Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Movement and mental health

November 10, 2018

Returning to the blog I had when Johanna was wee, and before she was born–now she’s in Senior Kindergarten, or rather, “jardin”, having graduated from “maternelle” last year (!). And Clayton, my son, is 3. THREE! And yet, it wasn’t so long ago. It’s two AM and in the morning (ha ha–the REAL morning) we will finally plant…their placentas. They’ve followed us from the house freezer to the apartment freezer (as we are renovating our home and have been for over a year) and tomorrow–TOMORROW!–they will be planted under oak trees by the new house. This was our original reason for keeping them…I don’t know if or how we knew we’d be planting trees steps from where they each were born (in the living room of said house), but here we are.

And that’s not what I intended to write about in the first place at all. I just finished making a “spinner” with mental health strategies. I stumbled across it when pursuing some other mental health resources for my young students. It has been a rigorous year so far, with a suicide and a death by contaminated drugs in my community. At my school, our staff has been talking about how to best support mental health in our community. I love the unavoidable reciprocity in this: when doing mental health work you’re given occasion to “check in” with yourself. And that is a treat. I mean, I guess it shouldn’t be so rare as to constitute “treat”, but it is. [Topic for another time: WHY IS THAT??].

So I made the spinner with these choices, and was thinking of using them or my Physical Health class, but also thinking about how they apply to the Drama classes I am teaching. Drama…being present…listening inwardly…finding motivation…knowing yourself…I mean they’re all connected, no? All this to say:


Touch quality – learning

October 21, 2014

I haven’t written much about my daughter, or anything at all here, of late. I went back to work half-time, changed schools, and put Johanna in daycare first part-time for the summer so I could finish my course work for the Master’s (among my work for it, the four entries below) and now full-time.

I thought I’d be so thrilled about Johanna’s first discoveries–the way she watched things, the way she grabbed onto stuff. In retrospect, it does stay with me, I do have vivid memories of it. But what’s been positively riveting, has been the diversity of touch quality she’s recently discovered. Last night she systematically popped each of the silicone popsicle wells down (as they are intended to do, when the popsicle is removed) with a spoon. It is not an easy task! You have to put pressure on this bulbous shape at just the right angle. Video here:

Then this morning she revisited the task she tried in the night, between first and second sleep. Plugging the lightning cord into the iPhone. Again, you think it’s simple, it ain’t. You can’t just ram it in there. You have to line up the cord. It can’t be aimed at cross-ways. And holding it midway on the cord won’t work–you have to hold it near the plug to have enough control and pressure. Of course, I said these things, like a fool, but she had to do her own finding. And she did. Yes, I moved her hand to the firm part of the cord a few times, but she found it her own way too. The repetition of tasks is what amazes me. As interesting for her the twentieth time as the first. It may look like repetition to you or I, but she is learning something new each time. Affirming the knowledge, testing it. Failing in new ways–getting better at each turn.

So when I saw this video of cutting a pomegranate to serve, I especially noticed the quality of touch. Slicing only the leathery surface, then dividing the fruit into perfect sections, lining up the cut with the inner segments. Then delicately removing the papery dividers. One has to know a pomegranate well to attempt such a thing. I want these tasks for Johanna. I want her to have many kinaesthetic experiences, to explore with touch and find value in doing so. To know the feeling of a thing is to know it on your skin. Not words, not even sounds (though that plays in it too), but the ability to find it in the dark, to know it inside out, to test it, to bring it to its limit.

The opening scene of “Babies” has an under-two mashing up powder. Slamming a rock into another rock. A precise movement to be sure. Modelled by older sibling. No longer monitored by parent. Safe, because it is so intricately known by the child. I wanted Johanna to have real functional tasks. I do not pound my flour, but we ground up eggshells for the garden in a molcajete. At first she was much more interested in the eggshells themselves, tasted them (they were dried out) and crushed them into the carpet. It will take more repetition to make it automatic, known in that deep way of our everyday gestures. But I don’t want those just to be opening-iPhone, turning-on-laptop, volume-control, fridge. I want them to be old. The gestures that have made sense for more than a hundred years.

Book summary

March 16, 2014

Part II of book review assignment

Connection with Heron Spirals

March 16, 2014

Part I of book review assignment

Protected: Alternate universe – my first time on Second Life

March 10, 2014

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Learning in the wild – night out sans kiddos!

March 9, 2014

Tuesday I went for dinner. I know, I know—can that really be allowed? But there are a few unusual aspects for me: it was an adult dinner.That is to say, neither of our daughters were present. We could make eye contact! We had conversation that sustained a given topic for more than 2 minutes! We thought about our past together—we have been friends for 28 or 13 years, depending whether you include the birthday party we attended at age 5 together—and we considered the near and far future (financial, and cupcakes, not necessarily in that order). It was an event that was particularly unique for me because I had been away from Johanna (9 months old now) since 4pm when my husband picked her up from me and I had a work date with Fernanda, from class. I downloaded and “played” (?) Second Life, which also had a physical experience for me.

We ate at Kenton Ramen on Bloor St and they welcome you with loud shouts. I was tempted to put my cell phone on the table, but my friend is a self-proclaimed Luddite and I knew it would lead to distraction. Herein lies the dilemma—do I document the experience, to validate it as an assignment for the course on Educational Technology, or do I sink deeper in my experience of presence, unadulterated by parental obligations? I chose the latter, and in doing so also affirmed the understanding of presence that is so central to aboriginal ways of knowing. Is the oral tradition made more important by being recorded (whether digitally, or analogue)? How do we honour those in-person meetings that are undocumented? One way is to make a gift, to bring an offering. I picked up the tab.

In the end, the world in which we live intruded upon the sacred silence of the undocumented meeting (amid the hubbub of yelling cooks and techno music). My friend finished her ramen soup, and so a Galaxy tablet was brought to the table and she was asked for her photograph. She then had to enter her name and mine, and instantly it was Facebooked, Instagrammed, and tweeted to 10.2K followers @KintonRamen #noodle #foodporn


Use PREZI. It’s bendy.

February 19, 2014
Prezi is like PowerPoint but bendy. Yes, bendy. In general, your “slideshow” template is anchored to one core image, and you zoom in and out of it to do your presentation or story. My step-sister-in-law used it frequently to present non-linear narratives when she was doing African Studies and she told me about it but I only just tried it out Tuesday morning. It’s fun! It’s much more conducive to using a circle-approach, and the overall sense is of wholeness instead of a hierarchical list/heading-and-bullets.
I made this one in literally 15 minutes, and in that time I watched a 3-minute tutorial on moving the image I imported. I encourage you to just try making one, so you have a sense of how it works, and then it’ll be easier to use it for your next project!
You could use it in the classroom for a student brainstorm, and record it in a beautiful way (elementary), or ask students to use it to present a book report (a photo to represent the theme, and use a video or song for one of the points) or research (secondary).
Don’t worry– the $13/month business package is NOT required, you can keep using the free version forever, but you must create a login. Please let me know if you make one!

Ursula Franklin speaks. We oughta listen.

January 28, 2014


Ursula Franklin’s talk “The Real World of Technology” is a visionary redefining of our understanding of technology in particular with regard to government priorities and how we think of progress. She places humans and nature in the centre, over industry, with regard to government policy. She questions whether we are really solving problems, or allowing technology to determine our priorities. She holds up several terms, and their contrasting priorities, to highlight the slight shifts necessary to realign ourselves as a principled and democratic society: holistic vs. prescriptive technology, a growth model vs. a production model, divisible vs. indivisible costs, planners vs. plan-ees, maximizing gain vs. minimizing disaster, the natural environment vs. the built environment. Holistic approaches have a greater ability to respond to changes in circumstance, which is lacking in prescriptive approaches that imagine that context is of little importance. Her final call is for us to talk to each other, and to be like earthworms, preparing the soil and being seeds of change. By discussing our common future, we can then take a principled stand against government policy that would take industry as a priority over the lives of its citizens.


It is equally important to realize that there are, in principle, two different planning strategies. There is planning in order to maximize gain, and there is planning in order to minimize disaster. I gave two examples of public planning for the latter purpose—the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry and the report by the Science Council of Canada, Canada as a Conserver Society—in order to show that planning to minimize disaster is possible, not only in theory but in practice.

                  In this context I felt it necessary to stress that the concept of “the environment” includes two separate components. One refers to the built and constructed environment, which is truly a product of technology; the other is nature, which is not. I made a plea that we get away from the egocentric and technocentric mindset that regards nature as an infrastructure to be adjusted and used like all other infrastructures. I said that if I had one wish, I would wish that the government of Canada would treat nature with the same respect with which all governments of Canada have always treated the United States [pause] as a great power, and a force to fear. When suggestions for political actions are given to Canadian government the first response is often “What will the Americans say?” I really wish we would look at nature as an independent power and when planning ask, “What would nature say?” (118-119).


My strongest impression upon first hearing Ursula speak the words of her Massey Lectures were of her presence with her audience. Each section began with a sincere thanks to those in attendance, and in the second part, a short reference to the prohibitive weather. She makes herself accessible to audiences of any level or education by using simple examples, such as asking why we have come to read such very large newspapers when it is not done elsewhere in the world, or comparing planning at the government level to the necessity of shifting her own planning paradigm when she became a mother. She also uses stories as examples, instead of isolated “evidence” in the scientific sense (i.e. examples divorced of their context). She is constantly making a human connection, rather than implying that scientific evidence is useful in a vacuum. Her approach underlines her main point of considering context, relationships, and reciprocity. When she describes the ways that technology can eliminate the possibility of reciprocity (mostly in Part II), I am reminded of the example she used of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, which breaks down the systemizing of various institutional works (prison, military, school). When I have read Foucault, I was impressed at the way his study of plans connected to how people moved physically in space: where they went and consequently, what they chose to do. Ursula’s story telling then connects this understanding of what we do with what we consider possible. She offers us a sort of reprogramming, through which we can examine the ways that our sense of possibility is limited by technology. I love the way she grounds these radical insights in physical presence, the necessity to be with one another. I find this to be a profoundly spiritual position, in that spiritual presence requires little more of us than being conscious in space, rather than distracted or dissociating in some way. By using story telling, presence with her audience, and accessible un-cryptic communication, Ursula boldly calls us back into our bodies, our minds, and through them, to our Spirit. It is exciting to use her testimony as the starting point in a course about technology, where one might imagine Spirit has little domain.

Oh you wanted more details?

July 8, 2013

We were lying down for a nap, Johanna having had a good long feed. She was pretty gulpy so I thought I’d give her a little walk through the house for her burp, or possibly some spitup (never far from the thought Jean Liedloff planted in my brain that burps and spitups are from the anxiety in our society #unfitmothersyndrome). I was impressed with myself for finally feeling like I could anticipate when she’d taken in air, even though it’s less obvious than it was early on (before, I could tell because she had a loose latch and took in air from her mouth–it was loud. Now her gulpy feeds are quieter but with deeper kinda wheezy breaths through her nose, and her belly moves more). I got up, holding her to my chest, and not two steps from the bed, a fountain erupted from her babyface. Soaked my torso completely, from shoulder to knee. She didn’t seem upset by it, and I was just sorta stunned. I’d suspected it was going to be large just before it surfaced, and managed to step off the rug onto the wood floor. I was right in front of the full length mirror so I had an immediate full length view. A few choice selfies later, we cleaned up and resumed feeding, napping and, evidently, blogging. All in a day’s work.


I was preparing to compose a confident tweet in which I declare Week 7 to be the Week In Which You Can Anticipate Your Baby’s Spitups

July 8, 2013

And then the level of Babyvom went up so many “notches” as to be in an altogether new category. Perhaps “Poltergeist”. Srsly. I believe my prodigious daughter just puked her own volume. With gusto. As you can see, she’s entirely unperturbed by it.
Besides her placid attitude, there is another up-side: nothing less could have gotten me to change out of these 4-days-running stretch pants. Tragic.