Master’s – Yes or No MW 8

Master’s – Yes or No

The application for and the acceptance of my Master’s program at University of Idaho was convoluted and many years in the making. Upon completion of my undergraduate degree at University of Saskatchewan, I applied and was accepted.  However, my wife wanted to complete her nursing diploma which she had stopped so I could follow my dream.  So I turned down the acceptance offer.  My wife went to Selkirk College in BC.

I chose to stay in Saskatoon as I was employed by Agriculture Canada as a term biological technician. The position was slated to become permanent but a change of government resulted in a hiring freeze.  I was put on casual and supplemented income by hauling hay, collecting and selling scrap batteries and other cash jobs.  The long distance made our love grow fonder and on one of my visits to BC, we were blessed with a pregnancy.  While I tried to stay in Saskatoon, as the hiring freeze was “temporary”, finances and family commitments required a decision.  I moved to Trail, BC and got a job with Cominco, the large lead-zinc smelter.  I started as an assayer’s trainee and passed my Assayer’s exam within 1 year.  The irony was that several months after moving to Trail, I was offered my old job in Saskatoon.

We had our daughter a week after my wife completed her nursing diploma. After a year and a half of assaying, boredom had set in and I took a cut in pay to take a Systems Analyst trainee position.  About this time we took a trip to Deary, ID to visit my wife’s relatives.  Being only 24 miles from Moscow, I decided to stop in at U of I to see the professor I had corresponded several years before.

I knocked on his office door, went in and explained who I was. He said, “Ah, yes, the Canuck.  I have your file right here.”

He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out my application. He perused the application quickly and then queried if I was still interested in pursuing a Master’s program.  I replied, “Well, yes, I have given it some thought.  But finances currently are a bit of an issue.”

“I just happen to have a potential project in SE Alaska that I was thinking of turning down. I need a mature student capable of working on their own in remote environments.  You would be provided a research assistantship and a tuition waiver.  Would you be interested?” he asked.

“Yes, very interested but I need to discuss it with my wife. Can I get back to you?”

“Ok, but don’t take too long as the funding may disappear. Safe travels.”

Driving home to Trail with my wife and two girls – a toddler and an infant, we decided now was the time to get the Master’s while the girls were still young. When I got back to Trail, I informed my professor of our decision.  Immediately, I began work on the research proposal with an expected fall start date.

While the proposal was accepted, due to our financial situation, I could not start in the fall and revoked my resignation from Cominco. This was after they had given me a congratulation’s cake.  The next start date was planned for January, and another cake was provided.  I then revoked my resignation again.  The third time was the charm, I quit Cominco (no cake this time) and started directly into my field research in SE Alaska.  Our financial situation had not really improved but the research program needed to start given funding constraints.  The family stayed with my wife’s parents for the summer.  We moved to Moscow for the fall semester.

Finances were indeed tight. We ate a lot of lentils and utilized food stamps.  Near the end my wife managed to get some work as a nurse.  Most of the students we knew were poor and many single students came to our student housing for lentil soup.  As I was ending my program I had the opportunity to make it a PhD but our third child was on its way.  We needed to get back to universal Medicare and family support structures.  So no PhD at this time.  I promised my wife that if or when I did a PhD it would not cost the family in terms of time or finances. I finally got my PhD at 53 years old after all our four daughters had left home.

The Master’s program and research were very successful. I ponder sometimes how fate works, doors shut, doors open.  Sometimes the hardest part is just going through the door.

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Memoir Writing – Lesson 7 – Writing about people – Teachers

I had picked one teacher, but as I started writing this lesson there were three that had made an impact on me.

My first “romantic” crush was on my bookkeeping teacher, Mr. Foos.  He was soft spoken, Latin-looking (dark hair, dark eyes, and tan skin), and helpful if you got stumped.  I loved listening to his quiet voice.  I tried my best to get detention from him, but never succeeded.  I lived close enough to school so that I could linger in my front yard so I could wave at him as he left school.  I’m pretty sure he knew I had a crush on him, but he never brought it up.  I still think about him now and then wondering where he is.

My nemesis I’ll call her, was the Home Economics sewing teacher.  She would give us an assignment on what to make.  Mrs. Singer, was slender, grey haired, and pinch faced.  Her opinion was the only opinion.  Our first assignment was to make an apron.  Easy to do, nothing to argue about.  Second assignment was to make a skirt.  Again not a problem.  Pajamas were next, then came our final “exam”.  We could make whatever we wanted with her approval.  So Mom and I went to a fabric store and purchased a dress pattern, the material, thread, buttons, and whatever else was needed to create the form fitting dress.  I took it into school and Mrs. Singer rejected it.  When I asked why, I was told I was too skinny to wear a dress like that.  Naturally I went home very sad about this.  Mom, when I told her about this, marched me back to school to catch Mrs. Singer before she left for the day.  She told Mrs. Singer off and said I was going to make this dress whether she liked it or not.  I won’t allow it to be in the runway showing, Mrs. Singer stated.  We’ll see, Mom threatened.  I made the dress.  It looked beautiful and fit me the way it should.  Mrs. Singer apologized for telling me I couldn’t make it, and it was on the runway.

The teacher who affected me the most was my twelfth grade English teacher.  I don’t remember her name, but she got me interested in writing.  I wrote poetry and essays.  The essays where class assignments and we were encouraged to read them out-loud to our classmates.  I can’t even describe this teacher except to say she was a female.  My love for writing is strong and growing.  Thank you, lovely lady!

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A World of Difference MW 7 Ex 3

A World of Difference

Reminiscing about teachers both bad and good, I am transported back to my Junior High School, Grade 8 to be specific. I experienced my worst teacher ever and one of my best teacher ever in the same semester.

The worst teacher ever was my math teacher, Mr. Andersen. He was 50+ years old, short, squat and balding.  The man did not even really teach.  He would mumble for a few minutes at the front of the classroom drawing a formula or two then tell us to read our textbooks and complete the assignment at the end of the read section in the remaining 50 minutes of class.  Anyone silly enough to ask a question was quickly humiliated, so that stopped early in the semester.  Class discipline was maintained by Mr. Andersen throwing chalk, rubber erasers or the chalkboard eraser at the offending party which was often me.  He would slap a yardstick down on your desk or grab you by the short hairs by your ears.  It was very demoralizing and many were brought to tears.  Fortunately, I could learn math on my own and would tutor my friends and others in the class so they actually passed.  I heard after I got to High School that he had been forced to “retire”.

In stark contrast, Mr. Brown, my Grade 8 Social Studies teacher was an absolute gem. He was tall, muscular, full head of hair and about 30 years old.  He always academically challenged us in class and on our assignments.  The assignments were practical and interesting covering a wide array of topics.  Some topics were ours to choose if we wished.  Topics were lively debated in class with orderly input encouraged from the whole class.  He was always willing to help out when you were having difficulties with assignments or school in general.  With him around you felt that you had someone in your corner protecting you.

The only positive side to Mr. Andersen’s class was I learned I could tutor well and enjoyed doing it. Even though I frequently suffered his wrath in class for doing it.  The slap of the yardstick would make my ears ring.  Being yarded out of the classroom to see the Principal by the short hairs was very painful.  But standing up to him and helping the others was worth it.

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Memoir Writing – Lesson 6 – Voice and Perspective – Not Afraid Of

Try as I might I could not think of a thing that I was afraid of as a child.  I always felt protected.  Whenever a babysitter was called for it was either my mother, my father, an aunt, or my grandparents.  My sister and I were never left on our own.

We went grocery shopping with our parents.  We went to church together.  We went on picnics, to the zoo, or fishing as a family.

The one thing that did scare me happened when I was thirteen going on fourteen.

Mom had given birth to my brother in October of 1955.  In March Mom and I had gone out to pay the auto insurance and to do some shopping.  Dad was home with Diane and George.  Mom drove to the auto insurance office but it was closed for the night.  We headed off to the grocery store.  Mom was making a left-hand turn onto the side street next to the grocery store.  A car headed in our direction was in its left-hand turn lane, but changed his mind and pulled out into the ongoing traffic lane where he stepped on the gas.  He hit the passenger side of our car, where I was sitting.  Our car got pushed into a car on the side street waiting for his light to change.  Mom was thrown from our car and under the wheels of the third car.  I was knocked out on the front seat of our car.  The car that hit us had his engine pushed into his lap.  Even though three cars were involved No One Got Hurt!

The car that hit us had his front end pushed into its front seat.  Our car looked like an “X”.  The third car, the driver who had seen everything, had a damaged fender.

Mom drove our car home!

Dad came stomping out of the house demanding to know where we had been.  We had left in the daylight and returned when it was pitch black outside.

In a firm, yet steady, voice I was told to go inside.  Then she told dad to take a look at the car to see if he could tell why we might be late.  Not once did he ask if I was hurt or if Mom was hurt.  All he cared about was how she drove the car home.

None of that was very scary to me.  The scary part was the day Mom disappeared, five days after the accident.  I don’t know why she left, but she was gone.  I had to watch Diane and take care of George while Dad frantically looked for Mom.

I was so afraid that my mother wasn’t coming back.

Dad never did find her.

The next day Mom walked in the front door.  She went to the room she shared with Dad and shut the door.

Dad told us to stay in the living room and to take care of the baby.  He knocked on the bedroom door and was allowed in.

Things went back to a newer version of “normal”.  The episode was chalked up to the “baby blues”.  Mom told me that she had sat through four showings of the movie “Top Banana” at the all-night movie house.

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Lesson 3 Conversation

Lesson3: Writing Exercise—Conversation with Bill


The gloom that hung on my shoulders weighed on my footsteps as I approached the steps to the subway in busy downtown Buffalo. Time to go out and job search again, not to mention finding a new place to live, but looking up I saw a familiar face with a gentle smile. He was one of the men from the transitional house I was staying at. We had introduced each other, though the men and women were not supposed to converse. Coming up the steps, his compassionate eyes fixated on my negative demeanor.

“Um, Ok, I guess. Things are hard—you know.”

“Yeah.” His smile lingered as his eyes shyly swept over me from top to bottom, as if he was oblivious to his own situation.

Putting his hands into his trench coat pockets, his expression suddenly changed to intense concern.

“Can—I—ask you a question?”


“Do you pray?”

Uh—yeah, sometimes, I guess.”

“Have you ever asked God what his will is for your Life?”

“My mom talks about that! What does that mean?”

“His direction for you. Pursuing what he wants you to do.”

“No,” I said, shifting rather uneasily. Although it did intrigue me. “How do I do that?”

“Tonight before going to bed, think about this day and the events that took place. Get on your knees and thank Him for everything that happened, whether good or bad. Tomorrow when you wake up, get on your knees again and ask Him to show you what His will is for the day. Then throughout the day, check in with Him every so often just by a brief thought. Tomorrow night before going to bed, get on your knees again and thank Him for the day. If you keep doing that, you will eventually come to know how He speaks to you and how He is leading you.” He then paused for a moment.

“Are you interested in trying it?” he asked, cocking his head to the side.

“Yeah,” I said, feeling myself come to life.

“Good. Let me know how it works out. I have dish washing duty tonight so when you bring your dishes over from your side I’ll pass you a note and share some more things that have helped me. Take it to your room and read it and write one back to me. Bring it to dinner with you. Then maybe we can talk some more. “

I wasn’t scared of him. I was also desperate for direction. Bill and I became fast friends and he was able to help me understand the disease of addiction that gripped the guy I had been seeing. In his letters he wrote a lot about 12 step recovery groups and even invited me to one. Mostly I was interested in my relationship with God to grow, and it did. I was eventually led out of Buffalo and began an exciting new life.

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Writing Lesson 2: 10 Topics

Writing Lesson 1: 10 topics for possible memoirs BY Christine C.

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Song–Seasons Change (Expose) by Christine C.



Writing Exercise Introduction: Reflections of a Song—“Seasons Change” by Expose

 As I gaze at the sunset colored foliage on the tree that borders the side street of my college dorm building, I sense the winds of change blowing through my life. The song “Seasons Change” echoes through my mind as I think of how I left the comfort of my home town and entered into this strange and exciting new phase of my life which would help transition me into adulthood. This newfound freedom had me reeling, but my mood quickly changed when the lazy saxophone made its prelude– wailing its lament, signaling that this exciting time will be short lived as more transitions and changes lie ahead.

Like sand sifting through open fingers, nothing was captured or possessed very long. Cultivating new friendships and meeting new classmates was exciting. Going out off campus, borrowing clothes to go out on the town, attending socials on campus, romping down the dorm halls with shouts of joy after a hard-fought victory all became precious memories that were dashed away when life took friends down other avenues. Friends broke into groups and moved off campus, they broke up and dated others, they transferred to other colleges, they changed classes and majors, and they graduated.

So as friends moved on, those that remained became my new companions as we built new memories for the limited time that we had left, knowing our departure was inevitable. We reminisced and shared secrets, fears and hopes for a future we could not quite envision but in reality was right on our doorstep.

Even though our time together was brief, many of these people are tucked deep into my memory, and I must say that I was also a part of the whirlwind. I also dated, moved away and transferred, and upon reflection, I came to the realization that they may have also felt like a piece of them had been ripped away during a time when closure was not probable or possible. It was like looking out into the ocean —with its waves beckoning us to enter into the vastness in all its appeal, yet leaving a void of washed away dreams never to be lived again.

As I look out again upon this tree, I realize I have come full circle in my time away from college life. I had moved on, dated, become engaged, and found myself grieving the lost love that I thought would remain forever in my possession, and then I felt the breeze—the winds of change. The past and the present suddenly merged. That familiar feeling swept over me. Grief and loss held me bound as I heard that lazy saxophone wailing in my head as the big, vast ocean once again, flashed before me.


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Wary of Water MW 6

Wary of Water

We were fishing in the spring in a fast mountain stream with family friends. I was six years old and watching my “uncle” fish. He hooked on to a real beauty, three pounds at least.  Ever the helpful child, I walked into the stream with the fish net.  The fish raced across the stream into the deeper water wrapping the fishing line around a root wad.  I could clearly see the fish, so I raced towards it.  I vaguely remember hearing my name being called over the rushing water.  The fish was right there.  The water deepened and the rocks were slick.  I reached for the fish and was pulled off my feet and dragged under the water.  All went dark and noisy.  I tumbled and bounced along the rocks until my uncle pulled me out – a spitting and a sputtering.

I was thoroughly soaked, cold and shivering from both the cold and the event itself. I was placed by the campfire to dry out and warm up.  The shivering continued even after I had warmed up.  The shivering would come back over the next few weeks whenever I thought of my dark tumble in the stream.

It was decided that I should learn how to swim. Swimming lessons were the prescribed method.  I now had a “healthy” fear of water and voluntarily going into water over your head just seemed silly.  I would sit at the edge of the pooling freezing or brave the shallow end.  Most of the class was younger than me and did not seem to have any fear at all – how crazy was that.  One instructor believed in the sink or swim method and chucked me into the deep end.  I sunk.  I came up sputtering and got hauled out.  I gave up on lessons.  That is to say, I would not leave the house or get in the car to go.

Over the years, I realized that many activities occur in or around water. So I worked on overcoming the fear on my own.  I taught myself to swim, not gracefully, but with forward motion at least.  While I am not at peace with water, I have called a truce.

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Memoir Writing – Lesson 5 – Scenes – Double Date

It was a warm summer night and it was raining for our double date.  This was my first date with Kurt.  I wore a lime-green, shirt-waist, dress for the occasion.  My girlfriend, Carole, who arranged this double date was similarly dressed.  Kurt and Jim wore short-sleeved shirts and dress pants.

We rode in Jim’s car to the Ohio State Fair.  It’s a good-sized fair with rides, booths of food, animal judging, and craft barns.  It was a busy Saturday.  The fairway was crammed with people of all walks and sizes.

It is 1962.  I don’t remember if Jim had to pay to park his car at the fair.  I know the guys paid for us to get in.  The line wasn’t very long so we were soon in.  The rain didn’t seem to deter people from coming, however.

We walked down the fairway to the first barn.  It contained arts and crafts.  There were pretty quilts, including Amish ones, wedding ring quilts, and patchwork quilts to name a few.  There was even wood working by the Amish that was for sale; like rocking chairs and cradles.  Four-H groups had offerings from their classes.

The next barn we went to was the dairy barn.  This barn contained every kind of cheese that could possibly be made from cow’s milk, goats milk, or sheep milk.  You could sample any cheese you wanted.  You could purchase any of these cheeses.  Borden’s Dairy Farm was the main provider of the dairy products seen here.  They were a local business here in Columbus, Ohio.  Their milk was delivered in glass bottles by the “milkman” to your front door, if you wanted.  Several ice cream companies were represented here and they offered free samples.  One of the big draws to this barn was the “Butter Cow”, a life-sized cow that was sculpted out of butter.  We lingered in this barn for a while.  We were dry and it was cooler in here.

Leaving the dairy barn, we moved on to other buildings.  Most of these we did not stop in.  The smells of “poop” emanating from them deterred our desire to go into them.  Pigs, cow’s, sheep, goats and llamas were not high on our list.  We did stop at the fowl barn, which was less stinky, and looked at the various types of roosters.  The roosters were very beautiful and very exotic looking, in some cases.

Along our way we purchased popcorn and cotton candy.  I’m a big fan of popcorn but every now and then you need the sweet and salty.  We carried on conversations, learning more about each other, and just having a good time.

The rain eventually slacked up enough that we decided to ride a ride.  We opted for the Ferris wheel.  That was where Kurt and I shared our first kiss.

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Between the riot and war

It was the time between July 1964 to April 1965 in East Pakistan

This was the ten-month time slot between Hindu-Muslim riot of January ‘64 and the India-Pakistan war in August ’65.
We moved to this rented flat with Boro chacha’s family in July 1964 and then again moved to our new home in Dhanmondi in April 1965.
Clearly, the riot of ’64 was a very traumatic experience for me. We, the two sisters four years apart would not let our parents out of our sights. The trauma of the news of the riots coupled with an incident of a thief entering our house and being caught by my mother in the pitch darkness of the hallway was very traumatic indeed. I was wrought with the images of people with the slit throat in the riot, and that of the imagined thief whose oiled body slipped out of my mother’s grasp. However, as much as the memory remains today, I did not carry the trauma of the early months of ’64 with me to the new place at Central Road. We moved into that house in July that year. The new things happenings, the new habits, getting used to living with another family, took over my all senses, and I had little time to worry about things that happened four months back.
I understand during this period it was declared by law in the United States that smoking was injurious to health. That news didn’t affect my father a wee bit. He had a non-filtered cigarette between his forefinger and middle finger almost at all waking hours of a day.
India-Pakistan war broke out in September of ’65. As a child who turned ten (a double digit), I hardly remember the tensions that preceded the war. I dearly remember though the marriage of my uncle who lived in Glasgow to my aunt who lived in Dhaka. She also happened to be my class teacher that year in ’64. The arranged marriage was solemnized over the phone (trunk call as it was called in those days). It was a Muslim marriage. And in sharia terms, the witness and the qazi took the consent of the bride and the bridegroom and thereon the contract between the two individuals was signed. The entire proceeding of the marriage was an absolute thrill. Amma made me a very smart dress of red taffeta that I wore at the marriage ceremony. Soon after the ceremony, my aunt was sent off to Glasgow to meet her new husband. I do not recollect why my uncle did not come down to East Pakistan. In those days it was considered a luxury to make frequent trips across the ocean by air. It was only eight years that he left for the distant shores to pursue higher studies. Or maybe it was the impending war which made the elders decide that it was best that the bride flies to England.

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