There are several things I’ve taken away from my time as a Library Assistant in the Children’s Library, but the one that I treasure the most is reading stories to children. Even though I had already been reading to my children at home, it wasn’t until I was thrown into my first storytime at Edmonton Public Library that I discovered I had the ability to read to groups of children, but more than that, I really enjoyed it. Fast forward a few years and I have just finished my annual visit to Lorelei School for Read In Week where I had the opportunity to once again read to my children’s classes. Now I have had some great storytimes, some of which had ended in hugs from the children (the other morning, for example); but nothing compares to the feeling I get when I visit my children’s school.
The week leading up to Read In Week was punctuated by a countdown of sleeps for Graeme. “How many sleeps for you to read at my school?” I had already made up my mind what I would be reading to Abigail’s grade three class, but I was still deciding on Graeme’s kindergarten class. Then I came across two books that I thought would be perfect, Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won and No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora. It turns out that No Fits, Nilson was quite fitting for the kindergarten class as I walked in during a time out (thankfully, not Graeme). Before I could leave kindergarten I was persuaded to read one more story, and there was no way I could say no to our favourite kindergarten teacher, so I read Jungle Party by Brian Wildsmith. I was also invited to read to the one of the grade one classes (1 of 1). This invitation soon grew to two grade one classes (2 of 1), and by the morning of my visit it was suddenly upped to all three grade one classes (3 of 1) as I happened to run into one of Abigail’s former teachers in the hallway. For the grade ones I had picked out Flight of the Dodo by Peter Brown, which I had done last year, but I really enjoy it, and The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, which went over very well with both students and teachers. I knew from last year that the kids would get a kick out of the “poop factor” in Flight of the Dodo, but I was really happy with the reception that Crayons got. In fact, it lead to one of the teachers possibly using the story as the basis for an art project. As for Abigail and the grade three class, I chose The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman. I was introduced to this book by my coworker who read it to his boys at home. The first time I read it I was hooked; and the first time I read it to my children, it was a hit. However, I felt the need to clear the book with Abigail’s teacher first, as it is a bit of an odd story with illustrations that, while wonderful, could be a bit unsettling to some. With great relief the book was cleared with the expectation that it would generate class discussion afterward, which it ultimately did, to my delight! I used the book to illustrate how some stories give the reader most of the information needed, but there are some stories, like The Wolves in the Walls, that leave information out, and it’s up to the reader to try to figure out the answers. For example, how could the wolves fit in the walls? How did the wolves get in the walls in the first place? I brought up the fact that, even though it is said at one point that Lucy goes inside the walls, it’s never explained how she does it. One student asked if the author had written a sequel to this book. I said no, but that it would be fun for students to write their own sequel. They seemed interested in that idea. During recess I got to hang out with the staff and indulge in their tradition of providing delicious treats for guest readers. I was pleased when one of the teachers mentioned that she looks forward to my visit so she can get ideas for new books. I also was approached by a couple of teachers who were not aware that I was reading today and were disappointed that I wasn’t able to come to their class as well. For someone with little self-confidence, it is encouraging to know that I have a skill that is valued by others. By the end of the morning I was tired, but happy to have shared great stories with the students of Lorelei. More than this, though, I got to see the joy and pride I feel for my children reflected in their faces. Nothing can compare with that!
This past summer our family didn’t go an any big road trips, hop on any planes; or cruise on any ships. What we did do was have a wonderful adventure in our beautiful city and province. Spearheaded by my wife, Allison, we spent our two weeks of vacation traveling around Edmonton, visiting many city parks, playgrounds, and splash parks. We took some side trips to places like Drumheller and Hinton, but for the most part we were staycationing it up in good ol’ YEG. As a way of documenting our days, we took a family selfie for each day. Some were easy, some needed a little (read: a lot) of coaxing, but in the end, we created a unique visual record of our summer. There were some days that were non-stop activities, while others were a simple picnic in a park, but either way we had a vacation filled with fun, beautiful weather, and lots of love.
As any Edmontonian will tell you, it’s easy to get down on ourselves; as easy as a Canadian saying, “sorry.” I was one of those people, too, but more and more I am finding pride in our city. We have wonderful playgrounds, many of them erected through the hard work and dedication of our wonderful community leagues. We have great green spaces and free or low-cost programmes provided by the City, and even if you decide to go outside the city, there are many spectacular places that are a day’s drive away. Thanks to my wife and family for a great summer, and thanks to my city for continuing to reach for greatness while remaining grounded to the community.
This summer I have made an effort to cycle to work as much as possible, including purchasing a new bicycle. Even as the nature of my job has changed and continues to change, I still want to keep up the cycling and as a result, most days I find myself on my bike in rush hour. As I’ve commuted to and from work, I’ve been keeping a mental list of things that for lack of a better term, are fears that would serve to keep me from biking that I have to overcome on order to continue with my commitment to cycling to work. You may find some of these a bit silly, a couple of these sound, and even others to be shallow and not worth worrying about. However, I want to put them all down for the benefit of others who are considering cycling to work but haven’t yet due to some reason or another. If you are one of those individuals, perhaps you will find your particular barrier or barriers in my list.
Fear of holding up traffic
Christ, I hate doing this when I’m driving. Imagine how I feel somethings when I don’t have the protective covering of an automobile. I really do not like inconveniencing other people, and it took me quite a while to understand that until such time as a dedicated bike lane appears in my daily commute, I will not inconvenience myself by taking some goofy back road route when I have a direct road to downtown. I do what I can to stay as close to the curb so vehicles have an opportunity to go around me. If I’m going too slow for you, which is most likely the case, then pass me. Just be glad I’m not a tractor. Oh, and if you don’t think I belong on the road, take a look at City bylaws and let’s all try to get along.
Fear of being clipped/crushed by vehicles passing me
This is one that’s come close a couple of times. Along 97th Street between 118th Avenue and 112th Avenue there is a long line of parked cars that I have to pass by in the morning. This reduces the amount of room I have especially when both lanes of traffic are heavy with people going downtown. Every so often there will be a vehicle that is looking to go around me – which is cool, but doesn’t necessarily wait for the other lane to be open and so tries to squeeze by me while I’m trying not to pinball between the sides of the moving and parked vehicles – not cool.
Fear of looking like a dork
Does my outfit match my bike? Is my seat at the right angle? Is my helmet dated? These were some things I used to worry about, and still do to some extent (see Circulations of a pedestrian cyclist – Hipster jeans of invincibility). I know it seems shallow, but I used to get hung up on whether I looked like a proper cyclist. Then I started to realise that my fellow cyclist don’t all look the same. There are a myriad of bikes and bike riders out there. Everyone has their own style, their own customizations, their own look. I know I look like shite in Lycra, so I just dress for comfort and if that means I don’t look like a true cyclist, oh well. I’m riding the streets, not the runway.
Fear of taking forever to get where I’m going
It doesn’t seem to matter what the weather, I always seem to be riding into the wind on my way home. Some days are worse than others and I find myself thinking, “This is taking forever!” I try to push through the resistance, but all that happens is my legs burn and I get super frustrated. There’s nothing to do but swallow my pride and gear down and keep going, even though it feels as though I’m going nowhere. This one can be difficult for me as I often feel guilty about not being home on time, but the fact of the matter is I’m in the middle of it, and there’s nothing to be done about it. Just keep going forward, no matter how slow, and you will eventually get there.
Fear of running into an open car door
This is high on my list. As I already mentioned, I travel past a long line of parked vehicles along 97th Street in the morning. More than being side-swiped by a moving vehicle, I fear having a door suddenly open in front of me, stopping me dead in my tracks. When I was young I ran into a parked car while riding my bike, so I guess that has something to do about it.
Fear of arriving to work a sweaty mess
So, this is not so much a fear as a fact. I often arrive to work as a sweaty mess. Fortunately, my workplace now has staff shower facilities, but for a while they were not available as they were being renovated (and now that they are I must say I am quite impressed). However, what if you don’t have access to a shower at your workplace? I suggest packing your work clothes with you. Allow yourself enough time so you can cool down before you change – you don’t want to get all dressed and then promptly drench yourself from the inside out. Pack deodorant with you so you can do a quick reapplication, depending on you assessment of your condition. Splash some water on your face to refresh yourself and you’re goodish to go.
Fear of not being able to keep up with the commitment
I didn’t start off this season with a clear idea in terms of how many times I would be riding to work, only that I wanted to do it as often as I could. That being said, there’s been times where, because of circumstances I’ve not been able to ride for a few days straight. It’s easy to get down on myself, or in your case, yourself; try not to. Assure yourself that you have an open invitation to cycle, no matter how many times you may need to turn it down. Your bike is very understanding and it is always ready when you are.
Even if you’re starting late in the season, go for it! Happy cycling!
This song makes me think of indecision, hence the name.
On my way home the other day I was waiting in a long line of traffic at a stop light. As I was waiting for things to get moving again a man walking down the sidewalk came up to me and said, “Hey! Your friend’s trying to get your attention.”
My first thought was: Great. Here’s some driver giving me flack for taking up space on the road. With this assumption rooted in my mind I turned to the man on the sidewalk and said, “He’s not my friend.”
“Nope. I don’t have any friends.”
No sooner did I finish talking with this man then the traffic started moving again and, lo and behold, a friend of mine pulled up along side of me! Due to the construction along the road we were able to move along side each other for a block or so. I told him about what had happened and we laughed.
It’s easy for me to put my head down and block out my fellow commuters. Even when I drive, I dislike looking over at other vehicles. I don’t know if I’m just uncomfortable making eye contact with other drivers, or if I’m afraid I’ll accidentally extend a challenge or invite looks and/or gestures of disapproval for my driving. Whatever this condition is, it carries over to my bike as well. Perhaps I need to make an effort to look over and smile one in a while, because, as I found out the other day, sometimes you’ll find a friendly face. You just have to look around.
For Mother’s Day I am posting a song that I named in honour of my wife, Allison.
It is for all that she does for me and our family. It is for her patience and love. It is for being there through the good times and the not so good times (though the good greatly outnumber the not so good). It is for the mere fact that it’s the only song I’ve come up with so far that she’s told me she likes.
Happy Mother’s Day, my heart.
Welcome to Edmonton, where spring eventually comes; you just have to suffer through a few false starts and regressions back into winter. As spring has tentatively arrived, I have brought out my bike for another season of two-wheeled, person-powered commuting to work. The warmish weather and the (for now) absence of snow aren’t the only signs of spring, as my ride to work would be incomplete without rows and piles of sand and dirt, and construction along 97th Street. The construction I can handle, I just queue up with the other vehicles; we’re not going anywhere. However, I am finding that I am covered with a fine layer of silt by the time I reach my destination. Every so often I end up crunching a grain of sand or two between my teeth, and of course my quote-unquote lane is cut in half as I am squeezed between the vehicles to my left and the gravel dunes to my right. I guess I shouldn’t complain, though, as I’m quite sure the deposit is covering up any number of holes and fissures in the road. It’s difficult because the quote-unquote bike lane is the same lane as the bus lane; the very same lane that gets chewed up year after year as it is subjected to the girth of ETS vehicles; the lane that reminds me that I have an old bike with no shocks (though the male-friendly saddle does help). Let’s just say it’s a good thing my wife and I weren’t going to have any more kids anyway. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the City to give 97th a good ol’ wash down to see for sure, and brace myself for repeated impact.