Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Minaki 2017

My cousins, sister, uncle and spouses spent a wonderful week together in Minaki, Ontario. 

The cousins.

Despite the fact that we live 2,300 kilometres apart, we have very close and loving relationships. When it comes to this group, time and distance disappear the minute we are in each other's company.

Our week was filled with laying on docks, swimming in the river and eating.  We played games, we drank, we went for boat rides.  We read, we napped, we cooked.  We watched sunsets, practiced yoga and laughed so hard we thought brain aneurysms were in our near future. 

My aunt and uncle bought this cottage on the Winnipeg River almost 50 years ago.  You can only get to it by boat. 

The screened-in porch.

The guest cottage.

We travelled up and down the river on the 'party barge'.

A nice place to sit, read and visit.

A nice place to nap.

We spent many an hour gathered on this dock soaking up the rays.

Me 'n my sis.

Dinner for 16 people.  Every single night.

Each evening we'd trek down to the Buddha Bar with drink in hand to watch the sunset.

Minaki sunset.

We swam multiple times a day.

One day we took the boat downriver.  We pulled up onto an island for a 'shore lunch'.  Propane tanks and deep fryers were set up on the rocks.  We had ourselves a big fish fry.

Lunch in the great outdoors always tastes delicious.

A quiet moment on the river.

Another evening.  Another dinner.

Every other morning, Joe would get up at the crack of dawn and bake for the gang.  This day's delicacy was 'pain au raisin'.

Joe's pain au raisin were delicious.

Yoga on the lawn.

Can these two get any cuter?

My cousin Leslie has her own Youtube Channel called 'Just Cook It With Leslie'.  We filmed a segment for her show one morning and gathered to watch it afterwards.

Afternoon hike.

Cheers to another great day.

Shoreline garden.

Caesars were our morning libation.  Check out the time on the clock on the wall!

No one's at the Buddha Bar this early in the morning.

There is NOTHING like an outdoor shower.

One morning I saw over forty Canada geese swimming beneath the train bridge.

My bro bathing in the great outdoors.

Maggie Thatcher and Winston Churchill; guardians of the stairs.

Sister modelling my aunt's vintage bathing cap.

 "Into each life, a little rain must fall."  We experienced some doozy thunder storms.

Rainy afternoons called for Scrabble tournaments.

Waiting for bums to fill the seats.

No dinner was complete without beautiful, heartfelt toasts.

The food this week was out of this world.

Watching one final sunset.

The entire gang.

A huge thank you to Denise, Jean-Louis, Eric and Elaine for hosting our 'Minaki 2017' cousin reunion.  Thank you to everyone for travelling great distances so that we could be together as a family once more. 

It was a week I'll never forget.  

Love you all.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Freedom 59

A handmade card by my friend Rocio.

I have recently retired from a career I have loved.

My first day teaching school was September 2, 1980 and my final day was June 30, 2017.

A lot happened during those intervening 37 years.  Teaching and learning, heartache and headaches, loving and laughing.

My first class at Lord Kelvin Elementary in New Westminster, B.C.  These kindergarten students are now a whopping 42 years old!

Yesterday I hauled out two thick scrapbooks from my first years in the classroom. Oh my gosh! I was so young and so THIN!  I was only 22 years old when I began my lifelong love affair with teaching.

My Grade 3 classroom at Queen Elizabeth Elementary School in Queensborough, New Westminster.  It all looks so old fashioned now.  Those desks were made with asbestos!  1982.

Life as a teacher was much simpler in the early '80s.  Here I am taking a walk with my students down a rural road in Queensborough.  No permission slips needed, no emergency backpack to lug around, no forms filled out in triplicate.  I'd leave a note on my desk saying we'd gone out for some fresh air and would be back soon. 

My first of many love letters from Joseph Lindsey.  1982

Love letters from parents were always much appreciated.  March, 1983.

After teaching for three years in the small school district of New Westminster, I transferred to the much larger Surrey School District where I had a better chance of getting a continuing contract.

I taught kindergarten in the original one room schoolhouse a couple of blocks from the ocean in Crescent Beach.  September, 1983.

School portrait.  25 years old.  1983

This was cutting edge playground equipment in 1983!

The mail continued to pour in from 'my lover' Joseph Lindsey.  1984 

Even Joe got into the act!  We were dating at the time and he agreed to play Santa Claus at my class' Christmas party.  Grandview Heights Elementary.  1985

I invited my students and their parents to our wedding ceremony.  April 1986

My former Grade 3 students from Queensborough sent me a wedding card!  1986

No matter where I taught, my mom always came to help out in my classroom.  Love the Cheerio necklace, Margaret!  AHP Matthews Elementary.  1987

In June, 1987 I took a leave of absence from my teaching position in Surrey.  

Joe and I moved to Seattle for three years while Joe did a graduate degree at the University of Washington.  Our two daughters were born.  We moved back to Vancouver in 1990.  Joe started working at ICBC.  Our son was born.  We bought our first home and moved to Squamish in 1993.

I began teaching for the Sea-To-Sky School District in 1995.  I taught at Brackendale Elementary, Squamish Elementary and Mamquam Elementary schools.  During those 22 years I made lasting friendships with many of my colleagues and parents of my students.

A year ago, I made the decision to retire in June 2017.  After 37 years, I felt it was time to hang up the chalk brush.  I had lots of energy during the school day, but little else left over for my husband, family and friends.  Every evening found me asleep on my livingroom couch, mouth agape, at 7:00pm.  I felt ready to live a life outside of a classroom.

As my retirement date approached, I was spoiled rotten by my school district, colleagues, students and parents.  There were dinners, speeches and weekend getaways.  There were cards, messages and gifts.  It has been an incredibly humbling experience.

A card from a former student's grandmother.

I heard from a former Grade One student whom I had taught in 2003.

"Hello Mrs. Sotham, 
I just saw your post regarding that you have retired. I wanted to say thank you so much. I still think about you now being 20 years old. I wanted to let you know that out of 13 years of school you were that teacher that stuck with me, and that will always stick with me. Even at such a young age you believed in me and I absolutely love you for that. You pushed and encouraged me to be the young woman that I am today; 67 surgeries later I have finished school and I'm absolutely grateful you could be on my journey with me. Happy retirement, Nancy. I look forward to hearing from you.  
Stacy Hughes"

I bawled my eyes out after reading that note!  

 My principal said some nice things about me at the school district's retirement function.

One of the best friends I have made in Squamish and School District #48 is this gal right here.  Shuna threw me a surprise retirement party with many of my former colleagues.

 Love these ladies.

A current colleague, Cindy, had a few teachers (along with our husbands) up to her cabin at Anderson Lake for a sleepover to celebrate my retirement.

A fitting gift from Cindy.

Retired teacher friends hosted a beautiful dinner party for me in Lions Bay.

A card from one of the most respected teachers in our district.

The Mamquam Parent Advisory Council threw a 'good-bye' burger-and-beer night at a local pub for the school secretary and I, complete with wrist corsages of course!

My colleague Cindy, along with former parent Corrie, secretly collaborated with students to create a beautiful photograph that was framed and presented to me at the school's year end assembly.

I love this.

These two former students created a crown for me to wear at the year end assembly.

For years, I had a Friday afternoon dance party in my classroom.  At the year end assembly, the teachers and students threw a dance party for me.  I truly was the 'Dancing Queen' wearing this crown.  And this guy?  I taught him in kindergarten.   Over the years, he sought me out every single day to give me a hug and to tell me how much he loved and missed me.

Joe and I hosted the year end staff party.  Joe cranked out 40 pizzas for hungry staff members and their spouses.

Teachers and their shooters!

There are no other people I'd rather end my career with than these fine women.

And there are no other children I'd rather end my career with than these smart, caring and funny students.

When I came through my front door on the last day of school, Joe handed me a glass of champagne and a big bouquet of flowers while Alice Cooper belted out 'School's Out' on  the stereo.

It doesn't yet seem as if I've retired.  It actually feels quite surreal.  It feels like I'm just on my regular summer holidays.  But I'm sure things will begin to feel real after the Labour Day weekend when everyone else goes back to school and work. Then I'll feel retired.

My plans for the near future?  I want to sit and stare out the window for a while.  I want to catch up on my sleep. Teaching is an exhausting job.  After I'm rested, I want to read and hike and garden and drink cocktails on my deck and eat delicious food and see my friends and nap and travel with Joe.  

But most of all?  I want to smother that adorable grandbaby of mine with squishy hugs and sloppy kisses!  I plan to visit Boston as much as I possibly can.  (Fair warning, Molly and Jordan!)

A heartfelt thank you to the countless teachers, education assistants, principals, students and their families for making my career such a rewarding one.  

I will never forget you.