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Let’s put some deeper education into Earth Day

Happy Litter-Picking Day!

I say this with one part sincerity and one part facetiousness.

Litter is the thing we all – especially those of us who work with kids – can easily dive into on Earth Day. It’s a nice, manageable, do-something-able topic. And don’t get me wrong, litter is a super-stupid phenomenon that drives me bonkers, so it makes me happy to see kids becoming invested in clean public spaces. I was a pretty avid litter-picker myself, as a kid.

The only trouble I have with litter-picking is when it becomes the token gesture we make on Earth Day.

My personal tradition is to talk genuinely with my students about the environment on Earth Day. (As a French teacher, I don’t get lots of chances to discuss sustainability with my kids.) I usually find that, as a group, many of them know quite a bit about the environmental challenges facing us today: over-use of electricity and gasoline, deforestation, climate change, endangered species, etc.

And yet, so often when we have a presentation or a project or a skit about the HELPING THE EARTH, it’s “Hey everyone! Don’t litter! Let’s pick up trash!”

Frankly, picking up trash is not going to save our butts if we poison our air and water.

I know we want to present something kid-friendly, uplifting, something that will make us feel motivated to act, instead of depressing us into defeat. The sad thing is, environmental problems are not really kid-friendly. Taken in large doses, they can be dispiriting – or downright dire.

Still, there are many manageable conversations we can have with kids about living more sustainably. My almost-five-year-old understands that bananas come from very far away to reach us (and that therefore we need to calm down about the occasional brown spot – no wasting!). He knows about sorting garbage, using the recycling bin and the compost bin. Kids can get the fact that cars pollute and walking doesn’t. They can relate to turning off the water while brushing teeth, and turning off the lights we’re not using. They can see how much trash is created when you buy overpackaged goods.

Opportunities to talk about environmental responsibility are everywhere, if you’re watching out for them.

Earth Day is important to me, as a reminder that I can always do better. It’s like New Year’s for my daily environmental habits: a new start.

Now that the weather is finally improving, I’m going to get my bike tuned up (for the first time since having kids – yikes) and start using it. I resolve to get to the Farmer’s Market for local food more often, and use my clothesline whenever the weather permits. And my kids will be involved in all those things, so we can learn better habits together.

And hey, I’m sure we’ll go litter-picking too, once in a while.

Happy Earth Day! What are your resolutions?

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Ladders from Dark Places

This past Thursday, October 10th, was World Mental Health Day.

The ladder. Image by Dilovely
The ladder

Please, let’s talk.

Mental health, or lack thereof, is a subject very close to my heart. Several people who share my blood have struggled with depression and similar mental illnesses. So has my husband.

In fact, my Hubbibi was suffering from depression when we first got together. It had dogged him for a long time, on-and-off. I remember him explaining it to me like this: “You know how when you’re a kid, you get that feeling of euphoric excitement when you think about Christmas? At my worst moments, I would think about my own mortality and feel like that.”

Those words chilled me completely – partly because that was the love of my life talking, and partly because I’d never heard it explained quite so accessibly.

Fortunately for me, and for all of us who love him, Sean didn’t become a permanent victim of his illness. When I asked him what held him back from that terminal edge, he admitted that he would think about his mom. He knew he couldn’t do that to her.

Although I like to think that I (or at least our blossoming relationship) was somewhat helpful in Sean’s turning a corner, it is actually his mom who deserves the real credit – for literally putting the phone in his hand to call the doctor. He got back on his feet, with the help of serotonin re-uptake inhibitors.

Obviously, the thought of Mom is not enough for everyone who considers suicide. I lost a friend to mental illness a few years ago, and although I know he loved his mom, the problems he faced – enlarged by depression – appeared insurmountable. Unsurvivable.

I don’t actually know how fine that line is, between enduring and evanescing. Personally, I have never come close enough to it to tell, although I can imagine situations in which I might. And I realize the precariousness of our intricate bodily chemicals, over which we have so little control. As a parent, it scares me to think of how easy it can be for someone – especially a young someone – to fall into dark places.

For Sean, it is well worth the hard journey back up the ladder. Not that you’re necessarily “home free” if you climb it; Sean has recently gone back on medication after several years off. But he’s learned to recognize warning signs in himself, and we talk about it openly.  We are both optimistic.

Just this past week, Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery – a wise woman who knows a LOT about dark places – posted an essay called 5 Things I Know About the Path. It’s really good. My favourite is #4:

“You always have enough strength and courage and wisdom. You always have exactly what you need for your daily trek. Sometimes you won’t believe this- because you will encounter stretches of the path that are treacherous and terrifying, but if you give up in the middle of those stretches – if you sit down permanently in them- then you have to live there. Don’t live in the dark, scary parts. Trust and keep moving.  There will be a clearing soon and you will feel the warm sun again. The One who created your path is outside of time, so your life is an epic movie that has already been scripted. Maktub – it’s already been written. You’ve already made it. So don’t plan or worry – your job is to Trust Your Path and participate fully and notice as much as you possibly can and keep on moving.”
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I have a request to make. Please, if you have ever known success against mental illness, either in yourself or in someone you love, I would really appreciate it if you could leave a comment to share your insight. What helped in turning the corner or climbing the ladder? What made the most difference?

Thank you. You never know when your hard-earned lesson might be someone else’s first rung.

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P.S. Sean, thank you for your openness and courage. I love you jillions, honey.


 

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Non-Expert Thoughts on The Avengers

This is not an actual review, since I only (finally) saw The Avengers the other night, when all the true fans are on their second viewing (at least). Everybody who cares about superheroes and comic book lore already knows it’s the best movie in its genre and that Joss Whedon is a freakin’ genius. So I’ll just contribute my half-baked, semi-educated thoughts, since it’s not a movie that can go uncommented (right, honey?).

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  • It was exciting to have a date night with my Hubbibi! Pad Thai + mango salad + adult conversation + movie popcorn + legendary superhero action = 🙂
  • Trailers for the new Spider-Man and the final Batman are pretty wicked. I didn’t think I was ready for a new Spider-Man already, but I have to admit I like the look of Andrew Garfield. Also, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman should be awesome.
  • Yay for Robin Tcherbat– uh, I mean Cobie Smulders! I was happy to see her as a SHIELD agent, although it was very weird to see her play someone other than her usual How I Met Your Mother character.
  • Agent Phil Coulson, I’m told, was in Thor and The Hulk and even a bit of Captain America… but this is the first time he was truly memorable to me. I credit good writing.
  • I was glad I had watched Captain America with Sean recently, in anticipation of The Avengers. Otherwise I would have been quite confused by his flashback montage when he arrives on the scene.
  • I was also glad I’ve seen Thor and The Hulk and most of Iron Man, so as to have some insight into those characters. Sean has trained me well. Who knows how ignorant I’d be without him?
  • I have to admit I prefer Mark Ruffalo to Ed Norton as The Hulk. Although I consider Norton to be the king of split-personality acting, I have a serious soft spot for Mark Ruffalo.
  • I was told Scarlett Johansson kicked ass as Black Widow – and boy, does she ever. CRAZY MOVES (both physical and psychological).
  • Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man takes the cake for best, most irreverent (Whedonian) lines – although there are lots for every character.
  • Thor takes the cake for best costume, with his armoured vest and luxurious cape. (I had a great chuckle at Tony’s line “Dost mother know thou wearest her drapes?”) Maybe I dig the cape so much because I learned the word “avenger” from Garfield, wayyy back when he used to tie his blanket around his neck and call himself “The Caped Avenger”. (In my mind, I pronounced it like “scavenger”, though.)

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  • Loki, the villain, has a vest-and-cape combo too, but he can’t take the cake with those helmet-horns. I guess it’s not his fault he resembles a Matt Groening character.

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  • Tom Hiddleston, who plays him, actually has a great smile. I’ll have to see Midnight in Paris again to watch him as a good guy (F. Scott Fitzgerald).

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  • I know part of the point of the story is that the “Avengers Initiative” is risky, because the heroes are so disparate and volatile – will they be able to put aside their differences and work together?? But there were a few moments where I was just like, SIGH. Stop squabbling already, boys. Wake up and smell the deadly robots.
  • Those Leviathan creatures were a stroke of brilliance from someone’s herpetophobic brain. (How do you like my new word? I had to Google it. It means afraid of reptiles.)

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  • Do you ever watch a movie with battles in it, set in a real-life city, and think, Holy crap, how will they ever even begin to repair all this damage? And then does it occur to you that huge sections of Europe and Japan suffered even worse destruction during WWII, all at the same time?? It’s incredible to me that the human race finds the resilience to rebuild in the face of ruin, over and over again.
  • Although my mind wasn’t blown by this movie, as Sean’s was, I did find it very satisfying. Relishable dialogue, more epic moments than you can shake a giant hammer at, laugh-out-loud moments, and… the good guys win! Oops, I probably wasn’t supposed to tell you that.
  • And now, the most important point: WHO’S HOTTER?

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow…

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… or Agent Hill?

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(I tried to find a good shot of Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts in her jean shorts, but wasn’t successful. Otherwise she’d definitely have a good shot.)

What about Thor…

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… versus Steve Rogers/Captain America?

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And is it Dr. Bruce Banner…

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… or Tony Stark?

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Time to weigh in, Di-hards! Thank you for playing.

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What makes mothers?

It’s interesting, the things that kindergartners say about their mothers.

I recently overheard a fragment of conversation at kindergarten snacktime, involving one of the kids I like to call “pop-up children” (teachers, you know the ones I’m talking about). This is what I heard:

“…and then she punched me! In the face! My mom!”

Wise little boy beside him, wisely contemplating his crackers: “Your mom would never do such a thing.”

In this case, wise boy is right. I’ve met the mom in question. In my school community, there is a preponderance of very attentive, highly invested moms – and parents in general. You can just tell by the quality of the snowsuits, the shoes, the lunches, and the attendance at school concerts.

But there are moms out there who do hit their kids.

With my second group of kindergartners, a different declaration reached my ears: “It has to be true, because moms don’t lie. THEY DON’T.”

Ooh. If only that were the case. I think we try hard not to, but as A.J. Jacobs illustrates in The Year of Living Biblically, parents end up lying to their children all too often, for myriad reasons. (Example: “Sorry, honey, we don’t have any more batteries for your obnoxiously smug talking ride-a-car.”) (Plus, there’s the Santa thing.)

But there do exist moms out there whose lives – with their children – are fraught with dishonesty.

A few weeks ago, I watched a mom become a good fairy. I saw her sneak into the classroom while I was teaching and put something in her daughter’s cubbyhole. Shortly thereafter, the daughter, who had been asking for weeks if she could have chocolate milk at lunch even though she wasn’t in the milk program, magically found chocolate milk in her cubby.

I couldn’t resist suggesting, “It must have been the chocolate milk fairy.” (This is a child who regularly tells her peers, “I have fairy dust on me, so I can fly – it just won’t work until I’m a little older. IT’S TRUE.”)

This girl is a little drama queen, but for once she was genuinely shocked – speechless, in fact. The look of dumbfounded joy on her face was just… the best. I wish I could have snapped a photo for her mom.

One of my tiny, elfin JKs knows more about the nuts and bolts of motherhood; she noticed that my belly was round and asked if there was a baby in there. When I said yes, she declared, “I grew in my Mummy’s uterus.”

So all this got me thinking about what makes us Moms, Mamas, Mummys, Mothers. What do we ALL have in common? It’s a harder question than I was originally thinking.

It’s not gestation or birth, because lots of moms don’t do that. It’s not even being the technical or legal mother of someone – because I know quite a few people whose “real” moms are actually their grandmothers or aunts, or someone else who mothers them (more effectively than their biological or even custodial mother).

What do moms do, then? What makes them mothers?

What’s “mothering”?

My dictionary says that to mother is “to look after kindly and protectively, sometimes excessively so”.

That seems fair. After all, if you don’t look after your child kindly and protectively, are you really a mother? If you get pregnant and give birth to someone you don’t care for properly, no offense, but I’m not sure the biology alone qualifies you.

There are lots of different ways to be a great mom. My mom is one – the mother of four. When she had us, he quit her job to take care of us full-time. In fact, she was also my school teacher from Grade 2 through Grade 8. She could find the learning in any situation. She is the kind of mom who sang to us a lot; she taught us to bake cookies; she made raisin faces on our peanut butter crackers; she trusted us to play and explore without her (from a reasonable age) as long as we were together; she drove us all over the place, to birthday parties and field trips and so many different kinds of lessons that I don’t honestly know how she kept her sanity some years. She got angry with us when anger was warranted. We never wondered whether she loved us or would protect us – we took that completely for granted. After all, she knew everything and could do anything.

I’m sure that she must have second-guessed herself often enough, as we all do. But we could never tell.

As for me, I try my best to snuggle my kid so much that he becomes addicted and seeks out snuggles for years to come. (E napped on me yesterday for the first time in ages. Priceless.)

E sleeping on Mommy

Love and Happy Mother’s Day, to all mothers and to all of us who have been mothered. Please share – what did – or does – your awesome mom do for you?

 

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Committing Your Heart: please share your wisdom

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There’s this couple I know who’s going through a rough time. I love them dearly, and more importantly, they love each other – they have for years. They are one of the best, cutest teams I know.

But right now, there’s heartbreak. One half of this couple looks forward to a future of happiness together, and the other has trouble picturing it, and is unable to use the precedent of happiness to take that leap and say, “I believe in us, and while I know there are no guarantees, I’m going to bet on our success.” The lack of certainty and synchrony is putting cracks in a practically seamless relationship.

It has made me think back over the history I share with Sean. When we got together, he had never had a truly serious, committed adult relationship. In fact, he was confident that he would never marry, never have children. (What a travesty THAT would have been!)

When we decided to be a couple, we knew it was the real deal. Neither of us would have taken the leap to change a high-quality friendship without knowing it was worth the risk. We discussed our long-term future from the start, and almost took it for granted.

Even so, we came very close to breaking up at least twice, because that was Sean’s modus operandi. He was not accustomed to long-term commitment; frankly, he was used to breaking up with girls. Staying together more than a few months was uncharted territory, so he instinctively reached for sabotage. I don’t think it was fully conscious, it was mostly knee-jerk, but it almost succeeded.

Thankfully, it didn’t. When it came right down to it, we loved each other. We didn’t want to break up – we both would have hated that. So we wanted to be together, obviously.

Right?

I guess it’s not always as simple as that.

Now I have a humble request. If you are in a committed relationship, I hope you might take a moment to think back and offer some insight in the comment section. How did you know you were ready to commit to your significant other? How long did it take you to be sure? How long had you been together? Were there specific signs? Was it sudden or gradual? Did you have fears about it that you had to overcome, and if you did, how did you manage?

Thank you in advance for any wisdom you can offer on the topic.

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The Hunger Games and the Tough Questions

Okay, folks. If you haven’t read Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, stop reading this silly old blog RIGHT NOW and go read it. I’m not kidding. Go.

If you HAVE read The Hunger Games, then you know.

I’m sure there must be people out there who didn’t like the series (and guaranteed there are people out there who will diss it without reading it, just ‘cuz it’s popular), but everyone I’ve talked to absolutely ate it up.

What a wonderful thing, to read a story that completely absorbs and transports you, that thrills you and moves you and makes you ponder all at once. It’s hard to beat the satisfaction of a truly great, well-written story. That’s what The Hunger Games trilogy is for me.

{I would like to state, for the record, that I read this series over a year ago, several months before shooting for the movie even began. Sean’s co-workers at the bookstore (where they’re pretty up on their books) recommended it to him, and he sped right through it and told me I HAD to read it. My point being, I’ve been building expectation for this movie for a long time. Since obviously there was gonna be one. Sean and I had date night, the Monday after the movie was released, so that we could see it.}

My straight-up opinion: If you loved the book(s), I really think you will love the movie.

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Unless, apparently, you are a racist and a sloppy reader, like these boneheads. (Not the ones who wrote the article – the article’s good.)

I read the special Hunger Games edition of People Magazine before seeing the movie (thanks, A & R!), and thought it boded well that:

a) the author, Suzanne Collins, co-produced the movie and co-wrote the screenplay; and

b) the cast, and especially the star, are (is?) devoted fans of the book.

But still, I was prepared for the movie to disappoint in some way. Leave out too much (as film is often obliged to do) or stray too far from the story for Hollywood’s sake. Continue reading “The Hunger Games and the Tough Questions”

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Dilovely’s Playlist: 25 Legendary Canadian Songs (x2!)

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Hey, beloved readers. Welcome to NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month)! In honour of this, and in accordance with tradition, I will be challenging myself to post something every day. (We shall see if I manage.) If you are totally sick of me by the end of November, I will have done my job. 🙂

My first post for November is inspired by CBC Radio, whose 75th anniversary is TOMORROW! Or probably today, by the time you read this. (And just happens to coincide with my own Bloggiversary.) CBC has been compiling a list of Canada’s greatest songs from each decade… and I’ve been putting off looking at it so I could create my own list without cheating. Just so you know, CBC Radio 2 will be doing a through-the-decades countdown tomorrow… and I kinda wish I could skip school just to listen to it.

So we’re looking at great Canadian songs. Hang onto your hats, folks, it’s a double whammy. (Are you excited yet??)

First up, I thought about songs that have, in my humble estimation, become part of the very fabric of Canadian culture and will be sung for centuries to come. They’re not necessarily my absolute favourites (some are), but they are populace-approved and I am confident in their staying power. I tried to keep it to 20 but THERE WERE TOO MANY! I could go on and on!

So here’s my genre-sweeping list of 25 Canadian Songs I Believe Have Achieved the Status Of Legendary and Never-To-Be-Forgotten:

  1. Diana (1957), by Paul Anka. The Justin Bieber of his time, apparently in love with his babysitter. A word to the wise: if you’re writing a romantic song to your unrequited love, saying “You’re so old” in the first line is not going to help your cause. (The fact that this song’s title is my name has nothing to do with this choice.)
  2. Magic Carpet Ride (1968), by Steppenwolf. The essence of psychedelic, at least in my mind.
  3. These Eyes (1968), by the Guess Who. Already a song for the ages, it was endearingly re-immortalized for a new generation by Canuck Michael Cera in Superbad. Come on. Who can resist this kind of sincerity?
  4. The Weight (1968), by The Band. No idea what it’s really about, but it’s fun to listen to and even funner to sing along. (Yes, I know funner isn’t a word.) Continue reading “Dilovely’s Playlist: 25 Legendary Canadian Songs (x2!)”

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