Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dude, il bop

for christmas mo and i prefer to buy my sister's kids experiences rather than things by getting tickets to an art event of some sort. last year darien caught the sierra leone refugee all-stars, for instance, and we took laura to a (tepid, it turns out) production of robin hood. this year we took the older girls to stomp.

tonight, it was morgan's turn, as the doodlebops rocked the winspear.

i wasn't sure what to expect, but it was ... well ... it was a rock show for the under-fives. remember your first rock show: supertramp's breakfast in america, maybe, or loverboy? stacey's stashed a joint in her bra and you're packing a mickey of southern comfort. you're wearing your rainbow jeans with the big fat comb in the ass pocket so you can feather your hair as the night goes on. it's totally awesome but also kinda scary as the contact high hits you at the door.

well, morgan's peer group just does it all a little earlier, sans the drugs. the crowd -- hundreds of children in thirty dollar seats (recession, what recession?) -- was crazy for deedee, rooney and moe. they screamed "doo-dul-bops! doo-dul-bops! doo-dul-bops!" for a full five minutes before the colorful trio took the stage, saying "hello, edmonton! are you havin' a good night, edmonton?" there was a backdrop video, and lasers. there was signature merchandise (t-shirts and glow sticks and cell phones and guitars) for sale in the lobby. there were bouncers, grandmotherly ushers reassigned to keep the mosh pit of kindergarteners off the stage. the kids knew all the words -- forget the kids, the parents knew all the words. a weary-looking mother of toddlers heaved herself into the seat next to us and said, "i'm warning you right now, i know all the lyrics and i intend to sing along. i've earned this night."

as for the kids, they absolutely loved it. even when the three-year-old in front of us got so wrapped up in her airplane arms that she propelled herself right off her seat, she just did some bum-dancing there in the aisle until she could pick herself back up again.

it was like eating fettuccine alfredo: all those carbs go down so smoothly, and while it's not exactly wholesome, it's not the worst thing you could eat, either. it's full of real cheese.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


working again this year has brought several moments of concern. whenever i have a bad spell, i worry that i am sliding back toward madness and despair. i scrutinize every thought, fret over every action, put the sharp knives and bourbon away.

i thought i'd return from my long time off with profound thoughts and insightful Rules for Living, but it's not like that. wasn't it gertrude stein who said, "knowledge is what you know"? knowing runs deep, like an orientation or a sensibility, and not like a list -- which means it's not always on the surface, available for a casual check-in.

still, every once in a while i get a glimpse into the before and after. today, in the middle of pulling together a presentation for tuesday, i went into my amazon.ca file. i know there are better ways to organize ideas and keep track of books, but i use the amazon shopping cart to store things that intrigue me, but not enough to shell out money for. i decided i was ready to move the following from "save for later" to "delete":
  • julie jensen, i don't know what i want but it's not this
  • barbara winter, making a living without a job
  • nicholas lore, the pathfinder: how to choose or change your career for a lifetime of satisfaction and success
  • barbara sher, i could do anything ... if only i knew what it was
i'm not quite ready to delete every day's a weekend: an insider's guide to early retirement and exotic travel by newton hockey, or bob clyatt's work less, live more: the way to semi-retirement -- but it's a start.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Food love

i've had a lovely saturday night puttering around the kitchen. it probably started this morning when i made us a breakfast of steel cut oats with tart cherries and almonds, but my endeavours picked up steam after i made a to-do list that went onto page 4. i looked at all the work i have to do in the next three weeks and walked right out of my study and into the kitchen, where i stewed some cranberries for turkey sandwiches during the week, made applesauce with cinnamon sticks and cloves, whipped up a batch of granola for my friend olga, whose kitchen is being renovated, and baked a batch of carrot-nut muffins for mo.

my friend lisa's lovely new blog, threshold of greatness, says that food is love. i agree, though it hasn't always served me well. since christmas, mo and i have been trying to eat better. we don't use the "diet" word, but we have been watching portion sizes and trying to stay away from the cheese popcorn, and the junior mints, and the licorice, and the trail mix, and the late-night bowl of cereal, and the melty-toasties, and the granola bars, and the halloween candy, and the row(s) of cookies, and the one-kilo bag of dried mangoes, and the treacherous members of the cracker family, forever luring you in with their multigrain healthiness, only to hit you with a sandbag of sat fat once you're committed.

we're each down about ten pounds since the beginning of january, and feeling healthier. it's fun to go clothes shopping in our own closets. just as the nutritionists promised, i feel empowered to make good choices: peckish after working out today, i bypassed the Big Cupboard o' Carbs and went straight to the fridge for a trio of organic carrots. i have more energy when breakfast is an egg-white omelet with spinach instead of a bowl of raisin bran. everything i cooked today was healthy.

it's nice to be reminded that food isn't love, that there are nonfat ways of demonstrating care, but sometimes i miss the illicit thrill of hot buttered toast.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Teaching and learning

i sit on this teaching committee peopled by smart, well-meaning people, but the meetings are powerfully dull. soon as i walk into the room i feel a toxic sleepiness descend, and it doesn't go away for the next 90 minutes.

the highlight of the meetings, if meetings like this can be said to have "highlights," is talking about teaching practices across campus. it's always interesting (in principle) to talk with people who work in really different disciplines: what is kinesiology, i wonder, and what exactly do you teach in the faculty of phys ed, and what do nurses do when they're not giving practice shots to an orange?

today's topic was problem-based learning, currently the hot approach in health education. the presentation (yeah: put a group of dynamic teachers in a room and they give presentations to each other...) plodded on, reviewing the literature, listing the pros and cons of PBL, rehearsing common issues and their solutions, etc. i got up to get myself another cup of tea.

we had arrived at the handout, a sample PBL case, which goes something like this:

jennifer, a 16-year old girl, and her mother have come to your office because they are concerned that jennifer hasn't started menstruating yet. once a month her breasts get tender and she becomes 'moody,' according to her mother, but she has not experienced menses. when the mother leaves the room, jennifer confesses that there's a boy in her class that she likes, and she's wondering about birth control. looking uncomfortable, she adds that she's tried to use a tampon, but can't.

i consider another cup of tea. the presenter says, "... by wednesday, the learning groups are required to complete their research on the subject, so that on thursday ..."

i turn the page of the handout, and sweet jesus, i'm looking at a photograph of somebody's vulva. i peered a little closer, since i couldn't believe my eyes: this girl had no vagina. dude! i wanted to say, there's your problem. no wonder you were having trouble with the tampax.

nobody else appeared even slightly fazed by the illustration. the presenter was explaining how to address dysfunction in a small group. i stole another glance at the handout. there were sample ultrasound and MRI reports. the ultrasound was -- am i reading this right? -- unable to locate a left kidney and -- my eyes bugged right out -- the MRI concluded, definitively, "the left kidney is absent."

absent? the left kidney is absent? is anybody else catching this? i wanted to wave my arms, stomp my feet, whistle. hello, this girl has NO vagina, NO uterus, and she's down one kidney! did she step right out of an episode of house? i wanted to elbow the prof sitting next to me and ask, sideways, "and didja catch the picture, too? intense!" i was imagining the diagnostic conversation with this girl, imagining her mother, wondering whether they'd recommend surgery, what would surgery be like, what if she didn't want it, how can you have ovaries without a uterus, would i miss having a vagina, could she conceive babies and just not carry them to term, what if her good kidney failed, is everybody else in her family like this?

but it was 5:00, "so if nobody has any questions, i guess we'll see you in april."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Art love

two photographers i'm loving:
robyn cumming
miru kim.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Livin' ... in vancouver?

it used to be that my favorite thing about traveling was -- and here let me issue a warning to stalwart comrades: you can still exit this post with your sense of me intact -- shopping. it's the main way i orient myself into a place. i figure out where the funky shops are and it gives me a bead on the place. chain store after chain store: ok, i know you. a little side street with secondhand record stores and some hopeful clothing designer who's just hung out her shingle? we can be friends.

this time in vancouver it wasn't like that, and i'm not totally sure why. partly it's because vancouver, like everywhere else, is inundated with chains. granville, for instance, is like a linear version of south edmonton common: urban barn next to restoration hardware across the street from chapters and EQ3, and every one of 'em has its own starbucks. you know how people are talking these days about companies that are "too big to fail": why does that apply to pottery barn?

that's not the only reason shopping is different these days, though. even though we could have strolled some of the littler shops along main -- smoking lily specialists, say, or sunja link's flagship (ha!) or that new little design shop in deep cove -- i just wasn't motivated to do it. eh, it was drizzling, i was tired, and i came up with quite a litany of other excuses.

the real reason? i think we shop bigger now. so in fact what we did on the first night we were in vancouver -- seriously, friends, you can still leave! -- is troll MLS for the kinds of places we'd like to own. we think we could be happy with a second home in the low 700s, the burning question being west end or kits. we have become those lesbians, the ones who attend open houses in yaletown instead of going to the rally on commercial drive.

as i probably don't need to say, mo and i can no more afford a second home in vancouver in the low 700s than you can, and possibly even less, given that we are saving up to buy a new sleeping pad for the ole tent trailer (memory foam at superstore: $175). but it is telling that this is the line our fantasies take. while the acquisitiveness of this fantasy life makes me uneasy -- what happened to tread lightly, think globally, keep on rockin' in the free world? -- it also suggests tenderer things. specifically: that we are getting older. we talk about where we want to live when we retire, for example. what is charming about my fantasies of retirement is that i see my life as being essentially the same as it is now, only with more money: we're both in good health, our parents are all alive and independent, our friends are all vital and mobile. no strings, just possibilities. in my fantasy, we could just pick up and move wherever we wanted, and our perfect life would blossom in a new place.

and so i'm not going to challenge this fantasy. there is time enough to come to terms with grimness; life has a way of bringing grimness to you. buying a second home in a city like vancouver is a marker of gobsmacking privilege, especially if you think globally. but the real privilege? projecting the life you actually live as a fantasy for the future.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Livin' it up in vancouver

what with the endless winter, the new course, and the flagging energy, i have felt stuck in perpetual january. it's a shock to realize it's already the middle of march. having coffee with a friend the other day, i remembered all those heart tests i went through a year ago, and the excitement of writing. i'll revisit the origins of this blog, i promised myself, and write an anniversary post. that was three weeks ago.

i'm now in vancouver. when our plans to visit canmore over reading week fell through, mo and i came up with the idea of a weekend getaway to vancouver. it's what grown-ups in edmonton do. i pushed us into it. i bought the plane tickets and booked the friday off work and got mo to do the same. the last two weeks i have been slaving to clear my schedule enough to be here without worrying about work. i got one phd student through his exams, another through the proposal stage, a third through her first chapter. i read ahead for my grad class. i gave my undergraduate english class an extension. i prepped the new sociology course. i cleared the exposure decks and rearranged honors tutorial meetings and visited with the visiting speaker and chaired conference panels and wrote next thursday's ISMSS presentation. i even took three hours off last saturday to clean the house, knowing i'd be away this weekend.

i did it all gladly, so that when we pulled out of the humanities centre parking lot at 4:45 yesterday, it would be with a clear conscience and a happy heart.

it's a good plan, and by the time we hit the departures lounge i was as high as i've ever been: competent, satisfied, ahead of the game. but so far, i have spent most of our time in vancouver napping.