Archive for the 'Happy' Category

More on lists and routines

I’ve written about lists before and now Rob is writing about lists too.

After reading Rob’s post (based on a conversation with Jeff) there’s an advantage to making a list that I think he hasn’t realized. I know that when I see another person’s list, I know how I can best help them. I’m a helper. This is where my passion for social justice originates. I like to work for causes, and whether the cause be sexism or a cluttered basement I come at them with passion. Sometimes I do better with the basements because I know I can really make a difference there. I also take pride in results. When I can see my efforts have made a difference I know I am valuable. So you see, it’s all about me. Your list has the potential to raise my self-esteem.

I come from a family of list-makers. My parents kept a (very short and ever completed) list on the fridge. My dad worked a lot and so it was my mother’s eyes that identified a lot of the things that needed attention. Since she worked part-time and was and is a thorough (very thorough) housekeeper, she noticed things in need of maintenance and repair before the damage was ever too serious. The list allowed them to prioritze jobs and because they worked together they motivated each other. It also helped that they had the same goals: to keep their house in shape.

I have had lists on my fridge, in between the artwork, receipts, and event notices, and somehow friends notice them from time to time. Several times this sharing of lists has turned into offers of help with tasks that were too big for me to do on my own. Once it turned into a referral to someone who replaces windows well and for cheap. It can serve as an indirect way for people who are uncomfortable asking for help to let their needs be known. If a helper comes along, they’ll have an opportunity to offer. Other people won’t even notice the list.

Personally though, I’m changing my way of tackling list-type jobs. Instead of itemizing things that need to be done in lists that are beyond my time and energy, I’m trying to add routines to my life. I’m already decent at keeping up the laundry (washing and folding anyway). But wiping down the bathroom daily is becoming instinctive. It’s not the same as a thorough cleaning, but it’s manageable and keeps it tidy. For now I sweep the centre of the room which makes the kitchen look much cleaner and I hope to add the edges one day soon, as soon as I get the ‘important stuff’ picked up from where it lines the walls. The more times I sweep the more I want to deal with the clutter so that my kitchen is returned. It does look better. It’s not as good as sweeping and washing and scrubbing down the cupboards might be, but I don’t have time for that right now. Sweeping is acceptable – and much better than doing nothing. Vaccuuming will be added one day when I get a decent vaccuum that can handle the hair 3 people with long hair shed plus the hair of my cats. I figure that once I get used to doing these little things on a regular basis I’ll have more energy to tackle the big things. Becuase the things that used to seem like big tasks will be ordinary routines I won’t notice them anymore.

Getting Ready for BlogHer 2006

BlogHer begins in 4 days. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing to get ready (in no particular order):

  • Choose sessions! (Day One) here and (Day Two) here. So many things look interesting and I’m not sure how I’ll manage to be in more than one place at a time. I’m really hoping that all the sessions I don’t end up going to will be podcasted so that I can catch them later.
  • Pack. Am I really going to get up that early for yoga? At least I have the change in time zone going for me. Only with that on my side do I stand a chance. And all this talk about tiaras and ball gowns – yikes!
  • Plan what to do for the extended vacation before and after the official conference. (San Francisco) and (San José) is good for this and so is 43places (San Francisco) or (San José).

I know I want to go to Sunday Lindy in the Park – anyone else? Every Sunday there’s a free Swing dance/Lindy Hop in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco from 11 am – 2:00 pm with a free beginner/refresher lesson at 12:30. I love swing dancing (any dancing for that matter) and outdoors in California sounds like the perfect venue. Maybe there’ll be swing dancing by the BlogHer poolside. Now that would be cool BlogHer style networking.

I’m still looking for good Thai, Indian and other vegan-friendly restaurants – please leave a suggestion in the comments if you have a recommendation. Will travel for good food!

Mt Tam, taken by kodama

Other things I’m hoping to do include basking in some redwood shade and maybe hitting a beach or two (the second link may be nsfw). My friend Marilyn from Oregon says Muir Wood is too over run by tourists so I’m leaning towards Mount Tam. Rob isn’t afraid of tourists I guess since he wants to check out Fisherman’s Wharf.

See how easy it is to get distracted from work when a a trip like this must be planned? It’s so easy to get lost surfing all the cool things there are to do when you go travelling. Only problem is that if I don’t finish the work that needs doing before I can leave I won’t be able to leave! Back to getting ready . . .

  • Eat all the food in the fridge so that there’s nothing stinky or scary greeting you at the door when you return. Clean the toilet. Same reason.
  • Download and listen to all of last year’s podcasts from the BlogHer sessions. Especially if you couldn’t attend you might want to catch up and see what you missed. Offerings include:
  • Try to pack but get sucked into World of Warcraft because you just learned some really cool tailoring recipes and people at the auction house reeeeeeeeeally need new clothes. Anyone up for creating a BlogHer WoW guild and going on a raid at the conference?
  • Water the garden (put it on a timer maybe?), arrange for someone to look after the children and pets, let students and employers know that you will be out of town and unavailable Until Further Notice (or sometime next week, whichever you prefer).
  • Set some clear goals for the conference. Remember when you first started your blog or registered for the conference? Why did you do it? Has that changed at all? Use this to figure out what you want to gain from BlogHer 2006. Maybe it’s technical skills? building some community? making new friends? something else specific even if it’s only to step away from the computer? Meet up with your favourite bloghers maybe? Change the world? Dismantle patriarchy? No goal is too large for BlogHers united.

Be prepared to answer questions like:

  • Who are you?
  • Where do you blog? (i.e. the URL, though your hometown works here too.)
  • What’s your blog about? and the follow-up: What’s that?/What does that mean?
  • and the 20-million dollar question this year: Why do you blog?

It might also be helpful to have a list of questions to ask people in those awkward moments when you’re side-by-side and frozen by shyness and cannot think of anything to say. Tuck a cheat sheet into your sleeve or get a tattoo if you’re really worried. Here are some ideas:

  • Who are you?
  • Where do you blog? (followed by, “No, I mean what’s your URL?” unless you really were after their hometown.)
  • What’s your blog about? and the follow-up: What’s that?
  • and of course

  • Why do you blog?

Questions not to ask and things not to say:

  • Have I ever read your blog? ~Really, how would anyone know that but you????
  • You’re not at all what I pictured! ~You’re likely to send a blogher into fits of self deprecation for not measuring up to audience expections if you say this. Don’t do it!

(I will do my best to not say any of these things.)

I really want to have a clear and concise answer prepared for when asked what my blog is about. I also need to make some more contact cards. Hmmmm.


Add to list:

  • Bring contact/business cards

Further things I know I have to do:

  • Charge camera batteries
  • Empty flash cards
  • Clean up laptop and flash drive, backup important files
  • start a list of all those last minute things that can’t be done until the last minute that I don’t want to forget.
  • and very important! update the blogs!

Only 4 more days!!!!

Old Women

I’m getting older… single mom, couple of kids…I’m relatively casual, a jeans and t-shirt person predominantly although on a hot day I’ll wear a long loose skirt. I don’t wear make-up, I have a practical shoulder length haircut which I tie in a ponytail when I’m teaching dance classes. My hair is string straight and I have freckles. I’m pretty ordinary.

I know people whose appearances matter much more to them it seems. People who’ve had cosmetic surgeries, who diet and restrict their meals. People who work out incessantly. Friends who read Cosmo, while I read Bust.

Conversations with my friends come around more often to our bodies. There’s a general sense of “our bodies are falling apart.” People seem to think I don’t struggle the same way or to the same degree. Maybe this is true…I’ve been giving it some thought and I’ve come up with a few ideas.

I don’t think I’ve built up a dependence on my appearance. The way I look has little impact on the work I do. I (try to) live off my brain and talents and know that any relationship that is based on superficial shells is fleeting so not worth the effort. I grew up teased for my freckles, and the kids, cruel as they are, called me chicken legs (and I know now that my legs are/were no different than anyone else’s!)

I was tall at a young age so in grade nine gym class when we were all weighed on a scale (hunh? what was that for anyway?) and I was 115 lbs I felt like a fat cow. Today, many years later, I know that I was a healthy weight for my height. Just because I was more than 6 inches taller than all the tiny girls who were under 100 lbs did not mean I was fat! Ridiculous. The point is that I never had a period where I was really happy or excited about my body. I never thought to myself “I have a great legs/abs/breasts/eyes/whatever.” I mostly ignored my body. Sure this caused other issues but it’s giving me a good perspective for this aging stuff.

When I was in my late teens/early twenties I had two older women in my life. I don’t know their ages in years but both had older children/teenagers at the time. One had beautiful long flowing grey-white hair and was a gardener. She spoke gently and thoughtfully and was intelligent and exceptionally insightful. She made a wonderful impression on me and I thought that someday I wanted to be just like her. The other woman was small and incredibly strong. She was the mother of 3 girls who were all incredibly smart, talented, and beautiful young women. I wanted to feel supported like her kids did. I wanted to support my kids the way she supported hers. I wanted to be confidant like her, to be able to see things clearly like she did, to understand like she did. She had a way of making me be honest with myself about things I didn’t even realize were problems. She was the first one to point out to me that the problems in my marriage were problems – that other people were happy and that maybe I might want to be happy too. I remember the way she made me feel more than I remember the way she looked but when I saw her just a few years ago she was covered in wrinkles and her hair was a soft grey. She was bustling, involved in work, volunteering, spending time with her grown kids – she was beautiful. I wanted to be just like her too.

I think the fact that I have these role models/heroines – these admirable women in my life and that I met them when I was young and impressionable is significant. Without someone to show that with age comes good things how can we know that growing older can be good? Having these women to look up to and remember eases the transitions that our bodies and lives go through.

Aging in our society is hard for both men and women. Our culture is tied to youth and beauty and age is equated with uselessness. It’s hard to resist the advertising for wrinkle creams and hair dyes and all the other products and procedures that promise youth, i.e. value. For women though, I think it’s an added challenge that there are so few older women to call ‘successfull’. Women who are currently 60+ were less involved in public life when they were younger than women are now, and so there are fewer popular examples of ‘success’. The older women that tend to come to mind are from show biz and are known for the numbers of cosmetic surgeries they’ve had.

Older women also make up one of the largest groups of people living in poverty. This is another reason why we don’t have a lot of positive role models for growing older. Without enough money to live it’s hard to inspire the next generation. I think though, that some people are more afraid of wrinkles than poverty stats.

So what is it that these bodies are doing that make us feel like they’re falling apart? Well, thinning, greying hair, abs not so tight anymore, skin isn’t the same as it was when we were younger. All I can say is that yeah, change is hard and try to point out that it’s just change. If we could change the perception would we have an easier time of dealing with it? Does the language we use (i.e. “falling apart”) make it that much harder to adjust (à la Sapir-Whorf)? Can people change a perception that is so ingrained?

I’d like to lose some weight and work out more but I wouldn’t change my grey hair or trade in my baby stretch marks. I’m sure most people harbour a desire to be pleasing on the eyes but I would never want to be so dependent on my appearance that I’d be crippled by body changes.

I look forward to getting older. There are so many good things to look forward to. I feel like I’ve been waiting a long time to be old, that this will be the best part of my life. My confidence is beginning to grow and I’m just starting to get the hang of how to live. I also think (maybe naively) that with age will come more understanding and certainty. I’m getting old enough to see that the more I learn, the more questions there are. I’m starting to doubt the correlation of wisdom and age – but I don’t worry specifically about body changes anymore. Our wrinkles are the proof that we’re survivors. But I’m not sure women will ever be convinced to look at it that way.

Are you a list person?

Do you make lists? Do you hate lists? Do you realize there are different kinds of lists?

First there are the lists that give you chores to do. Often other people make these lists for you: wash windows, clean eavestroughs, fix the faucet, clean the clutter off the counter, catch up the mending, etc. Lists like these are endless and rarely are the tasks on them fun or exciting. Someone has to maintain this list or the jobs never get done – unless you’re one of those rare cases where jobs get done as soon as they’re discovered in need of doing.

But there is another sort of list: the list that records your dreams, the one that lets you think about all the things you’d like to do given the opportunity. This is the philosophy behind communities like 43 places and 43 things.

I went to a workshop in January where one of the keys to reaching a goal was shared this way: make a list of your goals, whether it’s living on the coast, seeing the mountain from your deck every morning, working at home, or going to Greece when you graduate. Whatever goals you have, record them somewhere. Part two is sharing the information with other people. Here’s how these steps will help you achieve your goal:

  1. When other people know what you have planned they can support you while holding you accountable. When they start asking you how the plans for Greece are going you can tell them great. They’re excited for you and it will help you stay motivated.
  2. When these other people know you’re planning a trip to Greece they’ll start cutting out articles and sending you links about things to do, places to stay, and cheap flights to Greece. This cuts down on the amount of work you’ll have to do to plan and will also keep you motivated.
  3. The third way that recording your goals will help is that when you are faced with making a decision (career, life, relationship) you will be able to consult your goals and see which choice brings you closer to your goal. If you know your ideal home is someplace warm it will help you say no to positions in the Arctic. It’s not turning down an opportunity, it’s helping you stay focused on your goals. When you are looking for positions or projects you’ll have a clue where to start looking. Without the goals you’ll flit from one place to another always wondering if you’re doing the right thing, making the right choice – or if you’re happy yet.

    Things aren’t always perfect, and ideas, philosophies, and situations all change. When I took the workshop I was frustrated because the group was made up of 1st and 3rd year university students, save me (mom, student, etc). I don’t have the freedom to picture myself living on the side of a mountain or even near a coast or even somewhere warm. I have a custody order that says the closest to a mountain I’m going to get while my kids are young is the landfill 20 minutes away. Sometimes when we’re setting our goals we have to take all kinds of other things into consideration – but stil, if you can, make some goals. Lists of goals are okay – nobody is going to nag you about them – and even if they did, these are things you want to do – let people help you do them.

    Today’s list is 2 pages long and I made it on paper, in a notebook so that if I don’t want to look at it I can shut the cover. I’m a little anxious that the list might be overwhelming but so far it feels good. It covers a lot of the things I’d like to do this summer around the garden and yard and a pile of art that has been waiting for me for eons. It has the beginnings of me thinking about grad school, mostly what area I might like to research. There’s nothing there about where I want to live or what I want to be…nothing major about “what I want out of life” or “what happiness means to me” or any of the biggies. I’m starting small and taking this a little step at a time.

Learning to enjoy life

I’m learning some things. I’m trying to learn to enjoy life more. I’ve been participating at 43 and looking at all the beautiful places there are in the world to visit, all the amazing history to see, all the cool people to meet and watching the people who are really doing all of this.

It used to be I’d see some place cool like Muir Woods and think, “yeah, that’s cool. . . but it’s too far away, I have no money, I need to stay close to home, etc” but something changed. Well, several things actually. I met someone who made a choice a few years before that he would be a do-er and a go-er and so he started doing and going to things like conferences and taking trips that required planning and investment. I also started back to school and got a student loan which for the first time in my adult life gave me enough to money to buy groceries and have something left over. I got to feel what it was like to have a little bit of money. I also started to think that maybe I deserved some happiness too.

It may be simple to many people but it was a huge revelation to me when I realized that if I wanted to do something or go somewhere I could do something about it. I didn’t need to just survive each day, I could enrich it. I could make it the best day possible, for myself and my family. I am not destined to be poor forever (or this is what I keep telling myself). It’s not wrong to want to have some financial freedom. It may be difficult to change this and the process of getting there is difficult if you’ve never done it but it’s not impossible.

Money may not buy you happiness, but without any it is difficult to be happy. Money stress is hard on families, on relationships, on having fun. I’m not saying there aren’t free things to do; I’ve done this for years and still do, but the options are greater if you can afford small pleasures. or big pleasures. It’s also easier to enjoy these pleasures when you know your basic needs are met.

What I’ve realized is that I don’t have to live below the poverty line forever. Kids are young, I’m a student and a single mum; these things all add up to a classic poverty picture. (This is too often the case and it needs to change. But that’s a whole other post.) But I’m thinking beyond now. I’m trying to think about what it is I want to be able to do: go to cool places if I find them, have good food on a regular basis, live in a house that isn’t crumbling around me, live in a safer neighbourhood, send my kids to a good school, be able to have leisure time with them on a regular basis… basically, experience life instead of worrying about it or missing out because I feel stuck in some permanent condition of helplessness.

I also don’t want to raise my kids thinking that they are poor and will always be poor. I want them to be inventive of ways to meet their needs. I want them to dream big. I want them to think of what they want and how they can reach those goals, with constant attention to balance between reward and effort and strategy. I don’t want them to give up on something because it costs too much – I want them to figure out how to meet that need. I also don’t want any of us to be punching a clock or working under someone else’s orders – unless it is completely by self-directed choice – not a coerced and false choice.

I’m not willing to just wait out the future. I want out of poverty mentality now and I’m going to do everything I can to enjoy life instead of just getting through it.

summer at last

This summer is much needed. Classes are over finally and my exams are done. I have two final papers due next week that I will have to write sometime but I’m not thinking about that right now.

I need a break. I have been a full time student for 8 semesters straight now. I got a bad cold that lasted for most of April, through final projects and assignments. I’ve ended up quite demotivated and it’s making finishing the semester a challenge.


Spring is here and in this part of the country it never lasts long. My daffodils are done and the tulips are blooming profusely. I can smell the hyacinths as soon as I step out the door. Soon it will be summer and the heat will be oppressive. One of my neighbours is running an air conditioner tonight. I went around the block with the kids on their bikes tonight and we stopped at the park. I don’t remember the last time we had the leisure to do that. It feels so good to have time to just be with them.

I have big hopes and plans for the summer. I have a new website that I’ve been developing in my spare time (hahaha) which will go live any day now. I’ll be doing some web design for money this summer, plus there’s a chance I’ll be working on a cyber ethics text with a prof at the university here. I’ve had some photos accepted to a conference in Windsor and another in Toronto and I received a grant to do portraits of low-income moms and their families. The photo meetup group is going to start up again and I’m taking some exciting trips too. It’s going to be a wonderful summer.

I’m hoping to remember what it is I like to do for fun and do more of that. I’m also hoping to figure out how it is I’m going to support my family when I graduate. It’s a tall order but the summer will be long, right?

I’ve already started working on my sunburn.

Happy? February 26, 2006

Happy things for today:

  1. I found skates – they’re bright blue and they’re comfortable. Not to shabby considering it’s February, winter’s almost over here, and I had to go to more than one store to find them.
  2. Skating was excellent. I took my kids, my s.o. brought his, and other friends brough their three. We went to an outdoor rink in the downtown which was relatively empty and all of us, kids and grownups, had a great time. It’s the first time in 11 years that every child can stand up on their own, which means I got to skate too!
  3. skates

  4. We followed up the great afternoon with a fabulous meal of hot soy cocoa, homemade Vietnamese rice noodle rolls (with the wonderful Mimi Gardens hoisin sauce), coconut curry, mashed yams, and steamed broccoli (for the kids who don’t like their food saucy or spicy).
  5. Everyone ate.
  6. Hooray for cell phones. My car broke down on the way home – it looks like there’s a hole in the coolant tank, a hose, and/or the rad is shot, but thanks to the handy dandy cellphone in my pocket I was able to call that very same s.o.’s house which I’d just left and within 15 minutes we were pouring in a jug of coolant and he was following me home so I could get the kids out of the -8 °C night and in to bed. We made it home safely and I don’t have to drive anywhere today. I have some time to sort out if I’m going to get the rad (and transmission which went last week) fixed or if I should just look at replacing it. Everything’s going to be fine and it feels great.

When I Need Help Getting Happy

When I need help getting back to feeling good about what I’m doing, I like to read’s FAQ page In clear language, they summarize the reasons why we’re doing what we do as feminists:

We would like to live in a world where women weren’t subject to male violence; where work of equal value was paid at an equal rate; where women had real options in respect of work-life balance; where reproductive healthcare didn’t have to be fought and refought for; where women were represented in public office and at senior levels in insitutions; and where economics, jurisprudence, and public policy took cognisance of the realities of women’s lives.

They identify the backlash that comes when people don’t like our actions (this takes the forms of the actual frequently asked questions). The page is like a quick overview and reminder of what I’ve studied in feminist philosophy and epistomology:

So much of claimed rationality is in fact androcentrism masquerading as value-free objective analysis. The idea that an emotional response is inappropriate should in and of itself be interrogated.

Sometimes this is enough to get me back on track when I start to get run down.

Thank you Emma and Emmy. And like I said in the comments to your Buffy piece, welcome to WordPress and great choice of theme.

Time to be Happy

Get ready – here goes:

  1. The owner of the vacant house next door picked up the garbage in the backyard. This will hopefully help deal with the rat issue around the neighbourhood.
  2. Reading week officially begins now! I have plenty to keep me busy but there will definitely be sleep time and rest time.
  3. I had a great evening with my kids tonight.
  4. I have a great s.o. who helped me a lot this morning. It’s great to have real life help when you need it.
  5. Tomorrow I’m planning to buy myself ice skates and take my kids skating. My daughter (age 11) grew into my skates this year which were always a bit tight anyway. We’re going to go skating in the afternoon. Everyone is excited but it’s hard to tell who is the most excited, me or them.

3 days running: More Happy, February 23, 2006

If you look around you can usually find something to be positive about. If you want to be happy, you can be. Here’s my list for today:

  1. There were birds singing outside my window this morning.
  2. I have chocolate chip cookies waiting for me at home.
  3. Only 3 more papers to write and then it’s Spring Break!
  4. It’s a skirt day. Mine is long and flowy, kind of gauzy.
  5. My daughter’s aikido test is tonight and she is so excited!

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