The last of our children graduates

… graduates from elementary school, that is.

When I was a boy, there was no ceremony to mark our graduation from elementary school. Of course, that was back in the day when we used to walk ten miles to school, in a blizzard every day, even in June. Barefoot, and uphill in both directions.

Anyway, here’s Isaac, being honoured for surviving elementary school almost normal:

Isaac grade 8 grad

Unfortunately, he was shot in the throat just as he reached the platform.

(Not really. But his neck isn’t usually parallel to the ground / perpendicular to his body. Honest. Perhaps he was so thrilled about entering high school that he suffered a seizure?)

No lasting damage ensued, as you can see here:

Isaac survived elementary school, and we survived raising a bunch of kids to high school age. We all must have horseshoes up our butts.

Where’s Waldo?

I see I haven’t posted anything new since March 7. That may be the longest gap between posts since I started blogging in April 2005.

I haven’t lost the will to blog. I’m just overwhelmed with work at the moment, and I’m too fatigued to write blog posts when I get home.

I’m in the final weeks of negotiations on a self-government agreement with a First Nation in Manitoba. That’s about as much information as I can provide, for reasons of confidentiality.

As we approach the point at which we can initial the final agreement, I’m suddenly negotiating on multiple fronts:  with the First Nation (of course), with the legal-technical working group (the lawyers who evaluate the text from a legal drafting perspective), and with the Department of Finance and other government departments. This means that I’m continually revising the agreement and then presenting the revisions to the other interested parties.

Sooner or later, there’s got to be an end to this “iterative” process. It only seems endless.

Live from Starbucks, Peterborough, Ontario

I haven’t blogged much recently, which is unusual for me — even at Christmas time. I figured it was time to check in with y’all.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Peterborough, Ontario. That’s my home town. Population of approximately 65,000, when I left here in 1986. It has grown some since then. As of 2006,

the census metropolitan area (CMA) had a population of 116,570. It presently ranks as the 33rd and smallest CMA in Canada.

Metropolitan Peterborough. Hah!

Benjamin (nebcanuck) is living in Peterborough these days, studying at Trent University. My parents and one of my sisters live here, too. So I still visit Metropolitan Peterborough several times per year.

Which brings me to Starbucks. I found out that if you have a Starbucks card, you can get two hours of wireless high-speed internet access each day — free! This is convenient, since my parents don’t have internet access, and I usually stay with them when I’m in town.

The Starbucks internet access also comes in handy when I travel to Winnipeg, as I frequently do for work. (I’m part of a team negotiating a self-government agreement with a First Nation in Manitoba.)

Yesterday, Ilona and I celebrated Christmas with one of my sisters in Port Perry, Ontario. Port Perry is about 45 minutes southwest of Metropolitan Peterborough.

Not all the news from home is happy. My Dad’s brother died on Christmas Eve at 9:20 p.m. We won’t be staying in Peterborough for the funeral, which is Monday. But we’ll stay for the “visitation” at the funeral home Sunday afternoon.

Uncle Bill was in his seventies and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He was a lively fellow up until he got ill:  an amateur photography enthusiast (in the pre-computer days when cameras used actual film, and were operated manually) who also taught square dancing classes. He had a degree in music and he sang in the church choir for fifty years.

Uncle Bill also used to build chairs with wire frames, which was extremely labour intensive — so my Dad tells me — because all the upholstering for the back of the chair had to be hand-stitched to the wire frame. (No wood to staple upholstery to.)

In short, Uncle Bill lived large in the way that he found stimulating and meaningful. Which sets a good example for the rest of us.

Anyway, that’s the news, up-to-the-minute from Starbucks in Metropolitan Peterborough.

Hey! This is an authentic blog post, chatty and stream-of-consciousness like. What do you know about that?!

p.s. Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays to all my regulars!

Twelve string challenge

My son, Isaac, is interested in learning to play the guitar. He borrowed my twelve-string acostic.

Tonight I bought him a new set of strings; now he has to tune those babies. (Good luck with that project, Isaac — twelve-stringed guitars are a bugger to tune!)

He’s at his mom’s house right now, so he has asked me to tell him what notes he should tune to. Here you are, Isaac:  this post’s for you!

standard tuning a semi-tone lower
top (thickest) two strings E
(one octave apart)
next two strings A
(one octave apart)
next two strings D
(one octave apart)
next two strings G
(one octave apart)
next two strings B
(same octave)
bottom (thinnest) two strings E
(same octave)

1To reduce the tension those twelve strings exert on the neck of the guitar.

Two wise men and a wise guy

Who could this Christmas greeting card be from? — it’s a mystery!
The source is just possibly the same sister who gave us a rubber chicken as a wedding present.
(The apron says, “… and they lived happily ever after.” Which is more than you can say for the apparently-dead chicken.)

University… [the transition]

In the article, the author wonders “why do we … try to go from adolescent to adult in a matter of weeks or months?”. Hello? What were those four or five undergrad years all about? Obviously, the writer thinks that university students are in an extended adolescence until the very moment of graduation.

This statement was made by MaryP in response to another blogger. While I agree with the core of what she argues, I would take her argument and run with it in a slightly different direction.

As an undergrad, I disagree with her statement. Perhaps it’s just my personal experiences, but I think the transition from adolescence to adulthood should taking place long before that. I moved off to school because I was ready to be an adult. A young, inexperienced adult, for sure, but an adult nonetheless.

The university years are meant to learn as an adult, not to transition. High school is about transitioning from adolescent to adult. Those four years, you still are at home, but hopefully are maturing both educationally and interpersonally. I like to think that I came out of High School with a mature perspective on how to work with other people, how to care for myself, and how to set goals for myself and make effective use of my education. If I hadn’t, then it seems odd for me to be stepping out on my own immediately. University shouldn’t be considered a transition year, it should be where the learning throughout that transition is first put to test.

I think the root of my argument rests in the notion that society seems to have that adolescence is a period of time when you’re supposed to be immature. I don’t think MaryP thinks that — just the opposite, I always appreciated how she paid me a great deal of respect as a maturing individual. Instead of expecting me to be stupid and always err, she treated me like someone who was developing his capacity to make the right decision as often as humanly possible, as did my father and mother. And the fact that they all treated me this way was key! I can say (I hope) that instead of being the “typical” teenager, whining about any work and dropping my responsibilities as soon as I could get my hands on a beer, I was pretty good at learning from mistakes and appreciating the hardships that made me a better person.

Of course I didn’t make every decision correctly. But that’s just the point — a transition tends to involve more misdemeanors than otherwise! I honestly feel that I came into university having mostly completed the transition to adulthood. I entered as a (basically) financially, emotionally, and morally independent individual. I was ready to tackle the role of adulthood.

And, while some people feel like tackling adulthood is enough to leave them lying in the dirt moaning, my experience (as a football player and a teenager 😉 ) left me ready to take the couple hits that would ensue, and ready to prove myself as a competent adult.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m past all of the hits. Financially, there’ll be problems from here until God decides otherwise — that much was made clear in the first couple months on my own. Emotionally, there were struggles with my role as an adult, most of which revolved around the fact that leaving behind your adolescent self isn’t always easy. But by the time I hit university, I was leaving behind the teenage Ben, and that’s important to my development as an adult. The university transition isn’t about learning to stop being a teenager — it’s about being an adult, fully, and transitioning from a young adult to a mature one.

That’s why I cringed when I came across this surprisingly relevant article in the Globe and Mail today. The question being asked is how a parent should handle it when their “kid” is partying, resulting in a waste of money on the part of the parent. The respondent says:

Some people major in English lit. Some major in economics. Your son just happens to be a major partier. Certainly, it’s disconcerting to think that all that money you earn by the sweat of your brow is ending up in a residence toilet at three in the morning. But before you freak out and turn off the financial tap, breathe deeply and relax. I bet if you think back to your own first semester in university, you’ll remember more about what when on between classes than in them. In fact, Evelyn Rodinos, a psychologist at McGill University’s counselling centre, even suggests that your son’s wild and crazy behaviour might be a good thing. For his development, and for his future in the job market.

“For freshman, it’s almost a rite of passage to do a lot of experimenting and try out a lot of different personas. As they’re trying to find themselves and choose who they want to be, academics isn’t going to be in the top three or four priorities,” says Ms. Rodinos. “Usually,” she laughs, “number one is having sex.” And according to the admirably realistic Ms. Rodinos, you shouldn’t necessarily curb your son’s careless behaviour, at least not right away. “Social status may be more important towards performance in the long term,” she says. “As long as you have social skills, you’re going to be successful.”

Why cringe? Well, first of all I think the development theory is horrible skewed here. The “kid” shouldn’t be a kid by the time he’s in university. He should be beyond “learning who he is” and should be at the point where he can test to see if who he is is really going to work out now that he’s an adult. But even worse is the fact that the advise is to keep funding this behaviour, because it’s important for him as a growing “child.”

That’s bull, plain and simple. One of the wonders of university life for me has been complete financial autonomy. Yes, it’s hurt, and will have an impact on my near future. Yet, I’ve had to learn to be prudent with my money, which wouldn’t be the case if every one of my actions was “on the tab.” Having “the financial tap” flowing freely is simply encouraging this kid to be irresponsible and to continue blowing his money on booze. While the problem wasn’t booze for me, I can say that I had to learn to cut back on the fancy foods and other such “vices.” Fortunately, I had learned to budget and plan my finances responsibly before I had to be an adult — thanks to my parental figures — and so that new, adult experience was not so overwhelming that I will never recover.

Absolutely the parents should cut off the financial tap to their adult. If the author of this article were to announce that her mom pays for her bills and she blows what cash she earns from journalism on beer, I’m certain that people would be far less willing to stomach her articles. That same financial autonomy should have been embedded into the mentality of “Little Jimmy” throughout high school, and by the time he stepped out into the larger world he should have been able to realize that over-drinking was not a financially prudent decision.

Parents, give your kids credit. Treat them like blooming adults throughout high school, and they will be ready to step out into the world when they hit university. Stop throwing your money down the toilet; Let your “kids” be adults completely, not this teenager-adult hybrid that seems to exist later and later in a person’s life these days.

In short, want your kid to move out? Don’t just stop cooking with cheese; Stop paying for their cheese, period. Instead, give them the benefit of the doubt and let them risk buying their own cheese!

What?! Some people make money doing this?!

My wife wants to transition out of the caregiving grind over the next few years to become a professional writer. (Caregiving is a job for the young!)

This week she has landed her first paying gig. She’s getting paid to blog!

AisleDash is a wedding blog. It was officially launched today, but the contributors have been busily working behind the scenes so that they could immediately publish about 200 posts.

Here are some of my wife’s (fifteen!) contributions:

The concept is, lots of short posts, always with a photo and a link. The hardest part looks like coming up with a dozen ideas per week within the wedding theme. If you have any ideas to suggest, please feel free to submit them!

This professional writing business looks like it might actually involve work.

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