Friday, May 29, 2009

a bundle of nerves...

I have a presentation in French today. I'm very very nervous. Even though I'm prepared and I will essentially be reading my "speech" so that I don't get totally flustered, I'm worried about being so nervous that I can't pronounce things properly. Oy. By 2pm today, I will be such a relieved girl. I think tonight will call for copious amounts of wine to celebrate my very first French presentation (and maybe my last!)

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

food for thought

Because it made me think....

It’s crass to mention race, unless you’re holding it against someone

One of the most fascinating things about watching the identity politics meltdown on the right after Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination is the blithe assumption that men don’t have a gender and white people don’t have a race. It’s the sort of thing people talk about a lot in abstract theoretical terms, but now you’re seeing it play out in real life.

Example #1:
“Judge Sotomayor is a liberal activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written,” said Wendy E. Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, a conservative group. “She thinks that judges should dictate policy and that one’s sex, race and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.”

And example #2, from Senator Inhofe:
In the months ahead, it will be important for those of us in the U.S. Senate to weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences.
Of course, white men utilize undue influence, called privilege, of their race and gender all the time. But as the above comments demonstrate, people don’t see it that way, because we’re conditioned to think of white men as having neither race nor gender.

Continue to read the rest of the article here

morning commutes

There was once a time when this highway terrified me. Absolutely petrified me. In fact, driving it felt like being crammed between 2 equally dangerous lanes of traffic, barreling down the way beside me at such a speed that even if I wanted to slow down and get into the slow lane it was physically impossible. I thought that this would never be a highway that I would be able to drive without a co-pilot letting me know what was going on on the passenger side lane, while I concentrated on the driver's side. Merging on and off filled me with abject terror and people cutting in in front or behind me made my palms sweat at the steering wheel.
My how times have changed. 8 years later, I drive this highway daily on my commute to work. I've learned to negotiate the short raised ramp merges and cram myself in between cars by just forcing my way into traffic, because guess what, that's what driver's expect. And for all of this raised highway's 3 lanes of intense driving, people always let you in because there is a quasi shared anger/sympathy that rules the road here.
It's both a frightening and beautiful thing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Suburbia or Urbania?

There are 2 sides of me and they often compete for attention and priority in my life. I often suspect that they also often contribute to a sort of schizophrenic disjunct in my life and leave my friends somewhat confused about what I really want. On the other hand, this schism also explains my inability to make decisions easily and without angst. It takes me a long time to decide what is best because I don't know which side I want more. It's not about not wanting things, it's about not knowing which I want more. Cause I can say no quickly enough to what I know I don't want in life.

Case in point: Part of me wants the Victorian house with the backyard by the water and the other part of me wants the loft in the city with rooftop garden (see photo). Of course my loft would have to have some walls but overall, I love the idea of a funky open concept space with a wild rooftop garden. Now I also know that there is a divide between what is ideal and what is practical, and perhaps that loft might seem great in theory but I might not like it as much when I actually have to live in it. Particularly since I'm more of a cozy aesthetic person than a minimalist decorator.

Of course, what this all boils down to is the fact that the boy and I have been talking about house hunting and buying next year, leaving the city and the condo behind in order to have more space and actually less of a commute for me, which all freaks me out a bit. I mean, I never wanted to live in the surrounding area of Montreal. It's always been Montreal or Vancouver for me, so how the hell does Laval or Longueuil play into my sense of identity? I really don't want to wake up one morning, living in surburbia, wondering how the hell I sold out my little artistic soul and started living the life that I dread so much. Because life sort of just happens that way, and I really don't want to let that happen to me. So what does this girl do: convinces the boy to rearrange the condo in an attempt to make more storage space, thereby creating a more versatile living space in order to hold the "I need to move" feelings at bay for just a little bit longer. So off to Ikea we go to buy a new Billy bookshelf and baskets for our newly relocated Expedit bookshelf. I think it'll work out well once we get everything sorted and I'm excited about revamping the space a bit but I don't think it's going to prevent the desire to move next summer....

Ever in search of ways to make our day unique amongst all of the traditional elements, I stumbled across these and have decided that they will make theperfect addition to the day. They're just different enough to be unique and eye-catching, and practical enough to be totally justifiable. I've tried a trial run at them and they aren't hard, just time consuming.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Oh and...

I finished all of my correcting which means that I've officially finished my teaching work this semester. Which means that yours truly is only working one job now, a first in years!

Yay, when work is done, it's done! Woo hoo! Colour me ecstatic!

Back to Soy

So despite my bitching about the book Skinny Bitch, the book's description of the dairy industry is prompting me to make the move back to drinking soy milk after many long years of abstinence. Although I initially loved soy, I found after a while that the chalky flavour started bothering me. Plus, given that I never drank soy fast enough, it always went bad. So I stopped buying it. But I was revolted enough by the dairy descriptions that I was convinced to go back. I'd learn to like soy milk or convert to rice milk, but I was cutting out my milk milk! That was it. However, when I poured it into my cup of chai yesterday, I did so with hesitance.

But I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did it taste good but I was reminded that soy chai drinks are actually far superior than milk based chai because the touch of vanilla (I prefer vanilla soy) and the nutty flavour of the soy just makes the drink that much richer and satisfying. Yup, thrilled to be reminded. I may still have a long way to go before I'll be able to handle soy yoghurt or soy pudding, but soy chai: I'm your girl! Added bonus: the sweetness of the vanilla soy means I use less sugar. It's all good!

Now if only I can convince P...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Art and Literature (or something like that)

I think this picture is unbelievably beautiful. Yes. Beautiful. I [heart] this picture by Kate MccGwire. (no, that's not a typo)
In other news, I am reading this book called Skinny Bitch, which is about become a vegan for weight loss. Before you all get concerned: I didn't start reading the book to become vegan or to lose weight, but because I'd heard a lot about the book and I was just plain curious to know more about it.
Maybe when I was younger I would have found this book entertaining but I just find it annoying. Instead of a well written analysis of the food industry and how it affects our health, it's gimmicky and focused on trying too hard to be cool. For example, in an effort to discuss how fattening and unhealthy dairy is, they start the chapter thus: "Go suck your mother's tits. Go on. Suck your mother's tits. You think this is ridiculous? It is. Get ready to use your head" (Freedman and Barnouin 55). I get that the premise is to be abrasive and to the point; to make you take a long hard look at the truth in a titilating manner so that the topic isn't try. But seriously? I'm as foul mouthed as the rest (sometimes remarkably far more foul mouthed than I should be given though I have a graduate degree in lit and teach English) but I can't help but be irritated by the tone of this book. Yes, it's weird that we eat dairy as adults and you're right, if dairy is meant to fatten a cow/or human baby to at least 2x it's original size within a short period, then yes, eating dairy when you want to stay skinny is probably a colossal mistake. But the approach belittles the information.
I agree that the info is dry and that it makes sense to try to approach in a light-hearted way, but the result is just too gimmicky. It tries too hard. It makes me, a vegetarian of 16 years, just want to shout: shut up already and relax bitches! Yeah. That's right. This cussing, foul mouthed, type A is telling you to fricken mellow out and stop trying so hard.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Long Weekend

My weekend has been full of relaxation and activity.

We accomplished all sorts of wedding related tasks:

  • bought wedding bands

  • picked out tentative readings

  • made our invites (the cat personally watched each card come out of the printer and even sniffed a few to maintain quality control)

I started reading a French novel (the 3rd of the series). I stayed in bed this morning while the cat decided to supervise. See picture, my head was in the crease of the pillow before moving to take a picture. For some insane reason Mayla decided that sleeping just above my head was a great idea. Weird cat!

Later today I'll be venturing up the mountain with a friend. It's been a long time since I've walked up to the top of Mont Royal. It's a lovely day so it should be fun.

What haven't I done: marking. I've cleaned, read, watched, celebrated a 30th birthday, shopped, etc... but I haven't done my marking yet! Oops....

Thursday, May 14, 2009

oh the places this blog is going....

i see you.... :)

Oh the things you'll learn...

Some days, when I sit back, I am somewhat awed by the things my job teaches me. This week alone I have learned (from student papers) about bioremediation, how chemicals impact our sense of love, water shortages in Asia and Canada, the normalization of breast feeding, human rights and globalizaton issue in the Congo and Ivory Coast, and Turkish melodies used in Mozart's Don Giovanni. It's been a busy week!

As much as students think that I am helping and teaching them, they are sometimes completely unaware of the impact they are having on me. I mean, for example, did you know that the majority of Canadian drinking water is underground? I didn't. Or that bioremediation (the introduction of micro-organisms in toxic regions) can actually heal pollution and is ofen more cost effective? Or what about the fact that Mozart used Turkish musical elements in Don Giovanni to convey a sense of chaos and instability in the main character of the opera?

I have learned interesting information ranging from cultural behaviour to Rastafarianism to environmental management to the Black Panther Party to the effects of the diamond trade on the Congo. All from my students. The things teaching teaches are really incredible.

Today I [heart] my profession.

catholic wedding checklist

I found this Catholic wedding preparation list from The Knot and I have to say that I don't know that I find it all that helpful. I've revampted it for my own purposes:

12+ Months Before (depending on your personal timeline)
□ Pick wedding date and time preferences. Start thinking about what type of ceremony you want and how you can add personal elements into the day.

□ Choose a location and officiant. For us this meant going to other churches to see different priests in action. We visited the local arch diocese's website, made a list of the relevant churches in our area, and if possible, checked out their website, then attended a Sunday mass in order to get a sense of the space, the congregation, and the priest before deciding on the one that suited us best as a couple and represented an equal compromise between both our needs.

□ Explore your church's marriage requirements and start collecting required documents and ask priest about intermarriage requirements.

9-11 Months Before
□ Meet with your officiant to discuss ceremony structure and marriage requirements. Your priest may want to help you to choose readings and blessings for the ceremony. Basic structure: 1 old testament reading, 1 new testament, one gospel. We found a selection guide online that we selected made a preliminary selection from (still to be approved by the priest). This was a difficult process for us because many of the readings really upset me or were too focused on the relationship with God or fearing God that it made both of us uncomfortable in terms of our non-Catholic guest contingent. Also, potential way to individualize your ceremony, our priest has agreed to add an additional reading by Khalil Gibran, into the ceremony. From what I gather, after speaking with 2 priests on the issue, many priests will allow you to add a pre-approved non-religious reading to the ceremony, as long as it is respectful of the Catholic traditions and suitably sacred in nature.

□ Begin Pre-Cana, the premarital preparation program required by the Church. Some priests are very particular about this being done early on. Luckily for us, this is not the case with the priest who will marry us in Oct. We were only able to attend the course offered in Aug.

□ Choose your bridal party members.

6-8 Months Before
□ Start creating save the date cards, invitations, programs, and place cards.

□ Choose ceremonial music. There are several resources online for this. However, given the Catholic church's staunch position on the music played during your ceremony, it might be best just to discuss this with your priest or the church musician. Although I'm not thrilled with this aspect, the priest has agreed to let me have whatever music we want, so long as it's respectful of the religious nature of the ceremony, so I must bite my tongue and appreciate his willingness to negotiate and be understanding.

3-4 Months Before
□ Decide who will be reading during the ceremony.

□ Consider decoration needs, such as flowers and candles. This is something we still have to consider, but it's important to find out what is allowed in your church. Some churches perform more than one ceremony a day and actually provide the flowers or prefer that other arrangements are made. Plus, if you think your flower girl will be scattering rose petals while you walk down the aisle, think again. Most churches are not fond of the practice.

□ Book a rehearsal-dinner site and finalize your guest list.

2 Months Before
□ Create ceremony programs. It helps to have programs so your non-Catholic guests will understand the rich spirituality and symbolism of a Catholic wedding.

□ Contact your church about posting Banns (a notice of your intention to wed).

□ Mail invitations.

3-4 Weeks Before
□ Have a final meeting with your priest.

□ Finalize vows, readings, and other special ceremony details.

□ Send rehearsal dinner invitations.

1-2 Weeks Before
□ Touch base with your priest.

Day Before
□ Rehearse the ceremony.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

may is the busiest month

It's only the 13th and yet I feel like I've just been rushing since the end of April.

Final exams, work has been crazy busy, preparing for a conference (yes, I'm going to a local conference on diversity and giving a presentation in French: yikes!), organizing wedding details (we've booked our church, signed up for the required pre-wedding prep course, made a rough draft our invitations, updated the wedding site so that it's ready when the invites go out, picked out our rings...), and so on and so forth...

The weather is beautiful and all I can say is thank god because if it was miserable and I was this busy, I'd be cranky!

Actually, despite the hectic pace of life right now, I have to say that I'm feeling very appreciative of my life. I have a great partner, a nice home, a good job, health, a cat, loving parents, great friends who have been standing by me during some rather trying times. Truly feeling the need to count my blessings this week.

Everyone was kung-fu fighting...

welcome bags for guests

I've come to the conclusion that the best way that I'm going to be able to individualize our wedding is going to be in the details. The decor in the hall, the bouquet, the favours, the music, etc. And now that we've gotten over all the wedding angst (to go Catholic or not go Catholic), I'm starting to get excited again about the details.

I have a million and one projects on the go. Good thing I still have almost 5 months to get all of these projects done.

The current project: Welcome gift baskets for my out of town guests.

Do you need them or not? I don't know. Etiquette and practicality aside, I just know that if I was flying in from across the country I'd probably appreciate a well thought out basket.

So I'm doing them for the guests that are staying in a hotel. I found this article online with a few ideas. The goal is to have some of the main items but also to include some more personal touches. For example, for the friend who loves fashion I'm going to include a fashion mag for her to read in her down time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

For a long time I planned on carrying a very simple bouquet of orange calla lilies but have recently started reconsidering the idea. The flowers are out of season and not very environmental, which is important to me. My mother carried a bible when she married and being the lit geek that I am, I kind of like the idea of carrying a book (just not necessarily a bible).So then I thought, why not turn my book into a purse of sorts! If I carve out the middle of an old book, stick a flower on and ribbon around it, would that work as a bouquet?

I could even make one for my Maid of Honour and a corsage for the moen with a book theme to it (thinking of an old page of text behind a simple flower...) I like it, so I'm going to give it a try. Will update later with results.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Smaller package, same price

A recent shopping excursion brought it to my attention that companies are currently getting around the increase in costs by tricking consumers and it's happening to more items that I had previously thought. Take a look at some of your favourite brands. Do they look smaller than they used to?

It's because they are.

Apparently one way of charging us more is by making the package/goods smaller so we don't feel like the item costs more. But it does!

For more details/brands, read here...

where we are right now

I have a confession: I was baptised Catholic. Yup, my mom was Catholic until she remarried and then raised us in the Anglican church. So it's not like religion is an entirely new concept to me or that I don't know anything about the tenents of Christianity. I do. (every time I write I do, I secretly think: tee hee... i do, i do, i do... no pun intended!) In fact, I think part of the origins behind my qualms with the Catholic church actually come from its response to my mother leaving my father. My dad, though he may not be a bad man, treated my mother badly and when he started to treat me badly, she decided to leave him. Her Catholic priest counselled against it. Thus began my problem with Catholicism. (details are another story, for another day)

So what does that have to do with where we are right now? Well, at the moment we have just received our baptism certificates to give to our priest. The Catholic wedding is really happening, we have officially committed to marrying in a Catholic church. This was a decision that took me a long time to be comfortable with and I suspect that I will continue to struggle with the implications of this choice as we move forward in our wedding planning. But I feel comfortable with the priest and that makes the decision easier to make peace with. I feel like the priest recognized me for what and who I (and we) am/are and is willing to work with us to create a ceremony that observes tradition and respects us at the same time. That was very important to me and made all the difference in terms of feeling like I'd been pressured into sacrificing my wedding vision and feeling like it was a compromise that reflects both of us.

I think that too often, many churches become solidified in tradition and the ministers speaking to the parishoners fail to bring the message alive and make it relevant for contemporary issues and concerns. All of my issues with Christianity aside, I do (tee hee) believe that spirituality is important and that having a relationship with that "something" out there is important. And I'm sure that I'm not alone in feeling that way. If religion wasn't so static, I think that there would be more people coming to church and building connections with others in a community that they felt actually answered their needs...

I think we may have found a church that offers us that in terms of our wedding!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

5 Months Out

I get married in exactly 5 months!

Conspiracy Theories

Do you ever get the sense that you're being watched? Or that the government might be invading into the private realm just a little too much for comfort?

I don't know, chalk it up to my love of sci-fi, but when I recently became aware of the new speed videos that have been installed down the street from me, I started feeling a little like life was getting a little closer to a consipiracy novel/movie than I'm entirely comfortable with...

I mean, when does it go to far? I'm not saying that expect to wake up one day and realize that I'm living in A Handmaid's Tale, but I'm definitely aware of feeling like I'm a bit uncomfortable with how much the state/police are involved in our personal life. For example, the government is talking about banning smoking in a car with kids. I understand that smoking is dangerous to others and so forth and I even agree that it is completely selfish and disrespectful to smoke around your children... but.... does the government really have the right to say anything about it? And if it starts with cars, will it soon move to the home? And how do you invigilate something like this in the home?

I guess that ever since I got the j-walking ticket, I've been thinking about how much the state tries to dictate our behaviour. Yes, I'm bitter... sure... but that's not really the point. It's more just a question of where the balance is between people having common sense and the state needing to step in, and when have we let the state step in too much and relinquished too much of our autonomy? I mean, security cameras might seem like a good idea now, but what if they're on every corner? Will that be too much? And that points card for your favourite store is great right now because it gives you freebies in the store, but they're actually tracking your purchases in order to target their advertising to you.... what happens when ....

I don't know, but every now and again, a girl needs to stop and think about the slippery slope it all is.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Another worthy cause

Slumdog Controversy

End wedding rants and now back to our regularly scheduled blogging: India

Slumdog Millionaire. Have you seen it? You should. Even if you're not a huge Indiaphile like me, it's a great movie. It won Oscars, acclaim, media attention, Indian backlash, stirred up an entire controversy over accuracy and voice appropriation. And now, if you haven't heard it already, it is started a media blitz on the issue of the father of one the child actress trying to sell his daughter for $300 000. This article brought the continued controversy to my attention (I'd heard it before, but this one made me think about some of the additional consequences behind the debate).

While I applaud Danny Boyle for having looked after the child actress' education, recent media attention has started questioning how well the film is actually providing for the young stars from Mumbai.

I obviously don't have an answer to this question. However, I wonder how much can be done without overwhelming the family. I mean, if you move them to a better home, will they be alienated from the world they know? What if they stay in the same area but seem to possess more wealth, how will that impact their peers looking to them for help? For that matter, how will it impact them even if they move but their peers know where they've moved? In a group where there is so little, would giving them the profits directly actually lead to more harm than good? But then again, who are we to dictate how the money is spent? I'm sure that all of these issues and more were taken into consideration when they were paying the young stars.

At the end of the day, I don't know if there really is a perfect solution but I'm hard pressed to believe that the father would actually want to sell the daughter that has just provided him with riches beyond what were previously known. Particularly since doing so would ensure that he would lose the continued support to be gained from the measures put in place to take care of the young star.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sajjad Hussain

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

An Agnostic at a Catholic Dinner Table

Tonight I'm having dinner with my partner's Catholic family. It's not the first time, nor is it the last. What makes tonight's dinner so different is the fact that we're both going to sit down to eat, silently, and pretend that the elephant in the room doesn't exist: I'm not Catholic! This is particularly relevent given the foibles and fiascos that have been occuring due to our upcoming nuptials.

Out of respect for their devoutness, I have always been respectful of their traditions and practices even if I don't share them or even, to be honest, agree with them. This has recently come to bite me in the ass, but that is another story, and has led me to rethink my position on polite tolerance.

I originally thought that it was more important to be respectful of another's traditions, and ultimately still do, but am continuously astounded by how so many religious traditions (particularly very devout practitioners) fail to accord the same respect back. I have been put through the ringer for not complying to expectation and getting married into the community church because it is seen as disrespectful and manipulative. My question is this: when did my spiritual identity start meaning less than your Catholic identity? When did my spiritual beliefs lead to the conclusion that I don't have strong opinions of my own about religion? I was raised in religion and chose to leave, for very specific reasons. Why am I now being demanded to forget all of my issues with Christianity, and go a step further, the Catholic church, just for the sake of others when my partner doesn't require it?

For the record:

I have serious issues with the Bible being the "divine" word of God. I think God, in all "its" infinite glory, would be less prone to inconsistency and contradiction should "it" sit down and write (or inspire the writing of something).

I don't believe in the Pope

I believe that all religions essentially boil down the same truth and the same Divine source

I can never accept the idea that if you don't accept Jesus as your saviour, you will be denied a relationship with God. Moreover, I don't accept that God would be so cruel as to say that there is only one way to live in "its" light and then deny 3/4 of the world population knowledge of that way until the 19th century and later. I think God is bigger and more conscientous than that

I believe that God's message is love, and that love can come in any form, between any gender. Our bodies are merely shells for our souls and gender is learned. Who you choose to love is irrelevant as long as you love.

I'm a feminist and believe that the Bible was written by men, for men. Nothing will convince me otherwise. Nothing. I think the Bible has many very important messages and lessons, but that ultimately the story is flawed and needs to be recontextualized based on our current generation. To insist on maintaining the values/rules of another time period is to perpetuate a human right violation in the 21st century.

I think "God" is everywhere and the need for an intermediary is false. I do not need the house of God to speak to God. In fact, I've always found God more present in nature: God's creation, not ours.

Those are just a few of my beliefs, but when I sit down to eat with Catholics, bowing my head for their prayer out of respect, all of them seem to be erased by the act of respect I accord for their beliefs. Should anyone actually care to ask, those are just a few of the things I would share but no one does, which is fine because most are taught not to ask those questions. But in light of all the wedding debates we've been having lately, I find it infuriating that my willingness to eschew many of my own vehemently held beliefs and marry in a Catholic church outside of the "community" is being spit on and regarded as disrespectful. Where in any of this equation is respect towards me being considered? Once again I'm going to sit at a table with people who prefer to pretend that everything is all right than really talk about the issues, and it is slowly killing me inside. For three years that silence has bothered me. And now, with the wedding issue, it has grown into a demon inside that is just screaming to get out. I'm not a person who holds secrets and this secret has been held too long and is destroying me.

Heaven help them if they feed me wine tonight, that's all I've got to say....

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mood and Weather : Rainy Day Blues

Having grown up on the wet west coast of BC, I am more than slightly aware of the fact that the weather can have a strong effect on our mood and energy levels. I know part of it has to do with vitamin D and various other good stuff provided by sunlight.

However, since yesterday was sunny and the past few days have been relatively clear, I'm not quite sure why today's weather (see picture) is having such a strong effect on me this morning.

I went to bed at a decent hour, had a full night sleep and yet, when the alarm went off this morning it was all I could do to haul my butt out of bed. It was like my body knew, before I'd even opened the blinds, that today was a grey, lethargic day. Why is that? How does the body know these things even before we wake? I'm sure there is some scientific or logical answer to this but it still amazes me nonetheless. Yesterday I was full of energy but today it was all I could do to stay awake during my morning commute (me: sleepy + car : rainy roads and traffic = very bad news and long car ride).


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