2016. Ready or not, here I come.

So I quietly turned 41 last week, and have decided that today is the day I reflect on the year past, the year coming, and more importantly, the today.

I won’t lie: it was kind of a shit year, but only when I look directly at the timeline of the last twelve months. Not every day was shit. (Some were.) Forty was not a watershed year for me. I had no crises of faith, heart, career, or existential meaning. I also had no grand inspiration that propelled me to do any of the more positive, but no less obvious, things that people do when they turn 40. No marathons, no finished novels (welp), no health/weight loss/kindness/365-day pledges/journeys of any sort.

It was just a year. It started with a funeral on my birthday, which I am not be pitied for, because I was neither the person in the coffin nor a primary mourner of said person. It was a day to say goodbye to somebody who was very special to others, and to not think too much about myself.

I had, still have, am dealing with some health issues that peaked this year. But despite my grand and flourishing health paranoia (I have had cancer three times today), I will be ok. The many and myriad of tests and appointments I have had assure me that there is no serious underlying issue, which is good. Chris has always tried to make me feel better by insisting that it won’t be one of the big, scary things that does me in; that I will live a long life plagued with many small, frustrating, untreatable health annoyances. Looks like he’s right! But many days are not good, and there were periods when I did not leave my house, sometimes my bed, for days. Life was often derailed. I looked forward to summer.

Then I got pneumonia and summer effectively ended August 1. The doctor in the emergency room told me it was quite unique to get pneumonia in the middle of the summer. So special; so lucky. We cancelled all of our plans. 

The fall continued in much the same way. I had two really bad recurrences of the health thing I’m dealing with, one during the weekend of Chris’s fortieth birthday. We were in Toronto for the night without the kids, we ate good food, went to a concert, drank good drinks, and I woke up the next morning utterly wretched. I should have gone to the hospital, but I just wanted to go home. That was pretty much the end of me for two weeks. (There is no correlation between my night out and how I was the next day. The same could have, and has, happened after sitting in my own house reading a book for the night. That’s just the way this is.)

And then it was December, and the holiday season was lovely. And then Chris’s beloved grandfather passed away on New Year’s Day, and we made our way north, and we rallied and supported each other the best we could, and in the least important part of the post-script, I spent my forty-first birthday at a funeral.

So here we are.

And what of this year? We have some nice things planned for 2016, and I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to see them through. My health has been stable so far, but I do live in constant fear of relapse. My book is not finished, but it’s close. I am terrified of finishing and terrified of not finishing. My children are great, so is my marriage, which I can say with real honesty, not just Internet honesty. Chris is a good caretaker, and I try to return the favour. We laugh a lot, because what the hell else can you do?

I am fed up with the Internet and people on the Internet, so I don’t spend as much time here. I have to update my dinosaur of a web site. I don’t really care about that right now. I feel bitter about offering my words within the context of a medium I have come to hate a lot of the time. Maybe that will change this year. Maybe not.

Right now I am sitting in my sunroom and outside is white. I like how the snow makes you see the contours of everything, outlines all it lands on in so you see the details. The flurries keep shifting: big, fat flakes falling slowly, then a sheer curtain of glittery specks. Every time I look up, things have changed.



Ten true things about writing my novel

The dots are easy. Connecting them is hard.

Writing a great sentence feels better than anything else, even if you have to delete it later.

There’s a reason they call deleting the great stuff, “killing your darlings.”

It is so, so easy to find other things to do when you know you should be writing.

I am scared to finish because what if it actually sucks?

I write with only three people in mind, and one of those people is me.

The things I’m writing about scare the shit out of me.

I already feel like a failure.

I absolutely want acclaim, but it is more important for my soul that the acclaim be critical and not commercial, which is in direct opposition of how the writing business (and my bank account) works.

I think that social media is the worst thing that has ever happened to writers, writing, and publishing, but that is a post for another day.

Bonus thing: I'm almost done. This gives me serious anxiety.



Staying involved and informed about your child’s education thanks to the Ontario College of Teachers

One of the reasons we left Toronto for The Cornfield was so that I could work less and be more involved in my children’s daily life, including within their school community. Four years later, both of my children are in school and thriving, and I have made good on my promise to be involved. I have been School Council Chair for three years, and am about to wrap up my two-year term as the Co-Chair of the Parent Involvement Committee for our board. I have had the opportunity to get to know our students and teachers in a lovely, organic, small-town way – in the halls of the school and on the streets around town.But in my dual roles as parent and parent-liaison, I remain keenly aware of the fact that most of us release our children into the hands of the unknown, and so I do my best to not only reassure other parents, but to encourage them to be as involved as possible in their children’s school community. For some, that could mean attending meetings or volunteering their time, but all of us can empower ourselves and our children by gaining knowledge about our children’s teachers, and the standards that guide their daily practice.

The Ontario College of Teachers exists to regulate the profession of teaching in Ontario, and to set the very highest professional and ethical standards for public school teachers. The College also approves teacher training programs at faculties of education and accredits professional development courses. This means our teachers possess a distinct set of knowledge and skills that equip them for the classroom, have opportunities for continued training, and adhere to clear principles of conduct and practice.

Knowing that our public school teachers are qualified professionals, certified by the College, should offer parents peace of mind that the right people are teaching our children. But if broad strokes only go so far to allay anxieties, and your child only gives you single-syllable answers to questions about their classroom, there are ways to learn more:

Sign up for the free College newsletter, The Standard and get up-to-date information on changes in education legislation, reports on trends in education, and more, or for a closer look at a specific teacher, utilize the College’s Find a Teacher database. Search the public register for certification years, education, any disciplinary history, and status within the College.  

Our kids are in school for many hours a day, for many years of their early life.
We can’t all volunteer for lunch duty or be at the doors when they swing open every day at three o’clock. But we can be involved and empowered by understanding the regulations our teachers must adhere to and, indeed, uphold every day as they help our kids grow, develop and succeed.

We do everything we can to prepare our kids for their day – isn’t it good to know that The Ontario College of Teachers does everything they can to prepare the people we hand our children off to?

The views in this post are my own, and I have received fair compensation for them.