Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

Just a quick note to wish you all a Happy Halloween. As I write this, I am still at the university, trying desperately to get to work on my two research papers that are due next week... but even though it is almost 7:00 p.m. people keep knocking on my office door at the research centre where I work. Argh!

Think I'll have to go home in order to get started on these little gems...

In other news, I have gotten my hands on an outdoor running map, with routes of different distances clearly marked. Yaay!

I am getting too "zoned out" running in circles around the track. TWICE now (in a row, no less!) I've lost count of the number of laps I've done. Oh dear... Will try an outdoor run on Wednesday. Hopefully I'll just be able to turn my brain off and enjoy it.

Oooh... that sounds lovely... turning my brain off for a while!

I have discovered that brains are like bodies... if you overstuff them and then try to make them work hard, they're positively sluggish!

That's describes how mine is operating these days... overstuffed (and hence, sluggish) brain. Arrggghhhh!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Synagogue with Leah

My house-mate, Leah, is fairly new to Calgary. She’s still getting to know the city and does not have a car. She’s also Jewish and one of her goals and journeys in her first few months here has been to find a synagogue to join. Calgary can be a difficult place to negotiate on public transportation and so, when Leah told me she’d found a synagogue that she thought she’d like, I offered to drive her.

I was thinking I’d drop her off, go have a coffee or go for a walk and then pick her up again later. But she said, “Well, why don’t you just come with me?”

Leah is delightfully open-minded and tolerant and I knew that her question was nothing more than an open invitation. No ulterior motives of conversion or the like. So, I accepted.

We went last night. It was the first time in my life I’d been in a synagogue.

I’ve been to services of various faiths here and there throughout my life (weddings, funerals, going to a service with a friend, etc.) and so, I knew I’d feel somewhat out of place… and I was comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, in this situation, if that makes any sense.

As always when thrown into such situations, I watch, try to follow, keep an open heart and mind and be respectful (reining in my sometimes over-zealous curiosity until an appropriate moment later to ask questions.)

It was an interesting experience… I was surprised to see how much closer it was to Christian services than I expected, apart from the Hebrew and the Torah, of course. And I thought the bilingual Hebrew-English prayer book, that worked from back to front was particularly curious… and delightful! (I’m such a lover of languages… and books!)

I think that every now and then, it’s good to step outside your comfort zone, try something new and appreciate the moment for what it is.

Leah was happy with the service and the people she found there, so I think she’s one step closer to creating her own sense of community in Calgary.

And she was gracious enough to answer the long list of questions I had mentally formulated during the service. I learned a lot.

What a unique way to spend a Friday night!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

What makes a person beautiful?

I am fascinated by Dove's "Campaign for real beauty" ( for two reasons:

  • It speaks to me on a human (OK, womanly) level.
  • I have dedicated part of my career to marketing, and I think it's a fantastic marketing concept. (I bet they're making money hand-over-fist these days.)

If you haven't checked out their website, I'd invite you to do so. It's pretty cool. They don't focus on Dove products at all, but instead on their "campaign" to help women build self-esteem.

All corporations donate money to charities. They have to or they don't look like good corporate citizens. Some corporations are particular about who they funnel money to, and others… not so much. This “campaign” funnels their charity dollars into associations that help people deal with eating disorders. Kinda cool.

If I take off my marketer’s hat and put on my human hat (though... can you ever really not have your human hat on?) this whole thing makes me think about beauty and how we define it.

I had this question on the brain today and so, all day I looked at people around me, thinking about their beauty. I spend my day at a university, and there’s a lot of people there. I probably scanned the faces and bodies of a few – or perhaps, several -- hundred people today, while thinking about beauty.

I don't mean beauty in the sense of "turn on". Of course, if you look at enough people there are those who do that too, but that wasn't the point of the exercise. Today was about any and all kinds of beauty.

That included the young, the old, the wizened, the tall, the short, the thin, the overweight, and even the obese…the brilliant, the not-so-brilliant and the developmentally delayed… people from various walks of life, of various colors and tones. You get the idea.

I had a hard time finding anyone that I did NOT think was beautiful in some way, shape or form. Every one seemed to have something about them that made them seem beautiful. I wasn't particularly looking for it to be like that... I just wanted to be aware of my own reactions to people around me.

I’m not exactly what you’d classify as an overly “romantic” sort of person and I wasn’t feeling particularly “warm and fuzzy” today, so I found it curious that I was not more critical.

Perhaps I’m just getting softer as the years go by? Dunno…

But let me put it out there and see what you think… What do you find beautiful? Or better yet… what don’t you find beautiful? And more importantly… why?

Got sleep!

Yaay! I went home last night and crashed - hard! I feel soooo much better today. Zippity do dah!

It's a good thing because my weekend is looking rather hideous at the moment... oh dear!

By the way, I have to write a paper on the concept of reflexivity in research. Any tips, articles or wonderful resources would be much appreciated. I know the concept in grammar, but not in philosophy....

Which reminds me, I have to go to the library and look up the references the prof gave me...

Must run and do that now....

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Because you asked...

(and I'm so damned pragmatic, I'll answer...)

OK ... so a few of you have asked how I possibly manage to get into three bras before I jog -- and if it's actually necessary.

The short answer to the last question is: yes. If it wasn't necessary, I wouldn't do it.

The short answer to the first question is:
  1. one under-wire sports bra
  2. one one-piece "compression" sports bra (affectionately known as a uni-boober)
  3. one built into the top

The tops are sleeveless workout tops and to be quite frank, a bit too IMmodest for my taste, but with three layers on, I just couldn't handle throwing a T-shirt on over top.

(Besides, most T-shirts are way too long for me anyway and look like night gowns. I tend to go for what would be classified as crop tops for most girls, but on me, actually come down to my waist, covering everything nicely -- but still too hot over three other layers of clothing.)

a. and I went to this women's fitness seminar at a local shop last Sunday night. The featured presentation was on sports bras. It was a complete joke. The presentation was done by a rep of a company that makes them.

The rep had... how can I put this politely... a figure that ... clearly showed she could not relate to our pain.

I tried on their "super high-impact" model anyway, just to see.

You never know until you try, right?

Yeah, right!

As IF!

I'll stick to my system of three for now, thank you very much.

I keep hearing about the Ennell though, so I will have to check it out soon, I think.

So anyway, I've gone for functionality over personal preference when I jog. Hence, also trading long capri pants for shorts when I run.

Way, way too immodest -- and probably makes me the biggest eyesore in the gym -- but whatever. It's better than passing out from overheating.

As I re-read this post, I am aware that I am starting to be less and less intimidated about this whole exercise thing. Before, I just wanted to fade into the background and never, ever be noticed -- not by anyone -- EVER!

Now, I really don't give a rat's ass if anyone notices or not. I haven't been thrown out of the gym yet, so I really don't care.

I go and do my thing... for what it's worth.

Only took damn near six months of going to the gym on a regular basis to get to the point of "not giving a rat's ass".


I haven't written anything for a few days (to the extent that I'm starting to get prodded by people who check in regularly!) Sorry for that... I did promise this as a space where I'd stay in touch, didn't I? Must remember that.

Last night I was working on campus with a prof until almost 11:30 p.m. Went home and apart from saying hello to Leah, fell into bed, almost forgetting to feed the cats. (Don't worry... they ran around, crashed into things, jumped on me and fought until I dragged myself out of bed and fed them....)

This morning I was scheduled for my usual Wednesday 5 K run, plus workout. And yes... the workout is again "new and improved", having moved into the realm of free weights. (a., I know you'll be pleased about that!)

As my alarm went off, I thought to myself, "Uuuuggggffffff! I can't... I need sleep."

Then, the other voice in my head said, "Oh no you don't! You started working out so that when you got stressed, you'd already be in the habit. Now get your sorry ass out of bed and go! Go!"

I fumbled around, so tired I was nauseous and got ready. I'm not really a breakfast person (unless it's going out for breakfast, which is then a social event and so, entirely different). Eating breakfast on a tired/nauseous stomach was really not an appealing idea.

But I remembered that running on empty doesn't work out so well for me. And I also remembered the words of my doctor last summer, "Eating breakfast is not negotiable. You must eat in the morning!"

So, I choked down (literally... choked... took me damn near 15 minutes to eat it...) a piece of bread and butter, and headed out the door.

I was feeling that kind of exhaustion that causes car accidents, so I blasted my music on the way to work and felt barely awake by the time I got to school.

The run was pathetically, hideously slow (I appear to have not simply plateaued, but actually regressed...) Whatever... I tried to focus on technique and efficiency... Didn't do so well with that either though, today.

My attempt at the new and improved workout also left much to be desired. I went through the whole thing so slowly I was almost late to teach my Spanish class!

Oh well... tomorrow is another day...

I've missed two Skype dates with Cindy this week (Sorry, amiga! You're at the top of my list for tonight!) and I did a report for work yesterday and forgot a simple little thing that I should have known better about.

My balancing act is teetering these days... work, school, teaching, working out, friends, general life ... and one more factor that's been added into the equation that I'll reserve comment on for the moment.

So, tonight, after class (which ends at 7:30 p.m.) and after going to the grocery store (because I didn't make it yesterday and I'm running out of everything), I plan to have a blissful date with my pillow.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Prancing princess

Typically when I go to the gym, I have - until very recently - either kept my eyes down or focussed on something (a point on the wall, for example) so I can concentrate better. The result is that I'm pretty much oblivious to what's going on around me.

I'm starting to come out of my daze a bit. Now, on occasion, I notice people who have good posture, for example. (Posture being something that has been -- and continues to be -- drilled into my head.)

When I see someone who stands up straight, I think to myself, "Hhmm... good posture!" Still though... It barely registers whether the human form in front of me is male or female.

As of today, I think the daze is officially over.

I was in the locker room, changing for my workout. I was in a bit of a hurry, as the conference I have to attend and present at is today and tomorrow, so I had to squeeze my workout in first thing in the morning, or it wasn't going to happen at all.

There was another girl in there at the same time as me, also getting out of street clothes and into gym clothes.

As I stood in front of the mirror, exasperated, trying to get my hair into a French braid (and failing miserably, as usual!), I noticed the other girl, who was also standing at the mirror.

And I was gobsmacked.

Not because she was beautiful (though I'm sure many would say that she was), but because she had a full make-up kit spread out all over the vanity. We're talking - the works - foundation, eye makeup, blush, eyebrow pencil, mascara, lip gloss, powder - you name it. She had more make up than my drag queen hair stylist, Deva Dave.

And she was using it -- ALL -- to get made up -- to go work out!!

I fumbled with my braid as she filled in perfect eyebrows, followed by long, sweeping strokes of her mascara brush.

Hell, I'm lucky if I remember to chuck on some lip balm so my lips don't get all dry and cracked as I'm huffing and puffing -- and even then, I forget half the time.

Needless to say, I got out of the locker room before her.

I did see her later, looking like she had never sweated a drop in her life. While, I, on other hand, dripped with sweat (let's make no mistake here.... there's no ladylike "glowing" going on...And it's not pretty, trust me.)

If I plod, this one pranced... all over the gym.

"What's the point?" I asked myself, knowing the answer, full well, of course... Though I confess, it had never occurred to me that anyone might go to the gym for any other reason than to... er... exercise?!

Still though... I don't get it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Wall-to-wall pink

So my house mate, Leah, asked me if she could paint her room. At first, the hairs on the back of my neck bristled. I had an interior designer help me choose the colours for my house and then, I painted a good deal of it myself (with the rest being done by the ex... at a time before he was the ex.)

Anyway, Leah said, "The colour now... It's just... really not me. I would pick a colour that matched with the scheme of things, I promise."

I thought, "She's a great house mate. If it will make a big difference to the quality of her life here, then really, it's not such a big deal..."

Neck hairs laid flat again.

I said, "Sure, go for it."

She brought home some samples and they all seemed reasonable, so I told her to pick the one she liked best and have at 'er.

The result is now a light pink room (formerly known as the taupe office!)

It does look larger and brighter, I have to admit.

But I have confess... I never thought I'd see pink walls in my house.

Ah, what the hell.... it's only paint!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Plodding update

So, many of you have been asking me about how "the running thing" is going.

Let's be clear about one thing: "running" is an exaggeration. I plod. The fact that I run about 5K in 40 minutes should quell any fantasies you have about this.

Remember, I have a 28" inseam... That translates into short legs. This is not self-deprecation. It's an observation based on empirical fact. I'm quite OK with this reality, but it does mean that I will probably have to work a little (or maybe a lot) harder to get a little faster. And that's OK, too... I'd just prefer not to die in the process.

In fact, since we are being realistic here, let me just say:

  1. No, I will not be running a marathon any time soon. I can barely do 5K! (So... stop asking! It's too much pressure!)
  2. If #1 above is true, then I will certainly not be considering any triathalons or any other sport ending in the suffix "-alon". Not going to happen.

Yes, I do have some goals in mind, but I prefer to keep them to myself for the moment. They do, however, include such things as "Run 5K without going into cardiac arrest". This is a modest, but reasonable, goal... and one I look forward to achieving sometime over the next year or so...

You want the goods on how it's going? Well, here's what I've found out:

  1. It's hard. I wheeze - a lot. (And no, I'm not a smoker. Never have been; never will be.)
  2. I enjoy a love/hate relationship with this new activity. I love doing it... until about the 3rd km, then I hate it. I keep going because I am not sane enough to quit.
  3. My hair is annoying. I have discovered that the only way I can run with it comfortably is in a French braid. I am lousy at braiding my hair, so I'm sure it looks hideous. But whatever.... The other day, I somehow forgot to braid it before I found myself on the track. The pony tail swatting the back of my neck did not make me happy. (If you're wondering why I don't just go cut it off, read Project Rapunzel - Take Two. It's no where near time to cut it yet.)
  4. People who design sports bras have no freaking idea what they're doing!! (And they should probably be shot -- or better yet -- forced to run a mile in another woman's body and bra.) And yes... I bought "top quality" at a proper running store. WhatEVER. The designers should still be shot! -- Are you guessing that I have an opinion on this matter at all?! Well, you would too, if you strapped yourself into three of the suckers before setting a foot on the track. (No wonder I wheeze!)
  5. Proper socks are expensive.
  6. I need good socks because blisters are simply a fact of life now. (And yes, I do have proper shoes, fitted by a professional. In fact, I have two pairs - one I keep pair at home; the other at the gym.) Despite what at least one of you has asked, no, I don't feel "cool" having feet covered in blisters, and no, having them doesn't make me feel like a "real" runner. I suspect "real" runners have callouses. It's us wannabes that have blisters.
  7. Thank God for iPod.
  8. If I were a sane human being, I would probably have quit by now. But A. made a good point to me last weekend when she said, "We know you can do it. You do whatever you set your mind to. The question is should you do it?"

(And that, from the woman who thought it was a good idea to do 108 bicep curls at her own gym last Friday... Yes, A. we know you can do it, but should you?!) Personally, I've never liked the word "should". We should really eliminate it from the English language.

There you are... plodding update, as requested! It's really not as glamorous as it may seem.

Wanna help? Here's what would be really great:

  1. Send song recommendations for the "running tunes" play list on my iPod.
  2. Don't ask about racing, any events ending with suffix "-athon" (or worse yet, "athalon"). Remember that I am a beginner and it's "one step at a time", as they say. In my case, those are slow steps... and that is unlikely to change any time soon. :-)
  3. Anyone got any tips on how to French braid your hair?

By the way, thanks to amber and KT for their long-distance tips and tricks. Good to know others go through the same things -- and your blogs are inspiring. Thanks to everyone else, too, who has offered encouragement without pressure! And special thanks to those of you who remind me to stay sane and this is supposed to be fun. (A. are you reading this? :-)

Now, I really should go study for a while...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Locker room talk

So, now I'm in month number five of going to the gym regularly now. (Hell, that's over half as long as it takes to gestate a new human life! Geez... when I think about it like that...)

I'm up to 5 K runs, three times a week, plus weights, and stationary biking on the other two days. Hiring a trainer has helped. He's pushed me past where I would have pushed myself and generally boosts my almost-non-existent confidence when I'm exercising.

I was pretty hard on him in our last session... calling him all sorts of nasty names that resulted in a rather sheepish and apologetic e-mail from me after the session. But I think he understood. (And if not, he was gracious enough to not let me know!)

These workouts are demanding and I've almost gotten to the point where I throw up (well, only once...) but I keep going. It's especially tough at the moment, because I've completely plateaued and although I know it is normal, that doesn't make it easy. Nevertheless, on we go...

Anyway, so when I was in the locker room the other day, I heard these two girls talking. They were a few rows over from me, so I didn't actually see them, but the conversation went something like this...

Girl one - (a bit of the conversation I missed, followed by...) "Anyway... it's good for your core."

Girl two - "Core? I don't have a core! Haven' t you noticed? I'm all soft and flabby... no core here!"

I thought to myself, "Geez, that girl sounds like me talking!"

And at that same precise moment, another thought zipped through my head. It was, "Of course you have a core, girl! Stand up and be proud of your body, no matter what it looks like. You're here at the gym, aren't you? You're getting some exercise and that's good for your body and your soul. No need to talk like that! Geez, have some confidence, would you?"

Then it occurred to me that I while I would think that as a mental response to someone else, I have never said anything like that to myself!

The ironic thing was, I have no idea what the other girl looked like... maybe she was skinny as a rake... or she could have been 400 lbs. I'll never know. But the interesting thing was that I identified with her... and then mentally told her to smarten up!

And with that, I lifted my chest, drew back my shoulders, slung my bag on my shoulder and walked out of the locker room with my head held high, realizing that I have a core now, dammit!

Love ya, sis!

Those of you who follow this blog know that I'm pretty darn happy with my family. Don't get me wrong, it's not a perfect family -- not by any means! But over all I appreciate each person in the family for who they are ... most of the time, any way!

I wanted to give my sister some air time on this blog, since I've mentioned both my brothers and my Dad recently, but not Tracy. She's my one and only sister and also a great friend. Like most sisters, we don't always see eye to eye and every now and then, we have it out but good -- but that's the exception, not the rule.

Wanted to share this pic of the two of us at her wedding this June.

In addition to being a new wife and step-mom, she's also a gifted interior designer (and although it's not her job, it probably should be - she's freaking brilliant at it) and has the gift of compassion with -- and connection to -- animals like no one I've ever seen. (Bill, please don't let her get any more cats! That would just be... scary!)

And did I mention that she's an even better cook than I am? And I'm one fabulous cook... (A guy once said to me, "You cook like this and you're not married? Do you want to be married... to me?!")

So anyway, in case you haven't figured it out, I think she's pretty amazing.

You're beautiful, smart and funny, sis and I love ya!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Saying hello (part two)

Thanks for the comments on part one! As I said, I've done a good deal of thinking about the phrase, "Saying hello... creates a world... in which, saying 'hello' is possible." It made me think about my own patterns of who I say hello to and when and how I do it. Here are some thoughts:

The role of authority

I agree with CM's comment about authority. As a teacher, I will always say hello to my students if I see them outside the classroom. Actually, I usually greet them with “¡Hola!”, since they’re learning Spanish with me. As the one in the position of authority, I think it’s my job to say hello them first.

If I am clearly the subordinate (for example, if I see the Dean on campus), I would probably wait for the other person to take the lead on the greeting. It’s not something I do consciously, I just do it.

If I have a professional relationship with someone and the other person holds the balance of power (say, for example, my doctor), I would probably say hello anyway if I saw them outside the usual context.

Comfort level

I have noticed that if I am in a situation where I feel relaxed and comfortable, saying hello is easy. I don’t even think about it. If I am tense, apprehensive or worried, it becomes almost impossible. Example: my first few months in the gym, I would keep my eyes down and not say hello to anyone, hoping in part, not to be noticed… (or laughed at!) Now, I know a few people and will say hello to them… but it took a good long time for my comfort level to rise to that point.

Personalized greetings

My greetings will often change from person to person. Some people get a nod of the head and a smile, others get a word of greeting (varying from “Hello”, “Hi”, “Hey, how’s it going?” and so on) and others still get hugs and kisses. Depends who they are. My hairdresser, for example, always gets a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Why? Dunno. We’ve been doing that for years and it would seem funny to do anything else.

My best friend though, might get a hug or she might only get a, “Hiya! How’s it going?!”

Why wouldn’t she get a hug and a kiss, too, just like the hairdresser? Because it’s not necessarily our dynamic… If we hadn’t seen each other for ages, we might hug. Otherwise, probably not. But she still means the world to me – and she knows it. But that does lead into the next bit…


My greetings will most definitely change according to context. If I see the same person in a professional context and a social one, the greeting may well be different according to where we are. If I go to a colleague’s house for dinner, I might greet that person with a hug upon entering their house – or maybe not, depending on the situation.

Of course, business and social settings set the tone for a greeting. There are times when a good, firm handshake the only acceptable greeting.


As someone who functions professionally and socially in both English and Spanish, social greetings with Latin people are often warmer and involve kisses on one or both cheeks, depending on where the person is from. I’m quite comfortable with physical greetings involving hugs or kisses, and if I know the other person is too, then it seems quite natural to express the greeting physically.

But if I’m not sure the other person is comfortable with that (e.g. most of my Canadian-born friends and acquaintances of Anglo-Saxon heritage), I don’t even go there. I’m well aware of the fact that just because I’m OK wrapping my arms around someone, or getting check-to-cheek for half a second, doesn’t mean everyone is. Above all else, greetings should be respectful first, then friendly and then warm, I think. Again though, it depends on who, when and where.


The bit about physicality makes me think about culture and customs, too. These are very important and play a strong role in how we greet people. In a job I held a few years ago, I worked with a numerous foreigners, many of them from Asia. I never even attempted to bow, as I had heard that many non-Asians will “muck it up” and so, I was afraid to embarrass myself.

I was more comfortable with the typical Latin greeting with kisses, than trying to understand the complexities of bowing in different Asian cultures. Maybe one day I’ll add it to my repertoire of greeting customs, but I doubt it will be soon.


Saying “hello” seems so simple and so easy. And yet, there’s all kinds of other things that come into play. I’m not sure I’m done thinking about this though… There might be another post on this topic later on, so stay tuned.

But for now… farewell, adieu, adiĆ³s, ciao, or in cyber-talk… L8R!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Saying hello (part one)

"Saying hello... creates a world... in which saying 'hello' is possible."

Those are the words of Dr. Richard Heyman, professor of the Qualitative Research Methods class I'm taking. He said them to us in our first class a month ago, and has repeated them various times since.

That first class, he said something to the effect of, “Think about it… If you normally say hello to someone, you almost always say hello to them. And then, if one day, you don’t… what happens? What do they think?”

We talked about the various possibilities of what people might think and why, without coming to any particular conclusion. (That was part of the point, I think…that there was no conclusion.)

I’m going to put this out there for discussion… How do you say hello? Do you say the word, “Hello!”, "Hi!", “Hey...”, “Wazzup?” Do you give a nod of the head? Shake hands? Kiss? Do you have a signature hello? Does your “hello” vary from person to person, and context to context?

What makes you say that first “Hello!” (in whatever way you do that) to someone?

I’ve thought about this a good deal in the past month, but for now, I’m not going to say any more than that. Watch this space for part two though… And for the moment… I’m inviting your feedback. What do you think?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Science vs. Art

I've been reading Bronowski's A sense of the future: Essays in natural philosophy this weekend. It's been eye opening.

I've always seen the world as being divided into math/science types and language/arts types. (I, of course, see myself fitting into the latter category.) Bronowski talks about how scientists must use their creative abilities to be better scientists and how artists use science to discover and improve their creations. He uses the skeleton as a simple example. Scientists use it to learn about the body and artists use it to learn how to draw/sculpt or otherwise create bodies in their art.

The example worked for me, since biology was the only science I was any good at. I actually enjoyed cutting up the fetal pig in grade 12... not because I was cutting up a dead animal, but because I was genuinely curious as to what I'd find and how the little creature's body worked...

Anyway, back to Bronowski... I find myself as curious about his theories on art, science and philosophy as I was about that little pig in high school. He also says that good scientists ultimately can't be emotionally divorced from their work... objective, but not devoid of passion for what they're doing.

Artists discover new techniques through experimentation and use what they learn to create new things.

In both cases, artists and scientists can spend endless hours on the most repetitive or minute task, only to suddenly have a small leap that takes them to some new level they've never experienced before. (Sounds like learning in general to me... Lots and lots of effort. Jump to a new level of understanding. Plateau. Repeat.)

I think I may have just had one of those little "jumps". I'm finally starting to "get" that artists and scientists can have a lot in common... passion for what they do fuelled by curiosity, and a willingness to step back and ask "Why?"

Very cool.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Just a quick post to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving - no matter where you are! Many trees here have lost their leaves now. I was having fun tromping through dry, crunchy brown leaves on campus the other day. Always loved doing that!

Here, my house mate, Leah, has offered to cook dinner (bless her heart!) I'll see Aaron and Nicole next weekend, maybe, when Nicole's feeling more like herself again (post-surgery). We'll have a bit a of a family celebration whenever we can get together.

And since some of you have asked for a proper update on how school is going...

I took some time yesterday to do some much needed chilling out. As a result, the rest of the weekend will be spent with my nose in the books I have to read for my two courses -- one on philosophy and one on qualitative research methods in education. I think I have three papers due in the next three weeks or so? Yikes!

Did my first group presentation in the reserach methods course last week. Our topic was Positivism vs. Interpretivism -- which turned out to be much more interesting than I originally thought (yaay!).

Best experience doing a group presentation in my life, I think. Adriana, Yossi and Fredy were super to work with. And the best part was that we learned a lot as we prepared (which I think was the point, but still... it's good when you actually do learn stuff!)

Oh and of course, there's that first set of tests my Spanish 201 students have written that need to be corrected so they can be handed back on Tuesday. Like most teachers, I love teaching -- and hate correcting. It would be so much better if we could focus on the learning, assimilation and internalizing processes, rather than grading. The longer I teach, the more I think grades should just be abolished!

But since I get to follow the same prescriptive program as every other instructor, life without tests (for the students) and corrections (for me) isn't going to happen any time soon. (Sigh....!)

I'll start on the corrections as soon as I've finished this posting. With any luck, I'll get them all done today, so tomorrow I can focus on studying and maybe do some research. (And I have a Skype date with my cousin, Elaine, in a couple of hours, so that's good motivation to get going on the corrections so I actually deserve a break by then!)

Later this month I'll do a presentation for the
Intercultural and Second Languages Council conference. I'll have to start preparing for that next week, I think. I've been off the conference / speaking circuit for a while, so I'm feeling a bit rusty these days... I'll be putting in some good, solid prep time for this one, me thinks!

Oh yeah, and stay tuned for "book news" soon... (I won't say any more about it for now, but watch this space!)

So, life as a Ph.D. student is wonderful -- and insanely, crazy busy! I try to keep it all balanced, but it is a bit of a juggling act, I must admit. I love my classes and even though the readings are hard and tax (and at times, overwhelm!) this old brain that hasn't been in school for eight years, I wouldn't trade any of this for the world.

That's the update for now, everyone. Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and for those of you who aren't celebrating that particular holiday this (or any) weekend, I'll say "Happy Autumn!" instead.



Friday, October 07, 2005

What’s the purpose of pain?

We have two types of people in our family when it comes to pain. We have the wimps and the stoics.

We have those people (who shall remain nameless) who, as my older brother, Aaron, puts it, “When asked on a scale of 1 to 10 how much something hurts, they usually start with 35.”

Then there’s the men in the family – and me. We’d probably chew off an arm before admitting we were in any kind of pain. You could call it some kind of psycho machismo, but I do it, too. Not just with physical pain, but emotional pain, too. We all do it.

“Why do we do that?” I asked myself at 5:30 this morning, after pain itself woke me up, rather than my alarm or cats pouncing on me, wanting their breakfast.

As you know, my work out has changed. The new and improved version will… take some growing into, let’s say. Tried it for the first time on Wednesday morning. Not good.

My nice, easy bike ride has been traded for a 5K run, three times a week.

(And by the way, I'm sorry to tell you folks that there’s no way in HELL that AIDS walk was 6 K. It was a charity walk after all, not a proper running event, and they didn’t actually advertise the distance anywhere, as far as I know. I took the organizers at their word when I asked what distance it was… But there’s just no way… and that’s probably why they didn’t actually advertise the distance anywhere! I’m thinking *maybe* it was 4.5 K… MAYBE!)

Wednesday’s 5 K around the track proved challenging on a variety of levels:
1) I have to actually count the number of laps. (It’s 25.) So, I marked each lap with a different finger, alternating between hands every five laps. Now, despite the fact that I might be considered smart with some things, I confess that I tend to lose count as I’m running around in circles… At one point I had to ask myself, “Was that 9 or 14 laps? Let’s see… If I started counting on my left hand then ....if it was nine, I’d be using my right hand now… But I’m using my left again, so….No, no, I’ve done 14. OK, it’s all good, now…”

2) By the end of 25 laps, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do more, pass out (seeing black splotches, is not good, I don’t think?), throw up or cry. Definitely couldn’t cry. That would be too wimpy! So, I ducked into the bathroom thinking my guts might rebel.

They did not, thankfully. That may have been due to the lack of breakfast though. There was nothing in the gut to rebel against… But maybe if there had been, it wouldn’t have been so hard in the first place? Hhhhmmmm… interesting paradox that… (Note to self: Can’t run on empty; eat something – anything – before leaving the house!)

I did what I could with the rest of the workout, but… it wasn’t pretty.

By last night (Thursday), things had gone from bad to worse. Went home and took advantage of an empty house by running a steaming bubble bath, lighting some candles, putting on some quiet music and soaking for an hour.

While sucking back three ounces of tequila.

As I lay there in the tub, I thought to myself, “You’re SUCH a girl! Look at you! Bubbles and candles and everything! Why don’t you just suck it up and not be such a friggin’ wimp?”

The fact that I AM a girl just didn't seem to be much consolation, somehow...

Pondered that thought, with shot glass in hand.

(Honestly, I really don’t drink much – or often! But I must admit, tequila has remarkable healing properties, if taken occasionally – and in moderation. Trust me, three ounces was moderate yesterday… Considering that there seemed to be some relief, but no impairment, after having it.)

By the time I went to bed, I felt better. But being a sound sleeper who doesn’t move around much isn’t always a good thing. Gives everything a chance to seize up. And that’s exactly what happened.

So, by 5:30 a.m. I was awake… and sore. Seeing as how I couldn’t sleep and had no intention of getting out of bed that early, I did what comes naturally, and waxed philosophical. I lay there and pondered pain and why some of us in our family don't like to show it.

I finally figured out that it’s not that we don’t show pain, it’s that it simply doesn’t even seem to register until it’s beyond reasonable.

I thought about Aaron, who’s diabetic. I know that when he says, “I could probably start thinking about having a bite to eat here, before too long.” It really means, “Feed me or call the paramedics. I’m about to pass out.” (And I might point out that Aaron is a strong man, both physically and otherwise.)

Though he’d never admit it, I know what’s going on, because I know him – and I know myself. And in that way, we’re similar. We just don’t register what’s going on until it’s beyond reasonable.

I thought about how I would register pain on a scale of 1 to 10.

Being hit by a car (which happened, by the way) would probably register as an 8 for me. Couldn’t walk for a few weeks and took months to heal. But still, it could have been worse, you know?

Being someone who doesn’t react well to dental anesthetic and therefore has chosen not to have any since about the age of 16, I would say that fillings, crowns and the root canal without anesthetic might register as a 2.5. (The root canal doesn’t really count though, as the root was already dead, so there really was no pain.) Meditation is a wonderful thing, in the dentist’s chair, as far as I’m concerned.

The Chinook headaches I get (I’m loath to call them migranes, though there are times it is difficult to stand or see straight because of them) would probably get a 3.5.

Yesterday felt quite different from drug-free dental work, or a Chinook headache, but would probably have been up around 3 or 3.5 somewhere… so… almost half way to being hit by a car.


The whole thing made me ponder how and why we register pain at all… and why some people register it differently from others.

I’m not sure I have any answers, so I’m putting the topic out there for feedback.

Any ideas?

PS: I did do my workout again today. Ran slower, but ran (well, you know… plodded). Having breakfast definitely helps.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Blog fodder

A few months back, Adrian (a.k.a. "Young Cousin") got me started on the Urban Word of the Day. A new hip term gets delivered to your in box every morning.

In my case, that would be along with e-version of The Globe and Mail, BBC news alerts, real e-mails from people I know and love, a variety of spam and an overwhelming amount of work and school stuff.

The "UWoD" is just one of those fun little things that keeps it all interesting. Some of the words are garbage (or "rubbish", as Adrian would say) and I'd never use them at all, but every now and then, there's a gem.

For those of your in the blogosphere, you might appreciate one that came out earlier this week: "blog fodder". You can find the definition here:

If you read enough blogs, you find there's some you enjoy and others that are rubbish in and of themselves. Personally, I find that most anything that would make for good stories over a family dinner is worth blogging about.

Hence, for those of you who are far away and we can't break bread together this coming Thanksgiving weekend, at least we can share stories!

Oh yes, and for the rest of you English Cousins, Thanksgiving is not just an American thing! (I just about choked on my tea when Adrian asked about that over MSN a couple of days ago! Good thing you were out of smacking range, Young Cousin!)

We celebrate it in Canada, too - except that ours is earlier, I suppose because the harvest for which we are supposed to be thankful is also earlier than in the U.S.

Ah, look! There was a bit of blog fodder right there.

And isn't it ironic that the very term "blog fodder" became fodder for today's blog? ;-)

And with that, I shall return to what I'm really supposed to be doing at the moment - work!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Wobbly bits

"Wobbly bits".

That's the phrase used in this (rather humorous) article from the U.K. that I sent around to some friends a few days ago. It talks about euphemisms we use for those body parts we don't really like. I think some of the terms must be British English, but it was still a good chuckle. (I thought the photo adaptation of the famous actress was especially well done.)

"Body language for women's wobbly bits"

If nothing else, the article shows how most of us have body parts that wobble, wiggle or jiggle.

I was acutely aware of my "wobbly bits" today at the gym during my training session.

Throughout the session, in addition to the usual "Stability check!" that Chris weaves into every set of instructions, I kept being told things like, "Tighten your core", "Tighten your abs" and possibly even, "Suck in your gelatinous belly!" (Well, OK, maybe that last bit wasn't actually something that was said, but it was implied...)

I finally said, "I AM tightening it!"

To which the reply was, "Oh... OK."

To drive the point home, I said, "Please just stop saying that because every time you say it, I am ALREADY tightening! It doesn't get any tighter than that!"

Some women have wobbly "bits". I clearly have wobbly "regions" (and yes, more than one, I daresay).

The trick is to try to get them not to wobble -- at least not when you're exercising. The fact that they continue to bob and jiggle around, defying all "tightening" attempts -- and even a professional trainer can't tell you're at least making an effort, is positively abysmal… not to mention, disheartening.

To make matters worse, we worked on running today. I was told that my arms “flop around”.


Now there’s a good four-letter word.

When I responded indignantly, the reply was, “Well, OK, maybe there’s a better choice of word. How about … lazy?”

Now, I don’t want to state the obvious here, but note that “lazy” is another four-letter word (and one rarely used to describe me in any way, shape or form, I might add – wobbly or not!)

So, after my session, I trudged home, feeling rather stiff and sore, despite having stretched a fair amount afterwards. This will get easier, I keep telling myself… This is, after all, damn near a lifetime of wobble we’re up against here…

My spirits were lifted later tonight as my house-mate, Leah, and I were chatting while we chilled out watching TV. Leah’s just moved in this fall and so far, she’s a fantastic house mate.

Tonight, as she often does, Leah interjected our TV watching with her usual witty and sharp running commentary that makes me laugh so hard that I’m almost in tears. She’s hilarious – and doesn’t seem to be aware of that fact, which of course, makes her even funnier. Tonight though, I had to say, “Please, stop! It hurts too much to laugh!”

My core was so stiff after that training session I’ll be damn surprised if I can move at all tomorrow.

Wobbly abs, my ass!