Thursday, September 27, 2012

When I'm 90!

I have been blessed with some older saints in my life. Two of them have challenged and inspired me lately.

First of all, one gentleman, age 90, in our church changed his photo directory page. He had recently been widowed and his picture was from 10 years ago, so it was time. Every person/family who has a picture in our photo directory also puts personal information on their page, such as children, education, occupation, and hobbies and interests. His information included the following interests:
family, cooking, reading, questioning, discovering, day-dreaming, at 90 I am discarding outdated answers. Read it again. Isn't that a wonderful list? What really got my attention was the last phrase. He is learning to discard outdated answers. This gentleman is still learning and discerning and changing! I want to be like that. 
The second senior that has inspired me is my great Aunt Sue, aged 93. I'm starting to make a habit of calling and visiting her regularly. I knew this year of working part-time was for a reason, and she might just be it. She's already looking forward to our visit next week Thursday. Aunt Sue, and her late husband Phil, have had an interesting life. From eloping in the prairies of Manitoba to making a business and life out here in the Fraser Valley, they have blazed their own trail. They did not follow the typical conventions of the day, much to the dismay of their families. I heard vague, concerned comments about them. Were they even Christian? I don't think they ever went to church. I visited them once as a young adult, when my Bible School choir was here and I arranged to go to their home overnight...but they didn't come to my performance. They just didn't do church!
When we moved to the valley 12 years ago, I visited them sporadically. My parents always went to see them when they came to visit us, and I'd usually tag along. They really enjoyed it when I brought my little baby along (he's 11 now!). Uncle Phil is gone now, and Aunt Sue only has 1 daughter, so she's lonely. Her daughter has done an amazing job of looking after her mom, but I'm sure it must be exhausting. And so, at the beginning of this year of living deliberately, I determined that maybe I could be like a surrogate daughter...someone who calls, visits and brings some soup. Seeing as I am also not able to do this with my own parents at this point, it also appeases some of my own guilt!
So today was one of my visits with her. She has had a health scare just a few weeks ago that they have determined was a "mini-stroke." But she is still independent, walking around and talking a blue streak. She just complains of dizziness. As we talked today, she was full of stories of her childhood, her brothers and sister (my grandmother), of growing up with my dad (who was only a few years younger than she), and of losing her mother when she was 12. It was also interesting to hear her talk of heaven, of the comfort she finds in God's word, and of the prayers she is uttering. She has faith. God is holding her close to his heart, of that I have no doubt.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I love Sundays. I love going to church, although I must confess it is usually for the socializing. Today I got more out of church than meeting my friends. First of all, I needed to attend the "child safe" workshop, which is an annual course that everyone who works with underage children in our church needs to take. It is an unsettling hour every year, as you talk about preventing and recognizing child abuse. However, we followed this class with the worship service where we had communion that included everyone. I found it particularly meaningful to have communion around a table surrounded by families. I was sharing the Lord's Supper with the very children I had just promised to keep safe. What a holy time. Church is about inclusion...everyone is invited to the table. To stand there, offering grapes and pretzels to the children, my own included, was a great privilege.

Also during the worship service, an opportunity was given to a young couple from our church who have very deliberately chosen to live in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. They are befriending the people that live there, hoping to share the love of Jesus with the very real people that are there. As Jordan shared stories with us, I was struck by the way he introduced us to his friends, with real names and stories. May I be just as careful to realize that the people I meet on the street or in the store or at church are real people who need the love of Jesus just as much as I do. Check out Jordan and Carlye's blogs at and .

Every Sunday afternoon, my husband and I both very deliberately call our parents. It is a time to connect with them. Both sets of parents have often said how they look forward to our calls. I know that now as my children are starting to leave the nest, I look forward to hearing from them, as well. We often cover the same ground in our conversations, but every call is a blessing to me. Our parents still love us, worry about us, and are so interested in our lives. They ask about each of the children. We know it is a great privilege to still have both of our parents and we are grateful for their longevity!

A climax of the day came when we met with our church care group in the evening for a potluck supper. We all come bearing some kind of food that we share with everyone. We are a very diverse group around the table, from young children to almost seniors. We are calling ourselves the "Group in the Middle," as we don't belong with young adults anymore and don't want to admit that some of us could attend the seniors' group. (Can you believe they used to call the seniors' group in our church 50+? I am so glad my late friend Hildegard insisted that the name change when she turned 50.) I love our care group. We don't plan anything specific, but instead take the time to really talk with each other. As we went home after the evening, my husband and I compared conversations we had each had. We were both able to talk with folks on a deeper level than just Sunday morning greetings and also with people we don't always get to talk with on a Sunday morning.

So all in all, a great day! Oh, and my flowers are still blooming, my mini-tomatoes are ripening faster than I can eat and the sun was shining.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Living Deliberately on days off

This has been the first full week back into routines for all of us. On one hand it feels good to be back into a rhythm, but on the other, I'm not sure what this rhythm really is. I'm not used to working part-time, but as that is the only job I got this year, I am thankful. There are many teachers who are completely unemployed this year, so I've got it good.

I used to be a stay-at-home mom, and for many, many years I worked on-call, so I'm not sure why this switch back into part-time work is feeling difficult for me. I have only worked full-time for the past 2 years, but I loved it and now I'm feeling a bit adrift.

So, I need to think about being very deliberate with the days I am not at work. I used to be able to fill my days easily with baking, cleaning, and reading. Will I find value in those again? Now that I've learned how to survive without having a perfectly clean house, I'm not sure I can motivate myself to do it that way again. I did have momentary joy this week with doing some canning and I baked cookies, cleaned up, and read. Gareth brought his class over one day for lunch, and so I busied myself in getting ready for that, but that's a once a semester thing. I now need to think about what I want to accomplish these days at home.

Some ideas I have include calling my great aunt once a week. She's lonely and would appreciate a call or a visit. I will definitely work out both days. I do need to do some house cleaning jobs that have been neglected for two years (ie cleaning out closets, etc). I have started some massage therapy in the hopes that I can push back my hip replacement surgery a few more years. I'd also like to be more deliberate about making meals on the days I'm home. When you work full time, it is impossible to have meals that take time to prepare and now I should be able to do that.  Okay...maybe it won't be that hard to fill up the days. :) And maybe I should deliberately blog on one of the days I'm home.

And now on to the weekend: soccer, working out, cleaning house, Skype date with my daughter and a date with my hubby tomorrow; church and relaxing on Sunday. Monday will be my first attempt at living deliberately on a day "off." Let's see how I do.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First day of School

I feel like I've been hit with a truck. I thought I was ready. I had my papers, my speeches, my name tags, everything ready, but then the kids came in and I thought "What do I do now?" It felt like it took me a few minutes to get everything back in focus and then I was okay. At least I hope I didn't sound too much like an imbecile to the parents who were in there to watch their baby start their first day of either grade 1 or Kindergarten. But little things kept surprising fast my first speech went. I thought for sure it was 10 minutes, but it was only 5. I had a birthday boy in my room today, so I quickly had to find the birthday hat, birthday sticker and have everyone sing the birthday song. The K students just wanted to talk and play and didn't know, or didn't want to, sit and do things together. I had forgotten how the K's are at the beginning of the year. Sure I had K's last year, but my latest memory was of them in June, ready for Grade 1. These are beginners again...I need to remember!
I had forgotten how much energy it took to be a new teacher in a new school with a new class. And I had forgotten how fast time goes...before I knew it, it was time to send the little gaffers home.Whew! Felt like a whole day, but it was only half. What will it be like tomorrow??
And yet the toughest half was yet to come. Because of the number crunch, our classes are all basically filled to capacity. There are not enough funds to have more teachers in the district. Our principal put it this way. We have about 25 more students in our school, but we've lost a teacher. Those 25 new students, plus the 25 or so that were in that teacher's class all have to be absorbed by the teachers left in the school. So today, after we had seen the "whites of their eyes", we knew we had to do some switching. The K's were too full, the upper intermediate classes had some room, and so we had to iron out the wrinkle from the K classes up. We took the last hour of a 3 hour staff meeting to figure this all out. I took in 4 new students, and pushed 7 out, with up to 4 more K's coming in as our school starts to accept cross-boundary requests. It's absolutely crazy.
And then after the dust sort of settled, my teaching partner and I tried to reconfigure the classroom. Out goes most of the grade 1 desks, in comes some more K tables. We needed 6 more chairs. We had to make name tags for the cloak room, the welcome poster, the table spots, etc. I finally left around 4 and realized when I got home that our son needed to eat within the hour and be out the door shortly after for soccer practice. What to make?? We didn't have pasta sauce, we had just had rice, we had no potatoes in the house, ... oh, I know, I'll make pancakes. A special meal for the first day of school. Oh..we don't have mix. No problem, I can make it from scratch. What??? We have NO milk and NO milk powder! So much for that. Hope the eggs and mix will stay till tomorrow. So it was toast, beans, salad and whatever else people could find.
And now I just needed to write that all down before I could let it go. I am excited for this school year. After the craziness of this week, I am sure the class, and me, will be able to settle down and enjoy our year together. And with K being the majority this year, play will be easier to do! And now I'm going to work out. I need to!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

September 1

I love the first of every month. I almost feel like I do at New Year's. It's a new start. The calendar isn't full yet (although this month does have more on it than last!) and the page isn't ripped at the top where it hangs from the nail. I also feel like the start of every month is another chance for me to meet my goals. I get re-energized and motivated. It doesn't matter how I did last month, this is a new chance for me to try again. I guess that's the optimist in me.

So today I start again. I have made progress in the past month, but there is more to do. I cleaned house, got caught up in the accounting, worked out, played on the trampoline with Micah, and spent time playing a new game with the family (ever heard of Quelph? it's a good one!).

My job starts on Tuesday. I look forward to welcoming new students. I want to be a better teacher this year, so I've done some professional reading on the importance of play for everyone, and especially for young students. Did you know that big techie companies want to know whether their employee applicants played as a child and what they played? Children who have a lot of play experience are better problem solvers and socially equipped. Studies of many people in prison have shown a common lack of playtime in their childhood. So, rather than just push a bunch of "learning outcomes" down my students' throats, I need to let them play, explore and interact with each other. That will be a challenge for me. I'm goal oriented, as you havc probably noticed, so to let the control go of what is to happen in my class is intimidating. I'll try, though! I'll let you know how it turns out.