Mentalist, What not to Wear…yes, I am an intelligent girl.

That’s it for the questions about ME. (Sadly.) And now, for the final part of this assignment: ten of my favorite bloggers. Check them out, if you have time on your hands that you don’t know what to do with. Also: I love the people down the side of my blog. They are cool, too. Enjoy.

OTHER AWESOME BLOGGERS

1. http://carrieblueberry.wordpress.com/

2. http://illbeoutinaminute.com/

3. http://siobhancurious.com/

4. http://5kidswdisabilities.com/

5. http://anotherthousandwords.wordpress.com/

6. http://ineedanewman.wordpress.com/

7.  http://peachyteachy.wordpress.com/

8.  http://pamela984.wordpress.com/

9. http://yacantgohome.wordpress.com/

10. http://thefoodgirlintown.wordpress.com/

Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Suburban

How to keep your teen from building a pornography bomb in your basement

writing47

If your teens are like my teens, chances are they are cave dwellers. And by caves, I mean bedroom or basement inhabitants.

Despite their cocooning tendencies, I know (because the experts have told me) that I must keep the lines of communication open. I need to protect them from all of the evils that lurk on the internet and beyond.

So, when my children shut themselves off in their bedrooms, I like to make numerous visits in order to ensure all is well and everyone is safe.

If you would like to follow my shining example, since I am a self-proclaimed teen-raising expert, here is an example of the conversations I repeatedly have with my spawn. (You’re welcome.)

In order to protect their fragile identities, the Heir (age 17) shall hereby be known as William, while the Spare (age 14) shall be called Harry.

Me: (knocking quietly, then barging into Young Harry’s room) Hey! What are you doing?

Harry: (switching the screen to black) Nothing.

Me: (smiling) You can’t be doing nothing. What were you looking at?

Harry: (not smiling): Just stuff.

Me: You know, honey. There are lots of…bad things on the internet. And sometimes we don’t mean to open them, but we do and then you might see something you don’t want to see…

Harry: (sighing loudly and rolling his eyes): You caught me. I was looking at pornography. Lots and lots of pornography. It’s just a big old porn fest in here, Mom.

Me: Very funny. Can I see what you’re doing? I read that parents are supposed to be aware of what their children are doing. It makes kids feel safer.

Harry: Wow, yeah. I feel really safe right now with you stalking me and barging into my room.

(He turns his screen back on and I see what looks like a regular word document.)

Harry: I’m doing my homework. Are you happy now?

Me: (sheepish now): Yes, actually, I am. Thank you for sharing with me.

(I start to leave.)

Harry: I’ll make sure to add lots of pornography to it before I’m done!

(I race from the room.)

Harry: SHUT MY DOOR!

I head down the stairs to check on the Heir, who has been locked in his teen-man cave for hours now. I can hear new age music blasting through the door. I knock and then barge in…it’s my thing.

Me: Hey! What’cha doin’?

William: (Not taking his eyes off the screen) What do you want?

(I look around his messy, smelly dark room and move to open the curtains.)

William: (without breaking eye contact with the screen): Don’t open those. The glare makes it impossible to see the screen.

Me: Your room is like a dungeon. You could be hiding a body in here.

William: You caught me, Mom. It’s under the bed. Don’t look. It’s pretty gross.

Me: Ha ha. It certainly smells like you could have a body under your bed.

William: Why are you here? (Still staring the screen, while simultaneously working a Rubics cube into perfection.)

Me: Did you hear the story in the news about the kids who built a bomb and took it to school? Their parents said later they hadn’t been in their sons’ bedrooms in months. They had no idea what their kids were doing in their own house.

(I start sifting through some of the dirty (?) clean (?) clothes on the floor.)

William: So, you’re in here looking for a bomb? Oh my God! I better hide the pieces. (He shoves the Rubics cube down the front of his shirt.)

Me: You and your brother are horrible children, you know that? I am just trying to be a good mother.

William: You’re a great mom.

Me: (heart lifting) Really?

William: Yeah. (turns back to the screen) Can you shut the door on your way out?

Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Rants, Raves, Suburban, Teacher

Why I can’t get cocky about my mental health.

writing34You should never get cocky about your mental health.

I should know. For the most part, I’m a confident, easy-going woman. I have an amazing family and a ridiculous number of incredible friends. My life is full of an abundance of riches.

And yet I’ve suffered from depression.

Mental illness can strike any of us. It doesn’t discriminate.

I’ve seen an 8-year-old boy crawling on the floor, barking like a dog because of a mental illness that has been made worse because of years of abuse and neglect.

I’ve seen a teenager who has suffered with anger issues and hormonal imbalances all of his life, suddenly discover drugs and spiral out of control.

I’ve seen a big, strong, confident man brought to his knees by depression.

Thousands of stories just like these play out every day, all over the world.

And yet many suffer in silence, too ashamed to admit that they have a problem. They are afraid of what other’s might think or how it might affect their position at work. And some of these fears are valid. Individuals still face the possibility of discrimination and recriminations when they disclose a mental illness.

Sometimes though, people do get the strength and the courage to reach out for help for their spouse, their child, or themselves, only to be told that help isn’t available.

They are often told that the wait-time for mental health services is months away. That’s too long a wait when you are on suicide watch for your 13-year-old daughter.

As a teacher, I often hear those in the “back to basics’ camp calling for less focus on helping children understand their feelings, so that more time can be spent on their math and spelling skills. They say it like self-esteem is a dirty word. As any teacher knows, a student with a mental health issue is a student who isn’t learning like they could. Our first priority as teachers is for our student’s well being. End of discussion.

Bell Canada started the Bell Let’s Talk fundraising campaign in 2010 and has since committed to investing $62 million in Canadian mental health initiatives. Some have criticized Bell, saying their campaign is nothing more than a marketing strategy designed to promote their brand and their products.

To that I say, well…duh. It’s marketing 101, not rocket science, people.

But if their program helps reduce the stigma around mental health and the money donated allows more access to quicker mental health services, then I don’t care why they are doing it.

You see, I’m one of the lucky ones. I have the financial means to access treatment, be it therapy, when needed or medication, when necessary. I also have the support of loving friends and family.

But I know how privileged I am.

Many Canadians don’t have that. Which is why we need to be there for each other.

So, thank you, Bell.

And Canada?

Let’s keep talking.

writing33

Princess, Rants, Raves, Suburban, Teacher

Snow Days – Every job is different

writing16

Today was a Snow Day. Capital “S”, capital “D”, which means students and teachers in our school district had the day off.

This also means the haters were out in full force once again on talk radio (or as I call it, Old Man Radio). Teacher-haters love Old Man Radio. It gives them a chance to publicly air their views about all the wrongs they see in society. Most of which are caused by lazy-ass teachers.

I wish I could host that radio show when these issues come up.

“School’s cancelled again, which means teachers get a day off! It’s crazy! Why should teachers be allowed to stay home when I have to go to work?!” shouts the irate caller, obviously taking a short break from his very important job.

“Oh, I see. So you think things should be the same for everybody?”

“Yeah, right. They should be the same.” The caller is happy now.

“So, everyone should make the same salary, work the same hours, get the same benefits, and have the same rules regarding their employment?”

“Well, no,” he stammers. “I mean, you know, every job is different.”

Right.

Every job is different.

writing17 scene-where-a-school-bus-slid-off-the-road-at-abercarn-178024589

There are so many jobs that I could not, would not, or choose not, to do.

As much as I would like to make the money that comes with being a surgeon, I didn’t have the brains or the desire to do all the work it takes to become one. Do I begrudge them their high salary and all the other perks of their job? No. I understand that in order to get those things, you have to do all the work beforehand and afterward and I wasn’t prepared to do that.

And as much as I would love to argue cases in a courtroom and learn all about interesting facts of laws, I know I wouldn’t have the ability to remain neutral. So, do I hate lawyers for doing what they do even though I wasn’t able to do it myself? Of course not. That would be illogical.

Someone in a high-end sales position can make my entire annual salary in bonuses and incentives. Does that annoy me? No, because I didn’t choose to go that route. I couldn’t sell ice cream to kids on a sunny day.

There are a million jobs that I think would be fascinating and interesting, but I know I’m not suited for them.

Here’s the thing: I don’t begrudge anyone the salary they make or the benefits they enjoy from their chosen career. I know that no matter what your job, there are ups and downs. Perks and pains. And people pick their careers according to what they want out of life. Do you want lots of money or do you want more freedom and free time? Do you want to help people, animals, or the environment? Everyone makes their own decisions.

I’m a teacher. I’m suited for that and I’m good at it. And I worked really, really hard to get to where I am today. Three degrees, student loans, numerous mandatory courses and workshops, and years of dead-end short-term contract positions just to get the opportunity for a full-time position.

Some people are suited to teaching. Other people are not. If you don’t enjoy teaching, if it doesn’t make you tick, you’re going to have a very difficult time in the classroom. If you’re doing it for the summer break or the rare Snow Day, enjoy that time, because you are going to pay for it the rest of the year.

That’s why it ticks me off when non-teacher-types complain about Snow Days.

Snow Days are magical for those of us who get to experience their joy.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets to have this experience. In fact, the majority of the population doesn’t. Most people have to leave their homes extra early in the middle of dangerous driving conditions in order to get to their job.

And I’m sorry about that. If I ruled the world, unless you were in a mandatory service industry (like fire, hospital or police personnel), I’d let you stay home until the plows cleared the streets and made it safe for everyone to get back on the roads. But since I don’t, all I can say is this.

Yes, teachers get the day off during a Snow Day. It’s part of the job. Just like cleaning up a child when they get sick on themselves. Or helping them through an argument with a friend. Or teaching them how to read when that’s the hardest part of their day. It’s a part of the job like writing report cards late into the night. And being cursed at by angry students and parents. It’s a part of the job like a million other things that make up the position.

I’m not going to complain about doing any of those things; however, I’m also not going to apologize for the occasional Snow Day or the summers off.

I have the job I chose and worked my butt off for. And for now…my job includes Snow Days.

UPDATE: March 1, 2015Are you a teacher? Do you want your say on snow days and other issues affecting teachers? Click here to add your two cents to a survey. It is completely anonymous and takes less than 5 minutes to complete. 

writing15

Pop Culture, Princess, Raves, Suburban

Smart, funny women who will make you pee your pants…just a little.

I love smart, funny women. I love them in books, on TV, and in real life…especially real life. I am lucky beyond belief that I am surrounded by these women every day. At night, when they all go home to their own beds, I like to read about smart, funny women. It makes my husband’s snoring easier to deal with.
These are 5 books by smart, funny women that I guarantee will make you snort with laughter. And, if you are of a certain age (like me), you may just pee a little bit.

writing111. Bossypants Tiny Fey

I want to BE Tina Fey when I grow up, so it makes sense that I would love her book. She is smart, talented, funny and sexy in that “I’m sexy because I’m smart” kind of way. Her book literally made me laugh outloud  or LOL, as the kids say. (Note: My son just advised me that the kids don’t say LOL anymore. Damn it! I am sooo behind the times.)

Best part: I think of this whenever someone says to me, “Jerry Lewis says women aren’t funny,” or “Christopher Hitchens says women aren’t funny,” or “Rick Fenderman says women aren’t funny…Do you have anything to say about that?” Yes. We don’t fucking care if you like it.

You tell ’em, Tina.

writing122. Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? Mindy Kaling

I just finished reading this book, much to the relief of my poor long-suffering husband, who was awakened numerous times by my hysterical snorts of laughter just as he was drifting off to sleep. I put up the back cover of her book instead of the front for a reason: it is adorable. She is so non-Hollywood. It’s part of her charm that comes through in her writing. Like Tina Fey, she seems ridiculously well-adjusted for a successful television writer, actor and producer.

Best part: Teenage girls, please don’t worry about being super popular in high school, or being the best actress in high school, or the best athlete. Not only do people not care about any of that when you graduate but when you get older, if you reference your successes in high school too much, it actually makes you look kind pitiful, like some babbling old Tennessee Williams character with nothing else going on in her current life.”

Seriously: this girl should be giving commencement speeches at high schools across North America.

 writing93.  I know I am, but what are you? Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee is a correspondent and writer for one of my fantasy boyfriends, Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show. Not only is she clever and sharp and funny, she is also Canadian! Which means she makes references to Timbits and Ontario throughout her book (and doesn’t even explain them)!

One really good part: “I have old lady hands; I’ve always had them. If you look at pictures of me as an infant, you’d think that the hands of tiny eighty-year-old hooker had been Photoshopped onto my otherwise smooth, alabaster baby body.”

writing104.  Are You There, Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea. Chelsea Handler

Chelsea Handler is not someone I would pick as a best friend. To be honest, she’s kind of scary. Her humour is sharp and dark and I am pretty sure she would make fun of me at a party and then go home with my boyfriend. That doesn’t mean she isn’t laugh-out-loud funny.

One of my favorite parts where she talks about dating a guy with red hair for the first time: I’m not a finicky person when it comes to pubic hair maintenance and I certainly don’t expect men to shave it all off, leaving themselves looking like a hairless cat. That’s even creepier than seeing what Austin had, which could really only be compared to one thing: a clown in a leg lock.

OMG Chelsea – you are B-A-D.

writing135. Let’s Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson might just be one of the funniest writers ever. Her childhood recollections are nothing short of bizarre. The part where her father pretends to have found a talking squirrel, only for her to discover that he’s actually using road kill as a hand-puppet? Priceless.

Typical piece from Jenny’s book (I call her Jenny because I am hoping someday we’ll be BFFs and hang out together and stuff): “When I was in junior high I read a lot of Danielle Steele. So I always assumed that the day I got engaged I’d be naked, covered in rose petals, and sleeping with the brother of the man who’d kidnapped me. And also he’d be a duke. And possibly my stepbrother.”

She did a thing on that scary Elf on a Shelf dude that had me laughing long after I went to bed and turned out the lights…much to hubby’s dismay once again…seriously, his life is hell. Oh well. Here’s a link to Jenny’s blog so you too can keep your husband up at night: http://thebloggess.com/

****Bonus funny part from Bossypants. Tiny Fey does a fake take on “Growing Up and Liking It” – a handout that was included in maxi-pads for girls starting their period.

Dear Ginny,

I finally got my “friend” today!! Yay!! It’s about time! If I roller-skate while I’m MEN-STRU-HATING, will I die?

Dear Pam,

Of course you can roller-skate. Don’t be silly! But be careful of odor, or neighborhood dogs might try to bite your vagina. Friends Forever, Ginny.

*** I read this aloud to my husband, while tears streamed down my cheeks, barely getting the words out I was laughing so hard. He responded by saying, “I didn’t need to hear that.”

And THAT, my friends, is why I need smart, funny WOMEN in my life.

Princess, Rants, Suburban, Teacher

UPDATE: Peter Speight: We are never, ever, ever getting back together…like…ever.

UPDATE – Peter Speight, the sex-offender/former teacher in the New Germany, NS area, has agreed to resign and give up his teaching licence in exchange for a big whack of cash. The amount is confidential but it is on top of the $150,000 in back pay that he says he deserves. Whatever. He’s gone and the community of New Germany can breathe a big sigh of relief. Read more at: http://ckbwnews.blogspot.ca/

lemonadeDear Peter,

Seriously, dude? Did you not read my last letter? What are you doing?

I get it. We all get it. You want your teaching job back. The same job you had before you pleaded guilty to sex charges. You want to come back and teach grade 3, in your old school, like nothing ever happened.  And you want your money back. The money you didn’t make…because you didn’t work…because you were fired…for pleading guilty to sexual offenses. (Do you not hear how crazy this sounds?)

If you had any doubts as to how people felt about you coming back, I would hope last night’s (court ordered) restorative justice session at your old school put those notions to bed. I read in this morning’s paper that more than 100 concerned citizens showed up to say they do not want you teaching their children – ever. The goal was to come up with a reintegration plan to bring you back, but as the coordinator of the session said after it ended, “we couldn’t get to that point because they were too heated about the fact they don’t want him back in the school.”

Peter, Peter, Peter. I’ve taught Grade 3 and let me tell you something about grade 3 students: they aren’t stupid. They hear things and they sense things and they will know on Day 1 that you are the guy who did that weird thing in his car with those ladies. And trust me: their imaginations will make what you did freakier than anything you could ever imagine.

They also aren’t wired to understand that you did something gross and weird a few years ago, but now you’re all better. Their sense of time is a little warped. To them, five years is like five days.

They may also be frightened of you because sex is something they don’t really understand yet. We don’t teach the ins-and-outs of sex until they are much older because most of them aren’t ready for that kind of discussion. What in the world could their parents tell them if they are placed in your class? “Well, dear, if he reaches for his zipper, grab your things and get the hell out of there.” Not a discussion I would want to have with my eight-year-old.

But I shouldn’t have to tell you this. You should already know this because you are an educated, experienced teacher. This leaves me to conclude that you are not rehabilitated. If you were truly sorry for what you had done to your community, especially the children, you would not be putting them through this shitshow. This quest for your old job has become a weird obsession that none of us understand. And we all know where your last strange obsession led.

Memoir, Princess, Suburban, Teacher

Puppies: Better than Booze

Puppy RoomDalhousie University has just introduced a puppy room to help its students deal with the stress from Christmas exams. I’ve watched a few of the videos on-line. These stressed-out university students look like little kids.  As soon as they reach out to the dogs, their smiles and giggles become completely genuine. You can just see the tension slipping away from their backpack laden shoulders.

I know I would have been a frequent flyer at the puppy room if they had had one when I was at university. Just before I started my second year, my parents packed up our house, gave away our dog and moved 4,000 miles away. It felt surreal as I moved into an apartment downtown with my best friend. I went from being a very sheltered teenager to being a scared little college girl overnight. I was going on the world’s longest sleepover and my parents were never coming to pick me up.

We didn’t have a puppy room at my university. We did have a pub, though. And that’s how most of us dealt with stress. Trust me. There were many mornings I wished I had spent the evening at the puppy room instead of the pub. Sadly, I was not unique. University students are well known to be heavy, binge drinkers. Some of that, no doubt, is due to the excitement of having the freedom to do whatever you want without your parents looking over your shoulder. But a big part of it is because alcohol is a stress releaser. After a few drinks, you stop worrying about your assignments and your exams. You forget about your money problems and your relationship issues. Life’s a party when you’re loaded! Unfortunately, the next day, those good (albeit: fuzzy) feelings are gone, often replaced by feelings of embarrassment over last night’s actions. Once the booze wears off, the stress returns, often with a vengeance.

A dog never makes you regret patting it the night before. You could pat a dog all night long and never wake up feeling guilty or stupid or regretful. Unfortunately, we don’t all have 24-hour access to a soft, calming animal. That’s why it’s important for our children and our students to know how to deal with stress so that it motivates, rather than paralyzes them.

As an elementary teacher, I’ve tried to help my students see school as something they can enjoy, not dread. Part of my job is to help them feel comfortable with writing tests. I emphasize that tests are just one way to show what we know. We talk about how to read the directions. We practice examples. We write practice tests that look exactly like the real test, except with different questions. We have discussions about how stressing over something doesn’t make you do any better. In fact, it often makes you do worse. I also tell them that in the big story of their lives, one math test is not going to make or break them. If you bomb the test, it doesn’t mean that you will end up living like a hobo in a ditch somewhere, while all of your friends go off to be doctors and lawyers. All it means is that for some reason you didn’t get what we learned this week in this particular area. No worries. We’ll work on it. Just breathe.

To paraphrase the great philosopher, Steven Tyler, I want my students and my children to know that  “life’s a journey, not a destination.” Live in the moment. Learn from the bad times and move on. And if you have the choice between cuddling a puppy and chugging a six pack, you’re better off with the puppy every time.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourcommunity/2012/12/students-instagram-dalhousies-puppy-room-therapy-dogs.html

Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Raves, Suburban

Dallas vs. Dukes – A Friday Night Dilemma

dallasthe-dukes-of-hazzard

Larry Hagman died last week.  He was 81 and, by all accounts, was as nice a person as his alter-ego, J.R. Ewing, was nasty.

Coincidentally, also last week, my dad bought a new TV to replace the old one he had in his basement. Now, when I say old, I don’t mean 10 years old, I mean 1975 old! This was the very first color TV our family ever owned. We got it when I was in junior high. It only got the first 12 channels because there were only 12 buttons next to the screen. (You had to get your butt up off the couch if you wanted to change the channel.) But that was OK if you were living in New Brunswick in the 1970’s, because we only got two channels.

Every Friday night, my family (Mom, Dad, little bro, the beagle and me) would gather in our tiny family room to watch TV. We would break open the one bag of chips and the one bottle of pop. It was my mother’s job to divide the chips evenly into 4 plastic bowls – one for each of us. We couldn’t just share a bowl. That was crazy talk. And we’d each have a small glass of pop. I think we shared the same amount of pop among the four of us that I got at the movie theatre the other night for myself. (Hellooooo? people? When did we forget about portion size?)

Like I said, we only got two channels and for some reason unknown to anyone with a clue, the great programming gods of the day decided to put the two most popular shows of the time on opposite each other. So, every Friday night we had a dilemma.

Dukes or Dallas?

Usually we opted for fairness and equality. One week Dukes, one week Dallas. But remember, this was before DVRs, YouTube and even VCRs. If you missed a show, you missed it, unless somehow you were lucky enough to catch a repeat of the show months later and by then it didn’t matter. You already knew what happened.

Mom and I were already fans of Dallas, thanks to the casting of Patrick Duffy – the Man from Atlantis. (He was so cute with those little webbed feet.)

the_man_from_atlantis-show

My brother and father were big fans of the Duke boys and their crazy uncle, the evil Boss Hogg and, of course, Daisy Duke in her little jean shorts. (The dog was good either way. She was just happy to be inside, on the couch, with her peeps.)

catherine-bach-122284

(Sorry guys, no short shorts, but at least you can see the car!)

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t hate it when we had to watch D.O.H. Them Duke boys was awful cute and the show was funny, in a hillbilly sort of way. They were the original Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo family.

But I loved Dallas. I loved the theme music and the fact that everyone was so rich and beautiful. J.R. was the man you loved to hate. He said the most vile things with a smile on his face. And he was funny – wickedly funny. When J.R. was shot in Season 9, we spent months waiting and debating with the rest of the world about Who Shot J.R.?  On November 21, 1980 we gathered in our little family with our chips and pop and watched, with the 350 million other people who tuned in, to see who the culprit was. (In case you were living in a cave during that time, it was his mistress, Kristen. No wonder. He was really, really mean to her.)

Dallas started when I was 12, a dorky girl with a pageboy boy haircut, and wrapped it’s finally episode when I was 25, a married woman juggling a job, a husband and a house full of pets. Dallas was a part of my growing up.

jr ewing

“I know what I want on JR’s tombstone,” Hagman once said. “It should say: ‘Here lies upright citizen JR Ewing. This is the only deal he ever lost.'”

Rest in Peace, J.R.

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If you only had two channels, which would you have picked? (Remember: you’re only 12. You got nothin’ else to do.)

Dukes of Hazzard opening sequence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxD0PqVlt5Q

The best of J.R. If you were a fan of Dallas or you just like funny stuff, check this out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZV3365a7Ew&feature=related