Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Fruitcake arrived!

Wow! I can't believe it!

I just walked by the front counter at work and there was this box... for me... from Yorkshire! The fruitcake arrived!

And not just fruitcake.... an ENTIRE fruitcase! (Geez, girl, hope there's some left for that family of yours!)

And there was Yorkshire tea, too! (That does sound interesting, I must say.)

Thank you soooooo much!

Our office assistant, Olga, just went to Tim Horton's for coffee (it's a Canadian thing... Tim Horton's coffee... ) when I saw the box, so we shared a slice when she got back.

Sorry... I just couldn't wait for Christmas. There's snow on the ground today and it's cold... so, it feels like Christmas!

We'll have to try the tea later.... (with another slice!)

OH - MY - GOD!

This is DI-vine!

People either love fruitcake or they hate it. I love it. (Probably because of my British blood?) But whatever... who cares...

I'm in ECSTASY (and not the kind that you buy off the street, either).

Good thing I just spent an hour on the bike at the gym. If I don't put this cake away, I'll have to spend an entire DAY over there... and I'm too busy for that! I had to get up at 6:00 a.m. just to make time to work out today... ughh!

Anyway... I'm thrilled... This is too cool... You meet people blogging and next thing you know, you're getting spoiled with goodies in the mail. (I'll have to see if I can find something appropriate to send over your way...)

This is my first off-line exchange with a blogger who wasn't someone I already knew. And I'm delighted. (Can you tell????)

People often ask me, "Who are all those people who leave comments on your blog?" Heaven knows, most of my "real time" friends and family don't leave comments (that is... unless they're bloggers, too!)

So, I usually respond, "Other bloggers."

Now I can say that sometimes, "other bloggers" are not just anonymous far away people who share comments.... but every now and then there's a special one who shares something from the heart.

Thanks again, ipodmomma! You rock!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Love and marriage (and babies and ...)

Over the past week I’ve done more socializing and had more contact with friends and family than I have for most of the semester. Felt great!

During the course of these interactions, there’s always good conversation to be had. The topic inevitably rolls around to relationships. I have been curious to see the number of different types of relationships people do – or do not – have. Here’s a sampling:

Case 1 – Had drinks with a fellow grad student after class one day last week. She told me that she had her husband have been happily married for five years. One of their ‘understandings’ is that a ‘physical indiscretion’ for either of them would not end their marriage. For them, it’s OK to share the occasional romp with someone else, providing there’s no emotions or love involved.

Case 2 – I have another friend who is celibate by choice. I recently found out that she hasn’t been on a date since 1993. – 1993!!! – She’s smart, funny, beautiful, worldly, socially charming… and has no interest in men (or women, for that matter.) She’s perfectly happy without a partner… or even a date.

Case 3 – Another friend, whose birthday is the day before mine, told me that his best gift this year was that his partner of 2.5 years (with whom he lives) finally ‘told the parents’.

Case 4 – A friend in her early 40s who’s been married twice, and now seems to enjoy the company of lovers over long-term partners, decided earlier this year that it was time for a baby. She is currently quite ‘pregnant by design’, having visited a fertility clinic. For her, not having a husband was no reason not to have a baby. (I admit, I thought about this too, but ultimately decided it wasn’t for me…at least not now.)

Then there’s me – I seem to routinely attract men who want to marry me. I’ve done this since my very first boyfriend in high school. All modesty aside, I’ve had more marriage proposals than I care to count.

And I was married. Once. To be honest, I’m not sure I have it in me again. I’m at the point now where I’ll say to a man (even one I care about sincerely), “If you say the ‘L-word’ or the ‘M-word’, I’m outta here.” (‘L’ being for ‘love’ and ‘M’ being for ‘marriage’ of course.)

So… Here are my questions… Would a ‘physical indiscretion’ end a relationship for you? Ever been celibate by choice? (This topic may get a post of its own soon…) How long would you wait for someone to tell their family about you? Would you ever have or adopt a baby without a partner? Is marriage your end goal to being in a relationship?

I’m interested to know what others have to say about this topic. As MCM would say, “Kettle’s on… Let’s chat about this one over tea….”

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Birthday fun

We took numerous pictures on Friday night, but most of them didn't turn out. (Hhhmmm.... considering Gabriel was taking the pics AND he was the only sober one, maybe we should have let him drink something after all?)

Anyway, here's one of Alia and me (while we were still standing).

Friday night was spent at home with Leah, Alia and Gabriel, with a surprise visit from Meike, the neighbour a few doors down. We ate, drank and then... drank some more. I had a nice bottle of good quality tequila to crack open and share...

Although I enjoy tequila, I don't actually indulge in it much. So for Alia and I to consume enough that we both ended up asleep (some would call it 'passed out', but we are calling it 'asleep') is ... unusual... at least these days. I figured, "Hey, I've been working my ass off these past few months. One night of drinking won't kill me..."

And indeed, it wasn't the drinking, but the hangover...


In our inebriated state, Alia and I promised we'd meet at the gym the next day to clear our heads. Gabriel, being the only sober one in the house, was our witness... and of course, was going to join us.

There was a moment on Saturday when I wasn't quite sure they'd make it, as I stood at the entrance of the gym wondering what the hell we'd been thinking!

But they showed up.

And we worked out.

As best we could anyway...

Remember how I was grumbling about a knee hurting? Yeah... well... now they both hurt when I run. Crap! (No comments about getting old, please!) Anyway, aspirin for the head and ice for the knees and all was well.

Saturday night was spent with another friend, having dinner and more drinks.... with ice pack on the knees, and a cat on my lap. It was delightfully relaxing... Since I drank, there was no driving involved and next thing I knew, there was a hot cup of coffee in front of me to start the day.

(I mean, heck, if you're going to celebrate, it might as well get stretched out over a few days, right?)

And today I had lunch with Leah, and then with dinner with Zoe, Lee and Judy, with phone calls from family and friends sprinkled throughout the day.

And so, it has been a weekend of total and utter indulgence.


I probably should have studied more this weekend... and done more chores... and gone to the grocery store...

But ... Oh well! Life goes on! And I have to say... this self-indulged break has been just what I needed. Now I am definitely motivated to get through these last two weeks of classes with full on energy!

Only two weeks left to the semester! Woo hoo!!!!!

Friday, November 25, 2005

New pet peeve #2 - "Surprise! I brought you a treat!"

The amount of unsolicited food that has shown up in my office over the past month is staggering.

The list includes (but is not limited to): chocolate bars, candy, a large gourmet box of chocolates, pastry, cinnamon buns and home-baked goodies.

The treats come from different sources, some of whom don’t even know each other -- mostly colleagues and friends.

I recognize that I am very, very lucky to be surrounded by people who think about me enough to want to treat me. Wow…

I appreciate and am truly grateful for your friendship, love and generosity. But lately I’ve been positively overwhelmed with little gifts of high-calorie food here and there. I try to share it around, but still… there’s just been too much lately.

Please… enough with the junk food already. Although it hasn’t come to it yet, I’m starting to feel that ‘unsolicited junk food’ may have to go the way of ‘unsolicited junk mail’… in the garbage. Not because I don’t appreciate it… but because I’m overwhelmed by it.

In fact, I’m going to go one step further and ask you for your help in my quest to have a healthier lifestyle. I know your intentions are good… and you think I’ve earned it, I can afford it now or you just want to share… But please… stop.

Instead of food, you can bring other stuff… an interesting or funny news article, for example. I’m a news junkie and lately, I just haven’t had the time to enjoy much news. A thought-provoking article would be a super treat!

So would a funny cartoon. Anything that makes me laugh (especially at this time of the semester) would be delightful.

Hell, just stopping by the office with a smile and a warm hello is a treat in and of itself. After all… it’s your friendship and support that is what I value most.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Time with the salsa king, David (aka 'Davey J')

This morning I spent the most delightful hour with my friend, mentor, student and teacher, David J.

David was my favorite dance teacher back in my salsa dancing days. In fact, David was hugely responsible for my learning to dance salsa at all. (I had trouble with the salsa beat, among many other things...)

Not surprising is that David is strongly artistically and musically inclined, and also has an intense interest in and affinity for, languages. Ultimately, we ended up having a bit of an exchange - dance lessons for Spanish lessons.

Naturally, these are inter-connected... Spanish language and salsa dancing... One wouldn't exist without the other, pretty much. So, it was a good match.

Now, I don't tend to do these types of exchanges very much because usually one person ends up feeling like they're giving more than they're getting, but somehow David and I were able to work things out fairly and we both ended up learning quite a bit.

We became hugely empathetic to each other as learners, as we saw one another both struggle and progress (often with those two activities being simultaneous) in our quest to learn the new activity.

I haven't seen David in a few years now, but when he called me to say that he's going to Mexico for an international salsa competition next month and asked if I would be interested in a few hours of professional exchange so he could brush up on his Spanish, I accepted immediately.

I reminded him that it is impossible to become fluent in a short period of time, but that we could definitely brush up his language skills.

We had our Spanish lesson this morning. I was impressed with how much he'd remembered and had learned on his own and with other teachers all this time. (We always had an open understanding that other teachers enrich one's learning, not detract from it.)

Like me, David is an armchair philosopher. We ended up talking about things we need and want to learn while we are in 'Earth school', as in "While I'm on earth, my quest is to learn..."

The interesting thing was... even though we haven't seen each other for a few years, what we need and want to learn as human beings still remains the same... we're just a little older now… and a little further down the path.

Anyway, it was a positively delightful hour and I was happy to catch up with a teacher... who became a student... who became a friend. Next Spanish lesson… next week… the day before the plane leaves for Mexico. Olé!

New pet peeve #1 - "How much weight have you lost?!"

So, I'll apologize in advance for this post, but I just have to...

I have two new pet peeves on related (and sensitive) issues. I'll write about them in separate posts. Today's post is about numbers. In short, I don't want to talk about them.

Most of you know that I've been diligently going to the gym for about six months now. It’s part of a lifestyle-change process that has been going on for much longer than that. It includes – but is by no means centered around – shedding excess weight.

My weight has swung wildly up and down over the years, usually tending towards the “up” side of the scale. My goal now is to get to a healthy size and stay there… over the long term.

Notice that this goal does not include a number on the scale.

The goal is actually much harder to define because it includes lifestyle choices, like getting regular exercise, eating properly, getting enough sleep, etc. Even though any of those can be quantified, it’s really all about the “quality” of one’s life. Or that’s my take on it, anyway.

I’m guessing that just about anyone who starts out heavy, and then incorporates regular exercise into their life will shed pounds. So, the fact that I’ve lost some weight is not surprising. I should, considering where I started at.

My new pet peeve is when otherwise well-meaning people feel compelled to ask about the numbers. For example, “You’re looking great. How much weight have you lost?”

Forget it.

I won’t discuss the numbers with most people (and especially not if you ask.)

In case you’re wondering why, here are the reasons:

  • I don’t want to obsess about the number on the scale. As I am learning, having a healthy body involves more than weight. At one point my trainer warned me that I might actually gain weight due to increased muscle mass. That hasn’t happened (yet!) but hopefully, if it ever does, I’ll be at a point where it won’t freak me out.
  • In my experience, a discussion centred around numbers will often lead to comparisons. I don’t want to compare myself to anyone else, and I won’t facilitate others’ comparison of themselves to me in this regard, either. Every body is different. (And yes, I wrote "every body" as two words for a reason.)

This “obsession with not being obsessed” by numbers is relatively new for me… But it is a conscious choice on my part to be discreet about it.

Don’t worry, I know exactly what the numbers are. I weigh myself twice a week.... But probably not for the reason that you think.

I know what is a reasonable about of weight to lose in a week and I get on the scale mid-week to see how I’m doing. Sometimes I’ve lost too much weight by mid-week I have to actually increase my calories so I don’t lose too much too fast. (I’ve done this in the past too…) It’s part of the process to stop the wild yo-yo effect. I try to keep the process balanced... and consistent.

This is a huge learning curve for me… learning what, when, how much and how often to eat… balance it with exercise, getting enough sleep, and making sure I incorporate some fun into most (if not every!) day. Oh yeah... and be a full-time student and work while I'm at it.... It’s not a perfect process, but rather ... a life’s work.

So about my new pet peeve….

You would never say to someone, “You’re looking horrible. How much weight have you gained?”

That question is not socially acceptable, so why should the reverse question be?

If you feel the need to say something, then a simple positive or encouraging comment – without a follow up question -- would be delightful. But even that’s not necessary. :-)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Fun with anagrams

Someone just sent me one of those funny Power Point Presentations.

I'll spare you the details, but there was one gem in there that I just had to share:


spelled backwards:


Now how's that for quirky?!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Beer with the boys


After class tonight, Steamer, Gary and I made our weekly pilgrimage over to the Grad Lounge, where we typically enjoy a beverage and break bread together after our philosophy class.

The two of them tower over me and I’m sure we’re quite the sight trooping across campus together, but who cares? None of us certainly do!

Sometimes others join us and once, I bowed out to focus writing on that paper that was worth 50% of my grade in the other course, but generally, it’s the three of us hanging out after class.

We debrief on the class, toss around some ideas, talk about our papers… We enjoy this “student” time. None of us lead typical “student” lives, so these moments when we can kick back and exchange ideas in a relaxed way are precious.

We are all first-year doctoral students and tonight we realized that we are in the home stretch of this first fall semester. There is a light that we can faintly see at the end of the tunnel and boy, does it look good!

Oh yeah, baby! Almost there...

Revelation (or... How Spanish class is like going to the gym...)

So, I've just had a meeting with a student. He's a good kid; comes to class every single day with his homework done, asks intelligent questions and pays attention, participates in class activities and is both respectful and polite.

This is a smart kid and a good student.

And he's doing horribly.

His marks just keep going down. A few times in class he's indicated that he just doesn't get certain concepts and will turn to a classmate for help.

I've been teaching long enough to know that this could either mean that I am not explaining things effectively or that he'll simply understand it better if it's explained by a peer, rather than someone "above" him.

When this happens, I usually do a quick survey of the class and if everyone else seems to get it, I let G. ask the fellow next to him and then check up on him later, while the students are involved in an activity and I can circulate around and answer questions.

Today G. came up to me after class and asked for help.

On his last test I wrote something to the effect of, “You can do this! Come and see me and we’ll go over this together.” But I heard nothing... until today.

It happened that I had nothing specifically scheduled after class (except my own work), so we spent an hour going over his previous tests, reviewing his mistakes and talking about study strategies. He explained to me that not only does he do all his homework, but he also has a tutor now, who helps him twice a week.

He told me that his entire apartment is covered in Post-it notes filled with verb conjugations. He even went into his wallet and pulled out a sample of one that he carries with him to study. He told me that Spanish takes more of his time than the rest of his courses combined and he’s frustrated because he’s not seeing results.

He’s also never taken a language before (except once, in grade eight, when it was mandatory) and he loves math… says he’s getting straight A’s in calculus, which impressed me all to hell, being someone who stinks at math herself.

And he was quite open about the fact that his confidence in this course has plummeted. He’s at his wit’s end and doesn’t know what to do… but he really doesn’t want to drop the course at this point in the semester.

He comes across as a bright, strong, confident young man with a good head on his shoulders. Through the conversation it came out that not only does he have a full course load, he also works part time and this is his first semester living away from his family and on his own. In addition to school life, he’s learning to cook and manage how to live on his own. All kinds of changes for this kid at this point in his young life!

It dawned on me that there are some parallels between young G. and me… struggling to learn something new…. Overcome negative perceptions from previous mandatory classes in a subject… diligence and determination that are diminished by low self-confidence and escalating frustration levels. Hhhmm… sounded a lot like me with exercise!

So, I said, “Do you feel like you’re getting to the point where you’re so frustrated you want to just walk away?”

G - “Oh yeah!”

Me - “And like everything you do is wrong and you don’t know how to get it right?”

G - “Yup! I mean… I come to class. I study. I conjugate. I do all my homework. … And I bomb on the tests. I put in so much time … and you’d never know it… My test results are crappy.”

Me – “Mmm…. Yeah… I understand.” (And I did, really I did – just in the context of exercise, not Spanish!) So I said, “If it makes you feel any better, I can see that you’re working hard. I've been at this long enough that it is obvious to me when someone works hard or just doesn't give a damn. You're definitely putting in the effort... Let’s see if we can make sense of this for you…”

We met for over an hour, going over his tests in detail. We also talked a little bit about study strategies and what kind of learner he might be. Ultimately, I recommended that he clean up his apartment, taking down all the sticky notes, instead organizing his notes into clear, systematic and ordered charts, tables and lists. We figured out that he likes it when things are organized and orderly and when there is a clear system or formula to follow. So, I said, “OK, let’s just take that and apply it to Spanish. You need to find a way for this to make sense to you personally and if order and organization is what you like, then use that.”

By the end of the meeting, G. left armed with some new study strategies and seemed to feel a bit better. His confidence is still low, but at least he knows that his teacher has no intention of letting an otherwise good student slip through the cracks. We have an agreement that he can come by for help whether it is official office hours or not.

After the meeting, I spent time going through my stash of workbooks photocopying extra practice activities for him… stuff other students got weeks ago, and he still needs to grasp it. The main difference between him with his Spanish and me with my exercise is that he’s got a final exam to write in three weeks’ time. Ouch!

I told him that he'd put in a lot of time already today and to take tonight off from studying Spanish... that his verbs would still be there in the morning. He liked that idea and left with a smile.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

More thoughts on exercise (Part two)

A friend of mine is having money troubles. (I know, I know, you're thinking, "What does this have to do with exercise?" Well, just work with me here for a minute...)

I told him that I know of very few people who haven’t had money troubles, at some point in their lives, so he’s not alone. I told him I’d been there myself. And then... about five years ago, I started on a journey to learn about money – how to manage it, how to save it and invest it and how to “make friends with it”. We never had much money growing up, so this was a new thing for me.

Me being me, I started to read everything I could get my hands on. And… me being me… I didn’t understand most of the books with a strong focus on numbers and math. (Go figure… money… math!)

But there were two books that totally spoke to me. One was Robert Kiyosaki’s,
Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The other was Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicky Robin. Both of these books talked about aligning your values as a human being with money, challenging the reader to re-think old beliefs and develop new ways of thinking. I’d recommend either of those books to anyone interested in learning about how to manage their money better.

I learned to be happy with my choices because I learned to line up my values as a human being with how I made, saved and spent my money. It took a few years and I had to completely “re-wire” my brain in the process, but I got there.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m hardly rolling in it. I’m a student and I live lean. That’s a choice I made when I decided to go back to school. The difference is that now I see it as a choice, rather than a hardship. Hence, I’m quite OK with “living lean”.

It occurred to me that I have not been able to align exercise with my values yet. I have only ever seen exercise as a means to lose weight. Now, I’m trying desperately not to focus on the number on the scale and to see exercise as something else.

But what?

Health? Balance? What do those mean, really?

I know that in the big scheme of things, I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a relatively normal, healthy body that can perform most movements (however awkwardly) and while it is far (very far indeed!) from being perfect, it generally works well.

But in talking to my friend with money woes it occurred to me that the only long-term way to change our relationship to anything requires replacing old ways of thinking with new ways of thinking. You challenge what you’ve always thought and done and create new ways of thinking, living …essentially... a new way of being.

Part of the process is asking, “What’s important to me?... And why is it important?”

There are no right answers, but there are answers.

I’ve just had a light bulb go off in my head this week… I need to figure out what it is about exercise and fitness that is important to me… and why. (If I don't, I'm sure I will throw in the towel soon!)

I’m not there yet… but watch this space for developments!

Feel free to share your comments, by the way. Hearing what others think helps the reflection process greatly, so feedback is most welcome.

Friday, November 18, 2005

More thoughts on exercise (Part one)

I have been doing a good deal of soul-searching this week about what being healthy (and fit) means to me… I don’t have any definitive answers. And you may have to indulge me with a few more postings as I work this out in my head…

Here’s Part One – Reflections on childhood and youth experiences with exercise…

  • I always hated gym class… mostly because it was my weakest subject (no pun intended). Like most people, I typically gravitate towards what I’m good at. I was never good at sports and so naturally, I stayed away from them.
  • In those obligatory annual fitness tests in school, I usually came in dead last in everything – making me hate gym class (and fitness tests) even more. I dropped gym class from my schedule the first chance I got.

In high school I did some long distance running… I decided I wanted to run a marathon. I mustered up the courage to go talk to the track coach about it, he just looked at me and said, “I don’t think that’s a very good idea.” And he refused to have any part of it.

So, I asked my English teacher (also a long distance runner) instead. She gave me some tips and then I just went and ran my little heart out… blindly. Most of the time, I had no freaking idea what I was doing and it's a wonder to God that I didn't seriously hurt myself.

After the marathon the English teacher, Coach and I curiously ended up in the same hallway at the same time one day after school. Mrs. Williams said, “The marathon was on the weekend. I saw Sarah there. She did O.K.”

Well... she lied a little bit. I was the second last person to finish the race. The guy behind me was howling at the paramedics, “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!” Knowing he’d be disqualified if he was assisted. Me, I was just slow.

My time was about 4:44, I think. I’d have to look it up to be exact. Anyway, the course closed at 5 hours, so I was cutting it close. That was almost 20 years ago and it was a small marathon in Halifax. There weren’t as many people running or walking marathons then and it wasn’t so unusual for a course to close after 5 hours back then… Supposedly, you didn’t even think of doing a marathon unless you were a “real” runner.

Anyway, Coach’s reaction in the hallway was, “Didn’t think you’d do it, kid. You’ve got pluck. I’ll give ya that.” And he walked away.

So, when I look back at these experiences with exercise as a young person, I can see that there’s not a lot of positives to look back on.

No wonder I was happier with my nose in the books!

Now, in my 30’s, I’m trying to create a balanced, healthy life (and lifestyle), that includes regular exercise. I realize that I am still very much affected by these early gym class experiences.

I am consciously trying to create a life that balances mind, body, soul, emotions and whatever else one can balance. My question is… How do I balance those early negative experiences with current good experiences so I can maintain this over the long term??

The irony of all this, of course, is that as I'm thinking about this, I realize that I am of course... thinking (inside my head again!) Mind you, at least I'm trying to think while maintaining good posture...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

One of those "get to know you" e-mails...

I just got this for the ump-teenth time on e-mail. I rarely fill them out, but because this one came from Ana, I'll do it... Here goes....

1. First name? Sarah

2. Were you named after anyone? Middle name (Elaine), after my cousin.

3. Do you wish on stars? Not really…

4. When did you last cry? Last week (and I hated every second of it!)

5. Do you like your handwriting? Not really…

6. Chocolate or vanilla? Usually chocolate, but a really good quality vanilla is hard to resist

7. What is your birth date? As IF I’m going to share that here! (I'll give you a hint though... my birthday is coming up!)

8. What is your most embarrassing CD? Depends who you ask… I’m not embarrassed by any of them. :-)

9. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you? Oh yeah, baby!

10. Do you have a journal? This blog.

11. Do you use sarcasm a lot? Often enough.

12. What is your nickname? Depends who you ask.

13. Would you bungee jump? Not a chance.

14. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? Always.

15. Do you think you are strong? Yes.

16. What is your favourite ice cream flavour? Hazelnut gelato.

17. What is your least favourite thing about yourself? Don’t get me started!

18. Who do you miss most? Mum.

19. Do you want everyone you send this to, to send it back? Considering that I’m not sending it out, it’s a bit of a moot point, isn’t it?

20. Sleeping arrangements? In a bed, usually…

21. What colour pants and shoes are you wearing? Dark blue jeans, burgundy boots.

22. What are you listening to right now? The sounds of the class going on down the hall.

23. Last thing you ate? One of my housemate’s cookies.

24. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Dunno really… It’d be hard to choose! There are so many nice colours… but probably periwinkle.

25. What is the weather like right now? Cold.

26. Last person you talked to on the phone? Dave.

27. Do you like the person who sent this to you? For sure!

28. Favourite Drink? Tequila

29. Favourite Sport? --Me? Sports? Have you not been following this blog? I do like Latin dance though...

30. Hair Colour? Brown (with grey - ack!)

31. Eye Colour? Brown(ish) - lots of green(ish) in there, too, though.

32. Do you wear contacts? Nope, thanks to laser eye surgery.

33. Favourite Food? Again - don’t get me started! There’s not much I don’t like.

34. Favourite Day Of The Year? How about -- today! (We shouldn't really discriminate now, should we?... I am thinking of that Great Big Sea song, "Just an ordinary day."... Way, hey, hey!)

35. Scary Movies Or Happy Endings? Neither – I prefer movies that make me think – or laugh – or both.

36. Summer or Winter? Summer

37. Hugs or Kisses? Both (Duh!)

38. What Is your Favourite Dessert? Lemon meringue pie.

39. Who Is Most Likely To Respond? Moot point (though if anyone wanted to pick it up and post it on their own blog, that’d be cool… and I was inspired by someone else’s blog to post this… Was it Mollie?)

40. Who Is Least Likely To Respond? Moot point again!

41. Living Arrangements? With a house mate and 2 cats.

42. What Books Are You Reading right now? I have about 5 on the go… all for school, except one on running.

43. What's On Your Mouse Pad? My mouse.

44. What Did You Watch Last night on TV? CSI Miami.

45. Favourite Smells? certain colognes, toast, popcorn.

46. Favourite Sounds? Laughter... with Latin music coming in a close second.

47. Rolling Stones or Beatles? Depends how I’m feeling... but usually the Beatles.

48. What's the furthest you've been from home? Which is further away from Calgary – Switzerland or Venezuela?

49. Do you have a special talent? Lots! But if I had to pick just one… I’m a damned fine cook... not much time for it these days though...

50. What is your cell ring tone? ‘Clocks’ by Coldplay (which I'm sure will thrill "CM" to bits...)

OK, now it' s your turn....

Monday, November 14, 2005

What's your learning style?

The last post got me thinking about learning styles. Having been a teacher for more than 12 years, I have done various workshops on learning styles. The first step is always to figure out what kind of learner you are, and then to have a look at what you’re not. The end goal, of course, is to try to figure out way to reach those students whose learning styles don’t mesh with yours, and to try to incorporate a variety of teaching styles into your methods.

I’ve always been aware that one of my weaknesses as a teacher is appealing to the kinesthetic/tactile learners in my classes. I have to make a conscious effort to include activities that will help them learn best… and it is always a challenge!

Anyway, for your own enjoyment, here are a few sites complete with learning style tests, so you can figure out your own learning style preferences (if you don’t already know them!)

I tested all these sites just to see what the differences were. They all seemed reasonable.

http://www.ldpride.net/learning_style.html - This site wants your name and e-mail addy. I just put in bogus info and it still gave me the results.

http://www.learning-styles-online.com/ - same as above, except that they’ll also ask you for a password. Just enter whatever and then click to see your results. (I was almost off-the-scale verbal on that one! Interesting!)

Here’s another one here:
http://www.ncsu.edu/felder-public/ILSpage.html and this page has the learning styles test: http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Struggles with exercise... (not "feeling" the moves...)

So, if you've been following this blog, you know that I started trying to get some regular exercise, starting about the time I knew I'd be going back to school in the fall. I struggled with feeling completely overwhelmed and intimidated about even going into the gym and it constantly felt like I was taking one step forward and two steps backward.

I hired a trainer, who showed me some machines, stretches and designed a program I could work through.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that the last training session left me a little frustrated. That was an understatement, actually.

That last session has been playing on my mind ever since it happened last Tuesday. There's something that I can't put my finger on, but I'm very close to throwing in the towel, so to speak, and just saying, "Screw it! I'm quite happy living in my head. To hell with trying to have a fit body, too!"

The problem arose when we were going through the workout and I was attempting to do the one free weight exercise I'd been shown.

I don't do it right.

Worse yet... I don't know what is "right" (as in, correct form or position) and what is not. I struggled with it. Chris struggled to get me to understand. And it didn't work.

He asked something to the effect of, "Can't you feel whether it's right or not?" ("It" being either the weight or my body or both.)

In any case, the answer was, "Er... no!"

I made the mistake of telling him that I simply try to mimic what I see and memorize what's written down on my sheets of notes. The thought of trying to "feel" anything never really crossed my mind before.

My trainer seemed flabbergasted. He took it for granted that I "felt" when things were either "right" or "wrong". I took it for granted that I memorized my sheets of notes and perhaps "heard" (as in, replayed in my head) the verbal tips he'd given me for corrections in our sessions. We simply took different things for granted and realized that we had completely different understandings of "training".

I asked, "What's wrong with just memorizing what is written down on my sheets?"

He didn't really seem to know what to say, other than, "That's not where I want to go with this. You should feel it." He did say that was something that came so naturally to him that it was hard for him to understand that it wasn't that way for me... kind of looking at me in a way that said, "How can you not get this?"

Those words were never said... but...

I felt about two inches tall. I felt like saying, "I'm not stupid, you know!" But I didn't... I did, however, "feel" embarrassed... even ashamed. I suddenly felt as if I'd let out some deep, dark secret... that I didn't even know was something bad!

Don't get me wrong... Chris is very professional and is a good trainer. I am quite sure he had no bad intentions. He just seemed genuinely puzzled.

This has been playing on my mind a good deal. I have come to the following conclusions:

1) I always knew that my "learning preferences" or "learning styles" were primarily visual and then auditory. I prefer to gather information by reading, then by hearing it. (This is probably one of the reasons I like having my iPod with me when I exercise... the auditory input of the music helps me to focus and enjoy the activity more...) Kinesthetic learning is not something that comes easily to me. I simply do not process kinesthetic information very well -- and apparently, I'm worse at it than I thought!

2) I really have no idea what it means to "feel" whether I'm doing an exercise right or wrong. (Do any of you? Am I really a freak?!)

3) I am completely frustrated and I feel even more incompetent now than when I started training. No one told me about this part of "training"! I thought training was just that -- training -- as in, train the muscles to do certain things. No one said anything about "feeling" it. I don't get that -- and I feel nauseatingly stupid that I don't get it.

The fact that I have a new throbbing pain in my left knee has got me thinking that this "feeling" in my knee might be a sign from above that maybe getting fit is not for me after all...

"Shalom y'all"

A few weeks back, Leah asked if I'd be interested in joining her at a the Calgary Jewish Film Festival. I said sure and today Leah, Dave and I went to see a movie called Shalom Y'all. It's about being a Jew in the Deep South of the U.S. It was both funny and enlightening.

Afterwards we had a good conversation about the movie, and though there were many points we did not necessarily agree on, we did agree that often we are limited by our own experiences and ignorance. No matter how far we travel, or how much we study, there are some things that remain outside our scope of what we know. Every now and then it's worthwhile to venture out and learn about something new.

Friday, November 11, 2005

And out of the woodwork...one ex came a-crawling...

Remember those posts a while back about how I love letters? Well, I'm half tempted to change that...

I got home yesterday and in amongst the junk mail and bills there was a letter from my ex (yes, for those of you who know who I'm talking about, it was from C).

It was almost a year to the day that I had a conversation with him that went something like this: "Please don't ever call me, e-mail me or come by the house again. In fact, don't ever contact me again. We're done."

And I walked away.

I wasn't a bitch about it. I didn't scream or yell. I looked him in the eye and was gentle, but firm -- and very honest and clear. There was no way I could have been more direct.

And so, what's in this letter?

An invitation to go for coffee!

Just in case you're wondering -- NO! It's not going to happen. Not in a million years.

But what part of "Don't ever contact me again" is unclear, I ask??

Thursday, November 10, 2005


This morning Leah shared a poem with me by Jorge Luis Borges that was just what I needed. We have both studied and teach Spanish and I said to her, "It seems very un-Borges, to me... but then again, I'm no expert on Borges."

I did a bit of an Internet search to find a translation of the poem to post here for your reading enjoyment and it does seem as if the authorship of the original Spanish is doubted (actually, it's called a hoax, but you know...)

Anyway, despite the fact that we don't know who wrote it, the words went straight to my soul this morning and so, I thought I'd share them with you here:


If I could live my life over again,

In the next I would try to make more mistakes,
I wouldn't try to be so perfect,
I'd be more relaxed,
I'd be more full than I am now,
In fact, I'd take fewer things seriously,
I'd be less hygenic,
I'd take more risks,
I'd take more trips,
I'd watch more sunsets,
I'd climb more mountains,
I'd swim more rivers,
I'd go to more places I've never been,
I'd eat more ice creams and less Lima beans
I'd have more real problems - and less imaginary ones,
I was one of those people who lived prudently and prolificly
each minute of his life
Of course I had moments of joy
but if I could go back
I'll try to have only good moments
If you don't know - that's what life is made of
Don't lose the now!
I was one of those who never goes anywhere without a thermometer
without a hot-water bottle
and without an umberella and without a parachute,
If I could live again - I will travel light
If I could live again
I'll try to work bare feet at the beginning of spring till the end of autumn
I'll ride more carts
I'll watch more sunrises and play with more children
If I had the life to live
but now I am 85
and I know that I am dying ...

- Jorge Luis Borges (??)
(Translator unknown)


Si pudiera vivir nuevamente mi vida.
En la próxima trataría de cometer más errores.
No intentaría ser tan perfecto, me relajaría más.
Sería más tonto de lo que he sido, de hecho
tomaría muy pocas cosas con seriedad.
Sería menos higiénico.
Correría más riesgos, haría más viajes, contemplaría
más atardeceres, subiría más montañas, nadaría más ríos.
Iría a más lugares adonde nunca he ido, comería
más helados y menos habas, tendría más problemas
reales y menos imaginarios.
Yo fui una de esas personas que vivió sensata y prolíficamente
cada minuto de su vida; claro que tuve momentos de alegría.
Pero si pudiera volver atrás trataría de tener
solamente buenos momentos.
Por si no lo saben, de eso está hecha la vida, sólo de momentos;
no te pierdas el ahora.
Yo era uno de esos que nunca iban a ninguna parte sin termómetro,
una bolsa de agua caliente, un paraguas y un paracaídas;
Si pudiera volver a vivir, viajaría más liviano.
Si pudiera volver a vivir comenzaría a andar descalzo a principios
de la primavera y seguiría así hasta concluir el otoño.
Daría más vueltas en calesita, contemplaría más amaneceres
y jugaría con más niños, si tuviera otra vez la vida por delante.
Pero ya tengo 85 años y sé que me estoy muriendo.
- Jorge Luis Borges (??)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Break ___________ (Fill in the blank)

I picked up a book on running a while back and in it I found a wise saying... that there is a fine line between a complete breakthrough and a complete breakdown.

I've been walking that line this week -- in more ways than one.

In a couple of hours I'll be handing in my first paper in this Ph.D. program that actually counts for marks. Not only is it for marks, it is worth 50% of the final grade.

Have I been stressing?


Just about gone off the freaking deep end?

Oh ya!

The other day Leah shouted her usual "Good morning!" from her room after she woke up.

I just groaned.

"What's wrong?!" She asked.

"I hate school! Why did I ever think I could do this? They made a mistake when they admitted me. I can't do this..."

I've never hated school in my life! In fact, I'm one of those geeks that loves school.

And I don't hate it now. Truth be told, I'm loving my two courses... but I feel like I'm living inside a pressure cooker at the moment... and that's just not fun.

My classmate, Steamer, did point out that much of this is self-inflicted.

And he's right... sigh...

I'm a perfectionist... which often leads me closer to breakdown and only very rarely to breakthrough.

And it's only the first semester. God help me.

Working out -- which was supposed to keep me sane -- has come with its own frustrations this week. Yesterday's training session just about left me in tears (though, as per my nature, I would rather die than cry!) I keep trying these new exercises and lack the ability to do them properly -- and I don't know how to get it right. I'm probably just too stressed at the moment to absorb new activities, especially physical ones... I'm much more comfortable "living in my head" than in my body, it seems.

I'm so glad it's a long weekend! I will catch up on reading and catch up on "Sarah time with friends", many of whom have been neglected these past few weeks and the friendships need nurturing.

So, this weekend is dedicated to bringing back some balance and taking good long deep breaths, followed by some deep belly laughs while celebrating with friends... And maybe some tequila is even in order this weekend... Oh yeah...

Monday, November 07, 2005

9 of 13

Back at the beginning of the semester, I set up my week-by-week calendar, writing in all my non-negotiable commitments: classes I take, the class I teach, obligatory office hours, etc. Everything else gets slotted in around those.

I also made a small notation at the top of each weekly page, as to many weeks we are into the semester. As of today, we are starting week nine of a total of thirteen weeks. Just over a month left to the first semester! Yaay!

Luckily, this is a short week, with no classes on Thursday or Friday. I'm behind in my readings, so I'll have my nose in the books this weekend, but at least it's a relief to know there will be time to catch up.

And now... back to that paper that's due on Wednesday... and worth 50% of the final grade in the course. Nothing like a little pressure to get things done...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Neighbours fight (again!) - called 911 this time

So, in case you're wondering why I'm blogging at this ungodly hour, it's because I can't get back to sleep. I was woken up about an hour ago -- again! -- by the neighbours next door. I live in an attached townhouse and these 20-something kids who moved in next door are generally quiet... except when they fight.

This time I woke up again to screams of him calling her names that will not be reapeated here, and her screaming, "No! Please stop! Leave me alone!" and crying -- uncontrollably crying. This is usually followed by thumping, banging, running and more thumping.

This is the third time in a month I've woken up to these sounds. This time I thought, "Right, enough is enough." And I called 911.

After I called the police, the screaming escalated. For the first time, I actually heard her scream, "Help me! Somebody, please.... help me."

I just thought, "Hang on, honey... Help is on the way."

The police came and all went silent. The police knocked and knocked on the door and finally I went out and said to them, "Don't go. Theyr'e in there. They just got quiet when you arrived."

It took the police half an hour to get inside, but they did.

I was saddened, but not terribly surprised, when the police came back after a few minutes to say that there no blood and everything appeared to be fine. Her life is not in danger.

All I could think was ... maybe not this time.

Snow on Nov. 2

Better late than never! Much of the snow has melted now... but not all of it!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Snow in Calgary

I've been away from the blog-o-sphere for a few days, as it has been positively hectic.

We had a big dump of snow the night before last. I took some photos but haven't had time to download them yet. Will soon....

My car was grumbling in a pained way the night of the snow. (Brakes? Tires?) It doesn't seem to like stopping on ice very much. The tires are brand new this year, so we'll have to see what the problem is. I just got it in April, having bought it from my older brother and his wife, who were the original owners. I know they took care of it, so hopefully it's just maintenance stuff.

So yesterday, I took the bus, opting to leave the car in the driveway. The roads out of my community were positively nasty yesterday and I was just as happy to let someone else do the driving.

Needless to say, the outdoor run did not happen. The streets were too icy and much as I was itching to get outside, I decided that would not be so smart. So… 25 laps around the track it was. At least I managed to count them right!

The roads seem a bit better now, so unless it snows again, maybe I’ll get outside for a run on the weekend.

Will try to post pictures of the snow soon…