Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

Opinion-Waiting for retirement January 16, 2020

I keep running into people who have big plans for their retirement.  They’re going to move somewhere with less snow.  They’re going to get serious about that hobby.  They’re going to start writing that book.

I ask them what I asked myself in 1998: Why wait?

One Spring Break when I was in my thirties with two pre-teen kids, I’d driven south with the kids to see my parents. I went to Vancouver, and sitting in the Water Street station, I looked around at the blooming tulips and plum trees and pondered the foot of snow in my yard back home.

On our 800 km journey back home, we drove past lots of schools.  I looked at those schools and had an epiphany.  There are teachers working here.  Why wait thirty years to move?  Why not have the life we want to have NOW?

I returned home and had a chat with my husband.  I sent out applications.  He interviewed for a transfer in his government job.  He had a few offers around the province that he turned down.  I was called to an interview in Salmon Arm and subsequently accepted a position. Two days later he was offered a position in Salmon Arm, too.  Serendipity and synchronicity.  Two months later we were living in a beautiful community that actually had four seasons that appeared when they were supposed to on the calendar (instead of two seasons: ‘winter’ and ‘bugs’).  That was twenty years ago.

I dreamed of being a writer, but thought that in my forties, it was too late to start.  Then my school hosted the BC Book Prize tour, and I discovered that every author visiting us had written their first book after fifty.

I started writing just after Thanksgiving and the week before Easter I finished Grace Awakening.  The week after the following Thanksgiving at the Surrey Writing Conference I pitched it to a small publisher, which subsequently offered me a contract.  A dream come true.

This October was ten years after I pitched that first book.  I was offered a table to sell my books at a signing event at the Surrey Writers Conference, alongside some of my author idols.  I am working in my dream job, teaching English & Creative Writing in an amazing school in a beautiful place, WHILE writing books!  It couldn’t be more perfect!

I still have a few years before retirement.

I have retirement plans.  When I retire, I plan to write a lot more books, and visit schools to teach a lot more teens and adults how to bring their dream stories to life.  I will travel and write and read.  It will be awesome.

But.

A year and a half ago, I received a brain injury.  Out of no where, in my own home, BAM: Life changed.

Words swam on a page.  I couldn’t decipher hand-writing.  The computer screen hurt.  Crowds hurt my ears. Lights hurt my eyes.  I had head-aches and eye-aches.  I was dizzy.  I was nauseous. For MONTHS.

I told my doctor that he needed to figure out healing quickly, because I needed to go back to my dream job and keep working on my books!   He said, “Shawn, you might be retired now.”

That scared me.  The idea that I might enter retirement unable to read, unable to write, and unable to teach or travel was horrifying.  What a bleak picture!  On the bright side, I thought, at least I have been able to have this wonderful job, teaching teens to write, and to inspire them.  At least, I have published nine books.

Thankfully, I had excellent concussion therapy and I have recovered enough from my brain injury to work part-time again.   Despite my injury, 6 pieces were published last year.  Some had been written years ago, some were short articles or stories that took me weeks instead of a day to write.  Slow progress is still progress.

My injury wasn’t the end of my dreams, but it could have been.

Wouldn’t it have been horrible to have all my plans completely unreachable due to poor health?  Wouldn’t it have been a hundred times worse if I had saved all my dreams for retirement, and not have the health to attempt them?  I had two colleagues who were in good health when they retired, but were dead six months later.

If you have a dream, don’t wait for retirement.

We only have today.

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Education- Small but mighty learning November 24, 2018

The following article was originally published in The Gateway newspaper, Sicamous, BC, June 2014.  I no longer teach at ERS, but the school continues to engage in innovative programs with some of the most skilled teachers in SD 83.  When I left, half the teachers had Masters degrees and a third of them were published authors!

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SMALL BUT MIGHTY LEARNING AT ERS.

© Shawn L. Bird 2014

Eagle River Secondary (ERS) has been the educational heart of Sicamous since students began learning on the property nearly a century ago. In recent years, declining enrolment has required the school to become creative in order to offer programs that keep students in town. These successful innovations are causing a stir throughout the province.

The changes have included offering grade specific Core classes (English, Social Studies, Math, and Science) in the mornings and multigrade electives in the afternoons. The electives have embraced the teachers’ varied passions, allowing students to learn through classes in geo-caching, horticulture, international cuisine, cake decorating, hockey, outdoor education and guitar as well as more traditional classes like volleyball, biology and art. Of special note is the Social Justice class, which has students in the community helping at the thrift store and Meals on Wheels, harvesting vegetables for the food bank, gardening, and collecting for various charities.

A new focus on flexible learning by the Ministry of Education became the key to Eagle River’s innovations. The school has been given freedom to develop unconventional approaches to timetabling and course offerings. As a result of the success of these efforts, ERS has been recognized by the provincial government as a flagship school of the BC Ed Plan. Grade eight and nine students have had the opportunity to learn together in their choice of six mixed Science/ Socials classes throughout the school year; grade ten will be added in 2014-15. These courses have provided hands on, project based learning exploring local plants, controversial issues, water, astronomy, sound, electricity, revolutions, world religions, and cultural fashions among other offerings.

ERS is also very active in Career Education initiatives. Students are able to earn credits for their work experience in their jobs outside of school. There are two ERS students working in the community as Secondary School Apprentices, collecting hours with BC’s Industry Training Authority and gaining high school credit while they work as a marine mechanic or electrician. ERS works with School District 83 to provide two other students with dual credits (both college and high school) for career training as an automotive repair technician or a hair dresser. These students do a semester or year of training at another SD83 school, and will return to ERS tograduate with their friends.

Students also have the opportunity to parlay their own interests into Independent Directed Study (IDS) blocks. Students develop a set of learning goals, based on existing Ministry courses, and then leave the building to explore. Presently a pair of students is doing an IDS in fly fishing, learning about insect and fish life cycles, creating flies, fishing, and recording their findings. This is science and physical education for real life! Other students have created IDS courses in music, mountain biking, fitness, and long boarding. ERS partnered with UBC’s Okanagan campus to offer Maker Day. This was a chance to explore creative thinking and problem solving by students and community members working in small, multi-age groups to create prototypes of inventions. Maker Day is a movement dedicated to inquiry learning. Three ERS teachers are working on Masters degrees at UBCO, and the university is keen to have greater involvement with the school.

Eagle River’s innovations are making waves. Schools from all over the province are calling or coming to see what is happening within the walls. With only 150 students in grades eight to twelve, ERS may be small, but it’s mighty. Great things are happening for Sicamous’s kids, and the province is taking

You can find the original article in situ here on page 8. GatewayJun2014-SmallMightp8.

Shawn L. Bird BA, MEd.

 

 

Crazy fact November 28, 2017

Filed under: Commentary — Shawn L. Bird @ 8:31 pm
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You know what’s crazy?

There are 195 countries in the world, and according to WordPress analytics, at least one person from 178 of them has dropped by this blog over the years.   That’s at least one representative from 91% of the globe!  WOW!

Thank YOU for coming by!

And if you’re writing from  Central African Republic, Cuba, Equitorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Greenland, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Kyrgikstan, Macedonia, Mauritania, North Korea, Solomon Islands, South Sudan,  Turkmanistan, Tajikistan, or Western Sahara, you’re particularly welcome!  Thanks for filling in a new piece of my world map!

 

 

sharing July 24, 2017

Filed under: Commentary,Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 7:08 pm
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Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

I wonder how many women do not have these stories in their lives?  I suspect there are few if any.  We acknowledge these stories, but so rarely bother to stand up to them, because they are ubiquitous.  I am glad to see the light being shone on them and the label being attached.  Yes, these are assaults.  Yes, this is violence.  This is why some cultures are so protective of girls, but why, why, why can’t the blame be put entirely where it belongs- on the perpetrators of this violence?

Perhaps because that requires us to look at our own dark natures?

I was recently reading an article that talked about the passive label like “Violence against women” as if there is no agent acting.  Where does that violence come from?  Not the ether.  Let’s label the agents, not the objects of the action.

 

 

quote-Cornelia Funke on good books January 17, 2016

Filed under: Literature,Poetry,Quotations,Reading — Shawn L. Bird @ 7:20 pm

“Isn’t it odd how much fatter a book gets when you’ve read it several times?” Mo had said…”As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells…and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower…both strange and familiar.”

Cornelia Funke in Inkspell

 

quote from Jenny Hubbard January 15, 2016

Filed under: Literature,Quotations — Shawn L. Bird @ 2:50 pm
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In the book, And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, protagonist Emily is sorting out the world by writing poetry and reading Emily Dickinson.  The book is full of poetry and is written with a very poetic tone. Here is a particularly beautiful passage:

So sew. Either way you spell it, on its own, the word looks wrong.  Emily could write a poem about it, about how sew needs a subject, an object.  About how a girl needs a duty to lock her in place. So if she sits at a desk, scrawls words on paper, are the words as lonely as she, or do they sow seeds into a soul across time, across centuries?  Was Emily Dickinson ever able to thread the words together in such a way that she was beyond the need for stitches?

 

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Obituary- Herbert Mosses Duguay July 25, 2015

Filed under: Commentary — Shawn L. Bird @ 5:40 pm
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Herb93bday (2)OBITUARY:

HERBERT MOSSES DUGUAY

October 25, 1914 – July 25, 2015

Herb Duguay passed away peacefully Saturday, July 25, 2015 in his 101st year. Herb was a devoted father and husband.  He was the son of Charlotte Coombes Mosses Duguay and David Owen Mosses, but raised as the son of Joseph Georges Duguay in Montreal.  He was married to Alison MacMillan Duguay Baker for over twenty years.  He was married to his beloved Lalita Ortlieb Fuson Duguay for fifty-three years.  He had one daughter by birth, Shawn (John) Bird, and three children by the heart, Wayne Fuson, Stewart (Gail) Fuson, and Naomi Verbonac.  He had 8 grandchildren: Veronica, Shane, Lalita, Jolene, Trista, Charlotte, Nicholas, and Kyle.  He had 9 great-grandchildren.

Herb’s first memory was seeing the World War 1 soldiers coming home in 1919.  Around this time he was run over by a brand new Model T Ford. We are thankful for their high wheel clearance.

He was an avid Boy Scout and saw Lord and Lady Baden-Powell when they came to Canada in the 1920s.

In the 1930’s Herb worked in quality control at Burroughs Wellcome Pharmaceuticals. As a result, he was a lifetime believer in the power of Polysporin.

He built bombers at Fairchild Aircraft in Montreal during World War 2 because the army didn’t want him.  They said he had a bad heart.  They were wrong.  Herb was all heart.

He moved to Vancouver in the 1950s to start up Maco Industries with Reg Baker.  For the next thirty years he travelled through Western Canada selling their products to building supply stores.  He was proud of his ethics and the good relations that garnered him respect and openings everywhere, because he only sold products he believed in.  He was still selling in the care home, pitching his daughter Shawn’s books to staff and residents at every opportunity.

He was a travelling salesman who never missed a school performance or event of significance.

Herb never walked past a child’s lemonade stand without buying a glass and chatting.

He always had a good dog to keep him company.

He was an avid tennis and table-tennis player throughout his life.  Though blinded by macular-degeneration, he still played into his 80s with unerring accuracy.  In the last few years, he was the goalie for the award winning Bastion Care Home floor hockey team.  Until two weeks ago, he walked up 2 flights of stairs each day.

He was proud of the letter from the Queen for his 100th birthday.  He was prouder of the accomplishments of his children and grandchildren.

Herb was friendly, funny, honest, kind-hearted, and loyal.  The world is a less gentle place without him in it.  He was truly a “man of worth.”

Thanks to the Bastion Care Home staff.  You were his favourites.

Herb Duguay (age 85) and Teddy

Herb Duguay (age 85) and Teddy

Herb Duguay (age 70) and Shawn

Herb Duguay (age 70) and Shawn

( ^ In that picture he always reminds me of Maurice Chevalier.  Dad loved to sing Chevalier’s Thank Heaven for Little Girls to me when I was little).

Herb (age 40ish) behind Maco with Kinky the dachshund

Herb (age 40ish) behind Maco with Kinky the dachshund

Herb Duguay tennis champion

Herb Duguay tennis champion

He told me he’d won a big tournament in Montreal once.  I just received this photo which I had never seen.  I wish I could ask Dad about it!  No idea of year- somewhere between 1945-55 I’m guessing.  Let me know if this trophy looks familiar!

From the cast photo of A Nautical Knot performed Nov 30, Dec 1-2, 1939 by St Andrews Operatic Society Montreal

From the cast photo of A Nautical Knot performed Nov 30, Dec 1-2, 1939 by St Andrews Operatic Society Montreal

A Nautical Knot was a comic operetta by William Rhys-Herbert.  Dad could not sing a note, but he was filler on stage.  He used to laugh about it.  I believe it was put on by the St Andrews United Church in Lachine, which held its last service Dec 18, 2011.

Vincent Martin, Herb Duguay, Kenneth Dow Boy Scouts Montreal 1930ish

Vincent Martin, Herb Duguay, Kenneth Dow Boy Scouts Montreal 1930ish

Vincent Martin joined the Merchant Marine and was killed Sept 1941, age 26.

 

 
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