May 2006 Archives

Guest poster

In response to my earlier post, my good friend Chris sent me the following (and agreed to have it posted) - thanks Chris!

1964 � Born Lachine, Quebec. My family then promptly moved to Winnipeg for 4 years and we then returned to Pointe Claire in 1968 where I lived until 1985. I then lived in various places in NDG until moving to Ontario in 1989.

Perhaps it is a function of being male, but I think my perceptions revolve more around large institutional or peer-group transitions than �biological� maturity as you relate. I think I would actually break down the process into several stages which I would identify with building more and more independence, which perhaps is the critical element of �adulthood� for me.

Smells like teen spirit

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Yesterday was the first class session of my next M.Ed. course. This one is Developmental Psychology: The Emerging Adult. Part of yesterday's session was devoted to small group discussions in response to the following questions:

1. When did adolescence begin for you? Why did you choose this age?
2. When does adulthood begin? Why?

So I thought I'd ask you, my loyal readers, the same questions. Consider it informal research.

Keep in mind that what we're looking for here are experiential answers, not technical, clinical or legal definitions. In other words, answer according to your personal experience - when did you become an adolescent, and what emotions/events/circumstances made you feel you were no longer a child? When did you feel you were really an adult, and why? As a follow-up, do you think your parents would have different answers about themselves?

Some of the discussions we had - in class and at the supper table last night - made it clear that answers may vary according to generation and location, so try to include some chronological and regional data in your answer.

For example:
I was born in the summer of 1969. I spent my so-called formative years in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, in West Bolton. I went to elementary school in Knowlton, and high school in Cowansville. For me, adolescence began in Grade 7. Initially, my gut reaction was to link the onset of adolescence with my first period, but I started late (13), and all of my friends already had theirs (I still remember one wise old 12-year-old telling me that I'd soon wish I had never started menstruating, after all). I felt like a teenager long before I "became a woman," and a lot of the elements were in place in Grade 7. As a group, I think we felt significantly older than the rest of the elementary school we were still trapped in, and we started "going out" with boys (there was never any actual "out" to go to, of course, it was just our euphemism for "this is the guy I hold hands with at recess."). Many of the girls had started their periods. The guys were suddenly conscious of their clothing. The girls were suddenly deeply embarrassed about breaking a sweat in gym class. The way my friends thought and felt about things mattered a lot more than the way my parents saw the world; for instance, in earlier years, when my parents chose to enrol me in an immersion program, it never occurred to me to object. In Grade 7, when my mother enrolled me in the high school immersion program for the following year, I wept for days. Immersion wasn't like real high school! I would be an outcast. My mother was clearly determined to ruin my life. Sigh.

As for when adulthood starts, well, I'll save that response for another entry. Now it's your turn!

It's only a model

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Castle.jpg
Colin's medieval castle project

Building materials include tiles from the dollar store, tomato boxes, a Jacob's Creek wine box, a shoe box, moss from my mother's garden, a paper-towel insert, and, since it's a Canadian medieval castle, duct tape.

We're Number 1!

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This weekend, Dr. T took advantage of the beautiful, warm, sunny days and stayed locked up inside Chalet #1 at the Pierre Elliot Trudeau park in Cote-St-Luc, playing in the 24th annual Montreal Scrabble Tournament.

He won.

First place, first division. First time.

Those readers who have ever spent time in our home will recall the word lists on the bathroom door - they finally paid off (literally)!

Cash prize!
Dr. T accepts his prize from Montreal club director Bernard Gotlieb

He gets a nice check for this feat, and he's already hinted that he'll use part of the prize money to get a bike so we can hit the bike paths en famille, so that kind of makes up for the weekend spent under fluorescent lights.

So, yay!

Big wheel keep on rollin'

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Whatever happened to little old ladies who aged gracefully?

A couple of my Lennoxville ladies came into Montreal yesterday, and we hit the bike paths, cycling to St. Lambert for lunch, back onto the island via Parc Jean Drapeau (we even got to bike on the Formula 1 track!), through the Old Port, and back to my place along the canal:

35 km.

For the metrically challenged, that's about 22 miles.

The ladies in question are both retired, which is why they have time to drive into Montreal for a long bike ride on a Thursday. I'm pretty sure both of them could have ridden the same distance again, too. Meanwhile, I was puffing and panting and wondering if my thighs would ever forgive me.

Now, I'm no spring chicken myself, but retirement is not looming. These ladies have a few years on me. But they are both in phenomenal shape, and I am, well, not. I was able to go riding in the middle of the week because I am between semesters, and even when I'm not, I'm lucky to have a job that isn't M-F,9-5 anyway. But I still find myself putting physical activity at the bottom of the list of things to do, concentrating instead on work, house, family, food, and so on- by the time I have time, I am more inclined to flop down on the couch for televised distraction or flop down on the bed for sleep.

Maybe I need to retire.

My mum, in her retirement, is as active as ever, if not more so - she is the reigning women's tennis champion at the Knowlton club, both singles and doubles.

I'm not sure where my racket is.

Having said that, I had a great time yesterday - the weather cooperated, and I wasn't puffing and panting anywhere near as much as I would have predicted. Yay for smoke-free lungs! Lunch was lovely - coquilles St-Jacques on a terrase with a lively conversation about male movie stars (we all agreed that George Clooney wouldn't get kicked out of bed for eating crackers, while unfortunately Redford, Newman, Connery and Ford have lost their appeal).

When we got home, the ladies went downtown to meet another friend for coffee while I collected the kids, cleaned myself up a bit, and got supper underway. I convinced the ladies to stay for supper, so they had a chance to meet Dr. T and the boys.

So, great day, and I am already looking forward to our next expedition.

And, Mo, in case you're wondering - just got back from today's 10 km, to keep the muscles active ;)

Rain, rain, go away

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We visited Mum & Dad this weekend, where we got a close-up look at the unbelievable accumulation of water that results when it rains for 12 straight days.

It's been just as perpetually precipitous here in the big city, but due to what I assume is divine intervention, there's been very little damage, other than psychological.

Raccoon
This mother raccoon has been raiding my parents' birdfeeder, and you can see how damp she is.

The lawn at their place squishes when you walk across it. The rivers and streams are all overflowing their banks. People have been evacuated in Cowansville. The Foster golf course is one giant water hazard. Waves from Brome Lake are spraying on the ashphalt on Lakeside Road.

In short, it's wet.

Thankfully, today was supposed to be rainy, too, but so far it seems pretty sunny... and the rest of the week looks more like the May we've come to kow and love. Keep your fingers crossed.

Adventures with the Walrus

The Walrus is Canada's answer to the Atlantic or Harper's. It's literate, arty, political, well-written, etc., etc.

I was very excited when The Walrus appeared, and in a show of patriotic support, I subscribed for two years. I was happy to receive a new issue almost every month, with pithy articles on Canadian politics, flash fiction from such luminaries as Margaret Atwood, and a neatly organized calendar of national and global happenings.

Then I remembered why I cancelled my subscriptions to the Atlantic and Harper's. I don't have time to read magazines, for goodness' sake! I barely have energy and time to read what's required for the classes I'm teaching, not to mention the classes I'm taking. Reading for leisure? Ha.

So when I received the penultimate issue of my subscription, with a large, easy-to-read warning label informing me that I only had one more issue coming, I sighed and let it ride. I also ignored the two or three letters The Walrus sent me, reminding me that my subscription was about to lapse and I had to hurry if I didn't want to miss an issue.

I also turned a blind eye to the label affixed to last month's last issue - "this is your LAST ISSUE!"

Imagine my surprise, then, when the mail arrived yesterday with another issue.

I was prepared to recount the tale up to this point, with the crux of the story being the continuing non-subscription, but then I got a call last night from a Walrus representative.

Now, I have dealt with telemarketers before. No newbie, me. I have politely but firmly told phone companies that I am not interested in switching plans. I have not so politely but equally firmly told credit card companies that I am not, really not, interested in paying a "reasonably monthly charge" to insure my card. I have even told various charitable organizations that unfortunately I've given all my money to my cult leader and until I give birth to his blessed offspring I won't be donating to their cause.

So I was prepared for this call. I had rationale. I had reasons. I had, if it came to it, every intention of hanging up on this pushy broad who just wouldn't take 'no' for an answer.

What I was not prepared for was nice.

Seriously. She asked me if I would consider renewing my subscription, and I said that although I thought The Walrus was a great magazine, I had about six issues waiting to be read, and I did not want to renew.

She said "I understand - give us a call when you retire and have time to read again! No point paying for something you don't get to read."

I have never been so impressed with a company's telemarketers. So, kudos to The Walrus, for conducting business with as much class as they have on the page.

If you haven't read The Walrus, and you do have time, go read it. In fact, I have some issues here, if anyone wants to borrow one ;)

wRites of passage

I went to a funeral today.

The funeral was for my friend P's mum, who passed away last week. For all intents and purposes, let's say she died of a broken heart; P's dad died at the end of January, and I guess some part of her mum couldn't go on without him.

A number of things struck me today. First of all, I called my own mum just after I got home, just to hear her voice. P's mum got very sick very quickly, and toward the end of her life, she was unable to communicate. I guess there's some comfort in the idea that she lingered on Death's door long enough for her children to say goodbye, but I felt sorry that we spend so much of our family time not saying stuff. When I called my mum this evening, I wanted to tell her that I'm happy she's my mum, and that she is an incredible inspiration to me, in many, many ways.

I chickened out; we had a nice chat, we made each other laugh, and we made plans to make plans later. Maybe that's enough - if not, I know she's reading this, so, Mum, thanks for being you.

It also struck me how ritual is business and business is ritual. We engage in ritual all the time. My kids, for instance, have a bedtime ritual: pyjamas, pee, hands and face, teeth, story, song. We began this bedtime tradition years ago, because Colin was a difficult sleeper and the ritual helped. Now, the ritual is so firmly established that if one step is missed or misordered, we're all thrown off.

Is a funeral, then, our last bedtime ritual? We're dressed appropriately, cleaned up, there's a story and some songs, and if we're lucky, there's someone there to give us that last kiss goodnight.

I chauffered one of the grandchildren to the grave site; G is one of the first of my friends' kids that I've watched grow up from infant to adult. He's a great guy, even if he did try to change my radio station. We talked on the way about the funeral, and about his grandfather's funeral five months ago. When the events are that close together, you really see just how pre-fab it all is. Same stories. Same songs. We also talked about his future (he's starting college soon) and it just now occurred to me that it's awesome, in the true sense of the word, that we can casually flow from a critique of a funeral to a discussion of the pros and cons of studying science (pro: great job opportunities con: um, wait, I'm sure I'll think of something).

I'm rambling, I know, but there are so many impressions and thoughts... for instance:

~ It's truly amazing how brothers and sisters can be so different, physically, philosophically.

~ When does one get to the stage where one makes definite plans for one's burial/cremation/scattering/whathaveyou?

~ Do the officiants get bored? I mean, it's bad enough that you can recognize the speech at a funeral as the one from a funeral a few months ago; imagine saying the same speech, probably more than once a day.

~ Why are urns square now? Aren't they supposed to be, well, urn-shaped?

~ Just as a point of etiquette: if you work as a chauffeur for a funeral home, whose job it is to drive the grieving family to and from the grave site, it's not OK to overhear the deceased's children discussing the family home and offer to hook them up with a real estate agent.

Betty, I hardly knew you. But your daughter is one of my dearest friends, and she's a very good person, no doubt thanks to you and Archie. That's a pretty good legacy. Rest in peace.

Happy Mother's Day

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This year's haul:

2 pairs cycling shorts;
2 cycling skorts;
1 round-trip ticket to Halifax to see Alison and her impending arrival;
a lovely tin of tea, complete with tea strainer and a ladybug teapot drip catcher;
several handmade cards, including one with an assortment of coloured feathers;
2, 539 dandelions, more or less.

Weeds? Really?

Summer is a comin' in

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Crabapple


My garden is coming back to life... I was about to write 'slowly but surely,' but honestly, it seems like things are turning green, budding and blooming overnight.

I ventured out in this afternoon's drizzle to document the renaissance. Click on the photo to go to my flickr page for more.

That was no lady, that was Maggie

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I have, I fear, become a lady who lunches, at least if this week is any indication.

Sunday - lunch with Mum and two Lennoxville friends in Knowlton, prior to seeing 'Lend me a Tenor' (featuring my high school drama teacher and attended by my grade six teacher, who remembers me after 24 years);

Monday - impromptu lunch with Dina and Naomi on Monkland;

Tuesday - the aforementioned Lennoxville ladies joined me on a bike ride along the river into Lachine, lunch on a terasse, and the return bike ride along the canal;

Today - lunch with Sophia, my bestest buddy from the engineering company days.

And I'm waiting to hear back from a couple of Vanier colleagues about lunch tomorrow or Friday.

Next week, I have no lunch plans (so far), which means that I'll end up scarfing down crackers and peanut butter instead. So really, this whole lunch date thing is much healthier.

Assessment as Learning, Journal #4

I just got home from the last Assessment course and the celebratory dinner that followed. I got a lot out of this course, and I'm excited about the next one, Developmental Psychology, which starts in June.

My most recent journal entry is based on notes I made while reading Grant Wiggins' articles on assessment. Wiggins' model of assessment is PBA - performance based assessment. Although this entry is late, I decided last week that I would rather suffer the late penalty than write something sub-par; my intention, once upon a time, was to compare the two Wiggins articles with the now-infamous Ramsden, Chapter 10. I’ll start, though, with my responses to the ‘Thinking ahead to assessments’ handout:

Doing our part

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Yesterday was another beautiful day, despite the dire predictions of thundershowers. I met Mum for lunch, then she and I met the kids at the bus, dropped off schoolbags and lunchboxes, and went down to the river for another walk along the bank.

When the kids and I were walking there last Sunday, we were a little dismayed at the build-up of garbage over the winter, and we said that next time, we would bring some bags and pick up some trash. So, this time, that's what we did:
cleanup1.jpg
Colin, Mum and Robert (foreground), hard at work

cleanup2.jpg
Tada!

We each filled up one bag, and then Robert found a discarded shopping bag and filled that up, too. We found a garbage bin, dropped off our contribution, then continued our walk down to the playground, where Mum very kindly treated us to a reward:

robertcone.jpg

Burning bridges

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So today I took a deep breath and told Dawson thanks, but no thanks.

I was offered courses for the summer, y'see. This offer was the end result of a long, painful process which began in January, stalled for a while, and culminated in a phone call from the department chair.

I then met with the chair, who, it turns out, was the comfy chair. She tried to seduce me with all that Dawson has to offer (including its proximity to my house) while at the same time impressing upon me the importance of taking anything Dawson had to offer, lest they stop calling me.

I tentatively agreed to take the two courses, since there was no guarantee that Vanier would have anything for me for the summer.

I spoke with my Vanier coordinator on Friday and while there is still no guarantee that I'll have anything this summer, I will have full-time work in the fall, and if summer courses open, I'm first in line.

Essentially, I had to make a choice, because if Vanier has summer courses it will be at the last minute, and I didn't want to pull out at the last minute with Dawson.

Thankfully, it was an easy decision - I love working at Vanier. My colleagues are awesome, my students are enthusiastic (mostly), and my mood lifts when I step onto the campus. And now I've committed myself.

I walked home from Dawson, since today the weather is fantastic. I was just past the Atwater market when I felt something warm and liquidy hit my hand - for the first time in my life, I have been shat upon by a bird. I've heard it's meant to bring the shittee good luck. So I'm taking the incident as a sign that I've made the right decision (and that whatever is out there has a twisted sense of humour, but we knew that).

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