Saturday, July 26, 2014

Nine Weeks Lost: Part-III Coming To Terms With Me

Loss of my childhood home. Loss of school.  A loss is a loss is a loss.

With any loss, there are stages of emotions that one goes through.  For me, with the loss of my childhood home and the loss of my professional work place coming hot on the heels of each other, there was little time to dwell on the ramifications or to see rationalizations of these events; it all happened too quickly.  I was still living the losses, without having time to fully understand them.

But, a funny thing happened the very day after my school closed......summer vacation began.

In a previous post, I have written that, even under "normal" circumstances, there is a transitionary period for teachers that follows the last day of school; a time of emotional and psychological decompression that has to happen before we are can truly unwind and appreciate the beauty of the sand and surf and sunshine that awaits.  

But, this time, this particular year, the first day of summer vacation presented me, not with blue skies and soft breezes but, instead, with a sudden loss of structure to my days when I needed the crutch of routine more than ever.  Vacation time plunged me into isolation from the very people I had so deeply shared the previous two losses; my mother, my students and my colleagues at school.   Suddenly, I was faced with something that I was not mentally or emotionally prepared to deal with and that own life.

As if some cosmic entity had snapped it's fingers, my Life's purpose of service to others dissolved and into the vacuum of its' absence flooded the people, places and activities that often fail to get the attention they merit when I am busy being the "public me".   My family rushed to the forefront of my days and soon I found myself watching parades and fireworks, attending barbecues, gardening, cycling and doing odd jobs around the house.  My days filled up with obligations and invitations and I went to bed each night fatigued from the social onslaught of it all.   It seems difficult to complain about a life filled with action and frivolity. But, as anyone familiar with loss and grief will understand, until you go through the stages of loss and get to a place in your life where you can, at long last, give yourself permission to smile and feel happiness again then, it is hard to feel the joy that family and freedom should bring.

After a week or so of mindless idleness on my own time, my wife asked me what I was doing with my iPad for hours each night after the kids went to bed.  Was I reading a book?  Was I writing?   Actually, I wasn't doing much of anything.  I mainly read my Twitter feed and my Facebook newsfeed and watched from afar, the ups and downs of your lives.  But, I had no real interest in those lives.  I did not read any writing challenge entries or offer an encouraging comment.  I did not write even a single haiku.  I played no logic puzzles nor did I learn any new skills or crafts.  I simply, mindlessly, numbingly, flicked my fingers on my iPad screen and watched your world passing me by.

But, it is funny how the unexpected can change your life.  I mentioned this in Part-I when I told how the severe Ice Storms of last winter were what caused my mother to realize she could not longer realistically stay alone in her own home.  For me, in my world, in the depths of my doldrums, came an email from someone I have never met but, according to her, someone whose life I have touched with my words.

A year or so ago, I was a participant in a writing challenge. One of the other participants was a young lady who wrote a heartbreakingly angst-filled poem about the difficulty she and her husband were having trying to have a baby.  She posed the question as to whether or not she and her husband should give up trying.    After reading this, I did what any semi-compassionate, kind-hearted human being would do, I wrote her back and told her that the miracle of childbirth was worth waiting for and to keep believing that magic is possible for good people like her and to not give up because it was going to be ok.  I knew this because it was what my wife and I went through before our first daughter was conceived.  It was an anxiety-laded, tear-filled experience that wasn't very pleasant at times but, we managed to conceive in the end and having our daughter completely changed our lives for the better.

So, as I powered up my computer and saw a message from this lovely soul, I smiled my first real smile in almost nine weeks.  Following her link to my blog and subsequently discovering the nine weeks of inactivity, served as the jolt I needed.  Her email, so optimistic and hopeful and rooted in my words, has caused me to examine my angst and forced me to acknowledge that my grief was real and needed to be dealt with rather than allowed to fester as it had.  If my words could cause happiness and hopefulness in my readers then, perhaps, they could help heal me, too, in the words of singer Joe Jackson, "because my hearts' seen too much action."

I am still coming to terms with the new reality of my life in Nova Scotia and my life next Fall at my new school.  I will try my best to make the best of both situations. I will try to embrace change as being the positive and necessary force that it tends to be in all of our lives. I can't guarantee that I will be successful but, I am determined to try.  Part of my therapy is writing to all of you. You, my friends with the souls of poets, who know the power of words to heal and renew.

Thanks for reading my words. They are the first steps in the journey forward.  I know, my friends, that you "get it".  I appreciate your beautiful hearts and souls.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nine Weeks Lost: Part -II Safe Harbour, No More.

Grant Sine Public School in Cobourg, Ontario has been my professional home for the past eight years.   It has served the community located in the north end corner of Cobourg since it opened in 1965.   At the time, Grant Sine P.S. was a school that accepted students from Kindergarten (aged 4), all the way to Grade 8 (aged 13-14).  It was named in honour of Mr. Grant Sine who was a teacher, principal and later, a superintendent of schools for our area.  It's enrollment on opening day of school in 1965 was 268 students.
Grant Sine P.S. officially closed its' doors this past June.  Pictured to the left is our entire student body (49 students) and all teaching and support staff (13 adults).  *I am on the far left, in shorts, because it was hot and because I forgot about this photo being scheduled. This photo was taken in the midst of my preparations for going back to Nova Scotia to help my mother move out of her home of 60+ years and into a retirement home.  I wrote about that experience here.
If you were sitting beside me now, I would tell you the names of every single student in this photo and a dozen different things that made them unique and special.  I could tell you about each staff member and give endless examples that would demonstrate the enormity of their hearts and minds.   Being here for the past eight years, with these kids, their families and my colleagues, has changed who I am and how I view my job.  I would not have traded my experience here for anything.  I am saddened to have seen it all end.

This is how it all ended.

School years tend to be cyclical or rhythmic in nature.   Summers end, building toward the excitement of opening day.  The Autumn harvest marks the first great period of prolonged student work, culminating in the first report cards being issued.  The excitement of Christmas in December leads into the long, cold Canadian winter, lots of substantial indoor student work and a second report card.  In late winter, Principals begin the process of staffing their schools for the following year.  Teachers indicate their desired job placement for the upcoming year. Spring arrives and school activities tend to gravitate outdoors. Final tests, exams and report cards are written. End of the year school trips are taken.  Students are divided into new classes for the Fall. Everyone looks forward to summer vacation again.  The entire process that unfolds throughout a school year is fuelled by a sense of optimism or a sense of building toward something bigger and better than what was just left behind.  It is growth; achieved in the knowledge that continuity can be expected and will be safely delivered.

This year, our school year at Grant Sine P.S. was not like that.  It was slow death, right from the opening day of the school year.  The children arrived, not full of nervous excitement for what the year and their teacher might bring but, instead, with questions about what was going to happen to them when the school closed.

As I have written in previous posts, here, here and, again, here.....Grant Sine P.S. was not what one would consider to be a "typical" school.  Our student body, coming almost entirely from a social assistance housing development, experience a distorted form of childhood, surrounded by mental illness, addiction, violence, malnutrition and neglect.  Having a sense of control over their lives was never something that any of our students took for granted.  On many days, it fell to them to get themselves dressed, fed and to school on time due to the adult in their house being unwilling or unable to provide even a modicum of reasonable parental care to start off their day.   The steady rate of attendance by our students was a minor miracle and spoke to the value they placed on coming to school each day; not just to learn but, to be cared for and accepted for who they were and treated with kindness and positive attention.  The school was their harbour in the tempest that was their lives.

And now, it was being taken away from them.  None of them seemed surprised that they were never asked if it was ok.

I arrived back, from Nova Scotia, for the final three weeks of the year.  Needless to say, the closer we came to the end, the more emotional the students became; especially, the older students in the school. They had a better appreciation for what they were losing and had a better idea of the obstacles they would face at their new, much larger school in the Fall.  There were many outbursts of tears and of anger.  Their willingness to buy into the importance of trying their best with regard to their school work, deteriorated. The noise level of the school increased.   Behavioural issues mushroomed.

The hardest pill to swallow during this final month was the "School Celebration" that was mandated by the School Board for schools that are closing their doors.  There are by-laws that state that school communities are to hold a special day to honour the achievements and history of their school before the end of the final year of a school's operation.  However, the feeling in our community was best expressed by one of my parents early in the school year.  She said, "This is not a celebration. It is a loss.  Don't they realize what a loss this is to our community.  I am sad about this".  That Mom broke down in tears and sobbed uncontrollably.    The mood was one of grief but, there we all were, putting on a happy face for members of the Sine Family, all of the Principals of the school who were still alive, Board Office officials, including our Director of Education, and so on.

We managed to get the kids to perform one song for the crowd of on-lookers who had gathered.  Among those who had come was my father-in-law, who was a member of the very first graduating class at Grant Sine P.S. in 1965.  As much as the event was a success in terms of the number of alumni and other interested parties who turned out to pay their respects, it remained a bittersweet exercise for the rest of us.

At our school, we always made a great effort to reinforce the idea with the kids that they were important and that they had worth, just because they were themselves.  We celebrated them, as fellow human beings, in many ways but, one of the most symbolic was by displaying photos of them all throughout the year.  In this photo, taken ironically enough, on School Celebration Day by my Father-in-Law, I am standing in front of a giant bulletin board that stretched from floor to ceiling and spanned four meters, easily.  It was festooned with pictures of the kids and staff, doing what ever it was that we did that made us smile and feel good about ourselves.  When my In-laws asked me where I wanted to be photographed, I chose that bulletin board because it best represented what our school was about and what had the highest value in our hearts and minds:  the people who came together here every day.  Us. Me. The kids. Everyone.

I look at this picture and am filled with an ache in my heart because, as much as I remember the moment this photo was taken, I, also, remember the second-last day of the school year when we took all of the photos down and the whole hallway emptied of our spirit and became a mere building again.

On the final day of school, we gave each student the chance to select a school sports jersey to keep.  Normally, the cycle of a school year being what it is, teachers are scrambling around to ensure that all of the jerseys are accounted for in preparation for the upcoming school year and all of the sports teams that will require those shirts.  But, no one required a team shirt for this upcoming year at Grant Sine. So, everyone got to keep one.  On that final day, the whole of the student body were clad in green and white, with the crest of the Grant Sine Gryphon, on the front.   Then we gathered up everyone's backpacks, books, indoor shoes and other personal possessions and, as a school, walked outside together into the warm summer sunshine.

That was how it ended.

Quietly.  Orderly.  Resigned to their circumstances.

Slowly, the kids and their parents drifted across the school yard and back to their homes. We turned and ordered Chinese food and shared one last meal together as a staff.  Then we completely cleaned out our classrooms and left the school, too.

Quietly.  Orderly. Resigned to our circumstances, as well.

But, when I reflect back upon how it all ended, there is one moment that I remember best.  I took my class on a trip downtown.

We had breakfast together at a local restaurant.
We walked to the library to get the kids their own library cards and to enrol them in the summer reading programme being offered.

We walked down to the beach and skipped stones for awhile.

Then, we stopped for a picnic lunch. We ended our day by having ice cream together at an ice cream shop on the way back to school, savouring every moment of togetherness as keenly as we savoured the ice cream dripping down our chins.  For on that day, we were a family. A Grant Sine family.   And for me, that was what Grant Sine P.S. was really most about:  Family.

Hard to put a price tag on that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nine Weeks Lost

I received an email today from a good friend. That email contained a link to her latest blog post. On her blog post was a link to my website.  Being the ever-curious chap that I am, I clicked on my own link and was whisked away to my own blog site. The first thing that caught my eye was the date at the top of the screen.  The date read, May 12, 2014.

May 12, 2014!

It is July 23, 2014 today.

Nine weeks of my life have elapsed since my last post.  Nine weeks!   63 days without creating anything that required the pushing of a "publish" button to complete it. Nine weeks away from all of you.   I haven't read much of anyone's work, proffered up many comments nor have I entered any challenges on anyone's pet projects or recommended sites.   I have been least where The Writer's Life is concerned.

But, I have been, anything but, idle when it comes to my real life.  My real life has been intensely busy and filled with dramatic moments by the score.  Emotional ends and anxiety-filled new beginnings characterize much of my past 63 days.  The demands of the human heart have consumed my waking hours and have trumped my creative desires.

The tipping point for it all came on May day after my final published post.  It came in the form of a phone call from my mother in Nova Scotia; a phone call whose impact I am only just emerging from, lo, these nine weeks later.

My mother was born in 1931 in Sydney, Nova Scotia.  She was the second-youngest of thirteen children.  Growing up in such a large family during the heart of the Great Depression and the Second World War, my mother knew plenty about hard times and going without the kinds of things that today's teenagers would take for granted.  Imagine being happy to receive an orange for Christmas!   She was.

Like many people of her era, my mother developed a hardy work-ethic and it came as no surprise to anyone that she completed her high school education and enrolled in courses that enabled her to become a registered nurse.  During her nurse's training, she met my father and, shortly thereafter, they got married and moved a short distance down the highway to Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.    My mother became a resident of Glace Bay in 1952 and remained so, until the phone rang in my house that May 13th afternoon.

Like many elderly citizens, my mother had seen a decline in the physical state of her health after she turned 80 years of age.  She had suffered three slips and falls within an 18 month time span and, along with the physical set-backs that such incidents cause, she began to lose her sense of confidence in her ability to live independently in her own home.  Being someone who had spent her entire career working in the Health industry, my mother knew, full well, that the journey from one's own home to a nursing home or retirement residence is, almost always, a one-way journey, ending in death.  So, she was in no hurry to move.

However, sometimes, unforeseen events play a role in refocussing contentious issues.  In this case, Mother Nature dealt my mother a cruel blow in the form of the great Ice Storm of 2013.  As many of you may know, from firsthand experience or from news reports, much of the eastern seaboard of North America, along with many parts of central Canada and the U.S. suffered through a series of devastating ice and snow storms last winter.  The damage to property and to roads and telephone lines was extensive.  Nova Scotia was not spared the wrath of these storms and, as a result, my mother found it increasingly difficult to safely leave her home; sometimes, for weeks on end.

Therefore, without too much pressure from my sister or from me, my mother came to her own conclusion that it was not realistic to try to cope with another winter like the one we had. So, during my Christmas visit, we discussed the various options she had with regard to assisted living retirement homes. To my great relief, she applied to a reputable retirement home, in her birth town of Sydney.  We arranged for a visit and saw that the Home was modern and well run.  The director of the Home said that my mother would be put on a waiting list and would be notified whenever an apartment became available for her.

When the phone rang on that May 13th afternoon, it was my mother.  She said that she had gotten the call from the Home and that she needed to be ready to move in two weeks!!!!

Being a teacher, I always have my summers off (unless I am taking an upgrading course).  So, when my mother had applied to move to this Home, my ideal scenario was that it would happen during the summer months so that I could go down and help her pack up her possessions in a leisurely fashion.
But, as a nasty winter of storms spurred my mother into a life-changing decision, her phone call changed all of my plans, too.  Suddenly, there was 60 years of life to sort through, pack up, discard, sell and almost no time to do it.  Luckily, my sister was able to go down the very next week.  She helped my mother clean out her closets, cupboards and attic spaces.  That was a huge help.

While she was doing that, I was working feverishly to get as much of my final report cards completed as possible before I left. Then, I booked a week off of school, just as we were preparing to start our final month of the school year (which is always the busiest month of the school year).  To get ready to be away, I had to prepare a full week's worth of work, with detailed plans for the substitute teacher to follow.   All the while, I was talking to my mother and sister almost every day to prepare for the move.

I flew down to Glace Bay on the 28th of May and stayed there until the 3rd of June.

There was still much to do to help pack whatever my sister had been unable to pack. It was depressing to see my mother's good china dishes gone and the majority of her vast china doll collection, too.  Sometimes, things are just things but, at other times, they help define a person and become synonymous with their identity.  In Glace Bay, my mother was known by many people as "The Doll Lady".  She was always willing to take her doll collection into retirement homes and allow those with Alzheimer's disease to have the tactile sensation of holding their babies again.  But now, these dolls were gone.  Sold to a scavenging collector for pennies.  Her good dishes, too.  How many meals were served on those Blossom Time dishes over the years at family gatherings?  Now, her china cabinet stood empty.

Although the house was still jammed with boxes and bags and bins, the decay was evident everywhere I looked.   My mother was still sitting there but, this wasn't her life anymore.  Events beyond her control were dictating the terms of her existence now.  It was her house but, it wasn't home anymore.

From a logistical point of view, the move went flawlessly and by the afternoon of June 1st, my
mother was securely established in her new apartment in the senior's assisted living residence in Sydney.   She has a small kitchen of her own plus, a living room, bedroom and full bathroom, too.  The window in her living room overlooks Sydney harbour which, from a real estate point of view, is a million dollar view.  However, the view she is most pleased about is how much clearer the television reception seems to be in Sydney, as compared to what it was in Glace Bay, a lifetime ago.

When I said good bye to my mother that June 1st evening, I had no home to go to for the first time in my life.  The house my mother had lived in and made so warm by her presence, was now empty.  We had turned in the keys so I couldn't have even slept on the floor in a sleeping bag. So, I rented a hotel room and looked out of my window which had a million dollar view of Sydney harbour as well.

I was born and raised by my mother in Glace Bay.  My view out of the window of her house was always the Atlantic Ocean.  I was married in Glace Bay, as well.   When I tell people where I am from, I always say that I am from the Bay!  Up until this past May, "going home" always meant a certain thing  and now, it means something completely different. I am not sure what it means, really.

After all, what does "home" mean?  Is it where your family is?  Is it where your memories are?  Is it your physical house and yard and street?   Is home where my mother is?  Is she "my home"?  Or, is Glace Bay my home, even though she is no longer there?   *(Glace Bay harbour to the left. Sydney harbour, above).

In a few weeks, my wife and two daughters are coming with me to see Nanna's new "home".  We are staying in a hotel for five days.  There is a pool with a water slide.  My girls are excited about that. Will they be as excited to visit my mother as they used to be when they could play on her back deck and run around her big yard?  Will they bore quickly and not want to see their Nanna for very long?  It is all possible.  I am hopeful that being with my mother/their Nanna will still feel like being home again.  I guess that only time will tell.   I will keep you informed.

PS:   As the drama involved in this life change played itself out, I was not out from under the heavy hand of stress just yet.  For as I returned back to my family in Cobourg, I did so with the knowledge that my school was closing its' doors for the final time and that we only had the month of June left.  I will tell you all how that turned out in a follow-up post.

       Thank you for your patience and for your continued support during my absence.  You are all wonderful people.   In fact, if it were not for the lovely e-mail (about her blog post) that I received from Laura this morning, I may not have found the impetus to screw up my courage and force myself to share my tale, as I have begun to do.  I have been away but, slowly and surely, I am coming home.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Peace At Last

Here is my first Gargleblaster post.  Enjoy.  :)

Peace At Last

Cap-sized in a tempest!
I cling to an air pocket;
chin high.

Waves crash!
The Ship groans!
Water rises,
sloshing across my face!

Soon, only lips above water.

I reach for the sword's tip
with both hands.

My lungs fill.



Monday, May 5, 2014

A-to-Z Blogging Challenge: Rear-View Mirror Edition!

This year's edition of the Challenge was my first as a participant.  From my point of view, I found the experience to be terrific!  

A few years ago, I read Steven King's book on Writing. The one big thing I took from his book was the part where he said that being a writer is like having any other job; you have to go to work every day and you have to put in long hours every day.  He went on to describe 6-8 hours work days spent writing, revising, editing, reseraching and so on.  

As I read his book and, as I have read about other authors who live and breathe writing, I found myself wondering if I, too, would ever live "the Writing Life"?   Could I write everyday, for many days, and not give up?   Did I actually have enough thoughts in my head to fuel my writing for a great many days consecutively?  I didn't know.   I had never really pushed myself before.  This Challenge came at just the right moment for me to find out.

I was directed toward this Challenge by a writer from India named Shailaja V., who has a blog called The Diary of a Doting Mom.  Prior to this Challenge, Shailaja and I both were members of a writing community called The Trifecta Writing Challenge.  The community of writers who wrote for the weekly writing challenges were wonderfully-talented and supportive writers.  For two years, I honed my skills under their watchful and protective eyes.  We all did.  We all felt braver because of the positive nature of the whole community and the nurturing nature of the relationships each writer had with one another.  Unfortunately, the editors at Trifecta decided to close shop this past March and all of us who wrote there were saddened by the loss.  However, there was enough notice given to us to allow for the arrangement of connections with each other beyond the world of Trifecta and, out of those connections came Shailaja's connection with me.   This relationship bore fruit almost immediately as she directed a Tweet to my attention.  The tweet was about something called The A-to-Z Blogging Challenge.  She assured me that it would be fun and that I should give it a go.    She was right.  It was fun.  Lots of fun!!!

Over the course of the month of April, I have accumulated approx. 33,000 words about teaching and children and reading and learning and growing up.   I am very pleased with the product I have produced and feel that I have plenty of reserves still left in the tank, as it were.  But, as is often the case with projects such as this, what started out being about myself turned to be almost anything but.

I have had the great good fortune of meeting many wonderful writers and human beings over this past month.  I have been impressed with their talent, their passion and their positivity.  I could write at length about dozens of them but, a few that spring to mind as I type are some of the brilliant writers pouring forth from India:      Shailaja V.  Jayanta Tewari, Beloo Mehra, Vishal Bheeroo   .  What wonderful spokes people they are for their country and their culture.  What wonderful people they are in our world.  What wonderful writers they are in the community of poets and wordsmiths.  I would be remiss if I didn't give a tip of the old hat to my neighbour in numbers on the original sign-up list, Conlee Ricketts.  What a lovely and positive person she turned out to be.  Her 26-part treatise on living a positive life stands as a road map for a peaceful more contented soul for so many people out there in our world who struggle to find the right path for themselves.   I was equally impressed with Leanee Ross and Michelle Stanley, who both based their 26 posts around individual stories; Leanne with Pride and Predujice and Michelle with Alice in Wonderful.  What great feats of scholarly and imaginative writing on both of their parts. Finally, my Trifecta pal, Kathy Combs walked with me throughout all 26 days and I, with her.  Thank you for your creativity, Kathy and for your friendship.

The legacy of this year's A-to-Z Challenge is yet to be formally written.  I plan of posting another ten-twelve chapters on Education which should, I hope, be enough material, in combination with what I have already written, to shape into a book worthy of publication.  As well, I hope to enjoy and maintain the connections and relationships established as a result of this Challenge.  One never knows where Life will take you but, one must be open to the possibilities when they arise (as Shailaja's tweet, six or seven weeks ago, can attest).  Finally, as a result of my work throughout this challenge, I was nominated for two awards; the Sunshine Award and the Leibster award.  I have accepted both and fulfilled the requirements contained within. As part of the requirements of each award, I was asked to spotlight other bloggers and showcase their talents for the world to see.  I have carried that tradition on and hope that the bloggers I nominated will do the same thus, maintaining an on-going cycle of positivity and reciprocity within the blogging community.

So, you see, I could easily be still sitting at home wondering if I had what it took to live the Writing Life. But, instead, thanks to this Challenge, I now have my first book well under way and I know the thrill of writing every day.  I feel great about the experience and about the people I have met as a result of this experience!   I will be back again next year, as long as the Challenge is going to be back.

My only regret with the whole process was simply the overwhelming number of blogs to visit.  There was just not enough time in the day to do that list justice.  However, I do intend to road-trip my way through the list between now and next year.  It is a nice repository of blogs, all conveniently located in one spot so, there is no reason not to stroll through the list as time goes by.  Perhaps there are more great relationships and connections laying, undiscovered, in the list.  I hope so.

Overall, I shall end with a simple yet, profoundly tendered, Thank you!  To each of the organizers who stopped by to see how I was doing and, to all of the others who put in the time to organize this whole event....THANK YOU!!!    You all did an amazing job.  I am different....better.....because of this experience.   No putting the genie back in the bottle now!  :)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Loving the Leibster!

I think that many of us as writers do what we do because we have some inner desire to be heard, to have our thoughts expressed and received by others and, quite simply, to matter in ways that our personalities or life circumstances won't allow.  

When I was a single man, I used to hear my female friends constantly bemoan the fact that there were no gentlemen to be found.  Where are the nice guys?!   I would listen to all of this talk, with my back against the wall, eyes cast downward, silently screaming, "I'm right here!  I'm right here!"   But, never looking up and making eye contact, never crossing the room to grab some lady boldly by the heart, never able to simply say to anyone, "Hi!  My name is Tom and I think I might be worth getting to know."

Well, I think that I might be worth getting to know.  Writing allows me to bravely put myself out there.  My words are my voice.  My words are, for you, the gateway into my world.  I am happy to welcome you inside.  I am glad that so many of you are so comfortable there.

I write to be heard and to be noticed and to be valued.    When I write and then, receive feedback in the form of positive comments, that fills me up.  Your words of praise, returned to me, make me feel as though what I do each time I put my thoughts down on paper, is worthwhile.  Your encouragement pushes me forward and helps build me up.  I am forever grateful for your support.

Your words of encouragement are, truly, enough. But, sometimes, someone goes a step further.  A few days ago, I received an e-mail from a wonderfully-talented writer and very generous person named Michelle Stanley.  Michelle's blog can be reached here.  I highly recommend that you take a few moments and pop on over to her site.  She is a very creative writer and a great supporter of the rest of us who write.  Evidence of her generous and supportive nature can be found in the fact that she has nominated me to receive the Leibster Award.    This award is given to "up and coming" bloggers and acts as an affirmation that the nominated blogger is writing stories that possess quality and are worthy of any reader's valuable time.  I am honoured to have been paid such a compliment by someone of Michelle's calibre and, as such, I humbly and proudly accept this award.

In order to fulfill my obligations with regard to this award, there are several things I am required to do:

- I must post the award badge on my website.
- I must list some interesting facts about myself.
- I must answer a series of questions posed by the nominator.
- Finally, I must continue the tradition of recognizing up and coming bloggers by nominating several myself.

I am going to tackle these requirements from the bottom up.

I am going to nominate only three bloggers for the Leibster Award.  This is due, primarily, to the fact that I am so new to blogging myself that I simply do not know many bloggers who are not already well-established.  But, the three I will nominate are all top-notch writers and are well-deserving of your attention.  I shall nominate them in the order of which I met them.

1- Bethany Ellen Curtis     She writes at
2- Turok Tucker                 He writes at
3- Jayanta Tewari               He writes at

Let me tell you a bit about my nominees:

Bethany was a student in my classroom when she was waaaaay back in Grade 2!!!  She was always a very positive, quirky, talented young lady and I have always had a special place for her in my teachery-heart.  She and I shared a favourite book back in the day called, Stellaluna  by Janell Cannon.  We would write, back and forth, in Bethany's journal about this book; to the point when, eventually, I began calling her "Stellaluna" and then, "Luna" for short.  I still refer to her by that name today.  :)  We have kept in touch via social media such as Facebook and, through FB, I have come to be aware of her blog.  Bethany is a strong writer and creates compelling stories and personal posts.  I believe very strongly in her talent and feel that her potential as a writer is unlimited.  She is definitely an up-and-comer who, in my opinion, is already here!

Turok Tucker is a fellow alumni of that great writing community known as The Trifecta Writing Challenge.  It was while writing in this community that I found my wings as a writer and began to hone my skills.  The members of this community were all extremely supportive and crazy talented!  When the editors of Trifecta decided to close up shop this past March, a lot of us scrambled to establish personal connections that went beyond Trifecta.  As well, we all began posting heartfelt tributes to Trifecta in our closing Trifecta posts.  In one of my final Trifecta posts, Turok responded with a comment that ranks as one of my all-time favourites.  To paraphrase it, he said that not everyone "gets" what it means to be a writer. He went on to say how we all share something special that bonds us together and that we are Bards.  I don't have Turok's permission to post the whole comment but, it was written in a very heartfelt way and meant the world to me when I received it.
Turok is a fine, passionate, edgy young writer who, like Bethany, isn't afraid to let his writing take him beyond the safe and cosy confines of civility. He is, beyond question, Bard-like and fully deserving of this award!

Jayanta Tewari came to my attention during the recent A-to-Z Blogging Challenge that I was involved with.  Jayanta hails from India and is a member of a wave of excellent, intelligent, passionate writers emerging from that country.  Jayanta writes about bettering the quality of Life; not just in India but, for all mankind. However, he does so in ways that are realistic, approachable and, even humorous, at times.  Jayanta is a fine man and someone with whom I hope to have a life long correspondence.  I thank Jayanta for nominating me for the Sunshine Award and, in this world of quid pro quo, I nominate you right back, my friend!  Jayanta is someone everyone should read. You will be better for having done so!

Interesting Facts About Moi

1- I have a banker box full of stories that I wrote for the kids at my school. Hopefully, they will find new life as published children's books in the years to come.

2- I was the weekly winner once during my tenure with Trifecta Writing Challenge.  That story was entitled Watching Dad's Cigarette Burn. It can be read here.

3- My Mom is 82 years old and is very proud of me.  She has never read a single one of my 109 blog posts written on Blogger. Yet, she is still very proud of her son.

4- My favourite beer is Corona. My favourite milkshake is chocolate.  My favourite soda pop is Pepsi. My favourite milk is skim.  My favourite wine is dry and white.

5- I answer survey questions for money.

6- Not many would guess by my quiet demeanour that I like my music loud!!!

7- I was raised by the Atlantic Ocean but, generally speaking, I don't really like to eat seafood.

8- Having said that, I was married by the Ocean and, for our dinner, we offered guests a choice of fresh turkey or fresh haddock, caught that day by local fishermen.  I opted for the turkey.  Many opted for the haddock.

9- A gospel choir, known as the Inspirational Singers, performed for us after dinner.

10- When my wife and I got to our honeymoon chalet, the restaurant was closed, there was no food in our in-room fridge and we were both very hungry.  Nobody told us that, for more nights than we could care to count, something other than sex would be our top priority come bedtime.


Michelle's Questions for me:

1.   Name three secrets you never told anyone.

    A gentleman never tells.

2.   If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you would do?
     Pay off all debts and then, with the remaining money, start paying off the debts of others.  Whenever I see an ad for a church raising funds for repairs to their building or, a family, who lost all they owned in a fire, is being thrown a fundraiser....when I see things like this, I'd like to be the person who quietly strolls in and leaves a $50,000 cheque in the donation box and then, walks away.
3.   Looking over the last ten years, what is one goal you have achieved, and goal
      you have not achieved?     
     I became a father in the last ten years. That will always be my greatest legacy. As for something I have yet to achieve, well, I have never really had a full, lush lawn at home.  That may seem like a minor thing to put down but, your lawn is what gives passersby their first impression as they drive or walk by my house.  A well-kept lawn is usually a manly responsibility and so, a poor lawn eats at my manhood and bothers me more than most people realize. 

4.   What are your plans for retirement? And will you travel? If so, where and why.

       When I began writing for the Trifecta Writing Challenges a few years ago, it was with the intent of building up my writing skills so that I could reasonably and legitimately expect writing to play a prominent part in my retirement years.  I can actually retire in four years so, the time to build up my momentum and an inventory of good stories and poetry, is now.   
      As for travel, my eight year old daughter has dreams of travelling to the places we have read about in our books so, if there is travelling to be done, I imagine it might be with her.

5.   Favourite drink on a Friday night.

     Hot tea.

6.   What do you think the secret is to a good marriage or relationship with
       a significant other is?
     My wife is my partner in Life.  We share a similar vision for many things such as fiscal responsibility, how to raise our daughters, how to conduct ourselves as human beings, etc.   I could go on and on about this but, the bottom line is simply this, the secret to a good marriage is being equal partners.

7.   Name three words that describe your personality.

      Humility, Integrity and Positivity.

8.    Home cooked meal or take-out?

   I like to eat so, it doesn't matter.  What matters is the people with whom I am sharing the food.  The location doesn't matter as long as the company is good.
9.    When was the last time you blogged and what was it about?

       My last blog was posted yesterday and it concerned another award I received as a result of my participation in the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge, called the Sunshine Award.  The post for the Sunshine Award was not as long as the post for the Leibster Award, let me tell ya!

10.  What do you think is the key to happiness?

       It is almost a cliche but, helping others is the key to happiness.  Making a difference without the need for reward or recognition always, always, always brings about its' own rewards later on in Life.  My life is very good and I attribute a large part of the reason for that being that I live a life in service for others.  

11.   Who is your favourite poet and why?

          I will cop-out somewhat by saying that there are too many poets I admire to just pick one.  I was continuously amazed at the high calibre of the people who wrote for Trifecta during my time there.  In addition to admiring their good work, I came to learn that, on any given week, all sorts of different people were capable of rising to the challenge and producing stellar work.  Therefore, I will not limit myself to one poet; I like talent, period!   However, if I could highlight one thing about poetry it would be that the last movie, other than Frozen, that I have watched was called Louder Than A Bomb and it was all about a Slam Poetry festival in Chicago.  Please check out the trailer and then, the movie, if Slam poetry is your thing.   

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sunny Days: Part Two

I quite enjoyed the experience of being involved in the recently-concluded A-to-Z Blogging Challenge.  Writing about children and about education from my perspective as a father and as a teacher, was very rewarding and fulfilling.   When I set about writing 26 posts, I did so because I love to write and I wanted to push myself to see if I could maintain my energy level and maintain the quality of my work throughout.  I am pleased with the end results and, judging by the comments of my fellow writers (those new to me and those I knew prior to the Challenge), I met my twin goals in the eyes of others as well.

That was reward enough for me.  I would have been very content to have stopped there, basking in the warm glow of my accomplishment.  However, my day was brightened by, not one but, two delightful affirmations, in the form of two separate nominations for the Sunshine Award; first from my friend, Shailaja (who writes brilliantly at her blog entitled, Diary of a Doting Mom) and then, from my new friend, Jayanta (who writes passionately about improving life on his blog entitled  My Thoughts).   

In order to be able to accept this award, There are rules to follow and criteria I have to meet so, without further ado, here are da rules!

- I must proudly display the Sunshine Award Badge.

- I must link back to the folks who nominated me.

- I must nominate and link back to up to ten bloggers of merit.

- I must write ten interesting things about myself.

Well, the first two rules were easy to follow, as is the fourth but, I am finding Rule #3 to have me at a disadvantage.  This award is given to bloggers who are rather new to blogging.  It is intended to be for blogs that have fewer than 100 followers.  So, in essence, it is akin to being a Rookie of the Year Award.  I am fine with the public pat-on-the-back at this early stage of my career. In fact, I am very honoured.

However, being so new, I do not have that many contemporaries who have fewer than 100 followers!  I have searched my own list of favourites and have come up with the following small but, powerful list:

Isabel Yeo
Conlee Ricketts
Laura Alonso
*I would have nominated Jayanta, too, but he has already been nominated by two others.

Hopefully, my list of three talented writers will be enough to merit the keeping of this award.  :)

As for ten interesting things about me.  I will leave it to you to decide how interesting the following ten things are but, here goes:

1- If bacon was liquid, I would drink copious amounts.

2- My favourite hockey team is the Toronto Maple Leafs.  They won the league championship, the Stanley Cup, when I was three years old.  They haven't won since.  I am 50 years old now.  :(

3- I have never broken a bone in my body, ever!

4- My father passed away when I was 11 years old.  I was the oldest child in my family and, instantly, became the "man of the house."

5- Orange Pekoe tea is my drink of long as it is good and hot when poured.

6- My favourite musical group is Radiohead.  My wife of twelve years would be hard-pressed to guess that.

7- I find it difficult to maintain a healthy lawn.  My thumb is, definitely, not green.

8- Cape Breton Island will always be Home to me, even though I haven't lived there for 30+ years.  It was where I was born and raised and, as the old saying goes, is in my blood.

9- I am more a night owl than a morning person. But, a good sunrise does my heart good.

10- I have never had a hole-in-one while golfing but, my father-in-law has had two; the second coming just last week!

So there you have it!   Thank you again, Shailaja and Jayanta, from the bottom of my heart, for honouring me as you have with this award.  I appreciate it very much.