Category Archives: Places & Experiences

Death isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a person, Part II

The people who are praying for and with my husband, bless their hearts, seem to believe that sickness and disease are against the created order, a manifestation of the Fall. None of our friends, and not many of our acquaintances, are prosperity gospel types, looking automatically for moral failures and faith deficits in the sick — my husband is doing that task himself — not as a way to cast out the demons of sickness, but as a response to the reminder of the limit on the days of his life, and as part of the physical cleansing and peacemaking one must do to support wholeness. Of course he wants to live –and of course I want him to. I am waiting for a miracle too, and his faith is helping us all to stay brave and cheerful. I want him to go on growing along with us, so he can accompany our children into and through their adult lives. But neither of us really believes that cancer is evil. It is testing by fire, but if the fire eventually burns you up, well, it is fire, and we are combustible.

One of our cancer recovery books has a quote that says runaway cancer cells are simply response to starvation of the right nutrients and the long term barrage of harmful substances from our diets, environments, and emotional chemistry. The starved cells can’t help but go out of control, and unless we prevent that, or deal with it over the several months it takes for healthy tissues to regenerate, cancer takes hold. We’re hopeful that his body can recover, at least come away from the edge that seems so close, and alleviate symptoms, but perhaps, if there’s time to repair the damage, full recovery. Chemo can’t do that for pancreatic cancer.

Then there’s the other part of my brain, that acknowledges that the data says three to six months, without chemo, a year to a year and a half with, and no cure, and no recommended end to chemo. Five year life expectancy, 1 to 2%. Deadline, lifeline, both at once.

One MUST believe in healing, because one can, and it makes life better, . Yet one must make preparations, as if, well, we had to to do these things anyway–paperwork and such, so why not now, even if we both have decades ahead of us after all. For the children’s sake.

A friend, sleepless because of thinking of us, found a podcast by Kate Bowler  (Faith, Cancer, and Living Scan to Scan), and bought me the book, Everything Happens For A Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved); I loved the title, and the book was good. I think I would like her, if I met her, especially her wry Canadian sense of humor.

One of the things she said was “I did feel like cancer was the key that opened up this whole other reality…you notice things…like I was cracked open and I could see everything for the first time.” That’s where my husband is, most of the time, and I have a glimpse of that. But certain things are still very hard. Some of them are the same things as ever, which is disappointing. My tears last night were about that — how much of our time so far has been spent not being friends, either by default or by active relational dysfunction and poor communication. Now, when I need to be an even better friend, and need an even better friend, the pressure’s a little much, sometimes.







Death can’t be the worst thing that can happen to us, since its probability is 100%

Never had so much prayer goin’ down around here before, and I say Bring it on! Whatever prayer is, whether objective truth or pragmatic placebo, I don’t care. I’m leaving behind my Truth filter, for this part of my life at least, and saying, whatever works, and I don’t care how or why.

My husband has been diagnosed with stage four cancer.

A long time ago I started writing a post called An Idol Demands a Sacrifice, about my husband’s addiction to chewing tobacco, which had its roots in football culture of the ’80s. I went though anger, trying to pressure him, then letting go and distancing myself. Then I was relieved that he quit, then came new disappointment and anger when he started again. Anger at his brother for leading him into temptation. There was a good deal of fear back when the kids were younger, as he had no life insurance, no job security, and, most of the time, we didn’t have much in savings. I was substituting, coming back into teaching after fifteen years of homeschooling our children.

His dad died in his fifties of esophageal cancer complications (lots f prayer healed the cancer, but not the perforated esophagus that resulted from radiation and bungling).

Two months ago he quit, and he knew it was for good, and no more excuses. A month and a half ago he decided to do an herbal detox, and soon started feeling stomach pain along with the cleansing. Thought it was just a reaction, or maybe the flu, which was going round. He quit the detox, still had pain, and we decided h should get checked. Blood tests came back normal, but internal scans did not.

This time my anger didn’t last long–I’ve learned to let go of it, along with worry and fear. I know how to let go, and detach from intense emotions. I kept the anger to myself except to confide in a friend, who totally got it, and said now she was mad at him too. But I’m done with it now, and good riddance. By the time I shared the preliminary news with my daughter, I had to explain my calmness so she wouldn’t think I was unfeeling.

The cancer either originated in the stomach or the pancreas, but fortunately (or unfortunately, as it led to it being missed until advanced), relatively low pain, for that kind of cancer. It’s been a week or so of appointments, and there are a few biopsy results to come in, but we saw the endoscopy photos and CT scan images, and we can be 99% sure. It’s off to oncology to look at options next week. Medical options appear to be few and too awful to bother with. We’re not that desperate.

Still, we’re inviting anyone and everyone to pray for us. All my wonderful believing colleagues and my husband’s family have been bending the knee on our behalf. Last week a Catholic priest engaged in the sacrament with my husband, who has no denominational, or even major religious category, hangups. This morning an old Bible study friend and his son, both now known for a gift of healing, and several other prayer warriors, some we’d never met, gathered around my husband for a laying on of hands, and even a bit of babbling and grunting sounds that apparently come from the Spirit. One of the women prayed for me generally, and claimed an annointing for me, but darned if I can’t remember which one. Must ask my other friend of many years, who was there too shedding tears with me, if she recalls. Or maybe just wait for a manifestation. Don’t mind if I do.

This evening there turned out to be a multi-denominational healing prayer service, so my husband went there too, and people prayed in all kinds of languages, one declared that he’ll live to a hundred.

We hold all possibilities with open minds.When he came home from the prayer meeting, I suggested we write down all the prayer times and special words, prophesies, or occurances, so we can track progress and share the story. I said, I don’t even know what prayer is, and I don’t really care, becasue I know its the right direction. He smiled and agreed. You know, I added, I’m not into all the shaking and weird sounds — I don’t get that, never will–it’s not my personality. I hope no one will judge me as unspiritual for that, and I hope I won’t judge anyone for being more of a Pentecostal type. I’m just more of a Presbyterian, I guess. Though I do like to pull in the other direction of any majority I’m among, I must say. I don’t like getting worked up  or manipulated into some kind of meditative state, though I recognize the value of that sort of leadership, I guess, for certain personalities.

We are also strengthening my husband’s immune system in every way we know how, with advice coming in from all angles. My husband has declared over and again that I was right all along about nutrition, and is glad that his radical turnabout has been pretty smooth for us all, since I had the kale and cabbage in the garden, a freezer full of antioxidant rich home grown berries, and knew how to make dandelion coffee and identify cancer-fighting weeds growing in abundance even in the winter. The additional learning I had to do for my How Not to Starve class is a bonus.

And my husband is finally laughing at my lame humor. Yesterday morning, I came out in the morning to find my husband in tears of joy, and he shared what he had heard from God, and the sense of love he felt. Then he said he wanted to do some more juicing. “I want to drink a cabbage, he said.

“Is that what God told you?” I asked. He started to shake with laughter, held in, because his stomach was sore, but went on and on, as I joined him. Kind of a Monty Python style, like the shrubbery skit (Nights of Nih) “You must drink….a..cabbage!”

We’re pretty sure my husband’s cancer will have to slow down, at least. All that love, peace, humor, and good nutrition will have its effect. And we’re pretty sure we don’t want him to do any radiation or chemo, which may attack the cancer, but also attacks any sort of physical comfortableness and placebo effect  that one needs to feel half decent and heal. Prayer, love, laughter, and good food have no drawbacks at all as far as we can tell.



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The long way, home, or not, I don’t know

I’ve been spouting off a lot about evolution by natural selection, and interpreting everything I can through that lens–social behavior, religion, crime, politics, everything. Sounds a bit fanatical to be always on about it, but I’m going to try to explain why, because I’m not done. But I want it to be known that even if I become satisfied that evolution does explain everything, including what Dawkins called the God Delusion, I still plan to try to build a bridge back to faith. It will have to be using completely different materials, though. Faith itself will also mean something different. And it will be a rough road. What’s hard is that I can’t, and don’t want, to take anyone with me. I know this blog is just a curiosity, a hobby, and any of my traditionally faithful friends and family won’t even be reading it, let alone be led astray. If they knew my path, they would pity me and lovingly pray for me. Like I did for my young professor at the graduate unseminary, when he admitted that the more he studied the Hebrew Scriptures and understood how the process of interpretation, canonization, and Bible politics works, the less faith he had in its divinity and so-called infallibility. He seemed melancholy, so I tried to comfort him–comfort him!–with some pablum of an assurance that I was sure he’d figure it out, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit! He must have begun to feel very lonely at that evangelical school, as he came and went on his motorcycle. Wanting to teach and be honest, but knowing what he had begun to know, and being around so many who he just couldn’t be honest with, for so many reasons. Such as getting asked to move on, after the leaders’ prayer meeting in which God led the admin on who was called to the school’s ministry and who not. Such as, in case he undermined that faith that, even though he was losing it, still seemed precious, in a fragile way, in others. Not to be challenged before its time. And a humble man wouldn’t assume he was in the right, enlightened and needing to disillusion everyone else, anyway.

My niece graduated from, and now works at, another Christian college, which is now trying to strike an impossible balance between loving and accepting all people while asking them not to engage in relations outside of heterosexual marriage. It’s tough to hold together a school like that. Half of your critics say you’re too liberal, and the other half, too conservative, she said. How can you even be honest with yourself? They’d got over some conservative hurdles–my niece said that they affirmed that gifted and called women should be teaching and preaching along with (gifted and called) men. I told her, that’s very liberal, because it’s reinterpreting Scripture, going against specific apostolic instructions because they don’t feel true today, and so you can’t then say that gay marriage is unbiblical in the next breath (which this college does). You have to be honest and admit that you are evolving due to adaptation to the current environment. Women are not expected to sign an agreement to cover their heads while at the school, men keep their hair short, and Americans cut out the part about obeying the King centuries ago. So why draw the line here? Was it really about Scriptures, or something else? Maybe just part of the gene pool, that part that has driven the population explosion so far and doesn’t yet acknowledge the population tipping point, that can’t abide a non-reproductive kind of love.

Today in our semi-weekly math study hall, someone brought up Elton John, his music being the focus, t first. Someone hadn’t heard of him. The first student was aghast. I pitched in the he was Sir Elton John, even. From another part of the room came a quiet, “I hate him. He’s gay.”

“Whoa, I said, you hate him, just like that?”

“Yup.” Another student, though also raised a conservative Christian, also took issue, saying you shouldn’t be so quick to judge, should give people a little room. The hater said a few other things, but because he his speech is impeded by a birth condition, I couldn’t understand it all.

“That’s a bit harsh. Maybe you should learn a bit more before you hate people,” I said. I asked, “Do you think he’s talented?”

“No. he can’t be.” He was looking scornful and shaking his head.

“Well, I guess that’s not the conversation we need to have right now,” I said, and went back to helping him with how to use the Distance Formula to prove lines congruent. People were quiet. I think that student’s openness showed something up in its rawness, partly by being so in contrast with his amiable nature, in a way that wouldn’t have happened if it had been uttered by someone already known to be redneck, and proud of it.

So some of the sweetest people are homophobes, that’s for sure, just due to their imprinting. Because this guy is incredibly sweet, funny, loved by all. And tough. The one who, when we were talking about aches and pains, said, briefly, ” I don’t even think about pain–I just suck it up.” I hadn’t even been aware, hadn’t thought, about all the pain he experiences daily, especially with the physio he has to have just to keep his muscles flexible and his spasticity under control.

I wouldn’t even start to try to persuade him. If at some point a real issue develops, say with a new gay student, that will be really difficult for us here, maybe. But maybe not–friendship and proximity has a way of melting hard hearts, doesn’t it?


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Hope for the Holidays

Totally vegged out tonight on episode after episode of “The Office” with my husband and daughter in the cozy living room, by the fire and lit holiday tree. Consuming the entertainment to excess, with chips, dark chocolate, and apple cider. Back of my mind says, still not writing? Answer, don’t have nothing to say. Do–what about what’s going on with school and stuff–that could be something. Or just get one word down after another, maybe prose, maybe a poem. So just before I head off to bed at an appropriate time, though not tired because of the latte I made myself a few episodes ago, and not doing anything to get myself tired–no exercise, no anger or frustration, and very little conflict, I opened up the blog of a writer I know and respect, and there it was, all these layers of experience as a teacher laid out in words, with the passion, the doubt, the questions, the commitment. So I opened up my own blog to get to work.

Swim meet today, watching my youngest son alongside my husband and two of our adult children, also both swimmers, feeling so full, proud, glad, to see youngest part of a team, with every reason to believe he’ll make some new, important friends, gain confidence, experience success, along with all the character lessons the experience will bring. Glad that his siblings are a hundred percent behind him, care about each other, and we can all enjoy being together, with lots of good conversation. Because it’s tough sometimes with us–getting offended and being insensitive being part of us too. Just not today. From yesterday, even, when my daughter, who always comes to the airport, and I picked up our oldest son. No, from last Sunday, when I called him on his birthday and we talked about teaching, learning, social change, philosophy, spirituality, growing up, feelings and thoughts and how they serve and lead us.

Whenever I share stories from my teaching, my son listens with great interest and makes comments that show he really gets why I love teaching, and that he could possibly head that route too, even if it means a pay cut from working in software. Not that he’s had much pay yet, graduation being still five months away and no time to work, being a full time students and college swimmer.

Feeling cautiously optimistic in regards to my second daughter too, who is making a great effort to share with me her plans for a road trip she has decided to take with a friend and two dogs down to Oregon and back. She’s hoping for some extra funds from me, as usual, but asking nicely and providing an itinerary is new. Still, I want to install a cell phone disabling device before she goes, to cut down on temptations to use the phone while driving. Couldn’t get the account to work when I tried it out on the other daughter’s phone, so it’s stuck for now, and when I ask for Daughter Two’s phone to install it there, I dread the conflict it will bring up, as she sees it as overly controlling. She would not be moved by the claim on the package, “if you are opening this box, someone care for you very much.” Still, I am persistent, too.

All these grown children being still pretty connected to us made us finally make the decision to buy a hot tub, hoping it will provide a good place for building community among us (as well as helping out with aches and pains). It comes in five days and there’s a lot to do to get ready–electrical, and laying down the base. I never really wanted one, because I rarely feel like soaking in hot water, but the last year I have wanted just that, a place to get the chill off, the tension out after a log day, and knowing that all six of us have strains and -“itis”es and tightness from this or that condition or injury. Several other families told us it was a blessing for them, bringing members of the family together, and sometimes the kids’ friends around. That’s what we’re hoping. We might even try some of our sons’ role-playing games in there, with a floating tray for rolling dice. It will be cool to look up at the night glory as we float there, get out of my head.


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Posted by on December 17, 2017 in Parenting & Family, Places & Experiences


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Goodbye to the house with no driveway

I went to my bedroom earlier than usual this evening, disappointed over another property I was urged to let go of, and wanting to process this in writing, or maybe just to escape into a Father Brown episode. That kind of repeated disappointment deflates me like balloon. That’s what it felt like to send the email to let our realtor know that I did not need to view it tomorrow after all. Then I cried a little.

The little house, built in 1889 and a half hour’s walk from our current one, was well within our budget, and a potential investment as well as office and getaway/rental. But like the blue vinyl cafe (the one I sort of fell for a few weeks ago), it just isn’t the one for us, apparently, because who wants a house without a driveway, or one where a driveway, if deemed allowable despite the designation of the hillside as critical area, would require a geo-engineer to sign off for permitting?

I say, if the old lady who lived there since the ’60s didn’t need a driveway, that neither do we. I say, I’ll just bike up the hill with the salt, cheese, and coffee, and let the food come from the soil and the henhouse. I like the idea of no driveway–a real paradigm-shifter whose time has come. But banks do not agree, as they have to be concerned with a quick sale should the buyer default on their payments, and partially paved paradise seems to be part of the preferred package.

The house had a bow window facing south with a view of the mountains, overgrown fruit trees, evergreens and bird habitat, all on a third of an acre. Just up from one of our favorite walking streets, for its funky, friendly, neighborly feel and abundance of trees and gardens. My daughter and I dreamed ourselves in it–an office for the business, and she and her older brother living there and keeping it up, and sharing the place with a third roommate to help pay the mortgage. It had a porch nestled up against a pine tree for shelter from the rain and head, for conversations. My daughter lit up when she realized that there, she could have a cat, safe from the Siberian husky we have at home. The house was old, and she hoped it had that “old” smell. The carpets in the downstairs bedrooms were shag in primary colors–in the photos, the south light streaming in the windows onto them made it look like a college party was in progress.

It was not the dream house, not the dream property. Whatever that is, anymore, besides impossible to agree on–too many variables. But I thought, why not just buy something small, a fixer-upper, for casual use and let it appreciate ($30,000 up in assessed value over the four years isn’t bad), knock around the house and property for fun? Seems better than putting more money into an IRA invested in the stock market. Real estate is real. You can plant a garden there, and come in from the rain. Frankly, I don’t believe my mate will ever be ready to take the big step of buying a more expensive place to replace the one we own now. Every time we have come close, he realizes how much risk we’re taking on, when as a contractor, his job could go away next week. Puts a damper on most dreams–a reality check. I get that–I don’t want him to be tied to a commute and high-stress work that he no longer has the heart for, and as a new teacher, I couldn’t afford it on my own.

We all need more space, and the idea of a project (not too big or urgent, or involving living in the garage or under a canopy on the patio–this time) excites us. That blue vinyl-sided house from a few weeks ago could have been an office and rental, even a little coffee house for locals (another dream I had). I’d help the kids at the nearby elementary school with their garden, and buy what they grew for my salad specials, let them meet their math tutors and mentors over home grown mint tea, on the house. There were several outbuildings for workshops and other uses. A finished attic for office space. But its sale was already pending, and it’s one now.

I suppose I can see this process of wanting, planning, dreaming, the letting go as a kind of growth opportunity, or a process to clarify our priorities. So I do, but my priorities haven’t changed, though my circumstances have. I want sunlight, neighbors, a kind of homey, old, Charlie Brown Christmas tree house that I can nurture and not be out-classed by, some land for a garden, space to work with tools and materials, both indoors and outdoors. Room for visitors, this time, would be nice, but with the four kids grown or almost grown, that will be a given most of the time.

I want a kitchen table without a wall looming so close over the table I leave it bare so it won’t look even smaller. I want a house with the TV way out back or downstairs or even in a separate building, not in the living room, the only other place to sit inside other than at the kitchen table (with the wall looming).

So I drink my turmeric tea, listen to the quiet slosh of the dishwasher and some drops of rain splattering from the trees onto the stove vent hood on the roof. The bread is rising for the buns I’ll bake tomorrow for Thanksgiving. My daughter and her friend helped knead while I made up some coleslaw from the two cabbages I cut this week. We’ll drive south to join nine other family members on my husband’s side. There are three new babies in the family, and all my sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, and mother- and father-in law are well. My parents, brothers, and sisters are all doing okay too, too, though I see them seldom. My husband and four children are healthy, and successfully navigating life. Who’s to say whether I should be wanting anything? Still, next week I’ll call the back and get another pre-approval for a loan, just in case.



School Managers Versus Visionaries – A Teacher’s Perspective

Two things that helped me get centered as a teacher-person this week. One was hearing a CBC radio piece about fidget toys–those little spinners kids are bringing into classrooms all over. On the one hand, the sellers were claiming they helped students focus and de-stress, even could mitigate the effects of hyperactivity, ADHD, even autism. But there wasn’t any science yet on that, it was noted. Most teachers disapproved of the gadgets, and were confiscating them right and left. One interviews said she thought they were “kind of ridiculous.” A school psychologist said, basically, that all items brought into the classroom for the purpose of supporting student learning ought to be part of a carefully crafted and documented plan created by the team of education professionals. That struck me as ridiculous, that a kid couldn’t even bring a cool little toy to class because was unauthorized. It spoke to me of a culture of micromanagement, especially promoted by those with a agenda crafted away from classrooms, away from daily contact with individual human personalities. Like teachers and others are in some kind of tug-of war for the students’ attention so all of their other interests must be snuffed, especially if they take the form of something that can’t be easily turned into a gradable essay, science activity, or math assessment.

Maybe I react so to that management frame of mind because I’m not really able to get my head around it, have always had difficulty with the “management” part in some ways. Not that students are out of control in my classroom, but they are definitely out of my control, and mostly in their own. I don’t “run a tight ship” in that sense, though I think that there’s a pretty good culture aboard, and a sense that we all need to make this group thing work while each individual makes their own choices. Despite the fact that a few students have chosen not to respond positively to being trusted, I want to continue to extend that trust. In planning lessons, I assume that, like me, every student will find some part at least of what we are covering fascinating. If not, if something else, such as a spinning toy, is more engaging, surely I shouldn’t be annoyed and offended. Surely I should show sympathy with his or her fascination and delight, and give space (and guidance if necessary) while he or she figures out the appropriate place of such an object in the flow of the lesson. I might make an effort to discern the student’s real purpose in using it; I might try to co-opt it to replace something I had planned, or I might ask myself, is there any way I can teach in a more interesting way?

The second thing was a conversation with a mom who has a few of her older kids in our school for the first time, seeing how it goes, so she can juggle the home education of her younger ones and some health problems too. I ran into her at the grocery store, and she shared how tough it as for her son and daughter to “catch up” after a trip, and in the midst of extracurricular activities. I asked her how the school experience as going so far, and she shared that one of the unpleasant surprises was the typical “schoolishness” of it all, despite the fact that we served homeschoolers, and the fact that the principal and several staff had homeschooled their own children. All the stress, rush, and testing and all. Why did it have to be that way, she asked? Why couldn’t people just pool their money and create a school that did things differently?

That’s what schools are, though, I admitted. The more established they get, the more standardized, the less flexible and integrated with the rest of life. This push and pull between freedom and accountability is especially pronounced when homeschoolers and public schools get together. We get money for each enrolled child, and they get classes, and a resource library, and certain consumable materials (non-religious only).  We have to log progress (as measured in various ways, currently pretty flexible at our school), and train them to do their part of the paperwork for the auditor, so we get to stay open. They get to graduate their kids, but the kids have to make the grade, and we decide what that is. Schools will always tend that way, I told her. But you’re the boss, the person ultimately responsible, and you don’t have to buy the whole package. Even graduation (I was tempted to lower my voice) was not the be-all for every family, whether college-bound or not.

She and her spouse are very pro-active and purpose-driven parents, and their kids are lovely human beings. Not all our parents are taking it as such a privilege and opportunity to manage their children’s education in partnership with us. Some are using our school as a shelter, where there’s a high percentage of conservative Christian families, and nice, small classes. Some just need a break from the kids a few days a week. Others sign up because there aren’t classes every day, and so on “home” days, they have a free babysitter, or can have the kid work on building houses for the family firm or milking the cows on the farm. Every time that sort of thing comes up, usually in the form of our concern that these students aren’t keeping up in academics, I’m torn. Such job experience and training n in practical skills are valuable and hard to come by for young people. We do give school credit when possible, but the balance is tough, and who’s to say that getting a C or above in Geometry or American Government is up there with keeping the milk flowing into the tank for daily pickup, or learning house framing or interior finishing?

Often I feel it’s us that are out of touch, that schools are trying to keep up with a culture that has no understanding of the skills that it really takes to survive and prosper long term on this planet. We have no vision, our leaders no will of their own. It’s all about being “college & career ready,” and that’s not a vision, any more than I have to dress warm today because it’s cold outside, or I have to strip and hose down the prisoner because he’s next in line and I’m on a schedule.

People good at organizing schools are management types who want a smoothly running machine that has good photo ops. They are not prone to sustaining the purity of a beautiful vision. The visionaries are either inside classrooms, and, if not frustrated, might be allowed professional freedom to flesh out that vision. Or they connect with multi-billionaires who have the bucks to bypass the political process, and want a project and a legacy, and, of course, in the end, skilled workers for its market share in the global economy.



Cassette of memories takes me back

My daughter has got into using the cassette player in the ’93 Accord, and also found the portable player I keep in a dusty cupboard. She wanted some tapes, so I took out a case of cassettes from the ’80s, some homemade live, others compilations. One brought back one of the best summers I had in Halifax, living with two roommates between college years. Marge of the wild cloud of untameable red hair and rich, husky voice, Lisa of untameable blonde hair both of Celtic origin for sure, and the most fun people to be around, without the need for any of the vices of youthful women (of that time and place) such as a propensity to drink too much, sleep around, and curse a lot. It was a cassette I could enjoy with my daughter, just funny interviews and role plays. One was Marge playing Large Marge of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which then I had to show to my daughter on YouTube. We laughed about what cooked beets do to a white sauce, and sang dumb songs. That we were roommates was rather by chance–I knew of Marge’s sister through a friend, and played volleyball with Lisa in high school–she was two years younger–and then again in college. She had this great laugh, and I recall a van trip from Halifax to Florida for volleyball, and we all laughed the whole way–purged any depression that angst that might have been lurking in the corners of our psyches.

I went to a small college, attached to a big one–both public, as pretty much all universities in Canada. My community was in the quad, my academic life in the Life Sciences building, and only a little snow to cross, the years I lived on campus. My college mates, the ones I shared dining and most of my social life with,were students of the liberal arts, journalism, classics, and other humanities, with a smattering of languages, political science on the way to law, and sciences on the way to medicine. A few became teachers like me. So many smart people and a close-knit community–I was fortunate.

I got started with open mics at he college pub, getting up the nerve to sing Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” and Bernadette with a shy, bookish, baritone, bearded classics major. Halifax is a nice, small city, too, with a good night life and lots of arts, music, and culture. There were buskers, the main group known as “The Guys at the Library,” lead singer Alex…his name is somewhere in my memory. You could get a juicy, late night donair or order of fries and sit on a low stone wall and listen. I started busking my third year, which gave me pocket cash and confidence. I remember once I was singing Joni Mitchell’s “Clouds,” and a professionally-dressed man stopped to listen in the shelter of a maple across the street, then left forty bucks in my case. I liked how people can listen or not, and any positive response is a bonus.

I also made pocket money by–maybe I’ve written of this before, I don’t know–giving haircuts and patching jeans. When I was doing my teaching degree at another university, the one my son attends now, it was baking and selling cookies and cheesecakes from my dorm kitchen. The smell would waft upstairs–always chocolate chip cookies and bittersweet chocolate truffle cheesecake–and the study moles and nappers would line up. I raised money to go to a leadership conference in the capital (university student Christian fellowship) on my way west. And here I am, twenty-four years later, still with all that inside.


Posted by on November 8, 2017 in Places & Experiences


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