Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spring in Vancouver

I love Spring and I love Spring in Vancouver because it lasts so long here. back east it starts late and it quickly goes into summer. Here you start to see new growth as early as January and now in late March while Eastern Canada got yet another snowfall, tulips are blooming here.

Each day I wonder what is coming up new in my garden. And I am currently learning about all the different types of ornamental cherry trees and trying to make it as an official cherry blossom spotter. There are 54 types of trees in Vancouver! We even have an official cherry blossom festival!

I spent an amazing three weeks cruising from Brazil to Miami but part of me was wondering what spring flowers I might be missing. And as I was working in my garden a couple of days ago I was thinking that I kind of did miss the full array of my crocuses as they were just beginning blooming when I left in February.

But of course it is wonderful to get away to exotic places and have longer days and real warmth from the sun so no regrets but I was thrilled to see my daffodils blooming on my return. To read more about this trip and other adventures just go to my travel blog.

One of my favourite things to do here is early morning walks. I have favourite spots but sometimes I go to other places as well, but each week I generally walk Kits Beach area, Spanish Banks, and Queen Elizabeth Park. And their are also shorter walks in my immediate Douglas Park-South Cambie-Main Street neighbourhoods. And Queen Elizabeth Park is actually just a walk up the hill. Other favourites are Stanley Park, Steveston, and downtown. And I could keep going about neighbourhoods in the Lower Mainland that seem to feed my soul. You can always check out my walks in My Beautiful Vancouver blog.

I moan and groan about planting bulbs and I do plant new ones every fall because as I look at my garden in spring I think about where I need more colour etc. and I am so,delighted that I planted what I did, it inspires me for the coming fall. Some bulbs only last so long while others spread madly. This year I really love the snap of colour these red small early tulips gave my front garden.

But you have to know I am rather random in my planting, planting what I look the looks of on the package!!!

Spring is also a season of fresh starts and on our days at sea I was able to take water colour painting lessons. I had doubled a bit in water colours quite awhile ago due to a couple of artistic friends, who sadly died too young, but thanks to a great instructor that interest was reignited.

So I am going to definitely take some lessons.

This week, after five weeks away due to my trip and the two week spring break, I was back volunteering with the grade ones and tutoring my next door neighbour also in first grade. It was great to be back and see all their learning taking place. And that actually could be a subject for a whole other blog, but no one should ever underestimate the value of the work of teachers. To be a teacher is to have the awareness that you never master the art but are constantly having to learn.

This is Holly the cat greeting her friend whose reward for reading aloud three books was getting to help me garden!

Cam helped me with my pruning of my hydrangeas so new flowers will bloom!

Monday, February 2, 2015


Well it is over a month since I wrote on this blog.  Now I have been posting regularly in My Beautiful Vancouver blog but somehow this one has been neglected.  But if you would like to take some neat walks around my city please visit that blog!
There have been a few starts here but they haven't gone anywhere!  Unfortunately when I have these great thoughts I am usually not near my computer.
I thought of writing more about retirement and started a post on that subject but it  hasn't really gone anywhere.
The bottom line is I am still enjoying it.  I love the freedom.  I especially love my morning walks.  I have to admit I prefer them when the weather is better but when the weather is not I kind of get the territory to myself.  And there is beauty in all types of weather.
I still enjoy volunteering as well.  For one thing it reminds me of why I am happily retired.  I love to work with the kids but I don't miss the relentless pace!  I like how those two mornings gives a structure to my week.  I like how it helps to give me purpose.  I like being with my old staff.
This month I began another project-working with my next neighbour's son who is in first grade and amazing but struggling with reading.  And I have to say this is challenging me as well.  I don't think anyone ever truly becomes an expert at teaching, especially in the initial stages of teaching children to read.  It is humbling.
After fourteen years of teaching special education I moved to a west side school in a wealthy neighbourhood and became a learning assistance teacher.  My job was to teach kids who were struggling in the regular class.  In many ways I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  For one thing for the first time I had parents who generally more concerned with their child's education than I was.  In many cases the parents I had had were more concerned with mere survival.  Thinking too much about their child's education was a luxury.
My new students were well taken care of, they had parents who were well off and well educated.  My students had parents who read to them and they had lots of experiences but I still had children with difficulty learning to read.  Now I am happy to say they all learned to read and when I hear about them now I find out they are doctors, lawyers, engineers, and all very successful.
And I have no doubt that my current student will be every successful as well.  But it isn't easy when you have difficulty learning to read and others find it much easier.
My goal as a teacher was to have students who learned to love reading and writing but again I have had my challenges but generally as a classroom teacher I was generally able to find the hook to make this happen.
In all types of learning we tend to enjoy what comes more easily.  I read something recently that said teachers need to make students enjoy the challenge, the struggle.
Well when my knitting went totally wrong and I must have started over countless times, I can't say I was enjoying the struggle.  In fact I finally just quit for awhile.  And then I decided that I would sign up for another knitting class.  I needed support!  I also wanted to become more independent and not just run to a friend to fix what I had done wrong.  And I am knitting again but I am still making mistakes and  not totally confident yet about fixing them myself.  But I know where to go when I need help!  I have support systems.
Long ago a journalist turned educator, Frank Smith, wrote a book called Joining the Literacy Club.  He talked about how if you want to learn to sail you might join a sailing club, etc.  And he talked about how teachers need to create literacy clubs.  You need to create community.
As a teacher, I would often tell my students that one teacher wasn't enough so that they had to be teachers as well.  In some areas they had better skills than I did.  I coached basketball but my basketball skills are practically nil, but I never had difficulty finding other students who had the skills and were willing to help.
At the moment, the six year next door is teaching me about MineCraft.  He draws intricate pictures and explains as he goes and I try to sneak a little reading and writing into the mix.
With the use of iPhone and iPad apps, I am currently trying to learn some Portuguese to prepare for my trip to Brazil.  I am trying to embrace the struggle!  It is a good thing these apps have positive reinforcement built into the mix.  It is also fortunate that I took a couple of Spanish courses before I hit Portuguese.
Thinking back to that essay I started to write about retirement.  I really think that being retired should mean the opportunity to keep learning...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking back at 2014

A new year is just about here!  And so I get to think back to 2014.  And I have absolutely no complaints.  It was a great year…I almost don't have anything more to say… I loved being in Vancouver and I loved the trips I took-Florida, a Caribbean cruise, New Orleans, Christina Lake, Quebec, Ontario, Vancouver Island, Whistler, Seattle.  I got to see so much beauty, took so many wonderful walks,had good  times with wonderful friends.  I still loved living in my house and in my neighbourhood.

 Of course it is not always smooth sailing.  I have a garage still falling down, I broke my wrist, I got exasperated with the government during the teachers' strike, but in the end I just feel very lucky.  I loved teaching but I love the freedom of being retired.  And I still get to go hang out at school volunteering two mornings a week, mainly with those cute first graders.

And I have taken thousand of pictures…Because the world just is one beautiful place!  In all seasons!

So I have been reading others' great resolutions, goals for 2015 and I certainly can think of a few, but I just have these feelings of gratitude tonight.  And I look forward to new adventures in 2015.  I am quite excited that I will be going to a new continent, South America, this year.  Two left-Africa and Antarctica… So my word for 2015 is just to be open, open to possibilities, ideas, opportunities, adventures, to understanding.  

And wishing all of you the best 2015 possible!