The Turkey Vulture

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Ding Dong! The strike is dead!

Let us all rejoice as we head back to class three weeks into the school year.

Resuming regular responsibilities after the never-ending summer requires some adjustment. In addition to the early call of the alarm clock and the daily dilemma of what to wear:

1. Normal cooking has now been resumed. No more grazing on bags of salad, frozen pizza and ice cream because I’m too fraught to cook. I’ve got a hearty chicken and vegetable stew bubbling in the crock pot and I’m gearing up to make chocolate chip oatmeal cookies for lunch box treats. Now we’re talking!

2. Not everyone is thrilled with the new schedule. After three months of constant companionship, our needy Chihuahua is less than pleased to be left alone all day when we go to work/school.

3. Kindness comes when you least expect it. Last week, I received something in the mail. I called my sailor.

“Someone sent us a Turkey Voucher!”

“A turkey vulture?”

“Voucher, not vulture.”

Turkey Vouchers are a local thing–a coupon we can exchange for delicious turkey goodness–mmm! Someone, who only put their return address on the envelope, sent me one.

Using my well-developed detective skills (and a reverse address search site), I discovered who sent it and was able to call to thank them. Apparently our turkey benefactors had noticed my stress level going through the roof as the strike progressed and wanted to do something nice for me.

Thank you!

4. Best of all–I had time to contact the Christmas tree farm lady and cancel my journey into the wilderness. I remain gloriously bear bite free as I go back to my real job!

The Golden Retriever’s Guide to Happiness

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Picketing sucks!

Now that’s out of the way, I can admit there’s one aspect that’s actually not so bad–the dogs. In particular, a couple of gorgeous golden retrievers who often accompany their striking humans. These canines provide a burst of positive energy few people can match.

I’ve gotten to spend enough quality time with each of them to learn three life lessons as demonstrated by golden retrievers.

1. Charge into every situation with tail-wagging glee! These dogs aren’t obnoxious, but they’re SO joyful it’s contagious. They approach everyone they meet like their new bestie, leaning in for a back rub here or looking up with those soulful eyes there. Hesitation or shyness? These pooches don’t know the meaning of those words (literally)! True confession: I sometimes avoid talking to people because I can’t imagine they want to be stuck chatting with me. I need to adopt a little of that golden self-confidence.

2. Roll in the dirt when the spirit moves you! Parker (the handsome guy in the photo) is ten years old–well into doggie middle age, but he hasn’t lost that puppy joi de vivre. Every now and then he flops down on his back and shimmies on the grass. His person says it’s a do it yourself massage. It must feel good–Parker’s bright eyes and big grin don’t lie. Does he look a bit silly?–Hell, yes! Does he care?–Hell, no! We could all use a dose of that golden enthusiasm.

3. Always carry a wet tennis ball! As much as I admire Parker, I don’t want to toss his damp, squishy tennis ball for him when he nudges it my way. He doesn’t care. (Honestly–is there a more good-natured creature on the planet than a golden retriever?) Parker keeps his ball near by and always knows where it is without getting neurotic about it. The golden rule of this little story–surround yourself with things that make you happy, but don’t get too hung up on your possessions.

Fashion on the Line

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As we begin another week of the longest teachers’ strike in BC history, there is no news. Sadly this is not a case where no news is good news. There’s no end in sight.

After a summer travelling across the country, taking part in ice bucket challenges, sampling dill pickle vodka and posting inflammatory tweets about greedy teachers, our premier finally called a press conference to add her two cents.

Unfortunately she made several false claims.

I’m still trying to figure her out.

Either she deliberately lied to sway public opinion against teachers or she’s so uninformed that she genuinely believes teachers are asking for “unlimited massages and extra days off.”

Yikes! The premier’s either incompetent or dishonest. I can’t decide which quality’s more dangerous in a leader.

On a more personal note, I’m facing the dreaded picketing striker fashion dilemma.

My summer shoes of choice, a comfortable pair of soft suede ballet flats, while perfect for a day of shopping, are not up the rigours of walking a section of pavement for three hours straight. My other choice, running shoes, offer more support but…ugh!

Have you ever tried to co-ordinate runners with a summer dress? It’s not a good look!

The Ghost of Walmart

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My sailor and I went to the mall on the weekend. Normally I have to twist his toned and muscular arm to get him near any shopping venue, but he needed to get some man stuff–duct tape and batteries–so he suggested the trip.

As usual when we go shopping together, I ditched him as soon I arrived in my happy place (the mall!) It’s not that I don’t enjoy our time together–he lurks.

He follows me from shop to shop, silently observing. He’s doesn’t judge or try to control my spending (although he has been known to exclaim, “Seriously? Another purse? How many do you need?”)

Nothing takes the fun out of shopping like a lurker…nothing except being on strike.

The stores were buzzing with back to school sales and school supplies–they were everywhere! I don’t know who’s buying them as there’s still no word on when we’ll be back in class. I haven’t bought my boy’s because a stack of unused supplies in a corner collecting dust and dog hair will just depress me.

Since school supply shopping was out I drifted to the clothing and shoe stores. Big mistake! After a summer in swingy little dresses, I’m ready for cozy sweaters and socks and boots–I love me some black leather riding boots!

But not having an income changes the shopping dynamic profoundly. I was like a TV ghost–I could see the shopping action but couldn’t participate in it because I’m not in the zone with the people who get paid. It was so unsettling, I stayed away from mirrors, half afraid I wouldn’t see a reflection.

I’m luckier than many because I know we’ll have food in our tummies and a roof over our Chihuahua no matter how long this drags on.

I believe in what we’re striking for and I support my union.

I’m taking a huge financial hit to stand up for quality public education for ALL kids, not just mine.

That actually feels better than another new purse.

Locked Out!

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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.

On the Line

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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.