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.

Posted by: rocketbride | August 24, 2014

brothers and sisters, sisters and brothers

Last week my uncles were visiting from Seattle, which led to a confusing cluster of family parties. Luckily I had already gone to a party since I started my diet, so I knew that absolutely no one cared or even noticed if I ate appetizers. (I was certain that klaxons would blare, lights would swirl and dogs would bark if I managed to pass by an open bowl of chips without eating any…turns out that people only pay attention to the appetizers to make sure you’re not finishing the tray.) Luckily, my previous bête noire Diet Coke is essentially a freebie, so I can desperately clutch a can and seem sociable, while not going at the cheese and crackers.

This was also our chance to catch up with Baby Russell, who is now Toddler Russell, and has developed a number of delightful facial expressions. Also, he walks, so that’s fun. He’s not quite old enough to be interested in my kids, but I’m sure that by the time we cross paths next year he’ll be into whatever they do.

the kids

My estranged uncle showed up to the second party, which was interesting. We haven’t seen him since my grandmother’s death, when he got mad at everyone and cut off contact with the family. Since then I’ve heard snippets – hospital stays, medical problems, more arguments – and had to listen to my family badmouth his admittedly abrasive decisions. It’s extra sad because two of my uncles have died, leaving a normal-sized family, and the survivors need to do a better job of getting along with each other before death catches up with the rest.

all of the brothers and sister
not pictured: the grim spectre of mortality that haunts us all

Wow. That was grim, even for me.

Maybe I’m just sad because the Seattle uncles have left again, back to their wonderful city and beautiful house. I never miss them more than when they’ve just left.


The other thing we did this week, other than hang out with my nutty family and not eat chips, was take the younger two to Centre Island. This is the second time this year for Maggie, but it’s the first time for Sage since he was Maggie’s age. (As I recall, we bypassed the rides entirely and rented a side-by-side bike. Ah, the early days, when you could fake away from the amusement park in favour of shady trees and exploring pathways.)

This is probably the first time I’ve been to Centreville with two true siblings, who can go on rides together and pester for icecream in tandem and fight over control of the fire engine steering wheel. As much as I love watching Blake’s low-key interactions with Maggie, there’s something special about the light and heat of siblings close in age. We baked muffins on Wednesday, and the two of them bickered over turns and stirring and how to fill the papers, when I usually have to keep reminding Blake that we’re baking and he has to do something. And since I hardly ever have to experience it, it’s a treat rather than a drag.

the bees!

jet setter

pigs on the carousel!

The other good effect of siblingdom is that, because we had Sage to play with Maggie, we were able to watch Blake’s baseball games on Wednesday and Saturday. I’ve been avoiding the ball diamonds this year, as Maggie just can’t keep away from her BFF Grandpa, and he is occasionally needed to coach. Since the whole idea is to watch a little bit of Blake on the field, there’s no real point in going if I’m spending the game distracting her in the playground. With Sage around to play catch or just run in circles, I was free to watch Blake gloom through his at-bats.

(When did I become someone who cares about watching a baseball game? My inner 10-year-old is puking with shame.)

Posted by: rocketbride | August 24, 2014

spend a lazy saturday at our stall

What can we conclude from the fact that it has taken me a week to write up last Saturday’s shift at the Farmers Marker, one which included a surprise appearance by Amy Millan, the original Honey from the Tomb? I must be on a non-stop carnival of excitement, pushing each day to its limit in my relentless pursuit of good times. Or, I waste a lot of time somehow. I don’t know which is more likely.

It was pretty singular. In all respects, it was an ordinary morning at the market. Despite announcing it on Facebook a full day in advance, none of my friends were going to make it out. Maggie had already had her face painted and glittered. Two or even three people had bought meat. I was sucking on my customary veggie smoothie (2 points!) and thinking about jumping ship to our veggie-selling neighbour out of boredom when Mason nudged me.

“Look who it is,” he said, pointing toward a camera crew in front of Heather, the afore-mentioned veggie-selling neighbour.

“Yeah, I don’t know,” I replied, having eavesdropped on the conversation between the crew and Heather without really learning anything other than they were going to keep her business banner in the shot.

“It’s Amy.”

In front of our stall? In the gloom of the first cloudy Saturday all year? What?

But it was, and I watched surreptitiously as they did…something. Amy was wearing a bright dress and really high shoes, which made her look like an exotic bloom in our earth-toned granola market. I caught her eye once and waved, earning a confused smile before she went back to her business. This was the first time we’d met outside a concert, and context is everything. I decided not to bug her if she didn’t figure it out. I drank my smoothie too quickly, wondering if she would.

She did, of course. It was early for musicians, even if they also take care of a toddler every day. She came over to chat, asking if this is what I did when I wasn’t geeking out in audiences. I was reminded of a conversation Mason had years ago at a market with a vendor wearing a BSS shirt; when asked he said that he went to school with “some of them.” “Everyone I went to school with is either a farmer or in BSS,” he concluded. Seen in that light, it’s only natural Amy, Maggie, Jeff & I would meet again at a park, selling natural meat.

She was tired, and we only had a few minutes to talk before she went back to her thing, but when Maggie came back from her cookie run I took her over to see if Maggie would look at Amy this time. “I’ve been playing Old Perfume for her,” I said, “but she’s decided she doesn’t like Elevator Love Letter.” Then she asked if I’d heard the new song, which I hadn’t, and she chided me good-naturedly about the fact that 4 days had already passed. That’s what I’m like in the summer…I’ve been hermitted so deep since July started that I’m lucky I remember there’s an outside world.

Of course, now when I’m dressing my daughter to leave the cocoon, I can take with me the knowledge that my daughter and the daughter of my favourite singer* have the same sandals.

weekly market decoration

* Sorry you had to find out like this, Nick Cave.

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