Wednesday, June 21, 2017

When I jumped on the meditation bandwagon

I am a fairly high-strung person.

I look calm and collected, but inside my head I am freaking the @#*& out.

I come by it honestly.  My mother was this kind of person too.  It was said she could put her head on one chair and her feet on another without sagging in the middle.

I resemble that remark.

My shoulders are never relaxed.  My jaw is always clenched.  My head is always aching.

Source

My mind never stops considering the options of disaster and woe that lay ahead of me.  I go over every conversation that didn't go as planned, every thing I wish I had done differently, and every thing that I might have to do or say in the coming months.

It makes sleeping rather difficult.

Actually, it also makes being awake rather difficult as I can get so ramped up that my resting heart rate is 100 on a regular basis.

When the "mindfulness" trend started many years ago, people started telling me about it.  It was presented as a perfect solution to settle my disquieted mind and really focus on the present.

Pardon me while I hurl.

Truthfully, the first few times I tried mindful meditation, it filled me with such uncontrollable rage I had to stop right then.  It didn't get better for a long time.

Then I started yoga.

Source

Everyone who knows me, knows I'm a huge yoga fan (you have to check out Yoga with Adriene, she is the greatest!).  I have taken classes in a picturesque brick room with the city bustling beneath me while I settle into the mat and am at peace for the first time in a long time.  I have taken busy active yoga with a crammed room of 50 other people while the sweat pours down my face.  I have settled into a nice mix of both in my living room while I get ready for the day.

Finally, I understood what meditation is about.  But I had to learn it while DOING something.

Once I had that, I realized I could move into exploring what meditation could do beyond the mat.

I started listening to a guided meditation on Calm.com on my iPhone.  I found I didn't hate the voice of the woman so I could sit through it without being all ragey.  This is an important first step.

Second step was working my way up from 2 to 10 and finally 25 minutes.

Just sitting and being is really hard when you're a doer and a worrier.  It feels weird.

Source

I'm not solved.  I still have anxiety filled nights of insomnia, but they are fewer than they were.  I still have rock hard shoulder and neck muscles (and not the kind that are enviable) but I have ways to work them out.

Now, I try and do yoga three times a week and I do nightly meditation to fall asleep.

I'm still awake at 4 in the morning, but I am taking deep breaths while I am.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Drowning in academic hopelessness

Why I thought taking a short 8 week class (during May and June) would be a good idea, I will never know.  I'm working full time.  I have contract work on the side.  I volunteer.  I have a family, friends, my niece (who likely thinks I no longer exist), and responsibilities.

I wanted this class.  It combines all the things I want to do with my degree and my career.  Canadian social policy, critical Indigenous thinking, and domestic violence intervention.

In 8 weeks.

What was I thinking?

Each week, I have slogged through hundreds and hundreds of pages of reading, cramming my mind full of information and new ways of thinking.  Learning the things I should have known and expanding on some that I did.

What have I learned most?

The Canadian government has been A-HOLES to Indigenous people.  For hundreds and hundreds of years.

I always knew this on some level.  I was taught about Residential Schools and treaties and oppressive government workers and systems (Thanks, Mrs. Gellner!).  I watched mini-series and read books and listened to adults talk.  My heart ached as a child for the people who I thought were so lovely that nothing bad should ever have happened to them.

But I didn't actually know the bad.  Not all of it.  Not even most of it.  After all, I was only a kid and they try not to scar you that early.

Now I am in a quagmire of despair and pain and confusion.  Not only has the Canadian government been horrible, but the profession that I love has been an instrument of further oppression and pain and condescension.  How can I, with my trusty Human Justice and Social Work degrees and great plans to "help people", continue on?

How am I going to write a paper for this class now that everything seems hopeless?

I mean, the Government over the last 50+ years has issued study after study, commission after commission, paper after paper.  It has spent thousands (though cumulatively now likely millions and millions) of dollars "studying the problem" and getting recommendations.

Hundreds and hundreds of recommendations.  All saying almost entirely the same thing.

They are all saying and/or have all said, "Hey Canada, you're a dick to the Indigenous people. Here's how you can be better."

But guess what?

Canada NEVER EVER DECIDES TO BE BETTER.

Okay, that may be a little over-generalizing, but it's not far from the truth.  The Canadian government gets these great recommendations - ones that will make a real difference - and then they (it?) decide they don't want to do most of them.  Then the government puts a couple of paltry recommendations into place and are shocked - SHOCKED - when things aren't fixed.

What?? How are you not all better now?

Here are the main things I've learned (or relearned):

  1. Many of those who signed treaties and moved to reserves did so because the White people killed all the game in the area and people were starving.  The government made it a policy to ONLY FEED THE PEOPLE WHO SIGNED AND MOVED.  And, at that, they only fed them every other day to make sure they remained compliant. (Clearing the Plains, 2013)
  2. The government worried that Indigenous people being self-sufficient would mean they would interfere with Canadian settlements and so made sure they were not allowed to or able to do any work. (Clearing the Plains, 2013)
  3. The government decided who actually belonged to Indigenous culture. Can you imagine if the government got to decide who was allowed to go to your church or come to your family reunions or live on your street? (The Indian Act, 1885)
  4. Then, if someone did not comply with the government rules of who was Indigenous (i.e.: marrying "your own kind" or living on the reserves) the government made them sign their rights away. (Accounting for Genocide, 2004)
  5. Children were taken away from their parents as young as 3 -5 years old and did not see their family for up to 8 or more years.  These children were put in schools and not allowed to talk to their own siblings. (The Circle Game,  2006)
  6. Children were beaten and raped and killed and starved by religious groups "educating" them.  Anyone who spoke out against what was happening was fired or transferred. (The Circle Game,  2006)
  7. Full self-government was encouraged in a report in the 1960s, but Indigenous people were not even allowed to run their own farms until 1990s. (Hawthorn Report, 1966)
  8. There was a commission that encouraged special status and full self-government and instead the government planned to delete all status and have severely micromanaged involvement in government. (Hawthorn Report, 1966; The White Paper, 1969)
  9. Children en masse were removed from reserves in the 60s and given to White families.  In some cases, up to 90% of children on the reserve were removed from their families.  (The 60s Scoop)
  10. Indigenous women are at risk of violence at least 3 times that of any other woman in Canada. They are 5 times more likely to die.  And!! More often by the hand of strangers than other women.  (Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women)
There is more.  SO MUCH MORE.  I am exhausted by it all.  Now I have 18 days to write a paper about domestic violence and social policy. 

Every time I think I have a research question, my mind comes up with some reason there is NO POINT TO ANY OF THIS.  My mind has a completely valid point. 

My question is this: how, after all that has happened, can I make a difference in the lives of anyone who is suffering not only from domestic violence, but also societal violence, racism, sexism, poverty, addictions, trauma, and a country who regularly makes the WORST decisions for you and your communities?

How can you help one thing without addressing all the other inequalities?  The answer is that you can't.

Here is the problem.

Our government, past and present and likely future (and the people who voted them in), do not want to address all of the inequalities.  Instead, they implement limited recourse with limited funds and then blame the individual for something that has been centuries in the making.





Wednesday, May 24, 2017

TryPod: my "must-listen" podcasts

A couple of years ago I was looking for a new way to learn.  I needed to expand my knowledge, my mind, and my experiences, all from the comfort of my own home.  Books are great, yes, but I have made it a policy never to read anything that will teach me things on purpose*.

I also needed something I could do while walking, driving, and knitting.

Enter the podcast -- a short radio-type downloadable episode (**see technical definition below!)

My sisters and numerous other friends had been listening to podcasts for years by this point, but I am woefully behind the times.  I mean, I still haven't fully figured out Snapchat.

Now, I am so entrenched in the podcast world, I often start my sentences with, "I was listening to this thing yesterday..."  It has given me endless pieces of useless facts.

And you thought I had too many already!

I decided to share my favourites in hope I can spark someone else to expand their world.


The Way I Heard It


Host: Mike Rowe

I have watched Mike Rowe on Dirty Jobs and listened to him narrate The Deadliest Catch.  I liked his sense of humour and his calming voice.  So, when I found out there was a short podcast (usually 10 minutes max) where he tells you a clever story in a way you've never heard it before, I had to sign up.

You listen to his stories with rapt curiosity and then, at the end, he reveals the name of the person he is talking about.  It is clever and mind-blowing and I learn all sorts of things.

My favourite episodes are: The one where a songwriter bases his most famous song off the Morse Code for "dead" and the one of the most feared sniper in WWII.





History Chicks

Hosts: Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider


This was the first podcast I binged listened.

Friends and family will attest that for months, I talked of nothing else but these two women and the women they discussed.  I learned so much!

Listening, I really felt like I was sitting back with a glass of wine chatting with two friends about their fascination with amazing women of history.  Their tag line says it all for me: "Any resemblance to a boring old history lesson is purely coincidental."


My favourite episodes are so many I can hardly write them all down.  But I loved the one about Hatshepsut, the Egyptian Queen who decided she was a King; Molly Brown, the powerhouse woman who survived the Titanic sinking; and Dorothy Parker (Part I and Part II).  There are so many more, you will not be disappointed.  They even did a series on all the women who have run for President of the USA.


Criminal

Creators: Phoebe Judge (also the host) and Lauren Spohrer

I fell in love with two things about Criminal right off the bat: the soothing voice of host, Phoebe, and the completely different take on stories of crime.

In a world that is all about sensationalizing crime and the glamour or horror behind it, Criminal is thoughtfully done and respectful of the people involved as perpetrators and as victims.  It is the story of how crime occurs and the people it effects.

As for favourite episodes?  There's the one about a couple who put a Buddha in an empty lot to discourage garbage dumping and ended up turning around their neighbourhood.  There's the story of the police dog, Talon, who had to retire. For a third, there is a story about a woman who spent years searching for the bodies of two children she had never met.

It's not always easy to listen to, but there hasn't been a thing I've heard that wasn't fascinating and didn't change the way I see the world, so I think that's a pretty good thing.


Girls Girls

Hosts: Brittany Gibbons and Meredith Soleau

Warning: THIS IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.  You will hear more cuss words and talk about sex things than you will ever need to hear in your life.

However.  If you ever want to hold your stomach and laugh so hard you pee a little, these are the girls for you.  They will talk about anything and everything with such openness you will forget to be shocked... and then you'll remember again.

As for favourite episodes, I don't think there is one that hasn't made me laugh so hard I snorted.  Sometimes, listening to Meredith's reaction to things has me wheezing in pain and laughter.

Again, this is not for my nice aunties or conservative friends.  If you listen and are horrified at the fact this is one of my favourite things on earth, I will just stare at you until you go away.

Episodes I love: We're all mad here -- the one about mental illness.  Panty Sniffers -- the one about people who sell their dirty underwear (honestly, I died at this one. I still laugh thinking about it.) Alternative sex facts -- the one where they discuss sex. (That's every episode).

They have more. Some I get weepy, some I am touched, and some I am so happy that someone is talking about things no one will talk about.  I like them a lot.



Now, this is a small list of the podcasts I must listen to as soon as they hit the internet.  Maybe I will share some more I love later on.  Maybe not. But here is a start for you.

You can listen to them on their webpages or you can subscribe to them via an app on your phone.  I started out using Podcast (the iPhone app) and now am happy with Overcast.  Check them out.  You won't regret it.
MayB



*Sadly, taking my Masters has done away with this policy.
** "Podcasts are similar to radio programs, but they are audio files. Listeners can play them at their convenience, using devices that have become more common than portable broadcast receivers." (Source)  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Imposter syndrome settling in fast: a tale of Masters woe

It is late at night and I should be awake in a few hours so I can get back to work. Since I know it will take longer to get to morning if I am awake for it, I have chosen to wait it out.

I have entered the realm of "completing my Masters" panic where I have a paper due soon and I have no idea what I'm doing or how long it will take to do it.

notes, organized, studying

I have often heard my family members (sisters and cousin) and friends complain about the workload of doing a Masters. I heard them bemoan the sleepless nights, looming deadlines, and set-in of panic, but I thought it couldn't be that bad. Tough yes, but not paralyzing.

I would like to apologize.

Now of course I am working full time, heavily involved in my union, working as a consultant a few times a month, and volunteering in my free time. Add to that my social life (occasional wing nights and suppers with my husband) with my copious amounts of recorded TV shows and trashy romance novels I want to read and I am having a bit of time management issues.

I assume everyone else also responds to this by napping and/or playing games on their phone.


Part of my lack of confidence lies in the significant time that has passed since I have been in the world of academia. When I last wrote a term paper, I had to research using card catalogues. I painstakingly jotted quotes and ideas on recipe cards so I could tape them together in as an outline before I wrote. I used a shared computer in a lab where I stood in line for 45 minutes so I could work for 2 hours.

I also walked uphill both ways.

I am lucky in a few ways. I have written case reports, agency evaluations, project proposals, and more in the over 15 years since I last exited the hallowed halls of school and swore on my mother that I would never return. I am lucky to have written anything resembling intelligent thought in the time between.

I am also lucky as I have my father's gift of bullshit where if one speaks confidently and without pause one sounds like they know much more than they do. (I'm not speaking out of school here, it's one of his favour things.)

However, as I sit here in front of the computer, I don't actually want to do these things. I want to eat ice cream in the pantry with a large spoon while the dog sits outside the door and wonders why I won't share.

Thankfully, we're out of ice cream.

Friday, January 27, 2017

What to buy for people who are hard to buy for: a tutorial

It's coming up to the 10th anniversary of the first date that The Guy and I ever went on.

So cute and young.

Ten years. That seems like a long time and yet not long enough. I feel like we've been together for a long time and also not that long.

Time is weird. Also, now I have to get a gift for him.

I've got a dilemma.

What do I get the guy who doesn't need or want anything?


The Guy's answer? "Truck parts"

I'm not buying trucks parts. Maybe for our "chrome" anniversary. Wait... I just realized 10 years is the tin/aluminum year. Ugh. 

But I've been thinking about our date-iversary and what I want to get The Guy. So, when UncommonGoods contacted me and offered me a chance to review their site and get a bit of money for it so I can buy something, I jumped at the chance. 

What's so good about UncommonGoods?


Well, my favourite thing is in their mission statement. UncommonGoods are "making sustainability a part of every decision we make" and are "working to make UncommonGoods more environmentally friendly, [and] socially responsible."

Honestly, with all the things going on in the world today, I have been trying to make better decisions about my purchase choices. Sustainability, environmentally friendly, and socially responsibility is where I've been focusing.

I'm serious. Read the mission statement.

Presents for the guy who has it all


I got lost in the rabbit hole of awesome gifts for everyone I know, but I focused on gifts that are good for guys and gifts to commemorate anniversaries of all kinds. (I also looked at things for the dog... Monty's been in this relationship too!!)

Alcohol Options


The Guy likes a good beer. He's a bit of a beer aficionado and so I always know that beer is always a good gift for him. When I saw I could narrow down my recommendations to beer related, I was pretty stoked.

I figured I could take one of everything, but these were my two favourites. The Guy has always loved Guinness beer so this kit would be a neat way to explore that. The glass set is a perfect co-gift. Wade likes beer and I like wine!

beer wine beer making glasses
Irish Stout Beer Brewing Kit and Personalized Tree Trunk Glassware Duo
All photos source UncommonGoods

Travel related gifts


We love to travel all over the place. I swear, if we had all the money in the world, we would never come home. UncommonGoods has some awesome travel themed presents for everyone.

personalized map pillow frame
Personalized Anniversary Pushpin World Map and Hand Embroidered City Pillows

I'd love to have a map where we could keep track of all the places we have been and where we want to go. I've also started buying pillow covers respresenting each of our travel destinations, so the hand-made cover would be perfect!

Home decor options


I am always on the lookout for home decor stuff. So, with the great decor options for the home from UncommonGoods, I couldn't resist.

statues lamps gifts home decor
Handmade Rock and Vine Lamp and Kissing Lovers Sculpture

I cannot stand the lamp that is in The Guy's office, so I love the idea of replacing it with this awesome handmade lamp. And what can I say about the statue. It is so beautiful and I can think of all the places it would look perfect in our house.

Now, I will link The Guy to options for me! Anniversary gifts that a woman in your life would love.





Saturday, December 31, 2016

Please. Don't. Suck.

The new year is coming.


This, of course, means that everyone and their dog has a New Years post with something to say. I am no different. I have been quiet the last few months, but today I had a need to write.

This last year, that of 2016, has been a rough one. I have to admit that it has nearly defeated me on more than one occasion and I am not sad to see it go.

2016 has taken countless people from the Earth who have made extraordinary differences and many others who seemed ordinary but made differences just the same.

2016 has seen the uprising of bigotry, misogyny, and other various kids of hatred. It has lead me to fear for the world in general and its people in specific.

Yes, there have been good things about 2016. If you look at my Instagram, you will see all the good things about my year personally. It was full of puppies, school, friends, food, knitting, and football.

Love and beauty and art and simplicity that have seemed like brief, shining, fleeting moments of glitter amongst the refuse.

Even with it, it feels as though the refuse is winning.

So I have this to say:

Dear 2016, don't let the door hit you on your way out.

Source

Looking to the future


But I also have something to say to and about 2017.

Dear 2017, Please. Don't. Suck.

That is my phrase for this year. Some people pick uplifting things for their yearly plan, but I don't have it in me. All I have is a plea to the coming year as it struggles to push 2016 out of the way so we can finally be done with it. Please, 2017, don't suck.

Now, this is my intention for the year 2017 and the things that happen in it, but also it is my intention for me personally.

Don't. Suck.

I plan to wake up every day and think to myself that this year, I should not suck. I should be as good as I can be at things, sure. But what I'm looking for is a little deeper.

Don't. Suck.

As a human being, in the world of all people, DO NOT SUCK. Don't be the one that others look at and think "Wow, you suck at being a people."

Be kinder.

Be more helpful.

Be patient.

Be strong.

Be knowledgeable.

Protect the innocent and the weak.

Give of your time or body to others in a way that is respectful to them and yourself.

DON'T. SUCK.

That is all I ask of 2017, the things that are to come, myself, and the world around me.

I don't know if it is too much to ask. Some of the things I've seen and heard in the last year make me wonder. All I can do is try myself to suck less at being a person on this Earth filled with millions of other people who may or may not suck.

I will treat people with kindness more often. I will protect the innocent and the weak without being a dick about it. I will not save the world, but I will be a better part in it than I have been before.

I will not end misogyny or bigotry or other hateful things, but I will point it out when I see it (even in myself) and I will make noise about it. I will be less programmed and I will be better.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

How to overcome the smell of rotting broccoli in two easy steps

I am not a good cook.

This is not a surprise for most people who know me as it has been a running family joke for most my life. The tale of the hamburger soup I made to impress my step-mother but actually forgot to turn on is something that I still get teased about.

It's nice to know I'm consistent.

This week, I made a pretty decent Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey turned out great, the potatoes were creamy, the veggies were roasted, and we all ate like kings. So, revelling in my success, I thought I would make turkey soup to keep the party going.

I had good intentions.

But then...


This brought on a great deal of conversation on my FaceBook page about other people's mishaps and reminders that it could be worse. My cousin jokingly reminded me it was no worse than the time I forgot broccoli in the microwave for 2 weeks.

That brought up many questions for friends and family, so I thought I would regale you with the story. It may be the perfect example of all my cooking experiences.

Broccoli clip art for emphasis. Source here.


Once upon a time, my soon to be sister-in-law, Mel, and I lived together in an apartment. It was a cute little apartment with 60s style room dividers and a teeny kitchen off the living area. This was good as it was rare we ever cooked with any consistency.

One day, we were trying to be healthy and made supper. Pork chops in the oven, pasta on the stove, and broccoli steamed in the microwave. I'm sure it was lovely, but I have no memory of the meal itself.

What I have is memory of the aftermath.

A couple of weeks went by and we were overwhelmed with the smell of rotting vegetation. We cleaned the kitchen top to bottom. We moved the stove, cleaned out the fridge, and washed the floors.

Still the smell remained.

We didn't locate the source for many days.

Now, you would think with the extreme clean that we did that one of us would have remembered to open the microwave. You would think that someone would have used the microwave in those weeks, but then you would not understand how much we truly hated cooking.

Finally we opened the microwave.

There it was.

A small bowl of broccoli was sitting there in the middle of the appliance. It was green, but not in the way that broccoli is green, but that green that has taken over once-living vegetation.

The smell that wafted forth from the open door was somewhat sweet, but mostly decaying, and caused an immediate retching from each of us in the room.

We threw out the broccoli and cleaned the microwave. Like my other cousin pointed out on FaceBook, there is not enough vinegar in the world to stop that smell. But, we gave it the college try.

Eventually we admitted defeat. We were going to live with that smell forever and that was how it would be.

A possible solution came to us. Popcorn!!

Have you ever cooked popcorn and had the smell take over an entire room? Maybe this would do it for us.

Plus, we would get to eat popcorn. Double win!

We threw the popcorn into the microwave and settled down to watch American Idol.

I would like to remind you of two things here. First, this was long ago enough that watching American Idol was awesome. Not weird and sad. Second, this was long ago enough that the microwave did not have a popcorn setting. You put it in for numerous minutes and waited for the sound of popping to slow to one pop a second.

American Idol got very exciting. Mel's favourite singer knocked out my favourite singer in the last round. Mel was whooping and jumping around in victory while I felt small and insignificant.

Suddenly... "What is that smell?" and... "The popcorn!!!"

The microwave door opened to reveal the popcorn bag on fire. Panic ensued. Flaming bag was dumped in sink and doused. Popcorn was mourned.

Once the excitement finished, we noticed something important.

The smell of rotting broccoli was gone.