What I Learned in the Quiet Zone — The Power of Speaking Without Words


Thursday and Friday of this past week, my colleagues and I headed to the big city for a conference on Celebrating Linguistic and Cultural Diversity.

Can I tell you how much my mind was blown during the two days of learning?  Unreal.

Ok, so not all of us are big city fans.  I do not enjoy trying to navigate Toronto in a car, and from where I live West of Toronto, the amount of traffic that would have been endured in order to arrive at OISE at 8 am, and then to leave Toronto at 3:45 pm the next day to return home… well… I’d likely have cried.

Naturally, then, we took the train.  We ventured from our homes, left our cars in Burlington, and took advantage of the wonderful transit system that we all wish would come farther West.  But that’s another topic entirely.

Throughout the two-day conference, I learned about things like respecting the voice of English Language Learners in our schools — letting them speak their own first languages, letting them show what they know in their language, and encouraging them not to lose that incredibly valuable and special piece of who they are.  I learned about social justice for refugees, and I got to listen to the fascinating linguistic research behind the developmental stages of our English Language Learners, and the linguistic research and data that drives the way we aim to help them best.

But to the point of this post, I was struck on the way home from the conference yesterday by the power of nonverbal communication — which is essential when a student enters my caseload, and therefore my care, and doesn’t speak any language at all.  When I don’t speak their language, and they don’t speak mine, how do we communicate?

It’s challenging.  It’s difficult, and I’m not here to minimize that.  On the train on the way home from Toronto yesterday, we entered a train car that was packed right full — we shouldn’t have been shocked, we boarded a 4:10 train at Union Station.  The lower level had no available seating, so those leading the way ahead of me continued on up to the upper level.  During rush hour, the upper levels of the GO trains are reserved as “The Quiet Zone.”  We knew this, and we were being quiet.  We were either whispering or talking very quietly, as some others on the train were.  Shortly after the train started moving, however, the passenger beside one of my coworkers removed her earbuds to say, rather snarkily, “hey guys?  This here is the quiet zone, so if you’re gonna talk, you need to go downstairs.”  She put her headphones back in and continued staring out the window.  Everyone around her looked at her like she had taken it a bit far (which I believe she had), but being the respectful individuals we are, we entered quiet mode.

If you know me, you know how much I hate having to be quiet.  I don’t mind quiet time, but I don’t like being told “you can’t talk.”  It stifles my process.  I tried to do yoga once — never again.  But I digress.

A couple of us pulled out books to read, one played on her phone for a bit, and the other sat quietly and looked out the window.  About ten minutes into the trip, the guy beside me answered a phone call.  I’m surprised the passenger who’d made her position on quiet VERY clear didn’t lose her mind.  I looked at one of my coworkers, who did nothing but wink at me, and I started to giggle… silently, of course, so I just looked like a smiling goof whose shoulders wouldn’t stop shaking.  Another coworker looked at me, raised her eyebrows, motioned at the guy on the phone, then motioned over her shoulder to the lady with the headphones sitting beside her.  I silently giggled again.  We all exchanged varying degrees of knowing glances, pointed nods, and hand gestures (all of them appropriate), before we got tired of not completely understanding each other and started to send text messages despite being seated right beside each other.

What struck me though was that before we gave up and moved to our phones, we were all able to communicate quite a bit with no words.  We just had to be observant enough.

 

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31 goals


I turned 31 two weeks ago.  It felt just like any other day.  There was no fanfare, no trumpet blowing, no life-changing ‘a-ha!’ moment to signal that another year had come and gone.  Just some loving friends who made sure I wasn’t forgotten, took me out for dinner, went to wander around the local art gallery’s Christmas light display (which was bizarre with no snow…. weird), and then to Starbucks for a gingerbread latte.

It was lovely.

But at dinner, my dear friend Laurel encouraged me to set 31 goals, as I turned 31.  She said it’s something she started doing at around 27, and she’s really enjoyed it.

To me, it seems almost like having to make 31 New Years Resolutions, because my birthday is a mere 3 weeks from the moment when the entire world notices that another year has come and gone, but that’s neither here nor there.  I’ve decided to take Laurel up on her suggestion, and I’ve decided to set 31 goals.

I’ll check back in around this time in 2016 and let you know how I did

  1.  Read 40 books (So far this year I’m at 22 of the 25 book goal I set for 2015.  I think I can pull it off.)
  2. Write every day (summer 2016 — I’m not going to Camp for the first time in 6 years.  I think writing about SOMETHING every day is a solid aspiration).
  3. Be generous.  I’m not limiting this.  I just want to be open to the voice of the Holy Spirit and do what He tells me to with the money and time I’m blessed with — things like helping refugees and caring for the homeless.
  4. Actually use my Instagram account.  I just revamped it yesterday.  Follow me if you’d like: @epicwings84
  5. Love deeply.  Who cares if I get hurt?  Hurts heal, but regret takes longer.
  6. Learn to chord on my mandolin
  7. Learn to chord on my guitar
  8. Keep playing the violin
  9. Not hide my piano in its carry-case/bag, but actually play it every once in a while.
  10. Create a music nook in my basement — because 6, 7, 8, and 9
  11. Watch all the Star Wars movies.  I’ve never done it.  I want to know what they hype is about.
  12. Actually read my Bible.  I haven’t figured out what this looks like yet — whether I start a plan or just read, but I want that to be a Dec. 31-Jan. 1 deal, since I already missed my birthday goal start by 2 weeks.  Details to follow.
  13. de-clutter my home.  It’s so cluttered.  I can’t handle it.  I will be removing clutter, filing clutter, giving away and selling clutter.  And if I manage to pull out enough to clutter to have a sale of some sort, I will donate the proceeds to somewhere important — probably to refugees.  They hurt my heart and I want to help everywhere I can.
  14. pray more — not in a “God, this situation sucks please fix it” kind of way.  In a “I lean into the Spirit because the Spirit is in me, and let’s do life together” kind of way.
  15. Start running again.  This is a tentative, hopeful goal.  I don’t know if I can do it, because I wrecked my ankle a couple years ago.  When I stopped running, I then gained a bunch of weight, which leads me to 16….
  16. Lose 50 pounds.  Or more.  But at least 50.  But healthily.
  17. Eat good food.  Goal # 16 does not have to mean I don’t eat good food.  It means I stop eating sour keys and chips.  Seriously — big vices right there.  I just got a Ninja professional kitchen system for Christmas.  And a veggie Spiralizer for my birthday.  And a sweet frying pan.  I seriously feel like I can make anything.
  18. Learn.  I keep saying “if I were to ever go back to school, I would study….” Well, I’m not going to go back to school.  I haven’t paid off round 1 and 2 yet.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t just learn.
  19. do something adventurous and scary.  I haven’t decided what that is going to be yet.  Time will tell.
  20. Play more — do the things I love even if they seem a little childish and like a waste of time.  Like colouring.  Or playing in the rain.
  21. actually stick to my budget.  At the end of August, I created a spreadsheet that’s been really helping me watch where my money is going.  This needs to continue.
  22. Choose love.  Where I can judge, be snarky, be rude, or even just be apathetic… I must choose love.
  23. Practice my French.  I’m not teaching it anymore, and this is the third year in a row that I haven’t been using it regularly.  I don’t want to lose it.
  24. Drink water.  This sounds so cliche and ridiculous, but it’s something I really, really, really need to do.
  25. Take my vitamins every day lol.  See 24.  Also, I’m running out of goals.
  26. Take time to watch the sun both come up and go back down.  I tend to ignore the sunrises, because I firmly believe I should be sleeping, but they’re a part of the natural process, and their beauty is just as profound.
  27. Install a dog door in my back door so Kloe has freedom this summer — something she’ll miss not going to my Mom’s for 2 months.
  28. Road trip somewhere (in Ontario) that I’ve never been.
  29. Write a song.
  30. eat way, way less refined sugar
  31. Choose joy — life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

 

We’ll chat at the end of 2016 and I’ll let you know what I accomplished.  Do you have any goals?

Duck and Cover


It seems to me that every generation has one…. a ridiculous way to placate the masses that they’re all going to be ok when it seems that everything’s absolutely falling to pieces.

When I was in University, I took a course toward my degree called History of the Cold War.  If memory serves correctly, it covered the years 1940-1970.  The range sounds right… anyway, that’s not the point.  I found the course interesting, despite a professor who lacked the ability to hold the attention of a room full of young History majors.

I don’t remember a lot from the course anymore — it’s been a shockingly long time since I sat in a History lecture.  I do remember one afternoon though, when we walked into class and there was a video on the screen, paused and ready to start once lecture started.  Trust me, you think little kids get excited when they find out they’re watching a movie in class?  So do University students.

Especially movies that are going to have them laughing uncontrollably for 9ish minutes.

We’d been talking about the fear that was pervasive about being bombed.  Air raids were a very real threat, and since the world had fairly recently discovered how to go nuclear, it was even more of a fear-inducing possibility.  People built bomb shelters in their yards and basements, ready to run and lock themselves in lead-lined concrete to hide out nuclear winter at a moment’s notice.

Do you remember doing tornado, lock down, and fire drills when you were a kid in elementary school, so that you knew what to do in case of those emergencies?  I know I did, but if you were a kid in 1950s America, you might also remember Duck and Cover drills.

I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.  Maybe this wasn’t a real thing.  But that day that we got so excited about a movie in a 3rd year university lecture, we were given the impression that kids in 1950s America did Duck and Cover drills.

If you have 9 spare minutes, prepare to chuckle at the absurdity of the idea that ducking under your desk and covering your head would save you from a nuclear warhead dropping on your school.

Duck and Cover

But what we talked about in that lecture that day was the false sense of security that this PSA (Public Service Announcement) could offer to those who were panic-stricken.  What if?!?!?!?!?!!?

I went out for dinner with my Grandparents this evening, and they said they remember being concerned about being bombed, and Grandma said she doesn’t feel like it’s much different from the fear of refugees not being safe to let into our countries.

But what my Grandma and I talked about next is what drove me to write this post.  Governments and politicians are always looking for ways to convince people that they’re going to be ok in the face of conflict.  Without that skill, there would likely be chaos.  What gets said to try to instill that confidence depends on the politician.  Justin Trudeau (my Prime Minister) is saying he wants to bring in 10,000 properly vetted and secured refugees by the end of 2015 and another 15,000 throughout 2016.  Donald Trump (hopefully not the President of the US) is saying we shouldn’t take refugees at all, though he’d consider it if they were Christians………. This from the man who thinks Starbucks should be boycotted because their holiday cups are red this year, and not Christmasy enough.  For the love.  Really?  That’s another post entirely.

In the face of this, my grandmother has gone to Chapters and bought an Arabic-English visual dictionary, so that when her church is able to interact with the refugee family they’re sponsoring, she can try to communicate with them.  Even in the face of uncertainty, because what if?  Instead of ducking and covering, she’s stretching out her hands.

I want to be my Grandma when I grow up.  For real.  Through the whole conversation, I was so encouraged that there are still people in this world who want to be the hands, feet, and face of Jesus.  People who don’t want to slam the doors of the safety of this country closed because some extremists did some terrible, horrible things.

I’m reminded many times daily lately of the passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus talks about feeding the hungry and caring for strangers, those who are sick, and those who are in prison.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

Now, hear me.  I’m not saying fling the doors wide open, don’t do background checks, and leave the due diligence behind.  I’m not saying that.  I don’t believe that would be wise.

But what I am saying — loudly, and as clearly as I can — is that I refuse to let fear tell me to ignore the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the one needing clothes, the sick, or the imprisoned.  I refuse to let fear tell me that because there are risks, I shouldn’t welcome the chance to help a family of refugees start over.  Would I want the same treatment if I were in their position?  Yes.  Do I believe it’s what I’m called to?  Yes.

Is there reason to be fearful?  Probably.  But because I know I’m a child of the King, and because I know fear is not from God, I can safely acknowledge that God isn’t calling me to fear helping those in need.

Am I going to let fear dictate my actions?

No.  The cost of doing so is far too great this time.

Fear can not win.

The Car (In)decision


I’ve just started a new job.  My new job has me driving more than 10 km each direction to work (more than any distance in my entire professional career, and more than any distance ever that I’ve driven to work).  I’m doing English as a Second Language support for 8 different schools all along Lake Erie (which I don’t live that close to), and I have to drive, most days at least 45 minutes each direction.

Mind you, I love my new job.  I’m having a lot of fun, and I’m currently enjoying the drive.  Plus — I’m being paid mileage, which I didn’t know when I applied for the job, but it’s a great perk.  In my first week, I tacked 500 km on my car.  My first mileage claim, which I filed yesterday for the month of September, was for 1120 km.  Insane.  For the last 8 years, I’ve put no more than 100 km per week on my vehicle for work.

Because of this, and the fact that I drive a 10 year old car, it felt like it was time to start car shopping.  My mileage can, of course, cover the payment to buy a new one.

I found though that I couldn’t make a decision, and I didn’t know why.  See, I’ve been driving a Toyota Matrix for a long time, and before that I had a Toyota Matrix, and before that?  A Toyota Corolla.  It would make sense given my record that I’d be able to one-stop-shop by walking into a Toyota dealership.

But part of my consideration in car shopping was that I haaaaate winter driving.  Hate.  So I figured that since I had the money, I could go to something bigger.  Tougher.  Gutsier.  Something that’ll tough its way through the snow a bit better.  Something with AWD, or… even better…. 4×4.  I wanted a Jeep.  I’ve always wanted a Jeep.  And when I started shopping and I saw the new Jeep Renegade, I knew I had to drive one.

I started researching, and I fell in love with the Renegade.  I mean, look at it…

But I also test drove a Chevy Trax, a Nissan Rogue (which I also loved, and probably would have gone with…), a Toyota Rav4 (brand loyalty for the win), a Mazda CX-5, a Honda CRV, and a Honda HRV.

I had pretty much come to a decision.  I was going to buy a Nissan Rogue AWD, and the only thing I was sad about was that it didn’t come in red in the base trim level.  I wanted something flashy.

But….

But……

the niggling feeling that something wasn’t right would not go away.

A week ago, I was out with friends having an extreme brownie night (I have awesome friends!) and a few of us started talking about car accidents.  Three of us had been in pretty serious ones, and we’re all very lucky to be alive.

I don’t know if I’ve ever really laid out how mine made me feel in this location.  It’s been hard for me to talk about to pretty much anyone.  I had two car accidents in 6 months, and they left me pretty much a wreck behind the wheel — the second one in particular.

The first one was an improper left turn on my part, and while I couldn’t see properly, it’s still my fault, because I pulled into traffic making a left turn thinking that I was in the clear.  I looked, I didn’t see anything coming, but when I was promptly T-Boned it was clear that I was wrong.  A combination of factors led to that, but ultimately — my car was written off and I was very upset.  In the second one, I was merging onto the 401 at the end of December, and hit a patch of black ice as I was changing lines.  My back tires slid out from behind me, I fish tailed a few times, and then I don’t remember anything else until I was on my roof skidding to a stop, but both my passenger and the car behind me informed me that I hit the cement median and rolled back into the highway three times before skidding to a stop of the roof.  My brain has obviously censored a chunk of that experience out, and I think I’ll be delighted if I never retrieve that memory.

That second crash left me in a shaky, unsure of myself, out of control mess.  I didn’t feel like I had control of anything, and I couldn’t fall asleep without seeing the sparks of my roof against pavement for months.  I couldn’t merge onto the 401 without hyperventilating for three months after the accident, and I could hardly take care of myself.  My world felt like it was caving in around me (for more reasons than just the accident), but it’s created a marked fear of winter driving in me that I haven’t even consciously acknowledged in years.

It hasn’t occurred to me in years that the reason I hate winter driving so much is because the worst year of my existence started around the time I lost my back end on black ice.

When that thought hit me though, I immediately wondered the question that would ultimately be the undoing of my car decision — am I buying a 30,000 dollar vehicle because it’s the practical and wise decision?  Or am I buying a 30,000 dollar vehicle because I’m scared?

I knew right away that if the answer was that I was scared, I was going to spend 30 grand just to be scared the first time it snowed, and that felt like a really big waste of money.

If the reason was that a ten year old vehicle won’t withstand the piling on of kilometers and all that extra maintenance, well, then it would make sense to make the purchase while my ten year old car still has any trade in value.

But after a lot of soul searching, I came to the conclusion that I was scrambling for a new car so that I could feel in control and safe…. and a car can’t give me that level of security.  The following doubts started to creep in:  How much worse would it feel to ditch a 2015 than a 2006?  I’m spending a lot of time on country roads… what if I slide off into a ditch?  What if I damage my new car?  What if I hammer it so hard with kilometers that the life is gone out of it before I’m finished paying for it in 84 months?  How will I ever pay off my line of credit (that I’m doing pretty well at right now) if every time I make more money, I take on a new payment for something else?

Ultimately, after wrestling all those doubts to the ground and praying for direction and wisdom, I decided what to buy.

I am buying good snow tires, new windshield wipers, new headlight bulbs, and I’m getting my headlights polished.  Instead of putting my trust in a 30,000 dollar car, I’m going to put my trust in the only place it belongs, and trust that God has my back, and that maybe, just maybe… this can be the winter that I don’t panic every time I have to drive in the snow.  Maybe.

I discovered while I was car shopping that Toyota no longer makes the Matrix (what I’m driving now), and I found that I was very sad.  If they still made it, I’d likely have signed on the dotted line for an All Wheel Drive Matrix before any of the second thoughts could have set in.  So I guess… thanks, Toyota?

Today, while catching up on some TV I missed the last two days, I saw a commercial for the new Scion iM.

2016 Scion iM

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2006 Toyota Matrix
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Do you see the resemblance?  I think — when I’m finally ready for a car purchase to be the practical decision, and not one that I made out of fear and lack of control — it might be an AWD Scion iM.  Cuz…. pretty!

Or a Nissan Rogue….

Or, who knows, I did enter a contest to win a Jeep…. maybe I’ll get my Renegade after all.


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There’s nothing to fear except, well, everything.


I’ve got a confession to make.  I’ve stared at this blank “new post” screen probably 8 times in the last week.  I sit and I stare at it.  I might write the first paragraph of this post, and then I chicken out and I delete it.  We’ll see where I get today.

I’ve come to the conclusion recently that I am a great big chicken.  In life.  In pretty much everything that I do… I’m just scared.  I’ve been feeling restless and uneasy and it all boils down to this:  I’m terrified of my life.  Maybe not terrified.  Maybe that’s extreme.  I’m generally apprehensive of my life.  That’s better.

I digress.

I know I haven’t been given a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).  I get that this does not come from God, and that I should be fighting this with everything in me (partnered WITH God).  But I don’t seem to be able to bring myself to do it.

Know what I’m scared of?

Happy Go Lucky 358
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Everything.  Well, and…. Change.

You see…. things keep changing.  But I want them to stay the same.

My friends get engaged, they get pregnant, they get married, they go back to school, they get into serious relationships, they get new jobs, they move away, we never talk anymore…. these things just happen.

I got a new job.  Now I have to face my fear of driving in the winter because some of the schools I have to go to are 75-80 km away from my house.  Each direction.  And right on Lake Erie.  That means snow storms!  And that means fear.  And I don’t like it.

I’m afraid to follow wholeheartedly after God because I’m afraid of what He might ask me to do.  I just spent an entire summer at Camp where I was supposed to learn and grow, and instead I stayed the same.  I sat in my comfort zone and wouldn’t let myself leave it because… well… it’s scary.

And now I have this new job, and I’ve left my work friends, and I feel a touch like I’m in over my head.  And I don’t know how to process that because in 2014-2015 I was comfortable.  And now I’m not.

I’m afraid to try to play the guitar because what if it’s too hard?  Even though I learned to play the violin as an adult… my skills combined with God’s faithfulness in the past has proven that I legit have nothing to be afraid of, and that fear isn’t worth the effort or the hassle… yet here I am.

I’m afraid to try dating because… well that’s a whole other world of crazy right there.  Every time I do it I seem to end up with nothing but ridiculous stories that would make me more of a successful author than a successful wife.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/celestinechua/10725012123/
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Dorothy Thompson Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live
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Karen Salmansohn When your faith is stronger than your fears, you can make your dream happen
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If you read this blog and you know me personally, please don’t feel like you need to call me and say “I read your blog.”  I am working through this.  But if you know me personally, you also know that I write better than I think or talk (which I don’t understand but whatever), and that this is how I process.  I am processing.  I don’t need to talk about it, because I’m doing the equivalent of that right now.

Fun Fact:  I’m also afraid to hit publish because this feels like a big confession right now… that I’m scared of everything… but it feels kind of like if I don’t hit publish and put it out there for the world to see and comment on (all 18 of you who actually read my posts…) then I’m going to have to pay someone for a therapy session where I sit and fumble my way through explaining this less articulately, when I could have just spat it out in writing on the interwebz and achieved the same result.  (longest sentence ever, man alive… maybe I’m not even a good writer…)

Ok…. time to hit publish save draft and go have a shower.  Cuz…. I might as well mull on this some more.

The Dollarama Incident


Yesterday evening, something happened that I feel I must share with you, my faithful readers.  I was (wrongly) accused of shoplifting yesterday in a Dollarama… of shoplifting chocolate bars.

I hadn’t, naturally.  There are better things I can think of attempting shoplifting on for the first time than a Peanut Butter Oh Henry and a Reese Peanut Butter Cup.

But here’s the story.

I went into Dollarama after a trip to Costco with a friend.  I can’t remember even 24 hours later what I went in for, it couldn’t have been that important, but I went in because I obviously thought I needed something.  I go into this Dollarama all. the. time.  It’s maybe a minute from my house, and teaching means Dollarama is a girl’s best friend.  No joke.  At least once a week.

While I was in the candy aisle, texting a friend, I was kind of pacing back and forth.  My hands were in and out of my pockets because that’s where my phone was, and I kept picking up chocolate bars and putting them back down because a) I couldn’t  make up my mind on what I wanted, and b) I was trying to remember what I went in for, and c) my friend and I were making plans for tonight.  While I was pacing, I caught sight of this woman who appeared to have just paid for her purchase, standing just by the cash register counters.  She was staring at me, and not discreetly.  When I caught her stare, I looked back at her with a “what?!” kind of look, and when she continued to stare, making me uncomfortable, I put the chocolate bars down and turned to leave the aisle.

See, my first thought was that she was fat-shaming me.  I don’t know why I assumed this, because she was about the same size as me, but my own insecurity played out and my inner voice saying “you don’t need this” led me to jump to the absurd conclusion that this woman was judging me for buying candy.

Somewhat thankfully, she was not fat-shaming me.  Instead though, she was assuming that when I put the chocolate bars down, I didn’t put them back on the shelf but in my purse.  She alerted a cashier of her assumption.  I can’t fault her for this, I guess.  I suppose as I look back at this incident that if I was sure I saw someone shoplifting, I’d probably tell someone as well.  After all, when things get stolen, prices go up because the store isn’t making their projected profit.  Also, on the level of my inner Junior Kindergarten student, it isn’t fair that I have to pay for things when other people don’t.  Yup, I’m petty like that.  What I hope I wouldn’t do is stare awkwardly, even after alerting staff to the situation.

This woman did that.

Over the PA system came the alert “Security scan all aisles.”  I didn’t think anything of it.  I hadn’t done anything unseemly.  A cashier I was familiar with (like I said, I’m in there all the time) came down the aisle I was in, and I turned and said hi.  She walked up behind me, and the conversation went like this:

“It’s been reported to us that you were seen putting chocolate bars into your purse.”

“I didn’t, I put two down, back in their box, cuz that lady at the cash counter is staring at me and making me uncomfortable.”

“Would you mind showing me your purse?”

“Sure, I don’t have anything to hide.”

I took my purse apart, showed her the various pockets, and then rifled through the collection of tampons, pepto bismol, advil, lip gloss, hair brushes, bobby pins, and elastics that collect at the bottom.  Satisfied with what I’d shown her, she apologized and thanked me for cooperating.

That should be the end, because like I said, I didn’t do anything wrong, but as I rounded a corner, this woman was still staring at me.  I still couldn’t remember what I was there for, so now I’d taken to wandering up and down the aisles, looking for whatever it was I went in for.

Down to the heart of this…. I feel like I need to share what’s bugging me about it.

Just minutes before all of this went down, and then again just a minute or two later, I had run into one of our grade 8 students from my school.  As a teacher, we’re cautioned very strongly about our reputation, and even more strongly about the perception of our reputation.  I don’t think this grade 8 student saw me being searched in the middle of the store, right in front of the toy section, but I know that it wouldn’t be good if he did.  He’s a lovely student, and so I’d hope he’d be able to see the truth and not spread rumours, but rumours are all it takes before parents don’t trust their child’s teacher because they heard she steals.  I run our school’s book fair, I collect student money on occasion…. if my students’ parents hear that I was accused of shoplifting at Dollarama, why would they have any reason to trust me with their money?

What I would like to have seen is a discreet cashier who gave me the opportunity to show her the contents of my purse in private.  I didn’t think it through in the moment, I just wanted to show very quickly that I wasn’t a thief.  It was embarrassing, though, to have to do that with complete strangers standing watching, and I spent a good deal of time last night fretting about what was going to happen at school today if the student saw anything or said anything…. and I sincerely feel that that was unnecessary.  It was unnecessary worry in the first place, and I know that, and I should have known better, but it isn’t a situation that should have happened, in my opinion.  I sincerely believe that there’s a more dignified way to prove you’re not a thief.

I don’t know what it is, because I imagine if I HAD tried to sneak the chocolate bars into my purse, asking to speak to me in private wouldn’t have helped, because the crowd of witnesses would have been helpful while I refused to open my purse based on the privacy act and blah blah blah…..

I just think there has to be a better way.

Am I the only one?

Has this happened to you before?

What do you think?

After Stares-a-lot left the store and I regained my composure, though I never did remember what I went in for, I finally decided on at least a Toblerone and went and stood in line to pay for it.  The cashier that had searched my purse in the first place came over to me to apologize, explaining that as soon as she saw who they’d accused, she thought it couldn’t possibly be true, because “you’re in here all the time and you always pay for your stuff.”  To be honest, I’m not sure if that’s comforting or disconcerting.  I mean, I’m glad I’m trustworthy and all, but that might mean I’m in Dollarama FAR too often.  She said she hoped I wasn’t offended, and apologized sincerely again.  I was not upset with her in the least, she was just doing her job.

I paid for my Toblerone and went on my way, but while leaving the store to go to my car, I saw the lady who’d reported me leaning against the wall outside the store with her friends, still staring at me.  All I can say is I think she’s lucky I wasn’t in the mood for a fight and that Gotham was about to start, because I had half a mind to go encourage her to be a bit more certain next time she accuses someone of shoplifting.  But, I guess on the good side for all of us, Gotham was about to start, and I had a Toblerone to eat.

This too shall pass…


It was hot today… but… Canada hot.  And I know I’ve never really been anywhere that has real hot.  Washington, DC on the 4th of July might count, but I don’t know if it does.  I’ve never been anywhere near the equator, a desert, or a jungle.  I’ve only ever experienced Canadian hot.  So take my assessment with a grain of salt…

Allow me to geek out for a moment when I say that my favourite part of this part of the year, this mid-May mid-Springtime bliss, is the thunderstorms.  Cold fronts meet warm fronts.  High pressure systems meet low pressure systems.  The battle lines get drawn in the atmosphere and we get to watch the spectacular fight to see who wins.

Today was one such day.  I was sitting in my basement watching the finale of The Voice after work.  I had a very, very hard day and getting through it was enough of a chore that I just wanted to turn my brain off.  The trouble was though that I didn’t turn off my brain at all, because it was the first time I’d been able to sit down at my computer for longer than 10 minutes in a little over a week, which left me with almost 100 new emails to read — mostly blog posts from other bloggers I love.

The utter difficulty of pretending to hold myself together through this day, and knowing that there are others just like it coming, made the idea of cooking myself my own dinner sound really unappealing.  Remembering my colleague’s leftover Chinese food today at lunch, I caved and I called my order in.

You see, from my basement, the world outside looked peachy keen.  It appeared to be sunny and I knew it was warm.  I stepped outside though to go pick up my dinner, and because this was a rare occasion that I forgot my phone, I can’t show you what I saw from the parking lot.  I’ll have to tell you.  There had been thunder rumbling behind my house to the South West, complete with the blackening sky and the ominous calm stillness to the air.  The thunder rumbled low and constant, maybe 15 seconds at a time.  I just stopped and listened for a moment… while to the North and the East, the sky was blue, the clouds white and puffy.

Parking lots haven’t been my friend these last 24 hours, so being stopped in my tracks in sheer awe while standing in the middle of one wasn’t what I expected this afternoon.  But that’s precisely what happened.  I got out of my car to run in and pay for my dinner, and I literally stopped and stared.  I’m mad that I didn’t have my phone.  To the East, a beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds was arced with a vibrant rainbow.  To the South and West, the sun fought hard to pierce through the darkness threatening to engulf it, and the rays shone through, but only a few.  To the South West you could see the shelf lines – the lines where cold meets warm and high pressure meets low.  The front had drawn its battle lines.  It seemed like it wouldn’t be long before the sun was swallowed by the ominous looking thunder clouds.

This whole analogy feels kind of like my soul.  The light is trying to pierce through.  I’m trying to shine my way through darkness that threatens to swallow me up, and right now it feels like the darkness is going to win.  Those thunder clouds are going to get my sun.  But that rainbow reminds me of a promise made so many, many years ago…. and I know that the sun never loses the battle for long.  And I can cling to that.

I got home and grabbed my phone, and took a stroll up and down my street.  As I walked for just a few minutes, I once again heard the constant rumble of the thunder, but at the same time I listened to the birds chirping and the mourning doves singing their sorrowful song.  I love mourning doves.  And I wonder… the birds have to know that something’s brewing up there.  Animals sense things much better than we do, and I could sense it.  Did the birds know it wasn’t going to be as bad as it looked?  Is that why they were still being brave and carrying on with their day?  Do they know a secret that I’m not in on?

photo 4(2)photo 2(8) photo 3(6)

All of this reminded me of that saying — Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.  Normally, I’d say I agree with that statement, but in this case I just don’t.  I can’t get behind that this time around.  And so in this stormy season I may not be dancing, but I will be clinging to the promise of that rainbow.  This too shall pass.

Cuz the funny part….. it didn’t rain until 6 hours later than expected, and the severe warned storm just never showed up.

 

Meet Manira (Why I won’t give up my World Vision Sponsorship)


I sponsor a child through World Vision.  Her name is Manira, and I love her.

She lives with her parents, her brother, and her sister in a French speaking country in Africa (Score:  I can write to her in French!), and I’ve been sponsoring her for 5 years.

Allow me please to tell you a little about her.  She’s 10, in Grade 5, and her favourite subject is biology.  She’s a beautiful girl with a gorgeous smile.  She told me once in a letter that when she grows up, she wants to be a nurse.  The fact that she is even in school right now, learning and loving biology, warms my heart right up.  She loves to dance and sing, and being the oldest child, she does a fair bit of babysitting while her parents work.

Five years ago, I had no real inkling to sponsor a child, but World Vision literally came knocking.  They showed up at my apartment door and asked me to consider sponsorship.  The representative showed me pictures of kids who needed help, and she explained that for $35.00 a month, I could provide benefits not just to this beautiful girl and her family, but to her community as well.  In my profile on World Vision, I can look at a community report along with updates on Manira.

Look at the things going on in Manira’s community (pasted verbatim from my World Vision profile).

Education

  • We helped build and equip four classrooms at a primary school, easing overcrowding and improving the learning environment for children.
  • 14 literacy centers are offering basic classes in reading and writing for adults and young people who did not have the opportunity to attend school, equipping them with important skills for everyday life and making it easier for them to start small businesses and manage their households. 350 people attended the literacy centers.
  • Teachers were trained in new teaching methods to strengthen the quality of education.
  • Awareness campaigns were held on the importance of education for all children, including girls, who are often kept home from school to do chores and married early.

Health and Nutrition

  • More than 2,500 malnourished children and nursing mothers were treated at nutritional recovery centers operated with World Vision’s support.
  • We partnered with the Ministry of Health to hold immunization campaigns, helping them reach more children with life-saving vaccines.
  • We supplied two health centers with antimalarial medication, distributed 2,025 mosquito nets, and organized two malaria-prevention campaigns. We also facilitated training in malaria prevention for 16 health officers.

Agriculture and Environment

  • A veterinary store was opened to improve availability of feed and medicine for livestock, which are the primary source of food and income for many families.
  • An assessment was carried out to determine the status of 25 community grain banks. We followed up with training for the committees who manage the grain banks and stocked them with 63 tonnes of millet to reduce families’ vulnerability to drought.
  • We worked with community partners to restore 108 acres of environmentally degraded land.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

  • Eight borehole wells were drilled to decrease the prevalence of waterborne illness. Children can now attend school instead of fetching water and women have more time for business activities and to care for their families.
  • We contributed materials to help 53 families build latrines, improving sanitation.
  • 60 women have formed volunteer groups to promote healthy hygiene and sanitation practices in the schools and the community.

Economic Development

  • Two vocational centers were established to train women in sewing so they can provide for their families.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about Manira in the past 24 hours since the Internet exploded with news of World Vision (US) changing their hiring policy twice in rapid succession to accept and then reject those in same-sex marriage relationships in their hiring process.

My opinion on the actual mechanics of that decision isn’t really relevant here for a couple of reasons.  First, World Vision Canada is a separate entity, and I actually kind of liked their statement in response to it all.  Second, I truly believe that my need to continue giving sponsorship to this child is so much more important than any of the kerfuffle that’s gone on the last couple of days.

Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours sifting through mainly reactions to the events that have transpired, though I will admit there were a few well crafted responses.  Jen Hatmaker’s is one of them.  I really resonated with hers, as I do with pretty much everything she writes.  I think she and I would be good friends.

What broke my heart while I was reading was the sheer number of people who have decided that, effective immediately, they needed to withdraw their support of children who so desperately need that involvement in their community.  I mean, do what you gotta do I guess, but I immediately pictured Manira, who’s able to go to school along with many other girls in her community.  She’s able to just love biology, and her dream of being a nurse has a chance at actually happening.  I know I’m not solely responsible for those things, and it would be naive of me to think so, but the thought of withdrawing my support from her over a decision made at the administrative level made me kind of sick to my stomach.

My thoughts on anything else, right now — they’re completely irrelevant…. because I feel so strongly that my support needs to stay with Manira, not with a side on the issue.

Are there other charities doing equally great things in communities around the world?  I’m sure there are.  But if I just threw in the towel because I didn’t like an administrative change, who would explain to Manira why she had support one day and then didn’t the next?  I sure wouldn’t want to.

In fact, you know what?  I’m currently prayerfully considering sponsoring a second child, because I think that the needs of the orphans, the marginalized, the poor, and the disenfranchised are bigger than administrative decisions that impact offices in corporate America.  I have an opinion on the right vs. wrong side of the debate itself, but that’ll only detract from my point here.  It’s not important what I think about gay marriage.  And while it IS important what scripture says in every instance in life ever, about everything, I can’t help but think that for me, it’s more important that I love Manira than that I get up on my soap box and start to preach, one way or the other.  After all, I think the greatest commandment is love, is it not?  Yeah.  Love.

 

#BoycottSochi, #SochiProblems, and other Sochi thoughts


I’ll be honest when I start this off.

I am not a sports fan.

I’m ok with playing some of them — I’ll play volleyball, quite happily.  I love swimming.  I’ve dabbled in snowboarding.  I like to think I’m a runner, even though I haven’t run in months, haha…. I love cardio kick boxing…

But I participate in every single one of those.

I don’t watch sports…… except for every four years in February.  Then… and only then… the PVR needs to be regularly emptied so I can record some more, and I make sure I’ve watched all of the sports that I want to see.  It’s the only time I care about results, scores, whatever…. it’s the Winter Olympics.

This year, they’re being held in Sochi, Russia.  Personally, my patriotic support of the games has never been higher than on the last ones, Vancouver 2010.  That might be my Canadian Passport talking, though.  Plus… there were Inuksuks everywhere, and if I had to pick a symbol of Canada that I love most, it wouldn’t be the maple leaf; It’d be the Inuksuk.

But I digress.

There’s been a lot of controversy over the location of these games.  There are many people out there… I even know some of them… who believe that we shouldn’t be there — that the depth of the inappropriateness, criminal activity, prejudice, and discrimination that happen in Russia in general is too great, and that we as a global community can’t possibly support Russia by showing up for the Olympics.

To be honest, I don’t know that much about what’s been going on.  And that is what’s going to fuel my argument in this debate.

Prior to January 2014, I knew virtually nothing of the conflicts going on in Russia in regard to human rights, gay rights, war crimes… just to name a few.  I’ve had to do some reading.  I’ve been sitting on this post for about a week and a half… and then Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop Prompts came out for this week and gave me the platform to write the back half of the post… and so I sat on it some more.

As food for thought, here are some of the things I read.  Now, I realize that some of the sources here aren’t amazing.  I realize that my search term – “boycott Sochi” – was a very leading search term, and that it’s probably led to some biased results… but… for me, that’s inconsequential.  If that matters to you, you can stop reading right here.  I’m being honest with you so that in the comments, I don’t get blasted for using slightly slanted sources…. plus, as a fair warning, I probably won’t approve any comments that are rude, anyway.  I never do.

Now — here’s my stance.

First of all, the only thing I’d heard about Sochi at all was the anti-gay policies and the eradication of stray dogs.  I’m not minimizing these things at all; They’re awful.  But there are other issues at hand here.  There are all kinds of human rights issues that are massive, all surrounding Russian government.  “Human Rights Watch have documented exploitation of migrant workers in violation of Russian law; evictions of residents without fair compensation and in some cases, with no compensation at all. Many resettled residents lost a portion of their livelihoods; Threats, harassment, and lawsuits of activists and journalists critical of the Games, as well as Russia’s discriminatory anti-LGBT propaganda law.” [Source]

And I think that’s my point…. before the Olympics started, that’s all I’d heard about.  While they aren’t good things, by any stretch of the word, and they aren’t things I want to draw attention away from, there are issues that go so deep in Russia…. that I would never have known about.  Because I wouldn’t have looked.

So yes, I know many people wanted Sochi boycotted.  They wanted The Olympics not to be held on a world stage that’s so fraught with issues deserving of international attention……. but if The Olympics weren’t being held in Sochi, would all of these issues be garnering such international attention?  Or would they have gone on, largely unnoticed, out of the public eye?

I get it.  We don’t want to be supportive of crimes that are being committed what appears to be completely intentionally.  But my argument is, if we boycott and keep international attention out of such places, how can any change be effected?  How will we know?  I wouldn’t have known.  Maybe that’s my own fault, but the point stands.  I would have been completely clueless that most of that was going on in Russia.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now that I’ve expressed that, Mama Kat’s prompt that I chose for this week is to choose one Olympic sport we’d like to compete in and explain why.

I can’t choose.  I can’t.  I need two choices!!

I want Slope Style Snowboarding.  And I want Ice Dance.  I want them both.

Why?

Because both of them are beautifully artistic and require incredible athletic ability (neither of which I’m very good at — my art comes out in words, and I’m a super klutz.)

Like I said above, I have dabbled in snowboarding.  I know PRECISELY how difficult it is.  I learned in the Alps in France, and I couldn’t even handle the Bunny Hills.  Wrecked my knee… basically proved for a whole week why I should never strap my feet on top of a waxy board and slide around on slippy snow.  Period.

I have a similar experience on ice.  I think that ice dance is phenomenally, outstandingly…. pulchritudinous (Characterized by or having great physical beauty and appeal ~ because I needed a word that carried more punch than ‘beautiful,’ ‘stunning,’ ‘gorgeous’ etc.)  My heart nearly broke when Tessa and Scott were beaten by Meryl and Charlie and ‘only’ took silver.  I love Tessa and Scott.  I think they should get married and have figure skating prodigies, and I’m super sad at the thought that this is their last Olympics.  I want to a) be in that incredible shape physically, and b) be able to move around on skates while letting go of the boards.  Both of those things would be amazing.

Speaking of figure skating… have you seen this?  I’ve thought pretty much all of these things (27 Things You’re Really Thinking About During Figure Skating)

Those are my sports.  Or, if I was athletic at all… those would be my sports.  But those are my choices 🙂

So there you have it.  Not only would I NOT boycott Sochi, but in an ideal world, I’d be the only athlete to compete in two completely different disciplines.  Everyone was super surprised when Torah Bright of Australia decided to compete in Slope Style, Snowboard Cross, and half pipe…. well I’d compete in Slope Style, then blow the competition off of the frozen water in ice dance.

workshop-button-1

My Teeth Hurt :(


I went to the dentist tonight.  I haaaaaate going to the dentist.  And let me be clear… I don’t hate the dentist.  My particular dentist hasn’t done anything wrong, and all the dentists at my dentists’ office are actually quite understanding and respectful of the sheer amount of anxiety I go in with.

I’m also understanding of the fact that I am being a mega baby, and that my reaction to even having my teeth cleaned must make the hygienist feel terrible.  The wincing, the pulling away, the tears, the forgetting to breathe (yeah, that happened, the hygienist had to remind me to breathe)… you know… I can’t imagine they make her feel good about what she’s doing.  She just wants my teeth and gums to be clean and healthy, and I’m really grateful for the benefits that cover that.  It’s EXPENSIVE!

Please allow me to explain.

I’ve never really ENJOYED going to the dentist… I assumed it was a universal feeling.  However, I’ve spoken to people who absolutely love it because they LOVE that clean teeth feeling.

I, however, guess I prefer dirty, built up teeth…. it’s my personal philosophy that if ovens can be self-cleaning, why can’t my mouth?  (yes, I’m aware of how ridiculous that sounds)

When I was a kid, my Mom used to have to hold my hand through all dental procedures.  Tonight, after going to the dentist for a cleaning, I called my Mom who lives 4 hours away… and asked her to come down in two weeks to hold my hand through a filling.  She laughed at me…. probably for good reason.

I had a ROUGH experience with braces — 3 years of an abrasive, mean orthodontist who called me a baby when my gag reflex would kick in.  Three years of her leaving wires too long in the back of my mouth, and then telling me to tough it out when I would go in with bloody, cut up, swollen cheeks.  Those things, combined with many awful retainer fittings (I vomited on my orthodontist once… told her I was going to, she told me I was a baby and I needed to get over it), and a jaw condition where my jaw locks open, cracks, and gets very sore, have left me with some mega ‘dental anxiety.’

I had a cleaning this afternoon after work.  It was painful!  Letting someone dig tiny, sharp, metal hooks into my gums is not the way I want to spend any day.  It was kind of a bizarre experience, though… my dentists’ office has started offering fresh popped popcorn in the waiting area while you wait to be called in for your appointment…. so the entire time I’m having my teeth cleaned, all I could smell was popcorn… and all I could taste was blood.  Strange!

Long story short, because I don’t need to gripe about every single part of having my teeth cleaned… I have a cavity.  I was really hoping to not have any, because the needle is the worst part about the experience.

Due to the level of anxiety experienced during the cleaning, both the hygienist and the dentist suggested that my next appointment be done with the aide of nitrous gas.  I’m not sure how I feel about that… because I feel like there’s still going to be pain… but maybe there won’t be streaming tears?  It’s the needle I can’t do…

Before I wrap this post up, I feel the need to express that I don’t typically get overly anxious about too many things.  I mean, sure, I have a bit of anxiety over some things, but nothing like the dentist.  There was a time when I had significant anxiety over pretty much anything that could go wrong.  High school was rough.  I literally made myself sick.  Like… Mom took me to the doctor several times and the only thing multiple doctors and an ultrasound could come up with was “you need to chill out.”

Through much prayer, and much focused effort on ‘chilling out,’ I have gotten much better… but the pain from the dentist feels like it’s always going to make my heart race and cause me to forget to breathe laying in the chair.

What about you?  Is there anyone out there who actually likes going to the dentist?  Why?  Is it the clean teeth feeling?

Anyone feel my pain on the dental anxiety?  What do you do to conquer it?

Lastly… Has anyone had nitrous gas for their dental procedures?  I think I’ll be trying it for my next cleaning.  I may try to champ it without it for the filling in two weeks, though… the dentist said it’d take ten minutes without the gas, and twenty with it.