Saturday, May 31, 2008

gybe ho

After having spent eight hours sailing, I feel so tired that I want to burst into tears during the car ride home.  It's a strange sensation, wanting to cry simply because I'm tired, because that's a feeling I haven't had so much as an adult.

We spent a big part of the day learning how to do the proper manoeuvre for when a crew member falls overboard and it becomes necessary to turn around and fish them out of the water while making sure they don't get run over by the boat or die of hypothermia while you take your time.  And it's a tricky thing to do.  It's not a simple turnaround, but rather, a series of three turns that create a figure eight (that sounds impossible, doesn't it? - but it's true).  When I was a crew member it was exhausting, but when I had to be the skipper it was nearly impossible.  Frustrating doesn't begin to describe it.  

I just don't get it.  

It's the kind of thing that I'll probably need to do fifty more times before it makes sense, and the four or five turns that we each took at it just couldn't begin to penetrate my thick skull.  I couldn't man the jib or the main sail while still paying attention to what the skipper was doing and learning from his/her turn at the tiller.  

From the perspective of a teacher, it's probably a good thing for me to see what it's like to be the kid that just doesn't get it while everyone else seems to be doing just fine.  It really drove home to me why some kids develop behaviour problems, because after my third or fourth aborted attempt, I felt like lying in the bottom of the boat and making armpit noises.  To direct attention away from the fact that I'm a dunce.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Taxis run across my feet

There have been a few starlings in the yard for awhile now but today there are more than twenty.  Mamas with shiny black feather and bright yellow speckles.  And babies with puffy grey feathers, fat with down, stretching their necks up and opening their beaks as their mothers feed them.  The hatchlings have taken over the yard, splashing in the birdbath and eating as fast as I can refill the feeders.   In the morning when I left for work they were standing in a line with their beaks open, squalling to be fed.  By afternoon they'd learned to perch on the feeder and peck at the suet themselves.  Each time they fly from the tree to the feeder and back, they fly with more confidence and strength.  I imagine in a few days they'll be all grown up, and leave their families and find new homes.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

passing me by

This day was supposed to be a day to relax and also to get some work done for my course.

Instead I spend hours on the phone with my messed up family trying to mediate some solutions to the nightmare that never ends.  And then goes on a little longer.  I struggled to get homework done between phone calls, with Shawn semi-patiently waiting because I needed to record his voice answering my insipid questions.  

I finally got the recording made around 8:00pm, a mere twelve hours after I started trying to work on it.  Unbelievable.  I got nothing done on the paper I'm supposed to be writing.  Not a word.

And now I'm stressed to the hilt once again about what's going to happen - whether C will be left to die on the streets, whether Shawn and I will end up becoming parents out of the blue, whether Social Services will ever actually do their job.  It's exhausting, it's exasperating.  And I'm too far away to do anything other than listen to them all bitch about each other.  


you beat them back but they drag you in

Well, it's 8:30am on a Wednesday and I am playing HOOKY.  I haven't done that in a long time and it's something I really don't believe in doing much... but every once in the odd while, a "mental health day" seems only fair.  We were at our sailing course until 10:00 last night, and not home until 11:00, and not in bed until 11:30, which is way past my normal bedtime.  So we agreed to take a day off together and get some sleep.  Which is probably exactly why I awoke at 6:30 this morning and wasn't able to get back to sleep no matter how much I wanted to.  Aging sucks.  

Today is going to be a working vacation for me because I desperately need to finish an assignment for one of my Psychology classes.  Having been trying to interview Shawn in a way that seems natural and unrehearsed while still hitting all the objectives has been extraordinarily frustrating for me (and for him too, I am certain, particularly after the tenth take of the same conversation).  He's such a mouthy creature it is impossible for him to just answer my questions seriously.  Instead he has to make jokes, tease me, and generally make a nuisance of himself.  He also changes his answers every time I ask the questions so I can never reliably predict what he's going to say and prepare myself for the next question set.  The whole thing is exasperating on many levels, the greatest being the fact that I KNOW it's more reflective of a real counselling session to not know what your client is going to say and to have to make up the questions as you go along, ensuring they get you the information you are seeking.  However, in a REAL counselling session I would also not be thinking to myself that I had to make X number of declarative probes, X number of open ended questions, X number of transitions, and X number of summary statements.  The whole thing is really rather absurd.  I understand it as an exercise in making sure we understand the various styles and forms and how to use them.... but coming up with an interview that fits neatly and evenly in each category is a real challenge.  So armed with the certain knowledge that Shawn will always throw me for a loop when he's freestyling, I am now in the process of writing him a script that he will read from so as to give me some hope of completing this assignment.  I have my work cut out for me.


Monday, May 26, 2008

lost souls can't swim

Last night I tried to complete a "skills assignment" for my Masters class to demonstrate that I had learned some specific skills for interviewing clients.  The requirement was that I should film myself interviewing someone on a subject requiring some sort of resolution for 10-15 minutes, using specific questioning styles that had been taught by the course.  The questions had to be used in specific sequences and patterns but be formulated to fit the topic being discussed.

So I interviewed Shawn about the fact that he and "his wife" are trying to decide at what point in their lives "they" should consider the possibility of having a baby.  I thought it wouldn't be very difficult since I know Shawn so well and would be able to predict his answers.  However I was completely wrong.  It was NOT easy.  

Trying to come up with an appropriate balance between "declarative probes" and "open ended questions" that "seek for affect" or "seek for meaning" (intentionally) while simultaneously listening to Shawn's comments and keeping track of how many summarizing statements I had made proved to be quite daunting.  Added to those factors was the problem that both of us felt awkward and nervous about having this conversation on camera.

After filming it about ten times and never being properly satisfied that I had done a good enough job of it to earn the mark I want, I gave up.  I've decided instead to write a script for both of us and to audiotape the discussion instead.  It will be more work that way than our improvised discussions were, but I think I'll do a better job of hitting the targets this way.  

I am planning to play hooky from school on Wednesday (Tuesday night is sailing class) and that will be a good day to try and get this done.


After the staff meeting this afternoon we had a scholarship meeting to decide which students were most deserving of the Fine Arts scholarship monies.  I fought for my Drama candidate in spite of her poorly written application and in the end, she was selected as one of the winners.  I feel good about that knowing how passionate she is about theatre and taking into account all th work she has done for the program this year.  I know she will be excited and that the money will be of great help to her.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

so long to find out

Sailing was pretty amazing.  But I'm so tired.  My brain still has a lot of trouble with the terminology; it's like trying to learn a whole new language really fast.  It's tiring, both mentally and physically.  When it was my turn to be the skipper I was so confused, I basically just mimicked everything the instructor said without comprehending it.  Like a mynah bird.  But I have to assume that having said the words aloud, and having heard them over and over again all day long, that they will slowly start to take on meaning.  It was definitely a very special day - and there are still two more ahead.


Friday, May 23, 2008

requests for personal appearances

I forgot to write here that something interesting happened last weekend when we went to Whistler.  I saw a black bear on the side of the highway.  


Tomorrow will be our first sailing class on the water.  I'm sure it will be a lot more fun than the classroom portion was.  After I got home from work today Shawn and I went shopping and picked up some new rain gear so that we'll be able to stay dry even if it's rainy tomorrow.  I'm really hoping for a nice day though.


Thursday, May 22, 2008


On Tuesday night driving home from sailing class, we passed this installation in a tunnel.  I didn't take the picture, just nipped it from someone else who must've seen it and found it interesting too.  

It says, "I love my mom her name is issy and she's wicked!" (gxo)

I hope issy had a happy Mother's Day.

can't say that I am sorry for all my many sins

Friday tomorrow, hallelujah.  I'm finished the sex-chapter in the psychology book and ready to read the chapter on schizophrenia.  Hoping I can write the test on Sunday.  Maybe do some reading on Saturday night if the sailing isn't too exhausting.  I am flying through this course really quickly and with really good marks.  In the other course I am somewhat stalled.  I have an assignment in which I have to interview someone on camera to demonstrate my ability to ask open-ended questions and phrase declarative probes correctly.  Ugh.  I am planning to interview Shawn, who is perhaps the most uncooperative subject in the entire universe.  Seriously, he's such a pest.  Ah, love.


Shawn has a job interview today for another company who he thinks he would rather work for.  He decided not to go to New Zealand, and I'm relieved.  Now that we're here it makes it possible for him to job-hop as much as he wants, playing on the fact that his skill set is very much in demand and he has developed quite a reputation in the industry.  Sometimes I try to imagine what the world would be like if teachers operated that way, if we weren't just simply overjoyed when the school buys us a carafe of coffee.  It's quite something to ponder it.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

debt's paid off but it don't feel gone

Frozen land, frozen minds
Frozen hands and frozen time
'Cause everything moves real slow when it's forty below
(from "The Canadian Dream" by Sam Roberts)


I tried a different allergy pill today and it was much better than the one I've been using previously.  The previous one didn't really do much for my allergies whatsoever and on top of that, it also made me feel fuzzy-headed and bleary.  The new one seems to do a better job of both problems.  So far.


Last night we had our first in-class session in learning to sail.  Now that I've seen Shawn's dad in class I see where Shawn gets his kookiness.  The two of them will undoubtedly compete the entire time to see which can be the most ridiculous and cause the greater mayhem.

The class, itself, was difficult for me.  I did try to get through the reading material prior to class but it was sooooo boring that I don't think I really retained any of it.  And much of it just simply didn't make sense to me.  My non-mathematical brain just can't easily grasp hold of concepts like sail angles and true wind versus apparent wind.  For some people these things just seem to be matter of fact, obvious even.  (Shawn understands with no effort.)  But for me, it's a struggle to bend my mind around these ideas, and even more so to hold on to them and repeat them back on command.  I hope very much that these things will make more sense to me once we're actually on the boat and I can see and feel them happening.  

We will be spending all day on a sailboat on Saturday, the four of us (me and Shawn and the inlaws) with an instructor.  With such a small group I expect there will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and to get lots of hands-on experience.  I certainly hope so.  I have fears of failing the final exam at the end of the course due to my physics-resistant brain.


Monday, May 19, 2008

if this is a race then I hope you come last

It was raining lightly in the morning and so we decided to make the trip anyway, thinking perhaps the weather would improve throughout the day.  Instead it worsened and by the time we arrived it was pouring.  The trip took 2.5 hours instead of the hour and a half we'd anticipated, this partly because of all the highway construction in preparation for the 2010 Olympics, and partly because of all the travellers with the same bright idea.  

Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable day in most ways.  The drive was very pretty even in the rain and even moving at half the expected speed.  Our walk through the town was still nice in spite of having to dash from awning to overhang to stay somewhat dry.  And lunch was good.  So it wasn't a wasted day, certainly no more so than it would have been had we decided to stay home and be vegetables.


I've been reading about sexual paraphilias in my psychology textbook and struggling (as I always do) to avoid diagnosing myself along with everyone I have ever known.  It's an especially interesting chapter so far and I was particularly interested with the information about Kellogg, the same Kellogg who the cereal is named for, who created healthy grain breakfasts to help people reduce their consumption of meat - which he declared was known to increase the desire to masturbate - and replace it with an antimasturbatory alternative.  (This, of course, because masturbation was proven to lead to insanity.)  Good stuff.


I'm pretty sure that puppy E is allergic to something.  And now that I've seen what allergy symptoms in a dog look like I realise I was totally wrong about Little Puppy.  Puppy E has itchy red ears and itchy red feet he is perpetually biting at.  I think we need to take him to see the vet again.  


Sunday, May 18, 2008

it's alright to get caught stealing back what you've lost

First of all.  Yuck.  Seriously.


So the show ended Friday night and after four consecutive days of working fifteen-hour days, I have been operating in a haze.  I napped yesterday afternoon and again today, and have been going to bed early.  And I'm still wiped out.  Fortunately, tomorrow is a statutory holiday and so I'll have one more day to work on recovering.  It may not be possible to get enough sleep before work on Tuesday even if I stay in bed the entire time.  In fact we are supposed to be going to Whistler for the day tomorrow, but this won't happen if the rain that has been forecast actually arrives.  If we go, I might have to sleep through the driving.

The weather has been beautiful this weekend and the pups and I have spent lots of time outdoors, me mowing the lawn and pulling up weeds, and the pups eating lots of grass and dirt.  (Some of us have also been barfing up bits of greenery but I won't name any names.)  Shawn has determined that air conditioning will be a necessity for him to survive summer in this house with it's sunny south-facing backyard.


Monday, May 12, 2008

certainty's gone

It's always two steps forward, three steps back.  Frustrating.  Part of me (most of me) doesn't want to be involved in this stuff.  I'd like to divorce myself from all of them and just be left in peace, but it can't work that way anymore.  I'm an adult and I'm supposed to participate in solving these family problems.  I just don't know how.  Everyone seems to expect me to act as the mediator, translating all the anger and irrationality into things that make sense and don't hurt and are clearly understandable.  And I'm doing it.  But I'm getting sick and tired of it.  Why can't they talk directly?  Why do I have to mediate?  Why can't they learn after all this time how to talk to each other?  If it wasn't for little J, I think I would have nothing to do with any of this.  The phone is starting to melt into my head.  

Today was our last rehearsal for the show and it was kind of sloppy.  So tomorrow we open and while I'm not really looking forward to being out every night this week, the one good thing that will come of it is that no one in my family will be able to phone me!  

Once this show closes on Friday I am done for the school year.  From then on I am leaving with the bell and giving no more of my real life away for free.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

you feel the earth, it wanders out from under your feet

This week has been difficult.  Most nights I have been on the telephone with various family members for several hours, attempting to help them find common ground that is stable enough to take steps forward rather than to remain frozen in deadlock, or worse, to slide backward.  I think some progress has been made in that direction but it's really hard to tell at this point.  I am tentatively optimistic (which may be stupid) but this is my usual stance and may not be reflective of situation and circumstance.

In spite of, or perhaps because of these difficulties, I have been trying very hard to get ahead in my studying.  My play opens in the upcoming week and therefore I will be out every night without time for homework and study.  This meant it was necessary to get at least a week ahead so that a week off wouldn't leave me behind schedule.  Fortunately I had started Operation Blast Ahead prior to The Meltdown of Family Life and was able to accommodate excessive hours of phone chat with the study schedule with only minor negative side effects (mild stress headache... moderate exhaustion).  I wrote the quiz today and got 100% on the multiple choice.  This leaves only the long answer questions which the professor will email to me after he marks them.  I am pleased that I have managed to stay on the rails in spite of it all.


I am sorry that the long weekend is almost over but I got a better sleep last night than the night before (due to the fact that I remembered to wear my anti-snoring earplugs to protect me from Shawn's assaults).  Next weekend is a long weekend (Happy Birthday Queen Vickie) and immediately after that we begin the sailing course.  I still haven't begun that set of study requirements but having glanced through the manual briefly I can see that the 3 chapters we are expected to have read for the first class are only about 20 pages in total.  This, in comparison with the 50-page chapters I have been reading for my psych course, four at a time, will be nothing.


I am reading Infidel by Ayaan Ali, which is the biography of a Somalian women who lived in Somalia, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and later the Netherlands.  I'm still in the first quarter of the book so perhaps my assessment is premature but so far it strikes me as a book that may be so successful because it appeals to Islamophobes.  She writes about the Muslim faith very negatively and I imagine the market for such writing in America following 9/11 is enormous.  

However, having spent the year prior to moving to the coast working with and teaching at the college whose primary clientele was Muslim women, mostly Somalian, I have the feeling Ali has missed the mark.  Her descriptions of Somalians don't jibe with what I have seen firsthand.  Perhaps the Westernization of these women had already changed them, but even those who had recently arrived just didn't match the picture I see Ali painting of them.  The same is true of the men.  Although there were people I would consider more fundamentalist in their views, most of them were what I would call "moderate Islamists", something the foreward of this book (written by Christopher Hitchens) decries as nonexistent.  Hitchens calls the Muslim faith a religion steeped in hate and violence and on this point I completely disagree.  I do not believe Muslims are all extreme fundamentalists who promote terrorism any more than I believe it of Catholics, Protestants or any others.  

The people I knew wanted to be respected and treated with dignity, just as anyone else does.  They wanted the freedom to practice their faith without judgement and discrimination.  Their faith had nothing to do with terrorism and violence. 

There were distinct differences between what I would consider "Western values" and the way the Somalian women operated, but none of these differences were things that should make harmonious coexistence an impossibility.  

I'm finishing the book because it interests me to read another viewpoint on a subject I find fascinating.  But not because I agree with it.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A crisis happened today, a forced crisis.  Like those interventions where you push someone down fast to rock bottom so they have no choice but to accept help.  Except there's always the option not to accept help and to die instead.  Slowly or fast.  But it's still dying.  And watching someone you love die is the worst thing I know.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

only just a few miles down the road

Today has been productive, much more so than the average Sunday.  We got up early so we could go for breakfast at Shawn's Dad's, who just so happens to make the best oatmeal waffles in the world.  This got our day off to a good start, both the breakfast and the early rising, because it meant getting a jump start on things that needed to be done.  

When we got home I managed to finish another chapter in my psychology book, meaning I'm far enough ahead now that when I have to lose some time because of the play, I won't end up behind schedule.

With that done, I went out to buy costumes, props and paint that I needed for the show, and made it home in time to make us some lunch.   After that I got outside and mowed the front and back lawn (a job which is definitely equivalent to an hour and a half at the gym), refilled all the bird feeders, and raked and added leaves to the compost.  

Now it's 4:30 and I'm showered and in my pajamas and ready for bed.  :)


Saturday, May 03, 2008


This week I have been noticing an improvement in the efficiency of my studying.  It had been a long time since I'd had to do work like this and it took a bit of time and effort to get back into the right mode.  But now that I'm back into it I feel it starting to come more easily.  I am able to focus again for longer periods of time and to get more done in the time that I spend.  I am becoming a student!  This week I got through two chapters instead of the recommended one, and I'm hoping I might even get through half of another before the weekend is out.  Next week I have play rehearsals every single day after school, and the week after that is the show.  So I'm going to have less study time available to me for the next two weeks, providing motivation to work ahead now while I can.  The sooner I get all my quizzes written the sooner I can start working on the big projects.


Friday, May 02, 2008

some of the ones

I wrote P a second email telling him that he must never do what he did ever again and that I felt what he had done was a violation of trust.  

It was what I should have said yesterday when he phoned me to apologize or when he came to apologize in person.  Instead, feeling put on the spot, I tried to be nice about it.  

But being nice about it made me feel angry all day today knowing that I should have just told him the truth.  What he did was wrong and foolish, and cost me and the kids a lot of extra work -  I shouldn't have been protecting him from that, lest he think it was acceptable after all.  

So I sent him an email.  I don't have any other contact information and if I did, I still think I would have chosen email because I'm better in writing than I am in person.  (In writing I can think about what I want to say first and make sure I phrase it just right.)  But I feel like I still took a step toward my goal of being a more assertive person.  Saying what I mean and stating it clearly, not couched in niceties, is a good start... ...  even if it's in writing.


added on to the one

The truth is that upon reflection I am still angry with P for going into the theatre without permission and touching things.  I haven't dealt with this properly.  I've been too careful about being "nice" and not hurting his feelings and I really shouldn't have been quite so gentle.  I am going to send him another email, I think, telling him at the very least that he must never do anything like this again and that I will not be using his services in the future either.  I think I need to find someone else to help me, someone I can trust.  If I can get that off my chest I think I will feel a little less angry.


Today's workshop was interesting but went on too long for my brain to stay alert and focused the entire time.  After lunch I was feeling a little bit like I wanted an afternoon nap.


I talked to my parents last night for a long time.  Things are coming to a crucial point with C and J and I am frightened about what this will mean for all of us in the future.  I miss it when I was a kid and I didn't really know much about what was going on and was still naive enough to believe that nothing really bad could happen to us.


My second quiz in the difficult course came back with a mark of 93%.  I would have been happy with this mark except for the fact that the feedback provided didn't jibe with the mark.  On one question, the professor wrote that the format (a table) of the online testing situation didn't translate well so he was just going to "assume" I did it right (as opposed to getting a copy of the questions himself and checking).

First of all, for the tuition I'm paying for this class, I expect a little more concern than someone making an assumption rather than making certain.  And secondly, the mark he assigned this question was 90%.  So if he was assuming it was right, why was I losing 10%?

These are the kinds of questions that I'd love to ask and which would not benefit me if I did.  I have been both a teacher and a student long enough to know that criticizing the teacher generally doesn't work in a student's favour.  Though he might sigh inwardly and get a copy of the quiz to "make sure" my answers were right, or might grudgingly provide some explanation as to why I lost 10% of my mark on that question, he would also quite likely be irritated with me.  And having him irritated with me over a quiz worth 5% is a bad strategy when I haven't yet turned in major projects and term papers.

So there you go.  Teachers are jerks.  :)


Thursday, May 01, 2008

a huge selection of major appliances.

Today was a brutal day at work.

When I walked into the theatre this morning the first thing I noticed was that everything was all moved around.  

A little bit of checking around revealed what had happened.  P, an independent theatre technician who is often employed by the school board to help fix up theatres that have been designed and maintained by people who know nothing about them, had been in.  But without any consultation.

P and I had talked awhile ago, and he'd come to look at the theatre and offered me some suggestions as to what could improve it.  Armed with that information I approached my administrators who said they'd look in the budget for next year but that the money simply wasn't available immediately.  Fine.  I told P and made plans to talk to him more in the future.

Then yesterday evening, inspired by what-I-can't-guess, P came to the school, coerced the custodians to let him into the theatre, and went to work undoing all the work we'd done in preparation for my show which opens in a week.  I can't imagine what on earth he was thinking or what motivated this bizarre behaviour.  When I turned on my computer I found an email from him in which he told me all the things he'd done and seemed quite pleased with himself as though he'd done me an enormous favour.  

In truth, the work he did would have been great if we hadn't painstakingly just spent the last several weeks designing a light plot, rehanging and focusing all the lights, and rehearsing our play with the lighting cues.  The new light plot, functional though it may be, is completely wrong for what we have planned.

I responded to his email telling him the situation while also trying to keep a cool head and thanking him for his time, asking that he just take the time to consult with me before doing anything else.  And then he phoned me to apologize, which was fine.  He said he was coming to the theatre to help us fix it back to the way it was.  

I told him not to.  It's not that we needed his expertise at this point.  We just needed to climb the ladders and do the work.  I have students who know how to do these things, and besides, I wasn't in the mood to talk to P or see him after this nonsense.

We spent some time working on the lights again after school, and then, just as I was getting into my car to leave the school, P pulled up next to me, wanting to apologize again in person and wanting to come in to the theatre to see if he could do anything to help.  I told him no.  I was as pleasant as possible but by this point I was tempted to kick him in the teeth.

Tomorrow is a professional day, and I, ironically, have signed up to do a workshop on theatrical lighting.  It's not a strength of mine, but after all this nonsense I think I will have learned a lot.