{October 28, 2012}   Personal Update

So my last few entries have been either blog-housekeeping or at least somewhat political in nature; I haven’t done an update on how life is going for us in actually a very long time, and while a big part of that is that in some ways it feels like pretty routine (although of course in a spectacular, I love my family and wouldn’t trade a moment of it kind of way), another part is we’ve just been so busy living it. But the reality is, ‘routine’ has changed for us over the last couple of months, life is exciting for us, although of course at times tiring and frustrating, and it’s worth sharing.

Probably the single biggest change is Little Tyke’s in school – junior kindergarten/pre-kindergarten, every morning. He is absolutely loving it and while we of course are having moments of adjusting to new learnings and routines, we’re doing it and thriving, I think. Even the struggles are teachable moments for both LT and us, his parents, and we are making the most of all of it. Having another adult who also happens to be a really trained professional (teacher) in LT’s life is great too, in terms of giving us feedback on how he’s doing and helping us focus on his strengths, and on the things we need to support him in. AND – he has yet to go in his class’s calm down chair two months into school, when we were told most parents could expect to hear their little one spent some time their in September. So yay LT!

Little J is growing up too with the full sentences, the potty training beginning, and the loss of his soother/pacifier/seuss/whatever you call it. He can definitely have a mind of his own, but hey – anyone who knows me knows I consider this a positive in the big picture! πŸ™‚ He thinks he’s his brother’s age, wants to do everything LT does, and gosh darn it is pretty close to be honest with you lol. He still eats like a horse, and his new favourite words of late are ‘What’s that?’ – which I think is phenomenal. Love the curiosity. Keep on growin’, little dude (although maybe be kind and don’t outgrow your brother for at least a few more years?).

A and I are good too. He’s enjoying work, which is keeping him busy, and the last few nice days of running before the torrential rain we’re expecting this week. We’ll see how Halloween goes! Supply teaching for me has been particularly slow this fall, but that’s more than made up for by the feeling I’ve really been helping out my online students, and just how rewarding the church year has felt so far to me. A great group of kids and a great team, both of staff and volunteers, make it a real pleasure to be working there. We had a huge project that came to fruition last night in the form of a benefit concert, which I think both the minister and I, along with everyone else involved, were more than a bit anxious about and invested in the turnout, and if I do say so myself it ended up being a really amazing experience of music and desserts, good work and socializing. It was a really fulfilling and important moment both to me, but more importantly my worship community, which meant a lot.

Otherwise we’re livin’ la vida family. We met a friend of ours and her two daughters today to basically do some shopping, lunching and playing (it was supposed to be Pumpkin Patching, but the rain began today), and we’re making plans for tomorrow to get pumpkins, Halloween costumes and all that arranged. Next week will be busy with online teaching (oh … and my own online course that I’ve been taking for professional development as a teacher this semester), church, Halloween, and hopefully some more supply work, but hey – it keeps me out of trouble and thinking on my toes. Can’t complain about that … much. πŸ˜‰

Hope all is well where you and yours are, and that everyone has a safe and happy Halloween weekend (as I’m sure this weekend is when everyone is having their parties etc.). Talk atcha in the new week. Peace and love! – Sar XO.

{October 24, 2012}   “The R Word”

So here’s something I’m not entirely sure how to respond to.

There was a presidential debate last night, which President Barack Obama handily won. That’s not the issue here though. The issue was the conservative response to the debate.

No … no, that’s not the issue either. The issue is one particular conservative and her explanation for Mitt Romney’s debate performance, as longtime loudmouth pundit (or is that redundant?) Ann Coulter tweeted post debate that she approved of “Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.”

For those who have lived under a Politically Correct rock for years (and happily so), ‘retarded’ is an arcane word for those with special needs, disabilities, exceptionalities. It has long been out of vogue in terms of official use, and has long been seen as offensive as an insult – much like using gay or racial slurs.

Now here’s where I’m torn as to how those of us who find such things offensive should respond. My gut reaction is to respond loud and proud – demand apologies, repudiate the insulting of an entire group of (vulnerable) people to make a political point, insist we be more careful in our use of language, and not stop until Ms. Coulter understands the level of outrage her word choice has caused.

But this is a woman who thrives on the outrage. Who was so offensive to students here in Canada when she came on a speaking tour that they peacefully protested, and she – citing (unfounded) fears for her safety – cancelled her engagements and expressing her disgust at our manners and abrogation of free speech. BOTTOM LINE: she lives to stir the pot and garner attention. The more people she has pissed off (excuse my French) the better.

So what is the appropriate response – give her the attention she craves? Or repudiate her words to indicate our own disgust and disagreement? I feel on the one hand like the best way to make Ann Coulter’s ilk wither and die on the vine is to ignore them, leave them spitting their vitriol into the wind without the responsive audience they so crave. On the other hand – it goes against everything in my being to stand by silent while such hateful language is employed so casually, and even if it doesn’t change her opinion (or that of her kind), it at least establishes it’s not OK.

Perhaps this is why I end up, at times, a less effective advocate than I’d like to be, as I have over the years employed both of the above tactics, sometimes with success, sometimes not. Does anyone out there have any thoughts?

So here in Ontario, we had something of a political earthquake last night as our admittedly-beleaguered premier announced his resignation. Dalton McGuinty has been premier almost 10 years, and I have supported many of his decisions, disagreed with others, but overall thought he did a good job. While a large chunk of the province would probably give him a “D” or an “F” on his way out the door, and truly loyal supporters an “A”, I’d probably give him a solid “B” – which is a darn sight better than his predecessor, honestly. And most of my grumbles about McGuinty honestly come in the last 1-2 years where he has tried, via the HST and suppression of teachers’ right to strike, to shore up the centre-right vote in light of a stumbling Ontarian economy. BOTTOM LINE: I’d count myself a McGuinty supporter, if not exactly a worshiper. And that holds true.

With that note, while his resignation has admittedly on some level left me a bit cynical, wondering what on Earth is about to land that he knows, that we don’t, I also find myself hoping it is not a health-related or other unfortunate personal issue … I find myself wanting to thank him for his undeniable years of service, and the more-than-competent job he did in office … and hoping this only means even better things for the future of Ontario. Pragmatically, he wasn’t going to win another election – as such, it was time to go, and with enough time for his successor to shore up any damage to the party might have been done by McGuinty’s (undeserved) unpopularity – arguably one last act of service to his party and the province by this premier. I wish him the best in future, and the Liberals good luck as they look to find another leader.

One lastΒ  time – while I haven’t agreed with your every decision, Dalton, and while even I as a lifelong Liberal am experiencing the same Liberal fatigue both here in Ontario and on the Federal level as much of the province, and country, that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize a good man who did a good job as premier and who deserves the province’s thanks – and who has gone in to work every day to do a difficult job even when it – and he – have gone ridiculously underappreciated. Mr. Premier – please enjoy whatever adventure life takes you too next, and thank you.

{October 16, 2012}   My New Home

So you’re probably wondering why I moved.
A big part of it was writing what I wrote today about Amanda Todd. I have for the longest time only been writing about the books I’ve read, a few brief family updates, and sharing silly videos from Youtube. But I have important things to share, so I wanted a fresh start, a change of scenery …

And I wanted readers! And WORDPRESS seems to have more in place to attract new readers. Which excites me. It’s frustrating to see my visit counter going up every couple of days … even though that’s my fault for not posting more frequently too.

So – new space, new adventure. Let’s be in this together. Will you join me on this new … old … ride? You can find my old posts here, and it’s the same place as I intended the last place to be … just, moreso! I’m excited and I hope you are too. Let’s do this thing!

One of the most horrific aspects of Canadian teenager Amanda Todd’s suicide last week, was the fact that those who had tormented her in life followed her after her death … and seemed to have brought along several friends. To summarize the story, Todd was in an unfortunate (and by unfortunate, I mean ‘criminal’) situation three years back where she was pressured by a grown man online to flash her webcam for him. For what turned out to be the rest of her life, this man, in response to future rebuffed come-ons, followed her movements from school to school, being sure new friends, teachers, etc. received the image of the topless tween. Given the fact that when young girls are victimized in such a way, of course it must be there fault, the inevitable blaming of the victim ensued, and Todd ended her life last Wednesday after three years of what I can only imagine was a living hell.

Now I was bullied as a kid too – and yes, come gr. 6/7/8, some of that bullying took on a decidedly … well … lewd nature at times (in terms of comments; at no point was the bullying I experienced physical, either in terms of violent and/or sexual behaviour). And I was as squeaky-clean as they came (full disclosure: I didn’t know what the word ‘virgin’ meant until I was 11 years old). So I can only imagine how that kind of bullying, coupled with the feeling of actually ‘having something on this kid’, must have played out … and really, I have no majorly new insights to offer on this topic that haven’t already been well-covered in THIS BLOG at the Huffington Post, which was actually my inspiration to write this in the first place. Really, she puts it so much better than I can and you can consider this whole entry one big ‘DITTO’ on that blog. However, I wanted to add one further observation:

I am probably, to a fault, not one to scream feminism (some would say I do, and I DO stand up for my feminist beliefs in either truly egregious or public scenarios, but in day-to-day reality the truth is I’ve been accused far too much of being humourless, and have just become too tired, non-drama-seeking and (un?)wise to pick ‘Big Issue’ fights over stray comments in a casual conversation), but honestly … ‘well this wouldn’t have happened if she weren’t a slut,’ as one (many) commented on a memorial site? Really?

Imagine for a minute if this had been a male who was victimized. In fact, we have a very apt comparison in incredibly recent times, with Jerry Sandusky’s sexual assaults on at least ten boys, and his attempts thereafter to discredit them as untrustworthy, troubled boys turning on the one person who loved and supported them. I am going to suggest some of those relationships were, in appearance, ‘consensual’ (I don’t believe sexual relationships between a grown adult and children can actually BE consensual, so I will trust my readers know what I mean here), involved kids covering up their adult ‘friend’s’ secrets, etc. etc. etc. – in other words, things that could be seen, by victim blamers, as ‘bad judgement’. Yet, those victims, and rightfully so, continue to have public support and be seen as courageous for coming forward.

So what is so different about Amanda Todd? She was roughly in the same age range as Sandusky’s victims, and had just as much agency (or lack thereof), in these kinds of dealings. And while they are held up as courageous and heroic young men for shining light on the sick culture of Jerry Sandusky and his defenders, this young woman is blamed for her own torture and demise.

There are so many ‘issues’ at play in this story … teen suicide and depression … bullying … technology in bullying … the role of adults in protecting children from these situations … but I want to add another: feminism. And having been a victim of bullying that in many ways came almost directly from my gender (my weight, how I dressed, lewd comments that would never have been directed at boys), and having seen through this and so many other issues (abortion and contraception issues, rape denial, etc.) over the last few years that while we women have come so far in the past years and decades, the fight is far from over and the peace far from secure … I will no longer be shamed or cowed away from the fact that I am a feminist. I am not angry and raging, I am not anti-man, I enjoy girly things and can laugh even at inappropriate humour from time to time … but I will no longer contribute by my silence to a culture that treats young women who were literally tormented to death – and beyond – like this.

{October 9, 2012}   For my American Friends …

Please note that the REAL Mitt Romney did not defeat Barack Obama at last week’s debate. He simply presented a kinder, gentler, but complete disingenuous face to the American people. This is what Obama needed to highlight and point out throughout last week’s debate. Hopefully he won’t be caught out napping again this week.

{October 9, 2012}   Thanks

It’s Thanksgiving Weekend here in Canada and while my three space-sharers, aka my family, have spent a certain amount of the time ill, we have still managed to find the opportunity to enjoy each other and think of the things we’re grateful for. It’s late and I am insanely near to a Turkey Coma lol, so this might not be complete or eloquent, but I wanted to take the time to throw out a few things I’m thankful for.

  • First of all, God, without whom any of the rest wouldn’t be possible.
  • My family; Ari and my boys who are the light of my life, my parents (all four of them) and in-laws who provide more support than anyone could ever imagine, my brother who is one of my favourite people on the planet and who makes me laugh like no one else, my grandmother who is one of the strongest people I know … and a myriad of extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws who I am so blessed to know and love, even if it isn’t always as often or for as much time as we’d all like.
  • My friends; those who are blessings, those who have been lessons, those who have been blessings, those who are no longer around, those who are around, and those who are to come. I have admired and learned so much from everyone who has touched my life, and especially in the last year or so I want to say I have seen some very dear friends learn, grow and find strength they didn’t even know they have – I can only hope as I look around right now frustrated in some ways professionally, missing my family and friends who are so far flung, that I can find some of that strength for myself. I have been surrounded by amazing people who I love dearly. Thank you for that.
  • I am thankful for the professional fulfillment I HAVE found, which can often be easy to overlook in the face of frustrations of trying to become a teacher in Ontario in 2012. I am the children’s minister in an amazing Christian community, working with a tremendous team of coworkers, volunteers, families and children that I can’t imagine leaving at this time; I have had the opportunity to teach such an interesting assortment of students in online high school courses, and I have had the chance to supply teach in a variety of schools for a variety of teachers. It is a rich experience which is never monotonous or boring, and that’s pretty special.
  • I am thankful for the things we so often take for granted – living in Canada, in democratic conditions, under my own roof, with food on my table and a car in my driveway. We worry about money like anyone these days … but really, in this regard, we are so lucky, and it is truly all relative.
  • Awesome babysitters … good books … fall leaves … entertaining TV and movies … family vacations … nice wine … fun conversation … CBC Radio … gossip magazines … more serious magazines … blogs that I sometimes frustrate myself trying to keep up with, but would never stop writing … for all of these things, I am truly thankful.

Blessings on all of you this Holiday Weekend, and for taking the time to read – THANKS!(giving).

{October 2, 2012}  

I finished ROAD TO PERDITION, by Max Allan Collins, this week. I thought I had added it to my reading list this new time around, but apparently not. So I replaced “The Six Wives of Henry the Eighth” by Alison Weir with it – because chiefly there is no such book! lol … There are a couple of books by that title, neither by Alison Weir; I might find which one I was thinking of and re-add it later, but for now, this was an easy approach.

1. Deadlocked – Charlaine Harris 
2. The Last Week – Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan
3. Speaking Christian – Why Christian Words Have Lost their Meaning – Marcus J. Borg
4. The Spiral Staircase – Karen Armstrong
5. A History of God – Karen Armstrong

6. jPod – Douglas Coupland
7. Beloved – Toni Morrison
8. ‘Tis – Frank McCourt

9. We Need to Talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver
10. The Constant Princess – Phillipa Gregory
11. Wicked – Gregory Maguire

12. Road to Perdition – Max Allan Collins
13. Eleanor of Aquitaine – Alison Weir
14. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
15. The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
16. The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien
17. The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien
18. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
19. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
20. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling
21. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling

22. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling
23. Dracula – Bram Stoker

24. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling
25. The Inferno – Dante
26. Towelhead – Alicia Erian

27. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
28. The Way the Crow Flies – Ann-Marie MacDonald
29. The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood

30. 1066 and All That; A Memorable History of England – W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman
31. Have a Little Faith – Mitch Albom
32. Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
33. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
34. Stardust – Neil Gaiman
35. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

36. The Holy Bible – Various
37. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
38. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
39. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
40. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
41. Deception Point – Dan Brown
42. Digital Fortress – Dan Brown

43. The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman
44. Lolita – Vladimir Nobokov
45. Atonement – Ian McEwan
46. All the King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren

47. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
48. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
49. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
50. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
51. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
52. Scarlett – Alexandra Ripley
53. White Noise – Don De Litto
54. Their Eyes were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston

55. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
56. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
57. Ragtime – E.L. Doctorow

58. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
59. The Trial – Franz Kafka
60. Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlasser

61. The Man Who Made Us – Richard Gwyn
62. Memoirs – Pierre Trudeau
63. Shake Hands with the Devil – Romeo d’Allaire
64. Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin

65. Nation Maker – Richard Gwyn
66. The United Church of Canada: A History – Don Schweitzer (ed.)
67. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
68. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
69. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams
70. Life, the Universe and Everything – Douglas Adams
71. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish – Douglas Adams
72. Mostly Harmless – Douglas Adams

73. Committed – Elizabeth Gilbert
74. The Manticore – Robertson Davies
75. World of Wonders – Robertson Davies
76. The Donnellys – James Reaney
77. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
78. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
79. Farenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
80. Not Wanted on the Voyage – Timothy Findlay
81. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
82. Coraline – Neil Gaiman
83. The Crucible – Arthur Miller
84. Mirror Mirror – Gregory Maguire

85. Eats, Shoots & Leaves – Lynne Truss
86. Sorbonne Confidential – Laurel Zuckerman

87. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
88. The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick
89. Hey Nostradamus! – Douglas Coupland

90. The Girl who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson
91. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
92. The 5 People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
93. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
94. Interview with the Vampire – Ann Rice
95. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
96. The Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe
97. Guys and Dolls – Damon Runyon

98. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson
99. He’s Just Not that Into You – Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo, Lauren Monchik

100. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
101. Jesus for the Non-Religious – John Shelby Spong

Not a hard read by any stretch as this is a graphic novel, but a good one semi-based on what Collins refers to as ‘true enough’ events. Good illustrations and a compelling story of this loving dad who is adored in return by his son, yet has a truly heinous career. I enjoyed the read although I will admit it’s not my typical fair, and as such would encourage people to take a chance on it as it’s not just your one-note gangland fair. That said, I also see, though I enjoyed it, how it might not be to others’ tastes. “For those who like this sort of thing, it’s just the sort of thing they’d like.” But if you like buddy movies, mob stories, father-son stories, revenge tales, on-the-road travails … you’ll find something to enjoy here.

{October 2, 2012}   What an amazing weekend!

So it’s been far longer than I intended since I posted – however last week was a busy one getting ready for an even bigger whirlwind of a weekend. On Friday, I surprised my brother by heading overnight to Toronto with my parents to celebrate his 25th birthday (as well as his having signed up with World Pipe & Drum Champions Field Marshall Montgomery – a TRES big deal in the p&d world he inhabits). A great time was had by all on my side of the family …

Before rushing back to Ottawa to celebrate my mother in law’s 60th with the other side of the fam. Also a really fun time at the Metcalfe Fall Fair, and out to dinner at Flying Piggy’s afterward. Followed quickly by church the next day and needless to say it has been a very, very breathless week making sure all of the above came off without a hitch. But it did, it was a fabulous time, and now I’m back to the land of the living – both teaching and studying in online courses, getting ready for Thanksgiving weekend at church (and with my folks) next week, and hey – day to day life with two wee ones (one of whom is now not-so-happily nursing his two year molars, the other of whom seems to be fighting off a cold he won’t acknowledge having).

But would I trade a minute? Naaaah! πŸ™‚ Welcome to my life.

And once more – thanks to everyone who makes that life special, many of whom I got to spend this weekend with, and particularly a happy, happy birthday to the best brother, and the best MIL, a girl could ever ask for. May the year(s!) ahead be nothing but rosy. XOXO

et cetera