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Cats – lost and found

5 Jan

Losing Lulu the cat was very hard on all of us, but maybe more so on our sons. Lulu, the cat, had been with us since before we had children. My youngest son’s first word was, “Lulu.”

It took me a year before I was ready to bring another cat into our lives. And, as fate would have it, we took in two ‘brothers’. We named them Albie (after Albus Dumbledore) and Montie (after Romeo Montague).
Unfortunately, we couldn’t bring them with us to Europe. 
Though I wasn’t really feeling ready to bring another animal into our lives – the loss of Albie and Montie was still too fresh – fate conspired to bring another cat into our home. We ended up adopting a 12 year old cat who desperately needed rehoming but whose prospects weren’t looking very promising.   
I brought my eldest (who was a few months short of his 7th birthday at the time) to pick up the cat with me. On the short drive home, he asked if we could give her a new name. Sidebar – I can’t for the life of me remember what her other name was. Anyway, I said, “I don’t see why not. Do you have a name in mind?” 
Without missing a beat, my son said, “I think we should name her Sawadeecat. Get it mom!? It’s like ‘sawadee ka’ but she’s a cat AND she’s a girl, so it makes sense!”
Sawadeecat is now an integral part of our family.

My annual ode to International Women’s Day

8 Mar


5 Aug

That feels like the best word to describe my impressions of Phnom Penh so far – beige. 

It seems that everything is covered in a fine (or not so fine as the case may be) film of dust. One of the few clear memories that I have of my first visit here 5 years ago is that I found it dusty. That has not changed. Even my sense of smell seems to be dulled due to all this dust. 

It strikes me as somewhat silly sometimes to think that I gave up smoking in order to taste more, smell more and live longer. Everything I eat tastes a little like dirt and things don’t smell as they used to. I wonder too what inhaling all this dust is doing to my lungs. Image

A Sad First in my Teaching Career

21 May

I’ve been teaching now for 15 years. The law of averages says that at least one or more of the students that I’ve known has passed away in that time. But as an international teacher, I’m not connected to the communities that I teach in the same way that someone who spends their whole career in the same school (or school district) is. So there are surely some passings that I am not aware of.

That’s why this one is so hard. It’s a first.

This kid was in my French class for a couple of months. I remember that he was funny, athletic and personable. He was ready for a laugh and seemed to get along with just about everyone. He came from a good caring home and had all the material and societal advantages that one can think of. But ‘sit’ is just about all he did do in my class. He wasn’t terribly interested in French and he transferred to beginner’s Spanish before Christmas. Having a French language background made it easier for him, his new teacher told me. Even after he’d left my class, whenever I would see him on campus he would give me a smile and a cheery, “Bonjour!”

Having a French language background made it easier for him, his new teacher told me.

“Easier”. That is a word that keeps coming up for me when I think about this kid. From what I saw of him, he seemed to spend a considerable amount of energy seeking out the ‘easy’ option at school: be it class work, homework, projects or deadlines.

This afternoon his parents will host a service of remembrance for their son in accordance with their spiritual beliefs. It will no doubt be attended by many of his fellow students and former teachers.

As a teacher, as a parent, I feel that we need bigger, better, badder ways to talk to our kids about substance abuse.

We can’t keep allowing funerals for 17 year olds to be the final lesson on this subject.

It’s the end of the world!

21 Dec

IMG_2577At least for me, that is.

See my little boy turned 1 this afternoon. He turned 1 at exactly 12:21 on December 21. I think that’s truly cool!!!

This is him not caring about the fact that we were buying him a birthday cake.

Moving on – one from the archives

9 Oct

I began my teaching career in the fall on 1997.

I remember the thrill of getting that first teaching job like it was yesterday. I was young and wanted nothing more than to prove myself.

I worked hard. I worked/lived in the middle of nowhere. I had no access to teaching ressources so I made my own. I “worked” 6 days a week. I gave myself Friday night and Sunday morning off. Saturdays were given to marking and Sunday nights to planning lessons.

It was during my second year of teaching that “Columbine” happened. In our province, we had a copy-cat attack the very next year.

These events made me question my very choice of profession.

Through a series of very fortunate events…I was offered a job overseas and I lept at it.

Fast forward….fifteen years and three continents later….

This afternoon, I watched a play in Bangkok. A play put on by Yr10 students as part of their final assessment and I was moved. Obviously not in the same way that the Yr 9 and 10 audience was. There were several moments when the teenage audience reacted in ways that I found profoundly offensive. They laughed when the actors on stage talked of the planes hitting buildings. They laughed when the actors spoke of loosing friends. This was very hard hard for me to take. I wanted to yell out, but I didn’t.

I was already a fully fledged adult when 9/11 happened. Today’s audience was between the ages of 2 and 4 on that Tuesday morning. They can not possibly comprehend what the rest of us went through on that day; never mind on the days, weeks and months that followed.

Since that infamous day, I’ve seen movies and read books that portrayed the events of 9/11 but this was my first experience with a play. There is just something about live theater that is so much more personal.

I was caught off guard by the emotions that it brought up.

The reality for me is that I now have teaching colleagues who were 14 yrs old when Columbine happened and 16 years old when the World Trade Towers fell. Their teenage years were touched by a fear that I can not possibly comprehend.

Both events impacted me in ways that I have trouble articulating. I suspect that the students in that theater that day felt the same way.


My ode to the CBC

4 Apr

Some of my best childhood memories are intertwined with the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for those of you who aren’t Canadian).  I left Canada twelve years ago and I can still hum the Hockey Night in Canada theme song like it was a nursery ryhme. Because for many of us it was the music that we were put to bed to on a Saturday night!

Who doesn’t remember watching “Le Chandail” as a kid? There is not a kid who went through the French Immersion programme in Canada who hasn’t seen that!

And what about all those A Part of our Heritage vignettes? Who can forget “Burnt Toast“? Or “Signal Hill”? Or my personal favourite “Women in Medicine“?

It wasn’t until I went to University Laval in Quebec City (1997) that I truly developed an appreciation for the CBC. Immersed in a francophone environment (which was the whole point actually), I discovered CBC Radio in English. And before the days of podcast download, I would dutifully tune in on a Sunday morning to listen to Quirks and Quarks. That was my initiation into the world of CBC radio.

I don’t know who it was who first turned me onto The Vinyl Cafe, or if I stumbled upon it by accident but that show has become my favourite over the years. For those of you who know the show, I feel as if I know Dave & Marli and their kids. And even though we’ve never met, I feel like Stuart McLean is family. His voice is just one more thread in the fabric of Canadiana.

So imagine my joy when I received the following message today via Facebook after posting a comment. First, the comment. Second, the reply from Stuart.

That made my day!! My favourite story teller telling me that he loved my story!

That ranks right up there in the coolest things to happen to me in a long while!

A little belated poem for International Women’s Day

13 Mar

A weight off my shoulders

5 Oct


As you can see, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. It just goes to show how hard it is to balance being a wife, a mother, a full-time teacher and an individual with a personal life!


Funny enough, the last email I sent before beginning this post was my letter of intent to my employer in which I declared my intent not to seek a renewal of my contract. I’ve known for weeks that this was the decision I was going to take but it was still hard to send that letter. So far (yeah, I know, it’s been all of 20 minutes since my finger hit the SEND key, but I feel so much lighter and I am beginning to see the light at the end of the (very long) tunnel.


There are so many changes that will take place before my return to civilian mommydom. Namely, the birth of our second son. A three month maternity leave. A transition, albeit a rather short 10 week one, into full-time working mom of two.


This time next year, I look forward to being busy with play-dates, keeping the freezer stocked with homemade baby purees and having a more active social life.


Kids say the darnedest things: Part 2

24 Aug

The earlier post reminded me of something that happened to me in my very first year of teaching. I still chuckle when I think about it.

A girl I’ll call K was a student in my Grade 10 FSL class. Most of the students in this class were absolutely new to French and K was no exception. It’s hard to say who K resented more, me for being the French teacher or her parents for insisting that she be in French. I suspect that on a lesson by lesson basis we were mostly tied but I bet I won out over the course of the year.

Our school had a policy at the time that all late assignments automatically be deducted 10% of the final grade. So when K handed in her poster assignment a day after it was due, I did what I always did and made a note of it.

At the end of the following French class I returned the graded poster back to K and off she went to lunch.

Not 5 minutes later she storms into my now empty classroom with a gaggle of her friends (none of whom take French) trailing closely behind her. I’m sitting behind my desk and truly baffled at the scene I see before me: a very angry teenage girl who has clearly brought back up to witness what she perceives as a massive injustice on my part.

It went something like this…

K: (screaming at me while waving the aforementioned poster wildly in the air) IF YOU’VE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY THEN SAY IT TO MY FACE! DON’T WRITE IT ON MY POSTER!

Me: (sincerely baffled) K, can you please calm down. I have no earthly idea what you’re talking about.


At this point she thrusts the poster at me and I see the note I’d made when she handed in the poster a few days earlier. Suddenly, it all becomes clear.

I look up her and her friends. Each of them standing with their arms crossed, heads nodding in unison as if to say ‘Ya, you tell her K!’ The girl is clearly upset and I can now see why. And I’m really wishing at this point that for her sake she hadn’t brought all her friends in to see this because I realize that what’s about to happen next is going to make her look a little foolish.

It’s at this point that I ask, “K, remember that the poster was a day late?”

“Yeah,” she says.

“Well, in French, that’s how we say ‘late’: en retard.

It took a few seconds for it all to sink in before her face dropped and she turned on her heels and made a hasty retreat. No apologies, not a word, nothing. The only thing I heard her utter was a “shut up”  from outside the room as her friends laughed all the way down the hall.