Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why I Do What I Do

I became a teacher 32 years ago.  Over the decades, I have taught all the primary grades in 3 school districts, in 9 schools and for 11 principals.   A heckuva lot of kids have passed through my classroom.

After teaching at Squamish Elementary for a dozen years, I made the decision to change schools in September.  I am ready for a new challenge.

I am not good at good-byes.  Not at all. Good-byes make me very emotional.  I tried very hard to keep a stiff upper lip this week, but that lip trembled first thing on Thursday morning.

Before the 9:00am bell rang, one of my students came into the classroom with his Dad and older sister. He had sprouted a sunflower seed all by himself and presented me with that seedling in a pot of soil.  His sister, whom I had taught 8 years ago, presented me with a card that she had made herself the night before.

The card sported a very flattering drawing of me with my reading glasses slung around my neck.

Ashleigh was a delightful six year old.  Smart, funny, caring, kind.  She is now a smart, funny, caring, kind teenager going into Grade 9.

As I looked at her drawings of us,  my eyes were drawn to the upper right hand corner of the card.  There were the words: Top Five Things You Taught Me.

As I read numbers one through four, I smiled.  But when I got to number five, I lost it.  My face crumpled, geysers of tears shot from my eyes.  I looked at Ashleigh and mouthed the words 'thank you'.  We hugged each other tightly, neither one of us wanting to let go.  We held each other for a long time.  I told her how much her card meant to me.  It touched me deeply.

Ashleigh's card summed up everything I try to do as a teacher.  I teach my students practical things, interesting things.  I make school fun.  I teach them manners and number facts and how to read.  But most importantly I teach them that they are beautiful just the way they are.

Thank you, Ashleigh.  Your card made my day.  Your card made my life!  I will look at it always and remember that little girl from long ago who grew into a beautiful young woman.  I am so honoured to know I played a small part.  

Thank you.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

'Diner En Blanc' Squamish Style

Back in 1988, Francois Pasquier, threw a private garden party in Paris.  All the guests were asked to wear white.  It was an over-crowded affair that spontaneously spilled into the Bois de Boulogne (a wooded park in Paris).  Thus, the 'Diner en Blanc' was born.  


Diner en Blanc, Paris.  2012.

Since then, a pop-up picnic is held every June in Paris.  It is held in public, but the location is undisclosed until an hour before the event takes place.  

Diner en Blanc, Montreal.  2012.

Many cities around the world now hold their own dinners.  Montreal, Toronto, Berlin, Ottawa, New York.

Diner en Blanc, Toronto.  2012.

 You can now add Squamish to that illustrious list.  

My friend Colleen and I were talking several months ago and thought it would be fun to have a 'Diner en Blanc' in our little one-horse town.

There are only a few rules.  It is mandatory that everyone wears white from head to toe.  All diners must bring their own supper, wine, table, chairs, white dishes, glasses, white linens, and cutlery.

Colleen and I scouted out a secret picnic location, sent the invitations to a small group of friends and anxiously waited for June 23rd to arrive.  

Although we did have a few concerns while we waited.  The weather in Squamish has been TERRIBLE this past month.  Cold temperatures, rain and wind have been a daily occurrence.  We faithfully monitored the weather network every day to see what kind of weather was in store for us.

How lucky were we that June 23rd dawned bright and beautiful!  All day we watched as the clouds miraculously parted to reveal the sun.  We had it made!

Joe and I spent the day getting all of our ducks in a row.  We organized our food, wine, candles, balloons, sparklers, table, linens, and chairs.  In the late afternoon we welcomed our out-of-town guests  and sat out on our sunny deck for happy hour.

At precisely 5:30pm I giddily skipped to the computer to e-mail instructions to the awaiting diners.  The exact minute I pressed 'send', clouds blackened the sky, huge drops of rain pelted the ground, trees bent over in the wind, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed, and the lights inside the house flickered.

Two minutes earlier we were enjoying drinks on our sunny deck.

Happy summer!

We quickly put 'Plan B' into motion.  Colleen phoned everyone and told them to come to our house instead.  She and her husband came early to help set up.  The picnic would now have to be an indoor affair.

Colleen got drenched running from her car to the house.

The storm blew in so quickly that Dan didn't even have time to remove his sunglasses!

We quickly pressed our out-of-town guests into service.  We moved furniture around, arranged a long row of tables and chairs from one end of the room to the other, threw on some table cloths and placed flowers and candles down the centre of the tables.  All in about 6 minutes.

Sandy tied white helium balloons onto each chair.

Irene arranged flowers.

Colleen and Dan lit the candles.

We were ready!  Our guests arrived dressed in white, loaded with bags and baskets overflowing with food, wine, dishes, and cutlery.  Everyone staked out a place at the table.  We did not let the storm dampen our spirits.  Let 'Diner en Blanc' begin!

Keepin' it classy since 1958.

(I'm not the only one who keeps it classy around here.)

We toasted a successful 'Diner En Blanc' with sparklers which promptly set off every smoke detector in the house.

No party at our house is complete without dancing.

At the end of the evening, the gang gathered for a group photo before we bid our adieus.

Again, the out-of-town overnight guests sprang into action.  By midnight our house was swept, dishes were washed, tables were removed, furniture was put back, and chairs were folded and stacked.

Thank you everyone!  What a fabulous event!  Colleen and I will keep our secret picnic spot for next year's dinner.  We already have our fingers crossed for a balmy June evening in 2013!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Three Kids And A Dad

At the tail end of 1991, I went to a women's weekend in San Francisco.  One of the questions asked was: "What characteristics should I look for in a life partner?"

The short answer?  "Look for the same qualities that would make someone a good parent".

Well, that good advice was a little late for me as I had already been married for five years at that point and was heavily pregnant with my third child.

But I sat in that auditorium with a smug look on my face as I knew I had picked a husband whose qualities made him a great dad.

Joe has set an incredible example for his children.

He is educated.  He is a good provider.  He is funny.  He is intelligent.  He has come home to his family every night of his life.  He manages our finances well.  His word is good.  He is dependable. He is fun-loving.  He is a fantastic cook.

He has driven his teenaged children to concerts in Vancouver and slept in the car while he waited for the shows to be over.  He took them trick-or-treating until they got old enough to go out on their own.

He has been their soccer coach, their catechism teacher, their school field trip chaperone.

He has jumped in the car at 2:00am and driven to Vancouver to scoop up a sick daughter from university and brought her home to recuperate.

It was his idea to take the kids to Europe (twice!) and show them the wonders of travel.

He's the guy who stayed up throughout the night booking flights for an injured daughter who had had a serious accident on the other side of world.  He was the one who made sure she got home safely.

Joe has done all of this with a smile on his face (for the most part) and love in his heart.  Our children are the magnificent people they are today due to Joe's unfailing demonstration of what it means to be a good father.

Happy Fathers Day Joe!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Jubilee Luncheon

God Save Our Gracious Queen

I got up early this morning to watch Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee flotilla on TV.  What a spectacle!  Such pageantry!  And can we please talk about the queen?  Eighty-six years old and she stood ramrod straight on a moving boat for over 3 hours.  In the rain.  I couldn't do that and I'm 30 years younger than she is.

The television announcer mentioned that there had been over 9,000 road closure permits given out to allow neighbours to host 'Jubilee Luncheons' throughout England today.  I am a big fan of the street party.

Alas it was too late to ask permission to close off Kingswood Road, but I said, "We could still have an indoor Jubilee Lunch."  Joe quickly ran to the grocery store for a few key ingredients, we made several sandwiches, and hauled out our Brown Betty.  We invited friends to join us and we were off to the races!

Is it wrong to serve French tea at an English Jubilee Luncheon?  
(Well, at least it was Earl Grey.)

Joe lovingly prepares the ubiquitous English cucumber sandwich.

Again, Joe with the loving hands.  Here he is peeling the stems of asparagus stalks before the boiling the crap outta them.

And you thought I couldn't cook!  My Auntie Isabel would be so proud of me rolling these asparagus and cream cheese sandwiches.

Thank goodness numerous relatives have given us their old teacups over the years!

Our table centrepiece: English rose 'Gertrude Jekyll' in a Stilton Cheese crock.

It takes measured skill to create a fascinator.  And to tie one's crown to one's head with dental floss.

  The Queen Mother was partial to drinking a gin and tonic every now and again.  And she lived to 101.  We drank a toast to her memory.

"To the Queen".

Sheesh...could we find a larger strainer for the tea?

Congratulations Queen Elizabeth on 60 years of service!  You are one amazing woman.