Monthly Archives: September 2015

Happiness

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I recently read a blog post by StephJ, Happiness – 101 Simple Things,  and I am inspired to reflect on what happiness means to me.

If you look up happiness in the dictionary you will find, ‘the state of being happy’. That doesn’t really help does it?

There is certainly no shortage of quotes about happiness. Some of my favourites include:

Okay Ernest, so if I feel happy I must be…. stupid?

  • “Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”
    Mark Twain

Even better… if I’m happy I must be insane.

  • “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
    Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi, I knew I could count on you to be uplifting. Thank you for that.

For me, I think happiness is something we all seek and it comes and goes throughout life, for if it didn’t we could never truly appreciate it. It’s a state of being, of living in the moment and letting the moment flow through you. It can feel big and loud and burst out of you as hearty laughter or in can be small and quiet and warm your heart in quiet reticence.

Here are 101 little things in my life which make me happy, in no particular order:

  1. Vacations with my family
  2. Sunsets
  3. The ocean
  4. Sunsets on the ocean (nirvana!)
  5. Soft, warm, homemade bread fresh from the oven, slathered with butter
  6. A clean kitchen
  7. Baking
  8. Warm, fuzzy socks
  9. Baby animals, particularly baby beavers
  10. Chocolate, dark chocolate, 85% or greater
  11. A good book that I just can’t put down
  12. Sitting by the campfire with family and friends
  13. Perfectly toasted marshmallows
  14. Dry red wine
  15. Funny chemistry jokes, often funny to me but not always funny to other people
  16. The fresh smell of clothes after being dried on a clothesline
  17. Fish, chips, dressing and gravy
  18. Listening to my favorite song
  19. Quiet time
  20. A good cup of coffee
  21. Walking on the sea wall
  22. A new pairs of boots
  23. Memories of times with my grandparents, I was so lucky to have four special grandparents who were a big part of my childhood
  24. Flowers
  25. Walking on a beach
  26. When someone else plans my vacation and hands me the itinerary
  27. Recognition for a job well done
  28. Camping with my family
  29. Floating on the lake
  30. Hiking with my family
  31. Leaving town
  32. The Minions
  33. Window shopping
  34. The first light fall of snow, just a dusting, not 5 feet, that I can do without
  35. Hugging my parents when they pick me up at the airport
  36. Impromptu hugs from my kids
  37. Long walks with my husband
  38. Sunshine
  39. The smell of fresh ground coffee
  40. Dinner with friends
  41. Gelato
  42. Exploring a new place
  43. Getting my hair done
  44. High speed Wi-Fi
  45. Changing into my pyjamas after a long day at work
  46. Lazy Saturday mornings
  47. Sewing with my mother
  48. When I finish knitting a scarf
  49. Learning something new
  50. Positive comments
  51. Eating the blue potatoes that my Dad grows in his garden
  52. An empty laundry hamper
  53. The smell of fresh basil
  54. Hummingbirds
  55. Organizing
  56. Card making with friends
  57. Conversations that challenge me
  58. Legging outfits
  59. Enthusiastic people who are interested in sharing new ideas and working together
  60. Using a router
  61. Thunder and lightning
  62. The smell of freshly cut grass
  63. Gardening
  64. Hanging out clothes early in the morning
  65. Hitting ‘publish’ when I complete a blog post
  66. Hearing a Newfoundland accent
  67. Cod fishing with family and friends
  68. Disneyland
  69. Fireworks
  70. Brunch
  71. Helping a friend
  72. Playing cards
  73. The Game of Things with family and friends
  74. Laughing until I cry
  75. Puppies
  76. Watching my kids play their musical instruments
  77. Looking at old photos
  78. Museums
  79. Seeing a light go on in someone’s eyes when they learn something new
  80. Reminiscing with friends
  81. A comfy bed
  82. The smell of Sunday dinner cooking at Mom and Dad’s
  83. The smell of bacon cooking outside on a Coleman while camping
  84. Picnics
  85. Going for a drive somewhere new
  86. Hot soup on a cold day
  87. Rainbows
  88. Starry nights
  89. A day with nothing planned
  90. Bookstores
  91. Trying new foods
  92. Catching capelin
  93. When the doctor tells you good news
  94. The sound of beach rocks moving with the waves
  95. The colours of autumn
  96. Money in the bank
  97. A hot shower
  98. Completing a project
  99. The beginning of summer
  100. Sand between my toes
  101. Homemade pie made by someone other than me

So there is my list. Little things that bring me feelings of happiness. I found that compiling this list brought me happiness, made me laugh out loud sometimes, brought specific memories to mind. If you decide to compile your own list please let me know. A big thank you to StephJ for the idea!

Acronym Affliction

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It all began when I moved to British Columbia (BC). I moved here from Newfoundland and Labrador, the province with the longest name, never abbreviated  (though oftentimes shortened by those of us from the island, to “Newfoundland”, sorry Labradorians). I began my teaching career as a member of the KDTA (Kitimat District Teachers Association), which also belonged to the much larger BCTF (British Columbia Teachers Federation). As an administrator I have become a member of the bcpvpa and am affiliated with the BCPSEA ( which gets pronounced, BCPC where the C further abbreviates the “SEA” portion of the acronym.)

When speaking with teachers and administrators in the education system, many more acronyms are used.

We write:

  • IEP’s (Individual Education Program)
  • SLP’s (Student Learning Plans)
  • SIP’s (Student Intervention Plans)

We attend workshops on NID’s (Non Instructional Days) about many topics, some include:

  • NVCRI (Non Violent Crisis Response Intervention)
  • POPFASD (Provincial Outreach Program for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder)
  • RTI (Response to Intervention)
  • POPARD (Provincial Outreach Program for Autism and Related Disorders)
  • ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
  • ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • FNESC (First Nations Education Steering Committee)
We belong to PSA’s which are specific to our areas of interest and expertise, such as
  • AEA (Aboriginal Education Association)
  • BCAEA (BC Alternate Education Association)
  • BCScTA (BC Science Teachers’ Association)
  • PITA (Provincial Intermediate Teachers’ Association)
  • BCTELA (BC Teachers of English Language Arts)
  • ABCDE (Association of BC Drama Educators, the most clever acronym of all!)

We partner with many groups such as:

  • PAC (Parents’ Advisory Council)
  • RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police)
  • MCFD (Ministry of Children and Family Development)
  • CDC (Child Development Centre)

Our students have the opportunity to take part in programs such as:

  • WEX (Work experience)
  • SSA (Secondary School Apprenticeship)
  • ACE IT (Accelerated Credit Enrolment in Industry Training)
  • RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards)

When parents visit the school for interviews with the teachers we call those PTI’s (Parent Teacher Interviews).

To give you an idea of how often I use these acronyms, I will give you an example of a week in the life:

As a member of the bcpvpa, I attended a workshop with my staff who are members of CUPE and the KDTA. The workshop was about NVCRI (great workshop!). I was contacted by the RCMP, an employee of MCFD and an employee of the CDC regarding the services they provide. My staff and I were busy all week writing IEP’s and SLP’s. I received an email about an upcoming workshop involving POPFASD.I had a teacher express interest attending the FNESC conference. I was contacted by a principal who had questions about ACE IT. I enrolled a new student who is in the SSA and my daughter is busy working on her presentation for RYLA. Whew! That is one week.

Sometimes a new acronym comes across my desk and I have to stop and try to decipher what it stands for. Thank goodness for the internet. And when that is down… I contact the IT department!

Be(com)ing Present

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Admittedly, for me, living in the present is not as straightforward as it sounds. It is so easy to be drawn into memories of the past and dreams of the future that the present gets lost somewhere in between.

I have come to realize that my environment has a dramatic effect on my ability to hold onto the present. It is much easier for me to be in the present when I am on vacation. Like most people, that is when I am the most relaxed. That’s when I live in the present without having to be mindful of it.

be Present, be Mindful,be There (3)

One of my favourite things to do while on vacation is to wake up early and walk to a coffee shop with my husband. Enjoy the smell of the coffee and the fresh baked breads, the sounds of the city, watch people walk by, some rushing to work, some leisurely enjoying the morning. I sit there and soak up the blissful anonymity. Not thinking about anything else but the present.

I also live more easily in the present on the weekends, at home, in the quiet, as the fresh air blows through the windows. I have found that when I write in my blog or read a book I can hold the moment. It’s outside of these times that I need to be more mindful of living in the present.

I am not so naïve as to think that living in the moment will solve all of our problems but I do believe that there are very strong benefits to being mindful.

  • Build Authentic Relationships
We have all met people who seem to be a part of a conversation but it quickly becomes obvious that they are simply waiting for their chance to interject and dazzle us with their intellectual prowess. They are not listening, they are not interested in what we have to say, they are not picking up on social cues, they are not in the present but rather thinking of the future and so… they miss out.
We have also met people who are not involved in the conversation at all, are distracted, are more interested in texting someone else rather than interacting with the person who is right in front of them. They too…miss out.
It is easier to be in the present with people that you love and have strong relationships with. When you are having conversations with your family and close friends you are typically in the present and at ease. You are being your authentic self.
When you are interested in building and nurturing relationships, you must be in the present during your conversations. You must truly be there, be focussed. Remove the distractions, mental and physical, that interfere with the flow of the conversation. Don’t over analyse what you have said or plan to say, put away your phone. You will find your interactions to be more genuine and you will build rapport easily.
  • Appreciate Life
 When you live in the present you have time to appreciate life. Let go of those things that are causing you stress. Be in the moment, feel the spray of the ocean on your skin, experience the beauty of a sunset, the smell of a newborn baby’s head. You tune in to your senses and the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Worries about the past or the future cannot survive in the present when you are busy experiencing life and what it has to offer.
Many of us have had an experience in life which motivates us to pause and tell ourselves that we need to worry less and live more, however the effects of such an experience are most often fleeting. We need to commit to enjoying life because, after all, we only get so many trips around the sun.
  • Spark Creativity
 When you enlist your creative side you will be most productive when you allow your ideas to flow in the present. It is when you overthink something, dwell on how your last project turned out or on what people will think of your new work, that you will hit a creative block.
One technique that some writers use to help them get their ideas to flow is called the free write. You simply start to write. Whatever comes to mind, in the moment, and keep writing for 10 minutes or so. I have found this to be a great way to boost creativity. The barriers that interrupt creativity fall away, you don’t concern yourself with sentence structure, grammar and the like, you can go back later and edit your work. The main purpose is to get the flow started.
Planning for the future and reflecting on the past are definitely essential to life.
Perhaps if we dedicate part of our lives to be(com)ing present, we will get to enjoy all three notions of time and life.

Lesson Plan

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My years as a teacher and more recently, as an administrator, have provided me with countless memories of lessons I have taught and lessons I have learned. So much time spent on preparing a lessons for countless topics. Lessons that often sparked rich discussion in the classroom, questions that would build to a cacophony of voices, leaving you feeling exhausted yet energized all at the same time.

In Learning you willteach, and in teaching (1)

As a teacher you are always aware that students come to school with unique stories and experiences that shape their young lives. That some topics covered in class may have great significance in a student’s life. I especially found this to be true when teaching Biology. I was always aware when certain lessons were coming up that they could have great impact. Lessons that involved learning about pregnancy, disease and cancer tended to be particularly charged. These lessons were often accompanied by questions and discussion which could spill over to after school time, with students often staying beyond the dismissal bell to continue the conversations.

Years ago, I wrote a poem about a Lesson Plan, which reflects on my experience in the classroom.

Lesson Plan

Today’s lesson in on cancer,

students will be taught

the process of carcinogenesis:

initiation, promotion, progression, metastasis.

She looks up from her desk

and I see pain in her eyes,

a pain that one should never see

in the eyes of such a young girl.

She should have the world in her hands,

not on her shoulders.

She talks to her friend about how she wishes

she could take pictures in her mind,

pictures to help her remember the details,

every moment of her childhood.

She stays behind after class

to ask questions,

questions I don’t want to answer.

I tell her the gentle truth.

She thanks me,

her chin quivers and a lone tear

trickles down her cheek.

“My father is battling a brain tumor.

It is not going well.”

Today’s lesson was on cancer,

I was taught the process of carcinogenesis:

strength, pain, courage, love.

I look back on some of the lesson plans and I remember how it felt to watch students who had experienced a loss in their lives, support and encourage other students struggling with a similar situation. How a student who had given birth a year before became a support for another young mother-to-be. How important it is to build relationships with students, to foster a culture of support in the classroom, in the school.

As educators, there is little doubt that our days are filled with teaching and learning. We teach and students learn. Students teach and we learn.

The Ambiverted Cosmopolitan Bayman, Perfectly In Between

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I have always been interested in the introvert – extrovert conversation. During some periods of my life I have been an extrovert while other times I have been an extrovert. Heck, sometimes I may turn from being an introvert to an extrovert and back in a day!

Maybe its age, maybe its circumstance or maybe I have always been like this, but either way, recently I have come to accept that I do not belong to either camp. I am perfectly in between.

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When I was younger. I never had a problem speaking in public, I would willingly sing in public, play musical instruments, read in church, I loved to perform in school plays, even participated in parades as a cheerleader. From Kindergarten to grade 8 I was very social. My mother talks about my first day of kindergarten. I was four. She took me to school and while other kids were crying and holding on to their mother for dear life, I said goodbye to my mother, waved and happily walked up the steps and into the school by myself.

I actively took part in all school activities. So, at that time in my life I was very much an extrovert.

When I changed schools, a lot of things changed for me. I had come from a small school where I was at the top of my class. My new school assigned you to your clasess based on your grade point average. I didn’t know anyone in my new class and the competitiveness quickly surfaced. I was now attending a school in Mount Pearl where most of the students identified with being a “townie” though there were some students there who were “baymen”. Any of you who are from Newfoundland are familiar with the two camps, the baymen and the townies. The overpass is the cultural divide, the proverbial “line in the sand” between the two groups. Where you live, relative to the overpass determines your camp. But for me, being from St. Thomas ( a town that has since been swallowed up by Paradise), you kinda don’t fall into either camp. I found myself in that awkward space, in between the two camps. This ambiguity proved problematic. I have recently learned that there are new labels for people like me, “Overcasters” or “Cosmopolitan Baymen”. But at the time, I was without a label and I felt more than a little lost.

This was very difficult time for me and I quickly became an introvert. Since my parents would not cave to my pleas and allow me to sit home and enjoy my pity party, I found myself at school every day, struggling to find my way back to my previous extroverted self. After a few months I settled in, made some great friends and found a comfortable place to be, the “in between”. I was in between townie and bayman, in between introversion and extroversion.

I went on to University, graduated and was eager to start my teaching career. Unfortunately, at that time, there were very few opportunities in Newfoundland for teachers, so I left the east coast to head off to the west coast, to beautiful British Columbia. I ended up in a tiny town, Kitimat, possibly as far away from my home town as you could get while still being in Canada. When I arrived I was an extrovert. I was outgoing, socialized regularly and quickly made friends. Don’t get me wrong, I missed Newfoundland terribly. But I was only planning to stay in BC for about 5 years and I could reconcile that, after that time, I would return to Newfoundland. Time marched on, I got married and we have two wonderful children who were born here in Kitimat and are now in high school. So much for the 5 year plan.

During all of this time I have continued to waffle between being an introvert and an extrovert. I have taken those online tests to try to determine which category I fall into, but each time my results indicate that I am an ambivert, the in between. I guess it makes sense. I am ” in between” in a lot of ways. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love science, but at the same time I love the arts. I love the quiet of nature but I also love the bustle of the city. I love pj’s and dressing up. I enjoy being around people and engaging in conversation but I need my quiet time. While I can relate to both introverts and extroverts, I do not fit either camp.

I think there is a continuum, a scale between labels, like a number line. Many people move along that continuum throughout life, never quite perfectly fitting one category or another, all the while moving, somewhere perfectly “in between.”