Safety First!

Penny's Life Jacket - 23 June '14
My sailor is a happy man!

The boat survey finally came back. Everything looks good.

He dotted his i’s and crossed his t’s, and he finally got his boat!

After all the stress of work, I can look forward to cruising through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world this summer. It will be relaxing and wonderful.

My sailor is being cute. He corrects me every time I refer to “his” new boat.

“It’s OUR boat, honey!”

Aww–he’s so sweet. He’s so excited, too. He stopped at the marine supply store on the way home from signing the paperwork to complete the purchase.

In a touching demonstration of love and devotion he bought life jackets . . . for himself and the dog.

Locked Out!

Today was a big day on the line.

We got to turn our ratty signs over to indicate we’re now officially locked out by the employer, not on strike.

To the kids who are out of school, it’s likely a subtle difference, but it had a huge impact on recent events, particularly the teachers’ 86% vote to escalate job action to a full-scale strike. This afternoon, one teacher on the line summed it up: the three-day lock out at the end of June combined with the 10% pay cut for the rest of the month, made the strike a no brainer.

I hesitate to say the government provoked the teachers’ strike, but if I was cynical I’d admit it kind of looks that way.

As of this morning, the situation is “fluid.”

We’re expected to picket all summer. Summer school has been cancelled so there will be no picket lines. The Minister of Education is seeking a ruling from the Labour Relations Board to designate summer school an essential service. (No word on who he’ll get to teach summer school if the LRB rules in his favour. Given the current state of the relationship, I can’t see many teachers applying for those jobs. Surely we haven’t reached the point where teachers can be forced to work.)

So, work remains a mess.

On the personal front, I’m a year into The Sailor’s Woman (yay, me!)

Lately I’ve missed the occasional post. I’ve had to admit to myself that my life just isn’t interesting enough to generate three posts/week 😦

I’ve reached two decisions:

I may switch to once or twice per week.

I’ll stop beating myself up for missing a post.

The Nanette Handbag

I like to buy Canadian-made products whenever possible.

I like to buy handbags whenever possible.

Those two facts have led me to spend far too much money at Roots. (Note to my Sailor: if you’re reading this, please turn off your computer and go make yourself a sandwich or something.)

Roots sells beautiful leather bags that are (you guessed it) made in Canada. They’re the only Canadian-made purses I’ve found. (And I’ve looked, believe me!)

They’re made of thick, rich leather at the Roots factory in Toronto. They’re not cheap, but a Roots purse is an investment piece. It will last forever. In fact, it will age more gracefully than the woman who carries it.

Many Roots handbags are named for women. There have been Catherine, Kristine, Annie and Shirley to name a few.

As a purse aficionado, I have envisioned the perfect bag. It must be simple and classic, with grab handles and a detachable crossbody strap. It’s made of soft, squishy leather, with at least one outside pocket and several inside pockets for organization. It’s a rich neutral colour. Although black is the pinnacle of classic neutrals, chocolate brown, rich saddle or oxblood are also acceptable.

I’ve sent my want list to Roots along with the most special suggestion of all: it should be called the Nanette Bag!

To have a handbag named after me would be an honour without equal (especially since all the planets and continents have already been claimed).

I invite (implore!) readeers to email Roots to ask them to make the Nanette Bag.

(Hmm–maybe I should start a petition for the Nanette Bag.)

On the Line

After weekend talks between the BCTF (Teachers’ Union) and BCPSEA (Dirty Rotten Government Negotiators) failed spectacularly, we’re on a full-scale strike.

Many of us believed a last-minute deal could be reached. Hopes were dashed when we learned the union’s offer (presented Friday afternoon) wasn’t even countered until Sunday evening. So much for the “round the clock” bargaining we’d all been promised.

Not surprisingly, the union’s package bringing the two sides to only 1% apart on wages wasn’t accepted. The real shocker was the government’s counter: they moved backwards in the bargaining process, offering LESS than in their previous offer.

Sigh–at this rate, I’ll be getting a bill from my school district at the end of June.

At least the weather has been good, so the mood on the line remains upbeat. Surely, there will be a positive end to his miserable situation soon.

Drawing an afternoon picketing shift on a scorching hot day, I had an opportunity to bring out an article of clothing that hasn’t seen the light of day since our 2010 Hawaiian vacation: my Tilley hat!

Tilley hats are made in Canada (go, Canada!) They float, repel rain, block UV rays, won’t shrink and even make you a latte and oatmeal every morning. Okay, they don’t actually cook breakfast, but they do come in size extra large–important for someone like me with (true confession) an oversize head. Hats never fit me, but my XL Tilley Hat does.

So, I may be involved in an ugly labour dispute, but at least I got to take a selfie in my Tilley hat.

Oh, and dogs: super cute dogs are on the line with us, offering their special brand of canine support and stealing our Timbits when they think no one is looking.

Things aren’t so bad, after all.

Father’s Day (Belated Post)

033In honour of Father’s Day: a tribute to my dad.

He was the original strong silent type. Everything he did was for the betterment of his family. I’m sad to say that I didn’t always appreciate him. (“A 10:00 curfew? You’re kidding me, right???”) But the years have taught me that father did indeed know best (most of the time).

Not only did he give me a good start in life and provide (with my mom) a safe and loving home, but he was an example of selfless, caring fatherhood. When I grew up and looked for a husband, I knew exactly what kind of man I wanted–strong, steady and loving.

Here are three life lessons I learned from dear old dad:

1. Put something away for a rainy day. My dad was a cash-only guy. He never had a credit card. The only debt he ever carried was a mortgage and he paid that off as quickly as possible. He tried to instill the value of frugality in me. I didn’t see it then, but I finally get it now. Rainy days can strike without warning and they’re worse if you don’t have a buffer against the elements.

2. Education is power. Although neither of my parents were university-educated, they both valued education and worked hard to give me opportunities they never had. It was expected I would attend university and qualify for a career. Years before RESP’s I had a savings account, and I remember going to the bank with my dad on pay day so he could put a little money aside “for my education.” His actions showed me the value of education.

3. Always dress appropriately. In some ways Dad was very old school. He liked to see me in pretty, feminine clothes. I once met him for lunch wearing a pair of practical leather loafers. He glanced at me feet. “Nice shoes. Are they men’s?” Another time I sent him a photo of my boy and me at the park. I was dressed like a cute young mom on the go (jean jacket, cargo pants and Doc Marten’s). He sent me a cheque for $200 with a note: You need to buy some new clothes. Uh–thanks, Dad.

Wishing all the dads, stepfathers and grandpas out there a very happy belated Father’s Day!

Why I Don’t Know Whether I’ll Vote Yes

I recently re-blogged a post from The Coal Mine, a blog written by an eloquent BC teacher who explains the current situation between the provincial government and the BCTF.

(I’d hoped to add his post to this one. Unfortunately my technological skills are sadly lacking so they are two separate posts, appearing days apart.)

Today we all vote on whether to ramp up our rotating strikes to a full on withdrawal of service. I know how The Coal Mine will vote.

I’m still unsure how I’ll vote.

Don’t get me wrong. I agree with all his points, but I feel a sense of powerlessness when I consider the injustice of the situation. (The provincial government has been found guilty of illegally stripping the teachers’ contract and bargaining in bad faith by two different courts. They have been ordered to repair the damage to the system and pay the union’s legal fees. Have they complied? Of course not! After over ten years and who knows how many gazillion dollars that could have energized the school system, the government has appealed yet again.)

So why haven’t I decided whether I’ll vote in favour of increased job action?

Partly because I have a sick feeling resistance is futile.

I’ve learned the government is above the law and the courts don’t actually carry any weight. (Don’t like the verdict?–appeal!) The party with the deepest pockets will always win because eventually the other side runs out of money fighting the endless appeals.

The stress is getting to me. I’m grumpy, snapping at everyone in the family. (Well, everyone except the dog because you have to draw the line somewhere.)

I just want an end to this conflict.

Sure, our public education system is limping along, getting a little worse every year, but maybe it’s gotten beyond the point where a group of teachers standing up to the provincial government can fix it.

That’s why I don’t know how I’ll vote later today.

Why I will vote ‘yes’ for escalating job action

The Coal Mine

On Monday, February 27, 2014, twelve years after BC Education Minister Christy Clark stood up in the BC Legislature and smugly proclaimed her pride in a new legislation which stripped hundreds of contract provisions from teachers, something amazing happened.

Wearing the biggest grin I’d ever seen, Mike L, the senior teacher on my staff, literally danced into my classroom and handed me a memo.

What you should know about Mike is that in 1998, he was on the local bargaining committee that chose to improve classroom conditions rather than take a salary increase. Mike is a helluva teacher and a helluva guy. But I digress.

The memo that Mike handed me announced that the BC Supreme Court had finally ruled on Bill 22, the BC Liberals’ most recent reiteration of the original contract stripping legislation from 2002. The court had recognized the government’s bad faith bargaining with teachers, and its violation of the Charter. The government was ordered…

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The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard

001The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard is the first volume of the Cazalet Chronicles–a series of novels about an upper middle class English family.

In volume one, the Cazalet sons along with their wives and children visit their parents’ home in the country. The action takes place over two summers, 1937 and 1938.

The cast of characters is so large that a family tree and list of characters is provided. I found myself referring to this information regularly at the beginning of the novel.

The Light Years reads like a series of inter-connected vignettes. The point of view shifts in each section. While this technique impedes the flow of the novel, it allows the reader to get to know the various characters, including the many children, more intimately than would be possible if a different writing style had been employed. It also helped me to understand the motivation of several characters who, on the surface, are decidedly unlikable.

The Light Years appealed to me for several reasons.

First, it’s a substantial novel. At 578 pages, it’s a brick of a book. (Keep in mind, I like long novels. When I commit to reading something, I commit. Gone With the Wind, my favourite book ever, comes in at over 1,000 pages.)

Second, I’m facinated by England in the 1930’s so The Light Years ticks that particular box for me. But even readers who aren’t especially interested in England between the wars will be engaged by the many details of daily life and family interaction in this novel.

Third, because The Light Years was written in 1990, the author is able to look back on the events of the novel with some perspective. Rather than allowing a history buff and anglophone like me to wallow in nostalgia for this more innocent, slower paced time, Elizabeth Jane Howard points out some aspects of 1930’s life that are better left behind. A glaring example of this is the constraints on the relationship between Rachel, the unmarried Cazalet daughter and Sid, the woman she loves.

There are three more volumes in the Cazalet Chronicles so I’m happy to have lots of easy summer reading lined up.

Up a Tree Without a Paddle

My sailor has lately discovered the joys of flying remote-controlled aircraft.

It was initially meant to be a hobby he could pursue with our boy. Unfortunately our boy cannot always be coerced into standing in a windy and/or rainy field with his dad. On those occasions, the position of second mate in our family’s remote-control flying corps falls on me.

Recently, I was on duty.

“I’ve been scouting the neighbourhood for a good field,” he announced as we headed off. “I found a perfect one. It’s huge, no one seems to use it in the evenings and there’s nothing for the plane to hit.”

“Super,” I said checking my email and Facebook status as we drove.

He parked and I looked up to see where he’d taken me. We were at the local high school.

“What did I tell you? It’s perfect!”

“It’s a school field,” I said.

He nodded.

“I don’t think I’m allowed on school property outside of school hours because of the lock out.”

(Our labour dispute has escalated to the point that we’re holding province-wide rotating strikes and the employer has imposed a partial lock out on teachers on the days we work. In order to justify docking 10% of our salary while getting 100% service, the employer has announced that we’re not permitted to interact with students at recess and lunch. We’re also not allowed to be at school prior to 45 minutes before the beginning of the day or 45 minutes after dismissal.)

His grin faded a bit. “You’re kidding, right?”

I shook my head. “I’m sorry, but someone might see me and I don’t know what would happen if I’m on school district property during the time I’ve been ordered to stay away.”

“Fine, I’ll try to fly by myself.”

I could tell he was disappointed, but he couldn’t have been too upset because he remembered to come back and roll down the windows for me a minute later. (He loves me!)

I watched through the wind shield, my mind wandering until I saw something that made me sit up and take notice–something that made me get out of the truck and run to the edge of the field to snap photos.

My sailor was up a tree! He’d crashed his plane in the branches and climbed up to release it. I had no idea he was so agile!

When he came back to the truck he commented on my interest in his climbing abilities. “You sure took lots of pictures of me in the tree.”

“I think I got some good shots.”

“Funny, but I didn’t hear you calling out to me to be careful.”

“Hmmm,” I thought for a moment. “I didn’t want to distract you?”