Jack – My Orange Crush Gush

I know he was just a man.  I know he had foibles and ruffled feathers.  I know he wasn’t perfect.  But he had a fight about him that you couldn’t help but respect.  He inspired and awed. He rallied and motivated. He imbued his listeners with hope and optimism.   He dreamed out loud and he dreamed big.  He walked among the people.  He worked for the people.  He fought with the people.

For a slight-statured man, he left big shoes to fill.

Today we mourn your passing, Jack Layton.



Ever make the wrong decision and know absolutely that you’ve made the wrong decision?  It can be something as simple as a spur-of-the-moment bad hair cut or it can be a life-altering “yes” that you can’t ever take back.  I went through a phase where I thought there were no bad decisions – that every decision just led you down your life’s journey.  Along the way there would be pain and joy and whole worlds in between.  These days I’m wondering if that’s true.


On Monday I become “available”.  That’s CEGEP-speak for ‘summer’s coming to an end folks!’  Technically it means I need to be available again for meetings, emails, phone calls, and office shuffling.  Realistically it means – the start of the semester is just 10 days away – get in all the summering you can NOW!  I figure, all told, that gives me 13 days of summer.  In a summer full of summer-less days spent in front of the computer, I have a lot of summering to fit into these last days.  Any suggestions for how to fit three months into 13 days??

Thank you’s the way I want to write them

I’m supposed to be writing my acknowledgements this evening.  It really shouldn’t be a hard task.  There’s an academic formula that’s been well-refined by many PhD candidates over the years.  You thank the people and organizations who provided the funding.  Then you thank your supervisor and other important academic influences.  Finally, you end with one (or maybe two short) paragraphs thanking your social network, leaving your intimate acquaintances for last.  Only in that last paragraph is there any room for emotion.

But here’s the truth, the whole damn thing is emotional!  I want to cry and shout and laugh and hug all the people who’ve been part of the journey.  Sure, even the SSHRC board.  It’s been an emotional experience – every step of the way.   More than once I  cried my way in and out of my supervisor’s office.  More than once I formulated the words – I quit.  More than once I jumped for joy when I read letters of acceptance, when I received news of funding, when I saw my first article published. There are so many of those moments that stand out for me.   I remember the wicked pace of reading a book a day during my comps year and the way that activity blindfolded the gaping sadness of living apart from Greg.  I remember the first time I presented at a conference (a nod to Nicolas and Tom here).  I remember travelling to England to give a paper and to have only four people (one of whom was my mother) in attendance.  I also remember Spanish sunset cava, hot chocolate on the coldest Montreal winter nights (my coffee-virginity not being soiled until the final year or so of the process), pints after seminars in Thomson House, and the occasional beer on the softball field in the mid-summer emptiness of McGill’s campus.  Over wine and cheese, lunches at Lola Rosa, dinners at Access Asia I shared and discussed and debated the ideas that occupied my head.  And more than once I sat and wondered – how did I ever get here?

And that’s when I get stuck because there are so many people I need and want to thank.  At first I thought I’d avoid the whole formulaic acknowledgement process but it turns out it’s mandatory at McGill (go figure!)  I thought I’d call or write to each individual, using real words, real emotions, real intonations to express my gratitude.  I’d thank my family for providing me with both the DNA and the environment to tackle such a huge task.  I’d thank my parents for loving me enough to force me through violin and piano lessons, (okay, maybe I wouldn’t thank them for the nine years of violin lessons but you get the point!)  I’d thank them for providing all the material needs I’ve had over my 33 years of existence.  And I’d thank them for believing that I could actually get this done.  I’d thank my siblings for pushing me, for raising the bar, for living by example.  I’d thank them for teasing me and occasionally torturing me as a kid so that I believed I belonged with them.

I’d thank those who aren’t family by blood but have become my family over the years.  I’d thank the friends who’ve walked with me through all the crazy moments and all the sober, far-too-uncrazy moments.  I’d thank those who’ve taken my hand and helped me look pain in the face and not shy away.  I’d thank those who drive down from Toronto to have sleep-overs with me in the middle of the week.  I’d thank those who first thought Chardonnay and Chicken in the park was a brilliant, no genius, idea.  I’d thank those who talked about novels with me, or caught me up on episodes of Lost that I’d missed.  I’d thank the friends who’ve known me my whole life and still invite me to their decks for drinks.  I’d thank the Belleville 6-pack – nearly 30 years of friendship that has stood the test of time.  I’d thank those that have been forever and perpetually at the other end of my emails and texts – whether in joy or fear or sorrow.  And I’d thank the park rangers at North Beach and the Sandbanks for keeping my oasis always in shape for my far-too-rare visits.

Here, too, I’ve left the final paragraphs for the ones dearest to my heart.   I gave birth to two children in these years.  Jack and Kate have been my light.  It’s true that I lived through serious sleep-deprivation and some significant post-partum depression.  But I’ve learned about joy and love in ways I could never have conceived of before (yes, pun intended on the term conceive — I am writing about maternalism, after all!)  I don’t say it lightly that they teach me something about the world every day.  They are awesomeness incarnate.  And I will spend the rest of my life making up for the ways we’ve had to sacrifice time together in these last few months.

Greg.  Marg says he deserves his own PhD.  She’s right.  He does.  Some time ago I wrote this about the beginning of my relationship with Greg.

He slowly and carefully loved me to safety in a relationship that didn’t fit into any of the moulds I had observed in the adults around me.  He brought peace and calm into an otherwise pretty frenetic life.  He asked nothing of me.  He had no expectations.  He didn’t start by wondering if this relationship would lead to marriage.  He didn’t see his future children in my eyes.  He saw me.  He waited patiently for me to slowly reveal myself, layer after layer.  He never had any preconceived ideas.  He didn’t project what he wanted onto me.

Greg’s not perfect. But he is amazing.  And in this journey he has proved himself true and selfless beyond any reason.  He’s borne the burdens along with me and to him I’d dedicate the thesis if such a thing were permitted.

Thank you’s.  The way I want to write them.

(On an aside, a skunk just walked through my backyard.  What do you do when a skunk walks by and you are sitting on your deck??!?  I went with sit very still.)