Monday, November 27, 2006

Another one of those "get to know you" forward things

I've been tagged with a "getting to know you" forward again, so here goes...
Just a little something to help begin to get you in the holiday spirit!!

Welcome to the 2006 Holiday Edition of 'Getting to Know Your Friends'!
Everyone has time for a few moments of fun! It's only 20 questions so don't
be a scrooge!!! You know the drill. Forward, copy & paste, change answers
and be sure to send back to me. Enjoy!!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate...partly because of my chocolate addiction, partly because the thought of drinking eggs just grosses me out (I also avoid raw cookie dough because the thought of eating anything with raw eggs in it scares me). Plus the After Eight hot chocolate is heavenly.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? If Santa Claus existed, the elves would do the wrapping for him. But he doesn't, and I do all the work except for the presents Martin buys me unless I conscript him to wrap others.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? I think I would like coloured better if a lot of people didn't seem to be colorblind when it comes to putting together their coloured light strings. When people pick one or two colours, colours are long as you don't, say, go with a red-and-green scheme but then decide that substituting that one missing red with a pink is "good enough." No, it's not, sorry. But it's harder to screw up an all-white lighting scheme.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Nope.

5. When do you put your decorations up? Hubby's birthday is Dec. 1 and sister-in-law-who-lives-upstairs has a b-day Dec. 8, so I don't want to put up decorations before then, and I figure waiting a couple days after that is a good idea, too. In practice, the decorations go up when I have time and feel like it.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Whaddya mean, excluding dessert? I live for dessert! Okay, well, if I have to play by the rules, then I'd have to say stuffing--but only certain kinds.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? I really don't remember that much. Maybe when I won that colouring contest and Santa came to my apartment door with the prize. I think I was in grade 1.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't honestly remember. I was pretty young. I do remember my entire grade 1 class wrote letters to Santa and sent them off...and I was the only one who didn't get a reply. I do know I mentioned God in my letters to my teacher now and then, so maybe I mentioned Him in my letter to Santa and whoever writes the replies didn't know what to do with that? Maybe I just got overlooked? Who knows...but yes, I am still bitter!

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Sometimes.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? I've posted a pic of the tree and nativity set setup we've used the past 2 Christmases. The picture also shows that in 2004 I also hung stuff off the storage closet doors that are in the middle of our basement apartment, but that turned out to be a pain in the butt and I don't think I did that in 2005. We use the mini tree so that we don't trip over it in our small space, but we have used part of a larger tree in the past. Hubby is somewhat of a Christmas humbug so I decorate the tree myself these days, though we do snuggle and enjoy the lights on the tree at various points and various days once it's done. Oh, we also have a little box that you plug the lights into that makes the lights blink in time as it plays Christmas songs. I grew up with it, got it from my parents and we still enjoy it.

11. Snow... love it or dread it? It is very pretty...when you're inside...and so long as the cars haven't yet driven through it and dirtied it (or as long as you don't look at the roads). I hate shovelling, having to walk through it when no one else has shovelled, and driving in it, and I hate the cold, so I can only enjoy the snow at limited times.

12. Can you ice skate? Yes, but not well, not fast, and not backwards.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I guess that would have to be my engagement ring. I've had a lot of really nice gifts, though.

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? It be (the time when we remember) Jesus' birthday and all the amazing events surrounding that, as well as the reason He was born. I love the candlelight Christmas Eve service at my church, when we are able to attend. I do enjoy the family times, too.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Oh, I do get to talk about dessert! My favourite holiday dessert I've ever had was a President's Choice ice cream that was vanilla (or similar) ice cream that had candy cane pieces and a fudge crackle in it. Yum! It was a tradition for a while when we had dinner at my brother's in-laws' place, until they were no longer able to find it; I think we found something similar after a while, but it wasn't the same product.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Um...I like presents. And opening up my stocking. And the candlelight Christmas Eve service, when we are able to go.

17. What tops your tree? A star.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? Tough call. I would probably like giving more if I knew better what to get people and my gifts were better-received.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? I'm not sure. I like Silent Night.

20. Candy Canes... yuck or yum? I like 'em. They're better in ice cream accompanied by a fudge crackle, though, or with their flavour put into Second Cup's candy cane white hot choclolate. I really am a mint chocolate kind of person.

That's it from me. Next!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Anonymous poem I like re school

The following poem was shared with me today and I like it. Unfortunately I can't get the spacing to work out here, not even in the "Edit HTML" mode, but I guess that's okay :-p.


Did I Miss Anything

Question frequently asked by
students after missing a class
Nothing. When we realized you weren't here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 per cent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I'm about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 per cent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
the hereafter
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring this good news to all people
on earth

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human existence
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been

but it was one place

And you weren't here

Hooray for the weekend!

I think I mentioned before that I was on a practicum teaching block (as in I was only at my practicum school and not at York at all) from Nov. 2-15 and then at STAO (which was at a hotel out near the airport at not at York at all) from Nov. 16-17 (well, STAO went until the 18th but we weren't required to go on the Saturday, and by that point I was tired enough and felt I'd gotten enough out of the conference that I saw no need to attend the third day).

This whole week, however, I've been back at York. If you remember back to your school days, you may remember that the majority of the time you were away from school for some time, you usually had things due when you came back, such that times like winter holidays and March Break weren't really holidays or a break so much as an extended time at home preparing to hand something in on your return to school (or procrastinating during the entire holidays/break and then staying up way too late and working way too frantically on your project on the last day/night before school was to start again). Such has been my experience this week...complete with the procrastination. After all, practicum kind of ran like this: wake up, do all the morning stuff like showering and dressing and eating, get to practicum, photocopy if necessary, teach/observe/mark/whatever I'm doing during school hours, spend some time at the school after classes debriefing with the host teacher or attending extra-curricular activities or photocopying resources for the next day, go home, nap for an hour, eat dinner, and then plan the next day's lesson. I suppose if I was more on the ball with the lesson-planning thing there would have been some time in there to work on my own assignments, but at this early stage (when I'm still learning how to put a lesson together such that it can be taught in one period and not five and the kids won't fall asleep and I won't, either) lesson planning takes some time. At first, it was no big deal that I wasn't working on my own assignments; I had a couple weeks. However, when little got done even on the last weekend before my own classes resumed, I knew I was in for a rough ride this week.

Sat., Nov. 18 - My mother-in-law's birthday was on the 17th, but she had youth group obligations that night so we (as in my husband and his siblings and I) took her out to dinner on the 18th instead, then spent time together as a family. Earlier in the day I had to prep for the Sunday school lesson I was to teach the next day. Hmm, but I think I did some housework, too. I know I was occupied for quite a while in the morning with something but I have no idea what.

Sun., Nov. 19 - attended a Sunday school teacher's breakfast (where Mark fed wonderfully way too much good food as usual), taught Sunday school to a class that wouldn't cooperate, came home frustrated, started doing research for one of my assignments (a presentation I did Wednesday), and took some of this research with me to a dinner with the extended family for my mother-in-law in Newmarket, where we spent the rest of the day. I did the driving there and back, giving me some more much-needed highway experience. I hope I didn't scare my mother-in-law too much.

Mon., Nov. 20 - back to school! Nothing was due today, but we were told today about something that was due the next day and we were totally unprepared for...a 5 to 10 minute presentation on some resource or idea we picked up at STAO. Oh, and you're being marked, and here's the rubric. Aaah! Panic! I stay up late preparing this presentation as well as a one-page reading summary for another class (for which I also had to do the reading).

Tues., Nov. 21 - do presentation to a small group of my peers (and we all expressly stated we were going to be nice in our marking of each other) and hand in one-page reading summary. My peers loved my use of LEGO (including the little people) in my presentation. They wondered how close I live to my parents that I was able to get my old LEGO from them. No, actually, I do have my childhood LEGO and Barbies and Cabbage Patch doll and Pound Puppy (among other things) here in my current parents have been gradually giving me some of my old stuff that I guess my nieces and nephews no longer play with at my parents' place. I wonder if I should get rid of the Barbies. Blah, I digress. Today I stay up late working on my presentation on adolescents and religion for my "The Adolescent and the Teacher" psychology course.

Wed., Nov. 22 - do presentation to about 25 of my peers on adolescents and is part of my group's larger presentation on moral development (the other 3 people in my group do their parts on adolescents' moral behaviour in competition and cheating, the role of the peer group, and whether morality can be taught; I also do the conclusion and play the part of a girl at age 8 and age 15 in a skit in the peer group part of the presentation where I first say I'll never smoke and then turn around and smoke after all). Get a little unnerved by a presentation by 4 of my other classmates on adolescents and promiscuity, but calm down some after talking further with one of them. Get bored out of my skull by my "teaching the intermediate and senior sciences" course in the afternoon, and the fact that I've had very little sleep lately doesn't help...actually have to visit the washroom at one point to splash cold water on my face in an attempt to keep myself from nearly nodding off at various points in the works for about 10 minutes. Stay up very late working on an 8 page (double-spaced) paper due the next day.

Thurs., Nov. 23 - print off 8-and-a-half-page-not-including-references-list-or-title-page paper and upload its file to my school's FirstClass system so I can edit it in the education program's computer lab at lunch. Edit it in pencil on the bus ride to school. Attend more boring "teaching the intermediate and senior sciences" course in the morning; instructor not happy about our attitude from the day before; this morning does go better than the previous session. At lunchtime, rush to the education program's library to find its computer lab occupied with a class. There are only 8 computers in the library outside of this lab and they are all taken. Ask a classmate who is finished printing his paper if I can borrow his laptop to edit my paper. He connects me to the school's wireless internet system; I type in the pencil edits I'd done; I manage to commandeer one of the 8 non-computer-lab computers from a classmate once I'm done editing so I can get onto the library's network and print my paper off their system (since I can't print it straight from the laptop). Go to class not having been able to grab any lunch, but at least I have crackers in my backpack. Hand in 8-page paper that I am more happy with now than I was with the unedited version before I got a couple hours sleep early this morning. Stay up a little to work on a 4 page (double-spaced) paper that is due the next day, but this one doesn't take nearly so long as I am pulling information for it from 3 assignments I've already done (including the presentation I did Wednesday). I manage to go to bed by 11:45 p.m.--not bad at all--but of course I'm already really, really tired from having to stay up all the previous nights.

Fri., Nov. 24 - hand in 4 page paper on my theory of adolescent religious development. I am pretty happy with this paper. Once I hand it in, all I want to do is go home, but I stay because I'm really not a the class is going to go for drinks and lunch at the end of class and I really need that release and to be a little bit social. Class ends and I go to Blueberry Hill (or just "The Hill" now according to one of its signs that I guess keeps getting too many letters stolen to keep the long name up there) with some of my classmates (when everyone finishes trickling there in dribs and drabs, we finally have about, oh, a dozen of us there). I have a pound of honey garlic wings, fries and a Pepsi while my other classmates have other various kinds of pub food; some have beer and some do not. I do not because I drove to class today due to an errand I have to run after class and after lunch (well, I hate beer anyway, but if I hadn't had to drive afterwards I might have had a hard lemonade or something). I knew the night before and this morning that driving maybe wasn't the best idea due to how tired I am, but I am totally fine in the morning. On the drive back, with lots of food in my tummy and the sun shining in just the wrong way for my tired eyes, things don't go as well as I want them to, but I manage to get to my practicum school and home in one piece. Oh, yes, I stopped by my practicum school to pick up some marking that I'll be doing this weekend. My host teacher for the classes in which I'm doing this marking is not there today so I don't have to spend time talking to her, and I don't go see the other host teacher because I don't teach her class until Tuesday, so I can go see her Monday. I go home and sleep. Then I get up and write this blog entry. I'm not planning on doing anything more productive today other than grocery shopping, which we will do soon.

I am so looking forward to going to bed tonight. My whole class was dreading this week because of all that we have due, and prior to this week I sometimes mentioned to my classmates, "If we can survive that week, we can become teachers" (because this week could be the hardest thing we'll experience this far as we know we'll never have this kind of convergence of assignment due dates again, plus next semester is longer so the due dates get more spread out). Well, the week is over and we have survived...let me tell you, there were a lot of glasses clinking in toasts to that at "The Hill" today. Well, the Pepsi fountain pop wax cups didn't clink so much as "mush," but still :). Now for three more weeks of practicum...which will seem almost relaxing in comparison. I just hope I can recover enough before Monday hits and I have to start teaching again!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Some things are just worth re-sharing.

I don't know if I linked this before in this blog or in my old blog or just by e-mail, but one of my classmates was looking at this sometime this week and I just had to go and look it up again. Depending on what you did in your free time as a kid and the era in which you grew up, you may or may not "get" it, but for those of you who will...enjoy.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

My official entry into science teacher geekdom...and all you ever wanted to know about chocolate

Gaze in wonder at two of the items I picked up over the past 2 days at the STAO conference. (STAO is the Science Teacher's Association of Ontario, and I was required to go to this conference as part of my teacher's college program.) These are not the only items I picked up from the conference (and I picked up a whole host of ideas besides the physical things I picked up), but they are the ones I'm going to focus on today.

So let's talk about the mug.
I purchased the mug for $8. There were also mugs depicting caffeine (some with one of those negatory circle-with-a-line-through-it symbols superimposed on it, with "Decaf" written above it), but since I'm not a coffee drinker and am instead hopelessly addicted to chocolate I thought this was more appropriate for me.

The molecule depicted on the mug is theobromine. If you break it down to its roots, "theobromine" means "food of the gods." (You may or may not notice that there is no bromine in the molecule...the "bromine" part of the name comes from the Greek word for food, broma.) Theobromine is what I call "the active ingredient in chocolate" and I've known about it for a few years now. Wikipedia tells me that "it is a mild, lasting stimulant with a mood improving effect" and "is one of the causes for chocolate's mood-elevating effects." Did you say chocolate? Bring it on! Oh, remember that "food of the gods" thing? Well, another source tells me that "In Aztec society chocolate was ... reserved for priests, warriors and nobility," and the version of hot chocolate that they had (which was bitter, unlike our hot chocolate) "was a sacred concoction that was associated with fertility and wisdom ... [and] was also thought to have stimulating and restorative properties." The presence of theobromine in chocolate is also why chocolate is poisonous to dogs and cats, who metabolize it much more slowly than we do. It has its downsides, but not can read about them (and more about theobromine) in the Wikipedia article here if you're concerned.

By the way, you may have heard of the idea that eating chocolate releases the same chemical in the brain as orgasm. Well, I've just done a quick survey of some information available on the web (thankfully, Googling "chcolate orgasm chemical" does not immediately yield the gross kinds of sites I thought it might) and it seems theobromine is not the chemical responsible for this idea. There is apparently a whole host of theories out there as to why chocolate is craved by and produces pleasure in people. Here are some (see list of sources at the end of this post):
  • It's chemical:
    • chocolate is like marijuana (has to do with anandamide)
    • chocolate is like sex (has to do partly with phenylethylamine...which is also found in roses! Incidentally, while doing this "research" I came across these chocolates which are supposed to contain a high level of phenylethylamine and guarantee orgasm...yikes! Scroll down past the ads if you want to read that entry on someone's blog.)
    • chocolate gives you good feelings such as those like you have when you're in love (involves tryptophan leading to production of more serotonin)
    • chocolate takes good feelings you already have and keeps them around longer (thank you, N-oleoythanolamine and N-linoleoylethanolamine)
    • chocolate otherwise chemically produces/maintains good feelings (hooray, bioactive agents that interact with many of the processes already mentioned plus act as stimulants and lead to the release of dopamine! Hooray also for endorphins!)
    • chocolate cures deficiencies: "women crave chocolate prior to menstruation because it contains high levels of magnesium. Women experience magnesium deficiency prior to menstruation," and this deficiency "can exacerbate pre-menstrual tension," so they eat chocolate to make the problem go away. "Similar cravings during pregnancy could indicate mild anaemia, which chocolate's iron content may help to cure."
  • It's psychological, since the chemicals involved are present in quantities that are too low to make an impact or are destroyed by various digestive/etc. processes before they could reach the brain (e.g., one source claims that "you would have to eat 25lbs of dark chocolate at once to [produce enough serotonin to] achieve the same effect" as getting "'stoned'" on marijuana):
    • the "aroma, texture, sweetness and psychological associations [people have] with chocolate" are more responsible than chemical factors
    • "women crave chocolate because they have turned it into a nutritional taboo ... because it's loaded with fat and calories"
  • It's both chemical and psychological:
    • "chocolate's sensory qualities, chemicals, cultural values, social values and hormonal influences all play a role in chocolate cravings. It is the complete chocolate bar that people crave. Not one single chemical or quality can be solely responsible for satisfying a chocolate craving."
There does seem to be some confusion in the information I've seen on the 'net so far on this subject...e.g., one article will say that "bioactive agents" in chocolate lead to the release of dopamine in your brain, whereas others will say it's the phenylethylamine that accomplishes both. Maybe both do, maybe one source has it wrong, who knows. I'm not interested enough to go check the literature ;).

Oh, there is also mention in my sources of ways in which chocolate is good for you. One source even claims that "
even the saturated fat in cocoa, stearic acid, appears to be benign and unsaturated-like in its effects on our vascular system, so it doesn't contribute to atherosclerosis, as far as is known." Of course, there is also mention of ways in which overindulging in chocolate is bad for you. Lalalalala...not listening! Let's move on.

Okay, what about the other item in the photograph?
The other item in the photograph is one that I obtained for free from a booth the Ontario Science Centre (OSC) had set up at the conference. I wasn't originally going to go to the OSC's booth, but when I saw that other people from my program had this item, and heard that they had obtained it from the OSC booth, I had to go and get one...and when I told others in my program that I was on my way to get one, they immediately jumped on the bandwagon and ran to go get one, too. Mad props to the first blog-reader here who can post a comment telling the others what this item is...if no one guesses correctly by the end of, oh, let's say Wednesday, I'll post the answer.

Maybe I'll tell you about the fire-breather I saw, too.

Man, I love a good science conference :).

Some sources:
  1. Wikipedia article on theobromine
  2. Excellent BBC article on "The Science of Chocolate"...follow the links in it to see all the parts
  3. "Is Chocolate Physiologically or Psychologically Addictive?" - a student paper was written for a course at Bryn Mawr College
  4. Women & Chocolate
  5. "Can chocolate affect your sex life?"
  6. Article on theobromine at
  7. "Chocolate: more than an obsession - recipe"

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Shop 'til you drop?

Yesterday I hit the mall, seeing as my to-do list of errands and shopping was getting pretty long and some of it was getting pretty urgent (e.g., I still hadn't shopped for the 2 Operation Christmas Child (OCC henceforth) boxes we were responsible for and they were due this morning). Granted, hitting Scarborough Town/Clown Centre on a Saturday afternoon is a slightly insane thing to do, but when it's gotta get done, it's gotta get done.

I want to tell an entertaining story about my experience at the Bay, but before I do, let me put it in context by telling you all I did before I went to the Bay:
  • I submitted some digital files to Wal-Mart's photo centre for 1 hour printing.
  • I photocopied some things I needed for two mail-in rebate applications (to get back some of the $$$ I spent on Martin's computer) and sat on one of Shopper's Drug Mart's convenient chairs cutting and taping together all the things I needed to to complete the rebate (talk about jumping through hoops :-P...and yes, I did bring my own scissors and tape with me to the mall to look after this!).
  • I sent off the rebate applications via the post office in Shopper's (which for some reason wasn't closed on Remembrance Day like I thought it would've been).
  • I bought a bag of stuff at Shopper's for the OCC boxes (plus a couple small things for me).
  • I hit the convenient Ministry of Transportation kiosk to renew our license plate sticker. It charges a "convenience fee" of $1 to get the sticker there rather than by waiting in line at one of their offices. My time and stress relief is worth that $1.
  • Because Dollarama only takes cash, I stood in the massive line at the bank's ATMs (one of the machines was busted, boo) to take out cash to spend at Dollarama. I wish the lineup here was like the (nonexistent) lineup that was at the Ministry of Transportation kiosk.
  • I spent a lot of time at Dollarama getting 3 more regular-sized bags of stuff for the OCC boxes (every year I do these boxes I find it takes me a long time to figure out if I have everything I want to get that will still fit in the box).
  • Now toting 4 bags of stuff, and feeling the fact that I ate nothing all day before beginning my shopping other than a 100 calorie package of light cookies (and it is now after 3 p.m.), I stop at Gateway Newstands in the mall and buy a lemonade and spend a few minutes chugging down half the bottle.
  • I head back to Wal-Mart to pick up my photos (for the World Outreach bulletin board at church). I look for (in 2 different departments) and do not find photo corners (turns out I have some here at home already, so no biggie).
  • Still toting 4 bags of stuff, I go to the Bay where I want to buy a belated wedding present (as in the bride and groom have been married for a few months now). Once I get upstairs to the floor where the gift registry stuff and the furniture is, I find a comfortable chair and sit for a while, chugging down the remainder of my lemonade. A sales clerk asks if I have any questions...I tell him I'm just taking a break and he says no problem. However, another sales clerk comes along a couple minutes later and gives me a dirty look, so I get up soon thereafter.
Okay, so at this point I am tired of shopping, I am still burdened with 4 bags of stuff, I just want to go home, but I am determined not to put off getting this wedding present any longer than I already have. This is where the adventure begins.

Standing at the gift registry computer, I print off all 7 pages of the couple's gift registry. As I am doing so, saleslady #1 is walking up to me and asking how I am. Or is she? She is not looking at she talking to someone behind me? No one seems to respond to her question, but I do not feel she is addressing me, so I start to say "good" or whatever but she is walking past me. <*Shrug*>.

I look at the list and set about looking for things that I can 1) afford and 2) find in the store (let's leave well enough alone any discussion of previous registry shopping I've done at the Bay that would explain my wondering how possible this task is going to be). Saleslady #2 asks me if I need any help. I tell her that first I'll have to pick something (seeing as I only barely started looking at the list) and then try to find it and I'll let her know if I need any help. Okay, she leaves...or, rather, is already leaving.

I originally settle on a set of bath coordinates (y'know, the toothbrush holder and such). As I am walking towards the area I know I will find these items if they are in the store, saleslady #3 says to/asks me, "You printed it out?" Um, what? A registry? Well, yes, that's why I have a printed registry in my hands...I just say "yes" to her and we both keep going. (Given futher interactions I witnessed in the store, I now think she may have thought I was a registering bride who'd just printed off her list for confirmation, which may have surprised her as it seems the staff usually do that printing for their registrants.)

I get to the area where all the bath coordinates are. I see various toothbrush holders and so on but am unable to find the ones my friend registered for in the store. Okay, fine, I have run into this problem at the Bay before; I'll just choose something else.

I see a $65 jug on the list and decide to get that. However, when I get to the area where said jug is being sold (once I figure out where that is) I see the jug and realize it is only about 6" tall. I figure that even though this jug is not cheap, it looks too cheap to make that the only present we give, so I stand there looking at the registry list and start thinking of other options.

It turns out that the dish set my friend registered for is right beside the gift registry area where the salespeople talk to brides and grooms and so on and give them the scanners and explain the process and so on. There are a lot of salespeople in this area, some interacting with couples/ladies and some not. Saleslady #4 sees me trying to figure out what I'm doing and offers her help, though she seems to look down her nose at the 4 bags of stuff I have plunked on the floor next to me. I explain that I was going to get the jug but that despite the price think it's too small to be the only thing I give and, when asked, I give her the price range I'm looking at spending. She takes the jug (which I'd already decided I didn't really want to buy) and goes off to see how much it is (since there is a sale on), but is unable to find a scanner. I point out that there is a cash desk right "over there," but no, she is looking for a scanner to find out the price. She disappears for a while and comes back telling me the new price (it's still about $60). By this point I've already decided maybe I'll get a pair of teacups and saucers instead and have started to look for the ones my friend has registered for. I find the teacups but the saucers I find don't have the right code. Saleslady #4 comes back when I have been looking through the dishes on display for a while and starts trying to find the right saucers for me. She is unable to find them and enlists saleslady #5 to go and look in the back while she continues to check the ones I've already checked.

Saleslady #6 comes by to see how things are going. Her and saleslady #4 decide together that the saucers I want really aren't on display (gee, am I glad I already figured that out for myself). I think at this point saleslady #6 comments that they need to place an order for them, and she takes off not too long after this exchange. Well, saleslady #5 still hasn't come back from checking out the back (I don't actually know which lady was #5 so I don't know if she ever came back), so saleslady #4 takes off for a while, presumably until #5 can tell us what the story is with the stock in the back. I am alone for a bit of time now...and during this time, saleslady #7 asks me if I need any help. I explain to her that I am already being looked after (though I don't tell her by how many people). Saleslady #7 leaves.

Eventually, I decide that I am going to get 4 mugs for my friend instead of the pair of cups and saucers. Saleslady #4 (don't know when she came back) helps me look for them for a little bit, pointing out for me that there are 2 different styles of the white mugs on display (which I'd already discovered). I ask about whether they only come as-is (separate pieces on display) or whether they come in a box or whatnot; saleslady #4 tells me they can put the pieces in a box for me if I'd like and I tell her that would be great. We haven't yet found the 4 mugs I'll be taking home at this point but from what I can see I am confident there are enough of them somewhere on that stand.

If I remember right at this point, saleslady #4 starts to transition me to dealing with saleslady #8 at this point, and they are asking me if I have a points card and/or HBC card, and start explaining to me how everything is already 10% off and I'll save another 10% if I get the card and there is no fee for the card. I can see that even if I do nothing else with this card, it will save me money for free that day, so okay, I decide to sign up. After all, the sign-up for such cards is usually fairly quick and painless.

Saleslady #4 and #8 hand me over to saleslady #9. Thankfully, saleslady #9 pretty much remains with me for the rest of my time in the department. However, saleslady #9, while she knows what she is doing, is pretty thorough, which takes her longer to get things done. It takes us a couple minutes to clarify that yes, I will fill in my personal information on this form myself and she does not need to fill it in for me while I dictate. I am seated at a table in the gift registry area, where I remain like some guest of honour while the salesladies carry out my wishes (but without the kind of speed I wished for). Eventually she goes off with the completed form to set me up with an HBC credit card and points card. She is gone for some time. Eventually she returns with a cash register slip that will act as my temporary HBC credit card until my plastic card arrives in the mail. I am serious, it was a cash register slip giving my account # and credit limit...not even a thick paper temporary credit-card-shaped card. Anyway, something gets screwed up with the one points card so she has to get another one for me and put that points card # down as my points card instead.

Once I am finally set up in the Bay credit and points system, saleslady #9 starts to retrieve for me the mugs I want from the display stand. She finds 3 almost right away but is having difficulty finding a 4th. I know that there are some hanging on the hooks on the part of the stand that are over her head and point them out to her; she is gracious enough to make a "stupid me" gesture when she is finally able to find the 4th mug. She offers a box; that would be great, I tell her. She delegates saleslady #10 to look after getting my mugs packed into a box for me while #9 processes my purchase on my new HBC credit card and gives me points on my new HBC points card for the purchase. I start to peel the price tags off the mugs; #9 tells me they will do that for me, but #10 is taking forever to come out with the packaging materials and I want to make sure the labels come off so I do the peeling myself.

Saleslady #10 takes some time to find the boxes, tissue paper and styrofoam peanuts in the back room but eventually finds them and comes out to package the mugs for me. Apparently it had been quite warm in the department earlier in the day because I heard one of the ladies (#7, I think?) complaining about it and at least 2 electric oscillating fans are helping to cool off the area. Saleslady #10 takes some time to figure out that if the fans are blowing around the tissue paper and styrofoam peanuts are preventing her from wrapping up my purchase easily at my table, maybe she should move to another table that is not right beside a fan. It also takes her some time to do the packaging, but I'm still waiting for #9 to finish processing my purchase so I guess that's not a big deal.

Saleslady #9 brings me my receipt and gift receipt and also offers to giftwrap my purchase for me. That's a good idea; remember I said I was tired of shopping at this point and really didn't want to have to find wrapping paper and a card and so on and get the present wrapped to give the gift to my friend today (which is the next time I'd see her...I suppose it could have waited until another time I'd see her, but remember this present is already sort of late and I just want to get it done with). Plus I am sitting at a table while all these ladies serve me so why not...doesn't take any more effort on my part. Saleslady #9 says she will "honour me" and give me the giftwrapping for free. Yay! That is a good thing. Oh, but it is not #9 who will be doing the wrapping; it is #10, who took a long time just to package my purchase. #10 begins to do the wrapping while #9 finds a card and envelope for me and has me fill them out. Hmm, hadn't planned on coming up with the message right then and there, but I do so and sign the card for both me and my husband in the sloppiest chicken scratch I've ever written in (remember I was tired at this point and hadn't had much to eat, either).

#9 begins to help other people for a while (because there are a few other people in the area needing attention and #9's efforts to get other ladies to help them don't seem to be working out...she did tell a customer that they would have to wait because I had "been waiting for a long time"), but when she sees me looking tired and not all that happy (mostly due to being tired with shopping, though somewhat annoyed that this young salesperson was taking so long to do a very simple wrapping job) sitting around several minutes later still, she goes over and helps #10 do the wrapping. Finally, I am handed a large yellow paper bag with the wrapped present inside with a nice bow and the envelope with my card inside stuck to the present. I retrieve my 4 regular-sized bags of purchases from other stores, and #9 decides that I look too awkward and I need those bags put all into a large Bay bag, so she goes to get one for me and works it around my other 4 bags. #9 then decides that that really does need double-bagging, so she goes back to the back to get a 2nd large Bay bag for me (during her absence, I contemplate just leaving, but I don't) and then returns and works it around the other large Bay bag for me. So...can I go now? Apparently, yes. I thank the woman (though at this point I am feeling more like I am thanking her for allowing me to leave rather than for serving me with great thoroughness but while eating up a good deal of my time) and get the heck out of there as fast as I can in my tired, slightly annoyed state. I will say, though, that I was glad to have that one large double-bagged Bay bag rather than the 4 individual smaller ones; so much easier to dump one bag (plus the paper bag with the gift in it) in the trunk and retrieve it once I got home than to deal with the 4 smaller bags with those annoying theft-preventing (hahaha) stickers on them that Wal-Mart insisted on sticking on them when I went to retrieve the photos from there prior to my Bay adventure.

So, there you go, I interacted with about 10 different people at the Bay to purchase a simple wedding present, and that doesn't include the salesman in the furniture department who told me no problem for me to take a break sitting in one of the chairs or the other salesman there who looked down his nose at me. At least I was seated in the gift registry area for much of my gift-purchasing time...that was a nice touch...though, like I said, there were others coming and going who needed attention as well and I felt like I, who was just a friend of a bride and groom purchasing something from a registry, got better treatment in a lot of ways than some of the brides and grooms who were milling around trying to set up their registries. Saleslady #9 was good about sticking to serving me and trying to get other salesladies to help the other customers out, but for some reason that help was not all that forthcoming for those who needed it from those other ladies...and several of the other salesladies who had interacted with me earlier in my shopping experience that day just didn't seem to be around when these other people needed the help I had been receiving!

There, that is my Bay adventure. Doesn't that sound like a ton of fun?

You know, I've done a lot of talking I won't tell you about the Price Chopper shopping/parking lot adventure I had later that day...or the traffic adventures Jen and I had with confused Torontonians later in the day when I took her out for a belated birthday dinner. Let's just say that at the end of the day, I was exhausted and not really feeling like dealing with people anymore! I even actually criticized our waiter out loud to Jen at the restaurant...not a big deal for most people, but I am normally the person who defends anyone who is criticized and tries to see situations from the perspective of the one I'm thinking of criticizing. I still tipped him more generously than I thought he deserved, but for me to have expressed dissatisfaction over things that weren't that badly out of line about him I must have had a rough day. Ah well. That day is over. I ended up pretty stiff and sore this morning due to my shopping and lugging yesterday (and maybe from not really having had anything to eat until Jen and I went out and gorged ourselves and then added fancy Lick's ice creams covered with hot fudge), but I'm feeling better now.

Time for me to go out and do some shopping at Staples now. I do need things from there to improve my practicum binders so that they'll be sufficiently impressive when my York professors come to do a site visit at my host school and observe my teaching and my binders. Really, though, getting a good office supply fix can't hurt my mood, either :). Hopefully I will return from there without having had any adventures of the sort that I had while shopping yesterday :-P. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Free hugs?

Interesting. I don't know if any of you have heard of the "free hugs" man before, but if you haven't, you can watch these videos to get a glimpse of what he does (be patient with the first clip...he does eventually get respondents):
- A music video on YouTube
- Ten News talking about his being on Oprah

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Of soup and my heritage

I made the text I'm cutting-and-pasting here for a couple posts I made on forum for my program at York (where all my classmates can ask about assignments, post responses to questions we've been assigned, arrange rides to conferences, etc.). We had a multicultural potluck today and it got me thinking, so I feel like sharing. You can ignore it if you're not interested in knowing about my reactions to multicultural potlucks throughout my education and about my Mennonite heritage, though. Here we go...


I got some good feedback on the soup I made for today's multicultural potluck, so I thought I'd post a link to the recipe for those interested: Mennonite Leek Soup . If you don't know what a leek is, to me it looks kind of like a biggie-sized, thicker green onion. Oh, there is chicken stock involved (from the bouillion cubes) so though lots of vegetables are involved, it's not strictly vegetarian; if you are a vegetarian, perhaps you could experiment by using vegetable stock instead. The recipe states that it can be served hot or cold (I think it is better hot, personally). It was quite easy to make, though there's a lot of chopping involved so if you can recruit someone to spend some time with you in the kitchen helping you out then all the better (I recruited my husband). Oh, my local grocery store didn't have marjoram, so I substituted 2 parts oregano for 3 parts marjoram as per my mother-in-law's recommendations (she's got a great cookbook for info like that) and a substitution guide I found on the 'net.

While I'm talking, I'll tell you a little about my background and my experience with hertitage banquets in the past, but feel free to go about your day and ignore this ;). I just feel like sharing. I'm going to post this in the Foundations conference because I think my reflection in this post from this point forward is more appropriate there; I hope that makes some kind of sense. [Edit to blog readers: just ignore that last sentence; it makes sense in the context of our forum but not here.] (I also got kinda involved in trying to figure out this whole "where did I come from?" thing, and to help myself understand my Mennonite side I put together some writing today that summarizes for myself what I've learned about what seems to be my particular group of Mennonite ancestors from a Wikipedia article and a book my dad found while visiting family out in Manitoba earlier this year. I'll post that here, too, in a separate post, but again, feel free to ignore if you're not interested.) [Edit to blog readers: I'll actually post that material below this material rather than in a separate post here.]

I used to find it difficult to participate in any type of "heritage banquet" during my schooling (I can remember 2 such banquets from grade school, but I know there were a lot more times that we talked about culture). I didn't think we ate anything all that "cultural" at home (guess it depends on what you call eating Swiss Chalet a lot a cultural thing?) and my parents don't recall having anything all that cultural as they were growing up, either. Finding something from my background futher back was somewhat problematic; while I am of Scottish and English descent on my mom's side, I am of Mennonite descent on my dad's. It would be only natural to try to bring something from my dad's background for a heritage banquet so as to avoid bringing the "boring, normal foods" found in my Scottish and English heritage (I don't think I feel that way any longer about Scottish and English food, though, don't worry :)), but the big problem with trying to do so is that the Mennonites didn't come from any one country. The Mennonites are pacifists, so they had to keep leaving countries in times of war and other difficulties in order to avoid being drafted or to escape other persecution. With such a heritage, what does one do when one is asked to draw the flag representing your background, as my class was in grade 1? (Answer: I think I went with Mom's background and picked out the Union Jack, which I've only recently discovered isn't the flag of England after all but of the UK as a whole.) For one of these banquets, I ended up bringing something from one of the various countries that the Mennonites had been kicked out of over the years (I brought two kinds of cheeses from the Netherlands--Gouda and Edam, I think--though I think I looked into German food possibilities as well, not realizing at the time that while my ancestors spoke German, they didn't live in Germany), but I didn't feel like that really represented me, nor did I really identify with the scones from my English roots I brought to the other banquet.

This time, for the MST banquet [Edit for blog readers: I am in the MST--or math, science and technology--B.Ed. program at York], I decided to actually try to find something that I could feel really did represent my Mennonite heritage--preferably something that could be served at room temperature so that I wouldn't have to wait if everyone else brought something requiring the microwave. I hit Google and started searching for "Mennonite recipes". I was really excited when I found this soup recipe that claimed it could be served hot or cold (though now that I've tried it, I disagree that it can be served cold, though it's definitely tasty hot). I'd never made this soup before, nor do I think I've ever had it before, but my dad said he's had it so I think I can authentically say it's part of my background. I think I enjoyed preparing for this banquet so much more than the others I've been involved in because I found something that I knew I could make (and not just buy) and that really did feature in my family at some point--my dad really might have eaten this growing up on the farm (I still have to confirm this...I did confirm he'd had it, but not whether it was when he was growing up), and my grandma really might have made it for him. I think that's cool, and it resonates with me.

You know what? I think I've discovered the joy of finally being connected to my heritage.

Pedagogical application? Um...if you are talking about culture in your class, having a multicultural potluck, or asking students to pick out the flags that represent their background, be prepared to look for the student who doesn't really know what her culture is but is still trying to figure it out.

Thanks for listening.


[Edit for blog readers: this was in a separate post on the York forum.]

This is further to my post about my past experiences with heritage banquets (in which I mentioned that you should feel free to ignore this post if you're not interested :)). I mentioned that on my dad's side, I am of Mennonite descent, but I don't know how many of you have heard of Mennonites, so I thought I would clarify. Wikipedia has a long article about them at , but you don't really need all that information. I will sum up what I have come to understand for myself from that article and from a book my dad found while visiting family out in Manitoba earlier this year. [Peters, Doreen Reimer (2005). One who dared: Life story of Ben D. Reimer, 1909-1994. Friesens: Altona, MB, Canada]

The Mennonites are a religious group, a denomination of Christianity that is neither Protestant nor Catholic but has its roots in something called the Radical Reformation that happened in the 16th century A.D. (Wikipedia points out that the printing press making the Bible available to a lot of people led to the possibility of a lot of people reading it and interpreting it for themselves, inevitably leading to different groups forming that believed different things, so the Mennonites aren't the only denomination that can trace their religious lineage back to this time.) One distinguishing feature of Mennonites and other related groups is that they are pacifists. Unfortunately, if you live in a country that is going to war and you are a pacifist, you are not very popular (even if you were approved of before the war came up), and at times you need to flee or be drafted. One group of Mennonites fled in the 17th century from the province of Flanders (in the Netherlands) to Prussia, where "they settled among Low German-speaking people, assimilating their language and eventually losing the Dutch language of their ancestry" (Peters, 2005). This explains why it is a variant of German you hear and not Dutch if you hear Mennonites speaking a language other than English. Anyway, these Mennonites eventually ended up in southern Ukraine in the 19th century (though they faced persecution there for various reasons in the 20th century, too, leading some groups to flee again). In 1874 or 1875, a group of over 1000 of these Mennonites (including children) immigrated to North America, with 799 of them settling in Manitoba and the rest in Nebraska. My understanding from Wikipedia and Peters is that Mennonites emigrated to North America as early as 1683, though, so this group of 1000 who came here in the 1800s was only one of several Mennonite groups who eventually emigrated here. In any case, it is among the Mennonites who ended up in Manitoba that my heritage is found. I think you can see from this brief (and very incomplete) history lesson why I don't identify myself with a particular country when it comes to my heritage on my dad's side; I have a heritage of a faith rather than of a nationality.

Today, my experience has been that a lot of people living in Ontario who have heard of Mennonites associate them with the people you see riding in buggys pulled by horses and wearing old-fashioned clothing near Elmira, Ontario. However, if these are Mennonites (they may be Amish, a related group who originally were an offshoot of the Mennonites; I'm unfortunately not sure at the moment), they are only one type. Wikipedia states, "Some groups use horse and buggies for transportation and speak German while others drive cars and speak English" and that "Mennonite congregations worldwide embody the full scope of Mennonite practice from old fashioned 'plain' people to those who are indistinguishable in dress and appearance from the general population." Do I consider myself a Mennonite? Not when it comes to my faith (and I don't think my dad does, either). However, this is my background on my dad's side, and part of me. I am glad to have been able to learn a little more about my background on this side; I feel a little more complete now as a result.

Thanks for listening.