Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bring on 2007

Happy New Years everyone. It is still good to be home with the family. I saw some friends in passing atchurch but I did not get to greet everyone, unfortunately. So many people so little time.

So you would think that since I am home that I would have lots of outings and coffeetime with people. Well since this is my second blog entry since the Christmas hoiday, one could guess that my Christmas holidays were not the social event of my year. It doesn't help that I have a horrid chest cough and a raspy voice. I can't really call people up and say, "Hey want to go for a coffee so that I can breathe all my sick germs on you."

In fact my most intimate moment this holidays was with my optometrist yesterday. I have not had a male gaze into my eyes for quite so long. In fact we sat nearly nose to nose and I had to answer all of his questions in my deep throaty voice. "Yes I have been thinking about contacts" "OK I will make another appointment with you at Easter time to get contacts fitted." I found a lot of humour in the situation.

Anways may all of my readers (there might be 5 now) have a blessed new years and find true intimacy and lots of adventure in 2007.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ahh Christmas

I am at home enjoying a much deserved Christmas break and life is grand. I love Christmas and other family celebrations. I am lucky to be in a family where everything is celebrated and that philosphy is being handed down to my nieces. The oldest niece celebrates everything with you. "Yeah Jen you got the top off of the jar of salsa. Hip Hip Hurray." She is the biggest cheerleader for everyone. The youngest niece finds joy in everything and spreads that joy to everyone. "Den, Chrisa mis lights." So needless to say. opening presents was a lot of fun and took a very long time.

This Christmas though was tinged with bittersweet sorrow. First, there was my cousin Wendililly who is off galavanting in Europe and having a difficult time being alone. We missed her presence alot. The strategically placed pictures of Wendy and the surprise phonecall did not ease our longing for her. Then there was my sister, who is having another difficult pregnancy. She can't keep any food down and is losing weight. Her energy is at an all time low. She had to be taken to the hospital on Christmas to get intravenous fluids given to her. It was hard for me to see my normally vibrant sister struggle to smile and laugh. Then there was my brother and sister in law, childless and waiting with hopeful expectation for a mother to choose them to adopt her baby. You could sense their enjoyment of the nieces tinged with something else. Then there were all the other private sorrows and struggles.

Truly real joy is found in the midst of heartache and pain.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


OK as I promised here are some pictures showing you the reasons why I love Trout. (I never knew it was so easy to post pictures. I will definitely be doing this more often.) UM yeah that was written before I tried. Dial up and uploading just don't mix well. Oh well I will get a few Christmas cards written - multitasking is where it is at.

#1 - Spawning Fish. Both in the spring and the fall, the creek just below my house has fish battling the current and predators to lay their eggs. This fall, the bottom of the creek was carpeted with fish. The creek is shallow enough that the fins stick out of the water. The locals love it. They will bring down their families, quads, nets, sticks, rocks and baseball bats to catch a load of fish to smoke. This will feed them for the winter.

#2 The Predators. I teach science so here comes my lecture on the food chain. If you have an abundant food source, you will have an abundant number of predators. This shows a healthy ecosystem. Well, not only do we have a carpet of fish in our stream, we have a family of eagles living right by the creek. At any given moment, I can look out my window at the tall tree across the creek and see an eagle or maybe two. They are bald eagles but last spring I also saw a golden eagle. It was so beautiful. My favorite Trout moment is when I was going for a walk and within two minutes I saw a bald eagle, a blue heron and a pelican fly right over my head. People pay big bucks to see this type of wild life in an isolated setting.

#3 - OK that is all the pictures I have folks but there are many more reasons why I love Trout but for legal reasons I can't put their pictures up - I hate FOIP. But all those other reasons make it so worth while to be up here. And what is better, I think they are finally coming around and realizing that I mean business and even maybe possibly respecting me for it. I haven't been sworn at personally for over a week now. Things are definitely improving. There have been no major tragedies this year in the community. Yet this peace is tenuous at best. At any moment, another straw could enter my students lives and start an avalanche of issues. I pray that the peace will hold. Not for my sake but for the sake of my students who have seen way more than they ever should and who have endured such pain. I pray that the peace will hold so that they can rebuild their self-esteem, regain hope and relearn the beauty that life offers.

Forgotten but not gone

I knoe it has been awhile and I know that I have yet to post the promised pictures and I know that I really don't have any excuses but I am going to try to make them up anyways.

Excuse #1: Dial up internet. I get so frustrated with the slowness that I only set one day aside to do all internet business. Sunday is my day to read e-mails and explore the internet and I have been busy for two weeks of Sundays.

Excuse #2: Television. It is both by bane and my joy. Yes it does while away the lonely hours in Trout but I find that I don't do anything anymore except sit on my butt and watch TV where as before I would sit on my butt and surf my excurtiatingly slow internet.

Excuse #3: New Trout Technocrats. You see before, back in the day, it just use to be me surfing the net so the dial up wasn't so bad. But now the locals are buying computers and connecting to the net. I have no idea how this fits into my excuse for not updating my blog but it is a useless piece of information.

Excuse #4: Big Brother. You see we have high speed internet at school but it is very closely regulated. A lot of sites are blocked and um "they" watch what you are doing. I really don't want the powers that be knowing I blog because often I talk about them.

Excuse #5: Family Reunions. Two Sunday's ago I was in Saskatchewan celebrating my Grandmother's 90th birthday with the rest of my family. It was worth missing my blog for because in celebrating her we also celebrated God's faithfulness. He has been faithful to her and to her family. I hope that faith is a legacy that will continue on for many generations in our family.

Excuse #6: Those damn Liberals. Last weekend I let my geekiness show and watched the Liberal Leadership Convention all weekend. I put up my Christmas decorations to the intrigue and politiking of the liberals. I find politics rather fascinating. Yes I am a geek.

Excuse #7: Banking. I need to go do my banking and then teach myslf how to post photos - rather exciting. I promise that those pictures are coming and that I am still alive and very well.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tune out

The other day I had to turn off the news. It wasn't because I couldn't handle yet more bad news from the middle east or another story that shows the absolute depravity of man. No it was because I couln't handle the fact that Tommy and Katie's wedding was newsworthy enough to open the news broadcast. "Finally TomKat is married. The dream wedding of the year in Rome." GAG!!! Maybe this does show our depravity - a million dollar plus wedding when there is starvation all around. Focus on annoying celebrities instead of the world's problems. AHHHH!!!

OK now that I got that out of my system - Today is a day of cleaning up computer files and backing up information. So thrilling I know. Then hopefully I can compress my computer files, put on new picture files and maybe even try to post some pictures that show the reasons that I love Trout. So stay tuned . . .

Sunday, November 12, 2006

An eventful week

Tuesday was supposed to be staff meeting. At about 2:00, when I was supposed to dismiss my students, My sixth sense picked up a kerfuffle in the hallway. I wondered out of class and into the computer lab. My sense of smell was assailed by the smell of smoke. "What is going on in here?" I asked. One of the assistants answered, "There was a fire in here. There was smoke coming from there." And she pointed to stains on the ceiling. Black stains where last year the ceiling leaked during the spring melt. As I was shaking my head in amazement at our crappy school, one of the other teachers entered the room. "We need to leave the school now!!" Well of course we do. There was smoke coming from out of our ceiling. All of those practice fire drills and we forget to talk about what you do when you actually see one. The answer: Pull the fire alarm.

Anyways I digress. The school was evacuated for the rest of the afternoon until the source of the fire could be determined. Apparently one of the wires was smoldering. One of the wires that is not water protected. The wiring that got wet last spring when our ceiling leaked. So do you think they are going to actually fix the problem this time so that no more fires occur?

There was some interesting images and thoughts that came out of this mini adventure. First was the Trout Lake "fire truck". No lights, no cute firemen, no training. Just a toothless local driving the MD water truck that is also used to deliver water to homes. It is a good thing that there was only smouldering because if there had been flames, the "fireman" would have used water. Not a good thing to do with an electrical problem (or so I am told). The store owner asked us why we didn't phone the MD and ask them to bring a big fan in order to fan the flames and actually let the fire do some damage. Well if the wiring is not fixed and this happens again, we know what to do.

Well enough of that. On to other events. I have a visitor this weekend. One of the teachers from last year is here visiting. Right now she is watching NASCAR. It is so good having her around this weekend as it forces me to be more active. Friday, we went ice skating on the creek with some of our students. It was so nice to lace up my skates for the first time this season and skate outside on natural ice with the snow sparkiling all around us. Having my friend here reminds me of why I love this place. Having her here confirms that once again we are making progress in the school and that we have wonderful staff this year. A great mid fall boost of spirits.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


So I was in Slave Lake this week, hanging out with fellow teachers and learning about the developmental process of learning Math. It was very interesting. It made me want to teach kindergarten where you can start building the knowledge that they need instead of teaching Junior High where the students are so far behind. We looked at math misconceptions and I had a few "AHA" moments. Like, "AHA that is why student X has trouble with decimals" or "AHA I really suck at math. I still use my fingers to add - kind of - it's not as if I count them, I just visualize them. We spent two hours discussing counting and what could go wrong when a student is learning how to count. There is a lot of mistakes and errors that could happen in those little brains.

OK now that I have bored you all to tears with my Mathematic nerdiness, I should really move on. Last week, I told you, my faithful readers, about my difficulties in getting away. Well apparently my difficulties did not end there. I got to my hotel and automatically looked for a hair dryer. I just assume that all hotel rooms will have one available. That is a bad assumption to make. Then I went to brush my teeth. MMmm yeah I had forgotten my toothbrush and toothpaste. Good thing the hotel did have the foresight to provide their clientele with mouthwash. The next morning I woke up and tried to get dressed. I only had my sports bra and had forgotten a T-shirt. Then I tried to get my halloween costume together. Yep I forgot that too. So I decided to phone someone - you guessed it - no cell phone. Every once in awhile I have these episodes where my brain completely dissapates and goes away.

It was fun hanging out with teachers. One night we went to the pub and some teachers got a little intoxicated. One teacher gets really philisophical when drinking so we discussed religion. My friend, after discovering that I was "religious", gave up her crusade of finding someone for me in Red Earth - I already knew that that would be difficult.

Another teacher gets really needy when she is drinking so she exclaimed to the world how she loved men and tried to find me one. "Your life will change when you have a guy around. You need a man." Well anyone who knows me knows how that irks me. I tried to convince those around that in fact I was content being single. Later I thought about what I meant by that. You see, this lady needed someone to tell her that she is beautiful. Her opinion of herself depended on what a guy thought of her. My opinion of myself is dependant on what God thinks of me and He thinks I am very beautiful inside and out. I am content with that heavenly opinion.

So just a reminder to all of my readers (I think there is two of you). You are all gorgeous creations of God.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

In others words

I missed church today. My decision to miss it actually started yesterday when instead of doing schoolwork I read a novel. At 5:00, I still hadn't done anything productive so I quickly did laundry, cleaned house and went to school to prep for the days I would be away. I stayed at school until midnight. Then I came home and changed the time on my alarm clock and set my alarm. Either I slept right through the alarm or I forgot to change the time back to pm. So I slept past departure time.

That's all right though. My motives for going to church weren't exactly pure. I wanted to go and see if there were any youngish, available young men who attend church in Slave who were willing to fall in love with me and entertain me for the three days that I would be there. So maybe it is a good thing that I had my regular alone worship time here at home.

I love my Sunday mornings, especially when my basement roommate is gone because I can pull out my guitar and sing, shout and praise!! This morning was no exception. I have yet to talk to anyone, but my heart is filled with joy. Sunday mornings set the tone for the rest of my week.

So this morning I found a cool prayer that I would like to share with you all. It is written by Micheal Quoist - who I believe is Roman Catholic. This is only part of the prayer. The part in italics is the section that gets to me, for so often I am proud enough to think that my path is the only right path. This prayer is what I pray for you my readers and for my students. So often, they tick me off so much, I don't see their indespensibility or the hand of God at work in their lives.

Lord, living in your grace, let me share a little through the attention I give to others, your loving care for us. Let me, on my knees, adore in them the mystery of your created love. Let me respect your idea of them without trying to impose my own. May I allow them to follow the path that you have marked for them without trying to take them along mine. May I realize that they are indespensible to the world, and that I can't do without the least of them. May I never tire of looking at them and of enriching myself with the treasures you have entrusted to them. Help me to praise you in their journeyings, to find you in their lives. Grant that not an instant of their existence go by, not a hair of their heads fall, by me, as by you, unheeded.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Would you like to be my friend?

It was quite the week at school this week. I was the principal and had to deal with any discipline issues. Yech!! My students thought that it would be good to inform me that I was a lousy principal and that the real principal was better than me. I think that my agreement with their statements shut them up for a while. Of course the real principal is better than me.

So after the incredibly busy week I approach some of the teachers. Are we getting together this week to play a game or chill? "Oh gosh no!! We have too much work to do. We can't take a break - not even for two hours on a Saturday night."

AHHHHH!!! I can not think of school 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It is not healthy. I need social times of friendship and conversation outside of the school. So Saturday morning was a very lonely, depressed time as I missed my friends from last year. Not only was it normal to get together on the weekend but we sould get together twice during the week too. We had conversations outside of school - sure they were still about school but at least it wasn't in a classroom.

Anyways, I decided to stop the pity party and actually be productive so I too went to school to get some things done and then came home and watched TV. TV is my new best friend.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

My list of Thanksgiving

So one of my friends challenged all fellow bloggers to make a list of 5 things that they are thankful for. Thanks for the challenge Nancy and here I go with my list.

1. Being Canadian - we are so blessed here. I have food in abundance, more than enough money and freedom to express my opinions without fear of reprisal and being spied on by friends and family. I am healthy and have access to health care. I am very likely to live well and long. I can vote and I can worship freely. Truly something to be thankful for.

2. My family - close, extended and adopted. My family is so supportive of what I am doing and love me unconditionally. They too are healthy for which I am very thankful. But not only do I have great family, I have great extended family that pray for me - cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. And not only that but I have adopted family too - friends that are so close that I can call them family for they too love me even when I don't stay in touch. They too support and pray for me.

3. The Beauty of Creation - The varying colours of green in spring. The flowers and fruit in summer. The riotous colours of fall and even the white softness of winter. I love all seasons. Right now it is snowing and I am thankful. I could also mention other aspects of creation. The inticracies of the bogs, the sunsets of the prairies, the beauty of the mountains, the way the universe is exactly as it needs to be for life to occur.

4. My calling - My life has purpose and direction. I am in a job that is difficult but that I love. I feel like I am making a difference in people's lives and in a community. I look back on my life and see all of the paths that led me here - Africa, Urbana, AFL summer work, Urbana, my church, university. It is all intricitely linked. "I know the plans I have for you. Plans to give you hope and a future."

5. So let's review some aspects of each of my points so far. Freedom to worship. People who pray for me. Creation. A calling in my life. So I guess that number 5 has got to be God, for without him none of this other stuff would be. My life would be random pieces that don't fit together or would not be at all. I am so glad that he is here guiding me, comforting me and being my friend.

All gratitude and thankfulness point back to Him.

The disease

I have been keeping busy up here in Trout - lesson plans, grad committee, being principal, teacher meetings, unit plans, marking, talking, cleaning, busy, busy , busy. I am feeling a little bit stressed, However, I think that I am keeping busy so that my stress stops me from feeling the lonliness and pain around me. I fill my life with noise and music and TV so I don't have to face anything else.

So today, with the snow falling, I stopped to contemplate the week. Last weekend, one of my student's mothers overdosed on a cocktail of pills and alcohol. She was taken to the hospital (possibly air lifted out) but had an inflamed brain. On Tuesday they took her off life support and she passed away. Happy Thanksgiving.

So today I was praying for her family and my heart broke for my student. In one weekend her life was turned upside down. Her father was arrested by the cops; her mother died and now she is alone and facing Social Services, another move and extreme pain. And I wish that I was busy enough that I didn't have the time to empathize with her but rather give a rushed prayer for her comfort.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A lot of nothings

This week was a week just like any week. I did a lot of school work. I had a student swear at me. There was a student who broke a window. I had a class that went completely out of control - attitudes that could not be stopped - "What are you going to do about it they said?" "Control is the white man's way and we are native so we don't have to learn." So yeah I got the principal and they gave her similar attitudes. I don't like it when the class gets like that. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to show them love. It is like the evil in their lives gets so big and overpowering that it stops them and they can not move forward in any way. Yet these are isolated incidents - most of the week was OK - not spectacularly good or spectacularly bad.

My life is void of adventure right now. It is just school work and more school work. No fun with friends. It is dreary fall clouds or chilly windy days. No warm sunshine. I don't even have any political rants brewing in my chest that need to pop out. OK that is a little lie. It is there but it is still brewing and is not yet boiling over. So this week's entry is as bland as my life.

Hopefully next week will bring adventure my way.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


This week I actually had a chance to do somethings that were not really school related. I have been bugging community members for awhile to take me berry picking. I wanted to get me some bog cranberries. Finally, one of my students couldn't stand my annoying demands and relented and took me with her and her little brother. Apparently the berries are right in Trout Lake, in the bushes. I love walking through the bush here because the ground is covered with soft and deep moss - so typical of bog land. And in admidst the moss were low cranberry bushes with yummy tart cranberries.

It was cool hanging out with a student outside of school. I gathered a lot of interesting information about her family - they do talk about their dead dad and their mother is in Peerless with a new sibling. I also learned some interesting cultural information that emphasized once again our uphill struggle as educators. My student was talking about a girl in the community who is 4 and talks like a local six year old - a very developed vocabulary. My student exclaimed, "She is too young to talk like that." In our society we celebrate those that have advanced communication skills but here . . . Then my student mentioned, "Did you know that it is bad luck to teach your kid how to count before they are three? When ever my nephew (who is 8 months old) touches his fingers, we slap his hand because it is bad luck." I was aghast. No "One, Two, Three Jump"? No self discovery as a child. No wonder our kindergarten kids are only up to counting to four right now and my high school students are so frustrated.

I am not saying that their culture should change. Rather maybe our education system should be changed in order to accomodate their culture. I used to have all the "answers" but now after living here, I am not even sure what the questions are.

On Tuesday, we had a track and field meet in Peerless. It was cold and dreary and the students did not participate as much as I would have liked. But it was fun to see new students and teacher aquaintances. However, at that time I missed my friends from last year the most that I ever have. They should have been there. We should have had our debriefing session afterwards with a bottle of beer or other adult beverage. We should have been able to laugh together about certain situations that only we would find funny. But no instead there was a stranger running the shot put. A stranger that had no idea that our students had once practiced with rocks because our school did not own a shot put. A stranger who does not know that our students are incredibly capable especially at getting out of things that they should do - like participate.

I miss you my friends.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

All the time

God is good all the time.

This week I was acting as principal for a day. These are always chaotic days because not only are you trying to teach your class, with the help of an extra assistant, but you have to deal with all the crap that is happening in the school. The morning ran very smoothly but the afternoon had a bit of a different atmosphere. One of the junior high students had a bit of a break down. He would not participate in PE. He broke the fire exit sign. He swore at one of the teachers. He started to break our only shelf for shoes at the secondary end. He refused to go to class. He refused to come talk at the office. He refused to leave the school. When asked what he wanted, he said, "Nothing. I want to be left alone." Yet in his mood, we could not leave him alone because of the danger he could put himself in and the school in. And yet he didn't want to leave the school where he would have truly been left alone.

The whole time this was happening I felt no anger towards this young man. Only deep compassion and worry over the pain written all over his face and body language. In front of me was a young man with such deep hurt and anger, he could not articulate it or discern what it was that he needed. In front of me was a trapped young person with no place to go. And my heart ached for him. All I wanted to do was take him in my arms and tell him that it would be OK. There was a way of escape. There was someone who loved him and could heal his deep wounds. The hug though would have been inappropriate so I treated him with a gentleness that is not in me. A gentleness and wisdom that could only come from God.

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Cast of Characters

So who are the people and teachers in Trout Lake this year? Well let me introduce you to them as I know that they will figure prominently in my posts. I feel like I know them a little bit better now as we met for dinner last night at my house. A BYOB and side (as in Bring Your Own Barbecue although I can not say for sure what was in the ever present coffee mugs which often is used to disquise alcohol from the ever present kids).

First and most important is the Big G - our beloved principal who so often lets me get my own way when it comes to our students and who truly wants to put in the time to improve our school. It is so nice having someone in the office who I can go and talk to and who shows her appreciation to us. So far I have had candy and kisses placed on my desk by her in the morning. Anyone who knows the value of chocolate in the morning is OK by me.

Next to the Big G is the Newfie - the Grade One teacher who often keeps me company in long drives to and from Trout Lake. It is always interesting to hear her views on children and school and teaching but often around her I feel slightly inadequate because as I tread water trying to keep my head from the depths of complete insanity, I often do not do everything that teachers needs to do.

Next to the Newfie is the mysterious M. She is also my roommate in the basement suite below mine. We tend to keep to ourselves or else I fear that we would mutually annoy each other and I would not be able to keep my head above the depths of complete insanity.

Next to the mysterious M is the married newbie. I have to include her husband in the description - our token male - for the two have become one. I love learning about the contradictions in people (and everyone has them) when I meet them. These two have their contradictions. He is Mr. Hunter and Gatherer. He lived in Trout as a youth when his parents taught here and is a gung-ho perfectionist (he felt it necessary to reattach the wheel to our decrepit BBQ before using it). Mr. Hunter and Gatherer is married to a vegetarian. They have had interesting prior lives. She studied film in New York City. He was heavily involved in musical theater and now they are in the middle of nowhere with me. Now there to is a contradiction. They are both super nice people and I am looking forward to getting to know them after the stress of the first month of school abates.

Next to the married newbies is the single newbie who is planning on making Trout home for now and stay here over the summer and everything. I say good for her.

It is great having new people around, although I do miss my own friends. It is fun watching them learn their limits and see their enthusiasm to teach. I feel jaded compared to them. I love my students and expect things from them but my expectations are more tempered - rather than to succeed at school, I may expect them to make me smile today or be a good person. Some of them I expect to drop out or not attend. Hopefully their no holds barred (or is it no bars held) enthusism will rub off on me.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I recently caved and got satellite TV to fill in the lonely hours up here in Northern Alberta. And what was I the most excited about? The movie channels? Keeping up to date on my favorite shows? No I am most excited about having access to CBC radio. OK it will never replace CKUA in my heart. After all CKUA is the best radio station in the world and is Alberta born and bred (check it out at However, the CBC does come in a close second.

So every morning I wake up and brew my coffee to the sounds of CBC Radio 1 Vancouver. I feel connected to the world. I catch the news. I hear Canadian musicians. And today I whooped and hollered when Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe came on the air, especially since he had the Wailing Jennies and Randy Bachman providing the music for his show. After the laughter that the Vinyl Cafe induces, I took part in the Canadian wide discussion of whether or not our troops should withdraw from Afghanistan via Country Checkup with good old Rex Murphy. I stated my opinions vehmenently to my empty house and felt damn good afterwards. Why didn't I think of getting Satellite TV earlier?

Life is good right now. I am glad that I decided to come back up North although I will miss my family incredibely. So to become more connected, I decided to switch my blogging to this spot. My real emotional stuff might still go in my previous diary but we shall see. My goal in this exercise is to get my bro to put me in his most visited column.