Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dear Teacher Who Just Gave My Kid A Chance

Dear Teacher, Coach, Instructor, Leader, Responsible Adult,

You don't know me--not yet, anyway--but you just met my daughter. You know, the one with the freckles? The new kid that just moved in from God-knows-where, and came into your wonderful, well established class/team/group/lesson,  the class you've been teaching since these kids were teeny-weeny and didn't want to leave their moms. You've spent forever getting these no-longer-little humans to work together as a group. You've watched them find their passions. You rejoiced when they became friends. You've encouraged them as they fought and found their way. And last year, you jumped for joy when they triumphed and came FIRST PLACE at that big, big BIG competition. Their success was the result of years and years of your hard work.

But today, my kid came into the room, and you didn't have a clue what to do with her.

She walked in...a stranger, an unknown, an alien. The other kids stared. Who in the heck was this girl? Waltzing in, to disturb their perfectly-balanced microcosm of society?

You knew nothing about my kid's abilities, and you were worried that this unknown would turn your award-winning team into a disaster. You wondered if I was being truthful about my kid's background and training. You've had kids like her before...and they didn't last.

You, dear teacher, could have chosen one of two roads.

You could have taken the easy road--treated my teen like a stranger, doubted her abilities, erred on the side of safety. Your gut was probably telling you this. Parents tend to exaggerate, don't they? Unknowns rarely prove worthy of recognition. And God-knows-where likely had horrible teachers-- fakes masquerading as professionals. You could have completely discounted my kid, and you would have been justified in your own mind.

You knew nothing about my amazing daughter...and you could have made a difficult situation much, much worse.

But you did not take this road.

You wonderful, wonderful person. You dear, sweet, patient human being.

You didn't walk down that path at all. There were so many ways you could have hurt my girl, so many simple, minuscule things you could have done to make her already difficult life a nightmare...but you didn't.

Instead, you watched. Not too closely--not so intensely that she felt singled out. You watched just enough to see and understand what she was made of.

You understood that she would be behind in some things, but you also realized that she would be far ahead in others. You were patient when she didn't follow your way of teaching. And when she caught on, you praised her, but didn't dwell. You gave her time to assimilate new methods, and you challenged her on the things she knew. You placed her with others, and encouraged the tiny spark of friendship.

You asked questions...and you believed the answers.

The next class you challenged her a bit more. You put her closer to the spotlight, but you didn't push.

You watched and waited.

You believed in her. You wanted her to succeed. You knew that her many experiences had given her a wide, full background to pull from. You celebrated her differences.

And before you knew it...she became part of the team. Sure, it was a tentative link, a delicate and tender and thin tendril that tied her to this tight-knit group with a BIG history, but you supported that thread. You helped her to weave herself in, and then you let her go.

Dear teacher who just gave my kid a chance, you couldn't have known that she's done this not once, not twice, but six times in her short life. You couldn't have known that being the new kid every other year is beyond hard. It's scary and demeaning and physically and emotionally painful. Your watching and waiting and supporting were vital in not just your class, but in her very existence.

It may have seemed second nature to you, but believe me, it's not like that for some teachers. There are those that are quick to discount, quick to shut out, quick to discriminate. Those that would stomp all over her confidence to make a point.

You did none of these things. Nope. Not you. You gave my kid a chance. And in giving my kid a chance you proved to her that she is worth the effort. You showed her that God-knows-where is a good place to be from. And you strengthened the foundation she'll build on in the next place.

Dear teacher who just gave my kid a chance, you are a true hero.

Thank you, from the bottom of this proud mom's heart.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Chin High and Pushing Through.

The following is cut and pasted from my older blog (This Mom is Overdunne), originally posted five years ago in July of 2010. At the time my hubby was deployed, and I was feeling...well...hard done by. A lot has happened since then,(two moves, many more challenges and successes...) and we've weathered the storms to get to where we are now. 

I have many friends who are in the various stages of deployment, and I wish them all the best as they hold their chins high and push through the difficult days. 

I hope they know that they are loved. 

I hope they know that it will pass. 

And I hope they know how very, very important they are.

Originally posted HERE on July 18, 2010:

Quarrels, Quinte Cups, Conversation Killers (and Queries)

It's been a month and a half that I've been parenting on my own, thanks to the Canadian Armed Forces. The kids and I have gotten into a routine. We've pulled one of the chairs away from the table, so it doesn't seem so empty without dad (pictured, left) there. I work my shortened work week, I taxi the kids to their activities, and I try (unsuccessfully) to keep the house from looking like a complete pig stye. I feed them at least one vegetable a day. We eat out more than once a week. Pretty normal, actually.

According to my handy-dandy Family Deployment Handbook (FDH), I'm right on schedule. I'm in the 'Recovery and Stabilization Phase'. Meaning...I'm not sick? And I'm not so unstable? That the old boat ain't so tipsy? True, the almost-in-labour anxiety has calmed down, and I spend less time sitting in the middle of the bathroom floor sobbing. But I still hate it. Just because I'm not running down our country road screaming obscenities and pulling my hair out doesn't mean I don't think about it. 

The FDH states that by week 6 I should be experiencing "Feelings of increased confidence, independence, competence, freedom, pride, isolation, anxiety and depression". How can you be confident and still be depressed? How can you feel competent and independent, yet have anxiety? Living in deployment-land is full of nasty contradictions. I'm moodier than a PMSing teen deprived of sleep and coffee. One thing's for sure...if Momma's grumpy, everyone's grumpy. I try to be patient. But patience has never been my forte. So the kids are less patient with each other...and then the fights start. I have adopted the 'Mom's having a time out' technique. Rather than blow up at them for blowing up at each other, I lock myself in my bedroom and count to 1000 (10 just doesn't cut it). It works...more or less. The kids go 'Huh?' and stop quarrelling. And I get a precious moment or two by myself.

It bugs me that the little FDH book is so accurate, though. I hate to be pegged. But it's right. Independent? My husband (and parents, and siblings...)will tell you that he didn't have to go away for me to be independent. And now that he's gone, independence has hit full force. Whatever you do, DON'T suggest I can't do something. I'm like a kid with a dare. Two weekends ago the girls were at their first away horse show (One of the Quinte Cup Series)of the season. Two ponies, two girls, my son, saddles, bridles, helmets, show outfits, water, a sun shelter, chairs, food, diabetic supplies (for my youngest) and coffee, all had to be packed into boxes, trucks and trailers for a day long show in the heat. We got up at 4 a.m. to leave. And it went...okay. We got there, the girls showed, and we came home. I did it, with help from others, of course, but I did it. So there, ha ha. Independent me. 

And as to coversation killers... I read a post on Facebook this week that just about hit the nose on the head. I can't find it now (of course) and can't find the author, so forgive me if you wrote it. (And let me know if you did so I can give you credit) but it was along the lines of "14 things to NOT say to a spouse of a deployed soldier". I have great friends, and they generally know how it is with me. But I'd like to paraphrase a few of the points:

1. "I know how you feel." You don't. Heck, I don't even know how I feel most of the time. If your husband has NOT gone away for 6 months and flown in and out of Afghanistan at least once during that time, you don't know how I feel. If you haven't sat beside your diabetic daughter at 3 in the morning praying her sugars come down, you don't know how I feel. Just like I don't know how you're getting through whatever challenge you have in your life right now. My FDH tells me I feel isolated. Darn right. I'm alone in my experiences. I don't generally want to talk about it with anyone, because it kills the conversation dead. 

2. "It could be worse, he could be in..." Gee, thanks. Make me feel even worse than I already feel. Sure, he could be somewhere worse. I'm sure there are a million things that could make my current situation even more stressful. Do I want to think about them right now? NO.

3. "Well at least the kids are older (not babies)" Have you ever had a pre-pubescent daughter? Not fun. Tears at least twice a day. And my kids are old enough to understand where their dad is. They get it. It's on the news every day. Someone killed, someone bombed, funding cuts...I try to turn off the news, and thankfully hubby is not in Afghanistan all of the time, but they hear it. And they think about it. Babies don't. 

I could go on and on, but the negative vibes are making me grumpy, so I'd like to add a change of tone. I want to give you a few things I'd LIKE to hear. Music to the deployed spouse's ear, a balm for my tired soul. 

1. "Here's a gift certificate to the spa. I'll stay at your house and watch your kids." I don't have time to look after myself these days, what with summer (ie kids are home), work and taxiing. I'd love to have a moment alone. And if my kids are home, I have less to worry about than if you took them to...Wonderland or anywhere else far away and less safe. I can't relax if I think there's some danger. And with a diabetic daughter, keeping my diabetes-educated kids together, and keeping them at home means easy access to whatever food, medicine, or equipment she needs. If you offer something like this to a military spouse, though...make sure you follow through. There is nothing worse than looking at a gift certificate on the fridge for six months straight. And I can guarantee they won't ask you about it.

2. "Let me pick up the milk, pizza...(insert food item here)" I could really use help with lunch/supper now and then. I love to cook, but hate to decide WHAT to cook. We live 10 minutes away from even a corner store, so dinner = preplanning. The less I have to do, the better.

3. "You look great." "You're doing great." "You're a super mom." "You're husband is so lucky to have you." "Insert compliment here." What I'm doing is hard. My main cheerleader is gone. My kids complain. A little bit of heartfelt flattery goes a long way. 

And here's one for just me...

4. "I loved your query...please send me your full manuscript!" Sorry, had to say it. My biggest project for the week ahead is to FINALLY send off a couple of queries to agents in hope that one of them will support my book. A wholelotta anxiety over that one, I can tell you! I've spent over a year editing and coddling it since my last misguided attempts(yup, I did EVERYTHING wrong with those first queries). It's time to let go again, and see what happens. Query number one went out today. Wish me luck.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Five Reasons Women SHOULD Consider a Career in the Military

There's been a lot of discussion in the Canadian media this past week about sexual misconduct in the military environment. Our Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Tom Lawson commissioned a review of our armed forces in 2014, and the findings were reported in a document released this week here.

It's a pretty harsh report, denoting the military environment as 'hostile' and 'sexualized'.

Funny, I never felt that way in my years of uniformed service. The possibility existed, yes, and there were moments where I felt uncomfortable. But never hostile, and no more so than I'd feel in many other male-dominated environments. Or that I'd felt working at my previous job at Tim Horton's Coffee Shop. Let's just say I had my butt pinched more than once as a waitress. And NEVER as a uniform wearing military woman.

Ask any woman who's walked into a previously men-only board room, or a football pitch, and they'd likely say they felt the same way. And as women continue to work their way up into a 'mans world' this will continue to happen.

Society needs to change, and the military is just one aspect of it.


In spite of all of the issues, the armed forces are a GREAT place for women to work. Especially now. Why?

1. Equal pay for equal rank. Nowhere else are you so clearly eligible for the exact same pay for the same work, no matter what gender. If you are a three year corporal or a two year captain, you make the same pay for the same job. Pay is tightly controlled by a series of rules.

2. You get paid to keep fit. That's right. It's expected that you will exercise. It's part of your job. What other careers allow you time off of work to go to that kettle-bell class?

3. Maternity benefits. In Canada our military women get paid time off of up to a year for maternity benefits. Bonding time with baby is so important. And our armed forces allow women that time.

4. You get to learn to shoot. Or fix trucks. Or drive big machines. Or fly fast airplanes, or run hospitals or save lives. There are so many options. And you can finish your university education with no debt, a job waiting and a decent starting salary. One of my favourite things about completing my degree with the ROTP program was the fact that my books and equipment were also covered. No huge textbook bills to worry about. And I still use my degree that the military paid for. Win-win.

5. Opportunities for advancement. Yes, there are women generals, and colonels, and warrant officers. These opportunities are improving (especially now) and career progression is more and more regulated.

And the best part? This new report will only make things even better, as leadership continues to push for gender equality. For no-tolerance on sexual harassment in the workplace, and for safe, victim-centred reporting processes. Where else in the workforce can you find that?

Not at the coffee shop.