Monthly Archives: April 2013

Apartment 1001 re-visited

Looking out onto Kempenfelt Bay, you would never know anything had changed.  The waters were calm.  No Serendipity – the local tourist paddle-boat – yet, but other than that it looked just the same as it did a year ago. 

I turned to my oldest son, Ben, and took a deep breath.  It was time to leave apartment 1001.

They say your life flashes before you just before you leave this earth – snippits of my life with my family flashed before me as I walked through the patio to the dining room where we were always so careful that Dad did not lose his footing while climbing over the step to return to his pink chair after enjoying the night air.  It was a ritual almost – Mom would cling onto his belt buckle (as if she could hold him should he fall) and I would hold on to his walker to secure it from moving forward un-expectantly. 

I walked past where the dining-room table was – where so many meals were served.  Here too, was the place where toasts were made to life, anniversaries, birthdays, births… even commemorations of deaths.  But I heard joy in the voices in my head – I remember the good times, the laughter, and the oh, so delicious food Mom had so lovingly prepared. 

I walked past where Dads pink chair had once been – where David climbed onto the walker in front of Dad so that he could be so much better positioned to hop on Poppas lap and give him a hug.  The pink chair was the focus – the inhabitant (my Dad) was always the centre of attention.  Was he warm enough?  Was he hungry?  Was he able to hear the conversation? Did he tune us out to read? 

I walked past the couch – where we had danced.  I watched my daughter, Katya, twirl and spin and laugh.  I heard David giggle with delight as Nana ordered a steak and baked potato from his make-believe restaurant.  I knew she hoped that his culinary interest would continue and be her own little legacy. I saw Katya standing there, dressed in Nanas black lace dress – hand-made so many years ago.  No one but Katya could fit into that waist line anymore… but three generations had worn that dress – and Katya was the last of the lineage…

I walked down the hallway to peer into Moms room as Dad had so many times before.  Was Paula there?  Was she asleep?  Was she ironing or sewing?  The room was empty – and full all at the same time.  I thought if I looked quickly I could see her smiling at me as she was waking up from a quick afternoon rest… rarely did that happen, but it always seemed to comfort me that she could rest.

I walked down the hall to Dads room – the room where it had all ended — I expected to see him there.  But, alas, neither bed, nor Poppa were to be seen.  Ben heard me and came to see if I was okay – my 6 foot son put his arm around me and we both stood there knowing how happy Nana and Poppa would be that he grew up to be such a fine, young man.  You done good, kid, I heard my Dad say.  And with that, my son Ben and I turned around and left.  Buenos noches, Poppa – hasta manana – TTFN.  Sleep well. I love you both! 

It was odd, locking the door for the last time.  I did not cry.  They were not there.  I did not feel compelled to open the door quickly to check to see if I could sneak a peek.  Bill and Paula had definitely left the building. 

And so it was that today was our last glimpse of what was once a very happy household.  It was now my turn to provide that stability, comfort, and sense of belonging in my  own home.  I always said to my parents that my home had been wherever they were – now it is with my family and I.  Apartment 1001 is now us.. my husband, three children, and I. 

Categories: Duff History, Life's Lessons, Mom | Tags: , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Are you literate?

This was the question I challenged my English class with – and it without a doubt more of a challenge to answer than any of them really understand. 

Literacy happens when one can fully function in the context of his or her own environment.  What may mean literacy to a student sitting in a fully resourced family may mean something completely different to a student who is in his late 50s, having been recently laid off, injured, and diagnosed with a serious illness – oh, and is responsible to provide for his family.

I am touched by the number of students I teach who are able to function – daily – on an empty stomach, a monthly allowance that cuts so close to the bone there is barely enough money to scrape by.  So many of them suffer from what I am convinced is stress-related illnesses. 

The Ontario curriculum has outlined expectations that students need to meet so that they can be declared literate.  My question remains, how can one dictate what literacy is to the general public – a one size fits all kind of mandate?  Does everyone really need to know how to write a paragraph?  Does everyone really need to know the rules of possession?  I remember years ago when I did not see the sense of teaching students how to write using cursive writing – when computers were much more efficient.  A vice-principal of mine saw a different angle – in that all students should learn cursive writing – computers may not be handy.  Today, I begin to understand Alvin Toffler who suggested that English and math should not be taught in isolation.  Topics that need to be introduced to students include things like adolescence and current events – citizenship.  I am not sure – but I think to be fully meaningful – education should be sensitive to the context of the student.  If the student functions fully in his or her own environment  – then they are literate. 

For the student who is fighting cancer – he should know all about the health care system and treatment options that are open to him – not how to paragraph.

For the student who struggles with depression – she should know all about the treatments that are available – not just in Ontario, but around the world – not how to paragraph.

For the student who is about to be a Dad – he should know what kinds of responsibilities he is about to take on – how to manage money, cook, parent – not how to paragraph.

Not that paragraphing is wrong – it is simply a symbol of things that are expected and mandated in education that may not fit the bill for everyone in terms of meeting their literacy needs. 

I don’t know – but I certainly do question – and in education I think that makes me literate. 

Categories: Teaching | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mother and Daughter

Demdaco – design for the home – created a series of keepsakes that were modern and fun.  Under the name, Willow Tree, there was a keepsake that I found attracted my attention.  It was called, Mother and Daughter. 

I bought it to give to my Mom.  I was so excited that I found something that was so touching – and I knew that Mom would treasure it as she was far more sentimental – at that time – than I was.  Indeed, it was received well.  And it was displayed along side her Royal Dalton figurines.  Honestly, we both knew that there was no price matching between the two – but the Willow collection was affordable and it was very touching and sentimental.

I could not bring this particular keepsake home.   One of Dads caregivers collects Willows and so she was thrilled to take it.  Had I brought it home it would have been wrong – it had been a gift that was given and accepted by Mom.  There had been words exchanged of appreciation and admiration – maybe even a few tears.  The keepsake would not do well to be given back.

Yet – when cleaning out Moms home today – I found the tag for the Willow and quickly put it in my back pocket.  This was something that would be okay to bring home .. did I really need a reminder?  No.  But the caption on the tag read, Protect and cherish, give wings to fly.  And that is what my Mom gave to me. 

I have been so blessed in my life to have had a Mom that always put me first.  She protected me and cherished me – she gave me wings to fly.  I could always brag to her about the things I was doing and she would celebrate them along with me – never judge my arrogance.  She supported my wing growth.

My mother was indeed a very special lady. She wore pearls.  She wore diamond earrings. She was beautiful both on the inside and out.  She taught me the real value of life – and it was not the pearls or diamonds – it was relationship.  She taught me how to be a Mother.  Not a Mom – but – a Mother. 

If I am to be only half the Mother… my children would be lucky. 

And so that tag will sit as a reminder to me of a time when I was able to thank my Mother and a time when she accepted my thanks…. and gave me wings to fly.

Thanks, Mom.  I will never forget you.  And I will always be grateful that I was your Daughter.   

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments


I received, to my delight, a notification from WordPress last week that this blog is now one year old.  I was shocked, not just because Ive been writing (on and off) for one year now – but to consider the context of my life one year ago and how much things have changed.

This time last year, I was sitting at the dining room table (which is now at my home) with my niece (who just purchased her own home), my Dad (who inspired this blog and has now been gone for nearly one year), eating dinner with Dads two nannies (one of whom is now in the Philippines and the other working for another client).  The condo where all this took place will be occupied by two new owners within less than a month. 

Wow.  The pace of these changes almost seems frenetic. 

In spite of the changes – there is so much that remains constant and I guess this is where I take stock and count my blessings.  I am still a wife and mother of three – I am blessed with a wonderful family.   We moved through these changes together.  We kept living, we kept growing, we kept talking, we challenged each other – and looked towards the future. 

There is truly stock in appreciating the journey – no matter how tough it may seem at the time there are so many lessons and growth spurts that can happen along the way.  Unless one pauses to reflect – to celebrate anniversaries – the journey may be lost. 

Thanks, WordPress, for that little anniversary icon you posted.  It makes a difference.  I consider your icon my Talisman that marks my journey. 

Categories: Life After Dad | 10 Comments

Lifes Montage…

A daughter barely avoiding an ice storm to depart to Cuba for two weeks.

A mother sighs with relief.

A son facing an employer to launch a grievance about a colleague.

An employee who moves his skills to a higher level.

A condominium now sits empty – which once housed a home and a family.

Ready for a new family to enjoy a spectacular view.

A boy with three new shirts – new style – new trend.  Feeling pretty good.  One is pink.

A mom promises to buy more….

A student with two months to live – looking to get his English credit to finalize his grade 12.

A teacher struggles with a challenge of offering a life-altering and enriching education. 

A conversation between friends – whose concerns nearly tear them apart from one another.

A teacher who listens to mediate and moves them one step beyond the conflict.

A grieving colleague who feels neglected by staff – who immerse themselves in work.

A teacher who feels guilt – struggles to apologize.

A team of experts who offer advice to a team of experts who picked up the pieces from the first team.

A team that attempts to move forward professionally.

A proud student finally finds his footing to balance alcohol, family, and school.

A teacher who offers congratulations – and a hug.

A home that is stuffed with two homes worth of furniture.

A colleague who wants to help.

A team develops a curriculum for single parents.

A parent who needs support.

A student who attends classes in spite of illness.

A teacher who contracts that very same cold.

A husband who stands by his family.

A wife who appreciates him silently – words need to be spoken.

A week whose end seemed to never come.

A close.  It is Friday.  A sigh.  A post.  A reflection.

A montage.


Categories: Uncategorized | 7 Comments

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