Monthly Archives: March 2013

Memory games

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My memory is my weakness.

Some images are recurring and I get fixated and obsessive about keeping them, analysing them, guessing why I get to keep these instead of others. Some of them I wish I could trade because I know there must be better ones floating around somewhere that could enhance my life and happiness, while the vivid ones that crowd my brain make me angry and cynical or filled with guilt and regret. Others are gentle, sweet, fleeting glimpses of the past that make me nostalgic for moments and relationships lost and mostly forgotten. I think about memory quality and memory loss often.

When I was a Christian (I was a child) Easter was my favourite holiday. Although it holds no spiritual significance for me now, I made a conscious effort today to remember Easter when it still meant so much. I don’t remember the bible stories, but I know that Easter = resurrection, and bible stories are generally frightening, so that’s probably all I need to know…

I do remember some beautiful things about Easter church services: sun shining through the stained glass, people shaking hands, the taste of the communion wafer, and a feeling that I could die then and I would be certain to go to heaven. The rest of the time, I was constantly afraid that I would not get into heaven (I think this contributed to melancholy and insomnia), and I associate church at Easter with calming reassurances that I could make it.

Easter morning! Baskets filled with candy! Easter egg hunts! I remember my Mom smiling. She thrives on making kids happy, and she does it well.

I remember family Easter dinners. An assortment of relatives would arrive at my family’s duplex. My parents, my sister and I lived on one side and my grandparents (just my grandmother after I was seven), my cousin and an elderly relative my grandmother cared for in the other. Easter was one of the days where we opened the doors wide and our home became lively and full of love. Being a child meant I was free from the tensions that likely existed between the adults at the time, and felt only pleasure at the visitors and extra attention. I remember a fuzzy, sunny warmth that smelled like ham.

I appreciate these memories. Easter is different now. I mean, it should be, since I don’t believe in the story behind it and I have no kids that I could stuff chocolate into and have family time with. Still, it is nice that I can bring these thoughts with me while I share friendship and a feast with my lovely chosen family this weekend.

I’m glad I took the time to force myself to remember all that I could, despite how frustrated I get with my memory. I’m going to keep the good stuff (hopefully writing it here will solidify this).

I think I might do an Easter egg hunt this year, too.

You’re never too old for a blanket fort

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Sometimes when I am overwhelmed by too much work, I have to do something completely unrelated or I will shut down. Like this recent blanket fort. I was distracted to the point of mental paralysis until I took some time out to build this monster, set up a work space inside it for me and the cats, brew some tea and get settled in. Finally I could work!

The view from inside:

The view from inside

Fyodor getting all the work done!

On days like today, when I’m feeling completely useless and unproductive, remembering stuff like this relieves a little bit of unnecessary stress.

Some things you can eat after you get your wisdom teeth out while you obsess over solid food and a cigarette

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Wisdom teeth are gone and my mouth is basically ripped apart. I spent the past weekend in a haze of painkillers and nicotine withdrawal. I’m trying to hold off on smoking because I have had so many problems with my teeth, I don’t need more infection and I’m terrified of dry socket. I also do want to quit smoking at some point, but I don’t think I did it right this time. It’s been 3 days now; I doubt I’ll make it another full day. Since all I can think about is food and a cigarette, I’m going to post about the food I’ve eaten since the surgery. Food is so delicious while I’m drugged up and with my senses of taste and smell returning!

I have no idea whether this is common, but I was starving as soon as I got home from the hospital. I wanted to eat immediately! My first meal was (cold) instant mashed potatoes, sour cream, mashed avocado with olive oil, cottage cheese and some lemon meringue pie without the crust. Somehow, this meal tasted magnificent. I’d eat it again (but remember I’m still on some painkillers right now).

Other food I’ve eaten and recommend for post-wisdom tooth extraction:

  • red pepper and tomato soup with a few slices of melted grated cheese
  • tiny pieces of bread squished up, dipped in hummus and swallowed whole
  • pureed carrots with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy
  • lentil soup, pureed, with plain yogurt

Any and all of these meals should be served with the aforementioned mashed avocado.

Well, that’s all I got for today. I’m going to go stuff my mouth with food instead of a cigarette and then pout. Next post I’ll be less of a downer (and I’ll likely be full of nicotine! Yippee!)

Electroshock: shaping my life for over a decade

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Today I feel accomplished. A thesis proposal meeting doesn’t sound like something that could be very exciting, but after getting my research approved, I actually feel like I’m doing something. I feel pride (maybe a little too much, gotta keep that ego in check), and such a strong sense that I am where I belong. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate my self-doubt and start to give myself more credit.

My thesis focuses on accounts of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Full disclosure: I have had shock, I think about it a lot, and I want to keep learning about it forever. I want to learn about so many other things, too, like neoliberalism, Foucault, feminist theory, politics, cross-stitch… the list is basically endless. But ECT is my thing, you know? It has shaped my life, and I can’t see that changing.

But I’ll write about my experience of shock and the fallout another time. I want to soon, but it takes a lot of preparation (emotional and intellectual) to talk about it, and I’m reading/writing about it so much as it is (again, it’s my Master’s thesis topic), and today is a day for celebration! I got such valuable feedback, and it seems like people are genuinely interested in my research. I have been working so hard and pouring my heart into it, that it’s a relief to see that people care!

Some advice for people writing a thesis: choose your advisors thoughtfully. I absolutely believe that I have the best thesis committee ever, and they, along with so much love from my friends and family, have made emotionally-tiring work possible and enjoyable.

I’m getting my wisdom teeth out tomorrow, so I won’t be able to ride this natural high where everything just feels right for very long, but I’m going to enjoy what’s left. I picked up these comics to celebrate, and so I have something to read while I’m in bed the next couple of days:

fairesty the last man

I hope everyone else had an equally excellent day!

Wanted: advice from people who teach

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I’m not a teacher (yet), but it’s my someday goal. A little background info:

I feel comfortable, though maybe a bit isolated sometimes, in academia. This is not to say I have no experience in the “real world”- I worked in fast food for four years after High School, and only went to get my undergrad degree after an inspiring stint as a kindergarten assistant. I don’t normally like kids, but 5-year olds are actually the best people, and they made me realize that I wanted to work with people who want to learn.

My first degree was followed by a couple years in the soul-sucking, factory-like setting of the Value Village back room. To clarify, I have 13 years of experience as a minimum wage employee, and this is the most shady, unethical employer I’ve encountered (a story for another time). Fortunately, in an effort to avoid more experiences like this, I applied to a Master’s program that looked like it would give me both support and freedom to do research that I felt was important, and I hoped for the best. I was so happy to get accepted and be provided with sufficient financial resources to make going to school a reality, and the last two years in this program have been amazing. I don’t want to leave.

The understanding that this is where I am meant to be is both calming and frightening. It’s unlikely that I’ll find work in my field if I don’t go on to get a Ph.D, so that is clearly the next step, and I still have a year or so to choose my next move. However, I will be on the lookout for teaching-related positions, and I want to be as prepared as possible.

Right now I’m taking a course in teaching in a university setting. So far it has been incredibly helpful, and last week I had my first pretend-teaching experience (not counting the KA job or an enrichment program I designed for sixth-graders, both of which probably taught me more than the kids whom I worked with…) I was lecturing to real adults!

I can’t explain how important I felt it was that I did it right. Lecture-style is not my preferred teaching method, but I know it will be a necessary skill to have, so I gave it a try. And it seems I did do alright, I got helpful feedback, and people seemed very interested in the subject (electroconvulsive therapy). But I have regret that I am working within a feminist framework and didn’t make it clear where I stood on the issue and why I’m so passionate about it, and I’ve had an unsettling feeling ever since. I feel like I’ve kind of betrayed my “teaching philosophy”, contradicted myself, or become a hypocrite, or… something.

I would love to get some feedback, not necessarily just from people who are teachers by profession, but also people who happen to teach in any job or aspect of life (I am a believer that most learning takes place outside the classroom,  but that school provides entry points into new areas of knowledge and access to different perspectives). The question I am sending out into the social/cyber world is this: what strategies do you use to deal with feelings of inadequacy or anxieties about your teaching?

I thought this was about a cat who solved crime! My disappointing glimpse into the world of detective novels

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So… this is a real book.

In fact, it’s part of a series of books starring a very privileged man and his two siamese cats. My partner found it at the Salvation Army and brought it home for me (because of the title) and I couldn’t resist reading it. Since my job is basically academic research, it’s nice to have something to read before bed that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower. That being said, this is a pretty bad book, but I did read the whole thing…

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Like me, Couplan is unimpressed

The main character, Qwilleran, does whatever he wants. He’s rich and the whole town thinks he’s just great. Everyone loves his mustache (the mustache is a supporting character–it wiggles when something suspicious is happening). I mean, this guy is at the scene of a woman’s death and then he is just allowed to live in her house, no questions asked. He finds a murder weapon in the barn outside the house, and nothing. He is never a suspect. Why the special treatment, creepy guy? He’s also given valuable heirlooms and the secret to a one-hundred year old mystery because he has an honest face.

All the women are after him, but for the most part he believes them to be boring and dumb, or just after his money. There is one special lady, a librarian, but he gets annoyed with her when she gets a new kitten and starts talking baby talk. It’s ok when he does it, though, because his cats are superior…

Despite the intriguing title, Qwilleran’s cats don’t do much of anything except knock some books over, eat a dead lady’s leftover food, use the bathroom in a turkey roaster, and cry (like siamese do). Then again, an earlier book in the series is actually called The Cat Who Sniffed Glue, so, you know, there’s that. My cats are way more awesome and detective-like, and they talk to imaginary people all the time! They deserve a series (just sayin’).

I probably won’t read another detective novel, but this actually sounds kind of interesting:

Next time

Reflections on being a woman and a feminist

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Happy International Women’s Day 2013!

Shitty things happen to everyone. I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to shape my reaction to the shitty things that have happened to me into something more like resistance than depression. Admittedly, I can become a little self-absorbed as I’m trying to work through this stuff. But I’ve learned that this is valuable (as long as I’m not only trying to make things better for me), because the personal is political.

A long time ago, I wondered why I had to suffer through different forms of abuse, why I could be used as an object of pleasure with no desires of my own, why I was so “crazy” there was nowhere for me to go but the hospital, why my values and brain had to be destroyed by treatment, why I couldn’t get a decent job, why anger was pouring out of me but my feelings and frustrations were diminished or ignored altogether …

I eventually realized that yeah, I’m not alone, but being a woman certainly made it more likely for specific types of shitty things to happen to me. I’m not sure exactly when I began to identify as a feminist, but it was definitely around the time that I was making the connection between these things and my gender.

Now, in this weird atmosphere where post-feminism and feminist-as-consumer messages are so prevalent, my feminism and the feminisms I learn about from others are more important to me than ever. Feminisms are diverse, we complement, challenge, and learn from each other, but we all try to draw attention to and resist gender-based shitty things. Watered-down, cultural messages appropriated from social movements that tell us that feminist politics are no longer necessary, that now we’ve come so far that things like purchasing makeup are somehow “empowering” are not helpful. Not when the gender pay gap still exists, women still do the majority of unpaid labour, conservative politicians try to sneak in anti-choice bills disguised as anti-discrimination policy. Not when women are harassed and abused and raped and blamed for it, and then are reminded continuously that we must always protect ourselves and take responsibility for our own “bad choices”.

I’m sick of being treated like I’m asking for too much when I’m really just asking people to question things, or consider a different perspective. My arguments have been dismissed and I have to work hard for basic respect at times just because I am a feminist. Women deserve respect, equality, understanding, love. Everyone does.

My words, my body, my mind, my pain, are important. This is why feminism is necessary, and why I reflect on and celebrate my feminism on International Women’s Day 2013.

High-Five!

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IMG_0025My cats when they thought they were going on vacation with us ! They weren’t 😦

My vacation was awesome for a lot of reasons. My partner and I didn’t make it back home this past Christmas, so I loved seeing so many good friends and my family. Going home is also very hectic. Five days is not nearly enough time to squeeze in all the visits I want, and the conversations tend to be sort of superficial in large groups, but I really want to see everyone! I also miss my cats, even though I know they are being lovingly cared for by a very close human friend.

A strange thing happened during this vacation, though. I’m not sure whether it was reuniting with so many old friends for short periods, pressure to see everyone, a few too many drinks, lack of sleep, different beds each night, or some combination of all these factors, but I’ve had horrible nightmares! I’ve been home a few nights now, and they have not subsided yet, and wow! I am a person who regularly has vivid dreams, but not about such a wide variety of topics, multiple times a night, for so many nights in a row! I wonder if this is a fairly common experience for other people around the time of their vacations? At least I have an excuse to buy some delicious, calming loose leaf tea to help me sleep!