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January 17, 2015

I am 159 words into chapter two of my thesis.

Only some 10,000 more words to go before Monday morning.

Holy sh-t.

Lessons learned:

  • Do not have a sleepover the week-end you are supposed to be working on your thesis
  • Do not leave your thesis until the last minute because who knows? You might get sick and end up taking three naps/day
  • The concept “YOLO” is much more fun as a concept and not as fun in practice

SY: Are you sure I should still sleep over?

T: Ya. I’m yoloing.

SY: Tina yoloing? Unheard of!

T: Ha! I’m trying to see how well I’ll work under pressure!!!

Well, at least I stuck with my New Year’s resolution of “trying new things.”




January 1, 2015

Today was the best day of the year.


Okay, so you’ve caught me: it’s still only the first day of the year.

But my! How wonderful today has been–how relaxing today has been–how meaningful today has been!

I had such a wholesome day today up north. All of the kids were left at home, and it was just the three of us skating. A 22-year-old girl who hadn’t skated since she was 14, a 27-year-old hockey coach, and a 42-year-old who might as well be 28.

27 picked me up from a subway station. We had such a pleasant conversation that I was so surprised at how quickly we arrived in B-ton. We stopped at Timmy’s, talked some more, then slung our hockey skates over our shoulders and made our way over to a wonderful little park.

42 came soon after, and we all skated. The trauma of breaking my baby tooth on the ice in 6th grade came rushing back to me. 27 grinned at me and helped me on.

“Just like Bambi,” he said sheepishly.

I rolled my eyes and laughed. Some baby steps–or rather some baby glides— later and the muscle memory kicked in. I was getting better with each lap, but still, I was no better than the average 5-year-old on the rink today. 27 tried to teach me how to stop and how to shift quickly from skating forwards to backwards. He would hold onto my left side, instruct me to pivot my body, let go of me, then quickly skate over to my right to catch me as I would turn wildly out of control. He taught me various other moves, but alas, I was just too afraid of falling.

I can’t tell you how many times I almost fell. There were so many times when I would almost fall, then recover (in a very embarrassing waving-my-arms-around-like-crazy kind of way), and then immediately almost fall again. The first time that happened, 42 skated up to me laughing and said, “What happened there? Did you have a leg spasm??!”

I’m embarrassing, I know. 27 wouldn’t stop making fun of me.

“Are you doing a dance?”

“Yep. I totally meant to do that.”

As I reflect on the day spent with fun, caring, and loving people, I think back to what I am most grateful for. There are so many things: the wonderful conversations, the fact that 27 went out of his way to pick me up in the morning, the fact that 42 spent more than 1.5 hours driving to get me home…. There are so many things to be grateful for.

But there is one thing that sticks out in my mind more so than the others.

On the ice, I would almost fall. They would catch me every single time.

One time, I almost fell backwards when 42 skated up just in time to catch me from behind. He literally scooped me up just before I hit the ground.

I would skate, and then I would start laughing at something 27 said, and my vision would get blurry–naturally I cry when I laugh–and then I would wave my arms about, and my body would start to shake, and then I would make an ugly face (one of which 27 would mock countless number of times), and then I would semi-crash into 27’s open arms.

I never did fall today though despite the close calls. I had someone there to support me at all times.

And that’s the best part–knowing that there is someone there every time to catch you, not only when you fall but also when you almost fall. Even if it is a really ugly, embarrassing kind of fall. This is what I am most grateful for.

That was today, and I hope that it continues for the rest of 2015. I hope for more wholesome moments with wholesome people.

December 2014 - a wholesome moment is being had

December 2014 – a wholesome moment is being had

And the Countdown Begins!

November 17, 2014

Hooray for snow!

And no, I am not being sarcastic.

Yesterday marked the day of the first real snowfall for me. My cousin was curling my hair–she had slept over the night before and we were having some sleepover slumber party fun–when the snow started falling. I begged TL to let me go on a walk.

“It’s the first real snowfall! Snow is actually falling in clumps!”

She wouldn’t let me leave the seat.

Too much in the Christmas Spirit–with the snow falling outside my window and all–I had to put on How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Netflix while I waited for my “hair to set.”

Teenage girls, they just love making you over.

It wasn’t until several hours later when I was finally able to step outside to experience the first snow of the year. It was breathtaking. The first snow of the year is really one of my favourite things in the world to experience.


Because it is a reminder that CHRISTMAS is almost here! Which means Christmas music on the radio; and tree shopping with my dad; and seeing friends over brunch; and singing Christmas carols while baking gingerbread cookies; and going to very loud dinner parties with my thirty-something family members in attendance; and sitting in cafés, sipping on eggnog lattés while turning the pages of a paperback. CHRISTMAS means joy, laughter, and warmth. It means peace and comfort. It means love. It means thinking and caring about others.

And so let the countdown begin! 37 more days y’all.

@ my favourite neighbourhood café where I am such a regular that I am on a first-name basis with all of the baristas…

Me (after being there for 4 hours): Aw man, it’s not snowing anymore!

M- (my fave barista): Ha, why do you like snow?

Me: Because it’s just so magical!

A picture of Santa for good measure.

A picture of Santa for good measure.

For the Love of It

November 5, 2014

Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh is the sound I make as I crawl into my cozy bed at 4:41 p.m. It’s not a bad “wah” though but more like an exhausted “wah.”

The last few weeks have gone by in a blur. First, there was some school. You know, classes in the morning and afternoon–seeing friends, laughing, chatting, doing some group work. Then it was going to see a ton of shows–two a week for a month: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Four SeasonsWickedJulie Madly DeeplyMadama Butterfly… and a few documentaries at my favourite local cinema. Then it was a lot of going out and seeing friends. Then it was a lot of work at school because of my procrastination (and neglect of the work from prior weeks). The second last week of October was brutal, but I survived through it all.

And now, it’s the first week of November, and I’m already halfway through my placement at an elementary school. Look at me, I’m a student teacher!

The other day, I met up my the bff for coffee and a documentary. She asked me what I was doing with so many bags, carrying so many things. I told her I had taught a lesson that day and that all the bags contained all of my material. I told her that I had become one of “those” teachers–the ones who always seemed to be buried under books and bags and cover all over in chalk. You see, in high school, a bunch of us kids used to poke fun at one of our teachers for constantly rolling a cart around–that cart, of course, carried her folders, her binders, her textbooks, and all of her other materials. We always thought it was so funny that we could always find her wheeling this cart up and down the hallway… but honestly? Now, I really get her.

I’m sure that whenever I get a full-time teaching gig, I’ll have to do some cart pushing too. Already, I find myself toppling over on busses because of my many bags. My social studies prof told me once that if she got up to leave somewhere and wasn’t holding a bag in each of her hands, she knew she was missing something. Now I constantly have that feeling too. Constantly.

The world of teaching that I have found myself thrown into is, to be honest, the best world that I have ever known. The kids are so marvellous; after only a few days at the elementary school, I had already found myself thinking about how much I would miss them after my placement is up.

Nine-year-olds are just so full of enthusiasm. They’re always jumping up and down and calling your name. They’re always asking you if you like their art work… if you like their costume… if you want to listen to their story… if you can repeat the question… if you can repeat the question again… if you can whistle… if you can snap your fingers… if you can… etc., etc.

I told the kids today during arts & craft that I had never heard my name called so often in a day. Miss, miss, miss! They say. Once, I even got a Missus. I turned to the boy and said, “You just called me my mom!”

Yesterday, a fellow student teacher yelled Ms. T- down the hallway to get my attention as the students were going up to their classes.

I didn’t hear her, so she yelled out “Tina!”

The kid I was walking with turned to me, gave me a mischievous grin and said, “Tina?”

I shook my head.

“I know your name now!!!!!!”

I denied that it was my name–that, in fact, my name was really just Ms. T-.

I rushed him up to class and thought that was the end of it.

Ten minutes later, three boys came up to me and said, “We know your real name!”

I laughed.

Everyday, the same five things happen: someone cries, someone gets detention, someone lost his/her pencil, someone forgot his/her agenda, and someone’s desk is moved. Someone pulls on your shirt to get your attention. Someone yells “Miss! Miss!” from across the room. Someone needs help while another someone needs you to fix something for him/her while another person is done and is constantly asking you what the next task is.

But despite the craziness of it all, I love it. I love the fact that I am not sitting on my bottom all day but am instead involved with others. I love that I am able to support and help them. I love that despite how tired I’m feeling or how stressed out I am about my thesis, that I still come to the classroom everyday and try to give the best of me to my students.

Everyday, I come home from school, and I find that I always have to spend at least 2 hours in bed before I’m ready to sit at my desk and plan for the next day’s lessons. I always find myself wondering how the other teachers do it. How do they take care of 25 nine-year-olds and then go home to take care of their own children? I truly admire that.

I wake up early every morning to catch my bus. Luckily, the school is only one bus ride away, but I’m still tired when I wake up in the morning. I’m exhausted actually, and I always say, “I just want to lie in bed today.”

But then I remember the kids, and I think about how eager I am to get to school to be with them. School is so much fun for me because of the wonderful questions the students ask, because of their natural inquisitive nature, because of their thirst for knowledge.

I’ve been planning and teaching an adventure story writing unit for the past week-and-a-half now. Today was the first day that the kids were given a chance to actually start planning their own adventure stories and writing the rough copy. I was shocked at how excited they were. I knew they would like writing their own stories… but I had no idea that they would like it that much.

Get thisstudents were actually begging to stay in for recess to work on their adventure stories.

Never in my life had I ever given up a recess to stay in to do school work. Never.

I smiled oh-so-brightly as I passed out the adventure story booklets.

And in-between lessons, when students had finished their work, they would come up to me and ask if I would give them back their adventure story booklet, so they could continue working on their stories. One girl even came up to me at the end of the day and asked if she could take hers home for homework, and when I said that we’d work on them tomorrow during class, she went away saying, “Aw.”

It’s hard for me even now to express to all of you readers the joy that I felt and the joy that I feel. As a writer, I am thrilled to be able to pass on the magic of writing to others. One boy in my class who particularly likes to get up and walk around during lessons and talk to others took to the adventure writing like no other. He had already written two pages of his rough copy while everyone else was still planning.

As a teacher, I am singing with joy that my students love to learn–that my students are finding meaning and happiness in education. It is every teacher’s dream to be able to show the true magic of learning.

On one of the first days of placement, I met a woman who volunteers at the school everyday. She is in her 60s, is a retired art teacher, and is also one of the most caring individuals I have ever met. After we chatted for some time, she suddenly leaned in very close to me and said, “You will like it a lot. It is very rewarding…. I wish you (and here she stood up and threw her arms out) a lot of satisfaction and the best of luck!”

I already knew that teaching would be rewarding, but now, I know that more than ever.

Hammer it Out!

October 19, 2014

I have been cooped up in my house since Friday evening, and I feel mildly disgusting among my piles of books, papers, and tissue papers.

Well, at least I showered today.

I am sick. I am tired. I am sleep-deprived.

But I kept telling myself all week-end to “Hammer it out!! Hammer it out!!” and by golly, I think I’ve done it! Oh, I am done! Oh, I am done! I started yesterday, and I finished today.

My crappy wonderful, shred-worthy golden, recyclable magnum opus! … Chapter one of my thesis!!

“Critical Phronesis: The Origins of Ethical Knowledge in making Ethical Decisions in the Classroom” The title doesn’t even make sense.

And to lull my cranky tiredness into gentle slumber, I shall now swaddle myself in a cocoon and “Blerg” myself to sleep with the faint sound of Tina Fey’s cackling laughter in the background and fly away to dreams of Alec Baldwin.


The Amazing Humans

October 1, 2014

The other day, I asked my friend what she thought was the essence of being human. I said to her, “Say you encountered an alien, and it asked you what a human being was. What would you say?”

The first thing she said was “Well, I think human beings are extremely intelligent beings.” I let her continue with with her train of thought.

“I don’t agree” I had said after she had finished.

You know, I’m a very optimistic person. I’m also a very happy and joyful person. I think the world is a wonderful place, and I think life can really be beautiful.

But then there are lapses of time when all of the meanness of the world gets me down. I went to see a documentary called “Black Code” last Thursday about the busiest emergency room in the United States. There was one particular scene that shook me to the core.

A social worker and doctor takes a woman to a private room. The door closes. The camera is out in the hallway, and although you can’t see what’s going on, you can hear what’s being said in the room. A man walks down the hallway. He passes the door, just as you–not he–hear the social worker tell the woman her mother has just died, and now she is sobbing. The man continues to walk down the hallway, oblivious to the fact that someone has just died, and someone else’s world has just come crashing down.

That scene really made me think of all of the moments in my life when I was walking down a hallway, or down the sidewalk, or down a grocery aisle… oblivious to the fact that someone out there was currently suffering.

And then I think about the other evils in the world. Diseases. War. So many more. And all of it consumes me until I think that all humans are evil and bad for the planet, universe, galaxy. For the animals. For nature. For each other. And then I say things like “I don’t agree” to “I think humans are extremely intelligent beings.”

But then there are moments. There are these moments when I am reminded of how great humans are. Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Frederick Banting and Charles Best, Rosa Parks, Mary Wollstonecraft, and my social studies prof who tells us that we can change the world and need to change it, and so, so, SO many more.

Instead of thinking about the number of deaths in the LA County emergency room, I try to think about the number of lives saved. I think about the doctors who are really doing good stuff.

At the ROM, in front of a fully reconstructed dinosaur skeleton, I am amazed at our minds. How? I ask myself. How do we know this stuff? 

And when I log onto the internet and know that information is just a click away, I am amazed.

And when I’m sitting at Koerner Hall, like I was tonight, listening to a violin virtuoso, playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons recomposed by Max Richter, I am floored. I am wowed. I am AMAZED. It is when I am floating in the contemplative sadness of the second movement of Summer that I acknowledge the tragedy of being human.

But it is when I am shaking my head wildly with the third movement of Summer that I am crazed and reenergized, and I think, “Holy cow! Humans are amazing.” How can someone play that? How can someone compose that? How can someone recompose that?

But if he and she can do it, and they are human, and so am I… well, that means that I can do it too.

And if someone can stand up for women’s rights and a country’s freedom, or bring joy to millions of people through music, or be compassionate and helpful to others… well, that means that I can do it too.

You just really had to be there (the 17 and 20 minute marks are my favourite–Summer, mvt. II & III; other notables: Winter at 36 minutes; ending at 39 minutes). By far, the best concert I have ever been to.

Good Old Fashioned Lover-Boy

September 27, 2014

2:55 p.m. Friday, September 26, 2014. Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, Ontario.

Man in his sixties is speaking to his friend, a woman in her fifties or sixties.

It’s nice to fall in love with people….

But over the years, I’ve stopped idealizing love….

Aging together has this quality…that is quite peculiar. It’s good to do it together… because if you were aging and your partner weren’t…. Falling apart together, you can support each other in a totally different way.

One of my faves: