Friday, August 24, 2012

Greetings one and all! I'm back from PEI, got back Sunday night. Drove 12 hours on Sunday and got home at 5pm. Then on Monday and Tuesday I attended a conference - nothing like getting right back into the swing of things! The picture above was taken while driving Hwy 108 (Plaster Rock-Renous) in New Brunswick, well actually I did stop the car while I took the picture!

Michael is still in PEI - his son Dane is helping out with the airshow - he's a firefighter with the military and he volunteered to work the airshow - he helped install the giant "elastics" that stop the jets when they land at tiny Charlottetown airport and he'll be on hand "just in case". So Michael and Dane have been spending lots of time together while I'm toiling away here at home. The last two days have been spent sitting with my laptop on my lap putting together lesson plans and resources for BACK TO SCHOOL!

As far as school goes it looks like we should be back in the classroom on September 4th. Our provincial premier, Dalton McGuinty is bringing parliament back early from their summer break to initiate legislation that will force us to be in the classroom - the Bill is called "Putting Students First".  So contract or no contract we'll be in the classroom. I'm sort of OK with that as I'd rather be at work than on strike BUT we have a union meeting on Sept. 10th and our union is up in arms because our school board won't sign off on our agreement with the gov't. No progress there whatsoever!  So the first few weeks of school will be rather unsettled and I can only hope that everything gets resolved amicably! HAH! That's probably asking for too much!

My apologies for neglecting you recently. I look forward to getting into routine and being able to  read your updates on a regular basis. It's always hectic at this time of year and my only focus is on preparations for school.

My nephew continues to mend. I spoke to my sister for a couple of hours on Tuesday and she is feeling very strongly that Jon will be able to walk  again someday. He is having daily physio and when the nurse moves his legs apart he is able to bring them back together (with great pain). The bad news is that right now he is blind. One eye was badly damaged and cannot be repaired while the other has a detached retina. Surgery will help reattach the retina but can't be done while he is in the halo brace which he will wear for another five months. Hopefully he will regain some vision in that eye after surgery but no one knows how much. Due to his diabetes his eyesight was already becoming poor. He'll be in hospital/rehab centre for probably up to a year (or more).

And now I must get to work - I leave you with a few more photos from my trip home:

 Sometimes I just hold up the camera and shoot while I'm driving - that's why the horizon line is kinda tilted in some of the pictures - I don't aim I just shoot!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Last Week in Prince Edward Island

Why oh why does summer pass at a much faster rate than the other seasons of the year?? The million dollar question. The weather has also taken a turn for the worse - reflecting my mood??  I'm not really complaining though (yuck yuck!) as I am ready to work my way through another school year with my ever eternal optimism firmly in place and we REALLY NEED RAIN!! Though the THREAT of rain seems to dominate the day rather than the actual stuff!

So yes, I am gearing myself up for the first day of school - I just don't know for sure what day that will be...huh? (insert monumental sigh here) In spite of my best efforts I cannot control a) my teacher's union b) my school board and c) the provincial government of Ontario. I'll back up a little: I was very pleased to hear that my union had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the provincial gov't by working within the gov'ts mandate of freezing wages for two years among other things. Yay - potential strike/lockout averted!

Oops, spoke too soon. My school board has rejected the deal and has asked for conciliation which means involving a third party to work out a contract which would then be forced on the union and the school board. Confusing no?

So currently we have a couple of school boards that have agreed to work within the Memorandums of Understanding, two large unions who reject the MOUs, school boards rejecting the MOUs and the gov't who just wants everything resolved by August 31st to avoid paying out huge pay increases (old contracts roll over as of Sept. 1st) and to avoid lockouts by the school boards and strikes by the teachers' unions. In other words things are in a great BIG MESS!! 
I just want to go back to work....I want to see my students....I miss them.....

So next Saturday I'll be headed back to Ontario and will get ready for my students. Hopefully my professional development on Aug. 20th and 21st will still be a GO and hopefully on August 27th I'll be allowed into my school to ready my classroom for a new year.

I haven't mentioned the financial aspects of this yet because I'm hopeful (there's that word again) that everything will be resolved and I won't have to live on strike pay and walk the picket line. I've never had that experience in 20 years of teaching and would really like to finish off my career in the classroom, NOT on the picket line.

Stay tuned.....
 some folks digging for clams, quahaugs perhaps? (Sorry about the sideways pictures - I don't know how to change them - they are right side up in my picture files but when I upload them to the blog some of them turn sideways?????)
We spent some time the other day in the most magnificent garden - more photos of flowers to follow in another post...( just to warn you!!)
 I'm really not laying on my back in this photo.....
or this one...I'm showing off my new bracelet made of safety pins and seed beads...
 Did I tell you I was a swinger? you know!
And you thought Michael was the only playful one!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Pitchfork Power

Mark  - I dare you to find a song with the word "pitchfork" in the title!!

Me, I got the pitchfork blues.....well, not really....I just bought my very first pitchfork!!  I'm so excited!!!  You can't live next to potato fields and not own a pitchfork.  Especially when the farmer has told us to help ourselves...take as many as you want he said!  We also needed a pitchfork for Sunset Grove - the space Michael created for watching the sunset - there were a number of bumps and dips that were a bit difficult to navigate at night - even with a flashlight! I imagined wandering out there one night and breaking an ankle or a leg so we decided to even out the area a little bit. Yup - need a pitchfork!

I'm sure you're all familiar with the famous painting by Grant Wood called "American Gothic"'s iconic and wouldn't be  complete without the pitchfork!
I think a pitchfork must be mighty important to be included in such a famous painting, don't you?  It has so many uses for farm folk and country living folk in general: pitching hay (now I know why it's called "pitching"...the word "pitch" is descended from the Middle English word "pichen" which meant to THROW)!, digging up hills of potatoes and other root veggies, breaking up clods of earth, cleaning out a horse or other animal's stall, loosening up the compost pile etc etc...I'm pretty sure my mom kept one by the front door to get rid of those pesky door-to-door salesman who ignored her sign "NO SALESMEN PLEASE" posted next to our doorknocker....she meant business you know!!

 Not exactly dressed for digging potatoes, am I? But as we must photograph everything it had to do!
 And you know what? The pitchfork still worked even though I was wearing flip flops so my $50 investment was well worth it.....or maybe it was Michael's straw hat....
...which also came in handy for toting the potatoes into the house!
Alrighty, on to Sunset Grove where Michael had already been shoveling the dirt around to level things out.
 I did my best to create a "photo moment" but all the darn tree roots made the work harder than it needed to be! This area is going to be a future garden area - just flowers here I think.
Yup, Michael, you're going to have to get all the tree roots outa here before we can do much "pitching"!
Here, you try it....
Its' a little easier over here...
Who knew that this piece of farm machinery that we lounge in from time to time would also be the perfect holding spot for our tools?
 Other recent finds include this wheel rim which may be destined for the fire pit and...
a tire leaning up against its future home as a tire SWING!! Yay!

That's it for today folks!  I hope you're having an incredible summer and thank you for being patient with me and visiting me even though I can't visit you very often. My internet stick has run out of gigs unfortunately and I'm not shelling out another $113 when I have less than two weeks left here in PEI. YIKES! So I'll only be on the internet when I can visit a "hot spot" like the pub I'm in now. It's threatening rain today so that's why I'm inside. Those days have been far and few between this summer - it's only rained twice in the five weeks I've been here! It's dry as a desert here and although there have been some dark clouds today so far it hasn't rained one single drop!!

And.....Usain Bolt won the 100m!! Did you see that race??? Wow, WOW, WOW!!

Friday, August 3, 2012

How Entertaining!

Wow, do I really feel out of the loop - what a great feeling!!

It's a hot and sticky day here in Alberton, PEI, and Michael and I are using the free wifi at the local library.  The first thing I had to find out when I was finally able to get on the internet was the time of the men's 100m dash this coming Sunday (I'm rooting for Usain Bolt!). No matter that's its summer holidays and that it might be a gorgeous sunny day I'll be rooted in front of the TV rooting on Usain!
Yes, this is our island TV! We've left behind our 40" HD colour TV and we're watching our 3" x 4" black and white relic that Michael has owned since the 80's.  One channel, no Netflix. Whenever we're home it's on. We can tell by the volume and tone of the announcer's voice when something exciting is happening and then we run and squint at the screen. The vertical hold was causing a few problems one day but I've found that reception is much better in the living room with the antenna pointed southwest. Entertainment at its best!  If it weren't for the Olympics we would only be using the radio function (yes, it has a radio TOO!!) to listen to one of the local PEI radio stations - Michael especially likes the station that plays "music to set your traps to!" which is especially relevant as "setting day" for our local fishermen is next Thursday.  If I can get myself up at 5am we'll  go and watch.  Now THAT will be entertaining!

When we're not glued to the Olympic coverage we're taking in other forms of entertainment - here's a few examples:
 Our friend Julie's (centre) CD launch; she's also a server at the Albert and Crown pub. Over the summer she travels around the island with her band playing at a number of bluegrass festivals. Her band includes her mom who Julie calls her best friend. Family is #1 on the island and multi-generational get togethers (parties, drinking at the local pub, celebrations, musical groups) are commonplace. The people of PEI value their elders very much which is why many of our friends are "young people". This is very different from the way we are treated by the younger generation in Ontario....VERY different!
 Nothing beats gazing into the firepit!
Unless it's listening to Matt Minglewood, a well known Maritime musician.
A parliamentary re-enactment was quite impressive...
and getting to share an evening with the Hay Babies before they left for Europe was quite a treat!
No PEI summer would be complete without a jam sessions with Jay and Tammy at their recently purchased home in Skinners Pond.
 They also play at our local pub and it's just one big singalong with lots of folks getting up to sing at the extra mike or using Jay or Tammy's guitar to play along.
 The Alberton parade was good fun - we got to meet Miss Alberton in person when she came in to celebrate her win at the pub the night before the parade!!
One of my favorite entertainments was the STRONGMAN competition which took place during the local exhibition. During this contest the men had to lift a series of concrete balls of increasing weight up onto platforms!! Yikes! The final competition was lifting and carrying a 310 lb. field stone as far as they could. The fellow in the above picture carried the field stone for 183' which clinched the competition for him. He and the second place winner will be going to Quebec to compete in the national strongman competition!

So as you can see life is pretty entertaining around here. Even when there is nothing to do at all but sit and watch the weather!