Being a Grandmother

Having had no expectation of ever being a grandmother – my other two children had made different choices – when my youngest daughter had her first child I was thrust into learning about the meaning of ‘Grandma.’ With her enthusiastic assent I began finding ways of seeing Baby Tait every two, at most three months. Whether they came to me or I traveled there, each visit revealed new information and insights on his character and personality. Without that frequency it would have been easy to lose our comfortable relationship.

Now Tait has two sisters, Tessa and Tori, within a very busy household and I look forward to being with them whenever I can. Sometimes it has been to give Grandma-care when there are just too many priorities in their parent’s lives, other times the family comes here, or we vacation together.

Each visit has been precious time spent as I learn more about the developing personalities and interests of each of the children. We have fun together in new-to-them ways, like the ritual I showed them of hosting a tea party with real china and fabric tablecloth, puzzles and games they teach me, time spent in pool and ocean water learning of its powers and delights. I have enjoyed seeing them as they participate in sports and club activities. More recently they have been educating me on the merits and ways of using my iPad.

Immigrant Grandparents

Whenever I consider how fortunate I am to be able to come to know these children at all, I am reminded that my own grandmothers had no similar grandparent relationship available to their children. Both sets of my grandparents had a tremendous influence on me and taught me a great deal. My paternal grandparents emigrated from Norway as a young couple and their three children had no connection with the ‘old country’ where they had come from. My maternal grandmother came from Belgium as a child, with a similar result.

I find myself agonizing about how sad it is that both of my parents and their siblings did not have benefit of shared experiences with any grandparents. The loneliness those mothers felt in their new country without the familiarity and support of family members must have been dreadful. I salute them for all they endured, and although they have passed on, I thank them again for their gifts to me.

Women and Male Friends

In the last chapter of the third book of the Floathouse Series, Lifelong Learning, I wrote of the importance of women having male friends.  Over a few short months I had lost some of them. My male friends had all been working with the public; we had been on the firing line of public opinion. “All five of these men supported me in my efforts and since the loss of four of them, I value my husband as a friend, even more.”

My husband is gone now but I have discovered some other male friends. Two of them were my husband’s friends who make a point of checking in and offering assistance should I need it. There is a tree man for tree advice, a gardener to do what I cannot do, and several men my husband relied on for financial investment ideas. I also have my book printer and my website designer, whom Dale had never met. These men are all happily settled in their own lives and I can count on them for the male perspective on many topics.

I Believe

            In my book I wrote, and still believe, “Men friends have much to teach and women can be well rewarded by respecting and enjoying those relationships. They can enrich our lives and provide a different perspective from the intimate male-female one that so often is the only view visible in a marriage.

            A male life partner can’t be expected to provide everything in that one relationship, and while women friends are desirable and to be cherished, they do not offer all the same aspects that friendship with a man can, and often does. I have been exceedingly fortunate.”

I repeat, women benefit widely by having a few male friends.

                  

You Lifted Me Up

During this time when Canadians are confined to their home, or home office, with many unemployed and most suffering in some way from loss of income, to say nothing of Covid 19 virus illness, yesterday I heard an inspiring conversation that could benefit each of us.

The radio station was CKNW, Vancouver (980 on the AM band) and the interviewer between 3 and 4 PM was their Lynda Steele. Lynda’s guest was Commander Chris Hadfield, who now resides in Vancouver. She asked what Chris remembered most of his experience of being in space. Answer: Primarily the view, being continually surrounded by windows and having that spectacular view-scape to look out on, the whole time he was up there. He commented that even on our worst days on earth we can look at the sky and think of that.

Other Questions

Lynda’s other questions were around size of the capsule, number of space occupants with him and how long he was in space. Chris had taken three trips, each a bit different but he estimated upwards of 140 days away from earth altogether. He compared the quarantine period some of us are experiencing now, to the time the astronauts spent in preparation for each mission.

Asked about the fear factor we have over the virus, he explained that once departed earth and into the mission, each of the astronauts knew what their job was, they had trained for it so well that any fear disappeared, to be replaced by all that knowledge and experience.

Like a Compact Car

The space in which 3 of the astronauts worked was small, “about the size of a compact car,” were his words. Sometimes there were 6 people working together in the larger craft, other times 3 team members would return to earth and be replaced by 3 others.

Referring to being in the compact car capsule space, Lynda remarked that she needed to work at home now in her condo, with her husband, and they usually got along well together. She asked if Chris had any advice for her, or for others in a similar situation.

Valuable Advice

Having heard him speak publicly before, and knowing of his music and singing in space, I thought Chris was brilliant with these particular answers. He referred to having his wife and a son at home. With a small group existing in such a small area together, he explained that on each day of that confinement in space he made a point of doing something nice, that was unexpected, for one of the team. Additionally, he made certain he said something pleasant, every day, to each of the others on the team.

It left me close to tears, and I can only assume that such policy continues in his home on earth. Let us each try on these difficult days to incorporate those thoughts and considerations from one great astronaut. Thank you for them Commander.

Giving A Good Reading

Last week I posted a blog about my process for learning to speak in public. This is a good opportunity to follow up with some suggestions about giving a good reading of your written work. There are only a few guidelines, but if they are carefully followed you will find success. There are ‘what to do,’ and also ‘what not to do,’ instructions.

A lot of the success depends on your preparation, of the material you plan to read, and then at the location, of being comfortable with the room setup.

Preparation

Your own preparation includes deciding what you want to read. Know the time being allowed and try reading parts of your work that might provide that time allotment. Play around by trying different passages. Read different parts out loud a few times, timing each of them, then try a composite of excerpts that may meet the time. Choose pages that will be interesting, and if you want your audience to buy the book, don’t read the most important ending passages.

Choosing Pages

Never read from the pages of your book!       What instead do you do?

Input the words in your computer. (I have each of my books on computer so I can download the parts I want to work with.) Choose a font that is easy to read, like Times New Roman, and then increase the font size to at least 14, but preferably larger.

Practice Timing

Once you have decided the pages from the book you will read, and have prepared your copy in a font you can easily read, it’s time for practice! I recommend you stand at a raised counter or in front of a high bedroom chest, preferably where you can look through the window at your pretend audience as you read. I use my kitchen serving counter and imagine that my audience can hear and watch me from their boat that’s bobbing in the bay.

When you are standing comfortably with space to discard used pages, set the timer (I use a simple kitchen timer) and belt it out, with appropriate emphasis. Adjust material, try again and again, to get the correct time. Then practice some more.

Arrive Early

At the event site, arrive early enough to:

  • test the microphone sound
  • check the/on off button
  • speak into the microphone while holding it in your right hand
  • place your large print paper in the left hand and see how light affects the page
  • seek a place to put aside each paper after you have read it
  • seat yourself where you can relax until called; review first words you will say

Learning to Speak in Public

There is a well-known saying, “I can’t think of anything worse than having to speak in public.” This was never the case with me because I had my first speaking experiences at university in my third year, having to speak before my classmates and my instructor. For this quiet shy student, describing how to make or do something that I knew how to do well, it seemed an easy slide into my career as a teacher. So, because it was part of my training, I demonstrated how to mix and cut biscuits with a mirror positioned overhead so other students could follow the method used while I gave instructions.

I obtained my home economics degree and a permanent basic teacher’s certificate after other such performances. Then came practice teaching at the front of a full class of students in a Vancouver school where I had been assigned so-called, practice teaching, which is sometimes called a practicum. The following years provided plenty of practice in three different school districts, each class regulated by the sound of a bell that controlled the time when students left my classroom and another group trooped in.

A new Home

When we moved here from Nanaimo in 1991, my daily life changed from having assorted community volunteer responsibilities to choosing suitable fixtures, floor coverings, fabrics, wallpaper, colour schemes and paint for our new home, and creating its new garden setting.

My Promise

After all those years of timing my classroom presentations by the ringing of bells, I had made a promise to myself that as soon as we were settled, I would learn to develop an internal timer for knowing the length of a speech. At a gathering of businesswomen in the city soon after my arrival, I met members of International Training in Communication (ITC). They welcomed me to their next meeting and my long-held promise was under way.

ITC was my route for the next 10 years. Each meeting had an agenda and every person who spoke was allotted a time length. At my very first meeting my name was on the agenda with a one-minute time limit. The assignment was to stand and introduce myself to the group. Not a difficult step for me but for other new people who joined our group we could see the stress as it passed through their body. Some stuttered, some grew red in their face, some uttered their name and just sat down with 45 seconds left on the timer. It was the beauty of this group that each new member was encouraged to stand, and when they “had their butterflies flying in formation,” speak clearly stating what they had come to say.

By careful increments of difficulty each of us proceeded toward proficiency. As we were assigned longer presentations, members were eventually asked to make their first real speech. Time allowed for that was 5 to 8 minutes and all of the members were there to provide ‘feedback’ a much gentler way to “give evaluation.” We were encouraged to challenge ourselves and eventually I learned how to make longer presentations and give workshops, some of them using PowerPoint, complete with word outlines and pictures. It was such regular practice that allows me to make a good presentation within the time allowed.

What’s in a Scholarship?

At our CFUW Victoria club annual meeting I was honored to speak in celebration of the all the young women awarded a bursary or scholarship. These were my words to those assembled:
“Hello members and friends. I have a story to tell that I hope you will tuck into the back of your memory, and recognize the appropriate time to bring it forward.
This is the story about a child who grew up on the remote coast of mainland British Columbia, living in a small wood house pulled up on to a float of logs and surrounded by water. It was called a floathouse.

The few people living in the area, or passing through, were hand loggers, beach combers, and fishermen. Early schooling was taught by the child’s mother because there was no school, or even other children to attend one. The mail and groceries came by boat every two weeks.

Logging Camp

When she was ten years old her family moved to a logging camp. There she was able to walk to a one-room school, typical in many rural areas of Canada, where the teacher taught twenty-eight pupils. High school wasn’t available here so instead of the family moving, she was sent to town by herself.At age thirteen she went to board with a family she didn’t know. She was able to visit her parents only on occasional weekends.

Four years later, near the end of her Grade 12 year, a favourite English teacher approached her to say, ‘You need to write the government finals anyway, so maybe you’ll think about filling out this application for a scholarship.’ In 1955 the 400-student school was not yet accredited, and writing finals in all senior courses were mandatory.

Her school principal called her to his office later, and told her basically the same thing. The scholarship was a gift from Crown Zellerbach Corporation, the largest employer in their small town,. The winning applicant studying at university to become a teacher, would receive $500 for each year, for five years. He asked if she wanted to be a teacher, something she hadn’t ever thought of it. Her mind whirled but she signed the forms, wrote the exams, and then secured a good job selling ladies clothing.

She had a steady boyfriend, as most of her girlfriends had. Her family had assumed the two would marry soon, and she would become a homemaker and mother as both her mother and grandmothers had been.

A Winner Announced

It may come as no surprise to those who know my history, it was my picture in the local newspaper when a scholarship winner was announced. With that, everything seemed upside down. Here was a logging-camp, mill-town girl, going off to try her way in a big city. Arrangements were hastily made; space in the dormitory secured and registration at the University of British Columbia completed.

Upon arrival, culture shock set in: sorority girls wearing cashmere and pearls, dances called “mixers”, afternoon science labs held in cold, drafty, army huts. There were Saturday morning lectures, bus schedules needing transfers, heavy cafeteria food and line-ups for absolutely everything. For her, it was all so new, and such fun.

The girl went home for that first Thanksgiving weekend and broke off with her boyfriend. From that time onward she didn’t really fit in at home. She had discovered a whole new world that she had never been aware of, and had decided to be a part of it. She had already learned new ways of looking at life. She obtained a university degree from UBC, met lifelong friends, including a best friend who became her husband, and developed a satisfying, varied, career that also included motherhood.”

Life Changing

So now, after all those years since, I can tell you it has been a very good life–one beyond my wildest expectations. Winning the scholarship did all of that for me; it was indeed life-changing. If you remember nothing else about stories of award winners, please realize that even small amounts of money can provide approval, and encouragement, to any student. Never underestimate the change that can result in the lives of students who receive our CFUW trust money. If they are ready to make the change, it has the potential to create a very different and much improved life.