Thursday, September 29, 2005

Will the real gentlemen please stand up!

This morning I was on the bus, which I sometimes take now, in favour of leaving the car in the driveway to save on gas and headaches, as my community is now one big construction zone.

As usual, the bus I got on was crowded. A lady got on with a baby in a stroller. The driver asked everyone to move to the back of the bus, as drivers often do. He also asked, "Could someone please give this lady a seat?", as she folded up her stroller with one hand, holding said baby with the other.

There were no less than five - FIVE! - men in the front seats. Not one of them budged. One had his nose in the newspaper, another looked out the window and the others acted like they hadn't heard what the driver said. Instead, two women got up, and one of them gave her seat to the new mother.

(I was sitting about six rows back, packed in by passengers, so it didn't make sense for me to get up myself... but if I'd been in one of those front seats, I'm sure I would have...)

I'm neither a traditional princess, nor a raging feminist, but I can't help but express my disbelief at this... I know there are gentlemen out there -- some of you are reading this very blog. In fact, many of you are my friends, but I have to say... Sorry, gents... I just don't get what happened this morning!

I, for one, ALWAYS say thank you if a man is courteous enough to hold open a door, let me go first out of the elevator or whatever. Not all women appreciate such gestures, but many of us do -- and show our appreciation with words of thanks, smiles, and so forth.

My intention here isn't to start a war over what men and women should and shouldn't do, but if anyone can enlighten me, please feel free!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The delicate politics of blogging...

So, I got raked over the coals yesterday. Apparently, I goofed. Again. (This seems to be the week for it... I wonder if Mercury is in retrograde or some other such thing?)

This particular strip that was torn off me (by someone who shall remain anonymous) because of my newfound love of blogging. It went something like this:

Anon. - "So, what's with this blogging thing, anyway? I mean, whatever happened to real conversations?"

Me - "We - meaning you and I - still have real conversations - pretty much daily, in fact!"

Anon. - "Yeah, but it seems like all the good stories go on the blog lately. I have to read the blog to get the stories!"

(I suppose that that point I should have been flattered that she thought my stories - in any format - were good. But instead, I was dismayed.)

"Whaddaya mean 'all the good stories go on the blog'?!" I asked, with incredulity in my voice.

Anon. said - "Well, you never even told me about that student hitting on you. Not once in any conversation. I mean, I suppose that I don't tell you all my stories either, but you'd think that because we're friends that you'd at least tell me stuff like that! That should be the kind of stuff you share with your friends in person, not put on the Internet for just anybody to read about!!"


As usual, she had a point. (Her logical and analytical approach to life is one of the things I appreciate the most about her.)

It made me think about that story in particular and blogging in general. Here are some reflections:

About the story "That invisible professional line"

I was definitely surprised and taken aback by that incident. Even though it may have seemed that I gave a good response, the whole thing pretty much threw me for a loop.

As I reflect on the blog posting, I'm quite sure that I mentally processed what happened through writing about it. I mean, the very nature of a blog (web log, web diary) is that it is a space for a person - any person - to write their thoughts.

And, truth be told.... I was a little bit embarrassed by the whole incident! So... much better to keep it "at arm's length" by writing about it.

I would add, by the way, that the comments I received on the posting (both in public on the blog and in private) helped me to process the event even further and eventually, just laugh at the stupidity of it all! (He really was acting stupid, after all!)

About blogging in general

The timing of when I started this blog should not be lost on you, gentle and sweet reader. It was just a few weeks before I started back to school as a full time student. I did let most of my friends and family know that my obsessively dedicated and loyal e-mails and phone calls would have to be cut to a dull roar if I was going to have any time at all to study.

So, this forum becomes one way for people to check in when they like, find out what's new and pick and choose bits to read.

I try to include a little humour and fun stuff, as well as some personal reflections in each one, just so they're at least half interesting to read.

And on a purely selfish note, I must say that I absolutely love it when you leave comments on the blog. So far, private e-mails and comments about the blog far outweigh the number of comments people leave on the blog. But the idea of a dialogue is part of the fun.

The term "blogger slut" came up in one conversation, but I think that people who fit that title might actually be found on some of the adult blogs out there, rather than on this one - or any blog that I'm linked to. ;-) But having said that, getting comments on postings does rather make my day! (Hint, hint!)

Oh yeah, and speaking of fun... I actually find this fun! Most of you know that I have a writer's heart. I'll take e-mail (or a letter!) over the phone any day. When I can escape from the absolutely hideously crazy schedule I've been keeping, and sneak off to write a blog entry, I re-charge my batteries and relax at the same time. Yes, it does take a bit of time -- a bit -- but I need to do something to re-energize after my full-time studies, teaching, coordinating projects at the research centre and being a research assistant to a prof in Education. That's about 70 hours of week a work and study, if I tally it all up.

Helllllloooooo?! Going a little nutso here!

And blogging is one of those "little" things that keeps me sane. :-)

On that Myers-Briggs psychology/personality instrument, I've come out three times in a row as a borderline extrovert/introvert. I need people. I love people, in fact! I love being around friends and loved ones, having coffee (mmm... coffee!) or doing whatever... and I also need some alone time. And writing, blogging, is part of the alone time.... it just happens to be "alone time" that ultimately I share with you because whatever gets written gets published on the Web.

I will try, however, to share stories in person as much as possible. And as a few of you have recently found out... there are some stories that will never make it to this blog. This is a pubilc forum, after all... :-)

And so, don't worry, those of you who are close at hand... blogging will never -- never, ever --replace the conversations, experiences and most importantly, the fun and laughs we share together. Those are more valuable than any degree, any job or any hobby. They're what make the memories and stories we treasure so much as we look back on life!!

Love to all,

Sunday, September 25, 2005

AIDS Walk (plod) - Mission accomplished!

So… I’m just back from the AIDS Walk that I did today with Jacquie, her daughter and daughter’s friend.

As promised to all those who sponsored me (as well as to myself!) I did my best to try and run (yes, that does mean “plod”), instead of just walk.

I did it! I plodded!

The six kilometre course took me 49:29 to complete. Well, we might as well say “50 minutes”, since I don’t think the course was marked exactly.

In technical runner’s terms, I do believe this pace is known as: “Why-bother?-You-could-have-just-walked”. Nevertheless, according to this cool little pace calculator I found at:

Here’s the pace I kept:

8:14 min/km

13:16 min/mi

This is rather disgraceful and I probably should have walked, but it was a good challenge – at least for me. In fact, such a slow pace is hard to find on running pace charts, most of which only go up to a 10 or 12-minute mile, like these ones:

Running pace charts:
But I did find one that is good one for slow plodders like me!

(On a side note, in my little Google search of calculators today, I also came across this other one that I thought was kind of fun:

In my own defense, I felt quite horrible today. Somewhere along the way, I ate something bad (At the wedding yesterday? Today at breakfast with Z.? Who knows….?!) Anyway, my normally “iron guts” failed me. Spent most of the morning in the bathroom, wondering how I was going to do this damn thing at all.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, yesterday I wore a pair of dancing shoes all day at the wedding I attended, which left me with two little pieces of raw, bleeding hamburger on the top of each foot, where there had previously been perfectly normal skin. I had a look at them last night and thought to myself, “Oh, well, THAT’s going to be fun tomorrow, on the longest run I’ve done in about 18 years, now isn’t it?” Needless to say, I went foraging around under the bathroom sink this morning to find the Polysporin and some Elastoplast band-aids.

Thus, with my G.I. system still doing acrobatics by lunchtime, I thought, “Rarely will conditions be ideal... Just do what you can do, and that will have to be good enough. If you must walk, then so be it; walk.”

I walked for about the first 100 metres together with Jacquie and then we parted ways, and I began to plod. It was -- for the most part -- fun! There were a few moments where it wasn’t, and I’ll tell you about it in just a minute…

For now…. For those of you who have been asking how the heart rate monitor is working out, here’s the summary of today:

Average heart rate: 161 - 86% of maximum heart rate level (in the range of “upper exercise limit”)
Maximum heart rate: 175 – 94% of maximum heart rate level (in the high end of “upper exercise limit”; approaching “dangerous level”)

Since you all know that I stink at math, I’ll be honest and say that I figured all this out here: (under the drop-down menu for heart rate calculator):

OK, so I could have been nearing a heart attack, but it was only for a minute or less, going up a hill near the end of the course. I slowed down significantly (but I kept going!) as soon as we got to flat land again… wheezing profane words in every language I know, as I allowed my heart rate to settle back into the 160-range.

I discovered that I’ve added a few languages to my repertoire of swear words since I ran in high school. It somehow feels very empowering to swear in German and Spanish now, as well as French and English. Must add a few more to the list soon…

My late cousin, Brian (who’s the reason I did the AIDS walk/plod) at all today, would have been quite impressed about my swearing in various languages. He was both a language teacher and much more of a polyglot than I’ll ever be. I’m sure he knew how to swear in at least seven languages. CLEARLY, I still have a lot of work to do – on so many levels!

And speaking about being impressed, I was impressed at the end of the walk when Jacquie and I were sitting on some steps having a snack after the event (yes, I could finally face food by then…) and we got to chatting with a drag queen who’d done the entire 6 km in 4” stiletto-heeled boots.

I said to her, “Wow… now THAT’S impressive.”

She said, delicately re-arranging her tiara as one of her fans gingerly pulled off her boots for her, “I promised everyone I would… so I did.”

And so, we had something in common, this drag queen and I – we both kept our promises to our sponsors and ourselves. And even though my little blisters bled right through my band aids and stained my socks, I bet she’s going to have much sorer feet and legs tomorrow (-- and quite possibly a date with a chiropractor).

Thanks to Jacquie for the invitation (and challenge!) to join her team. Let’s do it again next year!

And thanks again to everyone who sponsored me!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Gadget girl gets a new toy - a heart rate monitor!

So last night I was having coffee with Alia and got called something to the effect of "techno-geek" after showing her my newest toy... My Polar F4 watch/heart rate monitor. ( (Mine's the black one.)

I got it earlier this week, since I have illusions (or is that delusions?) of starting to run again. I used to run long distance in high school. Not on any kind of team or anything. No, no, I was much too slow for that. Just on my own.

So let's be clear that when I say "run", I really mean "jog"; or perhaps even more honestly... "plod". But it's my plodding and I enjoy it.

Now that I'm supposedly getting back into fitness again (ummm... that would be "ever-so-slowly" if we're telling the truth here...) I thought it might be fun to incorporate some running into the program. My $9 analog watch from WalMart just wasn't going to cut it, so I figured it was time for a "real" watch.

These ones with heart rate monitors aren't pretty, which caused some grumbling while I was at the Tech Shop looking at them, but it'll do for now...

I got it home, and being from a family of gadget lovers, I unpacked it immediately and started to play...

Next thing I knew, I was strapped into the heart rate monitor, testing it out. I sat down on the couch to watch the season opener of "House" and thought I'd monitor my resting heart rate.

55... 53... 51....

"Jesus, is this thing broken? I thought my resting heart rate was around 75 or something? Christ, am I going to die soon?" I thought to myself, while only half-ignoring the fictional team of doctors on my TV screen.

After 20 minutes, I shut it off, noting that the average heart rate had been 57.

After looking it up on the Internet (because we all know that factual information abounds on the net...) I found these sites ...

... stating that an RHR (that would be "resting heart rate") of 57 would put me in the category of "well conditioned athlete".


As IF!

Then I saw this other site that said... that I'm just a more or less normal adult after all... (though perhaps a little on the "less normal" side, which isn't really surprising...)

I did a few jumping jacks in my living room during commercial breaks, just to see if my heart rate went up (to ensure my new toy wasn't defective or broken). Yes, my heart rate went up.

I confirmed the next day that the monitor was not in in fact broken when I tried to swap my usual 30-minute stationary bike ride for a run around the track. See, I'm supposed to keep my heart rate in a nice, low range for now. As soon as I started around the track, my little gadget started beeping at me, indicating that I was "out of range". My heart rate was up into the 140s, nearing the 150s -- and I'd only done one - slllllooooooowwwww lap! Clearly, I'm not yet fit enough to run AND keep my heart rate down.

"Well-conditioned athlete category", eh? Ha! Shows how much the Internet knows!

So for now, I'll have to live with wearing it while I ride the bike... and perhaps turn off the sound on the weekends and just go out for a run (er... jog... er... plod...) while it's still warm enough to be outside!

And it’s OK, Alia… you can call me a techno-geek and I’ll still love you as one of the best friends a person could have. (sniff!)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


So, it's only been a week since school started and I've already hit panic mode. That first day at the gym was just the beginning...

Now I'm much happier in the gym, in case you're wondering. I just ignore most of the people who intimidate me... and for those I can't avoid, I give the usual pleasantries-- colleagues and others who will think I'm a snot if I don't say hello, for example. My trusty trainer has told me that one day I will be the person intimidating others. Of course, that caused me to laugh so hard that my belly jiggled with glee, indicating just how far away from THAT we are!

But back to being overwhelmed...

Yes, the first assignment in my one class just about put me in the crazy house... and I haven't even finished it yet.

So the first assignment asks us to look at questions like: What is knowledge? How do we know things scientifically? What does it mean to think scientifically?

My gut response is: How the hell do I know?!

I spent my weekend reading philosophy... to the extent that by the end of the weekend, I was quite depressed... I've never studied this stuff before. I don't even really know who the major philosophers are, or what they thought.

I mean, I know Socrates lived before Locke, who lived before Marx, who lived before Derrida, but that's hardly impressive now, is it? Not when I have to hand in a paper to a prof who's a walking encyclopedia of philosophy and philosophers from various traditons since the beginning of time.

So, I met with aforementioned prof yesterday, hoping to have my fears quelled. He offered me a list of other books to read (none of which I will have time to finish before my paper is due on Monday) and then told me not to worry.

And yet... somehow that makes me worry more...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

That invisible professional line

So, I've been teaching for 12 years now. And in that time, I've seen a lot of stuff, heard a lot of stories and met literally hundreds of students.

Today got me thinking quite a bit about class dynamics... and human interactions.

Today I had my first episode this year with a student. (And it's only the first week of classes!)

He came by the office to chat with me. As I do every semester, I tell my students that they can come by even when it's not official office hours. I give them my MSN address and tell them that whenever they find me on line, they can consider that I'm available for "virtual office hours". I give them my cell phone number and have, in the past, even given my home phone number. So far, no one's ever abused that privilege.

I have found that students have different ways of communicating. I’ve had a handful of students who’ve poured their hearts out to me on MSN at 11:00 p.m., but will never say a word to me outside class. I’ve had others call me on my cell in a panic before a test and others still who love my “open door policy” and will hang out in my office until I let them know that I have work to do.

I try to make myself available (within reason) to students in as many ways as I can, knowing that different humans have different ways of communicating and the more I can communicate with my students, the better teacher I’ll be.

My style of teaching and behaving around my students is generally relaxed and open. I tell them that they can address me by my first name unless that makes them uncomfortable. (And for some of them, it does… so then, they can call me Ms. Eaton or Professor – though I’m not really a professor – or whatever other term of respect they wish.) In general though, I’m flexible with such matters and my general philosophy is to be friendly and accessible, while still being professional, believing that respect is earned, not bestowed upon a person with a title.

Human nature is such that students are curious about their teachers. Hell, I always am. Today in my first Qualitative Research Methods course, the prof went around the room with introductions and he started us off by telling us his name, that he was married, with 3 kids, 5 grandkids and told us about some of the places he’d lived over the course of his career. He also told us about his professional and research interests.

Was there too much personal information there? I don’t think so. We were able to paint a picture of who this person is as a human being and in doing so, make a connection with him.

We each went around the room in turn, talking both about our professional and personal lives (a bit), and getting to know each other. Making human connections.

In my own classes, I have the same open attitude with my students, usually telling them where I’m from, how I came to study Spanish and try to work in some personal little details… that I have two cats, or 3 siblings, for example. I think students crave this “personal connection” with their teachers on a very human level – especially in an institution where some of their instructors will never, ever know their names.

It occurred to me today that as teachers, we get used to (but are never really trained in) reading our students. As I look back, there are some students with whom I’ve had excellent rapport from day one… and there’s no one profile of what that looks like. Often though, it includes a very “human” element…. Someone with a sense of humour, or who shows sincere interest (not the feigned kind that we teachers can see right through) or just someone, perhaps, who stands out from the others for some unique little reason that is hard to put a finger on.

There have even been a few (less than half a dozen perhaps, in all the years I’ve been teaching) who have become friends. In every single case, they’re people about my own age, or even a bit older than I am, with whom I probably would have cultivated a friendship regardless of the circumstances under which we met. We have similar interests or ways of seeing the world -- or both. But out of hundreds of students, that’s only a very, very small handful.

Occasionally there’s one who feels a need to test my knowledge of my subject matter, defiantly challenging me to prove every point I make. Lucky for me, (all modesty aside) I know my subject matter very well, and I have always (at least so far) been able to deflect these types by answering their questions in a matter-of-fact way that doesn’t distract too much from the class. In fact, sometimes it's an opportunity to add in useful information that never seems to make its way into first-year text books.

Then, there are the wise cracks. These have often been among my favorites, as I take it as a personal challenge to NOT let them run amok, but rather to use their antics to liven up the class, while still keeping things within the boundaries of good taste.

I had one student a few years ago who loved to push the boundaries on just about everything. For this guy, everything – absolutely everything – related to sex in some way. (Well, it may be that way for most guys, but this one particularly loved to flaunt his interest in the subject; if for no other reason than to get a reaction out of others.)

When I did my usual, “I will no longer answer the question, ‘How do you say…?’ From now on, I will only answer if you ask me in Spanish, ‘¿Cómo se dice?’” He immediately piped up with, “¿Cómo se dice ‘fetish’?”

My reply to him was, “You know… That is an excellent question. Now why don’t you learn to use your bilingual dictionary and look it up!”

I like to roll with the punches and use students' own interests to get them thinking about things. But it does require me to sometimes adapt quickly to the situation, while maintaining control over the class and an overall sense of decency.

There are typically more females than males in first-year language classes. Every now and then, there’s a fella who could be classified as an archetypical charmer… Thinking he can charm his way into an A, just for being a sweetie pie or for being good-looking.

Today I had a very blatant example of this. A male student came by and asked for some study tips. No problem. I have hundreds of them.

After I did a bit of a spiel, he said, “So… is there anything… um… you know… special… I can do… to get a good grade in this class?”

It wasn’t the question itself that indicated what he was suggesting, but rather the way he asked it… with seductive, pregnant pauses, a tilted head and a sly smile.

I thought, hell, this is the first time this has ever happened so directly! But OK, let’s just roll with it...

As my mind processed his question, I let a slow smile grow over my face and looked him straight in the eye, pausing before I answered… “Well, as a matter of fact… There is something you can do…”

I tilted my own head and met his gaze… “Study." Another pause. "In fact… study so hard that you legitimately earn such good grades that I forget we had this conversation, OK?”

I gently, but firmly, smiled through the entire response...

In that precise moment, he knew and I knew where we stood with each other.

Was he nuts? It made me wonder how many other instructors he’s tried this on. (I don’t even want to think about it!)

Despite my informal style with students, and being open with them on a variety of levels, there are some lines that never have – and never will – get crossed.

The whole thing made me laugh, really.

Do students really, seriously think that the majority of us would jeopardize our jobs on such a whim? Sadly, I’m sure there are those who would do so, without giving it a second thought, but I like to think that most of us wouldn’t even go there. Don't they know that we've seen hundreds of young, good-looking students, all competing for the same thing -- and that most of us are hopelessly geeky professionals who would rather our students actually learned the material? That we have lives outside the classroom that are really quite separate from who we are when we're teaching? Apparently not...

Well, I say flirt away, baby! You still need to learn to conjugate your verbs and write perfect Spanish in order to get that good grade you’re after! You just funnel all that energy into mastering your grammatical concepts and I’m sure you’ll do just fine.

¡Ay, caramba!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Project Rapunzel - Take Two

My friend, "cm", left a lovely comment on the post "Connections' big fundraiser" saying that she loved my hair colour in the photo. I wrote to her to say, "Thanks, but it's not new! It's mine!" (I know... it's a far cry from the blond hi-lites I sported through our years at SMU together...)

But now it's "au naturel" all the way, baby. And for a good reason.

For those of you who didn't know, my friend Alia (featured with me in the same photo mentioned above) have had an ongoing project for the last few years. We both grow our hair long and then cut it off so we can donate it to a wig program for cancer patients. The hair has to be all natural, no colour, no perm, nothing artificial.

I cut off 11 inches in March 2004 and Alia donated even more than that, if memory serves me. Now we're both on round two of growing-hair-to-donate-it. My stylist, the ever-glamorous Deva Dave ( has supported me every inch of the way (pun fully intended) through these past few years, giving me tips on how to keep it in good condition through the harsh Alberta winters and taking care of the split ends for me every now and then.

If all goes as planned, both Alia and I will do another donation next spring, so stay tuned for photos then!

Interested? Here's more info:

Click on the link for hair donations.

Monday, September 12, 2005

First day as a Ph.D. student

So, I have survived my first day as a brand new baby Ph.D. student...

I clambered on the bus this morning, with a backpack that weighed a ton. It contained my gym clothes, lunch, laptop and the other usual student odds and ends.

Now I'm wondering why I didn't spend the extra cash and get a compact lap top. Je-zuuussss! I swear to God the pack weighed half a ton.

But whatever... I wanted to take notes on my laptop and so...

Got to school/work and the morning flew by. Flew!

At noon I went to teach my Spanish 201 class. I'm in a pokey little room and there weren't enough chairs for the students.

No doubt some of them won't return tomorrow, as I was honest with them and told them that although officially we do not mark on a Bell curve, it is unwritten policy that not more than 10% of them will get A's. It's not my policy and it's not how I like to teach, but it is the reality of my department. Every instructor abides by the same unofficial policy, so even if students transfer sections, they'll face the same thing.

The class itself seems reasonable enough. Although I was looking forward to having a semester off teaching, as always, I'm energized by my own students and look forward to being with them. No doubt, this semester will be no exception.

After class, I was bouncing off the walls with energy, as is typical after teaching for me. I had a bite to eat, waited for it to settle and then decided to go work out.

Oh my God! What a shock!

I'm glad I started going to the gym in the summer to get used to it. But even so, the place so packed today I almost walked right out, I was so intimidated.

The place was a zoo, for starters -- students everywhere and general chaos prevailed.

The fitness centre has recently been renovated and while it is beautiful, there were more changes to get used to today. The first thing was that now I have to keep my student I.D. with me at all times and "scan in".

Tell me... Where the hell do you keep a student I.D. card while you're working out?????

My workout wear has no pockets. So, short of keeping it between my teeth like a stereotypical tango dancer would with a red rose, I had no where else to put it... well... except the obvious place of course... (down my bra). That's where it went.

The place was packed with students... wall to wall exercisers to the extent that there were no bikes available.

There are always bikes available!


I realized that I've become a creature of habit in the gym.

I hadn't even started my workout and I was forced into "adaptive mode". I headed towards an eliptical machine. My 30 minutes of cardio was not one of my best... I'm sure my heart rate was less affected by my efforts on the machine than by the general panic that settled over me.

Thank God for my little iPod. I just tried to keep focused on the music and not think about anything else.

Oh yeah.... and to make matters worse... ALL the mirrors are up in the new facility. I had previously tried to choose machines that were set in front of concrete walls instead of mirrors. Now, there's no concrete left. There are mirrors everywhere, dammit! Everywhere!

Made it through the 30 minutes of cardio, did my little weight-training program, but had to stop and get help with one machine, that had been re-set in some weird way and I couldn't figure out how to move it back to a suitable position. The trainers were all busy and so, the girl who worked at the reception desk helped me. I felt like an idiot... but kept chugging along...

Finally, I finished... only to try to leave the gym and not be able to get out of the new turn-style entrance/exit system. (Insert image of me fishing in bra for ID card to swipe...) Some kind soul took pity on me and pointed out the new (and yes, obvious) exit gate, which didn't require any card swiping at all. (Too late! I was thoroughly embarrassed by then…)

I finally escaped into the locker room. Thank Gawd!

Needless to say, a call to follow up on that 10-pack of personal training sessions that I bought quickly ensued after getting back to the office. I thought, “If I don’t book a session today, I’m just going to throw in the towel and forget it! That was awful today!”

Next training session is booked, so I will suck it up until then.

(This, by the way, is where you send me encouraging comments to keep me going to the gym, so I can avoid ballooning during this degree, and not end up being a size 22, like I was by the time I graduated from my M.A.)

And tomorrow I will wrap a large rubber band around my water bottle so I can use it to hold my I.D. card. No more fishing trips down my bra to find it, thank you very much!

After booking the next training session, I gathered up my knap sack (otherwise known as weight lifting session #2 of the day) and headed over to my first class as a student – ED 700 with Dr. Winchester, a required course on philosophy for doctoral students.

It was a fantastic class and there are about 12 of us all together, including Lyle (a.k.a. “Steamer”) who was the only other student accepted into the same specialization as me this year – Leadership. Steamer and I have gotten to know each other over the past month and I must say, it’s nice starting class knowing someone. He has a great sense of humour and it’s fun to have him as a colleague.

The laptop worked out well, by the way, though I was the only student in the class to bring one. I will probably continue, providing my pack doesn't get any heavier...

The course material seems interesting and I read my first case on the bus on the way home. Had a quick bite of dinner and then skimmed the first chapter of the text book. I’ll have to go over it again tomorrow… I’m too pooped to process philosophy at the moment!

With that, thus ends my first day as a Ph.D. student. I’ve run the gamut from exhilaration of teaching, to being completely overwhelmed at the gym, to finding myself insatiably curious and intellectually engaged in my class.

Now I’m just beat, so I’m going to bed…

Good night…

Sunday, September 11, 2005

This one's for Nimbus

So, I'm in the grocery store today, waiting in this interminable line up at the cash. Serves me right for going on a Sunday afternoon, I know, but fresh veggies were calling.

The person (er... god-like mesomorphic creature) behind me decided to use the slow moving line to strike up a conversation. He had long, crunchy dog treats in his basket, which he used as a divider between our orders, since no other divider was available, and we got to chatting about animals.

(Funny how animal lovers always have things to chat about, isn't it? Everyone in our family loves animals of all kinds. With a Dad and step-Mom who spent most of their careers at a vet college, how could we not?)

Some people have photos of their kids in their wallet. This guy at Superstore pulls the ribbons his dog won at a recent show out of his back pocket and beams as he shows them to me. Needless to say... I forgot how slowly the line was moving and tried to be a Buddhist about the whole thing... living in the moment and all...

I realized during our chat that it's ten years this month since I got Nimbus (the white cat). She was already about 6 months old when I got her from the SPCA, so it's not really her birthday, but it's close enough.

I was lucky enough today to catch a photo of her snuggled up to 9-year old Shade a.k.a. "Shady Guy", "Shady Character", or "my little slut kitty" -- because he'll cuddle anything with a heartbeat. Today, that "anything with a heartbeat" happened to be Nimbus... and she deigned to allow it, for once. All captured earlier today on my digital camera and shared with you here...

So, as I sit here munching on those fresh veggies and enjoying a small bowl of lentils, with Nimbus beside me as I write, I'm dedicating this post to her... Happy birthday, girl!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Connections' big fundraiser!

Three years ago, I joined the Board of Directors at Connections Counselling and Consulting Foundation. It's a fabulous organization that's been serving the Calgary community for 15 years. (Feel free to check out the website. They do really good work there!)

I was thrilled today to take part in our first ever art fundraiser, along with all the other directors and staff, including our tireless Agency Coordinator, Pat Morris. We've been planning this fundraiser for months and today was the big day!

We were down at Wallace Galleries, where Heidi and Colette Hubner put on a fabulous show with various local artists, including the charming Bill Duma, shown in the photo here with the current Board president, Alia Azim, and Lauren Raymore, who is one of the founders of Connections, as well as one of its key staff members.

We had a fantastic day, depspite the cold and pouring rain. There was a steady flow of people through the gallery, which was open
from noon to 6:00 p.m. for the event. There were a few artists on hand to talk with visitors about their art. As well, the entire Board and most of the staff, along with numerous supporters, friends, family and art lovers kept the gallery busy most of the day.

A number of pieces sold and although we don't know yet exactly how much money was raised for the agency, we are very pleased with the results of the day. We got a chance to try something new and educate peop
le about what we do at Connections, as well as raise some funds.

Here's the current Board president on the right, together with the past president, both with big smiles after a few glasses of wine. (After all... what's an art show without wine and cheese?!)

I had a blast today. Usually at our Board meetings, we have lots of business to discuss and although we make time to chat, we're pretty focussed on our work. Today we had the opportunity to enjoy the event, and the company of the guests, artists and everyone who was volunteering at the event.

We also owe a big thank you to our two other principal sponsors for today, Denim Pipeline Construction Ltd. and the Blyth family, without whom today would not have been such an outstanding success.

At the end of the day, Heidi, the gallery owner, has already said she'd like to do a repeat performance again next year! Woo hoo! Here's to successful partnerships and "win win" successes!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Will blogging leave me on the dole?

So, as a fairly new blogger AND a brand new baby Ph.D. student, I was startled to see this article come across my e-mail (ironically, sent to a list serv I belong to...)

"They Shoot Messengers, Don't They?"
The Chronicle of Higher Education
by Ivan Tribble
Sept. 2 2005

Apparently, blogging can be a detriment to your employment -- at least if you're aspiring to work in academia. Hhhmmm... So far, I'm not ashamed of anything I've blogged about, but forewarned is forearmed!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

And next thing I knew, I was taking a walk...

Last Saturday while I was out Latin dancing with Jacquie, she challenged me to join her at this year's AIDS walk. I found myself enthusiastically agreeing. And I signed up.

I'm doing this both to support the cause and as part of my commitment to get fit. (And Jacquie thought I'll I could do was move my hips on the dance floor! ;-)

One of my favourite people, my cousin Brian, died due to AIDS in 1995. He was a real kindred spirt, as the only other language teacher in the family and also had globetrotting tendencies. He inspired me just by being himself. Always loved him. Always will.

So, I will be participating in the 2005 Calgary AIDS Walk for Life, and am looking to my friends and family to sponsor my walk. All the money raised will go towards AIDS Calgary's pursuit of awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS.

Please visit my donation page at
to donate, and help me reach my fundraising goal.

For more info about AIDS Calgary's programs and services, please visit their website at or the official Calgary AIDS Walk for Life website at

And a big, huge thank you to everyone to has sponsored me so far, or has offered moral support! You rock my world! Due to the great response I got in the first 2 hours, I've upped my fundraising goal. Can the rest of you help me reach it?

Oh yeah... and as for the fitness part... My personal challenge is to run, not walk, those 6 km. Well, OK, maybe jog...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

A short rant

I am five feet tall. Well, five feet and a quarter inch, if you choose to believe my medical records, but I don't usually feel the need to “round up”. I’ve been short all my life and in general, I’m O.K. with that. I am O.K. with having stools and ladders in various rooms of the house to help me reach things. I’m O.K. with moving the seat of the car forwards before I start driving and then back again to climb out of the car. And I’m O.K. with my 28” inseam that requires either shopping very carefully for pants, or making friends with a tailor.

There are times when my (lack of) height is an advantage. I can stand on my kitchen counter and paint the wall above my cupboards without having to duck my head, for example.

I have found myself chatting with interesting gentlemen in the grocery store because I asked for help reaching something down from a shelf. It’s not my typical way to meet men, but hell, if they want to use my genuine need for a food item to strike up a conversation, who am I to say no?

Once, I was out Latin dancing in Toronto with my friend Claire, who is 5’10”. We ended up getting ourselves into a bit of a predicament with two unusually large, tall and very drunk Latinos who wouldn’t leave us alone. We left the club and ran six Toronto blocks to her car, only to find these guys just paces behind us, on a poorly lit street. After a brief exchange when it was clear that the situation was approaching dangerous, I – in a moment completely out of character with the British social conditioning I received growing up – lost it.

Claire later said she was torn between fear of the situation and laughter, watching me, the smallest on the scene by at least 10 inches, scream at these jerks in Spanish and walk towards them, pointing my stubby little index finger at their chests until they held up their hands and slowly backed away. She had no idea what I was saying, but said the whole situation had a rather comic element. I suspect there was an element of surprise involved for them… Not only was I the least likely in the group to say anything, because of my diminutive size, but the fact that I let them have it in their own language probably threw them for a bit of a loop.

The same Claire and I were out Christmas shopping one year and got separated in the crowd. She later told me that she looked for a space in the sea of Christmas-shopper-heads. That space was occupied by the air above my head. Needless to say, she found me.

So, there are times when being short can be an advantage.

Having said that, I do have two height-related pet peeves. One is dangling feet. I positively despise it when I’m sitting down and my feet dangle. Usually, I can touch the floor with my toes, but rarely can I settle back into a chair and have my feet firmly planted on the ground, which is what I really prefer. This is especially annoying when I’m at a job interview or in a doctor’s office or some other place where the tables of power are turned in favour of the person on the other side of the desk. In those cases, I do a lot of perching on the edge of the seat. Needless to say, I love the low, streamlined, black leather IKEA sofa that sits in my living room.

Sometimes, if I want to give someone a laugh, I’ll slide right back into a chair and instead of pointing my toes downwards, I’ll lift them up, so my feet are flat and parallel to the ground… and then swing them back and forth. This usually elicits a chuckle from whoever is sitting across from me, again, because I think it’s unexpected. So even dangling feet can be used to a positive end.

The second pet peeve is head-patting. And there is no positive spin on head patting, as far as I am concerned. This happens much less now that I’m getting a bit older, but it used to happen all the time. And it happened again last night (hence the reason for today’s rant).

I was out with friends and ended up sitting next to a woman I didn’t know in the group. We were introduced and then joined in on the conversation. She happened to be much taller than I, but I didn’t notice this until a certain point during our conversation when something I said caused her to reply, “Aw…You’re so sweet!” And she patted me on the head.

My gut reaction to this sort of behaviour is, “I’m not going to be sweet much longer if you keep doing that!” Followed by a quick kick with a dangling foot.

But I refrained.

It did get me thinking though… This particular gesture is often accompanied by a phrase that starts with “Aw…” As in, “Aw…. You’re so sweet!” or “Aw…. You’re so cute!”

Interestingly, it’s usually women who do this. Men never pat me on the head (which, by the way, gentlemen, I appreciate immensely!) If men feel compelled to say something starting with “Aw…” and accompany it with a gesture, it’s usually a quick squeeze around the shoulders or a hand on the upper back, both of which are far more respectful. (And my well result in you getting a proper hug to thank you for your kind words.)

Like I said, being patted on the head is a much rarer occurrence now that I’m not quite so young any more, but I wonder why, when it does happen, that women are the ones doing it? Is it some sort of messed up maternal instinct? After all, that particular gesture is usually reserved for small children and furry pets, not other grown ups. Is it a need to feel superior by emphasizing a size difference? (And yes… size can matter… ask the two big Latino dudes I scared the b’Jesus out of in Toronto…)

I don’t really know what the answer is. But I do know it’s annoying.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Stability check!

Well, you'd think with a title like that, this post might have more to do with being mentally stable and the like. But no... (though now that I've thought about it, I'm sure there are some metaphorical parallels).

"Stability check!" are the words that tumble around in my head, like clothes in a dryer, while I'm in the gym.

Yes, gym.

Me. In a gym. Go figure.

I started going in June, thinking (rationalizing?) that if I could get into the habit of being active before I started school, perhaps I would continue to go once I got stressed out with papers and whatnot.

So far, so good.

I have realized that although I appear confident to the outside world in most facets of my life, get me into a situation where I have to get out of my head and into my body and it's like my confidence checks itself at the door and is replaced by a big knot of fear in my gut.

So, I spent the first month going into the fitness centre at the university, keeping my head down and doing my best to stay out of everyone's way, as I huffed and puffed through about 20 minutes on a stationary bike. I also hoped that if I started going in the summer, when there were fewer people around, I might be comfortable enough to keep going once it's packed with students in the fall.

After that first month or so, I had enough courage to try a few of the machines, after having watched people use them (though trying not to watch too obviously, of course...) and occasionally asked someone who worked there for some rather in-depth pointers.

Well, it's been about three months now and I'm still going three or four times a week, so at least for now, I'm in the habit.

I thought to myself, "If you're going to keep coming here, you should really learn how the hell all this stuff works..." So, I signed up for training.

Yes, me. Training.

Just one session... to learn a few things here and there... but still...

My trainer's name is Chris. He was one of the people who had shown me the odd machine here and there. And although I was hemming and hawing about possibly wanting a female trainer, ultimately I thought that this fella had been nice enough to me, never treating me like I was taking up too much oxygen in the gym, and has a relaxed way about him, so I scribbled his name down on my form, hoping that I wouldn't be turned away for being too unfit or something... This is a university fitness centre after all... there are real athletes there!

Next thing I know, I'm setting up an appointment.

What have I done? I ask myself, near panic.

So, I went in for my session. We spent a good deal of time working on posture, before moving on to actual exercises. Apparently, my posture stinks. (My words, not Chris's.)

His words were "Stability check!" Over and over again. After only one session, those words stick in my head, as I forcibly suck in my gut, pull my shoulders back and down and draw my head back into "garlic breath" position. Seriously, that's what he calls it...

I must say, this feels entirely UN-natural at the moment. I feel horribly, horribly conspicuous... even if it is more stable.

I'm supposed to keep this posture through my entire workout. Then there is the matter of breathing. Must remember to do that... I do tend to forget...

I appreciated Chris's low key character. I couldn't be doing with a "No pain, no gain; do it 'till it burns, man!" type of trainer. Low key is definitely better. (There you go, Chris, you've been immortalized in a blog... Stay low key though, OK?)

As for me, another small hurdle is over... I now have a semi-plan to start the school year with. And so far, it doesn't hurt, which is good. I'm actually thinking about signing up for more training... (Students get such a good deal, it seems worth it...)

Classes start in just over a week. That'll be the real test. Not only will the gym be packed, I'm guessing, but since I'm also teaching a Spanish 201 class now, it is likely that I will see some of my own students in the gym... Oh dear...

Just keep thinking... "Stability check!"

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Happy September 1st!

Yaay! It's Sept. 1st! Apart from being the birthday of one of my most favourite people in the entire world (and if you're wondering who, the answer is buried in a previous blog post), it's also symbolic in other ways... Summer seems to be over. Sigh… Sadly, a few leaves have already begun to drop from the trees in Calgary... I’m actually sad to see the end of our ever-so-short summer but it does mean, of course, that school is just around the corner.

Most people my age worry about getting their kids ready for school. I have none of those, but I am busy getting myself ready for life as a student again.

I haven't been a student in years. Years! But this fall, I'm excited because I'm starting a Ph.D. (Catch me in November; I'll probably wonder why I even applied... But for now, I'm energized!)

I swing back and forth between thinking that I really must be crazy and having this almost-hyper tingly feeling inside, somewhat akin to being in love… but not exactly (that would just be weird!)

I have all the essential school supplies… laptop, iPod, a few new clothes, and of course, my text books (yes, we still have to read books!) Hhhmmm... I think there's something I've forgotten, but can't think of what it could be?

Yaay! I can’t believe I’m going back to school. Woo hoo! (Such a geek… I know!)

Happy September!