Just a silly / fun assumption poem

Billy walks casually down the street,

Cindy’s soft hand in his, perfectly fits.

He strides over puddles, avoiding wet feet,

And thawing lumps of slushy dog


Cries his true love, letting go his grip,

To blow on her hands and rub them fast.

“It’s too cold for the pool; not even a dip

in the hot tub will warm up my


if you want,” Billy tells Cindy,

“I’m tired of being bored in this muck!

Too warm for a ski and too cold for my bike,

Unless we go back to your place and


your shirt in,” she laughs, “Not happening.

My parents are home and they’ll pick

on us both. How about instead I watch you swim,

whistling at the size of your


me off that you won’t come in the water,

you’ve already got your swimsuit and stuff.”

Billy shakes his head. “We’re almost there!

And you even went to the spa and waxed your


cookies,” Cindy tosses. “I’ll swim when it’s hot,

Right now I’m just not feeling the best.”

They dodge a snow heap and Billy curses a lot,

mourning ’cause he won’t get to see her


up,” Cindy warns him. “I know what you’re up to —

I can see your face getting red.

Swimsuits in springtime are just an excuse

to get me back into bed!”


Addendum: I’ve never written one of these before! Much more challenging than I’d anticipated. Sonnets might be easier. Still, kind of fun and a nice stress-reliever. Happy Tuesday — hope you enjoyed!

A poem for Monday night: Somewhere and Here

Somewhere in the world a flower is blooming

Right now

Petals are opening, fresh and dewy


Colours bright and delicate against the green

leafy stems

And bees hover close by to gather precious


Somewhere in the world an infant is nursing


Tiny fist curled against mother’s soft skin


Fine hairs quivering with the rush of breath

from kisses

And strong hands wrap the soft blanket


Here the stars are erased by matted clouds ushered

by wind-gusts

Ridges of ice hang like jagged teeth along eaves


Furry bodies snore in musty dens, stomachs gnawing


And the boots are drying on the heating vent because

they leak.

Thinking to myself on a Sunday night.

That moment when you’re partway through a pile of quizzes, and having paused for a few good-night kisses, started mis-marking the questions . . . and you have to go back through all of them to fix your marking error. And you’re marking in pen because once, long ago, when you’d used pencil, a student had received work back and crowed in delight because (as she declared loudly), she could erase the incriminating feedback and her parents would never know the wiser, so you’ve pretty much kept to pen ever since. 

That space of time on a weekend morning, when you know how fast the hours are going to go by and yet you can’t summon the willpower to leave the coziness of the bed and binge-watching a new show while cuddled up next to the significant other. The minutes tick by, running you closer and closer to the return of the work week, and the pressure keeps you from really savouring the moment, yet actually doing something productive is more than you can manage.

That sinking feeling when you are reminded yet again that you’re a lousy housekeeper, according to social standards, and that you’re starting to accept it as a way of life. 

That triumph when you bypass the point in the knitting project where you’d had to unravel it all and start over again, and you’re succeeding. Two weeks ago you’d contemplated tossing the whole thing into a bag and never looking at it again. But the project has achieved a rhythm and you can see its shape now, and the first roll of yarn is nearing its end — you’ll soon have to switch to a new skein.

That tick of realization in planning a school trip that it’s perfectly okay to have an estimated goal for accommodations as long as the bus is paid for first. And the slump of the shoulders at the thought of all the paperwork yet to be filled out for it.

That knot of tension in the shoulders. 

That numbness of the butt after hours of late Sunday-night marking.

That comforting knowledge of a short week, thanks to an approaching holiday. 

Fresh knot at the prospect of shopping for said holiday.

Those dreams of being chased by zombies through theme parks, or being back in a childhood / adolescent home, trying to deal with prospective childbirth, from which you want to escape but you go back into sleep after using the washroom and letting the dog out for a pee because you need to see that everything turns out okay.

The ragged bits of cuticle that are vistual testimony to the nerves and anxiety that you can’t quite shake.

The memories of meditation, yoga, jogging attempts, and circuit training at the gym.

Sunday night.

Late winter / early spring skiing: animal tracks and animated moods

The snow was sticky today.

It was a balmy -1C when my son and I finally got back out to the ski hill, with a wind chill of -5. Perfect blue sky with the half-moon faintly hanging above. Glorious. There were only four other kids skiing and snowboarding, so we essentially had the slopes to ourselves. I think I would have enjoyed myself more with colder temperatures, though, as crazy as that sounds after our long and bitter winter.

You see, sticky snow is a hazard. It catches up the skis, snagging them in unexpected places and tripping me up when I least expected it. I nearly wiped out (peed myself a little in the process, too) a couple of times, just managing to save myself from what would have been violent tumbles. I’ve never yet broken an arm or a leg but I’m pretty certain that today would have been the day — glad to have dodged that bullet! Although I should have remembered to wear the bladder protection padding . . .

But it was still gorgeous up on that hill, perfect views all around and the added delight of more animal tracks! I saw squirrel, rabbit, and I later learned, fox and lynx.

Jack had a great time also, taking enormous pleasure in following me directly down three or four runs and irritating the heck out of me. I told him, “It’s not that I don’t trust YOU, it’s that if I get caught up and fall you’ll end up running me over and maybe getting hurt yourself!” Silly boy.

Jack had a great time also, taking enormous pleasure in following me directly down three or four runs and irritating the heck out of me. I told him, “It’s not that I don’t trust YOU, it’s that if I get caught up and fall you’ll end up running me over and maybe getting hurt yourself!” Silly boy.

And of course, shortly after getting home, I had a lovely nap. Bridget went to a birthday party later on, her dad taking her so I could sleep, and had some fun bowling, and then Jack went out again to the local Twoonie Skate so he could practice his hard-stops, cross-overs, and spins.

The other day, one of my colleagues commented to me, approvingly and with some surprise, how active I’ve become with my kids. I said, I’ve been trying, for sure. It’s not only good for them (and I do feel like I’ve been playing a bit of catch-up to compensate for the years where we didn’t do much of anything — that refrain “The years before five last the rest of their lives” repeating through my head), but it’s good for me, too. I’m still twenty pounds over the limit of my dress pants’ waistband, and we’re not active every day, but it’s been on a steady increase. And I think we’re seeing benefits in both my son’s and my mental health as well — he’s experienced far less incidents of anxiety, or been better able to cope. I still take my pills, of course (mental note: replenish stock this week), but it’s absolutely true that getting out into the fresh air and sunshine fires bullets at my depression when it rises.

So why was it that I kept yawning on the way up the ski lift?

Censorship on the radio today made me angry

This afternoon, while I was driving my son home from archery practice, I heard “Pumped-Up Kicks” come on the radio. If you’re not familiar with the song, it’s by Foster the People and it’s about getting into the mind of a teenager with mental illness who finds his father’s gun.

My familiarity with the song comes from two fronts: I remember hearing it when it first started making the rounds in 2011/2012, and it was used as a reference when my students performed the award-winning play Lockdown (Douglas Craven) last year. It has a good beat, satisfying metallic sound that feels a little influenced by Green Day, and it tackles a tough topic: the songwriter, Mark Foster, has said that he’s glad it sparked conversations about teen mental health. 

So it really pissed me off that two words were blanked out of the song: “gun” and “bullet”.

I get it. I understand the desire for censorship, the need to protect young people from trouble, to avoid offending survivors of violence and families of victims. After the Sandy Hook shooting, the song was pulled from most radio stations for a while, just as the Tragically Hip’s “New Orleans is Sinking” stopped being played for a while after Hurricane Katrina.

What upsets me is continued censorship after a crisis has passed. If a song, a book, or a painting doesn’t past public muster for sensitivity, why bother airing it at all? When you delete, erase, cover-up, or block out part of an image — particularly one that is meant to investigate and make a statement — you’re altering the message and changing the vision of the artist. That’s not to say that there are not pieces out there undeserving of censoring: anything derived from directly harming vulnerable individuals is off-limits. Art should come from consent and seeking to understand. It’s just too bad that so many of our species are so quick to leap to judgment and bias when given the face value of something designed to initiate thought.

The first instance I found online of “Pumped-Up Kicks” being censored is detailed on http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=22941 — it was done on MTVU, and has been carried on since then. Whereas many songs with extremely foul language also have words blanked out, it’s surprising how this one’s reference to weapons and ammunition within the context of mental illness was targeted also. There’s an astounding double-standard in the music and entertainment industry, one that my daughter is now picking up on. We continued to listen to the radio after I’d gotten home with the boy, and a song came on with the word “sexy” in it. She was horrified, although it didn’t bother me at all. But I know there are other songs I’ve heard her singing along to, including that one about whips and chains exciting the singer, and I have to admit, that does make me a little uncomfortable.

So guess what my solution is?

If I hear that song, or any other that I don’t really want my kids listening to or singing along with because I don’t think it’s appropriate, I turn it off. And when they ask me why I did that, I explain my actions and we discuss the lyrics, the subtext, and its overall place as a representation of society’s current views and values. And sometimes I’ll turn the song back on, or find it on YouTube, so they can hear the example again and we can deconstruct it further. I don’t sugar-coat it, but I get them to examine the why and what-for, because it’s still someone’s work. It’s still a vision, whether I think it’s effectively carried out or poorly done.

So that’s what I did this afternoon, when I noticed the words missing from the song. And the discussion didn’t take very long, either; we digressed into other topics, one idea branching into another. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I enjoy controversies, you see. I like digging into difficult ideas and trying to see them from as many sides as I can.

And as a writer, I know damned well that someone out there is going to read my next book and have some strong words for my approach to different, still-controversial issues. I didn’t write in Crystal and Wand about school shootings, but — without spoiling things — there are some events that I suspect will raise a few eyebrows or hackles. I’m wringing my hands a little for when the book is released, wondering whether the spit’s going to hit the fan. (Side note: one of my colleagues who has read the first and second books in the trilogy, Wind and Shadow and Blood and Fire said to me that she’d also read 50 Shades of Grey and she thought my books were smuttier. I didn’t know whether to be shocked or horrified!) But I had to be true to the way I thought the characters would handle the situation, telling the story that needed to be told. That meant accepting more than ever before that there will be readers who won’t like my work. Negative feedback always hurts at first, so maybe it’s not a bad thing to expect to receive it. But neither should a writer or an artist hold back on their vision for fear that the audience will want to censor it out of preconceived ideas on how the formula should look.

That being said, I am utterly grateful to my publisher and editors for their support, as my edits continue on Crystal and Wand. Some days it feels like I’m afraid of everything going wrong in my work — that my best efforts will unleash a tide of negativity I won’t be able to handle. The fact that I have such incredible friends standing with me and not telling me to cut the controversy out of my novel means a lot. A hell of a lot.

I hope I won’t have to hear the censored version of “Pumped-Up Kicks” again anytime soon, but if I do, I already have the original on my iTunes to listen to instead.

Thursday Roundup of Randomness: Superworms, Fingernails, Second Winter . . .

1) I bought Elizabeth Reptile some superworms as a treat this week, and I discovered a deep satisfaction in watching her gobble each one with noisy, squishy crunches.


2) Uber-long finger nails — the kind that curl over the fingers. I always wonder when I see them how the owner of such nails copes with typing, opening cans, and a myriad of other mundane tasks. And then I wish for my back to be scratched.72253433186a665c44f407705e5f9145

3) I have decided that we no longer have “Spring”. Instead, I shall call this season, after the manner of sneaking Hobbitses, “Second Winter”. second-breakfast-o

4) When I am at home with my children, I am constantly amazed by how big and increasingly independent they are. But when I see them at my school — my son is in grade 8 there (it’s a 7-12 school), and my daughter gets dropped off by the bus so I can collect her without having to race home — by all that’s holy, they’re just so little still! It’s like I’m looking at them through flipped ends of a telescope!

10731082_809640995784293_4663919805633907738_n 10614286_806311006117292_1765148976488686624_n

5) The more I try to clean my house, the messier it gets. It’s true. I put everything I’m trying to sort into piles, and then do the sweeping and vacuuming and washing and dusting, and then I’m so exhausted that the piles just sort of stay where they are. And the cycle repeats. Kind of like this f*@&ing season. Whoops, I meant, Second Winter, because apparently we already had a day of spring where I didn’t have to scrape the car windshield and I saw kids walking around without coats on.


6) I spoke with a chap on the phone last night about the cost of trading in my current vehicle — a Suzuki SX4 that we are rapidly outgrowing — for a Dodge Caravan. Not going for it as I want to pay down a loan or two before entering a new lease or whatever. But it struck me how much the car salesperson / loan analyst can depend on verbal patter and jargon to slip the consumer into a vehicle agreement. Rather annoying, too. #notallcarsalespeople


7) I finally got a set of tests marked today that I’ve been carrying around with me for over three weeks. Brought a second set home but I cannot mark until the children are both in bed, and the elder is currently finishing his homework after a busy evening of skating lesson, karate, shower, and cookies.


8) I made cookies. I bought the Pillsbury kind that is straight cheating: you pick up the lump of cookie dough, drop it on a baking sheet, and slide it in the oven. Takes 10 seconds. Still nearly burned them. My daughter pretty much tisked at me for cheating. She gets no cookies tomorrow.


9) In two skating lessons, my son has caught up on more than five years since I last had him in the club. I watched him take on hard-stops, cross-overs, and spins, and I harbour a hope that he has found another niche for himself. Yet I can’t stop myself from worrying over what people might say about my son taking up figure skating. It’s the same nervousness that I feel sometimes about telling people I’m Wiccan and a witch, as well as a few other things I generally keep to myself for fear of being judged. Although I’ve gotten over telling people that I frequently fight depression and anxiety, low self-esteem and guilt.

10) I need to buy a new belt but they are difficult to find in my size.

11) Hubby has suggested that we stop subscribing to cable because we never watch it anymore — only Netflix, YouTube, and assorted on-demand channels provided through our Apple box. I suggested doing away with cable TWO YEARS AGO. *tears at hair*

12) Readers from 21 (TWENTY-ONE!!!!) different countries have clicked on my blog. That just floors me. I need to step up my game to deserve that kind of loving!

13) I just like the number 13. I think it’s supremely cool that some buildings still skip the number in elevators, or that it’s missing on certain streets. Superstitions, myths, and fables are fascinating.

14) Tickets have now been acquired for both the Gordon Lightfoot concert in August, and the first Tragically Hip concert here in Kirkland Lake! Plus interest is rising in a school trip to Ottawa ComicCon. Exciting things are in the wind!

15) I’m definitely back on the coffee again. I would not have survived this week without the bean. Not sure what to make of that.

Oh, random thoughts that sprout in my brain like noisome weeds, threading into nooks and crannies where they’re least expected. They winkle around, spreading tendrils and dropping seeds, worrying at me until I finally write them down. Or dancing, like my favourite wolfie there, until I finally acknowledge them. Notice me, senpai!


And now, a poem: The Fire

Some nights the fire burns bright and fierce

Flames daring the ghosts to do their worst

Some nights the stars glare empty and cold

Dead embers of life on far distant worlds

Patience wears thin and the cold chisels through

Pressure on the bones as stress bites and chews

Some nights the fire clings to the bottommost log

Bared and glowing over ashes misted by fog

The sky hangs heavy over courses of lead

Focus strength on the power to lift up the head

Some nights dreaming is the only recourse of the sane

But sleeping and wakeful all feels the same

Plodding forward on endless circles in space

Eddies and whirlpools leave no permanent trace

All fleeting, all passing, all hard in their wake

Struggle on, pull together, but which world is fake?

Heavy lids and dry eyes, tired hands and weary feet

Battle spirit, time, hope, goodwill, slowing heartbeat

Drowning, climbing, sliding, cursing, fight

Give up on giving up, the end’s never in sight

Sometimes the fire keeps burning even under the sand

Cradle the spark, though it may burn your hand.

Crystal and Wand is coming this spring — want a taste?

You’re invited to sink your teeth (or fangs) into this selection from my upcoming novel, the third and final instalment in the Talbot Trilogy, a paranormal romance / urban fantasy that’s not for the faint of heart.  

First, the blurb . . .

Lovers reunite, and are torn apart. Bloodthirsty fiends battle for control of an army of the undead. With the community of Talbot frozen under layers of ice and snow, the domination of the vampire coven seems certain, but in the eye of the storm, the witches and the vampire hunters search desperately for the means to bring an end to the violence that threatens to take over more than one small, sleepy town. Will Rayvin and Charlotte be able to work together, combining their skills in magick, to prevent the loss of more innocent lives? 

And now, the excerpt:

He swiveled her stretcher around and rolled her into another room nearby, connected by a sliding door. Here, she saw a massive bed covered in white silk sheets, fur rugs and tables covered with candles. There was even a mirror on the ceiling. She recoiled, tugging feverishly and uselessly against her bonds.

Instead of taking her to the bed as she feared, he pulled again to the right, and stopped her in front of a bank of six small flatscreen TVs. The views changed every ten seconds or so, until he tapped a few keys on a small black keyboard. Then, each TV focused on the hospital lobby, where Grant and Malcolm sat glaring at each other below the hidden camera.

“I have eyes and ears all over this hospital, Rayvin,” he told her seriously. “I knew you were here the minute you showed up. I honestly kept expecting Grant to figure it out and come charging down here, but guess what? The wolf-man’s got a stuffy nose!” Jason snorted and pressed another few buttons.

The lower right flatscreen changed to a time-stamped view of the lobby, reversing its recording until Charlotte, Marcy, and Siobhan were walking backward into the room and facing the men. Here, Jason paused the video. He drew up a black leather office chair and sat in it, his arms folded.

“Where do you suppose they were going, Ray?” He mused, tilting his head back and forth. “You don’t think Malcolm de Sade, the dethroned and disillusioned, spilled a little secret to your band of allies, do you? Something about the Talbot Classic Theatre?”

Rayvin pulled so hard at one of the cuffs that she felt her skin chafing under its padding.

“I don’t know why you all think I’m so stupid. I know, Rayvin. I know about the vampire hunters from that stupidly named Society. S.H.I.P.—really? That makes no sense at all.” He got up and walked around the viewing screens. She heard a refrigerator door open, and when he came back around, he was sucking on a bag of plasma like it was a slushie.

Her stomach clamped at the sight, which made a little more of her own blood leak out and the after-pains surge once more.

“You’re really very tempting, you know. The smell of fresh blood is driving me nuts. You don’t mind if I eat in front of you, right?” He flopped back into his chair, clicking buttons again. The camera zoomed into the women’s faces, frozen on the screen. “You’re now wondering how I know about all this. Don’t worry, in a few minutes you’ll find out. I have a very reliable source.”

“So they’re walking into a trap, aren’t they?” Rayvin found her voice at last. “The Classic. You have people waiting for them there, don’t you?” It was really more of a statement than a question, but Jason nodded slowly in answer, still sucking on his snack.

She wanted to tell him something brave. She wanted to defy him, announcing that Marcy, Siobhan, and Charlotte wouldn’t fall for it, that they’d sense their enemies before the trap was sprung. Grant would sense her peril at any moment and come to her rescue. But the words dried up in her throat, and her eyes welled with tears. She turned her face away, willing herself to get back in control.

“Okay, I think that’s it.”

She heard Jason toss the empty plastic bag into a wastebasket. He turned her stretcher once more, so quickly it made her dizzy again, and pushed her back past the fish tank and his nurse shark, all the way to the hallway.

“I’m tired, Rayvin. You’ve got me up past my bedtime. I interrupted my sleep to play host for you, but I need to go back to dreamland for a bit. Thank god for the short days of winter, eh?” He chuckled, whisking her down another hallway. This one was lined with cinderblocks and unpainted wooden and steel doors. “I’ve watched enough movies to know what mistakes to avoid as the villain, but at the same time, I understand why the dastardly fiend needs to draw out the moment rather than ending it quickly. There’s so much pleasure in just relishing satisfaction, you know? So I’ve got my cameras ready, because I’m really exhausted and I can’t keep my eyes open much longer.”

He brought her to a stop next to a door marked “Boiler Room”.

And then he pulled a knife out of his pocket.

“It’s been more than ten years, Rayvin, since you paralyzed me and left me to rot in my chair.” Jason leaned over until his face was even with hers. He whipped off his patch to let her see the whole of his ruined eye. “And a couple of weeks ago, your boyfriend maimed me for the remainder of my after-life. So I’m thinking Code of Hammurabi. Remember, from Intro to Law?”

He shifted her body with one hand, reached under the blankets with his knife, and forced it deeply into her lower back. She shuddered and shrieked, the pain in her womb eclipsed by the agony of her muscles and tissue shredding. He sawed back and forth, cutting at her spine. She arched her back, trying to get away, screaming.

Something inside her gave way, snapping apart, and then for the second time in four hours, she blacked out.


Want to know more about the Talbot Trilogy? Follow the links below!

MistMidnightThe prequel novella: Mist and Midnight 
 Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Chapters, B&N

Stalked by a cruel and relentless vampire, Charlotte is on the run. Fleeing the city, the powers of magick her only protection, she couldn’t afford to fall for the hot modern prospector Pike Mahonen. Can she avoid temptation in a small town, to keep them both safe?

WindAndShadowBook One: Wind and Shadow — Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Chapters, B&N

Rayvin Woods, photographer and natural witch. She just wanted to start her life over again after a series of misadventures. She didn’t count on rekindling a lost love when she came home to Talbot…or battling a malevolent vampire and his coven for her life.

Grant Michaels, police officer. He thought Rayvin was a murderer. He will do whatever it takes to protect the community he loves from danger…but will he learn to trust his heart, and the word of a witch, before it’s too late?

Malcolm de Sade, cunning vampire, imprisoned underground for a year by Charlotte Fanning and Pike Mahonen (“Mist and Midnight”, Midnight Thirsts). His accidental release unleashes his hunger and ambitionon a small, sleepy town…

BloodFireBook Two: Blood and Fire — Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Chapters, B&N

What chance does one witch have against five vampires? Alone, not much. But Rayvin’s allies are gathering… The battle between good and evil supernatural forces heats up in the long, cold November nights of the former mining town. But how will Rayvin’s motley crew of spellcasters and shapeshifters cope when they discover the threat they face is even greater than they imagined?

Stay tuned for the Book Three: Crystal and Wand cover reveal, release date, launch party, and celebratory giveaways!

A song parody about confiscating cellphones in class

I confiscated a student’s phone today (grade 9), and she told me I was rude. So I started singing, “Why you gotta be so rude?” and I morphed the chorus into something about her phone. (I enjoy making up song parodies on the spot.) I don’t have a decent singing voice, generally speaking, so the kids advised me to keep my day job. But that song and the situation has been on my mind all day. Here, then, is my parody of “Rude” for your enjoyment!

Original lyrics by Magic! Adapted by me just for fun:

On Monday morning crawled out of bed and got ready for school,
Got in my car and bought a java, all to teach you.
Learning goals on the board and lesson planned;
I ask you a question . . .
I know that you’re a good student if given a chance!

Would you put your phone down for the rest of our class? Say yes, say yes,
‘Cause you need to know.
You say you’re multitasking but you need to pass.
Tough luck, Padawan, but the answer is no!

Why you gotta be so rude?
Don’t you know I’m human, too?
Why you gotta be so rude?
I’m going to take your phone anyway.
Take your phone . . .
Get it back when class ends.
Take your phone . . .
Should be paying attention.
Take your phone . . .
End of discussion.

Why you gotta be so rude?

I hate to do this, you leave no choice;
Can’t give instructions!
Gaming or watching videos
Is a distraction.
I need your attention
To explain these new skills and concepts.
Make sure all your work gets done.
Learn cellphone etiquette!

Would you put your phone down for the rest of our class? Say yes, say yes, 
‘Cause you need to know.
Get off Instagram, kid, you need to pass.
Tough luck, young one, ’cause I’m taking your phone!

Why you gotta be so rude?
Don’t you know I’m human, too.
Why you gotta be so rude?
I’m going to take your phone anyway
Take your phone . . .
Get it back when class ends.
Take your phone . . .
Should be paying attention.
Take your phone . . .
End of discussion.

Why you gotta be so rude?

Would you put your phone down for the rest of our class? Say yes, say yes,
‘Cause you need to know.
Stop SnapChatting, I want to help you to pass;
Tough luck, young one, ’cause you’re losing your phone!

Why you gotta be so rude?
Don’t you know I’m human too
Why you gotta be so rude
I’m going to take your phone anyway.
Take your phone . . .
Get it back when class ends.
Take your phone . . .
Should be paying attention.
Take your phone . . .
End of discussion.

Why you gotta be so rude?
Why you gotta be so rude?
Why you gotta be so rude?


It’s not always easy figuring out how to show students the right ways to behave in a high school classroom. Certainly cellphones on their persons add another dimension to the challenge. I don’t mind if they have them, and I’ve learned to work with devices, integrating them into my lessons, but the students who can’t keep them out of their hands for longer than five minutes — or who have difficulty in just turning them over so the texts can’t be read immediately, or there’s no temptation to look at Facebook — they’re a huge source of concern. I keep looking for ways to teach cellphone etiquette, but that only works if the individual is willing to work with me in changing a bad habit. And that requires the individual to put the phone down and give me attention.

Maybe we need interventions for cellphone addiction? I’m only partially kidding . . . I ought to try a restorative justice circle, sans cellphones, to talk about their impact on the classroom and what good and bad manners looks like. To some degree, it’s also a maturity issue. For a few students, using cellphones to rebel a little bit is about social status and reputation. For example, what if a very smart girl doesn’t want others to think she’s a brain, so she’s a little silly with her phone to de-emphasize her intelligence? What if an interested boy with a plan for the future doesn’t want to be laughed at, so he sticks to sharing videos and funny snap chats to throw his friends off the scent? I think there is more than one reason why teenagers have a hard time letting go of their cellphones — it has to do with feeling connected, feeling rebellious, establishing rep and saving face. The devices are security blankets, of a sort, and shields, and lifelines. And I’m not afraid to admit that if they’d been around when I was a teenager, I would have done the same out of shyness. After all, I used books, magazines, and my Gameboy, for very much the same purposes.

I used to try keeping cellphones out of my classroom completely, but it seemed more logical to me to find ways to include them. This semester, I’ve been making up online quizzes that kids can complete on their devices, assigning blog posts (same thing), and developed lessons in photographic composition that only need the use of a simple camera, such as those in most smartphones. The challenge is in helping the students to understand when to listen by putting the phones away, or at least down. I’ve done a lesson on active listening techniques and posted key points in my classroom. Provided frequent and daily reminders on what active listening looks like. I seem to be at the phase where, for some, confiscation is the tactic that will prove most effective in changing their focus, but it’s like that old saying about trying to force a horse to drink.

So instead of focusing on angst and frustration, I make up songs in the classroom that lighten the mood a little and deflect a power struggle. The next stage is to phone homes and meet with parents, something I really dread.

So it’s Sunday night — last so many hours of March Break — and guess what I’m doing?

Yeah. If you guessed marking school work, you know me pretty well. As my son told me, I’m not a terrible procrastinator, I’m a great procrastinator because I’m so good at putting things off.


The good news is that I feel fairly rested and ready to take on the work week. The bad news is that I kind of wish I could spend the next few days focusing my newfound energies on my home. That great long list I’d made for myself at the start of the break? Didn’t do it. All the skiing I anticipated? Didn’t happen. The laundry folding, floor washing, paper organizing, marking and editing frenzy throughout the bonus seven days of free time?

I could blame it on the cough that lingered through most of the break and made my waking hours difficult. But the simple fact is that I’m lazy when I don’t have a deadline. I do much better with routine. What I need to get better at is setting and following my own routines.

That, and turning off the TV. We binge-watched The 100 today and yesterday, reviewing season 1 and getting halfway through season 2, with little intermissions of 3rd Rock for comic relief. I really, really enjoy The 100 — so much food for thought, and we do a lot of talking about character motivations, science, and philosophy while we’re watching. I’d love to read or write some fan fiction (if it exists) about the lives of the Grounders and the Mountain Men before the Sky People landed and skewed the world just a little more. And I’d love to watch the show with a few more adults and some shot glasses — the writers love the term “my people” so much, it really ought to be a drinking game.

So there’s that. My addiction to the boob tube, time suckage at its finest. I’ve toyed with doing away with the television completely, but we’d have to get rid of all of our DVDs and Blu-Rays as well, plus slapping an elastic on my wrist every time I felt tempted to put on Netflix or do a little surfing through YouTube.

I just want to be entertained.

And the funny part is that I suspect even without the TV, movies, and Netflix, I still would seek out the escape of fiction because I’d be reading. I don’t read nearly as often as I used to, in part because I get really into the book I’m reading and therefore I become very pissed off when my child or spouse pulls me away from it. Come to think of it, I get peeved in the same way when I get interrupted in my cleaning. So either I need to cultivate patience, or they need to learn to leave Mommy alone when she’s in a groove.

That’s another reason why I’m throwing myself into the marking tonight. Doing it at home with distractions is hella frustrating. The lack of proper desk space and lighting, constant noise (except late at night, and even then — or right now — I’m listening to my teenager gaming away on his Xbox) — it’s far easier to be productive at the school. But the thought of going up to the classroom last week put knots in my shoulders and gave me bad dreams. So I stayed home and promised myself every day that I’d get to the marking, knowing full well that I was telling myself dirty lies and that this was the inevitable result.

Self-fullfilling prophecy?

I’m punishing myself for being lazy. For misusing the gift of time. For sleeping when I ought to have been working. For knitting when I should have had pen in hand. I have to do penance in some way for putting off the work that had to be done. Mary Poppins glares at me from the back of my head. So does my own mother.

So. There’s my twenty-minute break between marking stories that should have been handed back a month ago. I’m diving in again, hoping to surface some time before 1 am so I can get some sleep before it’s back to work tomorrow. Maybe by March Break next year I’ll have learned my lesson.