Out of the darkness into daylight

This year I made the move across campus from the dorm to the school. Not only am I now a day person instead of a vampire as one teacher used to call the deans, but I am seeing life here – a place which I feel I know quite well; a place in which I have worked for 11 years full-time, plus approx. another year with all of the part-time – in a totally different way.

 

One of the more obvious differences is how I arrive and leave. As a dean I always went to work in the daylight and always went home in the dark. A dean’s work-life begins as the rest of the work force is ending their day and ends in the late – early? – hours of the night. Being a day person means that (yes, depending on the time of year) I watch the sunrise on the drive to work and drive home while it is still light out.

 

A less obvious difference is I knew that at some point I would feel a disconnect with what was going on in the dorm/after-school life of the students. But I was not prepared for how immediate that disconnect would be. The dorm and the school work hand-in-hand yet are such distinct and different places. Once I head home at 4:30 (or 5:00, or 7:00 depending on the day), I have no clue what goes on in the lives of the students. As a dean I was intimately aware of their ups, their downs, the classes they enjoyed or really didn’t, the things that made them laugh, their crushes, their fights, their music preferences, their plans for the weekend/summer/fall. I don’t miss having to referee the fights, but I miss knowing who they are, on those deep, interpersonal levels.

 

And yet.

 

I was not prepared for the connections that I would have. For how often students would come to the office for a reprieve from the stresses of their day. For how often they would come to confide in me or want to just talk. For their need of a pencil, or scissors, or poster paper. For how I could sense what kind of a day they were having just by how they walked down the hall to their next class. And something that makes me laugh is how often they will bring me things like homework assignments, application forms, and such, that they don’t quite know what to do with, feeling a little like “here mom, can you put this in your purse?”

 

There are students who need someone to help with knowing when to take Advil and when it’s time to see a doctor. Someone to make that doctor/dentist/hair appointment for them. (At what point did we learn that we could make some of those calls ourselves and it wasn’t as scary as we thought?) Students who need a little help getting up and getting over to the school in the morning; who will be told that they are missed, are important, and we want them to join us. Students who will pop into the office everyday, just to say “Hi.”

 

In between all of those interactions, I attempt to answer the phones, check the emails, and do the tasks that help keep the school running smoothly. I don’t always manage, but most days it seems to work out.

 

Leia Photocopier
Keeping that photocopier working – even if it means using the Force

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One last thought. I’ve always been a person that has arrived for work earlier than the prescribed start time so that I could prepare for the day (check email, mentally prepare, have coffee, etc.). My workday technically starts at 8:00 am but I normally get to school at about 7:30 am. The great thing about getting to work early, is that when I accidentally sleep in and leave the house 20 minutes late – I’m still early for work. 🙂

 

Be Kind
Starting to put my own mark on the office.
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Lil Buddies

Everyone needs to relax. Everyone finds different ways to do that. I’m a fan of crafty things; crafting makes me happy, and therefore it helps me to relax.

In the last year or so I have turned my craftiness toward my 2 plushie dolls “Lil Wil” and “Cap’n Mal”. A number of people roll their eyes at me, as I have put a fair amount of time and energy into sending them on adventures and crafting for them. But I enjoy it – so ppthhpthpffthpppt!!! (That’s blowing a raspberry, in case you were wondering.)

The plushies are based on real people – people who are in the entertainment industry. Sometimes the pictures have nods to their real lives, and that also makes me happy. If you are a fan of Wil Wheaton or Nathan Fillion, maybe you can catch some of them.

In any case, I have decided that Lil Wil and Cap’n Mal are buddies. They love spending time together, as buddies do.

Kiss the Cook!
Kiss the Cook!
Crack open a cold one.
Crack open a cold one.
Taking turns.
Taking turns.
Collating paper.
Collating paper.

You may see more of the Lil Buddies in this spot. They’re busy fellas.

Superbly Home

I like going “Home”. If anyone asks where I’m from I will always start with “I live in [current place] now, but I am from Superb.” Which is usually followed by, “Where? That’s not a real place!” But I don’t mind, for then I am able to let people know about a beautiful piece of West-Central Saskatchewan. And yes, the name of my community really is “Superb”. And yes, it is, thank you very much.

Superb was once a small prairie town, with a general store, a school, a grain elevator, etc. I don’t remember much except the grain elevator – the school was closed before I was born and people from the area started busing to the next town over. Over the years some friends have said to me – you went to school in Kerrobert, get your mail in Kerrobert, do your shopping in Kerrobert… you’re from Kerrobert. Nope. I’m from Superb. While the town isn’t there any more, the community I grew up in was a vibrant, family-filled, wonderful place.

During a class from my SCBI days, a teacher talked about how we are better able to understand each other if we know where each is coming from. I know that he meant we learn these things by talking, by sharing, by listening. But I have also felt that if you can physically come see where I am from, who my people are, then you will better understand me.

In my twenties, I lived and worked in North Battleford. I loved what I was doing, but I didn’t realize that I never called North Battleford “home”. I always said, “I’m going back to North Battleford today” or “I’m going home for the weekend and then back to North Battleford for work Monday”. It was only after my move to Rosthern, and apparently I easily called it home, that my mom told me how she had planned to get me an embroidered pillow that said:

So this isn’t Home Sweet Home. Get over it.

She should have. I think I would have laughed.

I have memories of being a little kid and sitting beside my dad in the dusty cab of the grain truck, bouncing down the back trail, which was a shortcut between our farm and the next road 1 mile to the east. Then a slight jog in the road and turn into Superb to the Pool elevator. I would watch the grain pouring out of the back of the truck and watch it disappear down into the floor, wondering how it would make it’s way up into the top of the building. Sometimes dad would take me into the elevator agent’s office where he would have coffee and I would listen to the men talk farming, grain prices, or weather. I’d sit on my Uncle Gerard’s knee, or stand quietly behind my dad’s shoulders, wishing I had brought a toy along.

Superb Elevator

I have a vivid memory of sitting in line at the elevator, with 5 or so grain trucks ahead of us, and more behind. Maybe it was harvest and we were all hauling straight to the elevator. Maybe they were trying to get a few more bushels in to fill their quota as some train cars had come in. I don’t remember. I do remember that I was playing with the radio and my dad got out of the cab to walk up the line, visiting with our neighbours as we waited our turn. You could tell when the current truck in the elevator had unloaded, as all of the men turned their heads, then quickly made their way back to their trucks to move up the line, after which they would get out of their cabs again and continue talking. (Come to think of it, it probably wasn’t harvest time; the farmers wouldn’t have been as relaxed if that were the case.) Sitting in the cab of that grain truck, I remember a sense of happiness. Of “rightness”. This was a good place with good people. I belonged here.

The railroad tracks are gone now and the elevator is closed, but for now the structure is still there and is still a beacon for me when I make the trip home.

The Superb Elevator - about 1 1/2 miles from the yard.
The Superb Elevator – about 1 1/2 miles from the yard.

I have that same feeling when I think of the church I grew up in. It is a good place, with good people, and it feels “right” when I am there. And yes, it is called the Superb Mennonite Church. I know, I know. But it’s true.

Superb Menn Church 2011

Like many others who have attended small country churches, I grew up being related to almost everyone in the church. Most of my cousins, aunts and uncles also grew up in the same area and attended this church. I felt safe, loved, secure, and knew where I belonged. The sounds and memories and emotions of that little building ringing with music is something that could fill up about 5 more blog posts. You other Superb people know exactly what I’m talking about.

A few memories:

  • We sang hymns about “Bringing in the Cheese” and “Bergens are Lifted at Calgary”.
  • A friend starting the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, that’ll be thy name.”
  • Playing Red Light, Green Light on the churchyard on hot summer days during DVBS.
  • Not wanting to sing alto because that’s what my sister sang, but then learning to sing alto by listening to my sister. And my many cousins. And Eileen T.
  • Listening to (and singing along with, from the pew) the Men’s Choir. So beautiful.
  • Going to use the outhouse with Tracy during Sunday School, but seeing (garter) snakes and being too afraid to go in, so just holding it for the rest of the morning.
  • Looking forward to the Sunday where you were able to put your birthday pennies into the jar and having the best birthday song ever sung to you.

Yard“Home” is also the actual yard that I grew up on. My Grandpa Wiebe homesteaded there, then my dad and uncle took over. Now my brother lives there and farms the land. I am fortunate to have a sister-in-law who understands my need for “home” and has said that the farm is still just that, and I am welcome back to visit whenever I would like.

My brother hates this picture.
My brother hates this picture.
And this one.
And this one.

I took the above pictures while out for a walk one cool September morning. I liked how the barley bent in the wind. I liked the old fence post against the green and yellow of the field. I went back to the house and showed the others. My brother hated them.

“Don’t you dare use that as your computer desktop picture; showing what a horrible field I have.” All my brother saw was the new growth of barley after the field had been mostly hailed out earlier in summer. A reminder of the hail damage, a loss of income, a choice to be made about what to do with a field like this as harvest was about to start.

I understood completely why my brother didn’t like it, but I still have the fence post picture as my desktop. Yes, it had received a lot of hail, had all this new growth, it wouldn’t be a profitable field. But it had come back from being completely flattened and even tried to start again. I like that. And truth be told, I like the grey fence post against the green and yellow. Also? That granary across the road in the upper left? That’s the yard. All those trees? That’s the garden.

That’s home.

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Working with teens everyday, you get to hear/say/be a part of some pretty fun and strange things. Here are a few that have occurred during this current school year, taken from my Facebook page.

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An FYI for the teenagers: When you ask someone to take a “selfie” for you, and that person is not in the pic, it’s called a “photo” or a “picture”.

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The 3 best things I heard today (without context):
1. Confidently awkward
2. Suck it, skinny person
3. What if you put jam in between 2 peanut butter cookies?

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No word of a lie: my brain is so tired that last night I was trying to say the word “photocopy”, but my brain gave me the word “vampire”. Say What?! I had to pause as I knew this wasn’t the right word, and waited for “photocopy” to make it’s way to the front. Took a while though. :/

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Things you think about on a 4 hr road trip with a van full of girls:
– there can’t be that many new poses or facial expressions for you to keep taking selfies for almost the whole trip
– there are an inordinate amount of songs about the female butt, ass, booty, bass, etc. (and how the “singer” would like to touch it, tap it, lick it, etc.)
– 15 passenger vans are very hard to heat/cool to the satisfaction of all… esp. when you also need to defrost the windshield.

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Told one of the girls I loved her (I’m a firm believer that they need to hear it from an adult now and again). Her response: I know. Everyone does.

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Myrna have you seen the movie The Purge? We should do that in the dorm.

Um. Okay?

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Walking Around

I have a number of “thoughts” stored away from before I decided to try the blog thing. They may show up here sometime, but I’ll start with my thoughts from today. Although it’s going to bug me that they won’t be in order. (I’m nothing if not concrete-sequential)

Some days, my job entails a lot of walking around. Sometimes the walking around is with “purpose” – opening lots of doors from piano rooms to the skating rink, going to the school to help someone print something, doing rounds through the dorm, bringing messages between students, checking on things in the kitchen, selling a bag of popcorn before Study Hours start, etc. Sometimes the walking around is “aimless” – wandering to see who is around and what they are up to, going from dorm to school to rink to soccer or football field to be a presence, etc. Often I stop to visit, share a laugh, answer a question, or ask a question. Other times I just smile as I pass by. Many times, when I am walking somewhere with a “purpose” for one student, I get stopped by 1 or 2, or 3, others along the way who also have questions or a request of me.

My job is relationship driven. I am here for the students (or “my teenagers”, as I often refer to them.) Without them I would not have a job. But like most human beings, there are days where I am tired, or have my own life issues weighing on my mind, and being present for the students isn’t that day’s priority in my head.

Yesterday as I walked into the dorm from outside, I was greeted by a few of the students who were in the lobby.

“Hi Myrna.”

“Hi.”

“Hey Myrna”

“Hi.”

“Hi Myrna, how’s your day?”

“Good… how’s yours?”

I had not just arrived at work; I had been here since before lunch. These students had seen me a few times already today.

I walked into the girls’ dorm and passed a few more students.

“Hi Myrna.”

“Hi ladies.”

I walked into the dean’s office, and instead of propping the office door open to show that I am in here and that you can walk in if you need to, I decided to close the door. I needed a bit of a respite. But from what? From students being genuinely pleased to see me? From wanting to say hi?

These students, these teenagers, these… people… feel the need to be recognized just like we all do. They want to be seen, to be heard, to be loved. And maybe over the course of the year I have been successful in showing them that I have seen them, have heard them, that they matter, that they are loved. And maybe that is what they wanted to unconsciously give back to me? They are, in their way, inviting me into their world and into their lives. What a privilege. If I wave them off and don’t give due attention to their reaching out, am I not doing as much damage as if I had never heard or seen them in the first place?

So I took a breath – we all need a chance to breathe now and again – and headed back out into the world of my teenagers. Into the lobby and into the school, where students who had already seen me and said hello a number of times already would likely greet me again, inviting me into their world.

“Hi Myrna, what are you up to?”

“Hi sweetheart. I’m just hanging around. What are you doing?”

Hello world!

I used to journal regularly and I’d make myself write everyday. Somewhere over time I dropped the habit. I have notebooks and binders filled with my deep thoughts and everyday happenings (and teenage angst) from my pre-teen years into my twenties.

This will be a place for me to put my musings. I don’t know how often I’ll add, or if anyone will be interested in reading. And while I hope there won’t be too much angst here, I don’t promise anything! 😉