Archive for the 'School' Category

Counsellor, housekeeper, or personal trainer?

I’ve switched from snacking on m&m’s to jumbo organic raisins. I figure the sugar rush is the same (and should help me stay awake) but at least with the raisins I’m getting some iron. If I’m so low on energy the extra iron might help me feel more energized. I also found a coupon for a free trial at a fitness centre. I’m waiting for a call back to make an appointment for a tour.

I’ve realized that I really need to get un-depressed. And that all the ideas I have cost money. That money could go three ways:

  • to a counsellor
  • to a housekeeper
  • to a fitness centre

It takes time to find a good counsellor and I don’t have time. And dealing with problems, as much fun as that is (not), forces you to think about those problems. I’m not interested.

The housekeeper idea is really, really, really tempting. I can pay someone to do the things I cannot manage and this would free up the time I would spend doing them, thinking about doing them, planning to do them, and remembering I didn’t do them yet. And I would have a shiny bathroom and clean floors at least once each week. See how this is tempting? But I’m really not in a position where I feel I can afford this type of luxury. Nobody learns any valuable housekeeping skills or the value of pitching in. I don’t think I’m ready to give up on my family yet.

So that leaves exercising. I don’t think I was this depressed when I was dancing and teaching 3+ days each week. That was about one and a half years ago. I felt good, I looked good, I felt good about myself. This is not how I feel lately. I feel worn out: physically and emotionally. I feel gross. Tired. I’m depressed. It seeps into everything I do, all my relationships, all my activities. I’m sure people around me are tired of it.

I’ve found a gym that’s not too far away that is open 24 hours. (I cannot believe that grad students at Windsor don’t get access to the facilities on campus.) This other gym I’ve found has a variety of classes at a variety of times. I know aerobics is different from ballet or swing dancing but it’s what I’ve found. There is yoga and pilates which I’ve studied as a dancer so I know I like these already. I’d prefer a dance class but there isn’t one available on a night I can attend. I need something with a flexible schedule and I think this is worth a try. If I have somewhere to go, something to do (besides schoolwork) it might motivate me to keep going afterwards and get my academic career back on track.

And if I’m energized enough I might be able to look at housework without being overwhelmed. And if I feel better about myself maybe I won’t need counselling after all.

It’s worth a try at least. It could be just the solution to All My Problems.

Now I just hope that phone call comes before I change my mind.

A Reading Problem

I was going to start daily blogging of insurmountable problems. But it turned out to be impossible.

(see? I have a sense of humour!)

The latest struggle: staying awake. I’ve always had trouble staying awake. As a babysitter I had to work hard to stay awake until the kids were asleep. Usually the parents woke me up when they got home. At my own pyjama party I was the first one asleep. Dating? /sigh/ Pumpkin time was early.

Now the problem is mostly because I have So Much Reading to do for school. It doesn’t matter if I try reading first thing in the morning, in the afternoon, or after I put the kids to bed. It doesn’t matter if I’m at my desk, at the kitchen table, or on the couch. Within a few pages my eyes are heavy and next thing I know I’m waking up.

I have to allot several sessions to get a reading done because I know I will not be able to stay awake through a sitting.

It doesn’t matter if I drink coffee. I can fall asleep drinking a cup of coffee. I can put on music, sit outside, even read at the university. Anywhere, anytime — I’m asleep. And once I’m out there’s no bringing me back.

I’d appreciate any tips for staying awake or how to read while sleeping so I can get through this “chapter” of my life. (egads! more humour!)

History and Sexism

It could just be a coincidence.

This semester I run two of ten tutorials for a very large first-year world history class that covers the years 1914-1945. There is an acknowledged Western perspective.

Last week there was one lecture (50 minutes) assigned to the topic “Women in the 20th Century.” This had been rubbing me since the beginning of the semester when I first got the syllabus. I had heard of the “add women & stir” approach to women’s history but had never seen it so boldly in action. This week the students read the first (and only) readings for the course written by women.

Message here:

  • women only write about women
  • women don’t write about the world in the 20th century

But that wasn’t where it ended. The prof wrote to the assistants a day before labs to say that covering only a few of the discussion questions would be adequate and mainly to concentrate on returning student papers and exams.

Message here:

  • it is okay to dismiss the small bit of women’s history/feminist history included in the course
  • what women say isn’t important — what women say isn’t as important as what men say
  • women are not a significant part of 20th century history

Of course this is nothing new. History (patriarchy for that matter) is full of dismissing women’s thoughts, writings, and activities. I know I was sheltered living for four years inside of Women’s Studies, thinking that as I was opening my eyes to it so was the rest of the world. Since moving to the discipline of History I am frequently reminded why we still need women’s history.

Until women’s history is integrated in the survey course there is no equality.

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.

Green Candidate Info for Windsor-West

Because I had a hard time finding this information I decided to post it here for others.

The Green Party Candidate for next week’s provincial election is Jason Haney. His website is here.

Greens have policy statements on climate change, energy, income support, health, education, and local sustainability. I’m pretty sold on the position of one publicly funded education system for all children, but the focus on preventative health is a strong sell for me too.

There are links on the site to some Youtube videos like the one below.

Learn more about the Greens at www.gpo.ca.

I’ll buy you a pony

Every divorced parent’s nightmare is probably that their child goes for visitation with the other parent and never comes back again.

I never thought it would happen to me. But it did.

My daughter went for the weekend with her dad, didn’t go to her aikido class, hasn’t been to school all week, and didn’t come home again.

The police say it’s not a criminal act, to contact my lawyer, to get to court. If there’s nothing criminal they don’t get involved.

I cannot believe that violating a court order is not a criminal act. Isn’t this kidnapping? My middle son cried in bed last night missing his sister. Thankfully the boys are safe here with me.

The school is recording her absences and will contact the attendance counsellor sooner or later — but how long does she have to miss school before someone will do something?

He’s been served, told to return her immediately…an urgent motion for civil contempt is being brought before the court… but still my kid is not at home.

How can he think that this is a responsible parenting choice? A week of school, sneaking around, hiding at her grandparents’ house? Is this what he calls good parenting?

What good is a court order if it cannot be enforced?

I’m boggled by the system.

It must be some pony.

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.

Graduation Day

Today is graduation day. I’ve enlisted the help of friends to help gather my children from the 3 different places from which they will come for the ceremony. One is at a track meet, participating in the last event of the day. My friend will wait for him to run his race and then bring him to the ceremony. If all goes well he’ll make it just in time. I have wonderful friends. Rob will chauffeur the gang to the university so that my parents will not have to walk in the heat. Afterwards we’ll have Chinese takeout, gift of my mother. Sounds like a great day.

picture of graduands

I’ve just come from picking up my gown. It’s an awfully awkward concoction and so I looked for some pictures from past graduations to see how it’s supposed to go together. I found this pic and can see that indeed it is an odd design that doesn’t seem to sit right on any of these people, except maybe the man on the left with the yellow tie. I don’t understand why the floppy part (hood?) is falling off everyone and that no one has ever noticed or tried to improve the design. I’m going prepared with a pile of safety pins. For the money and effort I’ve spent on the degree, I expected a little more. Who wants to be all falling out of their clothes?

Reflecting back to other graduation days, I can’t help but think of BtVS: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her high school graduation at the end of Season 3.

scoobies graduation

What a mess that turned out to be! Monsters, demons, zombies, and a vicious mayor… and somehow Buffy got the entire class together to fight them all and win. What an awesome gal.

I’ll do my best today to block out the other things on my mind these days: dealing with an ex-husband-lunatic, navigating new relationships with old friends, trying to sort out what I want to do with my life now that this stage is over. Vampire slaying seems so straightforward — all you have to do is do it (oh and survive I guess). I understand the burden, but today I envy the simplicity. I’ve learned so much from Buffy, including how to prepare for graduation: I’ll have a wooden stake hidden in my sleeve and the kids will have a crossbow each, just in case we’re visited by the undead. Bring it on!

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.

Man the maker, Woman the consumer

Ruth Oldenziel (2001) argues that producers and consumers are linked and that the mythology that distinguishes men as exclusively “makers” and women as solely “consumers” is false. Consumers shape what is produced, just as producers create what will be consumed (p. 143).

Telephones were originally intended only for short, efficient business calls (Martin, 1998). When women began to use them to connect socially, telephone companies realized women were a potential market. Marketing changed and the telephone was reconstructed as a useful social tool in order to increase sales and profit. Women participated in the production of telephone technologies, but they are credited only with consumption.

Often women are producers in areas not regarded as “technology.” Women’s inventions for the domestic sphere like those related to needlework (Oldenziel, 2001, p. 131) often did not received patents. Without this formal recognition, women’s production goes unrecorded, unacknowledged, and therefore unvalued. Because of this, women who produce are not recognized as such. This strengthens the mythology of women as consumers rather than makers. Without formal examples, it is easier to disregard women’s contributions. It is important to recognize that the ways that this formal recognition is given is through systems developed by men.

Women’s modification of ‘male’ technologies has also been invisible. Women who converted car engines into refrigerator generators have not been credited as producers of technology (Oldenziel, p. 134). Instead, women are constructed as not interested in new technologies (Oldenziel, p. 133). This simplification does not recognize that women lacked funds of their own (Oldenziel, p. 133) and that their dependence on reliable, simple, durable, and easy to repair machines (Oldenziel, p. 134) drove their decisions, not irrationality, obstinacy (Oldenziel 132-133) or rejection of technology. As women became involved in production so that products matched needs, women embraced labour saving devices and other technologies.

Martin, M. (1991). “The Culture of the Telephone.” In Patrick D. Hopkins (Ed.), Sex/Machine: Readings in Culture, Gender, and Technology (pp. 50-74). Indiana: Indiana University Press.
Oldenziel, R. (2001). “Man the maker, woman the consumer.” In A. Craeger,
E. Lunbeck, & L. Schiebinger (Eds.), Feminism in twentieth-century science, technology, and medicine (pp. 128-148). Chicago: University of Chicago.

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