Tag Archives: Childhood Stories

Mindfulness During a Snowstorm

black and white photo of person walking alone on a city sidewalk during a snowstormJanuary is the quietest time of year in Ontario.

Life slows down here quickly once this month begins.Not only have the majority of the big winter holidays have passed by, the weather itself isn’t terribly conducive to driving anywhere even before this pandemic began.

The overnight temperature can dip to -25 Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit) or colder, and we often have sleet and snowstorms taking turns making slippery messes of our roads and sidewalks.

There is nothing like sitting next to the windows in my home and watching the snow blanket everything on those days.

Sometimes it falls so quickly that buildings on the other side of the street have been transformed into dark blurs of colour behind a shimmery white veil of snow. Anything past that point is so smudged beyond recognition that I wouldn’t know what it was at all if I weren’t already familiar with it.

My mindful approach to these days is something that started early in life. Let’s meander for a while.

Quiet Snow Days

These storms remind me of the years I spent growing up in a small town in Wyoming. Sometimes it snowed so heavily that all of the highways and other roads going into and out of town were closed. Residents were asked to only use local roads for emergencies, so almost everyone stayed home and waited out the weather.

two wooden cottages almost totally covered in snow
The snow was this deep in the nearby mountains, but not quite so heavy where I lived.

I was a slim, petite kid. For a while I remained just barely light enough to walk on top of snowbanks that had partially melted and then frozen again.

Those moments were pure magic and required no thoughts flitting through my mind at all while I carefully walked without leaving a trace in the snow.

These snowy days of the present also remind me of a massive blizzard many of us on the eastern half of North America experienced in the late 1990s.

It happened as my family was moving across town, so I had many opportunities to see the snow as my parents were driving and in the yards of both our old and new homes.

My siblings and I had our typical two weeks off from school for the Christmas holidays that year. It began snowing heavily right before we were scheduled to return to school. For the next two weeks, school was cancelled one day after the next.

Sometimes it would be delayed by an hour or two before being cancelled. Other days were so stormy that everything was cancelled immediately. I remember waiting quietly for the news each morning with no expectations since our superintendent was normally so reticent to cancel school despite how much time it took the county to salt and plow all of the rural roads that would bring students back to class eventually.

Once the announcement was made, there was often a moment of silence as I wondered how I should fill my time on yet another unexpected day since we were between semesters and I’d finished the homework we’d been given before Christmas break began.

Then a few of the members of my household would either drive across town to our old house to take another van full of stuff to the new one (if the town roads were cleared and salted recently enough for this to be safe), go shovel off the roof,* or put a previous load of stuff away.

*It was an old, flat roof in some places. That snowstorm was so heavy and never-ending my parents were afraid the roof would be damaged if they didn’t clear it off.

Snow Encourages Mindfulness

Even beyond these personal experiences, snow itself encourages silence. It dampens sound as explained in this post.

close-up photo of a snowflake Have you ever taken an outdoor walk during or after a big snowstorm? Whether you live in a big city, a small town, or miles away from the nearest neighbour, the world becomes a much quieter place after a storm like that.

All of that snow acts like insulation. Everything from bird chirps to the roar of a river (if it hasn’t already frozen over) to the rumble of a truck driving down the road is quieter than it normally would be.

Even the soft crunch of boots walking on fresh snow is quieter than normal.

If you’ve never experienced this sort of moment in time, I hope you’ll have a chance to try it someday.

The world is such a quiet, solemn place then that I find it easy to walk without thinking. Nearly all of the familiar landmarks in my area will still be recognizable during or after a big storm, but their edges are softened and muted.

I live in an urban area where it is pretty safe to walk outside even during the heaviest snowstorms, so sometimes I’ll go stand on the sidewalk (far away from the road) and watch the snow cling to everything from skyscrapers to my glasses.

In those moments, there is no need for words or thoughts. The snow will end when it ends. Until then, I sit indoors or stand outdoors and marvel at the feeling of snowflakes coating my hair, coat, boots, and every other surface they can possible reach in this corner of the world.

If you have snow where you live, how do you react to it?

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: My Favourite Songs

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

Were we supposed to share our favourite songs of all time or our favourite contemporary songs? I decided to do a little of both since I wasn’t sure how everyone else would interpret this prompt.

The links below will play these songs for you. Some of them are also the official music videos for them.

Hotel California” by The Eagles

My father really enjoyed this band when he was growing up, so we heard their music throughout our childhoods. I always liked this particular song of theirs.

 

Slightly burned sheets of musicPuff the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul, & Mary

Sometimes I wonder if my parents would have been hippies if they’d been born a decade or so earlier. They love whimsical songs like this, and so do I.

 

Best Friend” by Brandy

I saved up my allowance for weeks to buy her albums as they came out! (My parents were pastors. We didn’t listen to much secular music for the first decade or so of my life, so she made a big impression on me).

 

Hands” by Jewel 

This song has such a beautiful message about how to deal with tough times and what we can do to help others when they’re struggling.

 

May It Be” by Enya 

Her contribution to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack was perfect.

 

Happy” by Pharrell Williams 

These lyrics and music video are so filled with joy.

 

Spirit” by Beyonce 

Honestly, I like just about everything she puts out. This is one of her newer songs that I think will be a classic.

 

Beautiful People” by Ed Sheeran feat. Khalid

Ed has written a lot of lovely music. I especially appreciated this song of his because it was about the perspective of totally ordinary people.

 

The Last Great American Dynasty” by Taylor Swift 

Did you know the protagonist of this ballad is based on a real person? I thought that was pretty neat.

 

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: My Earliest Memory

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

I’d forgotten this, but it turns out that WWBC had this same prompt last year! I talked about eating apples that were still attached to the apple tree in our front yard then, so I’ll talk about our tire swing this time.

A baby sitting in a tire swing
Baby Lydia in a tire swing.

If you’re unfamiliar with this sort of toy, know that they’re made from old tires that are no longer fit for traditional things like driving. My thrifty, environmentally-conscious uncle made the one you’ll see in these photographs!

A tire swing meant for young children is cut open lengthwise to create a safe pouch for little ones to sit in.

If you’re small enough to fit into it, you may still need a grownup or older child to push you.

I have such happy memories of gently being pushed back and forth as I sat in it.  The specific adults in question are hazy but always warm and attentive. Sometimes my parents no doubt did it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other relatives took turns as well.

I was the first grandchild on one side of the family, so there were lots of older kids and grownups around who relished playing with a little one again.

A preschooler swinging in a tire swing
Swinging by myself like a big kid.

Those early experiences gave me a lifelong love of swings. There’s nothing like the sensation of riding in one. It almost feels like you’re flying if you go fast and high enough!

This memory probably formed when I was a tad older than the age I was when I took tiny bites out of apples that I couldn’t quite manage to pull off of the tree.

My family moved away from that house when I was about four, so this was a very early memory no matter which one technically formed first.

I’ll end this post with one final tire swing photo so that you will all know there was a time when my first brother and I were small enough to fit into a tire swing together. (Someday I’ll gush about my other sibling and other relatives in their own special posts, too. Everyone is equally loved in our family. 🙂 )

A young girl and her infant brother cuddling together in a tire swing
Tire swing cuddles

This sibling of mine is about six feel tall now and has his own kids to chase around!  It’s a joy to see him make his wife and kids laugh. He can find the humour in anything.

He also gives the biggest, nicest bearhugs you can possibly imagine.

Looking at this photo makes me yearn for the day when I can hug him and everyone else in the family again. Someday the U.S. and Canadian borders will reopen and that will happen.

I’ll leave it up to him to reveal his identity or remain anonymous depending on what he prefers.

But look at those little munchkins. What a sweet moment in time.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read Because Someone Recommended Them to Me

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

This week’s prompt was a little tricky for me because it’s been a while since I’ve received a memorable book recommendation. I can be a bit picky about what I read, so I definitely don’t blame anyone for that. It’s just hard for some folks to figure out my tastes well enough to recommend things I end up loving.

These recommendations were all hits, though! They’re loosely arranged by how old I was when they were first recommended to me.

Title and Author: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1)
by C.S. Lewis

Who Recommended It: My uncle sent this entire seven-book series to me when I was in elementary school. I adored it immediately.

 

Title and Author: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Who Recommended It: I believe my fifth grade teacher recommended it during or after we did a history unit on the Holocaust. Anne’s stories about living in hiding as well as the truth about what happened to her gave this era a personal touch that made it easier for my young mind to grasp the horrors of it all.

 

Title and Author: Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

Who Recommended It: My ninth grade English teacher. She didn’t recommend this specific book, but she did an in-depth unit on his work in general that turned me into a lifelong fan of his stories.

 

Title and Author: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Who Recommended It: A book display at my high school library. I knew nothing about this author or tale, but I thought I’d give it a try. Jane won me over from the beginning.

 

Title and Author: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Who Recommended It: A high school study hall teacher. She had a shelf filled with books for us to read if we’d finished all of our homework. I picked this title out from it and was mesmerized from the first page.

 

Title and Author: Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

Who Recommended It: My aunt. She had a large personal library that I was allowed to borrow books from while she was away at college and later graduate school, and I believe this was one of the titles she thought I’d particularly enjoy. Yes, she was completely right.

 

Pile of opened books stacked on top of each other Title and Author: The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison

Who Recommended It: A librarian at the local public library if my memory is correct. I’d mentioned enjoying Beloved, and she immediately told me to read this next. I’m glad I listened to her!

 

Title and Author: Indian Horse  by Richard Wagamese

Who Recommended It: A coworker. I asked him for recommendations of Canadian books at some point after I moved up here, and this was one of his ideas.

Title and Author: The Stone Angel  by Margaret Laurence

Who Recommended It: The same coworker who recommended Indian Horse. I enjoyed both of these titles.

 

Title and Author: Annabel  by Kathleen Winter

Who Recommended It: A display of new Canadian books at one of the Toronto Public Library branches. I borrowed it with no knowledge of who the author was and had a great time reading it.

5 Homeschooling Tips From a Homeschooler

A toy apple sitting on three textbooks in front of a blackboard. The toy apple has a door, window, and lantern painted onto it so that it looks ilke a litle house. I recently read that there has been a surge of families interested in homeschooling thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As someone who was homeschooled for several years, I have some tips to share for anyone who is planning to or thinking about homeschooling their kids this year.

Before we dive into the meat of this post, please note that homeschooling during a pandemic or other crisis is much more difficult than it is in ordinary times.

My parents had the luxury of time to research homeschooling thoroughly before choosing it. Their main concern was which curriculum to use and how closely to follow it, not whether any of us would catch a dangerous illness during our weekly trip to the library or grocery store.

Please go easy on yourselves. There are many different ways to learn, and most children are adept at soaking up knowledge no matter what’s going on around them. I know that my siblings and I did quite well once we transitioned to public school. In fact, we were ahead of our peers in certain areas like math and reading.

Tip #1: Discover and Pursue Their Interests

Child reading a book while sitting on brown grass and wearing a wreath of flowers in her hair outside
This isn’t me. I simply enjoy the peaceful imagery in it.

Whether they love computer games, sports, poetry or something else entirely, there are ways to tie many different interests back into academic subjects.

To give one concrete example, a kid who is obsessed with Minecraft might also enjoy learning about coding, computer science, history, problem solving in math, or environmentalism if it can be tied into his or her favourite game in some way.

Tip #2: Look for Non-Worksheet Learning Experiences

I must confess that I actually enjoyed our homeschooling worksheets, but that was because they were limited. We did a few of them a day and then moved onto other types of learning. Daily routines can be filled with learning opportunities for students of all ages.

Children learning how to cook
Also not me, but great hands on learning!

Doubling (or halving) a recipe is a fantastic way to practice fractions and mental math in elementary school. Older students could figure out the cost per ingredient, serving, or entire batch of food, and that’s before we get into the cost of substitutions or how many batches of chocolate chip cookie dough they’d have to make to fill their entire room with cookies.

This same pattern could be followed for home repairs, automobile repairs, gardening, doing laundry, cleaning, and so much more. One of the things I didn’t enjoy about public school once I eventually switched to it was how much harder it was to translate all of the knowledge they expected us to learn into anything that was relevant to my daily life.

Homeschooling makes it much easier to show why it’s important to understand chemistry when deciding if you should mix bleach and ammonia* or how quickly compounding interest adds up when you’re deciding how much to charge to your 30% interest credit card or thinking about saving for retirement.

*Never do this!

Tip #3: Go on Field Trips

A cemetery filled with gravestones on a warm, sunny day. No, this doesn’t have to involve being around other people or visiting museums.

There were times when our “field trips” were a walk to a local park and a conversation about the plants and animals that we spotted there. This doesn’t have to be complicated or cost much (if any) money at all.

Some of my favourite field trips growing up were the ones we took to cemeteries and bigger parks in rural areas. My siblings and I had so many questions during these excursions:

  • What do butterflies eat?
  • Why did so many people die young in the 1800s?
  • Why does this stone look nothing like that one?
  • Who was the first person who ever decided to drink cow’s milk?
  • How do trees know when it’s time to drop their leaves or grow new ones?
  • Why would someone build a house out in the middle of nowhere?

Mom and dad answered our questions when we were very young. They also encouraged us to look up the answers on our own, especially as we grew older and could do things like read an encyclopedia or search the Internet.

Some of our questions didn’t have straightforward answers, but many of them did. The more we learned, the more we wanted to know. My lifelong interest in history came in part from the many historical sites my parents took us to when we were on vacation or even simply bored and wanting to explore local history.

Reading about historical events became more appealing to me in middle and high school, but I really liked being able to tie that chapter or book back to my memories of visiting places that were somehow connected to that era.

Tip #4: Offer Many Different Types of Books and Audiobooks

Young boy wearing black, Harry Potter style glasses reading a comic book
Still not me. You all know the drill by now.

Think fiction, non-fiction, bestsellers, classics, graphic novels, and more. I was the sort of bookish kid who happened to enjoy a lot of classic novels, but it always bothered me when adults used me as an example for kids who maybe struggled with reading, didn’t enjoy it in general, or who simply found the classics uninteresting.

Not everyone will enjoy the same stories or subjects, and that’s totally okay. If someone wants to listen to an audiobook of their favourite Spiderman graphic novel, good for them! Their minds are still processing that information, maybe learning some new vocabulary words, and (hopefully) following the storyline closely to see what happens to their favourite superhero next.

Tip #5: Let Them Get Bored 

Bored dog lying on a carpeted floor in front of a couch
I’ll leave it up to all of you to decide whether this is me. 😉

As you might have already guessed, my parents slid closer to the unschooling side of the homeschooling continuum than they did the traditional one. That is to say, we had a lot of say in what we learned and how far we followed each rabbit trail as we discovered new interests.

Yes, of course we learned how to read, write, and do math. But our brand of homeschooling was a pretty casual one beyond that point. We went to the library about once a week to stock up on whatever books looked interesting, and then we were given a lot of freedom to decide what we learned and when.

Given that we lived in Wyoming for most of our homeschooling years, this did lead to times of boredom when snow was falling heavily outside. We either had to read books, write our own stories, study topics that interested us, or try to get one of the few channels on the TV to work.

These hours of freedom created kids who knew how to entertain themselves, teach themselves, and carve out their time wisely.

And, honestly, that’s been a real advantage for all of us in our adult lives.

If you were also homeschooled, what other tips would you give homeschooling families as the school year starts up again?

A Mindful Approach to Headaches

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any medical conditions. Please consult with a medical professional if you need medical advice. I’m simply writing about my own experiences here.  The first multi-day tension headache I remember experiencing happened at age seven or eight soon after my family moved to Wyoming.… Read More

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: My Favourite Memory and Why

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year. My family lived in Laramie, Wyoming for four years when I was a little girl. We were low income, so my parents came up with all… Read More