Posted by: rocketbride | June 1, 2015

teenage angst has paid off well

We saw Montage of Heck on Friday night, a rare date night to kick off a relatively quiet weekend with all three of the kids. It’s probably just as well that the kids keep me as busy as a one-legged girl in a butt-kicking contest, because I am to this moment processing the feelings that movie dredged up.


It’s almost a cliché to note that the music of your youth will always sound better than anything else because it is welded to the intense emotions of adolescence. I try hard in these days of early middle age to look evenly at the 90’s and discard what hasn’t worn well, or what has been unfairly deified. For years after Kurt killed himself I struggled with popular culture raising up a few chosen songs as anthems, repeating them to the point of numbness and indifference. Over the years I’ve said the same thing to Mason: “I need a ten year break from Nirvana.” I needed to get out of the culture to find the fresh ears. I needed to put them away to enjoy them again, and radio didn’t want to let me, so I did the next best thing: I let my CDs collect dust. I ignored them.

I ignored the memories. How, in the beginning of the huge fame, I would hide in the bathroom when “Teen Spirit” would come on the radio and practice headbanging, holding onto the towel rack for support. Learning the drum part for “In Bloom” so that I could play it with my “band.” Little Spider and I half-assing through a workout video with “In Utero” in the background. Nic going to see the band on the “In Utero” tour, and my dad grimly warning my 15-year-old brother that he “better not come home with a t-shirt that said ‘Rape Me’.” The day Kurt was found, when my friends and I wandered around the mall, discussing why we thought he had done it. That afternoon I took a pen and neatly wrote “Kurt Cobain is in a Leonard Cohain afterworld” on a piece of exposed drywall near the payphones. Later that night I took my “boyfriend” out on my friend’s balcony and gently encouraged him to give me my first kiss. When Little Spider & I went to BC the summer I turned 18, we would put on “Bleach” whenever her father would leave us alone in the house, finding the indistinct guitars soothing so far away from home.

Nirvana was woven into the fabric of my youth, but it was just as intrinsic to the lives of the people around me. Mason & I met in our thirties, and we have never had a conversation about liking the band, we just knew it about each other. When I watched the trailer for Montage, I knew we would have to see it.



It was devastating. I think it was worse for me now than it would have been seeing all of the footage at the time of his death. I am 11 years older than he ever got to be, and all I can think of is how much he missed. There were things his life cheated him of: feeling good in his body, a healthy childhood, a chance to grow up as an artist. And then there were the things he lost when he killed himself. I was goofing around in the pool with Maggie on Saturday afternoon and I kept thinking that he never got to see Francis as big and bossy and articulate as my daughter. Just the freedom of growing out of the anxieties of ones 20’s is huge. If I had died at 27, I never would have discovered exercise and found a physical strength to match my mental strength. He never had a chance to find an adult outlet for all the physical hyperactivity of his youth.

I don’t know what was worse: the footage of 3 year old Kurt laughing and blowing kisses at the camera, or the footage of an adult Kurt holding Francis in his lap and singing a few lines of “Mahna mahna” before nodding off. As Mason said, at least they stopped the story before the death, and we didn’t have to go through all of the gore again. Seeing Krist stare hollowly at the interviewer before answering was bad enough.



On Saturday I dug out “Nevermind.” On Sunday I decided to stop driving everyone crazy and find another album, so out came “In Utero.” My brother is the only one of us who has “Incesticide,” so I’m streaming it through YouTube as I write this.

I don’t even regret the music he didn’t make. I regret the life he didn’t live. Delta blues enthusiasts will often lament periods when artists “got Jesus” and stopped making music, but those periods are also times when they got healthy and lived longer. He had so many personal issues that it’s a wonder he didn’t go sooner; the movie talks about his first suicide attempt when he was in highschool. Stardom didn’t kill him, genius didn’t kill him, and a conspiracy didn’t kill him. He was neglected and traumatized and abandoned as a child; the fact that we got 4 years of good music before the end is a miracle.

Today I listened to the opening chords of “Dive” and had what St. Jack refers to as a “musical madeleine“: I was instantly transported back to Christmas of 1992. It’s been over 20 years. It’s still too soon.

Frances, Courtney & film-maker Brett Morgen


Use just once and destroy
Invasion of our piracy
Afterbirth of a nation
Starve without your skeleton key

I love you for what I am not
I do not want what I have got
A blanket acne’ed with ciggarette burns
Speak at once while taking turns

What is wrong with me [x3]

Nothing to do with what you think
If you ever think at all
Bi-polar opposites attract
All of a sudden my water broke

I love you for what I am not
I do not want what I have got
A blanket acne’ed with ciggarette burns
Second-rate third degree burns

What is wrong with me [x2]
What do I think of me?

Hate, hate your enemies
Save, save your friends
Find, find your place
Speak, speak the truth

What is wrong with me [x3]
What do I think of me ?

Use just once and destroy
Invasion of our piracy
Afterbirth of a nation
Starve without your skeleton key

What is wrong with me [x3]
What do I think of me?

– “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter”

Posted by: rocketbride | May 27, 2015

why i am back in my classroom today

Picketing yesterday was stressful. It was blindingly hot for one thing, and people had lost interest in helping to block incoming cars, which meant that I was involved in this for the first time. Mason took great pride in his timing and small talk abilities, so for three weeks I have mostly left him to it. I spent almost 2 hours in a cloud of exhaust, finding common ground with people visiting the Central Office, trying vainly to get other people to help maintain the line. I went home hot and exhausted, rehearsing the conversation I wanted to have with the captains about gently encouraging more people to help out. I know we were demoralized after the legislation was tabled on Monday, but I still thought we could dig deep.

I was at a massage – my first in two years – when the OLRB ruling came down. Then I was trying to extract Maggie from the fabulous backyard, which boasted kids, a tire swing, and watermelon. I only found out when I got home, where it settled into the sick feeling I’ve been carrying around all week. My status update was a string of profanities. When the kids were in bed, Mason & I resorted to extreme measures: splitting a bag of chips with dip while watching “Call the Midwife.” I tossed and turned most of the night and dreamed of my classroom.

The most steadying thing today was that my highschool friend Melissa reached out to me and asked for an explanation. I had to read (some of) the legal decision to get there, but I think I know why our strike was deemed illegal. It doesn’t help with the sick feeling. It doesn’t help when I look at a topsy turvy calendar with big decisions from the board promised in days rather than hours, and the impossibility of planning with this as the background. But it does confirm one thing: despite the strike and the Johnny Rotten feeling of being cheated, reading the decision makes me glad that I didn’t listen to my mother and become a lawyer instead of a teacher.

Posted by: rocketbride | May 18, 2015

Victoria would approve

Although today has been both a triumph and a disaster, I truly believe I have figured out what I am meant to do on Victoria Day. And the answer is: construct and play in a tablecloth tent.




I saw a wild turkey this morning while my radio played “Pomp & Circumstance”. I scraped the heck out of my heel while trying to run 15k in new shoes. I dropped off a box of tiny clothes to Eevee and her adults. I had wonderful pizza for lunch at our favourite cider house. But lying in a tent in the backyard has been the pinnacle of my weekend.

my life this week

my life this week

Today marked the fifth day I have been out on strike. Although I have been part of a union for 12 years, and have returned a strong strike mandate many times, I was so used to productive negotiation that I never imagined myself in this position. When we were told last week to prepare our rooms for the possibility that we wouldn’t be returning, I thought it was ridiculous, but I moved out my plants and cleaned up my desk just the same. On Friday, I told my students that I would see them on Monday. And even when we went out on Monday, I refused to make plans later than Tuesday, sure that we would be back to work in days.

I think I imagined that, when we went on strike, an alarm would go off. A klaxon would sound, sending board negotiators into a tizzy. Phones would ring off the hook with angry parents and provincial politicians would scramble to save the rest of the year.

It looks like I grossly overestimated the concern of the Board and the Province for the education of our teens. There has not been any reaching out to us. There has not been any indication that they even noticed that the high schools in the second-largest school board in Ontario are empty. So much for an educated populace. So much for a commitment to parents.

That being said, it has been a pretty special week. I have had intimate, intricate and unhurried conversations with co-workers while we walked in slow loops with our posters and flags. I have shared food and blankets and sunscreen and music and smiles with everyone, mostly people I don’t get to see very often because we all work too hard in the normal run of things. I have discussed kids, parents, running, food, philosophy, anxiety and how long we can go without taking a bathroom break. I never wear earbuds, I never knit, I stopped keeping my phone with me after the second day, and I Am Never Bored. There is simply no place for festering resentments on the line. Bullshit can’t hide behind classroom doors and pass along in furtive hallway conversations.

Today my shift protested in front of the provincial rep’s office, along with four other schools. I saw some excellent people I used to work with at Hogsboro High, as well as dozens of Bat Masterson alumni who have dispersed to pollinate other schools. There were new conversations today, new opportunities to catch up, and fresh sympathy for the wounds of the year. It was very very good, but I am very very ready for the weekend.

"did we win the protest?" - blake

Two years ago.
“did we win the protest?” – blake


I won’t get any rest, though, because this weekend is TCAF! Mason & I got an early event in yesterday, as Geoff Berner wrote a comic book (kind of by accident) and it was launched with a small concert. He did his magic thing where he gets everyone to sing along, drunk or sober, and we left feeling that, if the world were truly going to shit, at least we could sing as it tumbled.


And, of course, Mother’s Day is coming.

It’s not a big deal in my house, but it reminds me to notice all of the tiny things my kids do for which I am grateful. I went into town to pick up Sage tonight, and he has, in the short time we’ve been together, made several remarks that can only be construed as gifts:

(In reference to a past conversation when I helped talk him through some major anxieties), “Meema, how do you always know what to say?”

(After I explained why the comic book in his hand was “his comic book” even if he didn’t own it), “Meema, I like the way you think.”

I hope Maggie is taking notes.

Posted by: rocketbride | April 21, 2015

Shakespearean knock knock jokes

The other day I remembered the idea that the play Hamlet is essentially a 4-hour-long knock knock joke.

Knock knock.
BERNARDO Who’s there?
FRANCISCO Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself.
BERNARDO Long live the king!
Nay answer me stand and unfold yourself long live the king who?

guards at elsinore

I couldn’t remember where this idea came from, but when I searched it up, I found a page of some very silly Shakespearean knock knock jokes. And because knock knock jokes are a meme for the preInternet age, I decided I could do better. Thus it has happened that I have been testing poor Mason’s patience with an endless stream of jokes. Here are some of the best ones.

Jokes I wrote this morning while watching the 1999 film A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Thisbe who?
Thisbe your mom. Open the door!

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Oberon who?
It’s your neighbour…your dog is Oberon my lawn again.

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Beard who?
Let me not play Thisbe, I have a beard coming in!

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Lysander who?
Lice, Sander. Not dandruff. You have lice.

Jokes I wrote this afternoon while discussing Act 4 of King Lear:

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Vile jelly.
Vile jelly who?
Vile jelly’s out right now; can I take a message? (As my students said: “that’s dark, Miss.”)

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Albany who?
Albaneeding a lot of coffins when this play is over.

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Goneril who?
Gone or really dead, I can’t find the Fool anywhere after Act 3.

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Gloucester who?
Cordelia Gloucester family and then her life.

A random joke I wrote tonight, visiting Sage in Toronto:

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Oaf who?
Oaf or a Muse of Fire!

At this point, my family truly wishes I had a mute button.


Next up: why I think all the characters in King Lear are actually dogs! Or other animals.


Posted by: rocketbride | March 27, 2015

confessions of a hard marker

This semester I’m teaching the second of two classes in a new program. In all of my career to this point, I’ve been a public school teacher: bring me your average, your bored, your yearning to eat chips, that sort of thing. I’ve gotten really good at playing in that particular register.

But these kids are something different. They want to be there. They want to know things. And worse: they’re all hung up on the number on the test.

Why is this a bad thing? Because I differ from most secondary teachers in that I am more emotional. I am, in fact, as emotional as a typical elementary teacher, and I am only able to protect my shrivelled little heart by relying on the apathy of the teens around me. When those teens start caring about, God forbid, academics, I start vibrating like a struck tuning fork.

It’s been a difficult year, and I’ve had to go on a second antidepressant to bolster the first. I had chalked it up to writing a program while planning another 2 years down the line, but I’m starting to think that the main reason I am having trouble being happy is that my students are so very worried about their grades that I’m dying a thousand deaths along with them.

This all came to a head last night, on Meet the Creature Night. Of my 8 appointments, 2 parents mentioned that they had heard from their children that I was a “hard marker”, but they heartily approved of such a thing. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this charge, and I’ve been trying to figure out if I’m personally or professionally insulted. After all, the only ones who have accused me of this before were immature seniors who blamed their crap marks on my obdurance rather than their own poor preparation.

Today I took the opportunity to make it a part of the ongoing lesson in resiliance. I pointed out that buying into the idea of me as hard marker meant giving up a lot of control over their own achievement. I talked about growth mindset. And I shared, from my own bitter experience, that you can be a smart kid in highschool, but eventually you won’t be the smartest kid in the room, so you better learn to deal with it. I’m still be taken to school by some of the brains I encountered in that first year of university, and feeling insignificant isn’t productive, nor is it interesting.

As my grandmother always said, whatever you choose to be, be the damned best. Be the best garbageman. Be the best clothes folder. Be the best Grade 9 student. Just stop frigging whining, ok? Ok.

Posted by: rocketbride | March 12, 2015

Don’t be jelly

1. My bookshelf comes from the minister’s office, it has a shiny plaque to someone I’ve never heard of and it’s only slightly water damaged.

2. My children have the most behavior problems.

3. Lusciously limp brown hair.

4. Weight loss combined with lack of free time has resulted in a fashion forward mix of styles, color and cleanliness, with the ever-present risk of my pants falling down.

5. My plant has the most offensive odour possible.


6. I hold the record for most cheeses grilled during Breakfast Club.

Have at me, darlings!

Posted by: rocketbride | March 6, 2015

surgery day

The dental surgery was yesterday, and everyone came out of it ok. I mean, Maggie has 2 tiny scabs where they put the IV into her hands, but otherwise the only lasting reminder is the hospital bracelet hanging around the living room so that she can play “dental surgery” with her dolls.


It was a blessing that the whole thing started early, and she was in before my work day even starts. While we waited to be called we played in the fabulously appointed toy room, where there are so many distractions that Maggie couldn’t figure out where to start. I fasted in solidarity, helping her through the costume changes and the general freakiness of it all until they took her away from me. (She point-blank refused to ride in a gurney and we had taken off her socks, so they had to carry her.) Every time the dental surgeon popped by, she burst into tears and huddled into my chest. She cried when they took her, too. It was awful.

Not, however, as awful as it was when I returned to the waiting room after eating a bowl of oatmeal to discover that they had been looking for me all over. When they brought me in to the recovery waiting area, a nurse was stroking Maggie’s hair.

“I let her cry herself back to sleep when we couldn’t find you,” she said.

I did not feel better when she started crying as soon as she woke up, proving that she would have cried anyway. I did not feel better as I carried her sobbing limp body to the in-patient recovery room, where we could watch Coraline for the hundredth time this week and sip water. I did not start to feel better until the heart rate monitor was taken off her itchy toe, and the IV was out of her hand, and were able to get her a muffin to devour, and a Grandpa to chatter at. Until she stopped crying and started to lecture about Coraline.


I stayed home with her all afternoon, but I needed it more than she did. She shook off the effects of the anaesthetic before we left the hospital, so we spent the remainder of the day playing make-believe picnic and discussing which of her dolls looked the coldest.

Surgery sucked for everyone, but it’s over and it could have been far worse. It feels good to be on the other side, although I guess I’ll have to find a new motivation to convince her to brush her teeth.


Posted by: rocketbride | March 3, 2015


You know how I feel about complaining. I mean, I love complaining, but I understand that it gets tiresome. That being said, today was hell on rollerskates, and it has only just settled down.

I guess the place to start is that Maggie is having dental surgery in two days. It’s nothing serious, just a day procedure to fill the thousands and thousands of cavities she has managed to acquire in her 3 1/2 years on the planet. (You know that feeling you get with your third kid, that nothing can tip you over? Whelp.) She’s a bit too young to be patient with people sticking noisy machines in her mouth, so she needs to go under and be fixed. It’s really no big deal. Mason & I are ready to jump out of our skins with anxiety, but for no good reason.

Today we had an appointment at the hospital to see the ward. Maggie loved the lavish toy room, she saw another kid in a hospital johnny, and she was rewarded with Timbits for her fortitude. (This was why the Franklin Expedition never returned: no one promised them Timbits.) I will admit to going off my diet and eating three bits on my frantic drive back to school.

Posted by: rocketbride | December 21, 2014

the darkness and the light

Today I got lost on my 5k run and ended up doing more than 6.

Today I turned down a free hot dog after church because I wasn’t sad enough to think it was worth it.

Today I decided to take another shot at this doomed yarn ball wreath project that has been in the works for years.

Today two teenagers mistook me for staff at Bed Bath and Beyond because I was still wearing a blouse.

Today we took Maggie and Blake to the Kensington Market Festival of Light. Blake, who has been a stalwart participant in the past, complained the whole time. Maggie, at the first festival she can remember, danced and laughed. I held candles and tried to open myself to the joy of welcoming the sun.

Today I’m pretty sure I had a conversation with Molly Johnson at She Said Boom.

I am ready for the light to return.

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