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Just for fun

I’ve been thinking about mental health, wellness, and self-care lately, as we approach a full year of public health measures to combat the spread of the COVID virus.

I was out for a walk around my neighborhood and I was struck (yet again) by the profound silence all around (and I live in a pretty densely populated area of the city). But then suddenly as I turned a corner onto yet another side street, the sound of birds filled the air. You know the ones…those little brown sparrows who cluster together in bushes and shrubs, and in this one particular spot on an otherwise quiet street, they were partying! The little birds were almost invisible but there must have been at least 50 of them, all chirping and chatting at once.

It made me think about us humans, all confined in our respective bubbles, and how the memory of social proximity and togetherness feels very far away. I’m finding that even when watching TV shows or movies it’s kind of jarring seeing characters shaking hands with strangers, eating in crowded restaurants, jostling on the subway, etc. etc. Hard to fathom that we are closing in on a year of living, working, teaching, and learning at a distance. We’ve seen lots of media coverage about “COVID fatigue” referencing the need for vigilance in adhering to public health protocols, but let’s remember that COVID fatigue stems, in large part, from our collective deprivation of the rich social world we’ve all been missing.

The challenge of staying connected solely mediated by digital communication channels – largely email, text, and Zoom – makes it increasingly hard to feel and experience that all-important human element in all things digital. Just like those sparrows, our natural inclination is togetherness; and the impact of social deprivation is real. One small but meaningful take-away for me is to be even more mindful of the affective dimensions in emails I’m sending, as well as making time for informal “coffee talk” in Zoom meetings – those personal, relational elements that happen naturally when we encounter each-other in the ‘real world’. Also, recognizing that we all have good days and off days, and trying to be intentional in extending an extra measure of grace and understanding to one-another. Patience with others as well as with ourselves can go a long way.

We still have a long road to travel on this particular journey, but looking forward to the days – hopefully in the not-too-distant future – when we can be like winter sparrows, chatting and chirping with joy! In the meantime, I thought I’d share this graphic from Bell Let’s Talk Day which captures some great reminders of self-care and wellness tips and strategies – my goal is at least three things from this list every day:

Let’s all make a point of taking time to look after ourselves these days. We’re running a marathon!

Where to even begin? These last months have been beyond imagining, and it’s hard to process all that is happening and continues to unfold. I think it’s going to take quite some time to truly make sense of the events of the past year, but reflecting back on 2020, and on this day of the Winter Solstice, a few words come immediately to my mind:

Optimism: That despite the challenges ahead, there is resilience and a wellspring of determination to support economic and social development and recovery, particularly among communities and sectors hardest-hit by the global pandemic.

Longing: To hold hands and be together with friends, family and loved ones. There is long list of hugs to be given.

Anguish and Resolve: At the differential and increasing disparities here in Canada and around the world. To make a difference by giving, working, witnessing, naming and disrupting injustice and inequality.

Hope: That with the arrival of the first shipments and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, we have turned an important corner. That the lessons we’ve learned through this pandemic will result in meaningful, lasting change and growth in building a better future.

Gratitude: To be safe, to be well, to love, and be loved.

The words to one of my favourite holiday songs, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, have never felt more apt. Especially the line “someday soon we all will be together” – we’ve been waiting a long time for that. This song has been recorded by numerous artists, but I think Ella Fitzgerald’s version is the best:

“Someday soon we all will be together

If the fates allow.

Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow,

So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”

However you celebrate, here’s to a peaceful, restful and joyful holiday season and a Happy New Year filled with love, good health, positive change, hope, and joy.

Live More Intentionally

The turning of the calendar represents an opportunity for change. Who can resist a clean slate and a fresh start? This year I am determined to:

  1. Listen more, and do so more carefully
  2. Practice yoga every day – even a single pose
  3. Cut my cable (kind of late on this one)
  4. Start planning an epic trip
  5. Read War and Peace
  6. Write letters by hand
  7. Give others the benefit of the doubt
  8. Leave a smaller environmental footprint
  9. See more art
  10. Find reasons to celebrate
  11. Be kind
  12. Live courageously.

The year’s end is a poignant reminder of time passing, and time so precious. We miss loved ones who are no longer living on this planet. So we try to live each day with grace, gratitude and compassion – for ourselves and others.

 

 

rain drenched peony

 

I woke up early this morning to a magnificent summer storm.

 

The incomparable sound of rolling thunder and rain; finally quenching the thirsty garden and filling puddles for small wild things.

cute baby raccoon

water droplets on leaves

Step outside and smell the very essence of summer.

 

 

A year in pictures – Happy 2016!

 

 

The turning of the calendar is a place in-between. A perspective both backwards and forwards. This year in pictures represents gratitude for what has been, and eager welcome of what is yet to come.

 

take time to enjoy small delights

take time to enjoy small delights

 

be the change

be the change

 

even when it's really bad, get your hands dirty and try to make repairs

even when it’s really bad, get your hands dirty and try to make repairs

 

appreciate the beauty that surrounds us

appreciate the beauty that surrounds us

 

focus on what really matters

focus on what really matters

 

follow new paths

follow new paths

 

don't be afraid to shine

don’t be afraid to shine

 

spread the love

spread the love

 

take time with family and friends

take time with family and friends

 

be happy

be happy

 

bake a cake

bake a cake

 

Celebrate! (Happy 2016)

Celebrate!
(Happy 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

perfect present

Lovely things

 

 

Curated just for you by educateria

 

 

1. A guide to understanding your lived experience and yourself

The newly-relmetaphysical dictionaryeased Metaphysical Dictionary by Svetlana Lilova is profound, whimsical and wise, delightfully illustrated by Graham Falk. At her recent book launch at Centennial College, the author described how, newly-arrived in Canada and never having heard spoken English, she traversed the city with a dictionary in hand. Fast-forward many years, and Lilova offers us a compass, a roadmap, a mirror and a prism through which we can distill our lived experience and inner selves in this small, elegant volume.

Order here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. A constant reminder

Inspirational sayings and quotations are always welcome, particularly expressed in everyday items. We are continuously exposed to a deluge of unsolicited and counter-productive messaging, and these are a welcome antidote.

moment is your notebook

 

“This Moment is Yours” notebook available here. It has to be in turquoise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

i can and i will

 

An heroic affirmation of determination and ability! This zippered pouch is perfect for everyday essentials. Available here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Your very own power source

Your phone is at 2% power and no outlet in sight…and you’re scheduled to join a conference call in five minutes. Enter the charging block. Until nearly every surface integrates device charging, this is what we need circa 2016. Available here.

power block

 

4. Stories to remind us we are all connected

hony-stories-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a big fan of HONY. The latest book by photographic census-taker Brandon Stanton reminds us that the singular is universal. Ordering information here.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Fall asleep under the stars

 

star map projector dome

 

 

The Star Map Projector Dome (available in your choice of southern or northern hemispheres) evokes the magic and mystery of laying on a dock at night and looking up at the sky. Not very practical in December, so this is the next best thing. Check it out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May your days be merry and bright!

mock up poster frame in hipster interior background,christamas decoration,

 

 

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Do you remember your very first day?

 

This weekend is move-in time for first year university students living in residence. When my daughter was small, I couldn’t even fathom the day when she flew from her “nest”. It all seemed so impossibly far away, and now here we are on the brink of independence – both hers and mine. Mentioning this impending event to friends and colleagues evokes a gush of memories about embarking on post-secondary education. We are instantly transported back to a transition marked by excitement, trepidation and absolute freedom. Selecting courses, finding classrooms, drinking a lot of coffee, and making lifelong friends. There was some learning there too, as I recall.

All these years later, I can’t recall the advice that my parents no doubt gave me prior to my first year at university. I felt pretty sure I had things figured out, and what I didn’t know I was keen to discover for myself. But the impetus to impart one’s hard-won wisdom is irresistable, so here are my key messages to you, my daughter, as you commence an incredible journey:

  • Be grateful. The fact that your main job in post-secondary education is to learn carries enormous privilege and obligation. People literally risk their lives to get an education. For many in our world it is out of reach. Learn as much as you can and make a positive difference.
  • Keep an open mind. You might think you’ve settled on a path, but look to the left and right as you travel – there could be other options and opportunities that you never imagined for yourself.
  • Keep an open mind about friendships too. The person sitting next to you may be far outside others you’ve encountered and known (and they might be thinking the same about you), but you might find in them an essential part to who you will become.
  • Read the course readings, even if they’re hard and boring. Not only will you learn stuff, you’ll also learn discipline. Sometimes life involves reading hard, boring stuff – the challenge is in transforming it into accessible, engaging, transformational stuff. Alchemy with your mind.
  • Be your real, true self. High school doesn’t generally encourage this, so now is the chance that every high school student has been waiting for.
  • Join clubs. OK, I admit I didn’t do this myself as an undergraduate, but I really wish I had.
  • Ask for help. We all need help, with just about everything. Ask your friends, your professors, the student services people…basically anyone. And it probably doesn’t need saying, but you can always ask your mom. Any time of the day or night.
  • Oh, and also have fun. Actually I don’t need to include that as part of my advice because you will do that anyway. You won’t be able to not do it. You are going to redefine the word fun.

 

In short: fly free, grow your mind and heart, enjoy the ride, and don’t forget to call home.

 

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Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.” – e. e. cummings

 

I’ve been thinking about how our questions define who we are today, and who we will become.

At a conference last week, I attended a session focused on questions. Not scientific questions or the questions we ask others in clinical practice – the focus was on questions that we ask ourselves. This inspired me to think about some of the big questions I should be asking.

Here are three of my top questions for 2015-16:

  1. What do I want more of in my life?
  2. How can I better contribute?
  3. Where do I need to work harder, and where can I scale it back?

 

To paraphrase Voltaire:

“Judge a person by their questions rather than by their answers”.

 

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I love old books and the booksellers who catalogue, conserve and care for them

 

The artistry of typesetters and book binders echoes the craftsmanship of their authors. A leisurely browse over the crowded shelves yields unexpected detours into areas about which I never knew that I wanted to know.

One of my favourite finds is A Handy Classical & Mythological Dictionary by A.C. Faulkner (“Author of A Handy Dictionary of Synonyms“), published in 1884: “A brief and concise explanation of the ancient mythological, biographical, historical and geographical allusions most frequently encountered in English literature.” I think it’s the word “Handy” in the title that especially delights me, offering a highly specific Google and Wikipedia circa the late 19th Century in a 4″ x 6″ volume.

 

A Handy Classical and Mythological Dictionary

 

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Today I discovered the best bookstore ever, housed in the original Lakefield Railway Station: Lakefield Station Book Shop.

The town of Lakefield once marked the end of a trunk line that used to run from Peterborough, carrying tourists to the steamships that traveled Ontario’s Kawartha Lakes. The trains are long gone and so are the steamships, but the building remembers. Along with the roughly 25,000 books lovingly curated by proprietor David Glover. These books add their own stories.

Humanity’s expanding immersion in the digital ocean makes it possible – probable? – that future generations will live in a world with no print books. It’s good to be alive in a time when most homes still require bookshelves.

 

 

 

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When the kids are away, the mice will…work

 

It’s March Break and school’s out for the week. This week I’ll be taking a workation.

 

Definition

A workation ensues when your kids are away on a trip… without you (the parent). Thus permitting you to:

  • Be incredibly efficient getting out the door in the morning (no lunches to prepare, no lost items to urgently find)
  • Work late without fear that the children will starve or eat candy for dinner in your absence
  • Dine on cereal (like being an undergrad again!) or sushi (why not treat yourself?)

 

Example

Jack and Janet went on a trip to their grandparents’ house. They tried to paint a goat-house and made a mess.  Mother and father went on a workation.

 

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pumpkins truck

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Related post

A Hallowe’en Tale for Educators

What’s not to like about putting on a costume and knocking on strangers’ doors for free candy?

Toy Bucket Blue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nine things I’ve always wanted to do and haven’t gotten around to yet

 

The first week of classes always feels like a fresh start. Just as students are wondering about what lies ahead in order to accomplish their dreams and aspirations, I am feeling inspired to consider some of my own outstanding “to-do” items. Here are some of the things on my Bucket List – not all are related to teaching, but all relate to learning, and in my mind that is as it should be.

 

1. Be inspired attending a TED Talk (in person)

Clouds blue sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Take a chance and enter a poetry contest

someplace better woodburning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Join thousands of other students and enroll in a MOOC

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4. Step outside my comfort zone and teach a MOOC

Big ladder sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Witness the drama of dining at Hell’s Kitchen

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6. Mine life’s experiences and write a novel

blue metal door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Eat perfect, delicious sushi in Tokyo, Japan

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8. Enter a whole new world at Burning Man

 

wooden beaver carving on woodpile

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Hear stories of the sea on a cargo ship across the ocean

rusty ladder rail water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our time here is precious and finite. What’s on your bucket list?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

relaxing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all need time to recharge our batteries

 

Summer is my time to pause, reflect and recharge my batteries. Long days, swimming in a cool clean lake, the smell outside after a thunderstorm, open windows. Even the email traffic slows down a notch.

Last weekend, on an early morning walk by the water, I found a red plastic bucket half full, with a few sluggish minnows and two crayfish. I am really sorry children who must have spent hours the day before catching them in your nets. I set them free.

 

Summer feels like freedom.

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