Monday, 26 January 2015


The winds of change are blowing hard here.

This month James' dad passed on to the next life.  Although we knew it was coming, it is a strange adjustment.  This is the first time that someone we interacted with on a daily basis has left us, and the hole is keenly felt.  None more so in our family than for James.  James worked every day with his dad, and there were definitely long days when he saw his dad more than even me.  I was struck as James gave a eulogy at how he knew his dad much more than just from a father-son relationship.  His dad was his friend, mentor, confident, and work partner and those are so many roles to be left empty all at once.

In a family business, this change means even more.  Our earlier plans to leave the family business and start our own video production company (helping seniors tell their life stories) went on indefinite hold.  Without Doug, James was too integral to the business to leave at this point.  Which was sad because he really hasn't been happy in his work in a long time.  It felt like our dream was snatched just as it was becoming a reality.

But all this has meant even more changes.  We have decided that I will go back to school and get my Masters of Teaching.  The plan was that, since I'd missed the admission deadline this year, I would apply next year, and in 3 1/2 years I could be teaching full time, which would give James the latitude to  once again pursue the video business.

But we suddenly came across a hiccup.  Upon investigation, it turned out the deadline for this coming September was still open.  Things went into a bit of a tailspin while we considered moving up our plans.  It seemed a great opportunity to get us back on track sooner.  And yet there was Juliette who would still be home, and the boys getting off the bus after school.  Working out childcare (logistics and costs) while I went back to school seemed daunting.

In the mean time, I had decided to do some emergency supply teaching in our local schools.  This would provide additional income and also get me into the schools to help in faster hiring after I graduate.  So this morning I went out to drop off resumes.

I was greatly encouraged, as every secretary's face showed great relief at receiving my resume, especially as I noted I could teach French and music.  Then, at one school, I heard my name called out. I turned and came face to face with an old friend.  When I told her what I was doing, her face broke out in a smile.  She was the school's music teacher, and was glad to finally have a name to call when she needed to take a day off.  She promised to put in a good word, and confided that emergency supplies are called in often.

I felt good as I drove to the final school, the high school around the corner from our home.  As I parked in the parking lot, I paused.  I realized that this was another school in which the music department was quite big, and I knew the department head well.  I was in a bible study group with his wife a few years back, and I had lobbied for him to take over leading our community band.  I sat in the car and pondered the question I had this morning: should I start university this fall, or wait one more year?  Given how well the job search was going, it occurred to me I could take an extra year to work.  Maybe this was the best plan?  I sent a prayer of gratitude up, and then a plea for direction.  If I am meant to work, please let my music teacher friend be in the office when I go in, so that I can hopefully get work in this school (closest to home, and in a subject I love.)  I jumped out and went into the large, sprawling school with over 100 staff, and went into the office.

And came face to face with that teacher.  He was the only one in the office.

My voice broke as we spoke, he unwell with a flu and I nervous and astonished.  I handed my resume in and he said he hoped to see me soon.

I had my answer.

Yes, change is coming fast and furious right now, but today I have a little blessing of peace about it all.

(Psalm 136 -  O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.)

Wednesday, 14 January 2015


Juliette sees the world through smell.  I wonder if it has anything to do with her food allergies, and that most of the smells she encounters in our kitchen she cannot partake of.  Whatever the reason, she always has her little nose going.  She sniffs out things long before we do, and always stops to "smell the roses" for a moment, her head tilted up, shifting ever so slightly from side to side.  She takes it all in, and then turns to me, "What's that smell?" she inquires.  Sometimes it is evident, sometimes I have to take a guess.  She catalogs everything and there is no fooling her about it after that.

The most amusing anecdote, though, is how quickly she smells out what is on your breath.  I cannot try to sneak a piece of chocolate or a few potato chips and then come within three feet of her.  I swear she can smell it in the air I breathe out.  Then she stops whatever she is doing (or saying) and comes in for a closer smell.  She will actually bring her nose right up to my mouth as I clamp it shut, trying to swallow down the betraying evidence.  And there is no diverting her, or even trying to claim it is something else.  The nose knows, so to speak.

I am even amazed that she remembers all the smells associated with foods she cannot have.  It is interesting to watch her explore the world of food forbidden to her.  She knows them all, even though she cannot taste each one.

She also shares my love of smells in nature: the smell of an early morning mist, or the difference between a cool fall morning and crisp winter dawn.  She notices the deepness of night, or the intrusion of something manmade.  She identifies a different smell between damp leaves and fresh rain in the trees.  It must be marvelous to experience the world so strongly in multiple senses.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

For all my book lover friends

For all my book lover friends,

I hope you are able to be part of a book club.  I am fortunate to be part of the most fantastic book club ever.  We are a small, private group, less than a dozen members, with only six or seven able to come to any one meeting.  We are a group cobbled together by friends and friends of friends, and I am amazed at how well we all gel together.  We are young moms, we are intellectuals, we love good stories and important issues.  We dissect the story and themes and often meander off of the book into the real issues at heart.  There is always good food and good conversation.

Before this group I belonged to a very different book club in Toronto.  It was organized by the local library and so the members were wide and varied.  I was by far the youngest member (I was around 25?) and most were retired.  A few were artists.  One was a writer herself.  The discussions were much more on topic, and so interesting to see the book (and the world) through viewpoints vastly different than my own, coloured by many more years of living.  Ours was a little library branch, with a wonderful librarian who must have devoured books more often than meals.  She had a knack for recommending just the right books.  I can still remember, to this day, that when I sent James looking for books for me to read during my first pregnancy (bed rest) he came home with five marvellous reads.  The only instruction I gave was that I wanted to read books set in countries around the world, and all five were a delight to read.  I don't recall her name, or even what she looked like, but she made me want to be a librarian myself.

I love to curl up with a book; reading is by definition a solitary activity.  But I have discovered a different kind of relationship one can develop with a book when the ideas are shared with friends.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015


The time is coming for me to look to the next stage of life.  A friend and I are both coming to the end of our baby-raising years and wondering what might be next.  And to look forward I have been looking back.

A good part of any interview for a job is past experience.  What in your life has brought you to this point?  I strongly believe that our life paths wind in very specific directions, and that what I have been through will lead me to where I am going.

Which is why, right now, I am once again considering education.  I have always loved teaching, but I think this mostly comes from my unusual education background.  Just taking my 14 years of compulsory schooling, I experienced:

- french immersion
- the gifted program
- the performing arts program
- foreign student exchange
- music education

After high school, I studied more in depth about music for young children, and also on various homeschooling methods.  Not to mention spending 9 years (so far) at home raising my own four children full time.  I have also taught music and drama in schools, both in my mother's classroom and in my children's classes.  Add to that the various years of teaching children at church and my resume is bursting.

I have a passion for teaching, true, but I also have a passion for reforming education.  That seems lofty and revolutionary, both of which seem far beyond my own little existence.  And yet...I constantly come back to the idea that my education shouldn't have been unusual or exceptional, but rather very common.  I benefited greatly from these varied methods and I feel every student should have these kinds of opportunities.  Imagine if, at your local school, each teacher hired had an area of expertise, like each of my teachers did.  The children wouldn't be simply placed in one class or another at random, but individually assessed at the end of grade one to determine the type of learning style best suited to him or her.  Then each child could be streamed into a class designed to maximize his or her learning.  There are so many methods out there: gifted, unschooling, art-driven, kinesthetic, hands on, traditional, Montessori, Waldorf, literature-based...and these are just some of the ones I've come across.  That's not to say every school could offer them all, but right now one teacher is desperately trying to accommodate too many learning styles.  The result is that a few are benefitting, but most are struggling, just getting by at best, or failing at worst.  Even if a school had only three teachers in a grade, you could be running three very different classrooms, and the administration could do their best to assign children to a successful environment.

As usual, when I start to write about concrete plans, I have meandered off into ideas.  Ah, it's just one path, but one toward which I certainly might have been pointed.

Thursday, 1 January 2015


New year, new start, new resolutions, new goals, new dreams.  I've always liked the chance for a fresh start.

This year, however, it feels different.  As I pondered yesterday over the new start coming, I was not filled with the exuberant feelings I usually have.  Instead, my prayers were answered with a feeling of trepidation.  Came the answer:

No, this will not be a year full of exciting changes, wonderful new dreams to explore.  It will not be a year where things progressively get a little better as the kids get a little older.  This is going to be a tough year for you.  This is going to be a year filled with fear and trepidation.  It will string you out physically, mentally and emotionally.

I'm not sure I want to hear this.

Hear it now, and use it for your good.  Dig in deep spiritually, be gathered under the wings of God.  Rest.  Abide.  Take cover amid the storm.  You will need a great deal of peace and there is only one giver of such peace.


Life moves in cycles.  There are ups and downs.  You cannot know joy without sorrow.  And you cannot know God without circumstances to drive you to him.  You will come to know him more deeply than ever before.  Go to him.

A song.  A song came on at that moment and spoke into my soul, declaring itself as a hymn for my heart this year.

Abide with me! fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens. Lord, with me abide!
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!
Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day.
Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me!
I need thy presence ev'ry passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's pow'r?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Thru cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me!

God's word, to cling to:

"And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun...for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land... For the devil laugheth and his angels rejoice because of the slain...
"Behold, I am the light and the life of the world.  Arise and come forth unto me that ye may thrust your hands into my side, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth."

(excerpts from 3 Nephi 8-11, as quoted in Alex Boye's "Abide with Me!")