REFLECTIVE STANCE writer, thinker, drawer, painter, designer, mommy, teacher, leader, learner of all things debbiedonsky.com
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I am jarred awake between 2:00 and 3:00 am each morning. There is a feeling that lingers and it dissipates as I try to understand it — like a dream. I am trying to hold on to but rather than wanting to hold on; I am desperate to understand it. It could be any number of things — the angst that surrounds us now, the unknown, the fear, the illness, the loss — it is pervasive. But this morning, it holds on a little longer than usual and finally, there is clarity. It is my father. I am losing him.

I have known it for some time. I have watched his magnificent brain deteriorate for years and yet, during Covid it has been at a pace that is unfathomable. I know I am not alone. I know there has been so much loss. I know many who have lost their parents or are watching their parents fade during this time of isolation, fear and disease. I do not write to set myself apart from other’s pain but to feel some sense of closeness with a father who has been my champion and who I have no access to other than a few minutes on FaceTime when he is able. He needs my mother to make the call or take the call. …


Bring Back You

Today mommy asked me to listen to this song. As you slept in the background, mommy and I listened to the song and cried together because although we have our memories, you are losing yours and no matter how hard we try to bring you back, we see you fading before us.

Each time mommy would rouse you and you would say hello to me. She must have tried to wake you up four or five times in the space of one short call. As soon as mom and I engaged in conversation, you would fall asleep. It reminded me of each time Frosty would get his hat back and he would wake up and say, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” …


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Critical Knowledge Building

When I was a relatively new teacher, I worked in a school, well more specifically in a portable, where 80% of my students were English Language Learners. They, in many cases, spoke multiple languages. At the time, I was completing my Masters of Education and the focus of my thesis was to modify the curriculum for these students…not modify in the special education sense where they have reduced or altered expectations, but modify in the way that we now call Culturally Relevant and Responsive Pedagogy. This was in 1996. As a new teacher, I didn’t necessarily have the language to describe what I saw but I knew that these students from Afghanistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Croatia, did not need to learn “mitten”, “scarf”, “snow”. They needed the language that was most present. …


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The story of resumés, trying to get noticed and connection

I graduated from the Faculty of Education at York University in 1994. I applied to the program three times before acceptance. For someone who had wanted to be a teacher my entire life, I didn’t know what to do to get noticed, stand apart and be seen. Friends of mine all seemed to be getting into the Faculty and for many, it was a, “well I don’t know what to do so I may as well” kind of thinking. For me, I knew it was my purpose.

After three attempts, I finally got into York. I graduated top of my class with a Book Prize which I never spent because it was more important for me to have evidence of the achievement than a book. I was one of 12 in a class of 400 who got an interview before graduation. Tensions were high. When we got interviews, we didn’t tell anyone. We just quietly went about our business. All the interviews were in private schools and I realized quickly, that was not my world. …


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Family Recipes and Rituals to Heal an Aching Heart


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“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ~Bruce Lee

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As a child I would swim at my grandmother’s pool at her apartment. I would go just under the surface and exhale my bubbles reflecting the sun and the sky and just where the light came through the sky would be a blue that almost looked purple. Those were on the best days. …


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Me and my mommy in the summer of 1970. She was 28 years old and I was 1.

The Complicated Story of Loving our Mothers


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The Prison of the Mind

She visits twice a day, before lunch, before dinner

Sometimes after dinner

But he forgets when she was there

Or who else was there

Visiting him behind the glass

One day, he brought the phone from his room

Cordless

And she called from her cellphone

But the reception was weak

And instead she asked him

Like she always does

What did you eat for breakfast, or lunch, or dinner

Depending on the time of day

But he always says the same thing

Chicken

Because he doesn’t remember

Sometimes he is angry

Sometimes he asks to go to my house for…

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