Friday, February 6, 2009

Project Open Heart

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is that I have to offer a man. I am not actively dating and haven’t dated since my move to the big city almost six years ago, so even thinking along these lines is big news. BIG. But, rather than just run out and accost the first man who I see, I thought I should set out a plan for re-entering the dating world. My good friend…who I affectionately call ‘Lamb Chop,’ or at least I do in my head, but that’s a whole other storey…well, she is calling my plan ‘Project Open Heart.’ I like it.

But deciding to take that first step out into the very frightening world of dating is, for me, a step that takes a lot of preparation. So, Step One has been to enter the world in which dating is a possibility. I have seen little more than my laptop screen in the last four months (who am I kidding, 6 years) and I decided that it was time to at least sit in a place where I can look over the top of my laptop screen and see the world. So, I’ve taken to working in libraries and coffee shops and I have to say that the view is much nicer. I am starting to feel a connection to this strange new world, and I think I like it.

So, you might think that Step Two would be to start to make eye contact with some potential dater, maybe even strike up a flirtatious conversation or two. But, alas, you would be wrong. We can’t take things too quickly, you know. It’s like starting an exercise program. The first step is to take a tour of the gym. Step Two, get a fitness assessment. Step Three, do some gentle stretching. Step Four, is a bit of warm up and then and only then, can you safely begin that wonderful journey to fitness. Step One has been the ‘tour,’ entering the world again and opening my eyes (and heart) to that world. Step Two, bring it on!

The Assessment:

Now my previously mentioned friend and project manager of Project Open Heart assures me that I have a lot to offer in the dating realm, that I am fit to exercise, if you are still following the gym metaphor. Now, it isn’t that I don’t trust her completely and fully in most things, but frankly, she is just too kind and positive to be totally believable in this case. Sorry, Lamby, but I have to rely on my own assessment this time.

So, Step Two is all about determining what I have to offer, my marketability, if you will. And frankly, it isn’t pretty. I think I could fit in a date on the first and third Sunday of every month, as long as it doesn’t fall immediately after a midterm, final exam, or within two weeks of a potential lecture, conference presentation or postdoc application deadline. I like to have fun and relationships don’t generally scare me, but I’m not a good sharer. I think the perfect marriage is one that involves two of everything, including apartments. As mentioned in a previous post, I have freaky baby toe nails and am in the middle of perimenopause. I am more familiar with a hot flash than a hot date. Can I put that on a dating profile? Despite these limitations, my standards are very high. Any potential date must have his own teeth, or at least the majority of them, must be able to read without moving his lips, should be able to feign interest in what I do for a living and most importantly must be able to distinguish between a Wii, an Xbox and a PS2 without a manual. A girl has to have standards. ;) So there it is.
It isn’t as pretty as the picture my wonderful project manager paints, but it is me. And despite these ‘limitations’, or perhaps because of them, I kind of like me. So, am I fit to start Step Three? You bet. Is there a man out there who might find this attractive? That remains to be seen. Stay tuned for Step Three…Anyone have any good stretching exercises? ;)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

Okay, I have been tagged both in Facebook and on a good friend’s blog and I’m afraid they will take my poor blog away, citing abandonment, so here I am giving my all (or at least all that is left at the end of the day) to the “25 Random Things About Me” tagging war.

1. I didn’t know what my favourite colour was until I was 34 yeas old.
2. I married young and divorced old and have now settled somewhere in between.
3. I finally broke down and bought ‘progressive lens’ glasses.
4. Progressive lens are so not bifocals!
5. I was kind of dizzy for a week, and I kind of liked it.
6. I adore orange tic tacs and will sometimes eat them until my mouth hurts.
7. A chocolate bar usually lasts me more than a week.
8. I used to wear underwear over my nylons to keep them up.
9. For three years I allowed myself to love country music for a man. I am only a little ashamed.
10. I am desperately afraid of graduating.
11. I am desperately afraid of not graduating.
12. I have been going through Peri-menopause for three years.
13. I once got locked in a wardrobe with my best friend and my sister. I was very scared, but part of me knew my sister would get us out of there. She did. She always does.
14. She also put me in dryer.
15. And turned it on.
16. I am on a first-name basis with my friend Hot Flash. I kind of enjoy our relationship. Weird.
17. I have embarrassing baby toenails. Don’t ask.
18. I can’t roll my tongue and I feel it is one of the great disappointments in my life.
19. If I won the lottery, I would still do what I am doing. But, I’d have more shoes.
20. I dyed my hair purple because I was in a bad mood and I wanted to give the finger to the world.
21. I kept it purple because the world smiled back.
22. I love movies that have dancing or figure skating as central themes.
23. I listen to pre-recorded ocean sounds to help me sleep.
24. One of my pet peeves is when people say “To tell you the honest truth…” As opposed to the dishonest truth? C’mon.
25. I have a scar on my face from a riding accident. Okay, the horse was metal and had handles growing out of his head, but still…

If you read this on my blog (which only has two subscribers, I’m sure) then you have been tagged. Unless you are my sister, but only because by the time all of your kids have tagged you, I think we’ll all end up knowing more about you than you would otherwise want us to ;).

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Coming Home

I am an international researcher. Okay, so I only went to Seattle, but that’s international, right? They have different food, different speed limits and I swear the money was designed by a colour-blind environmentalist. Anyway, having come back from my international jet setting (okay, there were no jets involved, but damn it, bus setting just doesn’t have the same ring to it), I thought I would share a few of my thoughts upon arriving home.

1. I am not meant to be a solo traveller. While I accomplished a lot in Seattle, my explorations fell a bit flat. Having someone to share the experience with is what makes adventures fun for me.
2. Vancouver is home. And I don’t mean that is what my driver’s license says. I mean, it is where my mind and heart are at rest. Seeing the skyline as we drove into the city made my heart rest easy.
3. The internet is an odd place. Even though I was online for most of the trip (although this meant no television as the internet only worked in one corner of my bedroom which had no tv), at least two of the people who I talk to most online said they liked it better when I was home and chatting. Somehow, where I was mattered, not just to me, but to them. Other people like to know you are where your mind and heart are at rest too, I guess.
4. I have a great life in Vancouver, filled with even greater people and while I won’t bore you by listing them all, rest assured that if you are reading this and you live in Vancouver, you are probably on the list. Whether you want to be or not.
5. Fear is best served in small portions. Let me explain. (as if you could stop me!). Travelling always makes me nervous. I feel like a child and I doubt that I will know what to do should I get on the wrong bus, talk to the wrong people, walk through the wrong part of town, etc. But lately, I have been learning that one of the keys to overcoming fear is that you only ever have to deal with the present moment. In fact, you can’t actually ever deal with anything else. Each scary thing is just imagination until it is there in front of you in the moment. And that moment is manageable. I mean, really truly manageable. Who knew? Well, you probably did, but maybe I’m just a slow learner. ;)
6. The best part of a trip is taking pictures that most people will not be as excited to see as you are to show them. I won’t bore you with them here, but I WILL post them on Facebook, so be forewarned.
7. Lastly, I really, really, really, like the Fiber One Poptarts and you can only get them in the US so far. And they have chocolate chip cookie cereal! There are some things in life that just aren’t fair. But, I’ll get over it. Now that I’m….home.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Learning to Wait...

Well, friends, it has been a long time since I have written anything, so I guess it’s about time (in more ways than one).

The last few months have been a difficult time. For those of you who don’t know, I have had ongoing headaches and dizziness for over two months now. After 3 weeks, I was told it was probably allergies, after 6 weeks, I was told it was probably sinus and stress. At 7 weeks, my right cheek when numb and I was sent to a neurologist. Two weeks later, I was also having numbness and tingling in my right hand and foot. The neurologist sent me for a CT scan.

Two weeks ago, I had the scan (and an allergic reaction to the contrast dye that they put through an IV into my veins!). Today, I found out that apparently my brain is normal. Who would have thought? Me. Normal. That’s one for the books, for sure.

Anyway, it looks like we are back to chalking this one up to sinus/allergies and stress. Which is fine by me. Beats a brain tumour any day of the week ;).

Probably the most stressful part of the last few months was waiting. Waiting to see if the headache/dizziness would go away on its own, waiting to see if the various medications would do the trick, then waiting to see the neurologist, waiting to get the CT scan, waiting in various Dr.’s offices, hospital waiting rooms, and then waiting for the results.

I know that nobody likes to wait, but I am especially bad at it. I worry, I fret, and I pace. If cells had feet, all of mine would be tapping. But, all of this waiting has taught me a few important lessons.

First, waiting is best done in the company of friends. I have never been more aware of how extremely fortunate I am to have great friends who will listen to my fears and phobias without judgement. Thanks, especially to J, S and my wonderful sister C for getting into my head and for taking me outside of it!

Second, waiting can eat you alive if you let it. It will eat up every breath and consume every thought. Waiting has a voracious appetite and will stop at nothing until it devours every moment until the dreaded/anticipated deadline arrives. But, life is bigger than waiting and living is the only way to stop it in its tracks.

Lastly, waiting is actually counterproductive. It serves no purpose. All of the energy that we spend on waiting is wasted energy. It has been a very gradual process, but I have learned to let go of the waiting and just live my life. I have realized that we often look to the future and miss out on experiencing fully the ‘in the meantime.’ I am learning to focus on the moment and live it! Life does not wait for us, and I’ll be damned if I’ll wait for it. ;)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Can you keep a secret?

Over the many years that I have spent as a professional student, I have uncovered a few secrets that no one tells you. I’m sure there is a law against actually speaking about them, but I didn’t read the full handbook, so I’m just going to plead ignorance if anyone asks. I think the public has a right to know.

Secret #1: The first year of grad school is not about teaching you anything. Nor is it about evaluating what you know. Or at least, that’s not the most important part. The first year of graduate school is really about seeing if you have the stamina and the confidence necessary to call yourself an expert.

It is a lot of work and very little sleep. You get to juggle huge amounts of reading with paid work and huge amounts of insecurity. All with the knowledge of fixed and looming deadlines just ahead. And you think “I can do this” and “I can sleep next year.” But, you walk through that first year, or at least you stagger through that first year, thinking no one understands. Everyone else seems to have it together. And if you are me, that means one thing. Fake it so that no one knows you are the only fraud in your cohort.

Then, when I became a PhD student, I decided that I wanted to help that one fraud that comes along each year. I wanted to give them the much needed support and empathy that I didn’t feel like I got when I was an MA student. So, I started a group for MA students, a place where they could come and talk about their concerns, share their work and get to know each other. I tried to be as honest about all my insecurities as I could. I wanted to draw out that one person, like me, who always felt like a fraud. To my surprise, the ones who didn’t seem to feel that way were always in the minority. Secret # 2: you are not the only fraud. Secret #3: If you band together with all the other frauds, no one will ever catch on. Secret #4: Confidence is just another word for faking it.

I barely remember the second year of my MA. I think that somewhere between the end of the first year and graduation, I did some research, wrote and rewrote a thesis and stood up in front of the judges and a jury of my peers and defended the damn thing. It isn’t because it was easy that I don’t remember it. It is because it was so traumatic. Here I was, having just survived my first year of classes, and my realization that I was indeed a huge fraud, and suddenly my supervisor looks at me and says “Now you are the expert. Go out and make knowledge.” No pressure. Secret #5: A year of graduate school does not make you an expert at anything. You immediately realize that admitting this to anyone will discredit you and they will probably send you back to do Year One over again. You keep your mouth shut. It’s all about survival, I tell you. Secret #6: They won’t send you back. Ask lots of questions. In order to hide my secret identity (Super Fraud), I asked lots of people one question each in hopes that they wouldn’t talk to each other and they would each only think I had only small holes in my vast library of knowledge. Yeah, right.

Probably the most recent secret I have learned, I didn’t learn until I was working on my PhD. Secret #7: You are not alone. No one gives you a list of potential friends when you enter ‘The Program.’ But trust me, they are all around you. Secret #8: This isn’t a competition, folks. No matter what anyone tells you. Over the last few years, I have been fortunate to have a group of friends who, not unlike a support group, are not afraid to tell me the truth and to hold me accountable. I try to do the same for them. I think it has made us all better students and maybe even better people. And all it took was a lot of honesty and a willingness to disclose a few secrets.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Romancing the Archive

As a graduate student, I am constantly asked about what I study. I have to admit that I am always a bit hesitant to provide any details. Perhaps I have seen too many polite nods and glassy eyes to be able to convince myself that what I do is sexy or provocative in any way. Saying that I do historical research seems to have a distinct sedative effect. But, given that I can’t see your eyes or your nodding head, I have decided now is the perfect time to talk about what it is exactly that I do.

As a historical researcher, I spend a lot of time pouring over old newspapers and other minutiae of the ‘everyday.’ And I have to say that there is something hauntingly beautiful about the archive. To the outside observer, I imagine I am simply a middle aged woman squinting at the screen as microfiche whirs by in an almost nauseating start and stop fashion. But in my world, I am a time traveller, watching time flash by on the screen. At a push of a button, I can freeze time, and step into another world. A world where the latest fashion from London is the English Sailor Hat in Khaki and where men’s trousers would set you back $2.00 to $4.50 depending on quality. It is a world where the sports section talks about cricket matches at Brockton Point and Lawn Tennis in Mount Pleasant. Welcome to the year 1900 in British Columbia. It is a world that I step into with ease and step out of with trepidation.

Usually I step in slowly, letting myself become accustomed to this new (old) world. First, I read the advertisements because even in 1900, my shopping addiction reigns. Then I’ll let my eyes wander carelessly across headlines until something catches my eye. Sometimes it is an old wedding picture. Other times, it is a hauntingly told half-story of murder and intrigue. My mind fills in the blanks in creative ways, turning the murder of a 17 year old girl by her 20 year old boyfriend into a tragic version of Romeo and Juliet. He says that she and he had a suicide pact, but he couldn’t bring himself to end his life after he had ended hers. He confesses to murder, but refuses to ever tell the reason. It is a story that deserves to be told, but one that remains hidden in the archive. It is not my story to tell. But, I am saddened that it is only half-told and by now totally forgotten.

The ghosts of the archive refuse to be silent. They wait for me and those like me to bring them to life. I am always aware of their presence and feel humbled to be the one who gets to tell their stories. But the archive is not all romance, tragic or heroic. It, like all worlds past and present holds the stories that are sometimes too painful to bear. The ugliness I see in this world tears at my heart. You see, it is also a world where the ‘little brown men’ are seen as fraudulent citizens, where immigrants of colour are referred to as ‘cargo.’ It is a world where the right to vote was dependent on the colour of one’s skin. In this world where a man could buy trousers for $2.00, a $100 fine was imposed to any ‘Collector of Votes’ who added the “names of Japanese, Chinese or Indians” to the voter’s list.

I walk in this world carefully. Sometimes the landmines that I uncover spring up with no warning in this world of cricket, lawn tennis and English Sailor hats. Other times, the danger is abundantly clear and although it always saddens me, it does not take my breath away in the same way. Good and bad, this is the world I work in. My commute spans not miles, but decades or centuries. My research participants are apparitions of forgotten memories and misplaced recollections. Out of the chaos, they rise. It is a world of beauty, intrigue and mystery. Welcome to my world.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


I love the smell of dirt. While many might argue that the smell of spring is the sweet smell of flowers in bloom, for me it is the rich earthy smells of fresh turned soil that signals the start of spring. Maybe it is my pollen allergies that make me reject the floral calling cards of spring. But, whatever it is, you can’t convince me that spring is here until I smell that rich heady scent of dirt.

When I smell dirt, see the deep dark colour, I want to grab a handful and feel its cool moist texture in my hand, I want to hold it close to my face, inhale deeply and smell the beginning of life. I want to squeeze it tightly in my fist, warm it with my own heat and then open my hand and watch it spill between my fingers and settle gently on the ground.

The smell of dirt is the smell of hidden potential. It is underestimated and undervalued. But it is patient and productive. It welcomes the seeds, those who happen there by accident, as well as those that are planted with forethought and deliberation. As the seeds begin to grow, the dirt shifts, accommodates, nurtures and embraces. It hardens and protects and then it accepts the breaks and fissures that are necessary for the seed to become a shoot, then a bud and finally burst into the flower of spring.

There is just so much that we can learn from dirt.