Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dawn & Shawn's Snow Day Adventure

Prince George went from 0 to WINTER in 12 hours!

The ground was bare, brown and cold on Thursday afternoon. Around 4 pm as my students showed up, they were covered in big fluffy snow flakes.

When we woke up the next morning, the kids shoveled the snow up into banks on either side of the driveway.

By 10am, I had only 4 students who had not called or emailed to cancel, so I sent out a mass email and canceled my Friday.

It would not be so bad if the bus had routed past our house, but the map has the buses turn up Village Avenue a block away, so our street is a mess when it snows. It takes a few days for the snow plows to find us.

I had that feeling of wealth that comes with a sudden day off. I can do whatever I want to do for as long as I want to do it!

"Let's go to Ric's Grill for lunch!" I suggested to Shawn. He was not hard to convince.

So Shawn called the restaurant at 11:10 am to make sure they were open on this snowy day. I prepared for the day, even curled my hair, and we ventured out to the car. The driveway was lovely and smooth, thanks to Lydia and Forrest's early morning efforts.

We backed into the street and got stuck.

A neighbor offered to help as Shawn went about the un-stucking process.

Shawn got the car back into the driveway and we decided to walk.

We are northerners! We have good boots, gloves and toques. So much for the hair.

And we had all day!

Shawn and I were both in good spirits and getting really hungry as we marched down the middle of the white street, observing the occasional abandoned compact car, stopping to clean the wet snowflakes off my glasses now and then.

When we reached the corner of La Salle and Queensway, we realized that walking down the middle of the street would not be an option taking the busy Queensway toward downtown. The snow on the sidewalk was deep and fluffy and would make for a long exhausting walk. Shawn checked his watch. The bus was due in 10 minutes. That sounded like a much better alternative.
We dug deep for bus fare change and waited at the bus stop.

The bus arrived and on we hopped.

We got halfway up La Salle hill and the bus, of course, got stuck.

The driver tried backing down and taking a run at the hill about 3 times. Then he radioed in and said he would take Queensway instead.

Shawn offered to direct traffic so the driver could back straight out onto the less messy main street. Oh no, I'll just turn around here, said the driver.

So, yeah, you guessed it, he got completely stuck, wedged, even.

We exited the bus and walked back up the hill. By this time, we were pretty determined to make it to Ric's Grill and the size of the planned lunch was growing in our imaginations.

I waited on the front steps while Shawn backed out into the street and got stuck and got out the shovel and got unstuck and then moved the car forward and got stuck again.

The neighbor brought his truck down and towed the Jetta back far enough to give Shawn a run for it. If we could just get it to the end of the block, we would be out of the deep snow!

He made it to the end of the block... and got stuck on the other side of the intersection. The good-natured neighbor towed the car back a few feet and we ran at it and were on our way.

Shawn decided to park under the library where there was no snow. As we walked to Ric's, we stopped at City Hall to get our bus fare back. The lady gave us some bus tickets and enjoyed our story.

At 1:08pm, we arrived at Ric's Grill... starving but feeling like conquerors.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My lululemon Rant

When in Kelowna recently, my partner and I saw a lululemon athletica store. Since we don't have a lululemon in Prince George, I wanted to take a look. I know their clothes look and feel great for active wear. I also know it's expensive. The store was just opening for the day as we passed and we were swept in with a gaggle of women who were entering the door while the salesgirl held it open with her key still in the lock.

"Did you hear about the sale?" one woman asked me.

I was a bit confused, since 5 seconds before Shawn and I had been peacefully ambling with our Starbucks in the sunshine along the quiet early morning streets.

"No..." I started.

"Well, I didn't want to stand in line, so I am here to pay full price," and she darted away into the store with the other frantic shoppers.

As the salesgirl retrieved her key from the door, she explained that all the lululemon stores in the region had taken their discount items and were holding a huge sale in an arena in Kelowna.
They were only allowing 600 shoppers in at once, apparently, and the lineup was huge.

"Well, I have never been to a lululemon and I am just here to look around," I said.

The store was suddenly quite busy, for having just opened, and Shawn and I made our way through the room, feeling fabrics, looking at price tags, trying to not get run over by frenzied lulu lovers.

Before long, I said, "Let's get out of here."

As we reentered the pleasant cool of the shady side of the street, I told Shawn, "It's really good stuff, but I am not spending $100 on a pair of pants so I can look like everyone else."

Shawn said, "You know who's not wearing lululemon? The yogi in India, that's who."

I guess that's it in a nutshell.

I practice yoga to strengthen my body, but also to still my mind. Shopping in lululemon was far from the stillness I enjoy in my yoga.

We made our way to the Cannery Lofts, which were under construction the last time we visited Kelowna. We wanted to see how they had turned out. As I peered down the street at the storefronts, a couple on the patio of the corner coffee shop began pointing and saying, "Yeah, that's right, it's right down there!"

"What is?"

How do they know what we are looking for when we don't?

"The lululemon sale.... it's down there!" the woman said.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pepper Spray & Beer

We can't wait till Shaw brings the phone service to our area!

Telus sucks!

Last week, we had some issues with our phone. We have a business line and a personal line in the same house and they started crackling and bleeding into each other. So Shawn called Telus.
They sent a repairman, and after he left, Shawn tried testing the lines. Holding the cordless in one hand he was randomly hitting buttons on the other phone line.

About 15 minutes later, there was a loud knocking on my studio door. I wasn't expecting any students, but thought someone must be dropping by anyway. I was startled to see a very tall RCMP officer standing outside the door.

"We have had an abandoned 911 call from this residence," he stated.

Right away I knew what had happened.

"Shawn," I called up to the living room, "did you accidentally dial 911?"

I explained to the officer what had happened. He stepped into the studio and said, "Come down here, boy! I've got some pepper spray with your name on it."

"Mind if I look around...see if there's any corpses?" he asked me.

I laughed and said, "Sure, come on in."

He was impressed with our music studio. "I need one of these!" he exclaimed.

"Well, we're having a party tomorrow night," Shawn offered. "Come on over. You know where we live."

The officer was jovial and easy going. He must have been having a slow day.

He walked through to the kitchen in the front, took out his pad and pen and said, "Who wants to give me their information? Who doesn't have a criminal record?"

I said, "I'll give you mine."

He said, "I want his!"

"Are you kidding me?" Shawn said. "I shoplifted when I was a kid."

As I gave him my info, Shawn suggested, "I'd offer you a beer, but we drank it all."

Just then a police van pulled up and a second officer walked toward the house.

I said, "Oh man, there's another one here."

This guy was younger and a little more serious.

The first officer said, "It's ok, there's no dead bodies. I checked."

The younger one sniffed and said, "Can't smell any." Still never cracked a smile.

"Good thing we just cleaned," I replied.

I heard another car door slam and said, "Oh brother, is there another one here??"

"Pretty soon you're gonna a need a keg just to get rid of us."

But it was just a neighbor. After a bit more banter, they decided we weren't criminals and got ready to leave.

As they left, the friendly officer said with a wave, "You guys seem pretty cool. Give us a call anytime! You've got our number."

Friday, July 25, 2008


I do not know anyone who has babies of their own out of selflessness. People have children for a variety of reasons and pretty much always to enhance their own happiness or fulfillment.

I have heard people say things like, "I know I will regret it if I don't have children of my own." Selfish.
Some people procreate to carry on the family line or name. Selfish.

Raising children requires a selflessness. Children are time and money consuming, to say the least, but the reasons for having them are rarely selfless.

Why did I have children?
I had the first one because I was too lazy to take precautions. I kept her because it would be too hard for me to give her up. Lazy, then selfish.
I had the second one because I may as well, when I already had one. I had the third one because I could not bear the thought of never having any more babies. Totally selfish.

The truly selfless act would be to put the needs of others before our own desires and perhaps even consider the overpopulation of the earth.

I know couples who have decided to not have children. These people I admire. The problem is that there are many others who try to convince them they should have babies or condescend to these people by saying things like, "You'll change your mind."

Why should they?

If they don't want children, for goodness sake, leave them alone to their decision. The world is full of people who don't plan their family, just let the babies come as they may, whether provided for or not. The responsible, decision-making, family planning adults should be applauded. Why do you have to tell them they
will change their mind? Why does everyone have to want babies?

I loved having my babies. Knowing there was a life growing inside me made me feel I had an important job to do. Giving birth was the hardest work I have ever done and left me feeling exhausted and accomplished. I loved every tiny little finger and toe and facial expression of my little growing humans. Kissing their soft cheeks and cuddling with the little munchkins is a memory I will always treasure. I also remember feeling the energy drain from my body as I nursed and growing drowsy along with the feeding infant. This was wonderful when I had the luxury of sleeping after nursing, which was rarely the case.

The fact is having and raising babies zapped all my energy, leaving me in a haze for many years, so much so that I didn't recognize how tired I had been until I saw it in hindsight. If someone else wants to forego this state of exhaustion, I do not blame them one bit. Raising teenagers does not make the whole experience any more rewarding, believe me. Sure I love my teenagers, but parenting is hard work and there are other endeavors to spend that time on.

Basically, I am asking readers to respect the decision of those who choose to not have children and support them in their choice. They might change their minds, and they might not. Do you really have to be the one to say, "I told you so"? I think they are smart and responsible.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Best Use of a Cell Phone Ever

Warning! Some readers may find this post offensive.

As many people, I have some issues with a lack of symmetry on my body. Unfortunately the part of my body with the greatest inconsistency are my breasts. One boob is considerably smaller than the other. If I were not a horribly vain creature, this probably wouldn't matter.

I am vain.

I do not have much cleavage to begin with, so the unevenness of what I do have really irks me.

Last weekend when I was getting ready to go to karaoke with my friends, I discovered the best cure for this problem. I only got a cell phone in January, so I have not had much time to experiment with this in the past. I am always finding different places to tuck the cell phone, but this one was perfect.

Check it!

Perfectly evens out the cleavage!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Teacher

Being a teacher was not my goal in life.

At least not since I got over my phase of wanting to be Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie. Okay, some of you can stop
giggling now, I am fully aware it was a longer phase than it should have been. Perhaps it might be more accurately referred to as an era.

I also went through a phase when I wanted to be a missionary nurse. Yes, yes, amusing, I know.

Writing is a dream I have always held. Obviously that compulsion hasn't died or I wouldn't be blogging now.

Being a musician, though, is an inherent piece of who I am. The music led to the teaching. Perhaps that is why teaching also was inevitable.

The first time after high school that I ended up teaching, I was not prepared. This is probably why I thought teaching wasn't for me. 20 or more sets of eyes watching you when you are uncertain of how to go about leading them can be a bit unnerving.

I taught choir. All I had to do was teach them to sing songs, right?

The kindergarten class was easy, since I had taught Sunday School before, and most little kids want to look up to whomever is in charge. The teenagers were a tougher crowd, but we were all in it together and the 1989 Christmas concert came out alright.

My high school graduation in June of 1989 was from a Christian school that followed the A.C.E. program. This was an American, experimental curriculum at that time that left many of us feeling ill-equipped for post-secondary school. Some brave ones went to college or university.

Some girls just got pregnant or married instead of trying to go to college.

I was sixteen and lazy, so I just floundered for a while.

Within a couple of months of my nineteenth birthday, I went from planning to go to music school in L.A. to planning how to manage as a single mother. I didn't get pregnant on purpose. I think I got pregnant due to lack of purpose.

I got engaged to the first person who asked, married him, and had a couple more babies. I loved having my babies, from the challenge of birth to helping them learn to be people.

While searching my soul and my past, I realize that, while I state I never planned to be a teacher, I kept teaching all through life.

I taught crocheting and knitting and cross-stitching to the teens at the Christian school. Jesse always says I taught them about a lot more than needlework. While we sat at the long tables stitching away, I would discuss things about raising babies, being married, getting pregnant too young. If the principal or parents had any idea of the topics we covered, I probably wouldn't have lasted the semester.

I got a piano when I was first pregnant with my third child. While being a stay home mom, I took some piano lessons and a music theory exam. And I wrote a lot of songs. Most of them were not very good.

I home schooled my little girl through kindergarten. Then, once I put my kids in school, I took up teaching the music again.

Only then, when I felt dependent on a husband I didn't have much in common with, did I decide it was time to go to college. There is no music education at our college. So I took the Writing & New Media Technologies diploma program.

When I finished my diploma, the opportunity arose for me to teach some Macromedia Flash courses in the Continuing Education department of the College of New Caledonia. There I was, teaching again, even designing the curriculum.

I was building websites and trying to be a writer when I got two jobs that changed the course of my life.

One was at the daily newspaper doing ad layout. It paid really well and brought me a step closer to independence.

The other came at me out of the blue. The owner of B&B Music, Jay Scholton, asked me to come and teach singing lessons. I was unsure of my abilities in this area. Jay knew my family, as he had played in a band with my uncle when they were teenagers. He had to convince me to do it. Jay is a fabulous salesman.

Within the first year of teaching voice lessons, I learned more and changed more than at any other time in my life. As my marriage ended and music became the focus of my life and my children's lives, I have embraced my teacher-ness.

Last September, I brought my teaching home.

I love to teach, and most of all, to see people learn and grow and gain confidence in their own abilities.

Teaching is not what I do, it's who I am. This is why The Teacher Talks.

Friday, July 4, 2008

On Friendship

Friends. Not acquaintances.
Who are they?
Those who share, with genuine emotion, your woes and triumphs.
The ones who mean it when they ask: How are you doing?
Then they really listen to the answer.
The folks who leave you feeling energized and inspired after a good conversation.

We get so busy with our lives, the work, the activities, the kids, that when we stop to breathe, like I have this summer, we wonder where our friends are. Finding them is actually pretty easy. Just ask: How are you doing?

And mean it.

And listen.

I recognize my friends by these qualities now, not by how often we see each other.

Sigh, I should've known better.

That's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Hood

We grew up in the hood. No one called it "the hood" back then. "The Hood" was not a term much used, until that movie Boys in the Hood came out. I didn't see that movie. We were sheltered.
I remember being kind of appalled the first time I heard someone refer to that area of town as the hood.
Then I recalled the neighbors. The family next door with the back yard full of stuff of questionable origin, and the fact that we couldn't keep our bikes locked up beside the duplex because they would get stolen.
My mom was a single mom from the time I was in kindergarten.
Of course we lived in the hood.
My mom remarried when I was 12. Then we moved up the hill, where there were more trees along the street, where every other house was not a rental. Although we still ended up living next to a drug dealer for a couple of years.
When I got my first job at age 16, it was at the Victoria Street McDonald's, the newest McDonald's in town at that time... in the hood. I would ride my ten speed to work and then the hard part, ride it home again. Up the hill.
I got so I could ride it all the way up the hill without getting off to walk it.
Except of course at 1am after a closing shift when a truckload of young guys pulled up and drove slowly beside me. Riding uphill takes a lot of concentration!
"Hey, do you wanna party with us?"
Pfft. I think not.
The last thing I wanted to do was get off that bike, but my legs had started to shake by the time they drove away. After being on my feet for 8 hours and then trying to ride up hill, accompanied by heckling, I walked the last bit that night.

We don't live in the hood now either. My partner and my three teenagers and I live in a character home up the hill on the opposite side of the hood. Actually, a fragrant five minute walk down the sun dappled Heritage Trail, through the wild rose and cranberry bushes takes me to the apartment building that we first lived in when I was 7 years old and started Grade 2 at Carney Hill School. That apartment building looks really small now, and the basement suite we lived in has plywood over the windows.

As my sister said, I don't live in the hood; I live where the hood goes to rob.

My daughter Lydia is 16.
Guess where she just got her first job.
You got it, Victoria Street McDonald's.
She is probably one of the few people working there who has a full set of teeth.
She worked her first closing shift the other night.
I made her take a cab.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


For seven years now, I have been a jazz singer.
Really, not very long, when you think of it. Approximately one-fifth of my life.

I remember how nervous I used to get when I started. I think my first ever jazz gig was at Summerfest in downtown Prince George on the front steps of City Hall. The overcast August afternoon sat thick and heavy with one of those days that kept trying to drizzle. My pianist had to duct tape his music to keep the pages from blowing around. My shoes were too high and clunky. My throat was dry from nerves. The black dress pants I wore were, in retrospect, too snug on my tiny body, flattening out any curves that might have tried to make an appearance, and not quite long enough to accommodate the clunky heels. I had commandeered three twenty-something
men I knew through my church. Drummer, pianist and bassist. They loved music and did this as a favor to me amidst their busy lives. The one short set at Summerfest was our first and last gig together.

When the opportunity to sing at a downtown restaurant presented itself the following spring, I called the only person I knew who could handle a volume of songs on the piano swiftly and skillfully, Mr. David Sproule. The man kind of drove me crazy with his obesessiveness, insecurity and the sense of humor of a 12 year old, but he was honest and he had a talent border
ing on genius.
After a quick couple of weeks of rehearsing every chance we could find, David and I embarked upon our first performance at Foodteller. Foodteller was owned by a couple of men from Germany. The cuisine was out of the ordinary and would be interesting to the adventurous diner. Unfortunately, adventure in food is not something that is popular in Prince George. Generally, the citizens of Prince George seem to prefer their steak and salad bar.

The interior of Foodteller was one of the few places in Prince George that felt "big city". I took my friend Rastin there the first time we met. We sipped martinis at the gloss black curved bar, in the low light, and my new Persian friend was elated to have found a place to feel at home.

Rastin Mehr moved from Vancouver to attend UNBC's computer science program. He loved jazz and we hit it off immediately.

Being one of those rare and lovely beings who can master both math and art, Rastin asked if he could bring his camera to the performance. This was the start of a beautiful love affair between Rastin's camera and my performances.

Once again, my throat was dry, but my costuming was more befitting a jazz diva this time. By the end of the evening, I was able to enjoy the fact that I was on a stage singing jazz, and the result was a delightful complement of classy surroundings and classy music.
After that first nerve wracking night, one of the owners invited us to put on another performance.

After our second performance, David stayed around visiting at Foodteller after I had gone home. There were a lot of people who worked at other restaurants and friends of the owners who would come by late at night and things would get loud. One of my friends, who shall remain nameless, was feeling pretty happy and apparently loose-lipped. She was chatting with David and said, "I hear you are a pain in the ass."

Of course, David had to dig deeper. "Where did you hear that?"

She slurred, "I'm not going to say it was Dawn, but somebody told me you are."

When David asked me about it a couple of days later, I confessed. "Look Dave, I'll make you a deal. If you drop the subject, the next time you are being a pain in the ass, I'll let you know."
We decided to laugh about the whole thing. David has forever more been the PITA. He is a shit magnet. If it's bad, it will happen to Dave, so we have been through a lot together. Sometimes I have wanted to choke him, and vice versa.

But Sprouly and I have made some terrific music and we are looking forward to releasing our first collaborative CD this fall.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I wouldn't say Jesus and I have been on the outs. I mean, we have a history and I have been avoiding his teaching for a long time, even though I agree with a lot of it.
It's not his fault, I suppose, that other people make him look bad with their interpretation of his words, or the acts they commit in his name.
I had an epiphany not too long ago. Since making yoga a regular part of my life, my thoughts have turned to faith and the importance of spirituality to us as human beings. My upbringing as a born again Christian and my realization that Christianity was not for me was a tough place to come to and it left me without a moral foundation.
When I decided to start from scratch, this was what I came to:
  1. Be honest with yourself and others.
  2. Don't hurt yourself or others.
These are not exactly easy to carry out at the same time, which you will understand if you think about it for a minute. But it works for me. Shawn and I have agreed, kind of jokingly, but not really, that we follow the teachings of Yoda or as I call it, Star Wars religion.
Over the years, since my departure from Christianity, I found it fairly easy to slip into the habit of using Jesus as an expletive, and most especially Jesus Christ. I didn't feel bad about this, since I had decided that Jesus was no more God than I am.
Shawn has been reading books about Zen and Buddhism lately, which I have found interesting to discuss with him. A few weeks ago, we were discussing the speculation that in the unaccounted for years of Jesus's life, he spent time in India. Some of his teachings are similar to the things Shawn was reading in these books.

That was when I realized, Jesus really wasn't a bad guy, and I should probably stop using his name as a swear word.

My god is still something I find inside myself and others and all things around me, but I think Jesus would be glad to know that I am not using his name offensively any more. Even if he doesn't know, I feel better about it.

And so will my mother.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sons & Sunshine

The sun is shining!
Although I could have spent an hour working on developing my music theory course that I start teaching in a week and a half, I opted instead to hang with my sons at the river.
I have never been a lying in the sun kind of person, but I did today. My teenaged boys fished and we enjoyed the peace that draws them there.
The path to the little sandbar is well hidden in the wild rose and saskatoon bushes just off the busy street that wraps around to allow traffic on and off the bridge and highway that passes through town. Shawn and I looked for access one day with no luck. Of course, once the boys showed me how they get down there, it was obvious. The woods at the top of the hill smell like my childhood, honeysuckle, wild roses and flowering clover. The sandbar is about 5 feet deep and stretches about 20 feet along the swift Fraser River. Right now the bridge construction makes it a bit loud, but tuning it out is easy enough.
The best part is the quiet companionship of these boys who are growing so fast that Forrest, who is the youngest, is almost able to grow full sideburns. Corey is the dedicated fisherman, complete with fishing vest. He says this summer he is practicing catch and release. I am pretty sure Forrest just goes for the company.
For me it serves two purposes, time with my boys and adding some color to my ghostly white legs.
Now back to work.