Friday, December 12, 2008

when your own words fail - use someone else's

I am so glad Jaimie is much more eloquent than I - this is a far better representation of the person Erica was.  This is the eulogy given by her best friend Monday.

"Hi Everyone,
When Jaci first talked to me about doing this, my biggest fear was standing up here before you and not being able to get these words out. But after Erica passed, my fear changed. I wasn’t nervous anymore about standing here and crying, I was nervous about finding the right words. It’s enough pressure for anyone to eulogize their friend, but to do it for a woman who always had the right words – whose eloquence, creativity and wit were evident to everyone she came in contact with – is a truly daunting task. Whenever I was at a loss for words, whenever I needed help with grammar and punctuation, whenever I needed a Scrabble triple-word-score worthy word, I always turned to Erica. And here I am now, left to my own devices, so E . . . let’s hope you taught me well. Here it goes.
Erica, E, EJ, Murray 1, Reekie, Beek and always her favorite . . . Erica…names for an extraordinary woman who I have always been, and will forever be, so honored to call my best friend. [Note from Jamie: The former “Erica” is pronounced the way Erica pronounced her name (with the emphasis on the 2nd syllable), while the ladder “Erica” is pronounced the traditional way (with the emphasis on the 1st syllable). Clearly, the joke loses something when reduced to writing!] I could stand here before you today and talk about Erica’s compassion, her intelligence, her sense of humor, her smile, her sparkling eyes, her incredible love for her family and friends. But these are things you all already know. So my job now is to tell you a few things about Erica you may not know. 

Like how Erica’s closest friends throughout her life were just the right combination of alike and different. Erica was one of those very rare and special people who enjoyed the company and friendship of people who didn’t always share her views or who said things she would never say herself. For instance she often times left it to me to make an inappropriate, politically incorrect joke while she laughed and shook her head at me all at the same time.
Or how, before her days of hob-knobbing with other over-achieving, international do-gooders at Fletcher, Erica was a rugby-playing English major at Oxy. And before that, she graced the halls of St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Santa Maria where she swam, was homecoming princess, and worked at Hot Dog on a Stick . . . oh that’s right . . . Hot Dog on a Stick . . . sorry E.

Or how she’s a canuck! That’s right, she was born in Canada. Her Mom Judy lovingly described Erica’s birth on the blog that Erica kept as a way of sharing her journey over the past few years. In the post written on Erica’s 29th birthday, Judy wrote of her baby girl: 
“At precisely 7:47, 29 years ago, the sweetest most beautiful baby girl arrived in West Vancouver British Columbia. She was the cutest little baby weighing in at 6lbs 10 oz with the most engaging smile ever. Today, this same lovely little baby has metamorphosized into a wonderfully strong, intelligent, inspiring and beautiful young woman.”
Another thing you may have not known about Erica is that her favorite city in the world was Paris. Up until about a year ago, she always said that she didn’t have a favorite city, but sometime recently (and I think I know why), that changed, and she said she knew that she would always feel at home there. So, the next time you are in Paris, please think of Erica. Visit a museum for her. Sit at an outdoor cafĂ©, sip espresso, and people watch for her. Try speaking French at the risk of being laughed at . . . and when that happens, laugh too because you know Erica would have been proud of you.

Erica once said to me that she felt like she was a jack of all trades but a master of none. She knew she was talented and creative but didn’t feel like she excelled at any one thing. But I beg to differ. Erica was truly a master of human relationships. She had the most amazing ability to make everyone she came in contact with feel like her best friend. And she made friends to the very end. She was naturally the most welcoming and friendly person I have ever known, and she brought together people from around the world as her friends. Very shortly after Erica was first diagnosed she created a top ten list of the best things about having cancer . . . leave it to Erica to find the bright side of having cancer ;) The number one thing on her list was bringing her loved ones together. She said: “I love it when people from different segments of my life have the opportunity to meet and get to know one another. Jamie called it my ‘elf on the wall’ trick (the joke sort of deriving from me being the obvious elephant in the room, but trying to be like a fly on the wall), but many hours of each day were spent in a semi-snooze listening to my Mom get to know my friends, or my sister get to know my graduate school colleagues, or a friend from Japan getting to know a friend from high school. I loved just listening to their precious voices and knowing they were there.” And Erica has accomplished this more than she will ever know. I realized yesterday that while I may have lost my best friend, I have gained another mother and another sister in Judy and Jaci.

To my Chinese mother Judy, thank you from everyone else who loved Erica for not only caring for her, but for us too. You shared your little girl with so many people, and we will forever be thankful to you for that gift.
And to Jaci…I know Erica told you constantly just how she felt about you, and I could go on and on about her love for you, which was clear to anyone who ever saw the two of you together. But I’m not going to, because it was SO evident to everyone in this room and because, honestly, I don’t think either of us could handle it. So all I am going to say, one last time for Erica, is “big wing.”

A few days before Erica passed, an anonymous Oxy staff member wrote one of the most beautiful posts I have read so far. The part that touched me the most was about Erica’s smile. The post read: “Her ability to take us along on the tragic and cruelly unfair journey she has been on these past few years, with grace, dignity, intelligence and humor is truly amazing. It speaks volumes about her strength, and her inner beauty that is matched so completely by that radiant smile she so often beams. I think it is her smile, immediately engaging, immediately inviting and immediately warm that radiates and gives you a sense of comfort in her presence. In Oxy staff meetings I would often look across the table and see that smile, matched equally by her intelligence and enthusiasm, and I would think to myself - wow, she is something.” I don't think I have ever known a more beautiful smile. I hope that none of us will ever forget that smile…I know I never will.

A week before Erica went into the hospital for the last time she asked me what I thought would happen to her after she passed away. At the time I gave a basic and reassuring answer in an effort to calm her and ease her fears. But when I think about it now, I like to think that Erica is now forever enjoying what would have been her ideal day here on Earth. She is with her Mom, Dad, Jaci, and Linda. She is surrounded by her aunts, uncles, cousins, and countless friends. Her days consist of a rotating schedule of crossword puzzles, card games, group reads, yoga, political debates and dim sum. Barak Obama is President for eternity, and not recycling is a crime punishable at law.

It was clear to me from very early in our friendship that Erica had a special combination of compassion, integrity, sense of humor, strength, morality, and world consciousness that very few people have. She made an immediate and lasting impact on whomever she met and encouraged those around her to strive to live life to the fullest. 
Erica taught us all many things over the past few years. One of the things that I am most thankful to her for is teaching me the true meaning of the word “selfless”. I saw it everyday that I was with Erica. She was by far the most selfless person I have every known. She would do things for other people no matter how badly she didn’t want to just because she knew it would make them feel better.

One last thing that I want to mention was her sense of humor. The girl knew how to tell a joke, was always quick with a great come-back, and could find humor in just about anything in life. This was evident in most of Erica’s blog posts. The blog was created to give Erica’s loved ones updates on her health and treatment but quickly took on a life of it’s own. Some of her more creative and humorous posts over the past two years were her December 2007 “12 Days of Cancer” post and, my own personal favorite, her October 2008 missing I-phone post. My favorite part of that post being: “The search for the missing iPhone has been conducted in a professional and thorough manner. Amber alerts have been issued on the 101 and 280 freeways. Digital Voicemail-sniffing dogs scoured the patient units, the 3rd floor VIP room, the cafeteria, and the radiology ward, places EJ's Mobile's owner has frequented lately. As each hour passes, the owner has less hope that the mobile device will be found intact. ‘I have had it for about a year and half,’ the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, said. ‘I'm not sure how I will be able to fill the hole its absence has left in my purse.” The girl was funny!

Over the past few days I have been looking over old blog posts, e-mails, and letters from Erica, searching for some of her words. As you can imagine, I had an endless supply of poetic passages from Erica that I could have shared with you. But the words that I have chosen aren’t necessarily the most poetic, but the most poignant. In an e-mail from her to some of her closest friends on January 13th of this year (two weeks before she relapsed) she said:
“The first year of treatment was awful, the only specks of sunlight being the love you all showered on me. 2007 was a year marked by growing strength, growing hair, growing happiness. While undergoing treatment, I completed one year of my master's degree and managed, despite my family's and doctor's worries, to still do some of things I love, like traveling. Still, I'm not sure I can remember what it's like to be 100% pain free, to not be anticipating the next invasive needle, to not know which of the cocktail of drugs I'm on is causing today's particular pain. My optimism for 2008 is severely hedged by cautious anticipation of lingering side effects and, of course, relapse concern, but I still think that getting this far is worth a bit of a celebration.”

So that is what we will do for you today, my dear. We will celebrate your life, our love for you, and your love for us. We will laugh and smile and cry in your honor, and we will do it knowing how much fun you are having watching us. We love you, we miss you, and we will forever be better because of you. I love you E!"

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

celebrating life

It is with unbelievable sadness that today I'm celebrating the life of Erica Murray. I've posted about Erica quite a few times over the last few years and am still in disbelief that the unthinkable happened - on Thurs Dec 5th Erica lost her long hard battle with cancer.

Erica was an incredible person and friend and it's not an exaggeration when I say that today people across the globe are mourning and celebrating her life together in their own way.

One of the very first times I spent any time with Erica was right after she moved to Japan. I went over to visit her (when she first arrived we lived a couple blocks from one another) and we spent an entire evening chatting and laughing on the floor of her 8 x 10 apartment as they didn't have any furniture yet. It was one of those evenings where your stomach and your face hurt for days and when it's all over you have no idea what was so funny. I think the evening ended in "stealing" furniture from the garbage collection at a strange hour of the morning. We had many more ridiculous times, but the first has stayed with me as it's so rare to find such a connection with someone you barely know.

Erica made me want to be a better person pretty much from the day I met her. She had traveled more, studied more, had better relationships, better decorating sense, better time management, and this outlandishly positive attitude just to start off. Yet there she was, making perverted jokes and down to earth as anyone.

I am very grateful we got to meet up both in Boston and in Montreal - short visits, but we fit quality time into both somehow. Erica's house in Boston was such a home - it was filled to the roof with art, books, games and pictures. If it wasn't for the detailed list in the bathroom of her meds and the container of syringes by the vanity you'd have had no idea someone undergoing chemo far from home lived there. Our Montreal visit was more reminiscent of Japan - we just sort of stumbled around enjoying what Montreal has to offer in the summer. I'm trying not to get to caught up in the visit to California that I had planned that was still yet to come.

E, you fought this right up until the very end and I never for a second thought the cancer would/could win. You are so loved and missed, and now without pain.
Love you always,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Wondering what I've been up to lately?  Well I've essentially been consumed by two rather large projects.  

The first is my job.  Specifically the task of gather large amounts of evidence to look at with Dr. Anne Davies next Friday.  Learning Leaders and Principals have been assigned this task so we can have a discussion of what quality evidence of change would look like.  While this sounds reasonable, my math background is putting me at odds with the majority of evidence that we have access to.  You see, none of it will reflect improvement over time.  It all shows very lovely snapshots of the fabulous things going on at our school (which is quite valuable), but we do need some way of measuring that there are more fabulous things going on at this time next year.  On the other hand, measuring things just for the sake of measuring them doesn't make much more sense.  So yes, this is what I think about almost all the time.  

The second is wedding planning.  I saved it for second because it is much more fun.  The internet is a deadly trap though - there are so many pretty things to look at that it is easy to lose sight of what's really important to us.  My love of all things paper doesn't help.  However, I find having a budget to be the easiest way to come back down to reality as the thought of spending $1000 on invites, flowers or even a dress makes me a little sick.  Not only is it not budget friendly it just seems so wasteful.  So I spend an equal amount of time trying to negotiate how we can have a wedding that reflects who we are as a couple and lets us spend as much time as possible with our friends and family.

We've also been doing some minor home renos (I have another red wall!).  We might even get our new kitchen in before we get married.  No guarantees about that one though.  The fabulous JJ came to visit, and we will have more company this weekend.  Christmas is almost here and I can't wait for everyone to be home so that I can have a new hobby of staying up too late visiting and trying to cram 6 months of hanging out into 2 weeks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


In the interest of our wedding not costing a million dollars a new date has been chosen.  This makes me a little sad for no rational reason other than I picked the 3rd dammit!  On the plus side we will be married a week earlier.  So, officially, we shall be wed Sept 26th, 2009!  Anyone got a super idea for a ceremony site that is weather friendly?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


This year's parent-teacher interviews were border line fun.  It's my third year at my school, and for many families their second child through my math classroom.  For the most part they come to check in, and just to visit. However, these families have also been watching from the sidelines as I've gone through some pretty significant growth as a teacher.

The only thing I was a little apprehensive about this go round was explaining to all my gr 10 parents how and why I was planning on implementing a no marks classroom.  It was a much easier sell than anticipated.  In fact, almost all of the parents seemed to have no issue whatsoever with the idea.  There was one parent who really reassured me that this is the right thing to be doing.

"So what you're saying is that your class is going to be about learning instead of about marks?"

Exactly sir.  Exactly. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


So I just took the plunge and decided to run an almost entirely markless math class.  The kids seem into it (shhhh, don't tell them it's more work for them in the long run...) so we'll see how it goes.  It will also be a little bit of work for me to make sure I am keeping up to date in holding kids accountable (not a real strong point for me) so I guess we'll all be working.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

tales of engagement

I had absolutely no idea how wonderful getting engaged would be.  I mean, I knew it would be a pretty fabulous event in the lives of H and I, but I neglected to imagine just how excited everyone else would be for us.  There was a whole lot of congratulations, hugging, screaming, and even some happy crying going on.  If you combine all that with the whole actually being engaged (!) thing, yeah, pretty awesome.

One group of people who I didn't expect to be excited or even really care was my students.  I knew some of the girls would be excited, but as a whole I just assumed my engagement would go largely unnoticed.  Boy was I wrong.

It was adorable.  My grade 10s had already heard from another teacher, and they entered class Wednesday practically dying of curiosity.  Student after student entered offering congratulations and wanting to know all about it.  Even the boys were totally interested in all the details.  They wanted to know all about H, all about our wedding/life plans (I was continually reminding them that we had just gotten engaged, and no, have not planned out the next 5 years of our life), all about colours, dresses, family, you name it.

At some point in the conversation they asked me if I was going to change my name.  I answered that yes, I was planning on changing my name (groans all around at the prospect of having to call me something different).  So of course they wanted to know what my new name would be.  I told them.  Another questions was asked, and then one boy put up his hand and very sheepishly asked

"Mme, what kind is he?"

I just about fell off my chair laughing, as did the rest of the class.  Several students admitted they were trying to think of a polite way to ask the exact same question.  After I stopped laughing we had a mini history lesson on H's family history, which concluded with another kid exclaiming in an exasperated tone,

"You guys, he's brown!"

I suggested they maybe needed to request some supplementary vocabulary from their history teacher as it's clear it's lacking...  Then I remembered who their history teacher was, and could imagine myself having this exact same conversation with him so, I suppose that explains a lot!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

the terms of engagement

This past Tuesday marks an awfully special day - the day H decided to ask me to be his wife!  Of course I (quickly!) has to ask myself if I really wanted to spend the rest of my life with someone who:
  • brings me supper every Thursday when I am working.
  • has a mother who insists on filling our fridge with food at every available opportunity.
  • makes me put my clothes away.
  • plans and cooks fabulous meals several times a week.
  • suggested we take ballroom dancing together.
  • is wonderful to travel with.
  • wants to travel.
  • re-watches movies a billion times, no matter how terrible they were the first time.
  • makes my lunch.
  • watches all "my" tv shows with me, even the ones involving dancing.
  • uses google calendar for everything - including things like picking up our dry-cleaning.
  • washes the dishes at least once a day.
  • likes all my friends and family.
  • always gets blog posts done faster than me.
  • takes care of me when I am sick.
  • indulges in my need to pretend to budget.
  • bought me season tickets to Persephone just a month after we started dating.
  • insists on having no less than 30 bottles of wine on hand at any given time.
  • has fabulous friends who have welcomed me into their circle from day 1.
  • is always up for a concert, a ballet, a walk, and anything really.
  • is worth getting up 20 mins early to go for breakfast with.
  • listens to me blabber on and on and on and on about my job.
  • supports me unconditionally.
  • puts my water glass away before I'm done with it about 3 times a day.
  • cracks his knuckles constantly, even when he sleeps.
  • tells me he loves me before we fall asleep every night, when we wake up every morning, and multiple times a day.
  • is so much more than to me than I can express in a bulleted list.
The answer of course is YES.  Yes I want to be your wife, yes I want to spend the rest of my life with you, yes this post is way to sappy.

Clear your calendars for Oct 3, 2009 folks, that's the day I will officially be a wife!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

je ne comprends pas

Yesterday I went to pay a little visit to my old stretch math class.  The one that when I think about it it hurts just a little bit that I don't get to teach it.  It was my baby.  Those kids, I miss them.  True I was super frustrated with them at times, but I love them.  Really wanting to understand their learning issues taught me so much about being a better teacher.  (gag, I'm sorry, I'll stop now.)

So I visited.  And observed a lesson by the teacher who is not me.  Typically the same resource teacher who was in with me would be in the class but she had meetings so I opted to fill in.  Since the beginning of the year we have been trying to support the teacher who took over for moi - securing planning time, bringing in experts who really helped me out in the beginning, etc.  I have been very pleasantly surprised with how easy my replacement has been to work with.  Considering all possibilities, we've had an excellent working relationship.

Now, I'm trying to wrap my brain around what I observed and how to best approach the issue, if I can address it at all.  Said teacher is going through notes with the students, but the vocabulary is way out of their league.  The examples and speed are excellent!  The notes, they are making little to no sense for the kids.  Teacher keeps bringing focus back to how they don't need to worry about the notes, about how the examples are what are important, but is still having them copy out the notes.  The ones that make no sense with the accompanying explanations, and will certainly make no sense later without an explanation.  

So after the lesson we are chatting, this that and the other thing.  I decide I should lightly give a little critisism (after of course complimenting the speed and clarity of examples) and point out how the notes were an obstacle for them - not understanding makes many students shut down before they even arrive at the examples.  Teacher replies with "Oh I know, that's why I kept putting emphasis on how they weren't really important."  I didn't know how to tactfully say that they should have been removed then but couldn't think of a way to approach this.  

Today, I am still annoyed.  Seriously, freaking cross them out with an overhead marker.  Tell them not to copy them.  WHATEVER.   I don't understand why you would have them do things that you know are useless, not just useless actually but counter productive.  Last time I checked one of the learning outcomes was not printing practice.

I know I make tons of mistakes in my teaching.  All the time really.  Likely at least once an hour if not more.  I don't understand purposefully doing things in a way that make your job more difficult in the long run though.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


If you've been living under a rock for the last 3+ months, you maybe weren't aware that Sir Elton John is on a Canadian Tour.  A huge tour where all the shows sold out in 3ish minutes.  I live under a small-ish rock, so it's no wonder I didn't really know when tickets were going on sale in the first place and no real surprise that by the time I realized they were going on sale they were sold out.  So, ummm, no Elton for me.

I was okay with it, I'm not Elton's biggest fan or anything, I don't own anything with his name or face on it except the Lion King DVD.  But, it is Sir Elton John we're talking about here.  So when last minute tickets became available, the only reasonable thing to do seemed to be purchase them.  It's not like he's going to live forever and be back anytime soon.  Or ever.

Arriving at CUC we had no idea what to expect in terms of seats.  The tickets were "bleacher" seats and weren't on any of CUC's seating plans.  I didn't understand how magically, 12 hours before a 100% sold out show, a whole batch of tickets could come available.  Until we found our seats.  Behind. the. stage.  Seriously.  They found some hockey bleachers in a closet somewhere, lifted up the screen a little, and sat us directly behind the stage.  Turns out?  Some of the best seats in the house.

True I have no idea what kind of crazy faces the guitarists may have been making, or what was on the giant screen, but we were second row kind of close, with the bonus of being up a level so we could see everything going on.  We were essentially right on top the percussionists, which was very fun to watch.  I might even have developed a wee crush on the secondary percussion dude - before the show he totally raided an elementary school band room and was playing every gizmo under the sun that you could hit or shake including a set of cowbells, two vases, martini shakers, and more tambourines than any one person should need.  He also liked to entertain himself by making faces at the other band members (or maybe no one) and throwing his various hitting things around.  Fun!

Elton was of course awesome.  40 years later and he's still amazing.  He's pretty entertaining to watch also.  He's quite stiff in his movements and loves to point at himself and then the crowd.  It was a little unreal to see the crowd from almost the band's perspective - 10 000 people is a lot!  The sound quality was fantastic, me thinks Elton and his crew must carry some supplementary equipment or the CUC has really upgraded their stuff since the last time I saw a concert there.  He also finished with my favourite song, so thanks for that E!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

time warp

I was thinking of posting a week one back to school update. Then I realized I've been back at school for 2 minus a day weeks. How have I been back at school for two weeks?

If you haven't talked to me, myself and the two other learning leaders were in charge of organising our entire staff PD day on the second day back to school for teachers. This involved hours of meeting time, not sleeping Sunday night, more hours of work, and a general feeling that I may have been just a teeny weeny bit totally batshit crazy when I applied for/accepted this job. Guess what? Success! Everyone totally loved the day (for real, not in a we're just saying this so you don't cry, kind of way)! So at least our staff doesn't hate us from the get go. That part can happen a little later when we really dig into things. Just in case you're thinking when I say "my staff" I mean a happy little elementary school staff of 30ish people I do not. I mean 110 cynical high school teachers who instinctively roll their eyes when I get up to talk at least 50% of the time. The love, I rarely feel it.

So, as I'm sure you can guess, all the typical back to school things are good. My kids are great, classes are good, blah blah blah. The teaching bit, I still love it. I'm also really gaining some appreciation for the comfort factor that has really let me become a better teacher 6 (6!!) years later. My new job, however, is best described as challenging on steroids. It's a very bipolar position - one minute I'm just so excited about the dialogue and things happening, and the next I am beyond frustrated. There are lots of little pockets of very exciting things going on, they just happen to be buried under administrivia and garbage, not to mention a huge lack of time, clarity and real direction. I just hope the good parts are enough to outweigh the million frustrations as the year progresses.

So that's my first two weeks back. I'd be kidding myself if I thought it was going to settle down any in the weeks to come.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

it appears i never learn

Today we needed a few last minute groceries for supper so I grabbed my bags and headed out while H attended to the ribs.  And for the umpteenth time I went to Extra Foods.  I have no idea why I do this.  It's just so convenient - across the street and down a path, but it's just so terrible.

Today I had to circle the produce department several times.  They had no cored pineapple, the lemons were gross looking unless you bought a 3lb bag and the carrots were mutants.  When they didn't have any BBQ beans I put my basket down in frustration and abandoned shopping.

Of course I did what I should have done in the first place - walked the extra block and a half to the Co-op.  It's glorious there.  It took me all of 10 minutes to find everything on my list.  So convenient!  Not only do they carry such complicated grocery items like "lemons," "carrots," and "cream of tartar," everything is fresh AND easy to find.  It's clean and organized.  The check-out girl even asked me if I had remembered to check my eggs.  Do you know what the surly check-out girls at Extra Foods do?  They punch your eggs when you're not looking.

I don't know what it is about that extra block and a half walk that turns my brain into mush when deciding where to grocery shop.  Somehow, I always think "I only need a couple things, Extra Foods will have them, it's faster!"  I am always greeted with aisles full of abandoned stock, rotting produce, crazed shoppers with overflowing carts and 15 year old workers that aren't too sure what basil is, let alone where they'd find it in the store (assuming you could find it at all...).  And of course, I must have the craziest taste in food because it's a guarantee that they will not have something.  It baffles my mind that there are always so many shoppers there, do these people eat a solid diet of presidents choice hamburger helper with some frozen dinners thrown in for variety?  I can be 100% certain that if I had to drive for groceries Extra Foods wouldn't occur to me as a possibility.

I'd like to pretend like I've learnt my lesson.  But I know, sometime next month I'll need "just a couple things" and somehow I'll wind up back there.  Wandering dumbly around the aisles,  confused and/or frustrated,  not understanding how a grocery store doesn't carry bread, swearing from now on I'll just go to the Co-op in the first place.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

annoying, sir you are it

Yes I'm aware I still have a Chicago post to finish up.  I'm bored with myself.  Sorry.

At the end of the school year a Math conference was offered (for free!) to our division.  I do love the free, and it was going to be facilitated by Florence Glanfield who I have never worked with and is a big guru around these parts.

Drawing closer to conference date I was growing more and more skeptical of my decision.  There was no information about the actual plan except the title "Coming to Know...  Mathematics" and my gut was telling me it was going to be 95% elementary teachers.  Not that I have anything against elementary math teachers, we just typically have different concerns and issues.  Finally, the day before the conference, they posted an agenda - it did not reassure me that this was going to be two awesome days, totally worth giving up precious deck time to.

Whatever.  I got up this morning and was determined to be positive about it.  I was pretty sure I would learn something, even though it might not be as action packed as I have grown accustom to over my last year of absolutely stellar PD.  They were providing early coffee and lunch on both days so if I needed to bail Friday afternoon so what?

I arrived and had my initial concerns somewhat validated - the secondary crew was very petite.  And "the plan" evolved very slowly as our two facilitators appeared to get caught up in vocalizing their own ideas for just over an hour before moving to engage the rest of us.  However, aside for that, I had the good fortune to sit next to a man who was clearly much more  unimpressed than I.  Not only was he unimpressed, he thought the simple commonality of our shared grade level would make us allies in complaint all day long.

After today, I have serious concerns about the future of Math in Regina.  This man could not be appeased!  We had excellent dialogue as grade group specialists all day (on and off topic) and he was just so focused on what he would not do - which was almost everything.  For some reason, he kept trying to draw me into his little world of hate, even after I said I was likely one of those "touchy feely math people" (that he really doesn't like, damn huggy elementary teachers!), said I was very against old evaluation practices, and thought I'd made it very clear that you would use more than just a traditional pencil and paper approach in my room.

I would have been slightly more sympathetic to this man and his hatred of all things not drill related had he simply been an old math teacher.  Old habits are hard to break, change is difficult, these new questions have no real "comprehension" as of yet - math teachers are still really questioning how to marry this new trend to really encourage deeper understanding with being able to do.  I think elementary teachers, little credit we give them, are far more comfortable in this regard, even if it is because their curriculum is less complex and their standards slightly more flexible.  This man, however, isn't an old close to retirement senior math teacher pining away for the good old days when kids would memorize their trig identities and regurgitate math algorithms.  This man, is the math consultant for the entire Catholic School Board.  Someone promoted him into a position where he is supposed to support teachers in getting kids to love math and he is rolling his eyes at the back of the room at the very notion that we should share our ideas on a piece of large paper with everyone else.  He is trying to sabotage professional dialogue because it feels a little too touchy feely for his liking, a little too fluffy.  

I hope he chooses not to come tomorrow.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

some random observations about the windy city

H did such a bang up job blogging about the rest of our time downtown I'm going to save myself some time and suggest you go read it here. We totally didn't pay that much attention to detail when we were there - our handy dandy Go Chicago! books filled in some details I think. Instead of paraphrasing I'll take some time to share some of the quirky things we noticed while in Chicago.

The first thing I noticed were the French people everywhere! Les francais, les quebecois, they all seem to have been visiting at the same time as us. I'm not sure what exactly makes Chicago such a hot spot for the French inclined, but it was sort of fun hearing them everywhere we went.

Also, and I'm sure I was supposed to know this and not be surprised by it at all, was the number of black people in Chicago. Yes, this is probably like me being surprised by the number of Asians in Vancouver, or Ukrainians in Saskatchewan but sometimes I forget things while I'm busy living under my little rock.  Visually seen, about 50% of Chicago's population is black.  Nifty.  

People of all races are stupid over Apple stuff. I am a lover of almost everything Apple makes. I own a nano, a macbook, and if my budget allowed I would likely own many more toys from the Apple family. I however, cannot understand how every single time we walked past the Apple store there was a huge lineup just to get in the store. I understand why Apple would want to limit the number of people in their store (hello Vegas Apple Store, you could take a hint here) but I don't understand why you would stand in line to look at stuff you can buy at any larger chain store. Unless of course they give out cookies while you shop, then I would totally understand (and be a little sad I didn't stand in line.)

Marketing has really been taken to the next level in the States.  Wednesday morning before we got started we were too full for breakfast but were looking for a coffee before we headed to the museum.  There was an ING cafe right across the street from our hotel so it seemed easiest.  This cafe totally did its job of making me want to bank with ING.  The baristas and *insert name of male equivalent of barista here* were actually all bankers in disguise.  Friendly  - and one French - bankers.  They cut their schpeel on ING rather short when they realized we couldn't become customers, but they were still super nice and even offered to let us use the free internet.  As we were doctoring up our coffees a regular customer came in for coffee and they knew her name and what she wanted to order.  If my bank wanted to buy me coffee everyday I think I could get behind that!

So I think I should wrap this up here as it's taken me two weeks to finish this post...  I'm definitely looking forward to returning to Chicago and would highly recommend it as an American holiday.  Ok, done now.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

downtown - day 1

Tuesday morning we awoke fairly early to catch the 930 train into the city. I knew we had started our trip off right when the train showed up on the opposite platform we were standing on - we had to book it with our luggage over to the other side Amazing Race style. To be fair we were in better shape than the several families with young kids and strollers and the elderly couple to be making such a dash. The train has (likely several) "conductors" on it to sell you your tickets - he was fabulously cliche as he hollered "ALL ABOARD" and patrolled his cars reprimanding teenagers and punching tickets in his conductors cap.

We arrived without other incident at Ogilvie Station and took a cab to our hotel not wanting to deal with walking or public transit and our luggage. We stayed at the Sofitel Water Tower Hotel and were very pleasantly surprised to find our rooms ready for us way before check in time. Our room was pretty crazy - the bathroom was about the same size as the room itself and was 80% marble. The bathtub and shower were separate and there was a speakerphone by the toilet. No saving the planet here by reusing your towels either - they didn't just replace them daily, but twice daily! Once in the am and then as needed at turndown. Seemed a little excessive, but it was fun that they cleaned up the bathroom so often.

As soon as we had ditched our bags and found a restaurant to have a reasonable lunch at (not our hotel!) it was time for our sightseeing extravaganza to commence. We underestimated distances a bit while planning - my guess at a 30min walk turned out to be much closer to 45. Tired of searching for the planetarium, we stopped to take in the Shedd Aquarium. Chicago only appears to do one size - huge. The sheer size of the place was likely the most impressive part, maybe I'm getting cynical, but between Marine Land and the Biodome there wasn't really anything new to see in terms of species or display. We also missed the dolphin show not realizing that they only block off the majority of the entrances to the viewing area but not all. We did run into the people sitting in front of us on the train on the way in to town proving that no matter where you go it's bound you run into someone.

After the Aquarium, we were up for continuing our walk to the Adler Planetarium. It didn't hurt that we clearly saw the planetarium from the inside of the aquarium and were much more confident that we could finish up the last 5 minutes of the walk. The Adler Planetarium was also gianormous with several theatres (two with domes) and all sorts of exhibits and things to see. We rested our feet and took in two shows - one on the seasonal stars above Chicago and one on cosmic collisions. We didn't spend a tonne of time looking at the exhibits as we closed the museum down and they didn't seem too keen on extending their hours for us. The planetarium boasts the best view of the downtown, so we hung out appreciating the skyline and just how far we had walked before hopping on a bus back to the Water Tower area.

This was really the only day we figured we'd have any time to do any shopping, so we started by hitting up Michigan Ave - The Magnificent Mile as they call it. Neither of us had much luck, so we headed over to Macy's since Jeff raved about it on their trip to NY. I've always thought I hated department stores, Macy's solidified my hatred for the gigantic monsters. Unless you're looking for homestuff or make-up, finding anything amongst the 8 floors is just way too frustrating for me. Macy's organises everything by brand instead of by type of clothes. Seriously? You want me to peruse 6 floors of women's apparel for a dress without even sort of grouping like styles of clothes together? As if. H had a little more luck in the adjoining mall and picked up some shirts at Abercrombie and Hollister. I have no idea what they make their shirts out of, but the fabric feels like heaven.

Our last mission of the day was to find someplace to eat. This seemed like it would be a pretty simple task since we were staying in a very busy area. Oh right, simple things rarely are while on vacation. We walked for ages, stopping at every restaurant we saw to look at the menu - it all looked delicious and was priced accordingly. It also all seemed to follow the HUGE rule. The size of the steaks on people's plates as we walked by? About the same size as my head. We also saw a couple with a quarter of a carrot cake, not a short one either, one of those totally ridiculous 4 full layer cakes. Not really what we were looking for... I finally convinced H that the Cheesecake Factory we saw right at the beginning of our trek would have something reasonable and delicious for supper. Not wanting cheesecake for supper he was pretty skeptical, but happily it didn't disappoint. It was huge, but reasonably priced, and H even said it was the best burger he's ever eaten. Point - me. Of course our waiter convinced us to share a dessert and we left to pack it in for the night feeling uncomfortably full.

suburbia here we come!

So we've had an awesome time so far during our trip. H has really been showing me up in the blog department - no real surprise, but he likely has the nanny to thank for finding him some spare moments to update and to edit his photos.

We have been staying in the picturesque town of St. Charles - a suburb of Chicago which boasts rather large, very gorgeous houses that have small parks as backyards. It helps that no one here has fences, and there seem to be pretty strict rules about yard upkeep. Even the houses that are empty and for sale only have weeds in the flower beds and the lawns are still mowed. I'm pretty sure I'd fail the test that lets you into the neighbourhood based on my gardening skills alone.

It's been a bit of a shock to the system to be staying in a house with three kids under the age of 6 - they never stop! To their credit they are insanely cute and aren't nearly as devilish as their mother makes out. This likely half due to the fact that we're new faces and they just LOVE playing with us and half due to the fact that this is temporary so it's okay to have three kids using us as human jungle gyms for a couple days. Since none of the kids have met me before, they seem to be especially smitten with having a girl to play with - you know, between getting scared by their uncle and watching Mickey's Christmas. Until today the youngest (just turned 2) was calling us both "mit-chel" when asked who we were. Tonight when going to bed he did say goodnight to his "Uncle Month" - secretly I hope "mit-chel" sticks.

Since we arrived on Friday, we got a chance to do some family friendly tourist things on the weekend. Saturday everyone but the youngest packed up to go to the Museum of Science and Industry. The Museum is so massive there's an entire airplane and the captured German U boat, among other things, right in the museum. The girls' favourite part by far was the kitchen galley in the sub.  After the museum we drove around downtown a little bit - past Obama's house, through the hood, and to Oprah's studio.

On Sunday we packed the whole family up and headed to the Kane County Fair. The weather was a little intense - these crazy brown people seem to forget that us fairer folk get a little crispy when out in the 30 degree heat for several hours! We started off looking at the animals and taking the kids to the petting zoo where we almost had a casualty when one of the girls got taken out by a couple of goats. After we had an awesome time taking the kids on the rides. I think I'd forgotten how lame most of the little little kids rides are - different vehicles moving either in a circular or oval pattern. Watching them try out some of the more "grown up" rides was hilarious - mostly because of how concerned H and his sister were while the girls were having a total blast screaming and waving their arms around.

Monday everyone was back to work, including the nanny so H and I had a relaxed morning and then went to a nearby box mall to try and find some sandals since I had failed in this mission before leaving home. We went several places, and were eventually successful - I managed to find a pair of flip flops at DSW that I thought would be comfortable enough to make it through our trip into the city. I also might have developed a little crush on a store called Crate and Barrel which sells all sorts of things I don't actually need but sure do think are pretty (and sometimes practical, you know, for those occasions in my life I need a punch bowl). Monday evening we just hung out and visited. H also pulled out his "big camera" (I'm not the only who complains he's always got that thing in my face!) and got some fabulous pics of his nieces and nephew before we headed off.

All in all a very successful visit to Suburbia!

Friday, July 18, 2008

chicago bound!

Well we're in the Saskatoon airport (welcome to the year 2008 Saskatoon, it's about time you got the internet) and so far our trip is going swimmingly.  We're flying AirCanada, always a real treat...  I miss you WestJet, I know you're rapidly expanding could you read my mind and please fly to my next unknown travel destination please?

Customs was super - I was selected for every random security check possible.  Which totally means I got asked if I'd prefer a private room for my groping.  Not wanting H to get the wrong idea, I declined, preferring to get my groping done out in public.  They're thorough!  I can say my chest has never been fondled in such a manner by another female before today.  My ankles either for that matter.  Little known fact - they also check your hair to make sure you're not hiding anything in there either.

H says he will be updating his blog on a daily basis while we're gone.  I plan on keeping us busy enough that there won't be time for such things, but I guess we shall see.  We will be updating our twitter accounts for the duration.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

frustration, i am living it

So, among the many things I would like to get done this summer holiday season, close to top of the list actually, is to stain the deck.  Our deck is not huge, it's looking rather worse for wear, and we are having our housewarming this weekend so it seemed a reasonable goal - at the time - to get said staining done before Saturday.  Before Saturday really means before Thursday as that's when the Sidewalk Sale starts and I have agreed to work all day everyday with the promise of pretty underwear dangling over my head.

Not being a fan of manual labour (and an avid watcher of lame commercials) I decided using a pressure washer would be the best way to strip the old paint from the deck.  Borrowing a pressure washer was no problem.  Getting it to work...  For some reason this particular brand of pressure washer has a "male" piece where the garden hose should be attached.  Problem being, the garden hose, on it's free end is also a male bit.  No problem! says boyfriend, just go buy a coupler - turn the garden hose female and voila!  Actually purchasing a functioning coupler?  Two day adventure involving many stores.  Finally, thanks to Canadian Tire, problem solved.  

The pressure washing itself worked almost as good as I hoped.  I was hoping for a slightly higher paint removal ratio, but all the loose ugly stuff did come off.  Now I am totally ready to get my stain on.

Cue rain.  And more rain.  But, there's the sun!  Oh, no more sun, it's summer, what would the sun want to hang around outside drying off my deck for?  How bout grey and cloudy?  Things still dry when it's not rainy so I suppose it's acceptable.

Distraction - make a cheesecake!  (It looks SO good)

Finally, after waiting an entire half a day in the gloom, decide that if you start with the railing it's probably okay to start staining.  Hopefully by the time you get there those not quite dry floorboards and stairs will be ready for you.

The staining, it's easy!  So much better than anticipated.  Sure I'm banging my hand trying to get the sides of the rails, but the stain is covering really well, maybe even one coat well for this part.  Hey, it's the sun!  This isn't so bad, it's nice, it's sunny 50% of the time...

What?  Is that rain?  Serious?  I'm about 6 rails in, you have got to be kidding me.  It is rain.  Frick.

Does anyone know how to create a bubble, with hot air dryer over my deck?  Just til tomorrow...

Monday, June 09, 2008

life lessons

Some things I have learnt recently:
  • gardening isn't as bad as I thought, especially if it happens almost by magic
  • baking scoops are awesome (I bet they have a more technical name, but I don't know it)
  • Canadian Tire does not sell metal potato mashers
  • kids are just waiting for someone to call them on their BS, then they will pick up their socks (most of the time)
  • pink lemonade + cupcakes = delicious
  • females have to be twice as smart as males, even in the teaching profession, since for some reason we need to trick them into thinking everything was their idea.  this is not fair.
  • ordering shoes online rules
  • McNally has fabulous stationary
  • who you are willing to cry in front of at work is a good indication of who you trust and respect
  • picking my clothes up isn't that bad

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Overheard in a basement in Saskatoon

Guy :  You're just like me, except that you're a chick and you're dirty.

(that's not clean dirty, not perverted dirty you bunch of sickos)

Monday, June 02, 2008

a little perspective

I'll admit it, I lost sight of the big picture.  I have become that teacher.  The one who is just. so. frustrated.  Your lack of effort?  It bothers me.  Please, there are 10 days left.  Could you just learn this last unit so we can all move on?

Friday, I followed a girl into the bathroom.  I wasn't particularly mad, but I did know she was going to the bathroom to text someone and I planned to catch her in the act.  You know, make her feel sheepish, cause some mild embarrassment and confiscate a phone for an hour or two.  Fun teacher stuff. (seriously, I LOVE catching kids with phones and making them live without them for a day.)  I was not expecting her to exit the stall in near hysterics.

What ensued was likely one of the hardest things I've had to deal with yet in my teaching career.  It's certainly something they don't prepare you for in University.  No one tells you what to do when a student comes forth and tells you their friend is being abused, mentally and possibly physically.  That your first reaction will be to want to go find that missing student, to make sure they are okay yourself.  That luckily you are slightly smarter than that and you will simply offer hugs and an escort down to student services because you sure hope they know what to do in such a situation.  That you will feel just as helpless as the teenagers themselves.  That you cannot imagine living with such a burden at 15.

Math seems very unimportant at times like these.  Two of my students have been carrying around this terrible knowledge and feeling of helplessness for 6+ months.  One has been living it.  In my naivete I blamed hormones, spring, turning 16, typical teenage stuff.  It's just all so much bigger than me and my classroom...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

la resolution

Student #1 - We let her stay.  It's conditional of course, she will need to redo two units of her Math 10 in resource in order to receive her Math 10 credit in June.  If this doesn't happen, she will return to Math 10 in the fall.  She also needs to be successful in all of our new Math 20 things, or she will not return with us in the fall.  I would like to pretend that this is enough motivation for her get her priorities in order, but such things take time so we shall see.

Student #2 - Has found a home in modified Math until the end of the year.  If things go well for him there (ie. he shows up and is awake) he will be put back into regular programming in the fall.

So that's that, the start of Math 20 has been good times, it's pretty awesome to see the evolution in these little kiddies.

Monday, April 21, 2008


They passed!  They passed!  Well almost all of them did anyway, which leads me to the dilemmas.

Student 1 - Has been with me since grade 9 first semester.  Decided to go the way of the "bad girl."  Insists on getting into control struggles with 90% of the adults she meets.  You know, because she's female and wants to win.  Somehow, the two of us have avoided that and occasionally she's been known to listen to me, connect with me, and some rare times engage in math class.  I fought hard to get her into the stretch program last year, because her second semester math teacher wanted her to fail, to teach her a lesson.  Not that my coworkers would ever enter into such a power trip with a 14 year old or anything...  Anyway, fast forward to this year.  We can't exactly say school has been a top priority for this young lady.  Faced with failing at the end of first semester it was pull your socks up time or face the reality of repeating her grade 10 math.  She met us about halfway.  She redid a few things with her resource teacher, and appeared to be putting in more of an effort.  She was supposed to redo more things then she did, to bring her mark above a passing grade.  This didn't really happen.  She did however, pass the final (or parts of it, enough to merit an overall passing grade).  She didn't pass it by enough to bring her mark up to above a 50%.  Do I
  1. fail her?  She had tons of opportunity to pull her mark up, receive support etc etc etc.   We told her she would fail if she didn't do the list of things we provided and she didn't.  It just kills me to fail kids who are capable.  Not to mention ones that I feel a little invested in.
  2. conditionnally pass her?  She still has resource and I could make her continue to redo things during that time.  This would be alright if we hadn't already given her this option before...  I mean, how many chances do you give someone?  Eventually there needs to be some follow through...
  3. pass her but make her leave the program?  We could still make her pull up her mark in resource by redoing some key concepts for us and remove her from our program.  She could handle regular programming in the fall, though she certainly runs the risk of failing due to poor choices not lack of intelligence and less understanding then she's received from us.
Student 2 - Is an ESL student from Japan.  Not the smart kind who want 110% in everything.  The kind with an uninvolved family, who runs the street with various gangs.  He has done a huge nothing for us all year.  Typically he sleeps.  Our EA, potentially the most patient lady ever, tries to work with him when he's conscious.  We gave him the benefit of the doubt - he doesn't understand us.  Thanks to his slightly insane girlfriends, his English has improved dramatically and he certainly understands us.  Needless to say, sleeping hasn't been to condusive to him learning any math.  However, by some black voodoo magic, he passed the final.  Not by much, but enough that says he must have learnt something by osmosis, or recalled some previous knowledge somehow.  Now what do I do with him?  The choices look much like above, only with a please stop taking math addendum.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

les nerves

I piloted a new math program at my school this year. We took the regular Math 10 and 20 classes and stretched them out over three semesters (instead of the usual two). It's nothing revolutionary, and is actually happening all over both systems here in different shapes and forms. However, we really tried to go the extra mile and approach learning math from all different angles, instead of just giving the kids more time to continue to not understand things. This class has certainly had it's high and it's low points, but all in all it has been just an awesome experience watching struggling learners have success at something they totally hate.

That in itself was something of an accomplishment. And no, of course they didn't all succeed all of the time. But, attitudes have changed, work habits have improved, and every student has received good marks on different units. (yay us!)

Now, back to reality. We have to wind up the Math 10 course. We have to have a final. There is nothing more scary to these kids then a final exam. It's one last chance to mess everything up. So we've broken it up, used all sorts of memory recall aids, spent lots of time coaching them on how to get through it as best they possibly can. I'm still feeling very nervous for them. I want them to do well, and I know they can do well, but getting past this whole "I can't remember ANYTHING!" mentality has been all but impossible.

I think we will all be pretty happy come Tuesday and the start of Math 20...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

how i didn't get set up

Once upon a time there was an attempted set up.  It went a little like this.
jeff:   so i hear you are single again
and i have single friends
and i like you both
chelle: LOL
i am glad you like your friends
jeff: heh

This may have set little old me into a bit of a panic.  I didn't want to be set up.  I didn't want things to be weird.  I knew exactly who Jeff was alluding to and I really was enjoying doing my own thing, and spending large quantities of time alone with a book, my tv shows, and making a real effort to see friends I hadn't seen in awhile.  And we all know what chelle does best when faced with even the mention of such things.  She puts her foot down, loudly, shakes her head violently and essentially screams NO.

However, the friend Jeff mentioned in his roundabout way just so happened to be quite a bit of fun, and so we started hanging out without Rach or Jeff since they had returned to Montreal and we were both missing our sidekicks.  Jeff didn't mention anything again, I was very clear with Rach that I wanted nothing to do with their set ups and that appeared to be the end of it.

Then came the Grey Cup.  What a surprise that I don't love football or have any interest in watching it on tv.  I don't mind the occasional live game, or group game - I'm all about the visiting and food.  This year, however, I'm sure you all remember that the Roughriders made the Grey Cup.  Not watching the game didn't seem like an option, so when I was invited over to Friend's, I accepted.  

We spent all day together, sort of watching the game but mostly talking.  I'm pretty sure I saw most of the important bits.  And I know we won, so that's all that matters right?  After the game, we went for supper and talked some more.  Then we went back to him place and watched some tv and talked even more.  Finally it was more than time for me to leave.  It was easily midnight and I needed to work the next day.  So I'm getting my stuff on, saying my thank yous and goodbyes when I notice Friend is standing much closer to me then the rules of personal space really permit.  It is then that my brain dies.  "He's going to kiss you!"  I panic.  I say goodbye so fast I almost run into the doorway and I do trip over the threshold.  Luckily, I don't fall.  I get in my car, fully aware that my brain has just malfunctioned, and wondering how exactly at 27, I have just reverted to being 14.  I burst out laughing, and laugh to/at myself the whole way home.

Luckily he didn't hold it against me, and somehow he did get the courage up again to actually kiss me.  Second time around I didn't run into any doors.  With the exception of of a few days where one of us has been out of town, we've spent every single day since the Grey Cup together.

For his birthday he requested I change my facebook status to "in a relationship" mostly because it's something I said I would never do.  You know, much like I said I would never take part in this little set up.  Happy birthday boyfriend, a blog post will not do justice to just how great you are, or how happy I am because you came into my life but we are certainly "in a relationship."

chelle's guide to buying, selling and moving in less than a month

Part 2 : Selling

So I arrived home from winter camp, exhausted, disgusting, and pretty much dying to know all the details of what boyfriend, his realtor uncle and his lawyer aunt had done while I was away playing in the snow.  Turns out there weren't all too many more details than were communicated via text messages - all I'd missed was returning to the house and the stressful offer, counter, re-offer, and the waiting game played between those things.  I may have gotten off pretty easy by not being around...  So, having only one week to remove conditions, selling my condo became top priority.

  1. Agree to let realtor uncle sell my condo.  Bonus, he already had a couple in mind.
  2. Try to make a bank appointment.  Realize your banker no longer deals with personal banking stuff.  Find out that all bankers at your branch are booked solid for a week.  Spend a lot of time calling the bank.  Have an acquaintance's mom agree to meet with you at the end of her day to help you out.
  3. Get approved (with flying colours) if and only if condo sells.
  4. Have a couple try to come look at the condo.  Due to their work and needing to go to the mosque this proves to be difficult.
  5. Couple sees the condo, loves it.  Feel much relief.
  6. Couple can't seem to get their financing in order, they are banking through the states and an old student loan is giving them grief.  Wait.  Stressfully.  
  7. Get extremely stressed that your condo is still not listed and now you have 5 days to sell.  Question realtor uncle's master plan silently and not so silently.
  8. Try to be patient with realtor uncle as he assures you things will be fine.  Sit on your hands as not to harass him with endless phone calls as you would someone who was not related.  He's helping you out, he's family, surely he has a plan?
  9. Consider calling to put your foot down and demand the condo be listed.
  10. Out of nowhere, receive an offer!
  11. Offer is a good one, uncle was indeed working some kind of silent non communicated magic with a different couple.  
  12. Accept offer without countering.
  13. Remove conditions!  Realise you are now actually buying a house.
  14. Decide you can probably tell you family now.  This proves to only require one phone call - in some weird alignment of the planets your entire family sees one another that day, passes on the news and then calls you to confirm.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

chelle's guide to buying, selling and moving in less than a month

Part One:  Buying
  1. Randomly think that it might be nice to live somewhere where you have neighbours that don't play music 24 hours a day.  Or at least it would be nice to live somewhere that your neighbours played good music 24 hours a day.  Become an MLS junkie, if only because you love seeing what other people's houses look like on the inside.
  2. Find a cute, very recently renovated 650 sq foot house that is in your price range.  Go see said house thinking "if it has a basement, it could work."  Realize instantaneously that there is no way you can even imagine living in less than 900 sq feet, and that by 900 you mean 1000.
  3. Have your boyfriend's landlord sell his rental property, thusly evicting boyfriend in 31 days.
  4. Feel stressed.  Schedule a lunch meeting with the boyfriend to discuss housing options.  Spend over 30 minutes talking about random things, 10 minutes discussing various housing options, and another 15 minutes off topic.  Wrap up the lunch once again on the subject of housing, realizing you have decided nothing.
  5. The next day, find an okay looking house listed privately online.  Make an appointment to see the house for fun.  
  6. Walk around the house feeling lost, doing a perfunctory opening of closets and cupboards.  Make awkward conversation with the seller, including awkward conversation about what one would do if they were potentially maybe interested in making an offer.
  7. Get in car and commence conversation with the boyfriend.  Realize you both like the house.  In fact, you really like the house.  No, you really like the house.  Hypothesize what to do.  Look at other houses out of obligation?  Seems like a waste of time.  Make an offer on the first house you've looked at?  Seems crazy.  Decide to call in a realtor uncle for a second opinion.
  8. Go winter camping!  Leave your boyfriend with all the responsibility and enjoy yourself for a day and a half before you let curiosity as to what is happening in regards to your potential house offer get the best of you.  Turn your phone on.
  9. Become bombarded with text messages. 
    "Uncle said house is way about 50K. He gave me the history of it. I told him what we're looking for and he's on it."
    "My lawyer aunt is writing up the offer
    ""We offered ***. They countered ***. We said okay. They accepted! Omg as you put it."
  10. Commence crazy texting.  Officially lose your shit when you realize you have a) put an offer on a house and b) can't get real details until you get home over 24 hours from the current time.
  11. Arrive home to a to do list a mile long.  Top of the list - sell condo in less than a week to secure financing to remove conditions.  Thank a random deity that in the current housing market this should not be an issue.
  12. Tell no one what is going on, lest something not workout...

Friday, April 04, 2008

on business

I know I've been busier than usual lately, I just didn't quite realise how much busier til right this very second.

3:15, Friday afternoon. School has just finished, most of my students have left and a few are stopping by to see me since I was away at PD for the morning. All of a sudden I realise I have to pee so very badly I can barely move. As I'm hurrying down the hall to the washroom it occurs to me that clearly I have been ignoring this need for what is very likely quite some time. Then it hit me. Folks, I am so busy I have started ignoring regular body needs.

Something needs to give here, and I am very sure it's not going to be my need to use the bathroom.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

all worth it

Being a teacher beats you down. Students are regularly apathetic, frustrating and lazy balls of teenage hormones. I connect with these little people on a personal level everyday, and that is great and can be quite rewarding. However, there is always the underlying "but they still don't get it!" They don't quite see the potential that I see, and have no idea how to go about achieving it.

But then they do. Today a student I taught for the last three semesters, who was nothing short of brilliant, who I had the most interesting conversations with, who just would not do homework and assignments, and who's mark hovered around a 50% the entire time I taught him came to see me. He came to share that he had just received his average for his current math class - and it was an 80%! This is nothing short of miraculous for a student who is truly gifted but just could not be bothered to put his current book down to see what unit we were studying.

It makes all the frustration worth it to know that these little people care enough to share their successes. To know that they do eventually sort out how to balance the different parts of their lives without compromising what they really consider to be important. Even better when they come let me know so I can celebrate with them!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Turns out I might not be quite as at odds with the universe as it feels some days.  Remember my wants post from not too far back?  Well a month and a half later here's the update.

I want my arm to stop hurting.
My shingles cleared up in what could likely be considered record time if family history is any indicator to how much you should suffer.  The rash is still visible, but I don't think there will be any scarring.  Yay!

I want my Pom girls to do okay tomorrow in their first performance.
They did okay.  The season is now over, and it was an okay one.  I'm not willing to give it more than okay, cause, well, I re experienced what being a teenage girl is all about (and it's not pretty...).  I'm pretty happy to be finished for the year, but am going back for round two next year.

I want Buns to get the job at my school cause she'd be awesome and a perfect fit.
She did get the job, and she is a perfect fit.  I love working with her (we co-teach a class) and know that she is doing a super job everywhere else she works.  I'm also pretty pumped I've got another person on staff to back my crazy proposals.  

I want you all to put yourselves on the Bone Marrow registry.
I don't know, did you do this?  Canada has just switched to the super easy cheek swab method so if you just couldn't make time to go in and give a tiny vial of blood now you have no excuse.  They send you the kit, you swab and send it back.  Do it.

Most importantly I want Erica to be well, to know we're thinking of her, to find a donor - life is so f'ing unfair to the most amazing people.
SHE'S FOUND A MATCH!  An imperfect one, but a viable donor.  I won't lie, I cried with happiness when I found out while watching this.  Now there's quite a few things that need to happen before the transplant and let's all really really really hope it all goes perfectly.

I also got a few wonderful things that weren't on my wants list, but more on that soon.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

much easier than typing myself...

Wondering what I've been up to? My boyfriend was nice enough to blog about a piece of it for me! Unfortunately he didn't also blog about all the other things I've been doing lately, so maybe you'll have to call me or something to find that out since I'm a wee bit behind...

A quick trip to Jasper

Thursday, February 07, 2008

really now?

Overheard by the phone by the front entryway, right after the beginning of first period:

"No, I guess I like totally don't have school today."

Is this all the imagination we're requiring of our youth?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

fwd: save a life

This is from Rach. Instead of sending you to her blog, I figured I'd just repost it here.

This is a quick public service announcement.

Cancer sucks.

My friend's friend has been battling leukemia for a few years. I don't know her very well, but I have had the pleasure of meeting her twice: once in Boston and once in Japan. She is one of the those people who seems to be fantastic at everything she tries, but you can't hate her for it because she is so nice and genuine. (I think that Jeff may have been a bit smitten with her...)

Any ways, her leukemia has just relapsed. There isn't a current match in the bone marrow registry for her. I don't really think that anyone who reads this blog is a match for her (what would the odds of that be) but you could be a match for someone who needs your help.

The process of donating to the bone marrow registry is easier (and less painful) than you think.

1) Go to the website run by Canadian blood services.
2) You have to read a bit about bone marrow donation and then you take a quiz!
3) Fill out the online application form.
4) Canadian Blood Services will contact you so that you can come and give a sample.
5) You give one vial of blood.

That is it. If you are a match for someone, they will contact/find you. Chances are you may never be needed. Or, you could help save someone's life.

If you're american the process is even easier!
1) Go here!
2) Read some things and fill out a form.
3) Take a swab of your cheek cells when you get your kit in the mail.
4) Mail cheek cells back to the registry.

There is a special need for people of mixed races to join the registry - your unique genetics make finding a match next to impossible. Thanks folks, I may or may not stop asking you to do things now.

Thursday, January 31, 2008


It seems I have a good many wants these days. In ascending order:
  • I want my arm to stop hurting.
  • I want my Pom girls to do okay tomorrow in their first performance.
  • I want Buns to get the job at my school cause she'd be awesome and a perfect fit.
  • I want you all to put yourselves on the Bone Marrow registry.
  • Most importantly I want Erica to be well, to know we're thinking of her, to find a donor - life is so f'ing unfair to the most amazing people.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I survived shingles.  Technically I still have them, but I am done with the anti-viral medication and things are generally looking much better.  The shingles themselves have scabbed over, and have returned to a much less aggressive shade of pale pink.  For awhile I thought I was dealing with some severe blood poisoning/infection issues - pretty!  This process was hella itchy.  Itchy pain is an interesting combination - on one hand, it's itchy!  and painful!  but on the other hand, you don't scratch and make things bleed because of the hurting.  I'm crossing my fingers this has prevented pretty scars from forming.

I decided to today was the day I was considering myself better not just because most of the icky is gone, but because it is the first day in over a week and a half I have been able to bear wearing a real bra.  This is what I measure progress by!

I still have at least a week of nerve medication to take, I'm going to decrease dosage then and see if life is grand of if there is that lovely residual stabbiness following me around.  For right now, ignorance is bliss!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

not for your house

After sitting through my final this morning I realised I couldn't handle the pain til tomorrow morning. I mean, the constant pain wasn't so bad, but the random but very regular intervals where someone was stabbing me just weren't working out for me. I started calling around, looking for a walk-in clinic with the shortest waiting time. Somehow, though I'd talked to them yesterday and they suggested waiting til Thursday, this was my regular doctor's office (not my doctor).

The doctor took all of 2.5 seconds to make a diagnosis. I have shingles. The doctor asked me what I'd like to do for the pain. "I'd like it to go away." was my answer. I'm not sure if this was the right answer, or what exactly he was looking for in an answer, but seriously, little man stabbing me, you need to die. Thank god teachers have prescription coverage. I left with 4 different prescriptions - one for the virus, and three for different kinds of pain. If you're hurting in the next month or so, I've likely got something that can help you.

My biggest issue is I'm not allowed to take any of them til later tonight - apparently there's a good chance the nerve pain one will mess me up properly until my body gets used to it. Mess me up more than the lightening bolts in my side? I'm not sure about that.

Monday, January 21, 2008

good thing i'm not dying

It has come to my attention that there may be a few problems with our health care system. I have a health issue - no need to go into details here - but suffice to say, it's painful and is starting to definitely feel like it merits the attention of a doctor. Family, it is not serious, just uncomfortable and I'm hoping they're not going to say something crazy like "you have shingles!"

So, I call my doctor's office and request an appointment with my physician. The receptionist cheerily lets me know that the first available appointment, at any time of day, is February 5th. Seriously people? I squawked at her. You know, that high pitched incredulous "What?!" Waiting 15 days to see a doctor is simple not acceptable. I mean, either I'm going to be dead by then or I'm not going to have an issue any more.

I politely informed the receptionist that it was sort of a pain/severe discomfort issue. She suggested I see one of the walk in doctors. Last time I saw one of their walk in doctors he asked me "What I thought we should do about my illness and treatment?" so I wasn't feeling particularly keen on this thought. I like decisive answers and treatments from my doctors. No worries, even the walk in doctors are booked for the next few days. What is the point of a walk in doctor if they take appointments and are full?

Somehow, she created me an appointment on Wednesday. Chances are this is going to involve a 3 hour wait in a waiting room full of Norovirus. Awesome.

Monday, January 07, 2008

2007 resolutions in review

All of a sudden it's 2008!  Happy New Year everyone.  I thought it might be fun to see how I fared with last year's resolutions before I even consider making new ones.

1. Consume less and consume more intelligently.
I think I did pretty well here.  Honestly, I really kept purchases to a minimum last year.  What I did purchase was clothes and shoes, and most recently my macbook (but it was becoming very needed).  One success!

2. Moisturize more often.
If we look at the year as a whole, I failed.  If we look at November/December, I'm rocking this one.  As the new assessment practices are teaching me, it's only most current behaviour that should be assessed however, and that means I get to say I succeeded with this one.  2 down!

3. Drink more wine.
I said this was going to be my attainable resolution and it most certainly was.  2007 saw the arrival of a wine drinking Chelle.  I now drink wine because I enjoy it, not because I'm trying to make myself like it.  The arrival of Invisible Roommate and her extensive knowledge of good, reasonably priced wine has not hurt my cause any.  3/6!

4. See Nelly Furtado.
I failed.  Miserably.  But not because I didn't try, because I somehow slept in and missed my flight.  A big shout out to Westjet who managed to get me to Montreal on April 5th anyway.  A big boo on me for being in transit during the show.  Sigh.

5. Revamp the way I teach Math 10.
I am happy to say I have more love for Math 10.  I met some fabulous resources and was given some pretty fantastic opportunities this last year in the means of professional development.  I have definitely changed the way I approach the course in a much more concrete way - an I anticipate doing a much better job of marrying my new knowledge and my teaching style when repeat the course next year.  I think it means good things that my grade 11s have been a little jealous that they didn't get to do some of the things this year's 10s are doing.

6. Get out more often.
Just a meh here.  I did alright, but there is certainly room for improvement.  I do have more friends in the city now, and that was a year long project in itself, so I suppose there are small successes here.  I'm looking forward to my new semester (no core french!) and the return of Rach and Jeff to be sure.  JJ and her boy are also moving to the queen city, so I anticipate monthly visits in at least one direction to be sure.

All in all, I'd say 2007 was pretty successful and 2008 is shaping up to be even better.