Monday, April 30, 2012

Hannah and Sasha's Piano Recital

Last weekend Sasha and Hannah had their first piano recital of this year.

They have both had a great year of  piano lessons.   Somehow, I managed to find them a fabulous teacher who had just moved here from Calgary and was just starting to build up her studio.  The best part?  Lara comes and teaches their lessons at our house!  It's awesome!  I can be in the kitchen making supper or doing homework with Ellie while the girls are having their lessons in their own living room.   Anything that reduces the number of times I have to drive anywhere makes me very thankful.  It's also nice to be able to eavesdrop on their lessons from another room.  There are no secrets here.

This was Sasha's first year of lessons and to say she loves playing piano is an understatement.  She LOVES playing piano.  She actually asks to practice piano.  Yes, I know, this will likely change.  I've been through this before with Hannah, remember?  It's always fun at the beginning.  I'm just enjoying it while it lasts.

Hannah has enjoyed lessons a lot more this year as well.  Last year's teacher and lessons were not her favorite things in the world.   Lara has managed to bring some of Hannah's love of music back to her this year and has incorporated a lot of great repetoire.

Lara booked an activity room at a personal care home for the recital.  She finds that this gives her a great big room to use, but it also gives the residents something to listen to as well.  I think that's a great idea.  Sasha was so nervous as we were driving over to the care home.  She's been at a million of Hannah and Ellie's recitals over the years, but going to her first one was a very big deal.

When we walked into the room for the recital we saw an old clunker of a piano waiting for the girls.  Mike isn't sure it had ever been tuned.  Well, maybe it had been, but you couldn't tell by the way it sounded.   Lara had each of her students introduce their own pieces to the audience.  I think this is a great learning opportunity for speaking in front of a crowd - especially for shy kids like mine.

The best part of the recital was listening to the residents humming and  singing along or making comments to the performers after their pieces.  Music really does make people happy!


Sunday, April 29, 2012

What a Friday Morning Looked Like

Last Friday morning, I walked the girls to school.  It takes us about ten minutes to walk.  It's a good way to connect before the day starts.  All of the rushing and shushing and "hurry up" and "stop bugging her and just brush your teeth" have all been said and all that's left is to walk together and talk about nothing and everything.

We crossed Hastings with the help of the ever faithful crossing guard, Cheryl.  She's been the crossing guard for the school for over 20 years.  She's an icon in the neighborhood.  Sometimes we know more about her than we need to, but she needs someone to talk to too, and so we nod and smile and ask a few questions and wish her a good day.

After I left the girls at their doors, I walked across a little street in front of the school and found myself at Confederation Park.  I have loved having the park right at the school.

I walked just a little ways to the track at the center of the park.  It's always filled with people walking - even if the rain is pouring.  I'm usually only one of a very few white people walking.  That's one of the best parts.  I love running around the track and hearing so many different languages being spoken.  It's like the world came to me!

Last Friday there was a little Asian man (you can see him below) walking sideways around the track.  He was waving his arms around in a very distinct motion as he moved along.   I laughed to myself as I watched him, but not at him.  I was enjoying the freedom he felt.  Here he was, walking sideways along the track with a crazy arm routine and he could have cared less what anyone else thought of him. He had a big smile on his face and was enjoying the moment.  I loved the chance I was given of seeing him move to the beat of his own drum.

When the sun is shining, there is no more amazing place to run.  Behind the clouds are the snow capped peaks of the North Shore mountains.  I stopped my train of thought and my inner soundtrack a few times that day to say "Look around you.  Really look.  Remember what you're seeing.  Hold on to this picture."   I listened to myself carefully, followed directions well and did just I was told.

Every time I rounded the far corner of the track I could hear faint music playing while a big group of people do Tai Chi.  They are here every morning - gracefully and deliberately moving together to begin their day.  It looks so peaceful and serene.

You know you live in an area with a huge Italian population when there needs to be a sign like this posted near the running track....

As I walked back through the park toward home I stopped to watch another group of people practicing Tai Chi.  There are people with white hair and those who looked to be in their early 20's; men and women.  It's quiet and reflective.  I stopped and took another imaginary picture to stay with me in my memory.

I hope my internal memory card holds up over the years.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thing I Will Miss About Living Here - The First Installment

1.     The smell
         I don't know how to describe it, but the smell is always fresh.   Must be the warm most air coming off the Pacific Ocean.  Or it could be the cherry blossoms in the spring, or the fresh rain in the winter, or the Hydrangea in the summer.   It just always smells so good.

2.     Cobbs Bread

         There are outlets all over the lower mainland.  Best hot-cross buns, seedy loaves, and the most scrumptious cinnamon buns.

3.      Having a clean van

          We NEVER have to wash our van here.  I think since we've moved, we've done it once.  It's never coated in salt and dirt and mud and grime like it is in Winnipeg.  You don't have to be afraid of rubbing up against your vehicle when you get in or out.  It's wonderful.

4 .       H&M

            I'm sure it's just a matter of time before Winnipeg gets one, or at least I hope so.  I love the prices and the style and the clearance racks.  I love the nice LONG girls leggings that they always have in stock that actually fit my amazon-like children.

5.       Walking to and from School

            This is awesome.  School also only starts at 9 as opposed to 8:20, so that helps too.

6.        Community Parks

            Since most people really don't have yards here, they all congregate at the neighborhood park.  Every time we go we see someone from school that we know.  That's a great feeling.

7.         Flashing Green Lights

            Most people who drive here for the first time are a little puzzled by the flashing greens.    They keep traffic moving during certain peak times of the day and make driving super quick in the evening.   There are less traffic bottle-necks here.... you never really get "stuck" in traffic like you do in Winnipeg.

8.          Green

             I always expected that Vancouver would be kind of brown in winter if there was no snow.  Not the case.  It is always the most vibrant color of green you can imagine.

9.          The Skytrain

             I love getting on and off that thing.  I feel so metropolitan.  It also gets you downtown super quick.  It is the perfect opportunity for excellent people-watching as well.

10.        A vibrant and people-filled downtown

             Vancouver's downtown is always full of people.  Night or day, weekend or weekday - it doesn't matter.  There is always something going on.  You never feel afraid like you do walking in the ghost-town that Winnipeg's downtown is in the evenings.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Parting Gift

The days seem to be going faster now, reminding me that our time here is on the home stretch.
These days are filled with moments, exchanges and images that leave me feeling as though they should be handled with care - wrapped in layers of tissue paper and bubble wrap to be preserved for the journey.

Yesterday held one of those exchanges.

I was sitting in Ellie's classroom in a row of folding chairs with a few other parents.  We were there to enjoy a Reader's Theatre presentation presented by the students in Ellie's class.  Ellie's treasured friend, Nikki, was growing tired of getting up onto the small stage to introduce each new story.  She walked up  beside me and I helped her up onto the chair next to mine.  She shifted and slid her way closer to me, looking up once and awhile to make sure I was still there.  After a few moments she grabbed my hand and lifted my arm above her head so that my arm was around her.  She wiggled in closer to me and I started rubbing her shoulder and scratching her back just a little.  Soon her head was back, resting on my arm and she let out a great big yawn - a sign of contentment.

We stayed like this for the rest of the performance.
My arm around her and her little body, which found itself firmly planted as close to mine as she could get.

So I'll preserve that moment - the look of her freckled face and the feel of her hand in mine.
Pack it up and take it along.
It belongs with me.

Monday, April 23, 2012


He stands on the median
Hastings and Cassiar
Homemade cardboard sign tossed to the ground
Pacing back and forth
     Arms in the air
     Face looking up
     Words shouted out
     Fists clenched tight
     Shaking at the heavens.

There is anguish there.
So many stories
a lifetime of listening wouldn't be enough.

A pot of anguish soon looses its lid.
The fury is boiling over -
The pot cannot contain it.

The pot was never meant to contain a lifetime of hell
      broken promises
      broken bones
      broken heart
      broken dreams
      broken mind
      broken world.

And it is a broken world
In which I drive by with food for the week
While he shakes his fists at heaven
Cursing today.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Shane Koyczan at the Vogue Theatre

I will not forget last night.
It was that kind of evening - the kind that imprints itself onto your mind and memory with permanent ink.
And you're thankful afterward that the ink was permanent, because you don't want to forget.


Like most of you, I first heard Shane Koyczan during the Opening Cermonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.  Amid all of the lights and costumes and special effects of the Ceremony entered a young man who recited his poem "We are More".   The simplicity of it took me by surprise.  The words he spoke captured me and I couldn't shake my encounter with him.  He intrigued me - the way he looked, the way he spoke, and how the combination of the two of them together charmed a country.

A year or so later I found myself listening to a recording of Shane Koyczan's poem, "The Crickets Have Arthritis".   I was mesmerized.  I wept as I listened and couldn't stop thinking about it afterward.  His words and delivery gripped me and wouldn't let go.  This man, I thought at the time, this man is amazing.  And the more I listened to and read his words the more I knew it was true.

A few weeks ago I discovered that Shane Koyczan would be doing a reading of his poetry together with his band "Short Story Long" at the Vogue Theatre.  I couldn't believe it.  The thought of him delivering his words on a stage right in front of me at a historic theatre like the Vogue seemed a gift for my last few months here.  I didn't want to go alone, and Mike hadn't ever experienced Shane Koyczan.  He wasn't that eager to go as he didn't know what would be offered to him.

A week before the night of the poetry reading I was checking into it again.  I knew I had to go.  There had been an addition to the lineup - a Vancouver violinist named Hannah Epperson.  That name sounded so familiar to me.  I looked her up and could hardly contain my excitement.

You see, late last summer we spent an idyllic afternoon in Kitsilano which found us at Kits beach at sunset.  As we walked, we noticed a young woman with flowing blond hair playing her violin.  She was playing the most amazing music - layer up layer - with the help of a loop pedal.  What started with the most simplistic pattern grew and grew as she added new loops of intricate and ethereal music.  Mike was spellbound.  He chatted with her afterward, got her name, and off she rode on her vintage bike, blond hair blowing behind her.

That was Hannah Epperson.  She would be opening for, and playing with Shane Koyczan during his readings.  Selling Mike on the idea of this night out was no longer a challenge.

And so it came to be that last night we sat in the velvet chairs in a beautiful old theatre in downtown Vancouver.  It was full to the brim - amazing in and of itself that you could pack out a theatre with the promise of a poetry reading.  (There is hope after all.)

Hannah Epperson opened the night just as I expected.  Simply, hauntingly, and beautifully.  There was no pretense, no "showmanship" nor slick elements of performance.   It was only music - and for much of her performance she appeared lost in the wonder of it all.  She played percussively, using her instrument seemingly beyond what it was intended for.  We wished we could have heard more.

But then the feast began.
Offered up by a large man with a thick beard, glasses and a hat.
And when he started to feed us, we realized we'd never tasted anything quite like it before.

Shane Koyczan delivers his poems in "slam-style".  His tempo and rhythm changes and quickens and leaves you on the edge of your seat.  He gave some readings as solos and others along with his band the Short Story Long which consisted of piano, guitar, cello, stand-up bass, vocals and horns.  There were poems in which he even sang.  And when he did, the vulnerability and the risk he was so obviously taking, left you breathless and grateful.

It took less than thirty seconds for Mike to realize why he had come.  A sacred offering was being made, and he was among the recipients.

Shane Koyczan is a broken man.  He is raw and ragged and honest.  He divulges secrets and stories, tragedy and heartbreak in the most profound ways.  There are moments when you find yourself crying at the pain and grittiness of what he is describing, but then seconds later laugh uproariously at the self-depracating humour he is so very good at.

His words are substantial.
They are profane and rich and beautiful and captivating all at the same time.
They grip your heart and break it into pieces.
They help you believe in something again.
They cause you to look inward as his own tale is so raw and intimate there is nowhere else to look.

And that's the kind of night it was.
That is why I don't want to forget.


For a sample of Shane Koyczan, go here to listen to "Shut up and Say Something".
For a sample of Hannah Epperson's music and style, go here.

Shane Koyczan has just released a new collection of his poems.
Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty is published by mckellar & martin

Friday, April 20, 2012

Women Make the Schools Go Round

It struck me, the other day while at a PAC (Parent Advisory Council) meeting, how important women are to the life of a school.  Here we were, a group of six women sitting in a cozy living room flipping through papers and requests and budgets, deciding big issues and acquisitions for the school.   The acquisitions which were discussed,  couldn’t have even been considered without the fundraising that the same women sitting in the living room poured countless hours undertaking.

Most of us are stay-at-home moms.  Some work part-time or run small business ventures on the side.  All of us are the same ones who stand outside the classrooms at the end of the day waiting to take our kids home from school.

Our PAC is unique, in that we have one male member of the executive who pours just as much out as his female counterparts, but other than him, it’s driven and directed by women.

All of this got me thinking about the role of women in the life of the school.  Ask any public school administrator where they’d be without an active and engaged PAC raising funds for their school and they’d say “lost”.  Interestingly, most of the women who are most involved in PACS are not full-time working moms.  They are regular women who have chosen to or whose circumstances have allowed them the gift of staying at home with their kids.  But they are also passionate about the educational experience their kids receive and want to give them the best opportunities possible.

It’s not a glamorous role.   Just today I was unloading containers of food and juice boxes into bins and distributing them to the various classrooms around the school.   Before today,  someone had to orchestrate all of this – research restaurants, administrate orders, count money, go shopping and show up early to make it all happen.  This happens week after week, year after year.  It’s greasy slices of pizza and hot-dog days and little cartons of chocolate milk.  And it’s women who make it work.

A few weeks ago I got to do what I love the most and volunteer with the students in Sasha’s class.  I was elbow-deep in paper mache’ mix and was helping Sasha’s classmates run their hands through the goopy solution onto newspaper.  I got to chat with amazing little people and watch their creativity unfold.  Afterward, when I had finished cleaning up the mess, I thought about the countless hours that women spend in the school just like I had that morning.  Helping teachers execute big projects and messy activities that would be impossible to do on their own.  If we were to add up all of the volunteer hours that women donate to schools to help them run to their full potential, we’d be amazed. 

I love that it’s women who make this happen.  Women like me, who don’t carry a big title or hold an “important” job.  And before you say it, yes, I know being a mom is an important job.  I get it.  But it’s often pretty thankless and hidden behind the scenes.  And that’s why I love that it’s these same “invisible” women who are securing large grants, raising big dollars, and spending their time getting dirty serving pizza and blowing up balloons to make schools work.

I find it interesting that although there are more women than men in the teaching profession, there is a disproportionate number of men in senior administration roles.  This trend continues to change and morph to reflect the thinning of the glass ceiling, and hopefully within a few generations, there will be just as many men teaching early years as women, and just as many women in senior administrative positions as men.

In the same way, I hope there are just as many dads spending the evening in living rooms and school libraries making plans for the next big PAC fundraiser or counting pizza money as there are moms.  

Until that happens, it's women who make the schools go round.  
And we're pretty good at it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Things I'm Looking Forward to When Thinking About Being Back in Winnipeg

Throwing all of my recycling into my blue box.  In Burnaby,  I have to separate my newsprint from my mixed paper.  I also can't recycle milk cartons or tetra paks.  Simple is the way to go.  In Winnipeg, you just throw it all in, baby.  (Whether or not any of it actually gets recycled, we're not sure about).

The Mexican Breakfast at Stella's.  Nothing like it.

Lots of free parking.  

Cheap paid parking.  I don't think I'll ever complain about paying for parking again.

Shopping at The Bulk Barn.

Biking with the girls without having to regularly stop and walk our bikes up steep hills.

The change of seasons.  On the Prairies, you know when winter has arrived.  Oh, you know.  Likewise with spring.   There is nothing like the first real day of a prairie spring.  It's as though you can hear the whole city collectively breathing a huge sigh of relief and thankfulness.  Here on the West Coast, one season melts into another with great subtlety.

Lots of sunshine.

Really hot beach days.  You know the days I'm talking about.  The ones where it's so hot you can hardly breathe.  You don't get those here.  It's too moderate a climate.

Crazy thunderstorms.

The Winnipeg Folk Festival.  There's nothing like it.

Cheering in earnest for the Winnipeg Jets with a bunch of crazed hockey fans still reveling in the glory of getting their team back.

Curries of all types and colors at Siam Thai.

A Chicken pita at Nico's.

Spenst Brothers hamburger patties.

(yes, I like food)

Wiener roasts with good friends at St. Vital Park on summer days that seem to go on forever.

The Winnipeg Free Press.  The Vancouver Sun has got nothing on the 'freep.

Having neighbors I can borrow an egg from any time.  Or if I have a hankering for chip dip with onion soup mix and sour cream but have no sour cream, I can run over for an emergency supply of that too.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 Vancouver Sun Run

Last year, Mike and I ran the Vancouver Sun Run together.  We even did the training together and were still talking by the end of it.   Aside form Mike's shock and dismay that I don't like to and choose not to drink water while I run (I gotta stay in my zone) we liked being together and completing something "big" as a team.

We were all geared up and registered to do this year's Sun Run together.... looking forward to it, even.  And then Mike got hit with the virus from hell that I suffered with for more than a month and our plan fell off the rails.  But I wasn't sick anymore and had no excuse.  So I started my own little training regime and got set up to do the Sun Run solo.  Well, not quite solo.  There were 49,999 other people running it too.

Thankfully, Mike and the girls bussed downtown with me to see me off and meet me at the finish line.  It's crazy to me that they can even begin to cram 50,000 people onto the street in their color groups and have this thing run without pandemonium ensuing.  I waited in my group for about 45 minutes before I took off doing what I do best - people watching and eavesdropping.  I was also shivering a lot and hugging myself to conserve my body heat.

Finally, the green group was off and running!  The Sun Run is so big and there are so many people that the main challenge isn't your time, or your form, it's finding an opening in the crowd to get to so you can keep running.  I actually found this was a lot easier this year because I was only thinking of myself.

Here I am, only a few minutes into the race...

These guys in front of my prove again that you don't need to spend a lot of money on fancy running apparel.  Why not just wear your trunks and your dress shirt?

And I'm off.  And that's the last Mike and the girls will see of me for a long, long time.

I have to say, running in Vancouver has its perks and its drawbacks.  First off, it's a completely beautiful course.  You find yourself running through Stanley Park along the water, then winding your way through streets lined with palm trees and flowers and interesting buildings.  Second, there are hills.  Quite a few along the course, in fact.  There are also two bridges to climb.  This challenged me way more last year than this year.  This year I knew they were coming and I channeled my inner Adrian Wortley and knocked those hills on their ass.

Don't tell Mike this (and definitely don't tell my friend Joyce), but there were some times out there that I was actually enjoying myself.  I was in the zone, baby, and it felt good.  Mike's Garmin was also not working properly, so I had no real idea what my pace was.  Maybe that was part of the key!
Along the course I also got to see two people puking and one guy being taken off on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance.  Who says running is boring?

This guy doesn't think running is boring!

At the end, I searched high and low for a tall good-looking guy in a plaid hat flanked with 3 pretty girls, but I didn't see one.  As I came across the finish line I was happy to see that I knocked 3 minutes off my time from last year, finishing at 1:03:38.  Not bad for a flatlander.  I was forced to celebrate by sipping a juice box (where was the chocolate milk?) in isolation.   Mike and the girls had travelled to the half way point but didn't see me.  They were also at the finish line and didn't see me.

In a crowd of only 50,000 people, it shouldn't be hard to find your family, should it?  Yes, it should.  And it was.  But thanks to Mike's forward-thinking, we had agreed to meet up at the Skytrain station if we didn't find each other after half an hour.  So I stood waiting at the entrance to the station, FREEZING my ass off and considering asking a stranger to text Mike for me.  Not long after, I found him and we headed home.  Not quite the reunion at the finish line I was hoping for, but at least we were together!

Here's where the best part of the day comes in!  Breakfast at Heidi's - our favorite little cafe for breakfast in Vancouver.  We went last year after the Sun Run and blogged about it, and the next time we came in, the owner recognized us from our blog!  We're like buddies now!   Why do we love Heidi's?  It's a small little place, not an ounce of pretension in sight, the food is ridiculously delicious and the staff make you feel good.

Breakfast this morning did not disappoint.

I'm thankful I have a body that can run.
I'm thankful I have a family that came with me.
I'm thankful the cooks at Heidi's know how to cook an egg over-medium perfectly.

It was a good day.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I Did It

Today was our last day of skiing, as Mount Seymour closes for the season after tomorrow.

What I want to tell you all tonight is, I did it.  I did something I was afraid of.

I'm still the slowest skier in the family.
I may take wide turns and prefer if people don't ski or board too close to me.
My heart still pounds when I'm about to get on or off the lift.
I'm kind of hunched forward and I look really stiff.


I won this round.
Fear  0     Scaredy Cat Momma  1

This morning Mike convinced me and Ellie to join him and Sasha and Hannah way up the mountain on a new (to us) run.  Ellie and I hopped on and began our climb.  Ellie is my little partner in fear.  She is always more tentative and cautious to try new things, just as I am.  As we were flying above the mountain on the lift we got to have a great conversation about fear.  We asked ourselves how different the world would be if people were never afraid and if fear never stopped them from doing what they really wanted to do.  We both agreed it would be a pretty adventurous, interesting world.  Both of us are sure we want less fear and more willingness to take chances in our lives.

Here's to powdery snow, skiing down, looking up, and taking more chances.
(Oh,  and this year, no broken bones...)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Broken Heart

When we moved here, nearly two years ago now, I didn't expect to fall in love.

My plan was that we'd spend a year together as a family.  We wouldn't really need anyone else.  We'd explore the West Coast and do some neat things.  We'd live in our little bubble as a family and then slide out and disappear as quickly as we came.

I needed a reprieve from expectations and difficult relationships and making other people happy.  I walked into my life here feeling lighter than I had in years.  I felt free and independent and in control.  I didn't see the point of seeking out or establishing relationships because we wouldn't be here for long.  I didn't want to invest in people, and I was certain that when people knew we were here for a year, they wouldn't want to invest in us either.  It seemed to be the perfect fit.

Then something happened.   One year became two.
And before I knew it, I was surrounded with people with stories and substance and I fell in love.

Last night I wrote a difficult email to our closest friends here letting them know that the Penners are pulling up stakes and heading back to Winnipeg at the start of the summer.  I tried to communicate how difficult this decision was.  How much we've come to love this place - the sights and sounds and smells.  The moist warm air off the Pacific ocean, the towering North Shore mountains, the smell of cherry blossoms in March and the greenest of greens all winter.

But it's not the place that fills me with sadness as I think of leaving.  It's the people.  Whether I planned for it or not, there are threads of the stories of my friends here that have become woven up in mine own.  They have been the witneses to the transformation of who I am now.  I've grown to fiercely love them and their kids.  

We are connected.
And leaving will hurt.

As we've been talking to the girls about leaving, there have been many tears shed from all of us.  Ellie, in particular, has had a hard time as she thinks about leaving her beloved Nikki.  "What will Nikki do without me?" she sobbed as the realization of not being by Nikki's side hit her.  We had a snuggle and then I asked if Ellie would ever change coming here and getting to know Nikki, even though just thinking about leaving hurt so very much.  She didn't even have to think about it.  No, she said, she'd still come and she'd still want to know Nikki, even though leaving will be so painful.

I get that.  I wouldn't change it either.  But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Help

They hold their little hands in theirs as they make their way up the steps to the classroom in the morning.

They wipe tears….

Cheer supportively at assemblies…..

Join in for family reading…..

Theirs is the first face the little ones see when the door opens and they are finished for the day.

They’ve come from different countries and continents to start over, or make a life in Canada.  The Philippines, Thailand, and Brazil are the places they call home.

They are the help, the nannies of the school.

Some of them live in beautiful suites in the lower level of the house of the family they are working for.  Others have just a small room in the basement.

They don’t always know where they fit in – where they belong.  They are not the little one’s parent.  They know this well.  But they feel like they are most days.

On the playground some of them are tentative and shy.  Their heads are down and they avert your eyes.  Their English isn’t good enough, they think.  What do they have to offer to the conversation?  They’re not like you, they think.  They are only the help.

Others have the spark of life in their eyes.  They seek connection, relationship, and understanding.  They find their place and become part of the circle.

Whether tentative or shy or full of life, when you really see them come alive is when they find each other.  It’s then that they can speak the same language to each other, in more ways than one.  Here they can speak Tagalog and think of home.  But it’s also where their context is understood.  What they do, who they are, what they are missing, what they have, and who they left behind.  They laugh here as though they are all in on the same joke.  Or the same life.  The life of the help.

They have gained the warm embrace of children, but they are children who aren't theirs.  Some hold the hands of another's children and have had to leave their own behind to make this dream work.  Does it hurt to feel the embrace of these children, or does it lessen the existing pain and longing just a little?  

Do the parents know, I wonder, how gently they hold their children?  How they send them off with a kiss and a wish for a good day?  That they are part of the fabric of the community on the steps and on the playground.  That they are known and engaged and missed when they're gone?

Not invisible.  Not to me.  
Not just the help.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Other Half of Brave

(To read Brave click here)

I was back in Sasha's classroom this morning for "Family Reading".  Twice a week, about half of her classmates are able to pull their parents in to sit in tiny chairs beside them and listen to them read.

Today there were two more parents squished into tiny chairs in the classroom.  They belonged to the new boy, R, who joined the class last week.   R excitedly held his dad's hand and showed him the book shelf, eagerly picking a book on Vikings which is the theme the class is in the middle of exploring.  He sits with his mom and dad at his desk, pointing, talking, and laughing together.  R's eyes sparkle.  He speaks with a quick, animated cadence in Portuguese.  His parents speak back to him, stopping to rub his back or give his shoulder a squeeze - looking at the pictures but not able to read the words.

I wonder what they're thinking, as they sit beside him.  They are surrounded by the hum of six and seven year olds reading aloud in a language that doesn't yet belong to them.  The desks are full of parents who can chat with their child's teacher, Principal, or other parents with ease.  The words on the bulletin boards and notices that go home hold combinations of letters and sounds that don't yet mean anything to them.  Is it overwhelming?  Exhausting?  Daunting?  Intimidating?  Surely it must be a collection of all of these.

Soon the chimes ring and it's time for the student's to thank their readers and listeners and say goodbye.  R's parents offer enormous warm hugs to their son with kisses on his cheeks.  They let him go and leave him in this world of foreign sounds and symbols.  Leaving him to navigate this journey on his own.  They can't do this for him, and they must know that soon it will be him teaching them.  His mom gives him one more squeeze to his hand and then walks out.

I want to put my arm around her and say,
"He'll be fine.  
There are boys who are taking him under their wing.  
You are welcome here. 
I hope you will soon feel like part of this community.  
Tell me your story.  
How did this place become your home?  
It must be so hard to leave him.  
How does it feel?"

But I can't.
I can only catch their eyes and smile - try to say in a warm look all that I want them to know.

They walk across the playground to the parking lot together, the door closing behind them.
This is the other half of brave.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ellie Makes a Splash

Saturday was the day to celebrate Ellie's 9th birthday with her friends from school.  
We decided to change things up and have the party at the pool in our neighborhood.

These Teddy Grahams jumped into their "water" cupcakes with 
their peach-ring floaties just in time to celebrate too.

Ellie was able to have all of her most special friends at the party.  
Even her beloved Nikki.
Here, Mike and Nikki get crazy with some water balloons.

High five for Nikki!

Here the girls are playing a rousing game of "hot potato" with water balloons filled with sub-zero temperature water.  If you get caught with a balloon, you have to sit on it until it breaks.  
It was kinda cold.

Kinda cold, indeed.

Water balloons can make good bowling balls too.

All the girls got a chance to try out the water walkway...

... even Nikki!

Soon it was time for snacks and cupcakes, presents.....

..... and blowing out nine candles!

Beautiful faces.   Special girls.  Dear friends.

It was a great day to celebrate turning 9.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mother (Corp) Love

The Federal Budget was handed down last week.  In amidst the news of doing away with the penny and increases to cross-border shopping limits came the announcement of a 10% cut to the budget of the CBC.  I know many people for whom this means nothing.  I know some people (hi Dad!) who think the cuts should have been higher.   I also surround myself with a posse of tireless supporters of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation who joined me in being disheartened and disappointed with the news, especially since Heritage Minister, James Moore, had assured Canadians not that long ago that there would be no such cut.

After posting a status about my disappointment on facebook last week, my cousin and fellow CBC listener Gordon, posed a timely query as to whether or not the Feds still belong in the broadcasting business at all.  I thought about that question long and hard and knew it deserved more than a few sentences on facebook.  Let me tell you why.

For as long as I can remember, I've been a news junkie and passionate about politics.  This goes back.  Way back.  As soon as I was old enough to start staying up until 10, I religiously watched The National and The Journal  every night before bed.  I adored Barbara Frum on The Journal and mourned her passing.  When I was interviewed for a job for an on-air radio position (that I got and continued to love for many years) when I was 14 years old, I told the kind man interviewing me that someday I was going to be the next Barbara Frum.  I never did achieve that dream, but I hope I have some of her ability to go after the truth and tell a story with compassion.   I loyally suffered through the "Pamela Wallin / Switch to 9 pm" experiment and have speculated for years about whether Peter Mansbridge still has a "thing" for Wendy Mesley after all.  (And those were just my teenage years.)

When I became a teacher and had my summers off another layer was added to my love of the CBC.  I would spend my mornings lazing about while listening to Morningside with Peter Gzowski on CBC Radio.  Peter captured me immediately with his ability to come alongside the subject of his story or interview subject with such a natural and authentic curiosity.  He made me laugh and instigated tears on many occasions.  His death, too, was felt deeply by me as  both a great personal and national loss.

Since those days,  and at all times of the day, my dial has never changed from CBC Radio.  I cannot mention every program or host who has irritated, informed, entertained, or endeared themselves to me over the years.    I had my doubts about an afternoon host like Jian Ghomeshi being cut out for morning radio, and look where that got me?  Hopelessly devoted to him and Q every morning.  I can still remember specific episodes of Outfront that left significant impressions on me.  I have been riveted by the stories on Afghanada and have laughed until I've cried to the tales of Dave and Morley on The Vinyl Cafe.   Some of the most sacred moments of recent years have happened while sitting in my van on Sunday afternoons listening to Tapestry.

When our girls were little and I was ready to run out of the house screaming by the time Mike came home from work, he'd always take the girls down to the basement to save my sanity play right after supper.  I'd immediately turn on CBC and the familiar theme from As it Happens would drift into the kitchen as I did the supper dishes.  As soon as I'd hear it, it was like a sedative to the soul.  Intelligent adult conversation.  Quirky people.  An escape from my reality.  All at the touch of a dial.  And these memories, my friends, only lightly scratch the surface.

I can't begin to tell you how many amazing musicians I've been introduced to over the CBC airwaves.  It's a beautiful, intimate experience to be doing your own thing and then hear someone you've never heard of before sing or play their tune resulting in immediate but unexpected goosebumps.  Hey Rosetta!,  Arcade Fire, and Feist are just a few that I've had this experience with over the years.

Don't even get me started on books.  Half of the books I've read or want to read I've heard about because of the location of my radio dial.  Hearing about their stories, their struggles, their passions and samples of their offerings has exposed me to some of the best literature I've read that I would have never heard of or been exposed to otherwise.  Romeo Dallaire, Linden MacIntyre, Lawrence Hill, Ami Mckay, Joseph Boyden, Yann Martel....   Hearing those authors interviewed and reading their books have no doubt,  made me a better person.

When we moved to Vancouver from the prairies nearly two years ago, I needed to find my bearings in a new place and a new community.  It was summer and neighbors and friends were hard to come by.  The first thing I did when beginning to tear the packing tape off of our boxes, was find the Vancouver location of  CBC Radio 1.   As the tag line of "Canada lives here" along with the familiar sounds, voices and personalities played out over my new house, I knew I was home.   "Home" had followed me.

So if you ask me if Canada still needs the CBC you will hear a resounding yes.  If you ask me if Federal government funding for the Mother Corp needs to be maintained I will just as passionately say yes again.  I want my daughters to have the same opportunity to grow and change and expand themselves and their thought processes as I have had ... with just the turn of a dial.