Back to School Time

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​Another back to school season. I’ve been going or participating in back to school since before i was five years old. I did my time in preschool/nursery school, kindergarten, grades one through twelve, four years of undergraduate, two plus years of post graduate, and so far eighteen years of sending my kids back to school.

This year felt different. I’m not sure why. My two younger children are still in public school. My daughter is in her last year of middle school. My son is in his second year of high school. We saw them off on their buses yesterday. Maybe it’s that we’re barely home from vacation. All the laundry’s not quite finished. The sink is full of dishes, and we’re actually using paper plates this week!

I have my writing supplies. I’m mostly happy with my writing supplies, although that won’t keep me looking at new ones in the clearance aisles of Target and Staples.

Part of my back to school ritual is bringing change to my website. While I am an essayist, I don’t feel as though I keep a blog per se. I write articles. I follow themes. I offer something.

However, I’ve hit the block asking what is it that I actually offer? What more can I give? What can I do differently? And how can I incorporate my writing life into my children’s back to school life? Sometimes it flows, and other times, it really doesn’t. Today is one of those days. I’m going into the capital to see Dan Rather speak, and my daughter has a football game she’d like to go to, but doesn’t have a ride. This is one of the times where I give myself precedence. Normally, I’d acquiesce and change my plans. This can’t be one of those times.

Back to School is also about priorities. Choices. As a Mom, I feel as though I give up so much. Most of it isn’t anything earth-shattering or heartbreaking. As a Mom, I choose my kids first even if as teenagers they’re hardwired to put themselves first as well.

Overall, this week has been positive.

And that’s great because next week is the first full week of school, the first full week back from vacation, the first full week of Suicide Prevention Awareness month – a serious subject to tackle, but also one that needs tackling, more and more often. Awareness is Prevention, and I’ll need all my energy to plan out useful posts and resources.

I’ve been walking paths recently. All kinds of paths and roads and journeys. My six week memoir workshop is focused on paths this semester, but paths are always within my sight. We are all walking a path, sometimes like a tabletop game board. We’ve passed GO, we’ve collected something, probably not quite two hundred dollars, and we are on the square that says Back to School.

Roll the dice, and see how far we go!

Preview: Labyrinths

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At one of the church groups I attend, we rotate among members’ churches. The most recent one was this past June, and I was delightfully surprised to see a labyrinth in their courtyard. I didn’t walk among it; I simply admired it from afar and took a few photos.

While planning my family’s vacation to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, I tried to find a shrine or a religious destination that I could take some time for myself to meditate and pray. I really enjoyed the spiritual time that I had in Ireland, and I would like to…not replicate it, but have that become a tradition on my travels. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything that spoke to me. I did however, find a public labyrinth in a park as well as about half a dozen more in the surrounding area of Toronto.

I began to think about how I wanted to approach it, and before I knew it, I was doing research into labyrinths as part of religion, as part of spirituality, as part of history, and discovered to my wonder that we have several within easy driving distance.

I’ve been taking notes and taking pictures, and it may turn into some kind of a book in the future. In the meantime, this is the first labyrinth that caught my eye, and I’m sure that I’ll share more in the coming weeks.

Enjoy the last week of official summer.

Travel – Know Before You Go

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​It may be the aspect of traveling with children, but I have always found that planning for a vacation is practically a full time job, and if you already have a full time job, whether that’s out of the house or in the house, it’s even worse. I have also found that it doesn’t matter if the vacation is a weekend, a long weekend, or a week long holiday. It still takes the same amount of work for the preparation of a short time away or a long rest.

Some items may seem obvious, but we’ve all gotten halfway to our destination and wondered about leaving the stove on, and that thought continues over the entire course of the vacation regardless of how many times we absolutely, positively know that we turned off the oven. One way my family avoids this is that we get our coffee and morning drinks out of the house. NO COOKING! No oven, no stove top, no toaster, no coffee maker. No argument.

Our last three vacations have been to foreign countries (twice to Canada and once to the United Kingdom) and those take on slightly more planning prior to leaving. I’m including those details to eliminate missing items. As you read this (and other writings that I have on traveling), you’ll weed out what you don’t need or will not use, and hopefully you’ll comment on things that you did need that I haven’t included. I love the community we have here online so we can collaborate and advise each other. We are in a wonderful time, and we should embrace to positive aspects of it. This networking and sharing is one of those positive things.

We have three children and the youngest are teenagers. While they are certainly [th] more independent [th] and actually better able to help with packing than they were during their elementary years and younger, it is almost more work to get them ready for a vacation. They never think they need as much as we parents think they’ll need…like underwear and socks. Some people do laundry on vacation; I do not. I prefer my vacations to be vacations.

Where to start?

1. The first thing is to use timers for lights so they go on. Many of them can be set to go on and off randomly. Another option is to set one to turn one off in one room and then turn the light on in another room, so you’re showing movement as well as the lights aren’t in a set pattern.

2. Hold your mail. Do not let your mail pile up on your front porch or in the mailbox. You could have your neighbor collect it for you or you can go to your local post office or set it up online to stop your mail until you return. They will deliver it on the day you request. Go to usps.com, click on Quick Tools, and then click Hold Mail.

3. Same for your newspaper delivery.

4. Unplug your toaster oven and your other electronics that aren’t quite off when they’re “off”. Some of those items are computers, wifi routers, remote control televisions (who doesn’t have these?), chargers that are not being used. Mentally walk through your house and figure out which plugs need to be unplugged.

5. Set your thermostat higher. We usually set it for 79/80F in the summer and lower it to 65F in the winter.

6. Do you have pets? Will they be coming with you? Will you be kennelling them?

7. I go to Starbucks on a regular basis, and have their card. Will I be able to use it in Canada? I couldn’t use it in the UK, so I left it home. A small thing, but I still need to find out.

8. Will you be driving? Even in the UK, we rented a car and drove. Will we be using the rental company’s insurance or your own? We couldn’t use our own in the UK, but we can use it driving in Canada, including using a rental car. However, we did need a special insurance identification card for use in Canada (Canada Non-Resident Inter-Province Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card). This can be obtained from your insurance company.
9. Cell phone service. The last time we went to Canada (2015), we were in Niagara Falls and for the most part, our phone calls and texts bounced off the Buffalo cell towers so we didn’t pay roaming charges. Now, for the most part, roaming charges don’t exist in North America; at least with Verizon Wireless, Canada and Mexico are included in our regular wireless plan, so no roaming, no long distance, no fees. Check with your carrier.

10. Call your bank about using your credit and debit cards. You will be able to use them, but you’ll have to notify most banks so they don’t flag your cards as stolen. This is important even if you don’t leave the country. If you live in New York, and you’re visiting San Francisco, your card will be flagged and if it’s the weekend it will take time to sort out. There may also be usage fees. Again, check with your bank.

11. Currency Exchanges can be done at airports, most large banks, and AAA offices. Often, however, they need to be ordered and will take a few days to receive. There are more than likely fees.

Summer Scavenger Hunt

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​One of the things the past seven years of Gishing has taught me is that there are many ways to interpret something. It’s allowed me to rethink my concept of the scavenger hunt for one thing. Rather than collect things only to get rid of them at the end, I’ve really incorporated [th] the idea of re-purposing, finding and documenting, and being a force for good, whether that’s as a Good Samaritan, doing good deeds, or making the world better through my time, talent, and treasure, abd of course through civic responsibility. All of those things will be different depending on the hunter’s perspective.

I’m planning a mini Scavenger hunt for my kids for our upcoming vacation. This is not an easy task as they are somewhat spread out in age: 13, 14, and 22, as well as personality and tolerance for this sort of thing.

Some items will be for collection, although not many. Most will be photos or videos. I’ll share our specific ones when we return.

In the meantime, here are a few things you can add to your own scavenger hunt item list:

  1. On the first day, journal/draw: What are you most looking forward to?
  2. Draw something from your first day; then turn the paper over and draw something from your last day.
  3. Find a street sign with your name on it.
  4. Find a roundabout.
  5. Find a cow crossing sign. Bonus points for a photo of a cow and a cow crossing sign together in the same picture.
  6. Journal My Favorite Thing Thus Far (do this on or after the third day)
  7. Photograph or Draw (or both) a tower.
  8. If you are in a foreign country, try something different on the menu of a popular fast food restaurant (ie. McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks, etc.)
  9. If you are in a different state, try some local food. Write about the experience.
  10. Write down the date/time/town and take a photo or draw the following: Horse, Cow, Sheep, Moose, Beaver, Goose, Bridge, Flower, Water (river, waterfall, stream, etc)
  11. Pick a random day – Count the change in your pocket/purse.
  12. Nap Time – What did you dream about? Journal.
  13. Find a raccoon.
  14. Eat some poutine. Write about the experience.
  15. Find a waterfall.
  16. Take a picture of hockey equipment.
  17. Find and photograph a maple leaf
  18. On the last day, journal/draw: Did it (the first item listed) meet your expectations? If not, what surprised you?

Middle Child’s Day

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Today is the day to celebrate your middle child. Sometimes being the middle child wears them down, so give them a little extra love today. Let them choose something fun to do. Let them choose what’s for dinner. Take them out for ice cream.

Read Mental Floss’s article about middle children we may have heard about, like Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

💚❤💚

The End of An Era

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​A few weeks ago, more like a couple of months, mid-May, I watched the season fourteen finale of The CW television series, Supernatural. It feels both very close and very far away at the same time. The plot twist, the cliffhanger, the new apocalypse, and we’re expected, as with all season finales, to wait three to four months (which always seem like an eternity) for resolution. In this case though, when Supernatural returns in one more year, the season finale will also be the series finale. It will end with (my guesstimate) three hundred twenty-seven episodes and fifteen seasons. I’ve seen them all except one: Bugs. My son tried to trick me into watching that one; he failed. I don’t have huge bug issues, but I’m not taking any chances. 

Now that they’ve announced officially the end of the series, re-announced at their final Hall H panel at SDCC, and officially begun scouting locations and filming for season 15, I thought I would write down a few thoughts about this wonderful part of my life. Like many things in hindsight, it came to me later than a lot of the show’s fans; about halfway through the run, although those of us starting in the middle wouldn’t know that of course. For several years, whatever the current season was we thought it might be the last until that final renewal-non-renewal video announcement that came directly from the actors, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, and Misha Collins.

The series began in 2005, and I had heard about it around the time when it premiered. I don’t know why I made the choice not to watch it, and it was definitely a choice. I knew one of the lead actors from my soap opera, and that may have played into it, but I don’t remember, although I do think it was toted as a horror-genre series, and I do not like horror. That may be hard to believe considering what shows I watch now.

I began watching at the end of 2012, early 2013. It was the middle of season 8, and I binged like I’ve never binged before in order to catch up before the show returned from winter hiatus. I spent two weeks on Netflix, living and breathing Supernatural. I would not recommend this method. I was actually seeing things. There are definitely healthier ways to marathon a series.

There are also many emotional ties that I have to Supernatural and starting it at this time. It wasn’t a conscious decision to become a regular viewer. My friends were talking about the episodes, and I wanted to be involved in those conversations; I wanted to understand the references that my group was making. I didn’t really want to start a new series, but I also didn’t want to feel left out.

I was newly embroiled in a deep depression, just diagnosed and still adjusting medication, beginning talk therapy, beginning a writing class, beginning my religious conversion journey despite not being wholly aware of that. So many beginnings all at once. After seeing all of the episodes on Netflix, I rewatched them on TNT. I could come in at any episode, and whether or not I remembered it, I could still enjoy where they were, and I could watch them in or out of order. It became the soundtrack of my life, both on screen and on my MP3 player. It still is. When I’m having a low day, I’ll put on a random episode on Netflix and let it be my background music. Eventually, Supernatural would become one of my most steadfast coping components in my daily survival toolbox. 

My introduction to the series and the first episode I watched was The French Mistake [6.15]. It was a fourth wall breaking, meta-tastic, and gentle fan teasing (including the title which I’ve only just learned the meaning of!) all at once. They brought out all the actor stereotypes including huge houses, huge egos, behind the scenes backbiting, nods to tabloids and more. They killed one of the actors! The actor! They used one of the leads’ actual wedding photo. They played a clip from the other lead’s soap opera acting. They made fun of their unusual names. And in all of that it still kept the continuity of the storyline while having fun and giving the fans a gift in the process, and for me it cemented it as one of my favorite episodes even if I never watched another, but after a few days, I did. I don’t recall that second episode, but another one followed, and I stopped resisting, becoming like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

It opened up a whole new world.

I was in love.

Not with any one actor or plot point or trope or merch, but with all of it; the whole damn thing. It  made me smile.

Despite my dislike of horror and bump-in-the-night, suspend-your-disbelief but it could maybe actually happen scary shows, I was pulled in. I mean I didn’t even watch The Twilight Zone; that was too disturbing for me. But the opening of this: Mom dies, Dad’s missing, then Jess, and I was off to the races. Add in the puns, the geek culture service, the pop culture references, it was as if I was part of the writer’s room.

Even the bad episodes were loved by me. Each episode has something for everyone. I loved the brothers’ relationship. Their parental surrogate Bobby. The lore. The puns and pop culture shout-outs I’ve mentioned. The apocalyptic. The moral dilemmas. The character development for all the characters. The Linda Blair cameo, the catch phrases, the music. I began to recognize some of the writing styles – Adam Glass, Robbie Thompson, Bobo (Robert) Behrens to name three. 

It was (is) everything.

I saw myself in so many characters – Dean’s parenting, the ever present mother to Sam (and every other character from Krissy to Charlie). Sam’s search for knowledge and love of history and research. Castiel’s naivete and need to make things right. Charlie’s geekiness. Crowley’s and Gabriel’s snark. Death’s love of junk food. Chuck; the writer and world builder. Jack’s innocence and wanting to please. Jody and Mary; the Mama-bears. Mick, the outsider wanting to belong somewhere and full of regret. I’m all of them, and yet none of them.

This mini-love letter is also an introduction to a fifteenth season series of things I love of, from, about Supernatural. It may be monthly, it may be weekly during the season, it may be sporadic, but I have so much to say and share on this extraordinary and inspiring series and my journey alongside it.

It’s phenomenal. It’s mythical.

It’s…

Supernatural.

(c)2019

Supernatural returns to The CW television network for its fifteenth and final season on Thursday, October 10th at 8pm. I’ll see you there.