Ottilia

June 7, 2011

For anyone who has been following this blog over the past couple of years, you would be aware that D’Arcy has been taking his M.Ed and for the past two-and-a-half years, was writing a Thesis under the advisement of  Dr. Ottilia Chareka.  It started back on January 13th, 2009.   The thesis was part of our family – always there.  I mentioned it here and  here and here and here and here and here and here…  You get the picture!

I didn’t get a chance to update here much this winter or spring because life was so busy with my teaching and D’Arcy trying to get everything finished up.  One post I did take the time to make though, was on February 5th, the day after D’Arcy “defeated” his Thesis!

D’Arcy walked across the stage at graduation on May 1st, and while it was a day to celebrate D’Arcy’s accomplishment, it was bittersweet because Ottilia was missing.

Ottilia had been at our house on Monday, March 14th and delivered some papers to D’Arcy.  He printed the pages of his work to be bound on Tuesday night and took them, along with our four children, to her office at the university the following morning.  She wasn’t there, and a colleague took him aside while the kids stayed with a receptionist, and she told him shocking news.  Ottilia had died in hospital through the night and her husband was in police custody, charged with her murder.

I can’t imagine how D’Arcy kept himself together to drive home safely with the kids.

Ottilia was a beautiful woman and you couldn’t help but love her.  The photo in that last post is the only one we have of D’Arcy & Ottilia together, because I figured we’d get photos at the graduation celebration.  Ottilia was the type of woman who would ask D’Arcy to pass the phone over when they were finished talking work and then she would ask me how things were going.  At his Defense, she pointed out the fact that I was in the room and thanked me for giving her so much of my husband’s time.

The following is a short documentary film by Cara Jones, a Nova Scotian filmmaker, featuring Ottilia.  It gives you a glimpse into the woman she was and why she was so highly respected:

We celebrated Ottilia at D’Arcy’s graduation, as much as we celebrated him.  His was the first Thesis she had acted as an advisor on – other projects, but not a Thesis.  She was so proud of him!  We had a basket set up for donations to a fund set up for Ottilia’s five daughters and were pleased through the generosity of our family and friends in attendance to be able to contribute $1200.  We told a few stories about her and raised our glasses in a toast to her.  There were tears shed, and our children sang the song, “Happiness Is” which had been sung at the beginning of her memorial service.  D’Arcy is making sure that Ottilia’s daughters receive their mother’s copy of his & Ottilia’s work.

This week, we received the following email which was written by Ottilia’s oldest daughter:

“Three months ago our mother, Dr. Ottilia Chareka, passed away. 

Our lives have never been quite the same. However, we are so thankful to the hundreds and thousands of people who were there for us during a great time of need. We would like to thank the many people in Canada and those around the world who rallied behind us to send our mother back home to her native country of Zimbabwe. Our mother was buried in her rural homestead on April 4th, 2011. Her body was accompanied by her eldest daughter. 

We have received hundreds of cards and letters from around the world. There are also many wonderful instances of great generosity. There was a teenage girl who heard of our situation and gave up her entire pay cheque and had her Mum send it to us (but asked that she remain anonymous). A person we had never met contributed thousands of dollars. A person came up to us and said he didn’t have a lot of money but all he had was ten dollars and he wanted to give it to us. A senior citizen who heard of our story sent us grocery gift cards. 

Our mother’s alma mater, The University of New Brunswick held a Memorial Service for mum on April 20th, 2011 and many of her former class and work mates came together to share memories of mum. We are also so very thankful to Crandall University (formerly, Atlantic Baptist University) where mum once taught, and to Acadia University. 

The people of St. Francis Xavier University have continued to be a pillar of support. We are so thankful for what this institution has done, during what has been such a trying time. 

There are many other professors from several Universities  in Canada (and abroad) who have been in touch with us. Our mother was part of large academic family and we thank you for your thoughts and prayers. 

Our letters of thanks have been so very challenging to write because there have been so many acts of kindness. It is therefore, not possible to name everyone, but we want you all to know that we are so very appreciative. Collectively, you have allowed us to feel so very cared for. 

The people of our home province of Nova Scotia, did and continue to do so many great things for us. There were many fundraisers held for mum, including one done on Mother’s Day, and we are so very thankful to the many people who have donated to the Daughters of Ottilia Chareka Memorial Fund. Words can never relay the thanks in our heart. 

In regards to our mother’s passing, all we know, is that we grew up in a loving home as the daughters of two professors. We never imagined anything of this nature to occur and no one can ever truly explain it. However, we now have a wonderful, new home and we look beyond the horizons, to the future. We look to God and have faith in Him.  We look at each other and encourage ourselves to not let this stop us from becoming great, strong women.

Thank you, 

The Daughters of Ottilia Chareka”

The eulogy given at Dr. Ottilia Chareka’s funeral by her eldest daughter can be viewed here,   and the ending can be viewed here.

There is no doubt in my mind that they will, as she wished, remain great, strong women – just like she was – and Ottilia will live on in all those of us who had the great fortune of knowing her!

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Bragging Rights!

March 8, 2010

I think I’m about to burst, I’m so proud!  The boys’ report cards couldn’t have been any better!  Some excerpts:

“…Evan’s project surpassed the model we were using as teachers, and therefore, all grade five students were shown Evan’s project as an example of what a strong project would look like.  Evan combined careful research, strong organizational abilities, and meticulous attention to each detail in his illustrations and other text features to create a project that stood head and shoulders above the rest.”

“Evan’s contributions to classroom discussions have demonstrated his strong knowledge base in history as well as geography, and he has exceeded program expectations.”

“Alex is a terrific role model for any student.  He continues to be a very conscientious student who celebrates the successes of himself and his fellow classmates.”

“Listening to others’ ideas and opinions is a strength for Alex.  He understands when to speak and when to listen.”

Then we got this snippet in an email from Sarah’s Highland Dance teacher, when discussing the fact that Sarah is ready for testing in Level 2 even though she just started dancing this year:  “Sarah is one of the ones that comes in and you just hope they stick with it because the talent is so obvious.”

As for Olivia, she can now spell each of her family members’ names, and she went the entire day without getting sent to time-out!

This is the kind of day that makes the hairy ones worth it!

An X-tra special day!

December 4, 2009

I had been keeping a very big secret from my husband since September; maybe before since I came up with the idea a long time ago.

D’Arcy has been taking his Masters of Education in Administration at St. Francis Xavier University (St. FX) for the past four years.  He started when I was pregnant with Olivia and on bed rest.  During the month of July for three years, he would drive back & forth to Antigonish every other day to take courses.  During the school year, he would take courses online and at night.  The past two years, he has been researching & writing a Thesis on Post Secondary Decision Making.  All this on top of teaching full time, helping with the B&B, volunteering & raising four children.

(We’re really proud of him!)

Back when he decided to begin his M.Ed, he had a choice of Acadia University or St. FX.  As he was making his decision, he casually mentioned that if he went to St. FX, he could get an “X-Ring”.  I’ve never forgotten that.  He lost his undergrad ring from Dalhousie while he was canoeing back when we were first married and we never replaced it because there were always many more priorities.

Back in September, with the help of Martha & Stephane (who is also finishing his M.Ed at St. FX), the university, the jeweller & our parents, I was able to order him an X-Ring without his knowledge and register him for the X-Ring Ceremony which takes place on the same day each year, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier.  Click here for background on the ring, the ceremony, and why it is such a big deal.

I planned that we would tell him that he was getting the ring on his birthday last Friday and invited both sets of our parents and his sister Erin to join us for dinner.  The Sunday before, I found out that the ceremony was actually in the AFTERNOON, not the evening like I had originally thought, so I spent last Monday emailing D’Arcy’s Department Head, who along with the Principal of the school were able to get him the afternoon off to attend the ceremony.  Phew.

When D’Arcy’s birthday came, I told him that I would be making supper for the family and left it at that.  Based on the cakes I’ve been making for the kids lately, I told him his cake would be his present.  He went to school and I went to work decorating.

When he got home from school, I sent him off to curling with the boys and set the table.   When he got home, he looked at the table and commented that it was set for more than the six of us.  I reminded him that I had told him we’d have a family dinner and to be patient.  He figured out easily that I had invited our parents, and when his mother called from the road because it was raining so heavily, he tried to make her think she had spoiled the surprise.  Meanie.

My mother had brought cheese cubes and bacon-wrapped-water-chestnuts as appetizers and Olivia was concerned that she was allergic to them.  We explained that water chestnuts are actually a root, not a nut and that they were safe for her.  She proceeded to eat at least eight, delivering her toothpicks to either my mother or Aunt Erin!

I had made Grandma’s Seafood Casserole on puffed pastry for supper and Auntie Ruth was able to arrive in time to join us.  Before we knew it, dessert time had arrived.

When we were making the cake, Sarah asked, "We're making him a cake of Grandma & Grandpa's key?" (The key to their house is on a St.FX keytag!)

Starting to realize what the cake symbolized

Explaining how I had managed to pull of the surprise with everyone's help!


Yesterday was St. FX day, so D’Arcy went to school until 11:00.  The boys had an In-Service day, so we all went to Antigonish with D’Arcy to watch him get his ring.  We were pushed for time, so dropped him off to go pick up his gown and I took the kids through the McDonald’s drive-thru to get lunch.  Parking was a nightmare, but I finally found a spot on campus and the kids ate in the van.  We rushed over to the gym, but when we arrived, we were told that the gym was full.  (Only graduates & faculty actually attend the ceremony; family members & friends watch from the gym through a live feed on big screens.)  The girl proceeded to tell us that they would take us to the Conference Room upstairs, but we had to wait because the procession was about to start.  We then heard the bagpipes, and the graduates started to parade by.  Because they had mixed up D’Arcy’s last name, he was actually at the front of the line and we got to see him as he marched by us in his gown!

When the students had gone by, we were led upstairs to a large conference room with three big screens.  The chairs were full, so the kids & I sat on the floor in front of the front row.  We couldn’t have had a better view!  I had taken a bag full of books & crayons & paper and the kids were really good.  Olivia whispered to me a fair bit, but at least it was whispering, not talking, and they didn’t ever get up and run around.  I had five different people come up to me afterwards to compliment their behavior – it was a pretty dry two hours for kids!

Unfortunately, because of the lighting in the room, it was hard to get a good photo, but we had a perfect view of D’Arcy & Stephane both when they got their rings and on the way out when they knock on the kneeler from the church.  Sarah made me laugh when, in between when we saw D’Arcy & were waiting for Stephane, she muttered, “Godfather, stop being such a slowpoke.  Stop dilly-dallying and get up here!”

We were able to get some photos afterwards of D’Arcy & his new bling!

While watching, the ceremony is on the screen in the background

Part of the Cult

Posing at the kneeler from the church where the graduates knock their rings. Olivia's only tears were when she thought we were leaving before she could knock on it! I sense another future X-Grad in our midst...

Tonight, Martha (who was teaching and had parent-teacher in the evening) and Stephane will come over and we’ll have a small celebration together to celebrate the boys’ impending graduation.  I am so grateful to everyone who helped me make this happen for D’Arcy!

Now to get that Thesis finished…

Whoever came up with that phrase obviously didn’t have four children and run a thriving Bed & Breakfast while their husband writes his Masters Thesis!

This week, we took Evan to basketball camp about an hour-and-a-half away from here, where he stayed with friends of ours. He LOVED it! I think it was his first real taste of (sort of) freedom and he got to eat at the university cafeteria, make new friends, go to a stranger’s birthday party, and have a week-long sleepover with his good buddy! I think they played some basketball too… When I was unpacking his suitcase tonight to do his laundry, I discovered that the new bar of soap I packed for him has not been used.

Oh, to be ten again…

Alex was participating in a basketball day camp here in town from Monday – Wednesday. (We thought it went ’till Thursday, but the doors were locked when we tried to drop him off that morning…) He had to miss Tuesday because he had an eye appointment in the city. This was the first time that we were booked at the brand new satellite eye clinic that the children’s hospital has opened, located about 20 minutes closer to our home. There was a snafu with his chart (they had sent the wrong ones from the hospital) so we did have an extra wait, but they gave us a free parking voucher and we took advantage of the time together to have a Tim Horton’s date. (Usually this is forbidden because of the risk it poses to Olivia!)

At this appointment, he didn’t make any much progress, so he is back on Atropine drops full time and we have to put the plaino lens back in the “good” side of his glasses. He has regressed three lines from his best vision, which is so disappointing for all of us, and devastating to Alex!!

After we were through with his appointment, we went to the Chickenburger in Bedford (we love that place!) where we had burgers, clams & onion rings. YUM! I gave Alex a loonie to put into the juke box, but because he couldn’t see the playlists (his eyes were dilated) he pressed “popular” for the first three songs. He ended up with “Monster Mash”, “Rock Around the Clock” and “Piano Man”. When it came time for the fourth song, he asked if I would go find an Elvis tune. I couldn’t resist programing the song “Roll with me Henry” by Etta James to come on, and he laughed! That’s our song… (His middle name is Henry!)

We went to Costco and he used his debit card to buy me a new iron. He was so proud to do it because he had worked so hard to earn that money! After we took it to the van, he told me that he won’t play with it anymore because he really wants to buy a wii and he’s going to save for one thing at a time!

He was lucky enough to be invited to his friend’s cottage on the Northumberland Strait on Thursday, so went and came home with a bag full of beach glass.  He also got to have supper at her house so dodged the bullet on having hodge-podge with us here…

Sarah & Olivia went to the Library with Ginna one day and got to spend time with their grandparents couple of days this week.  They love to hang out at their house with them!  The girls were missing “Bobby” though, and asked for him often.

My childhood friend, Janelle, has been home this week, so we had her & her husband over for drinks early in the week, and we went running one morning.  I made lunch today for her and two other friends (salad, coconut ginger rice & coriander ginger crab (and lobster) cakes) while we started to plan our 20th high school reunion.  Yikes!  We met up this afternoon at the playground with four girls and will try to fit in one last run tomorrow  at 6am before they leave.

The girls & Ginna & I went shopping yesterday and I found a dress for me and shoes for the girls for Chris & Lisa’s wedding which is coming up on August 8th.  Now we just need to get the men outfitted…

D’Arcy continues to work on his Thesis and is trying to get the interviews he’s conducted transcribed.  It took him 20 minutes to type the first minute.  I’m hoping he’ll graduate this fall…  He’s very good about going with the flow, and will switch gears physically whenever I ask.  I’ve come to terms with the fact he’ll be thinking about it until graduation!  We did go for a run together this week while both boys were at basketball camp.  We put the girls in the double stroller and D’Arcy pushed.  We went about 8k and although I slowed him down, it was fun to get out together!

My parents took Alex & Sarah to a play tonight which they loved and D’Arcy is supposed to sail in a race with Uncle Hug tomorrow afternoon.  I’d like to fit a trip to Halifax to see the Tall Ships in, but that may be pushing it…

So lazy days of summer?  Not really, but we are making lots of happy busy  summer memories nonetheless!

Food for thought

June 22, 2009

The following video was shown at the Education Conference that D’Arcy attended this weekend.  It certainly gives plenty of food for thought – for parents, not just educators!

I was looking after the B&B by myself on Friday night while D’Arcy was in Fredericton at an Education Conference taking place at the University of New Brunswick.  He started taking his Masters in Education at St. Francis Xavier University three summers ago and is now at the point where his Thesis (Influences on Post-Secondary Decision Making among Rural & Urban students) is “almost finished”.  He was one of the presenters at the Conference yesterday morning, speaking on this topic.

D’Arcy is modest to a fault, so when he called me when he was finished, he told me he did “okay”.

Last night, I had a pleasant surprise when his advisor phoned and asked to speak to me.  She wanted to tell me what an excellent job he did – so well, that she intends to email the entire Education Faculty to tell them!  I was very proud and not the least bit surprised!

New School Rant

March 28, 2009

So, it’s no big secret that I’m not a fan of the boys’ new school.  I worried and fretted about it enough here, here,   here and here while making the transition.   Since the move was made, I’ve been very careful to be positive while talking about the school in front of the kids because like it or not, that’s where they spend the majority of their time.  I wanted them to form their own judgements and not influence the way they feel about their school.  

Alex seems mostly oblivious.  He’s  just the happy-go-lucky kid who is going with the flow these days.  He’s also, in Grade 2; still with the “little” kids.  Evan, on the other hand has gone from LOVING school, to telling my mother when she picked him up from band on Wednesday, “I can’t wait to be in Grade 6 so I don’t have to go to this school anymore.”  

It breaks my heart.

I hate the fact that up until the day before March Break, Alex had no idea where Evan’s classroom was.  I hate the fact they eat their lunch while wearing their snowsuits because there’s not enough time to eat and then get dressed.  I hate that they now know what a “sucker-punch” , “giving the finger” & a “retard” are.  I hate the fact the kids on the bus sing a song that has lines which say something to the effect of “stick a rifle up his nose…  pull the trigger, there he blows…”  I wish we could have kept them cocooned in the safety of their neighbourhood community just a little bit longer.

We’re lucky that our kids come home and tell us about this stuff at the supper table and we can tell them how wrong all these actions are and that the people who do and say and act this way probably don’t have the home life they do.  I think Evan is scared to death that he’s going to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get involved in one of the altercations some of his friends have been caught in.  We now discuss bullying quite regularly and what to do if you or your friends are the ones being bullied.

It hasn’t been an easy adjustment.  

582 kids, P-5.  

I’ve kept quiet about it all (except to my inner circle) until this weekend.  Thursday, the kids came home and told me that the Premier would be coming to school for the “Grand Opening” on Monday.  I quizzed them about it and they told me the opening ceremonies for the school are being held Monday at 12:30 and that the Premier is going to be there.

“Is there a notice in your agenda?” I asked.

“No, but our teachers told us.”

Today, there was an article in the town newspaper about the opening ceremonies on Monday, listing the time, the fact that the Premier will be there, there’s going to be a ribbon cutting ceremony and the choir (which Alex is a member of) is singing.  However, there was NO NOTICE AT ALL to parents from the school about it.  I guess once you fit 582 students into the gym, there isn’t much room left over for parents…  

I’m going anyway – we will have children enrolled there for the next ten years.  I’m a parent, a volunteer, and my tax dollars helped pay for this “community”  school. (I can’t believe I just said that!)  Most of all, the boys would like to have me there, so I’ll put my game face on, and will do my best to be enthusiastic and make it the special celebration it should be.