Archive for the 'Culture' Category

Time for a schedule, time for a list

Life will be okay even if it’s not how I’d imagined. I keep telling myself this and focusing on the wonderful things in my life — and there truly are many of these.

girl and chalk drawing girl

But I’m bogged down by the unfinished, the overwhelming, the physical and mental clutter surrounding me. It’s time to make a plan to manage these things. Life is always going to be chaos — such is life with kids, blended families, and an insane ex. I cannot prevent things from being overturned again and again in front of and underneath me. All I can do is find some peace in my life so that when bad stuff goes down I have a store of energy I can draw from.

So I’ve decided to make a list of the things that are costing me energy/giving me grief. These are the things that run through my mind at least once a day and I think, “yeah, I should do something about that.”

So… where to start?

I figure my life has three major categories that make me anxious: school, family, and housework. Each of these has subcategories and of course there’s plenty of overlap. If I can feel caught up (or ahead even) in one area it spills into the others and I feel good. Of course, if I put “me” up there as a category it might help me feel good more often. (:wink:) But then that’s never been my strong point. One goal of this exercise is to figure out where the self care is going to fit in.

So looking at each category there are things that have needed doing for a long time and things that require attention on a regular basis.

School:

  • papers for school – 6 this semester that I need to do
  • a research topic for this semester’s directed study
  • figure out what the heck I’m going to do after the MA
  • small things related to my major research project

If I can get all these things done I’ll feel much better about where I sit in terms of school work. It actually doesn’t look so bad now.

Family:
I’m actually feeling pretty good about this today. It’s birthday time and I’m keeping up pretty well with that. One kid had a great party two weeks ago and another one is coming up in two weeks. Trick-or-treating last night went well and I think we might be through with daughter bombshells for the moment. Rob is good and we seem to have settled down from the move. We’ve got some routines going and things are getting a bit easier. That said, there are still things that should be better organized:

  • a plan to make school mornings easier
  • sharing responsibilities
  • time for doing fun things in the community like hikes in the park or trips to the pool

No really clear answers pop out on these. Hmmm. At least now I know what I need to think about.

Housework:
This is where I’m overwhelmed. There are so many loose ends from the move. Construction isn’t done yet. Stuff from my house is in a big pile in the middle of the basement. The kids need help organizing their rooms. Our bedroom is full of boxes of stuff. My office space is disorganized. Rob’s office space is brimming and he still has lots of his stuff spread out around the house.

birds in the air

I hate living in the clutter. When I moved this summer I threw so much stuff in the trash — I lined the curb again and again with garbage bags. How can I still have so much stuff that passed the cut? I know I have to go through it again and get rid of more…but it takes a lot of time. And I can only do it with my own stuff. Eventually my stuff will be under control but will it be enough? My kids have too many toys and clothes they don’t wear but we don’t have enough time to get to it. And Rob and his daughter are pack rats. I grew up passing toys and outgrown clothes to shelters. My parents live in a very tidy home partly because they’re both really good at cleaning but also because they keep the contents down and are always cutting back. Clothes that aren’t worn get passed on. Books that are old are passed on. Dishes that don’t stack well or are a pain to clean or take up too much space are passed on. If it’s not in use and/or adding to joy in the house, and is not likely to be in use again soon it goes.

My old place was a mess of clutter. I know it. It was small and had stuff from way to many ages and stages (baby stuff to teenager stuff, sewing supplies from when I used to sew for a living, ballet stuff from when I taught, school stuff that I still use, and activist materials from every cause I’ve ever been involved in). Everything was important. But this big move prompted a huge purge. It was a chance for me to start fresh. And Rob’s house is so nice. I want it to stay that way.

I know with my collecting of important papers (which I go through later and usually end up tossing) and Rob’s attachment to anything that enters the house, we’re in grave danger of living in a fire trap. And I know that the daily cleaning is going to get harder still if we keep on this way.

So, in list form here’s what I need:

  • clear out the clutter from living spaces
  • create a routine for the regular chores like cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, dusting
  • a menu plan so that I don’t have to go to the grocery store 3 times in a week like I did this week
  • a special bonus would be to hang some pictures, paint, and any other types of personalizing the space so that it’s clear that “special people live here.”
  • dividing some of this up so that each person has something they’re in charge of. Asking someone to do something is like setting up for battle sometimes. If it were automatic I’d have a lot of energy left over.

It’s a lot harder doing these things here, in the new house, all blended-family-style, than it was in my own house, on my own, with my own kids. I’m hoping that it will get easier with time. For one thing my house was a lot smaller. Another was that my house was in rough shape so anything I did made an improvement. Here I feel responsible for keeping the house in good condition. There are a lot more people here now (me and my kids) and things can go downhill pretty quickly if they’re not looked after. Things are further complicated by the kids’ different and complicated schedules. Every-other-weekend-ness (for my kids) and skating-gymnastics-piano-piles o’ homework (Rob’s kid) doesn’t make it easy to divide responsibilities. And the fact that Rob and I have different expectations re: bedmaking, clean bedrooms, helping etc. turns into a chorus of “why do I/we have to if she/they don’t have to?” Rather than pushing the issue I tend to just do as much as I can. Since it’s my issue.

So right. If I can look back at the list and see the things that are under my control I can do something about them. It’s a good place to start at least. And who knows, maybe the rest of the family can make lists of what they’d like to take care of and we can all help each other. It could happen!

Looking For: Traditional Wife

The System is not made for me. Graduate students are not supposed to have families to care for, houses to clean, meals to prepare and clean up, or groceries to buy. They are not supposed to organize birthday parties, coordinate repairs, clean and sell a house, finish a basement, wash laundry, fold laundry, garden, or cut lawns. I need someone to do all these things for me. (*edit: Can I also add that this person must care for the physical and emotional health of all members of the family, including me? And let me tell you, grad students are Needy.)

Graduate students are supposed to read, research, think, discuss, write, present, read, research, think, etc ad infinitum. My job should be to go to school then come home and study in isolation, with occasional breaks for midnight rollerblading and Chinese takeout. It’s supposed to be a lot of work, but it’s supposed to be doable.

For some crazy reason, maybe because I managed an undergraduate degree with small children around, I thought I could do this too. It’s been an interesting month and a half — maybe because of the fun I’ve been having with family law court, police, children’s aid, and counsellors (could another agency possibly be interested in my life?). Somehow I think that even if my life were stable, with no drama or crises, it would still be too much to be a grad student and mother.

I met a 4th year student yesterday who is married, planning to do the MA next year. He’s only a few years younger than me — in his early 30s. His wife lives one and a half hours away, he has an apartment here… he has a kid that doesn’t live with him and she has 3 kids — but they’re her kids, not his. Because they are her kids, according to their arrangement, there’s no need for him to be there. He’s focused on one part of his life — school.

I don’t have that option. My identities are completely interlocked. I’m not a student from 9-5 and a mother from 5-9 and a partner from 9-midnight. I cannot separate out one piece of my self and put the rest on pause or say they are insignificant or disposable. I am all of me. Like it says in my bio on this site: I am a feminist-activist-artist-geek-parent-student. I am all of these things at once. I can do what I do because of all of these things. The skills that I have, the insight that I bring, I bring because of these multi-dimensions.

Alas, the Institution of Academia is not made for real people. To receive funding I must be a full-time student. The perception is that unless I am full-time, I am not a serious researcher, that maybe I have a job somewhere. Maybe it’s time (or past time) for Academia to realize that there are other responsibilities in a person’s life and that these other things do not preclude people from making contributions to the Academy.

As long as the system runs as is, the only people in academia will be the ones that fit the mold: young people, no family responsibilities, no primary childcare responsibilities. Hmmm sound familiar? This is going to be a problem because more and more people want undergraduate degrees and there aren’t enough good teachers to fill the roles. By excluding a woman like me from academia, a good potential educator and researcher is lost. There has got to be a change. Maybe more distance education options, maybe a part-time option with funding. It’s sad to think I may have to give this up because the logistics are beyond me.

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

My daughter should be home by 4:30 p.m. today. Today the judge ordered her father to return her to me. He was found in contempt of court and read the riot act.

What a relief. It’s been a week and a half since he took her.

About Citing Wikipedia

School’s started up again and if I hear another caveat from a professor telling students not to cite Wikipedia I think I’m going to lose it. In each instance it’s gone something like this:

(Prof): In writing your papers this semester, you’ll be required to use outside sources. When you’re looking for material, do not cite Wikipedia. Anyone know why not to cite wikipedia?

(Student): Because it’s inaccurate.

(Prof): Why is it inaccurate?

(Student): Because anyone can edit it.

(Prof): Very good.

the end

Whether or not you accept Nature’s study that showed Wikipedia to be more accurate than Britannica or Thomas Chesney’s smaller study at Nottingham University Business School in which experts found Wikipedia entries to be highly credible, the reason not to cite Wikipedia is completely different. At the university level we don’t cite the encyclopedia. Any encyclopedia.

When you’re just getting started on a research project, by all means look up information on Wikipedia. You’ll probably find Wikipedia more helpful than Britannica because (1) it’s online making it easily accessible; (2) it’s free; (3 and most significantly) it contains links to other related subjects. I’ve yet to see a print document with linkage to other entries or sites.

Once you’ve found an interesting entry, read all the way to the bottom to the Resource section. Here you will find the footnotes, which contain the information you will need to find the original documents that form the basis for the wikipedia entry. See the titles of journal articles, books, and other scholarly sources? Make a note of these and then go to the library (physical and/or online). Look these up in your school’s journal database, library catalogue, etc and read the complete, original text. And then cite that.

So, there’s no need to even get started on the credibility/accuracy of either encyclopedia or the cooperative vs. competitive model of writing or any other debate.

Real Estate for the Dead

Please note: This post is not meant to criticize or offend anyone who has experienced a death of friend of family and has had to make these decisions. It’s only intent is to bring attention to a practice that seems to me to go unquestioned, when there may be other, viable alternatives worthy of consideration.

There is an increasing trend for places to be owned, to be attached to names, to be logo-fied. At the university of Windsor we don’t just have a student centre, we have the “CAW Student Centre”. The buildings include the Toldo Building, The Jackman Centre for Dramatic Arts, Chrysler Tower, Chrysler Halls North & South — these are the names of local funders, who’ve made donations to the university. In the community, parks and greenspaces follow the trend too. People own property and build fences to keep others out. It carries on throughout life, until the ultimate in real estate ownership: a graveyard plot and tombstone, yours forever.

I’ve been telling people around me for years that I want to be cremated when I die and I’ve recently realized I don’t want to be responsible for using up even more land after I die. I don’t want to be tied (figuratively since I’ll be ashes) or have my memory tied to a single geographic location. When I’m done with my body, burn it up so it’s certain I’m dead (irrational fear of premature burial, thank you Edgar Allen Poe) and use me as compost to plant something — or else sprinkle me in a favourite place. I’m planning on living a good many more years so I’m not quite sure where that favourite place is yet.

many tombstones
Original photo: Crossover by Gemma Grace

I definitely know I don’t want any deadland. I feel no draw to the cemeteries where my grandparents are buried. I do feel drawn to the houses where they lived and where I visited them, to the things of theirs that I use in my home or have hanging on my walls or sitting on my shelves — these are the places and things that remind me of them. When I’m telling my children stories about them and their lives we look at these treasures. There is nothing for me at the cemetery.

I do wonder at the amount of money that people spend on tombstones and plots and upkeep (not to mention caskets) and I wonder how it came to be that this is now the standard in our society — that people have accepted this as “what must be done” when someone dies. I wonder what those spaces would look like without the markers — if every marker were instead a tree would we still have air quality problems here? Is it that people fear being forgotten? That without the stone there is nothing to remind the living that they even existed? Or is it the living that want the stone and land? To make the act of remembering a physical exercise (go to the cemetery) instead of an emotional/intellectual one (talk about the dead, think about them, etc)? or is it something I just don’t understand?

I’d rather invest in my family and community now, and leave the space for the living — not because I have a need to be remembered, but because I can’t rationalize consuming resources after I’m dead. I just won’t be needing them.

Taloola Cafe: Best Coffeehouse in Windsor

I’ve been meaning to go for months but it never worked out until today. This morning I went there for tea with my friend Lisa. I also had a “texture” cookie, all full of raisins, seeds, apple and yummy goodness and the desserts are vegan (even the choco-chip cookies — only place in Windsor with a variety for vegans as far as I know).

The place is really special: you choose your own teacup from a beautiful shelf full of one-of-a-kind cups, the walls are covered with gorgeous cloths and artwork. You choose your tea from a book full of samples where each page has a description and sample of the dry tea ingredients. They are also licensed and serve espresso and sandwiches. The neighbourhood is calm and there’s an outdoor patio area. Tomorrow I want to go back for the live performance by local artist Ron Leary.

What a treasure — I just wish I’d made it there sooner.

Where to find them:
Taloola Cafe
396 Devonshire Road,
Windsor, ON N8Y 2L4
519-254-6652

Fêted – Fated

I tend to blame myself. Maybe it’s that guilty recovering Catholic conscience. Whenever something bad happens (not far away, just close to me) I find myself scrutinizing my actions and role in the event and wondering where I made a mistake and what I should have done differently. Note — not wondering *if* I made a mistake, but *when* I did.

I’m about to graduate. Convocation will be a celebration of sorts (hence the fête). I barely remember my high school graduation which I had not intended to attend. photo of striped socks and sneakers
At the last minute I was asked to do one of the opening addresses so I ended up going. I delivered a speech in French about cows or something ridiculous and I wore my low-top sneakers with candy cane socks. For various reasons my family did not attend but they are planning to come to this. I haven’t completely figured out how to assemble my children from 2 different schools at different ends of the cities in the middle of the afternoon. I have just over a week still to sort that out. I anticipate the entire experience will be anticlimactic. The speeches will probably be long and will not relate to my life. The kids will likely get bored. I don’t particularly feel connected to the university since classes ended. I’ve been back a few times for conferences but it feels different somehow. I debate not going because it all seems too complicated today. The work is done, the grades earned… is the ceremony really important? Why did I want to go back in March when I applied to graduate?

Part of me feels like I didn’t do all the things I should have. I know I worked hard, but maybe it wasn’t hard enough. This last year I did take it a little bit easy compared to first year. I didn’t accomplish as much as I did in the beginning. I wonder what I could have done differently and if it would have made a difference. I worry about next year and what comes after that.

Since finishing classes a few weeks ago I’ve been trying to reconnect with the friends I had before I went back to school. I did my best to keep these relationships alive while life was crazy but we’ve all been through a lot in four years and you can’t just resume. We’re not the same people. It takes time to build intimacy and connection.

Even at school I felt disconnected: I hardly saw the people from my program during this last semester. I didn’t have any women’s studies classes at all and as much as I loved my programming class I didn’t make any friends there. I miss bumping into my colleagues from school around campus. Even going back there like I have for a few conferences and events since classes ended it seems changed. I know it isn’t the campus though, it’s me. Like I know my undergrad is over and I’m in a different role there now. My identity is in limbo. I’m not an undergrad but I don’t yet feel like a grad student.

Working at home is wonderful but isolating. I don’t miss the assignments and the deadlines. But I miss the contact with grownups. Poor Rob has felt the brunt of this more than once when I’ve spent the day by myself. I’m trying to get out each day just so that I talk to a grown up — it reminds me of my days with little babies except this time I see it happening and am better resourced to stop it from becoming a problem.

I wonder if other people are celebrating or if they are worrying like I am. I think my readiness to celebrate came and went when I handed in my last exam (and I did have a fabulous dinner with really good *Ontario* wine). Maybe I should allow this to pass quietly while I get on to the next thing.

Why I Drink Ontario Wine

I live in Ontario. As much as I am able to choose, I drink Ontario wine, made from grapes grown in Ontario.

I live about an hour north of Pelee Island. I live about three hours south-west of the Niagara Escarpment. Between these two regions there are many wines to choose from. I’m lucky about this. If I lived somewhere else I might not have this many choices.

I make this choice because I don’t want to contribute to the consumption of fossil fuels by drinking wine that’s traveled great distances. I also don’t want to drink wine that contains grapes from far away places. Not only does this contribute to the environmental problem, but it also is a contributing factor in homogenizing the world’s wine. If Ontario wine contains grapes from Italy, then the difference between Ontario and Italian wine blurs. Vintners become transnational companies and diversity of flavours disappears. Grape growers in Ontario have established the VQA designation to make this easier for me: only Ontario

When I was in British Columbia for Northern Voice I had great BC wine, and when I travel other places someday I will try their regional wine.

Small choices do make a difference.

Defining History

It’s all about perspective. My kids got a map in mail, a map of the area a bit north of here with points of interest marked to encourage daytripping over the summer. It’s a cool map with great photos of marinas, wetlands, artwork, theatres, kayaking, scuba diving, lighthouses — lots of different categories so that everyone is likely to find something that they’d want to do. It’s published by a new (to me anyway) organization called Waterfront Trail, a registered charity “committed to the completion, enhancement, and promotion of the [Lake Ontario] Waterfront Trail and Greenway.” I was browsing it while taking a water break from gardening.

I’ve always been a stickler for appropriate use of icons. They should be meaningful, clear, easy to interpret, simple, scalable, and non-discriminatory. Looking at this map I thought about “history” and how through my studies of social history, women’s history, history of technology, etc, I’ve really broadened my understanding of the field of history.

There are many records of our histories. Cookbooks, diaries, storybooks, medical charts, songs, clothing, artwork — these all tell stories of our past. History is more than just the records of battles, leaders, and number of wounded. In fact, this information doesn’t really give us information about how people lived. We should not neglect the histories of the many people who were not soldiers, and remember that these people also had full lives outside of who was killing who when. We can also study people who lived their lives in city or country or both (and why they moved), about how they fed themselves, how they grew up, how they grew old, how they celebrated, how they grieved — these pieces of history are rich.

This is how I think of history and how I will study it when I start the MA history program this fall. This is why I was surprised to see that historical places on the Waterfront map are represented by an icon with a cannon. I don’t think the acceptance of social histories in academia has made it that far into the general population just yet. It is just as relevant (and for most people probably much more engaging) when we consider the lived experiences of our histories. There are more and more historical fiction novels for kids (Dear Canada, and Royal Diaries come to mind. Maybe as these become more popular the next generation will grow up thinking history is more than war.

Summer Job in Toronto at NAC

I got this today from the Women’s Studies department. Looks like an interesting summer position, but too far away for me. Could be a great opportunity for a geeky feminist if you live in Toronto and are still looking for a job.

Communications Assistant (Summer Student)

Employer: National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC)
Job term: Contract, Full-time
Location: Toronto, ON

The National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) is a non-profit/non-governmental organization that has been working to ensure the full equality rights of women and girls in all their diversity for 35 years.

Job Summary

NAC is presently seeking a vibrant student to work as a Communications Assistant to work in our National Office. The student will provide support and assistance in research, project development, facilitation and coordination of NAC seasonal initiatives and activities.

Responsibilities:

Communications

  • Assist in regular website maintenance. Compile and distribute electronic newsletters.
  • Assist to design and implement new strategies.

Membership

  • Assist in the processing of membership requests and to do specific follow-up with group and individual members on various issues.

Special Projects

  • Could involve but is not limited to: detailed policy research, project management and development, grant writing assistance, design, selected writing, special event coordination and implementing new administrative procedures.

Office administration

  • Administrative support to the Executive Coordinator: could include research, organizing meetings, helping to liaise with committees.

Qualifications

The qualified candidate for this position will be someone who has a strong research and analysis skills-set, advanced effective research and effective written and oral communication skills, strong inter-personal abilities and has a strong interest and/or academic background in women’s studies or any of the social sciences.

In particular, we are looking for someone who:

  • Is a university or community college student; must have finished the school year and intend to return to school in September.
  • Has advanced computer and Internet literacy, including online research experience.
  • Has excellent written, verbal and telephone communication skills.
  • Is well organized, able to work independently and collectively.
  • Thrives in a small, open-concept office space.
  • Demonstrates the capacity to respond quickly to emerging priorities.
  • Demonstrates good trouble-shooting abilities, flexibility and creativity.
  • Has experience in and enthusiasm for women’s issues, community development and/or community-based researchc
  • Basic web site development skills are an asset.
  • Knowledge of written and spoken French is a definite asset.

Contract Details: The contract is for full-time (30 hours/week) for a maximum of 12 weeks at $10 per hour.
Deadline for applications no later than NOON June 4, 2007.

Interested candidates are invited to submit a current CV and cover letter via email to:
Enisone Kadiri, Executive Coordinator, NAC-CCA
Email: enisone.kadiri@nac-cca.ca

No faxes or phone calls please. While we thank all candidates for their interest, only those short-listed will be contacted.

NAC works from an anti-oppression framework and maintains feminist principles. We are committed to diversity and equitable opportunity; as such, we encourage applications from traditionally marginalized communities. Our place of work is wheelchair accessible.

*Funding for this position is provided, in part, by the Summer Career Placements program of Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC).*

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