Tuesday, October 30, 2007

the trouble with women

I have a hard time with jobs that go on endlessly and don't have clear cut end points. I guess what this means, literally, is that I am a person who does better with deadlines than without them because when I have all the time in the world to do something, I take all the time in the world to do it. I like things that begin and end neatly.

This is something that makes teaching difficult for me. A year is too long. Even a semester is too long. My desk gets messy. If only I could get things done quickly, all at once, with no distractions, they'd get done so much better, so much more efficiently, and so much more thoroughly. I like it when a teaching year ends and I can safely sweep off the top of my desk into a garbage can.

This is what I like about the writing projects, for the most part, because they come with deadlines and usually when I'm finished writing them, they go to someone else's desk for production and I never have to look at them or think about them again. And so I'm irritated by the fact that one of the safety courses keeps coming back to bug me again and again. I finished writing it in August, and it's still pestering me. It drives me crazy when people phone me to ask me questions that are answered in the writing. Knowing that they are going to have to read the document anyway, why don't they just go ahead and do that first? It's a pain, trying to answer their questions, after I've already swept my desk.

Right now I feel like too many things are going on at once. Yesterday's meeting was encouraging in the fact that the clients are only looking for a half hour course. The last one I wrote was nearly five hours long, so this one seems significantly more manageable. However, the other writing project that I've been brought in on is happening simultaneously and I already feel confused trying to keep helicopters separate from investment fraud, while the Safety Course continues to nag me for answers.

(Shawn always says that he wants me around in case of the apocalypse because from all this course writing, I know how to drive snowploughs, build scaffolding, administer all types of emergency first aid, catch money launderers, build roads, drive schooners, and make emergency landings in a helicopter. This doesn't even scratch the surface of all my many talents. Of course all this knowledge is entirely theoretical and if I was actually called upon to DO any of these things, I would likely kill or injure many people.)

And while trying to separate my helicopters from my criminals, K says there's a third writing project coming down the pipe. With three simultaneous writing projects, I am already quite confused. But when I add to that my Drama classes that I'm teaching, the student teacher I am mentoring, and the play I am directing, I feel as though I no longer know which direction I'm facing from one minute to the next.

The problem is that I always take on more than I should. I get bored and feeling useless when I'm not doing something. And yet, when I'm at the hub of too much activity with too many people asking for my help, I feel irritated and panicked.

I think I have about two more days before the hurricane really hits, so I'm trying to enjoy a few more breaths before I no longer have time for that.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

I've been smiling lately dreaming about the world as one

I wonder whether it's the time I've spent away that gives me a little more patience (in which case the longer I stay the more my newfound patience will deteriorate again) or whether it has to do with getting older (in which case my patience could foreseeably continue to stretch on forever). I'm hoping it's the latter because it's pleasant, this reserve of patience I've only recently discovered.


The upcoming week is busy. I am going to be "sick" tomorrow because I need to attend some meetings downtown with K and his people. I don't like these meetings and always feel my presence is unnecessary, but K seems to feel being there is important and so I will be. We are, however, meeting privately prior to the other meeting, and I am going to let him know that while I'm willing to continue to write for him and work behind the scenes, he should not expect me to meet with his clients with any kind of regularity. I'm putting my teaching work first at this point.

On Tuesday I am teaching, but will be darting out on my lunch break to meet with another of K's clients, and then racing back to school. This is exactly the kind of thing I do not want to make a habit of as it technically breaks some board policies and because I want to focus on only one thing at a time if that's at all possible.

Wednesday will be a more normal day, and then on Thursday and Friday I am going to a conference (for teachers, this time) with my principal and a few other keen types who want to talk about protecting kids from bullying and creating a clearly defined code of conduct. I am attending for several different reasons. One, of course, is that I truly do believe that kids need and have the right to feel safe at school, and when the opportunity arose to be involved in something that I care about, I offered to be a part of the process. The other (selfish reason) is that I hope it will help my career, at least somewhat, to spend some time with the administrators, being part of something they care about too.


Last night the inlaws came over for dinner and drinks. The dogs are starting to like them which is encouraging because I dream of one day being able to go on a holiday with Shawn and have them well taken care of by someone with whom they feel comfortable. Having grown up with hardy dogs that adjusted easily to whatever was thrown their way, I am sometimes astonished by the fussiness of our little neurotic trio. And yet, they fit us well. We aren't exactly a hardy and adaptable lot ourselves some of the time.

Yesterday afternoon I did garden work. One of the trees dropped orange leaves, another one turned a beautiful shade of brilliant red and then dropped a zillion more leaves. The leaves, though red on one side, were sort of pale pink on the other side, and when they were all piled up on the lawn and in the dirt under the tree, they looked like gigantic piles of confetti. After admiring them for a couple of weeks, I decided to rake them and bag them like a responsible home owner should do. Little Puppy had the good sense to stay inside where it was warm and dry, but Boy Dogs couldn't resist the appeal of mud and leaves and spent the afternoon chasing each other through the leaves and trying to eat my gardening gloves. My dear husband, during all the chaos, cleaned the kitchen. It made me laugh because it reminded me so much of my own parents; all summer on Saturday afternoons, my father did laundry and sewing while my mother mowed the lawn. I'm glad we're inside out.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

make no mistake where you are

A. died yesterday. I remember feeling like this at C's mother's funeral, only having met her once or twice, not knowing her well enough to be truly directly affected, and yet still feeling, sitting in a room filled with people who are wracked with grief, my own kind of pain. Grieving has a ripple effect and when people you love are hurting, you cannot help but feel their pain alongside them. I didn't know A, but I care about the people who miss her. And I feel their pain through them. And I cannot help but feel the heavy weight of my own mortality pressing against my spine, and that of my own loved ones, when I think of young mothers dying and leaving behind babies and broken hearted husbands. I'm scared this is going to happen to T, her husband, her baby.

They gave us pamphlets about coping with loss; it talked about the typical stages that teenagers will go through. I read it - and noticed that my own stages of grief in my losses have been similar. More like a teenager than an adult. Like them, I feel betrayed by my god that this kind of thing happens in the world. I am overcome by feelings of helplessness and fear that this will happen again and again in circles growing tighter and tighter to my core. I feel Beckett's existential gloom.

This is the second death since I started thinking of it. I don't want a third one. Please.


I am torn between trying to change the culture and trying to fit into it. I don't really like the pre-existing culture in which there is so much noise, so little listening. So little respect for one another. Or so it seems. One of them told me I shouldn't assume that interrupting and cutting one another off was rude, because here, like in cultures where it is considered polite to burp to show appreciation for a good meal, rudeness and respect are shown differently. While I can appreciate that the culture is different, it bothers me a great deal.

And this is where I have to decide how to proceed and I'm struggling a bit with knowing what I should do. If I had, in fact, moved to another country where respect and rudeness truly were demonstrable in different ways, then it would be smartest for me to learn the ways of the people around me and fit in as much as possible - or at least accept what was going on around me. And that is what I would do. That is what I have done.

But here, now, I don't know whether I'm a temporary guest (requiring me to fit in with them) or whether it is my home (requiring them to fit in with me). If I knew the answer it would guide my behaviour.

As it is, knowing nothing, I am floating around unsure of myself. Sometimes I feel like I'm making progress, and sometimes I feel like I'm getting nowhere.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Victor's Anchor

Tomorrow I promised the grade 12s a "sharing session" - as a break from all the heavy, emotional work they've been doing in class with monologues. The idea is to share something special; an item, a story, a song, a skill, whatever... and in keeping with my promise not to assign them any work I wouldn't do myself, I have been trying to think of what I want to share with them and I keep coming up with nothing.

I don't want to play my guitar for them, I don't want to sing for them, I don't want to show them my paintings, I don't want to tell them anything personal. I just don't feel like sharing with these people. It's weird to feel that way, knowing that they're actually becoming easier to deal with... but I guess I just don't trust them enough to share much yet.


After breakfast and a bit of shopping for dog food and dog treats, I spent several hours unpacking boxes. It annoys me that it takes us so long to unpack, that we allow things to sit in boxes for months, even years, sometimes. Some of the boxes I unpacked today were things we hadn't unpacked since our last move, which was in June of 2005. Ridiculous.

It was sort of fun to find old paintings and candle holders and decorations that I haven't seen in a long time. In some cases it was interesting to see how much more I liked things I'd thought weren't so great the last time I saw them. And also how some things I'd loved very much looked less special now. I guess my tastes are still changing.

It made me want to start painting again, seeing all the old studies as well as finding a few empty canvases that would like to be painted. I haven't hung up any of the pictures, just stacked them all up against the wall, but having freed them from their boxes and brown paper wrappings brings them one (big) step closer.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Wars

She didn't just die peacefully in her sleep the way we originally thought. She actually reached out and turned off her own respirator.

This fact is being concealed from Shawn's grandfather who, it is believed, would not take this news well.

It's strange how something like that can be looked at in such opposite ways. To Shawn, this was a comfort, the notion that she had been in control of her own final moments, in control of her last breaths. That she had chosen her time and died with dignity. But the idea that his grandfather would see it as a decision against choosing to be with him, a decision to abandon him, is very possible. When I think of my own parents, I wish them (no time soon) such a graceful passing - and yet when I think of my spouse, perhaps it is different. I just don't know.


I just got an email from T; she isn't doing well. Her mother is dying of cancer while she fights her own battle with it - and her father, though faring better at this stage - also has cancer. She, as their only child, is trying to manage their finances and settle their property and make other arrangements while enduring chemotherapy and trying to raise a toddler. It seems that some people are given so much more to cope with than is truly endurable. Her own chemotherapy, of course, is making her frail and weak and she was admitted to hospital in another city while trying to help her parents and visiting her dying mother in hospital... how is she supposed to manage all this? I feel helpless and empty wishing there was something I could do, being powerless.


The things I am most afraid of are the things I never write here because I feel as though putting them down in writing makes them more real, more true. I have been afraid for the last four days that my parents were missing or dead. They were due to arrive in Arizona on Monday and so, with the idea of giving them a day to unpack, I started calling on Tuesday. Their phone just rang and rang with no answering machine as was expected. By last night I was getting terrified. It isn't like my parents to be out late or to spend the night away from home.

Eventually I called one of their neighbours and asked her to go and check if they had, in fact, arrived at their house at all. I was thinking of all the roadway they'd have travelled and wondering if they'd been in an accident on the way. The neighbour said their vehicle was there, but that when she knocked on the door she got no answer. This was late enough at night that I found it strange and I began to fear not only for them, but also for their dog. What if something had happened to them and the dog was alone in the house without food or water?

I had been debating calling the police, wondering if I needed to call the police in AZ or in their home city, wondering how to begin the process of searching for missing people, and realising just how little information I actually have about my parents in terms of knowing who their friends are and how to find them in an emergency. Being borderline Luddites, they don't even own a cell phone.

This morning I contacted their property manager (they live in a gated community) and he said that he'd seen them that morning walking their dog and that they'd been in to the clubhouse to use the telephone and computer. This was a huge relief. A few minutes later I received an email from them saying that their phone and internet service is out and that's why they've been unreachable.

This mortality stuff is really starting to get to me. There was a time, not long ago at all, really, when I probably wouldn't have even noticed if my parents were out of contact for a few days because I wouldn't have tried to reach them anyway, or wouldn't have worried if they'd not responded. Last night and early this morning I was literally nauseous with fear.


After receiving the news that my parents are, in fact, alive, we went to the hardware store to look at kitchen sinks. How do we switch gears so quickly? How do people come home from war and go back to work at Sears selling button down shirts?


Friday, October 19, 2007

Shawn's grandmother died early this morning. She was quite elderly and had been suffering with pneumonia for awhile - so it wasn't unexpected - but no matter how prepared you might be, being awoken at 5:00am with the news that someone you love is gone is always hard.

He's driving his father to the airport this morning, who's flying back to be with his father. (Longevity runs in Shawn's family. This was the first grandparent he has lost.)

And for me, today is a professional day, but not the kind with any sort of directed activities, the kind where you're supposed to find something to do on your own that will professionally develop you. I asked (half-jokingly) if it was okay to stay at home and read - and to my surprise I was told it was fine. It really beats the hell out of going to a conference, at least at this point, because networking doesn't interest me and I want to be here for Shawn when he gets home.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

past the shipyards in the cold

I think a lot of young children go through a phase where they begin to understand and process the idea of death and dying, and during that phase may even become a little preoccupied with the concept. I feel like that's happening to me now, belatedly, like I'm just beginning to understand how serious and final death really is.

And not only is it weighing heavily on my mind; it's taking up a lot of space in my consciousness. When Shawn is five minutes later than I thought he would be getting home from work, I think, what if he's dead? When I think about T, struggling with breast cancer and chemo treatments, I wonder what will happen to her daughter if she dies. When my parents drive to Arizona, I feel scared they will be killed in a car accident.

I don't know why this is happening now; it's not as though I haven't had normal exposure to the fact that we lose people. I've lost friends. I've lost family. But lately I've been thinking about it more ~ and feeling some of that existential angst that goes with the idea of working all your life to be free of debt and to have the ability to travel and enjoy life just as you want to... with the ironic hand of death reaching for you just as you think you're free. And more than that, a suddenly very frightening reality that I will likely lose people closer and closer to me. Or that they will lose me. I don't know which is scarier. Actually, yes I do. I don't want to be alone.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

you can't teach an old dog new tricks

I messed up tonight's plans completely. I've been getting better at being more organized as I've gotten older (and wiser) but tonight was a gong show. There wasn't a lot of time to spare and I really didn't plan ahead even nearly enough to make it work.

The plan was supposed to be that after rehearsal I would rush home, load up the dogs, drive to the vet for booster shots, race them back home, feed them dinner, and then race back out to the restaurant to meet the inlaws and Shawn as he was getting back from work.

Instead, after rehearsal I dashed home, spent an eon searching high and low for the door to the dog crate for transporting the puppies, left the house with only exactly enough time to make it to the vet's office without a second to spare, realised as I pulled out of the driveway that I didn't have my wallet and had left it back at the school, turned toward the school, realised halfway to school that I had left the school keys at home, raced back home, picked up the school keys, realised there was no chance I was going to make the vet appointment on time, called Shawn from the cell phone, had him cancel and reschedule the appointment and then drove home.

The only pleased parties are the dogs. They got a car ride, a treat, and no needles. And dinner fifteen minutes early. It's a dog's life.

I love idioms and expressions that have dogs in them. Like dog days of summer. And dog Latin. Sick as a dog, in the doghouse, dog tired, dog's breakfast, three dog night, dog eat dog, every dog has its day, tail wagging the dog... there are just so many. Well, maybe that's it. I'm out.


Today was interesting. My grade twelves started performing their monologues today and in spite of the disappointing attitude that some of them have demonstrated - the monologues were truly amazing. I was proud of all of them... and made an extra effort to squeeze out a tear or two just to show them how powerful they were. It was really exciting to see how much thought, effort and energy they had put into planning, rehearsing and performing.

After rehearsal tonight some of them hung around and chatted a bit, which was also encouraging. Bit by bit I feel like I'm going to win. Just going to take some time. And I have lots of that.


I had a dream last night that I went to visit my old school (brought on, no doubt, by the threat hanging over me of the old Drama teacher coming to visit my current school). Much to my annoyance, the school had somehow come up with zillions of dollars since I'd left and managed to create a beautiful theatre space for the new teacher complete with private office, endless storage, theatre seating, greenroom, etc., etc., etc.. To make matters worse, she was somehow managing to put on full length Broadway-style musicals with the same kids I'd struggled to get much out of whatsoever. It was disheartening and made me feel totally incompetent.

I guess dreams like that are a way of purging those dogged (another one) fears.


I think this isn't a real expression, but when I was in high school, we used to call the kind of actors who tried to steal the show as Messanger #3, "doggits". The verb of course, was "to doggit".

"Stop doggiting. You're such a doggit."


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

wherever the highways go

We've started walking at night again, with the rain or shine approach that is necessary when you live on the coast. Much like things couldn't be called off on account of cold weather when living on the prairies, rain can't stop things here - or nothing would ever happen. I like walking at night when it's a bit cool and I like walking with Shawn. We talk about our days and make plans for the weekend and for the rest of our lives.


Monday, October 15, 2007

not the gods can shake the past

There are some remnants of the past here, but I've reached the point where I don't throw things away just because they once touched the hand of someone whose hand I would no longer touch myself.

In eighth grade I had a fight with my best friend (her name was Tracey) and I went home and ripped apart all the notes she had written me and then smashed, with a hammer, the little crystal heart necklace she had given me for my birthday. I remember regretting it almost before doing it because I knew I loved those notes and I knew I loved that necklace, the way you could put the little piece of glass up to your eye and the prism would refract the light and make rainbows everywhere.

I don't think I'm so dramatic or impulsive anymore. Not by contrast. Now I am more practical, perhaps, or just too lazy to smash things.

In opposition to this, there used to be things I held onto interminably because of the memories or the people they represented to me. And this is no longer true of me either. Though I still treasure the memories I no longer hold on to ticket stubs and paper clip engagement rings. I no longer save boxes of letters or cards from thirty three birthdays gone by.

In both respects I have moved closer to centre.

It's another case of seeking balance, for I like my own silly sentimentality, while fighting my packrat instincts as much as possible.

Coming to terms with the past and sorting it out properly, garbage from keepsake, is all part of the process.


speaking words of wisdom

This morning Shawn forgot to put the coffee grinds into the coffee maker and made us a nice pot of hot water. Then, upon realizing his mistake, he decided (for reasons known only to himself) to pour that boiling hot water back into the water container and try to make coffee with it a second time. And just like that, the new coffee maker no longer works.

This is the second coffee maker to go the way of all coffee makers in a very short period of time. We are going to go back to the store to see if it can be returned or repaired, but somehow I think we're out of luck here, especially since it says, specifically, in the instruction manual, NOT to pour hot water into the machine. The weird thing is that Shawn knew that, and had one of those strange moments that I frequently have, where he did it anyway, ignoring all along the little voice in his head saying, Don't do it, don't do it! Though I'm sad to lose this particular coffee maker which I was rather fond of, I'm glad I'm not the only one who does things I know I shouldn't.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

I do all my own stunts.

I have sometimes felt annoyed by people who like to say Go ahead and have a good cry; you'll feel better afterward. They're right to some degree, even though they're irritating. The thing is that crying only makes you feel temporarily better, but eventually the thing that makes you feel so sad starts to build up again and you have to cry some more. And that's so tiresome that it makes me feel like crying.

I think I cried a lot when I was a child, more than most children, maybe. I cried often. I cried at home mostly because I was always fighting with my mother. But sometimes I cried at school too because I was scared of doing things wrong and scared of getting into trouble and scared, for some reason I can't put my finger on, of playing Duck Duck Goose. When I was skipped ahead a grade in school I cried daily as I struggled to adjust to the new teacher, new classroom, new classmates, new everything. Allegedly Mrs. Robertson told my mother in exasperation, I think if Lisa cries one more time, I'm going to cry too! It proves how little she understood because she was the one, most often, who made me cry in the first place by snapping or scowling at me when I didn't know what to do. I was frightened of her.

I haven't cried much since about 1995... which is a long time. Not that I haven't cried at all since then by any means but I hadn't cried frequently and regularly since then. Until this past year, which has truly been the Year of the Tear.

Last night I fell asleep on the couch and then woke up abruptly with a memory that was sharp and loud and I struggled off the couch and up the stairs and put myself to bed and cried there for awhile before Shawn came up to bed. Sometimes I want him when I'm crying and sometimes I don't. Last night I didn't want him because he tries to make me feel better and last night I didn't want that - I just wanted to cry. I also didn't want to cry about it with him because it makes him sad too and lately he's been doing so well.

And now I'm better. Temporarily. I think that between bouts, the period of time without the need to cry gets longer and perhaps that's how this kind of recovery works with lots of tiny stages creeping slowly forward and back.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

you know what i mean

I decided to be brave and drive today instead of taking the Skytrain. We went to Granville Island for breakfast and then wandered around the market chasing BabyC as she tried various ways to escape her controlling supervisors. It's not surprising children are frustrated by how slowly we move, how many exciting things we don't stop and change direction for, and how many times we say "don't" and "no" and "stop" throughout the course of a day. I'm sure C's mother would have been delighted by her granddaughter if not by her son-in-law. But who knows, she may have found him entertaining too. It was a nice morning.


Meanwhile Shawn supervised the installation of the security system (the one that protects our dogs... yes, our dogs). Then we drove to Whiterock to buy dog food. I need to start bringing the camera with me more often. There are so many beautiful things to see right around here.


This morning, at 7:30am, which is when I woke up thanks to some rotten canines, I was looking online for area rugs to put on the hardwood floors (that is, when we finally get around to installing the hardwood floors) when I found what I think will be a perfect solution to our problem.

Our problem is that we have many areas that need rugs, and rugs of various shapes and sizes to fit in the strange places they are needed. For example, a rug at the bottom of a flight of stairs is a necessity with these dogs who think they can fly to prevent them from wiping out when they hit the bottom. Rugs are needed anywhere animals like to leap off furniture.

At the same time, I've regretted having to buy area rugs because I like the bare floors and I especially HATE it that our dogs occasionally get confused and pee on carpet.

Anyway, the magical solution I found is Flor Tiles, a sort of carpet, sort of tile thing that fits together like tiles but is soft like carpet. Therefore, it can cushion crazy leaping dogs while still being able to come apart to be washed or even to have sections replaced. According to the website, tiles can be pulled out of a section and washed in the sink, then returned to their former spot when dry. I LOVE that. Allegedly, these are un-stain-able and won't absorb anything. And yet they are soft like real carpet. Miraculous. Not only that, but the company is environmentally responsible. I think this is wonderful. The only problem, of course, is that they'll only ship to the U.S., so I need to call and speak to an operator in person to beg them to send things to me here. I hope they can be convinced.


Friday, October 12, 2007

trouble me

Hello Weekend! I'm glad you're here. Come in, relax. Stay as long as you can.


Tomorrow I think I am going to go for brunch with C and her little girl. Weekends are never long enough to do fun things as well as all the things that I am supposed to do. So I'm doing the fun things first to make sure they all get done. :)


Today I covered a class for another teacher, the other guy who teaches one Drama class during my free block. I don't know, exactly, what was going on, but he came into my office to use the phone and then, after I left to give him some privacy, he came bolting out and said he had to go right away. I hope it's nothing too serious.


GDJ is pitching me as a writer for another contract they're bidding on. Apparently I am supposed to talk with the client on the phone on Monday morning. I find this nerve wracking as I do not want to be responsible for whether or not the company gets this job. I am also a little concerned that I'll be biting off more than I can chew, attempting to do two full jobs at once. Of course, the writing job never really takes anything near full time hours, but I also know that I don't want to be one of those people that dies wishing they'd spent more time enjoying life and less time working. It's just I still don't know exactly who I want to be when I grow up.

GDJ also said he wants to hire Shawn to do some side work. Shawn's not sure he wants it and I don't really blame him. He works differently than I do and so he wouldn't be able to do things as fast as I do. Shawn is a perfectionist and will not hand in work until it is absolutely flawless. I just sit down and take a fast run at it and hope it'll be good enough. I have a feeling this means that Shawn takes more pride in his work than do.


Today I spoke with one of the other teachers on staff about the difficulty I've been having with my unpleasant grade twelve girl, and this teacher told me that she had had an almost identical experience with this girl the year before. I feel less special now knowing that I am not the only person she has taken an interest in hurting. She also advised me to ignore it completely which is exactly what I've been doing, and at least I feel better knowing that I have other staff members out there who I can talk to about this. The teacher even mentioned how she'd have stomach pangs when she knew the class that girl was in was coming soon because of the way she'd turned them against her. Wow, it was all so familiar. The only bad thing to come out of the conversation was the fact that apparently this girl's mother supports her 100% without listening to the other side of the story. At least now I know I'm not alone in this experience; I'm so glad I said something.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

something old, something new

Today I was working on monologue writing with my grade twelves, and I told them to stop wasting time and get started (because they were busily giving each other neck massages and other horny high school type behaviours). One of the girls said to me, "Wow, you're so strict."

And I was completely startled because in nine years of teaching I have never had anyone say that to me. As a matter of fact, it's something I feel is somewhat lacking in me, my ability to crack the metaphorical whip and get things on track. I have a tendency to fool around and waste time as much as they do. So I was surprised and I had to ask what on earth she was talking about. In the end I'm glad I did because I think I have gotten to bottom of the mystery as to why these kids have been somewhat unpleasant to work with.

This perception of strictness goes back to the fact that I made it clear from the very first day that you do not talk when someone else is performing. For some reason, this is a rule that kids nowadays have a hard time with. I'm guessing this is because most of them have never attended a live show and are much more accustomed to seeing acting come from a television set where they can talk all they want.

However, it's also something that kids can learn, with much coaxing, coaching and threatening. And I always take it upon myself to make sure that they learn it because I believe it's important. When we actually started talking about it today, what came out was that their last Drama teacher didn't care if they blurted things out while people were performing and that no one had ever told them not to do it before me. Hence, I am strict. Very strict, far too strict. When compared with math teachers and science teachers I might be easygoing and relaxed, but next to other Drama teachers, I am a Nazi.

I found this news fascinating.

I learned a few things from this experience. One was that while I was worrying something serious and terrible and hurtful was going on, it really wasn't. I overthink things.

Another thing is that the generation gap is widening for me. There was a time in my career when I would have wanted to mull this over and come up with a compromise to make everyone happy. Now I feel fairly (though not 100 percent) comfortable saying, "That's tough." Sometimes kids are stupid and they need to be overruled. And when they tell you they are devastated that you have taken away their right to be rude to each other, if they don't get it when you explain it rationally, there's nothing wrong with saying, Too bad.

Lastly, as my poor brain tried to understand why twelfth grade students (who should, I thought, be seventeen years old) were so juvenile, I finally realised that the education system is different here and that kids can much more easily take twelfth grade courses in tenth and eleventh grade. Some of these kids are only fifteen. That was a light bulb moment for me. Two or three years is a huge difference at this age.


I feel better about school now. There's only one thing I'm feeling bad about. I got my school ID card today and I look old. The bags under my eyes are horrific. Why didn't I notice this in the mirror but it's so clear in a photograph?

When we were kids, bringing home our school photos and complaining about how horrible we looked, my Dad used to grin and say, The camera don't lie. He's right of course. Too bad we're spending all our money on a new kitchen. No botox for me. Old lady, new kitchen. Hee.


Monday, October 08, 2007


This afternoon Shawn and I went to get groceries, and after we'd loaded them in the back of the vehicle together, he startled me by taking me by the hand and "putting" me in the front seat and doing up my seatbelt for me. I saw a woman watching us but I didn't care. The giggles came out like fizzy pop.


When I was a little girl my Dad poured my juice and said, "Say when". And then he would pour very slowly so I could say exactly when it was the right amount. But sometimes I didn't say "when" because I wanted to see if he would keep pouring the juice until it overflowed onto the table and ran down the legs onto the floor until the entire container was empty. I always imagined it but he never did that. When I didn't say "when" he would say it for me before it spilled.

Saying when is a skill some people have and some don't. Knowing exactly how much you want - or knowing exactly how much you should have. It's not one of my strengths. I don't usually know how much I want of anything; I tend to overestimate. And sometimes I just want more because it's there. And so, metaphorically speaking, my cup runneth over, in my case, may actually indicate poor judgment and the inability to say when.



Thanksgiving today, which is the best food holiday in my opinion. We're going to the in laws' (again) and this time I am firmly resolved not to have any alcohol because I have to work tomorrow.

I am supposed to be doing something with C this afternoon and am having trouble getting in touch with her. I accidentally deleted the email in which she gave me her home phone number awhile ago, and we ended up recycling the cardboard moving box on which I wrote it. I emailed her this morning and for some reason it bounced back to me, but I only got it back just a few minutes ago and now it's almost noon. I tried again - and at this point I'm half hoping we can just reschedule because I feel lazy. (As usual.)


I have a lot of things to be thankful for, and I am. For our families and for our collective good health, and for our growing closeness. For our safety and our warm home and the opportunities to share with those we love. For a secure and loving marriage, for my best friend, my lover and companion - someone I not only love, but also respect, admire and enjoy. For everything. I know I am blessed.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

i'm leaving out the whistles and bells

I've been very lucky where it comes to in-laws. Shawn's mum and D are wonderful and so are his father and J. Tonight we had dinner with Shawn's dad and J and for once we didn't bother with trying to watch a movie or something to take our focus away from each other. Instead we just talked and it was great.

I have a lot of fun talking to Shawn's dad and his stepmother is wonderful fun - we enjoy each other in the way that adult friends can enjoy each other even without a history and a parentage/childhood in common. Shawn is astonishingly like his father (and grandfather) in spite of being raised outside their influence and Shawn's stepmom, in spite of having no genes in common, manages to be the most like me in most ways. I just have fun being with them - the way I enjoy being with friends. Tonight we walked home from their place under a giant borrowed umbrella because we'd shared too many glasses of wine.


And on the subject of friends... I am seeing C on Monday. She is an old friend and a true friend. And someone I've missed terribly in her absence from my life - and still someone who eludes me even as close as we've ever been. I wonder if that could be changed... but I think, somehow, not. Our bond is based on things I don't fully understand. I know it has much to do with the untimely loss of her mother - and C's (accurate?) belief that I am just like her mother in many ways. Such that we should be close so that she, once again, can feel the presence of someone both loving and bossy watching over her. In some ways I feel ultimately responsible to take care of C because I love her and as her mother-figure (imaginary as that may be) I should be there for her in whatever ways are possible. In other ways I feel more sisterly toward her - which is no less complicated. And guilt is a part no matter what - much as I feel guilt about my relationship with my own sister.

I haven't got any clear methods in place to take care of C. My plan so far mainly involves money - which is lame - like buying her passport and paying for her dinner so we can do things we want to do together. But the best I've come up with so far is the standing offer of free babysitting services as often and as regularly as she and A could make use of them. Another niece, blood or not, could do my heart good - and that is the truth. Plain truth.


I've been thinking some about the past again this week which is something I do when I'm struggling a little in the present. Strange how it works that way so one is never fully present in what's immediately taking place - but maybe that's the point. Like I can put myself almost wholly in the arms of N like it never ended, or remember the cowboy at the entrance to the Warehouse as though I was there last night.

What I always come up with, however, is the same. The Past was necessary for the Present to exist in the shape it does. And so changing, or regretting the Past is futile. And so I don't, I truly don't.


Friday, October 05, 2007

still i wish you'd change your mind if i asked you one more time

This afternoon I'd planned to have the grade twelves watch a movie, partly because it's a film version of a play they're working on, but also in part because I didn't want to talk to them, didn't want to interact with them, and just generally didn't feel like having anything to do with them. It was a good time for a movie.

They were having none of that. When we started the class, my warm up intro was on sharing something no one knows... and once that began they didn't want to stop talking. Instead of wrangling them I decided to just let them go and see where it went. As the conversation went on a couple of kids asked if they could teach us some games, so I let them do that too and before long the class was over.

During the games I tried to distance myself from feeling sulky about what happened yesterday and tried to be more objective in assessing what's really going on in that class. I watched them carefully for signs of what they were thinking, and my rational brain (which was turned off yesterday afternoon when I became somewhat convinced that everyone hated me) couldn't really detect anything out of the ordinary.

So. Maybe it's not as bad as I thought it was. Maybe it's just that one girl (and her guy friend). Maybe that's it. And maybe it'll blow over now that I've talked to them both. I do hope so. I'm not going to give up on making this work.


Last night a guy came to our house to assess our security and make a plan to install an alarm system. He seemed quite perplexed when we told him our first concern and priority was the safety of our animals rather than the safety of the television set.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

a rare and gentle thing

Sigh. The grade twelves are starting to make me feel worn out. Well, not all of them, but the little group that thinks I suck for not casting them in the parts they wanted in the play. Today I approached one of the guys during rehearsal to ask him if he wanted to take on a second role and he refused to even meet eyes with me and said no, even though I know he's a kid that generally wants as much air time as he can get. I just blurted out, with my eyes wide, "Are you pissed at me?" which wasn't really the most professional way of approaching the question.

He said yes. He said that another girl in the class, the one who is really mad at me, told him I said he wasn't going to be able to memorize his lines and that I had mocked him for dating several of the girls in that class. I was stunned. She was the one who'd said those things to me- I haven't known him long enough to know who he dates or whether or not he is good at memorization. I was floored. I had no idea what to say. Of course I couldn't very well tell him that she was the one who'd said those things because that would make me a seventeen year old girl instead of their teacher, and it left me stuck. I stammered around and told him I hadn't said those things, that I didn't know him well enough to have those opinions about him, and said that it was up to him to decide what to believe and what he would, or would not, continue to get out of my class as a result of his personal opinion about me as a person. That's what I said, but what I wanted to do was to cry. He didn't really respond except to indicate that he'd heard me, not that he agreed or believed anything I said. I was hurt that the girl had said these things about me, and I was hurt that he believed her.

And then I had to run the rehearsal. It was hard to sit through the two hours of rehearsal while my mind was churning with the things I wished I'd said (like, "I've assigned you the second largest role in the show. Does that not indicate that I have faith you can learn your lines?" or "How would I even know who you've dated? I just met you!") but of course I couldn't go back to him afterward and continue poking at the issue because I'm supposed to be the teacher and my self-esteem is supposed to be fine even if everyone hates me. And in that regard I am a dismal failure because it's not like that for me at all.

During the rehearsal I noticed that one of the kids had written, "We love you Ms. ___" on my whiteboard, which made me well up a little. I know I shouldn't let my feelings be hurt by something minor like this, but they were. I do want the kids to like me and trust me. I don't know where to go from here or how to salvage what damage has been done. If the underground gossip train continues I will slowly lose the kids who are supposed to be the foundation of the program... and yet I have to handle myself in a way that is adult and sets the right example. I really feel that trying to nail the girl who is spreading the rumours isn't the way to go and would possibly make things worse. I just feel kind of lost.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

about a boy

The eighth graders all went away to a retreat today (and will still be gone tomorrow) leaving a large hour and twenty minute hole in my schedule this morning where I had nothing to do. Being a new employee, in the interests of making a good impression, I reported to the office and asked if there was any way to make myself useful but after a quick consult, the head secretary sent me away to "enjoy the morning". The block left empty by the grade eights was followed by a prep block which meant I was free from 8:30 until noon. Bliss!

If I wasn't as refreshed as I am coming back from almost two years away from teaching, I think I would have gone home or at least gone to a coffee shop. But instead I went to my classroom and worked. And got a lot done. It was wonderful.

I got the first act of the play all blocked out, finished the compilation of one set of scripts for the safety course, and even managed to squeeze in a phone consultation with another safety client. I also ate lunch today, a feat I did not manage to accomplish on either Monday or Tuesday.

Rehearsal was easy today because Act 2 is so short. I'm dreading tomorrow because I think it's going to take about 2 hours... but I guess we'll see. After rehearsal, some men came out to fix my stage curtains and that was also nice to see since they looked so terrible prior. One of the men was very flirtatious and kept asking me if he could join my grade twelve class.

I wish he would join my grade twelve class. It would be nice to have someone in there who thinks I'm wonderful. Currently I'm feeling a bit of a rift with the twelves... That is, I feel that about half of them are working with me, two students are actively working against me, and the rest aren't sure which camp to join. The girl who was so upset with me for not casting her in a bigger part told me today that she's decided to drop out of the show. So she doesn't want to assistant direct and she doesn't want the part I gave her either. This is probably for the best because I find her exhausting in terms of the amount of attention she requires (and interruptions she makes). But it is a shame given that she obviously feels that she's missing out on something that is important to her. During class time, she and one other girl seem hellbent on running the show regardless of anything I might have planned. I'm trying to diffuse this rather than having it explode because I don't want them to feel confronted. I just want them to be won over. Apart from that, I feel some tension in the room with this group of students, some of whom haven't decided whether or not I am going to be worthy of their devotion - particularly those who didn't cast in the roles they wanted in the play. It's difficult. And awkward. I hope it gets better.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

love me, love my monkey

Whew. Today was no fun. One of the grade twelves came to see me at lunch today to tell me she couldn't make rehearsal and from there proceeded to tell me that there was no point in ever coming to rehearsal since her part was so lousy and she felt that the whole thing was a waste of her time. I'd been anticipating this problem - but that it didn't make it any easier to deal with.

The problem is that the girl is very talented as an actor, but she isn't able to attend rehearsal one or two nights a week because of her job. It put me in the position of having to decide whether ability or availability was more important and when I couldn't arrive at a clear cut answer I decided to assign her a minor role in hopes she'd understand my reasoning. She did not. She said I was being unfair and ruining her graduation year.

From there she went on to tell me that the fact that the school has had a different Drama teacher every year for the last five years also stinks and that it's prevented her from having the theatrical opportunities that students at other high schools in the city have had. She also went on a small tirade about how unfair it was the she has to work to earn her own money when so many of her friends are given money by their parents.

This then turned into a critique of my classroom rules/management because she felt it was horribly unfair that I had asked the class to cut out the critical remarks and sarcasm toward each other during the character work we are now engaged in. According to her this stifles her as a human being and prevents her from expressing herself freely. Without permission to mock and tease other students, there wasn't much left for her to enjoy in the class.

It was hard to follow her multiple complaints and I truly didn't know how to respond at all. I provided Kleenex and listened. In the end I invited her to consider working behind the scenes and doing some assistant directing with me. I asked her not to answer right away but to go and think about it for a bit and to let me know later. I don't know what I'm hoping for.

This girl reminds me of many of the actors I've worked with: scattered and emotional and very tightly wound around a fragile ego. That's what I don't like about a lot actors I've worked with but it's also what makes them interesting.

I'm trying to remember if I struggled like this when I started at AE, being new and having to take over someone else's program, trying to ease in some changes and make some changes immediately. I know I did struggle, but it's hard to separate out which things were because I was new to the school and which were because I was new to the profession.

I know that it's normal to have some resistance from the older students who've been there longer and have grown attached to other people and other ways of doing things. So I'm trying hard not to take this girl's comments personally or let them be too disheartening. And at the same time I'm feeling kind of down. I really hate hurting people's feelings and ideally want everyone to love the program.... and me.


Monday, October 01, 2007

committed sardines

My professional day was interesting. The morning involved a discussion of our digital age kids and how differently they learn than kids did in my generation. The presenter said he would "agitate" rather than "educate" us, and I have to admit I felt somewhat agitated by the end of it to realise that when I am struggling to engage the minds of teenagers I am in competition with the digital world that can prompt them to make decisions every 1.5-3 seconds and reward/consequence them for those decisions every 5 seconds. How can I compete with that?

He said that the teenager of today has a differently operating brain that teenagers did twenty years ago, because the digital age has actually affected and altered brain development. The whole thing was very interesting. I would argue that teenagers today are the same in the most fundamental ways, however, as I was back then and as teenagers probably were fifty years ago. I don't believe that the basic emotional/ social needs have changed. The media through which fulfillment is sought may change, but not the need itself.


In the afternoon I met with the guidance counselor to talk about some of the kids who need a little extra love and I was unsurprised so see several of my students that I cast in the play. Typical needy Drama kids. Hee.


I don't especially feel ready to face the week but it's coming at me whether or not I'm ready, so I'm holding on tight and hoping I haven't forgotten anything too important.