Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good Morning Starshine, the Earth Says Hello

My dear friend Kelly paid homage to her last ten years with a beautiful review of her history. I could regale you all with all sorts of crazy stories: moving in with my best friend, loving and thinking I was loved, running away, being broken, learning how to sleep again, being manipulated, car accidents, and falling in love with the right person. And really, that was only the first three years... Then there was the past 7 years... 6 years of marriage and one year of crazy fun. Lots of false starts in school and life, getting laid off, and finding out all sorts of cute things about my favorite person. (DH can't get dressed until he has socks on... CAN'T. How cute is that? That said, I brush my teeth with hot water.)

Anyways. I am way too impatient to go over all of that- I am happy where I am, I am looking to be eventually gainfully employed, (two interviews on Monday... fingers crossed.)

This decade has been weird, nothing has gone as I thought I wanted it to. My decade in a nut shell has been amazing and painful. There is no nutshell, its all over the board. This year was hard. I lost my job. My mother in law has been very ill. My own mother is facing surgery in January. My family lives far away, and my schedule has not permitted a lot of visiting with much of anyone. School is really tiring.

So... Good riddance 2009. I have had my fill of you, and I am ready to embrace the new, the foreign, the exciting. I am welcoming it all to me and mine. I am calling success and happiness to my side of the universe this instant.

I am so lucky to have my partner in crime, and I wish everyone a safe, happy, and healthy new year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Give Thanks, and Give Back

Well. Don't I feel sheepish. Everywhere I look I am surrounded by giving amazing people, and here I am worrying over the state of my life. It's time to take a step back, think about how lucky I am, and work on making my environment better through working for others.

Lately I have not necessarily been a scrooge, but I have been focused on getting 'the family stuff' out of the way, or under control. I love Christmas. I love the giving that happens (not presents, just the helping and conscientious awareness of what others need). I also love the aesthetic- I don't have a big tree, I have a small wrought iron tree and some green shrubbies, but the white stuff flying outside my window (Oh, does it EVER snow in Edmonton!) definitely completes the white Christmas motif.

That said- the giving and the love and the 'Christmas Spirit' so to speak has not been on my mind. That has changed this week.

Story 1)
This weekend we went to my parents house for 'Christmas' (we have agreed to spend Christmas with one family each year- taking turns) My dad's mom and her husband were there. She has Alzheimers, and has a lot of trouble getting around. If you think there is no good in the world, you have not seen a family lovingly remind the matriarch more than 30 times a day who they are, where she is, that her purse is fine, and that they are there to help. You have not seen a 59 year old man help his mother shower, and then have his daughter do her hair so that she feels special. You haven't seen my rock climbing tom-boy of a sister do a perfect manicure on a shaky older woman who then struggles to open her gifts without wrecking said beautiful nails.

Story 2)
When we left, I forgot my phone at my parents house. I was just going to get a friend who would be in Calgary (a three hour drive away) to drop by and pick it up, but my father (a devotee to the laptop, the cell phone, and as of 'christmas' time a GPS for his car) realized I left it behind, and immediately sent it by overnight mail. He knows that although I don't NEED my phone, I am happier with it, and he is providing that for me. Small, but so thoughtful.

Story 3)
I follow a myriad of other blogs. I love watching people grow and experience their own 'stuff' and reflect on the impacts of those circumstances. This particular story has really touched me, because I feel I am lacking on the giving, and concentrating on the things I need this season. Even if you are not religious, you can see the beauty in the giving that is occurring in this world. For a family living in their car, to be offered several days within a warm, safe, comfortable hotel- with access to showers, bathrooms, conveniences that we in the western world all take for granted- this is a beautiful thing. I follow this blog because I am not particularly faithful, but I admire the people who are, who possess the faith and commitment to live their lives the way that their spirituality encourages them too. I also think it's important to acknowledge that not all people who believe something are crazy zealous 'bible thumpers' or potential terrorists, or loony yogic flyers. Some people just believe strongly and let it guide them. I wish I believed that strongly in something that made me be this good.

4) I stumbled upon this article this morning which astounded me with its beautiful lesson in paying it forward. If one person does something big, and the person who receives that does the same for someone else- HOW much could we change the world? Fine, it may be cliche, and it may already be a movie, but this AMAZING idea can wreak havoc on the cynics of the world. I am always a fairly squishy girl, but this story in particular makes me just cry with happy feelings for these gift givers, and I feel inadequate in my efforts to impact my world in a positive way.

Finanically, my family is struggling, we are on one income, and we have expenses, just like everyone else. That said- I have a home, I have a car that works, I have food in my fridge and even if all of that was gone, ripped away from me- I have MANY people who love me and would fold me in blankets of warmth and love and help me get back on my feet.

So. How does this tie into human ecology? Sure, it's not designing a shirt or testing a temperature or air purity deal. But Human Ecology is a person and how they interact in their environment. How I work with the world, how I impact the world is affected by my choices of giving.

So here it is. I am challenging myself, and others to concentrate on the little things, the giving things, and let go of the petty pesky things which often drag us down this time of year. It may make all the stupid stuff easier to deal with- who cares that your mom mentions your weight or your sister in law tries to tell you what to do when you know you have given back HUGE to your world (even if it touches one person, I know it's huge to them). Call it Karma call it Love, call it whatever you want. Just make it all about the give.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Funny Food: Friend or Foe

In the search for things green pertaining to Human Ecology, (and all things nerd) I came across these tasty treasures which I think are a perfect analogy for my world view. Thats right, star and heart shaped cucumbers. Not what you would expect in our hi-tech world- you're thinking:

  • Genetically Modified

  • Possibly mixed with other animal/plant DNA

  • Plain old fashioned weird

The truth? Women applied the idea of cookie cutters, stencils, sausage making to the idea of growing vegetables. And what did these little cucumbers do? They adapted. They took on the shape and just went with it. They casually sit in the salad, blythely thinking: "No big deal, I'm all heart." "Yeh, my mom was always ROOTING for me to be a star..."

This not only exemplifies our ability to take something ordinary and transport it to extraordinary, but it shows that things which are natural have the ability to adapt to their environment if it's still a healthy place for growth (do you see the connections I'm making? I am on FIRE!) This thought process could be applied to numerous areas of study, and makes me delve deeper into imagining what people (as natural entities) are capable of.

Edmonton has been hit with an evil cold snap recently (pleasantly veiled as some sort of adventure on my friend K's blog.) and all I can do is think of what people had to endure years ago when they lived here in mud houses and log cabins (with no heat, insulation, sleeping bags of fluffly manufactured fiber, and big winter jackets which have undergone all sorts of sciency warm inducing research and development). We have developed solutions so that we suit the environment we are in. In Edmonton, we rise to the challenge of meeting the cold head on and woolying up to keep our toes! Humanity has the ability to take a situation and adapt to it.

Which brings me to my most important point. We are a fledgling cucumber, stuck in a world of finite resources and an exhausted environment. That is the shape we must mold to. At this time, we are ignoring the mold, perhaps because we don't want to take on the shape, or because we can't imagine the changes which need to occur within society in order to fit it. But we must take this on as a responsibility to our world, and to prove to ourselves that we are as ingenous and capable as we believe.

Ok. So this post is a little flaky, but you can't blame a girl who really enjoyed her semester and just finished two really strenous exams. My sanity is holding on by a thread.

Next week: Why Humanity should hand over their decision making to J.amie S.pears (Come on, a man that can make britney dress like a real person [read: bra, underwear, pants, shirt, and shoes] may be better equipped than even my favorite community organizer [rhymes with yo-mama].)

Friday, December 4, 2009

So I've been MIA

Things are good here, they're just busy. My world is full of school. I have not written but I have been reading all the blogs I usually do... But school has been eating my brain. I am so close to being done I can taste it, although it's really more than 6 months away. That said, I'm getting antsy to be truly finished. There are things which I have been discovering which make me even gladder that I have chosen this vein of study:

We get a ring. Everyone who graduates with a Human Ecology designation gets a little pinky ring to denote our chosen profession. It's for everyone, and it means something. It's not a fancy ring, and it's not all "one ring, to rule them all" with fighting and scandal and only going to those who have the highest GPA, it's something to create the tie between all of us little undergrads to show we all have something in common- the desire for the greater good an all that. I suppose. Ok, so now I'm making it sound all culty, but really, its just a fun (and serious) little memento. Check it out here.

Alright. So now that I have done my plug for the life of a Human Ecologist, here's what I've learned recently about the rest of the world:
  • Not everyone knows what a dutch oven is.(Not the pan. Something different) Google this, it's funny. But never do it to someone you love. In fact, it may be the best way to show someone that you no longer love them... (Just kidding. Maybe.)
  • Sometimes people don't pull their weight.
  • Sometimes it's better to just accept that people don't pull their weight, and move on. The project turns out better with as little animosity as possible.
  • Being a grown up means taking ownership for all the things that you used to shove under your bed as a child.
  • Being a grown up means you take ownership of all the other stuff too.
  • When people are in a bad mood, its a fabulous time to ask them what their favorite animal is and then act it out in interpretative dance.
  • Christmas movies are always a good idea.
  • If I ever teach a class I will not make everything worth 5-10% so that no one ever has any idea how they're doing the whole way through.
  • If I ever teach a class I will not make the 30% paper due a week before the 40% exam. That means 70% of my mark is hanging in the balance.
  • I still love to act crazy and run off and do weird stuff, even if I'm not a kid, and that's why life stays fun.
  • Sometimes the best days involve sleeping bags and nuzzles with your family.
Well.. I hope to do some serious Human Ecology delving over the winter break, because I start a class where we have to blather on about feelings and how they apply to Human Ecology process, so I may as well get started. So I hope to see a lot more of you!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My University

So. It's been awhile. Things are a little crazy here, but lets just give a quick shout out to green initiatives happening in my school and city.
  • Edmonton has a ReUse Center: a shop which sells all sorts of odds, ends and awesomeness donated by local businesses which are sold at super low prices to teachers, community organizers, or whoever wants some neat 'stuff'
  • U of A has several bins in normal eating areas which collects all organic waste (ie bones, leftovers, paper, napkins, pretty much all your lunch garbage that isn't plastic) and they compost it and use it for agricultural stuff (ie. research)
  • U of A also has a "reusable plate" service where you can rent reusable utensils instead of getting your lunch in a box or wrapped in plastic.
That's all for today folks. I will try to write more soon!

Friday, October 30, 2009

My Green Initiatives

Corporations everywhere are not the only groups who should be scrutinizing their usages, attempting to reduce their carbon footprint, and other environmental impacts. I think that even though the recession is "over" according to some, a valuable lesson in paring down and keeping things genuine and real was learned in the past few years. Here's my list of things I am doing to reduce my impact, stretch the dollar, and be a little more real:

  • Making Christmas and or Halloween crafts and gifts out of scraps and outdoor goodies you gathered yourself
  • Attend (or better yet: plan) a "stuff" swap- recycle fashions and goodies that you don't need/want/or fit anymore, because someone else may be able to love it more than you once did! (Often these are planned with a $10.00 fee to participate, going to charity, and you can bring and take as much as you want. Everything left over gets donated to a charity or second hand store)
  • Use hard biodegradable soap in your bathroom instead of liquid soap with disposable plastic containers (which often are not qualified to be recycled). If you use a refillable sort, purchase the soap in recyclable soft plastic bulk container
  • Switch to biodegradable soap in your wash. Often these smell better, are gentler and clean just as well as regular detergent.You can also use a lot less than you often do!
Ok. Well. Short and sweet. Tomorrow I go looking for a place to do my internship, instead of my boring one here in Edmonton. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dream Home

As indecisive as I am, I at least know that someday, somehow, I would like to have a home which reflects me and my stylistic choices (read: modern, simple, low key). I also understand that the chances of me finding something perfect is unlikely unless I build it myself. Or pay someone to build it for me at least. But I will not likely have the money to pay a fancy architect to design a whole house around me, nor would I like to spend that much time with such a type A personality as many architects tend to be (I wrote all, then remembered my friends moms original profession, and so changed to many; I can't over generalize...). So. Where do I go from there?

Lucky for me, the modern housing movement has provided tonnes of choice for people who want clean,(sometimes) green, cheaper than building from scratch type housing. While my location (read: occasionally, no scratch that, frequently disgustingly cold Alberta, Canada) means I have to do a lot of research to find houses which will meet my insulating needs, all is NOT lost! This may actually make things easier since I am able to readily dispose of many of the choices available simply because they do not cater to my climate.

Me and my husbands top choice at this time:
The amazing FlatPak. I drool when I visit this site, and love the flicker albums of proud home owners. The approachable rhetoric within the site's FAQ and explanations is inviting, and creates a rapport (with a website... Crazy I know.) The fact that FlatPak is versatile and changeable is part of what gets me excited, because I don't want a house which is exactly like everyone elses, which is the downside to most modular homes.

Second on my list, and mainly due to not having that choice attached:
The Royal Q Series. This Canadian made company certainly offers some beautiful structures. They also have the more traditional modular spaces, but this line of cabins and urban options are quite attractive.

I really admire the m-house which utilizes every nook and cranny of space, and is really cute, but I really desire to have something slightly more open and house-like- as if I was living in a house.... I live in a 500 sq ft loft right now, and the layout for this 1000 sq ft. model doesn't appear much different.

If people are looking for prefab choices for their main home or for vacation homes at their local lake or acreage (I give them props for reducing their carbon footprint by staying close to home!) I suggest these two sites for linking to many different prefab companies:

Fabprefab list
This is my top choice, because it seems to have chosen only the best of the best.

This summary definitely provides a broad overview of many different designer styles, just helping people get going in the right direction.

The secondary portion of this post: do we really need more buildings? There are many places here in Edmonton which are basically abandoned, zoned for business, which would likely be really interesting conversions into single unit or multi-family homes. Yes, they would be industrial and weird and not every ones cup of tea. But would it be better to convert these buildings rather than increasing the urban sprawl and developing yet another piece of land into a residence? Would the amount of structural changes needed cost more than just building new with the innovative choices available from some of the above websites? What if we started using disposed goods to make more things? (If you visit nothing else, visit this link. It's the funnest.) Or would finding ways to use these goods be more work than what is saved?

I could digress further into the cyclical state of our world and waste, and how to solve the ever mounting problems. Instead, I open the floor to you, readers. What's "better"? New green housing, or converting an exsisting space into desired housing?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Edmonton: Green, or greenwashing?

How many people can say that their city puts their normal residential garbage through a giant composting center before going to land fill? I don't know the answer to that, but within Alberta, the answer is almost a million... Which begs the question: How many people actually know what happens to their garbage, aside from it being collected every couple of days?

I am lucky enough to live in a city where recycling is included in my taxes. That means all I have to do is put all paper, plastic, aluminum and other recyclables into a blue bag, and it gets sorted at a recycling center.

Like I alluded to in the first paragraph, Edmonton composts all garbage sent to their facility. They also manage one of the most advanced recycling and electronics recycling facilities in North America. I am happy to live in a community with a progressive stance on sustainable living. Out off all our garbage, only half ends up in the landfill. Last year I wrote a policy proposal to institute the use of biodegradable utensils and take out packaging within the city. This would likely reduce the amount of plastics remaining in the garbage system, reducing the amount of remaining waste to between 25-40%.

That said, problems are present. Currently, the industrial composting system has regular outages, when all garbage is rerouted directly to the landfill facility until the system is running again. This means that for what could be weeks at a time, our supposed amazing facility is down for the count. When the last assessment was done, there was the suggestion for a complete replacement. This was unfortunately not done, and as such the whole waste management process within Edmonton is hit or miss.

That doesn't stop Edmonton from propping themselves up whenever possible, touting their amazing feats of green. We have a parks space which is more than 17 times larger than Central Park in New York. While this is admirable, and I have recently come to realize just how special Edmonton is, Edmonton also has a responsibility as a progressive city to admit the issues which are present, and address how the city will tackle the challenges in the future.

I am excited to see what the ideas are, and how I can help.

Friday, October 23, 2009

My buddy Jodi

So. I am tooting the horn of my excellent education: The Department of Human Ecology finishes ones incredibly well rounded education with a firm dose of reality: a 6 week practicum within a business, government agency, non profit organization related to your chosen field of interest, and uses it to make sure you have something recent and relevant to add to your CV. Not totally necessary for an old cat like myself who has some generic office work already under my belt, but it also gives people a great starting point for a master's thesis... Case and point: Jodi!

Jodi came back from Nepal motivated, happy, experienced, and ready to educate all of us on how every choice we make can help or hinder. Her discussion over a lunch of grilled cheese and fries was much more relaxed than the interview provided in the link, and attentions were split between this experience and her recent decision to marry the love of her life. Her words regarding the poverty which she encountered had an impact which brought me back to my desires to live simply, ethically, and happily.

I know that globalization has brought us all closer, and there is no way to go back to each country producing only for itself, which I don't think ever really happened anyways. But historically speaking, most people were able to trade or bargain and receive something with relative value compared to what they were providing. At this point in history, the glutton in us is not playing fair with people in a "some food is better than no food" situation. I would like to one day own a business, and I want to do so without pulling the wool over the eyes of someone less fortunate than myself. I think of it this way: The only reason I am in my shoes and not making them is a twist of luck. If I keep that in mind, perhaps I will be a business person I respect, and who makes an impact on the way things are done, even if just in my chosen corners of the world.

Jerry had an epiphany about becoming the type of agent good athletes deserve. He found a passion for something he was good at, and revelled in that passion, not the money he made. This is what life is all about. This is why people endeavor to DO things.

Please. Think about who you are, who you want to be, who your kids would have been if they were born to someone else across from where you are in the world right now. And begin to do right by these people. By these people, I mean all people. By the people who you live near, who need encouragement to make smart choices. By the people who live far from you, who cut the threads from your jeans before you wear them*. By your family, who deserve a you who makes responsible decisions. Do right by yourself- you deserve to know you make a difference. You deserve clothes made by people who got paid a living wage. Make this world less of a consumer driven machine, and revere it's natural beauty and potential.

Viva Fair Trade!

*See this movie. It is amazing, and makes you realize that things here may be cheap, but people 'pay' for low cost clothing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Time For Change

Reflection brings personal scrutiny. Scrutiny brings about a personal needs assessment. Personal needs assessment leads to action plan. Action plan leads to acting on plan. Action leads to results.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Death in the Time of Cookies, and other comedies.

I went to a movie last night. Me and some fellow students went to a delicious new movie about roller derby. That's right, W.hip It. It was amazing. I am not a lover of girly movies just because they're girly. I like movies that last in my mind. Ones that say something real. This particular movie was a great example of such. There was some feminist rah rah go women message mixed in, but it was done in a very tasteful way. It did not overpower the story, and the story itself was sweet, and not as altruistic and perfect as most other girly movies. It wasn't good because the main character wins everything shes always dreamed of, manages to do it all, have her cake and eat it, get the perfect boy who makes everything work just right. It was actually perfect because many of those things weren't there, and they weren't necessary. And that made it awesome.

In real life, the occurrences which often make us happiest are not often the ones we were planning. They are the anti-obvious, the strangest, most peculiar endings to the story. This is what gives people the motivation to take chances, open up to new ideas, embrace the world outside the safe zone. It's the knowledge that sometimes the rewards are intense, and well worth it. It is a bizarre experience to know that you feel incredibly pulled in a particular direction when it is in exact opposition to your nature. I, for instance, was certain I would never decide to get married, and was not looking for any kind of relationship. Then at 19, I became friends with my husband through school. One day, while discussing my desire to move (to a different city eleven hours away) with another friend, I mentioned that I knew I would always have DH in my life; I expected that most college friends would eventually fall out of touch. When she looked at me strangely, and asked why I thought that he was different, I was at a complete loss for explanation. I wasn't particularly better friends with him than others within our group, and he was seriously dating someone he had met in high school. There was no romantic intention behind my statement, I just knew that he was a friend... forever.

This tendency to jump in with both feet to strange situations does of course also put us at risk for failure, loss, and brutal rebuff. I think the soul is far more fragile than our physical body- the injuries we receive to our heart and mind will never fully heal. The scars we get when we fall down on our knees are far stronger than the scabs which will always be fresh and bruised on our souls. I have realized that over the years I have lost some people who I counted as desperately close friends, and this loss makes me judge myself more than any other criticisms I have received. I never want to experience this loss again, and I am driven to reflect this commitment through my actions with friends I have now. In that way, sometimes the things which cause us the most sorrow are the experiences which make us the best versions of ourselves. These hurts and losses are what make us feel empathy, allow us to make better decisions in the future, and inspire us to move on.

I'm sure it may be noticeable, but I will say it: I have entered a phase of melancholy. This is not a mood I dread, I am able to moor myself to my deepest truest feelings when I am reflective and a little dour. It's not depression, or unhappiness, but a quiet reserved veil where I see things not in the fun, fast, instant gratification way that I usually do. I think this reflection and evaluation may make me more capable as a human ecologist, as I possess the will and desire to do better, to be more, to fully represent my true personal self. This is an inspired and creative time. I think it's kind of what the government tries to make a person feel with their crazy intense 'join the armed forces' commercials, where everyone looks a bit misty eyed and very patriotic, flags waving in the background. Since I have no intention of feeling passionate about fighting fights I may not agree with, for a government that makes a lot of bad choices, I will use this strange, perceptive, quiet time to watch for some mysterious and beautiful opportunities to act upon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vancouver, Mommies, and Thanksgiving

Yes. Canadian Thanksgiving, my birthday, my friend R's wedding, my trip to Vancouver all occurred this weekend.

First: My Mother in Law is out of the hospital. The doc's sent her home because they need her to eat, and hospital food is the pits. So now it's her job to eat things, and if her infection flares up again, she may have to go for IV antibiotics by day. Best news ever! Or at least the best we could hope for, at this time! Hip Hip Horray!

Wedding: Funnest ever! Pictures to follow! Drive took forever, so we missed the rehearsal dinner, which was no fun at all.
Birthday: Funnest ever! Drove all day, but then after missing the rehearsal dinner, got to snuggle with husband, sister, and her boyfriend.

Mom #2: Got a text message from a long time friend that she had her baby the day of the wedding, a day after my birthday! was SOOOO excited that everyone is safe and happy!

Thanksgiving: Sis is a celiac vegitarian, so she made us some awesome gluten free yam/squash perogies, a crazy awesome pair of wheat free chocolate cakes (hers was soy based, I am allergic to soy and so mine was made with dairy), and delicious salad.

Mom #3 On the way home, we went through Calgary. My mother was so sick a few weeks ago that she couldn't make the trip up to see my brother and us in Edmonton, and so she has been a little down. She found out that she has gall stones, so she is either going to have surgery or other treatment, but until then she is stuck being quite uncomfortable. So that's mom #2 stuck under the weather. When we showed up at her house, my dad having kept her awake and hour and a half after her normal bedtime, she cried and was all snuggly. She told us about

Mom #4: Cousin who had been told early this year that she would be unable to have a baby. She gave away all collected baby clothes etc. A few months later, at a normal physical, her doctor asked if she could be pregnant. She explained her medical issues, and then her doctor proceeded to do a normal ultrasound for routine check up stuff. And then he, the nurse in the room, and my cousin cried as they celebrated the impossible together.

Now that the wedding and my midterms are over over, I have been going over all the e-mails between my dad's brothers and sisters regarding the future care of my Grandma,
Mom# 5, who is delving further into the labyrinth of dementia caused by Alzheimer's. They are attempting to make a sound reasonable decision of where she should be placed to ensure that everyone is able to visit, and how to prepare to make her quality of life as positive as possible. I am so impressed by how loving they are, how amazing my family is, how they all pull together and try to be unbiased. I was particularly touched by my new aunt, who has only been within our family for 2 years, who has only recently become a Canadian citizen, from Chile. She sent out an impassioned Spanish letter stating that my grandmother would surely be well taken care of by herself in her and my uncles home. The fact that I am the only family member with a reasonable understanding of Spanish made it all the more amazing.

I guess those are the things I am thankful for, the things I love, and the things which make me certain that I want a profession which engages my heart and my brain.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Monday, October 5, 2009

So Speaking of Communication

Alright. So. Apparently I put my cranky pants on this morning, and stirred up some trouble on my friends blog. Perhaps it was only between me her and the wall, but perhaps I should have kept my thoughts to myself.

I am a fiercely typical indecisive Libra... I tip my brain from one side of the issue to the other, and when I read something which seems to ignore the possible aspects within the story, it usually irks me. I feel like it's not representative.

So when I recently went on my friend Dear Fitz's blog and read her latest entry, her small aside where she calls crazy brain on Jenny McCarthy... made me annoyed.

Sometimes things are better left under the rug. It had nothing to do with the rest of her well written article which I agree with pretty much orgasmically (Yes, Fitz, that was for you, so you can snicker all you like). The scary right wings always find weird ways to make protecting yourself or young women some sort of pulpit to preach ignorance, and a recent death from a reaction to the HPV vaccine sadly bolsters their argument, however crooked. That's bad news bears because all those things that people have been fighting for for years- equality, relevance, choice, safety, kindof get squished in the name of pious righteousness. I just thought that it was fair to ask for representations of why she thinks all vaccine haters are crazy. She responded to my response, and I responded in kind. We may have been heated, but we are very close and I am usually just saying stuff to drive her crazy. I don't think that shows well in blogspeak.

The thing I find interesting is that its the most fun I have had on her blog in a while. It was rich with ISSUE, and debate, and made me want her to write MORE goodies about how the state of the world rags on the common woman. Commenting is what you're supposed to do! I think it generated more comments than usual. So perhaps stirring the pot, on the internet, for funnsies, when all I'm asking for is a fair balanced review of the MANY opinions on the matter, is a good thing... right?

Whatevers. Fitz I love you and you know it. But I don't think I'll hold back on your blog because I think it's good for you.

By the by... my MIL is doing ok, but not awesome. It's all very uncomfortable, but I am staying positive. Thank you for the loving words all.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Message and the Madness

If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
Simple, and not always possible. Great advice for children, until they get old enough to learn that tact isn't lying, it's not covering your true feelings, it's not hiding it all inside. It is finding the most sensitive way to convey a message.
Some people just don't learn that lesson.
For instance:
After a woman has been in the hospital for weeks, and has been in isolation for days, and you as a physician find not MSRA, but an equally icky Staph infection, you review her file and find that she is allergic to all antibiotics. You ensure that you and a colleague agree: that her only courses of action are to die, or take antibiotics which may kill her anyways, and have a minimal chance of recovery.

When delivering this message you:
a) sit at her bedside, and discuss the issue since she is a nurse and is well versed in her medical history and the issues at hand
b) stand 10 feet away in the doorway of her room and say "You can go home and die, or we can try another antibiotic you're allergic to and run a lot of benadryl. You'll probably still die
c) ask the patient if she really is making a good decision even when she agrees to treatment after delivering news via option b).
d) dance a jig and then pee on the floor

If you picked C, congratulations, you're the worst person imaginable, and the evil doctor my MIL faced ALONE, at NIGHT. I find you vile, and I might consider telling the medical board that your complete lack of bedside manner even in the literal sense is so abysmal that you absolutely should not be allowed near conscious patients.
Even the ugly truth can be easier to handle with some sensitivity and understanding.

On the upside, my MIL didn't really think that the "choice" offered was a choice. The drugs leave her doped, and she has some breathing issues and itching, but the antihistamines seem to be keeping things at bay. She is eating and keeping food down. Between a slim chance and no chance, why not gamble, when the payout is LIFE. It is time with her granddaughter (my amazing niece), her husband, and her children. Before this issue, which was meant to be a simple battery change in a pacemaker, she has been through far worse. She has faced cancer three times, and even when things are dire, there is no quit. Perhaps this knowledge- that things have been bad before is what gave her the courage to choose the gamble. I suppose this is what brought the second question from the doctors, who have only seen her be in pain and ravaged this one time. They obviously don't understand the love and tenacity that defines this small beautiful woman that I am happy to call Mom.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Booo Hiss

My mother in law has been in the hospital for a few weeks, following a barrage of complications from surgery. My Husband and I have been visiting her, like the rest of the fam. At this time, a patient she shares a room with has been infected with MSRA staph, which means we can't visit her. This form of staph is resistant to pretty much everything, so it's up to the human body to fight it off, with antibiotics usually assisting the body in fending off other bugs which may be attacking at the same time. As it is, my MIL is only able to use 3 types of antibiotics, as she is allergic to all, but can use these with a benadryl drip at the same time. We basically have to just hope that the infection will remain only with the other patient in the room. My family was in town this weekend to visit, and so DH and I haven't had the chance to see her, and now will not be able to until this all blows over. My school week is basically a gong show, and planning for R's wedding is also taking up time... How does Human Ecology relate to this? I guess it's my holistic approach to life. I am feeling stressed but calm. Take things one at a time, and do what I can. I cant change some of this, but I can change how I accept and perceive all these challenges.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Working with my hands. And the green eyed monster

So it's Fashion Week in Edmonton! Don't be surprised if that shocks and flummoxes you. It's not well known. We're a big city, and we are obsessed with festivals, and fashion is no different. Is ours run by a large marketing conglomerate like all the others? No, ours is run by a local who spends her life planning and executing. The execution of the show is... debatable. But it makes for a good time. Find out more here.It's the most affordable fashion week I know of, it costs very little to show a line, and does provide some legitimate press for the designers. As an former volunteer, and as a girl who attended with some besties last night, there are a few things I have learned

1) I would like to show something at some point but only if
a)my work was clean and finished looking
b)my line represented one theme
c)my clothing was representative of an original viewpoint
d)all my models were wearing tights or shorts if in shorter clothing, so the poor audience doesn't get a full monty every 30 seconds

2) The marketing may not target the younger fashion oriented within Edmonton, and instead seems to be about marketing the show towards developing professionals in the industry. This means everyone within the fashion world in Edmonton has heard of it, and few others.

3) The humbler the designer, often the better the clothes in regard to fit and completion.

4) Sometimes smaller low budget affairs lead to entertaining "The O.ffice"-esque moments, which make the entire evening worthwhile.

5) When distributing prizes, don't tell the "chic new york designer" (read: U of A grad who moved to New York and has made some dresses... but not a tonne of commercial success)to call up "a bunch" of girls when you only have a "few" prizes. Hmmm. Akward.

How does this relate to Human Ecology? Well, program planning, marketing, and fashion are all really important to my personal interest in the field. It's the weekend, I know I'm kinda phoning this one in, but it's only Saturday.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bad News Bears

Canadians tend to regard themselves, purely anecdotally as peace loving, nature geeks who are more socially accepting and better educated than our Southern kin, the Americans. When actually reviewing my provinces recent news, I find myself sorely lacking in evidence of such. Most of the news which trickles up to Canada is, let us remind ourselves, anecdotal, or the dregs of the media machines which will talk more about the scandal (read: murderous politicians, drunk reality stars, and sexually confused Evangelists) because of ratings and the almighty dollar. Of course we Canadians aren't going to hear about the good, fair normal people within the States, they don't make news. When speaking with and getting to know many Americans or people of other nations, rarely do I think to myself "gee, hey, I'm obviously better educated."

Recently there has been a tonne of bad press within Canadian borders which boils my gravy... (yes, that is a strange analogy, but I used so many in my last post I feel the need to add at least one to this one.) We just yesterday had a well known politico charged with drug possession and drunk driving. Our governments appears to be operating quietly and sneakily, and has changed many things of late which affect people close to my heart. These are not the issue at hand, but I hate to say it- we do just as much stupid stuff as any other place does, and there's far fewer of us to share the blame.

For instance (and down to business...) This summer, my province was responsible for ending the lives of twelve black bears who had begun regularly eating at a town dump site. Read the full article HERE . The gist? Bears find garbage, bears eat garbage. People shoot bears. Instead of
1) installing bear fence
2) assessing danger
3) tranquilizing and relocating bears
(all of these are ways I have heard of dealing with these animals) instead wildlife officers killed them the day of initial assesment. They did not even bother to review the current situation so that it could be prevented in the future.

Why is this of interest to a human ecology textiles student?
Human Ecology approaches problems with a solution/outcome based attitude. When looking at the choices made, or choices which will be made in the future, one should consider possible outcomes. I understand that these bears may have been in a habituated state, but what brought them to this level of dependence in the first place? Oh. People.

Humanity is imposing upon a lot of this world. We are sprawled out, and cover a lot of territory. Our policy for living here should reflect this. The town in question is dependant on many different levels of government to provide for their needs. Although this landfill may be maintained by municipal funds, it is important they also have access to the necessary assistance to keep humanity's "junk" out of the rest of the worlds relatively natural flow.
One note I find particularly troublesome:
"...Fencing the dump wasn't an option either. "Once bears are habituated to a site, they will break down fences," [Sustainable Resources Development spokesman Dave Ealey] said. "We don't put up bear fences. That's something that municipalities can do if they feel it's becoming a problem."

Well. That answers that. I wonder if the big flashing light of irony was going off in his head as those words left his mouth. Killing 12 bears in one day isn't evidence of a problem. That might be silly. This couldn't be the inevitable end to this issue again several months down the road... That's just... Oh, wait. LOGICAL.

Human Ecologists take classes which yes, help them plan events like weddings, quilt shows, or literature conferences. We also study government and programming policy, to foresee and prevent possible issues. Human Ecology also understands the world as a cooperative system. We impact the world just as much as the world impacts us. As such, all policy developed should reflect that, and not just protect people from the world, but also protect the world from the impact of people. This is why we develop sustainable clothing, family programs, risk at youth events, or become employed by municipal collectives which help promote and refine rural development issues and solutions. Policy is important because it will shape our lives now and down the road.

The travesty of this "policy" is that the township is on it's own recognisance. There was no recommendation made to the town, no changes were made to the way things are working, and the policy was to extinguish the "problem" without even studying it. To be honest, bears were just doing what bears do- eating the easiest food they can find. Maybe it's time to review the idea that the problem is.... hum (wait for it...) anity. At the time, the bears had not endangered anyone, no attacks had been reported, they were simply too used to eating the food we left in bear-sized snack containers (read: garbage bags) out in the open for them. This is not policy, it's entrapment.

The news article above references other work sites- temporary living quarters which house many people which use bear proof garbage containers, to prevent just such a problem. This shows that within this company, safety of inhabitants and responsibility to this site within a wild area had been considered before implementation of this temporary site.
Boggling. My guess is that because the people living there would be under the responsibility of the company while housed there, these companies endeavor to make safety the foremost concern because they will be held accountable by unions, families and co-workers if something bad should happen.

I do understand that perhaps these bears could not be saved. I understand that this rural area may be less familiar with bear issues than the mountain municipalities such as Hinton, Jasper and Banff. I understand that when I visit Jasper and I HOPE to see a bear, I want it to be while I'm safe, and I don't want to be lunch. But I do also understand that this issue was not the bears fault, and it makes me shameful to be Albertan at this time, to know that we aren't protecting our natural resources like wildlife better.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Falling off the Wagon

So it's sort-of the third week of school, and I have been less than stellar at keeping my promise to myself to blog at least once a week. There are several reasons for this, including an unexpected class, and the attempts to concentrate on school as opposed to other things. But even in the midst of this, I am constantly thinking of things I should, could, would blog about if I could. So I think it would be beneficial for me to list all the things I have wanted to blog about, so that I can grab one off the list and just write.

1) Examples of bad policy: Bears in northern Alberta put down because they were dependent on an unfenced landfill for food
2) Review of Human Ecology from a femenist perspective: a "Why and how" discussion of how male dominated society may have impeded the growth of the scientific philosophy.
3) Inclusion and Exclusion: Akward moments in classes or events
4) My workout partner: An exercise in self control
5) Getting things done: My exploration in accomplishing things I need to do.

All right. So. My next order of business. I am trying so hard to be an understanding person, to accomidate others. I don't like people who railroad others, and don't want to be one of those people. I am however quite frustrated when a person refuses to try anything new, or causes themselves undue stress based on a new situation before the situation even occurs.

As it happens, when I do personality tests, when you get to the part about "openness to new experiences" I have almost no opposition to this. I think this was a concious decision based on the gross feelings of failure I endured when I failed a swimming class as a kid because I was terrified of the high diving board. It has caused me to basically review all those experiences out there: crazy, boring, useless, invigorating, harsh, hilarious, whatever I may preconceive them to be, and basically ask: Will this kill me? If the answer is "No" then I pretty much jump in. Do I love public speaking? Not a chance. Will it kill me? No. This explains why I have recently agreed to be the MC at a friends wedding, and have added this to my list of things to prepare for in the next month. (Luckily, I am actually taking a course which basically teaches public speaking and I have plenty of time to prepare, so I am not too worried.) I do however find my particular openness creates a lack of empathy for those who do have fears which I deem irrational and therefore... dumb. It's not that I don't have fear, it's just that I found that the more I allow the fear to manifest, the more likely it is that the fear will actually become the impediment to my success. When you thrust this small unfounded fear aside and plunge through these experiences, even if you don't love it, at least it will be over.

When I was in High School, you only had to take one physical education class to graduate. I took the shortest class. My gym teacher, a sad, older, pretty much verified alcoholic man gave a spiel at the beginning of the term. "This is an art school. This is Gym 10. You probably are taking this class so that your gym career is over, forever. Here's the deal. I know you hate gym. You know you hate gym. We change sports every two weeks. If you like the sport- you get to do it for two weeks. If you hate that sport, you'll only have to do it for two weeks. I don't expect you to be a superstar, I expect you to show up, change clothes, and try. If you do that most of the term, you'll get a decent mark." This is how I approach pretty much everything I am not in love with. Even if I don't anticipate a great time, all I have to do is dig in and finish, and then it will be done. I don't understand how avoidance and fear can really assist anyone in their life advancing. I also have understood from a very early age that you have to work for what you get, so you should always expect to have some icky bits in life in order to really enjoy the good stuff. In the words of The G.irl Next D.oor "The juice is worth the squeeze".

Really, this blog entry isn't about me trying to educate anyone but myself. Can anyone provide some insight on this? Help me see from the other side, so I can understand the fear and in that way be more supportive to people who feel this way, because I honestly don't get it. I have always been a feet first type of girl, I eat the worst part of the meal so I can savour the good parts.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

The fun of creating

So. Today I worked with one of my FAVORITE people on a project that I have been putting on hold for various reasons ALL summer. Me and R, my sewing partner (and guru, because she's WAY better than I am) toiled away in an unused lab at school starting to carve out the fabric flowers for her wedding. This involves a lot of really fun things- tonnes of fabric, beads, glue, hot glue, small gardening sticks, wire, metal beads, all sorts of stuff.

It was incredibly cathartic to work on something which is completely not related to "school". We used an entire day to create things which were for a purely fun purpose.

We only made a few demos, to really cement the style, and then spent the rest of the day doing all the icky work- the cutting and sizing, so I don't have any pictures to show you.

The really fun part was spending time with someone else who has as much passion for creating as I do. While doing all the grunt work, we also talked about fun stuff- how fabulous these things would look, and what my dress will look like (and how I have to make time to sew it in the next month... gulp) and what her dress will look like (still unfinished by her dressmaker when she moved home from her parents house in Vancouver this summer).

Sometimes it's just nice to talk and toil, and feel connected to your part of the world.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Agency. On it's knees.

I am reminded how lucky we are. I am worried about school and being too busy to pay proper attention to my cats and house. Then I hop from "susies big adventure" to a blog she reads, Coolred where a woman is desperately trying to buy tickets for her and her family to come to the US. She was finally able to divorce her husband and obtain custody of her children. Horray right? Oh, wait, it was because she found out he was abusing her daughters. Not what I would call a lucky break. This is a woman who has been down, been out, but is still willing to stand up for herself, and use what agency she has to bring her family together. Her story is sad, and the only silver lining is that she is now seeing a possible end. I may be in school, I may have gotten laid off. I may not have all the clothing I want, love, and dream about. But I am safe. I am loved. I am fed emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I am home. So I sent her some money to get her there too. This is not the same situation as the prince of nigeria that e-mails you every week. This is a blog which has been running for years, and she finally has a chance to be happy. If you feel like you need a jolt of perspective, even if you have no money to spare, pop over to her blog and wish her well. Please feel blessed when you look at your life.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Just Came Home From Camping!

Ha Zah! I return from Jasper, ready to take on new school heights. I am sharing some photos which I have edited to mimic some of the 70's-esque over exposed photography which is becoming more popular. Please provide feedback wether this endeavor is positive or icky. Be blunt! I love feedback!

I got an e-mail inviting me to participate in a self directed class where another student and I problem solve a bit with a real problem: nurses in the OR who get chilly, and how to keep them warm with textiles products without putting their patients in danger of cross contamination, etc... maintaining comfort within a technical construct! My brain is whirring a mile a minute!

But that was after Jasper. Jasper was pure tranquility. Perfect weather! Delicious home made food! Wonderful company!

I missed my little cats. But it definitely put the end of the month on a high note, I am in high gear to get back to school!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hipster: Friend or Foe?

OK. So these pictures have NOTHING to do with this entry. I just like them.

My main goal in my Human Ecological journey....
No. Scratch that. My pipe dream when I'm done school is to work for some awesome forward thinking Canadian design company (I lean towards technical outerwear, but anywhere awesome would be amazing). After a few years I would like to open my own store, based around the idea of clothing for good people- clothes that don't suck. Ethical, environmental, stylish, and fun. That may or may not include designing a line myself, it may simply be finding a few lines which make me smile and offering fit tailoring and a personal shopping experience with the price of the goods. (To clarify: I think most "sales associates" are worthless, I think a personal shopper trying to meet your needs and be your slave for an hour is priceless).

Since Fashion is kindof a big part of having a clothing store, I feel the need to address the idea of Hipster. A friend of mine (Clever Monkey... my special special friend who I love and adore but often disagree with) has recently blogged about how she bites her thumb at the hipster trend. The style (bright, eclectic, geek chic, ironic, scarf laden, and weird) that goes with the attitude (pretentious, haughty) is what she addresses. She also mentions that most are in vehement denial of being a hipster.

Flashback: Im 18, I've just come back from South America and mended fences with one of my best friends "L" who was sad at me for leaving her behind.... In my absence she has become this shellacked version of herself: the blonde is blonder, the flared pants are tighter, the belly piercing is still fairly fresh. And she utters the words "I'm not a Choch, I dress like a Choch, but I'm nice."

Choch was the late 90's Hipster... it was the dressed like J-Lo, clean cut favorite Friends character look. The application of a label to the popular style of the time is inevitable. With it, there is usually the generalization of the attitude carried by the worst and (sadly) most "popular" people who adhere to this style. As such, people who find themselves drawn to this style feel the need to distance themselves from the application of that label.

Who wants to be judged by appearances alone? Hipster= buying rich and weird clothes+expensive messy hair+ nasty attitude... It doesn't add up. A person is not contained solely in their clothes. I know that the people I go to school with who dress as "hipsters" are for the most part really awesome people. And I know that my dear friend L was and always will be an amazing girl, Choch or not... Why should someone eschew all popular convention just to impress upon the public that they are a nice person? Most people feel like the odd one out. Many do not have memories of being the cool kids in school, and the negative feelings of being on the other side of the fence tend to make people view trendy clothing as a signifier of not belonging, of how they differ from the crowd. So I think for many, popular=negative because of previous experiences with 'the cool crowd'. I disagree. Those who dress as hipsters are doing so 1) because they like the clothes 2) because the clothes help accent their personality 3) because most stores are trafficking clothes which qualify as hipster. Sometimes you buy what fits, what is available, and hipster is here. It's the Hannah M.ontana brand in, and everywhere from Urban O.utfitters, XXI, A.ritzia, it is difficult to locate a store which is completely void of Hip... (unless you go into places your Grandma thinks are cool). My theory is that a large population of hipsters are just trying to avoid nakedness....

The fear that the homogenized label will take away from a persons personal choice to express themselves causes many to delve as deeply as possible into the image- striving for wider and weirder breadth of Hipster. Because as the old adage says- go big or go home! In Orange County that refers to pool or breast size. In the 80's it refered to Flock of Seagulls hair or your lapels or pants pleats. In the 90's it referred to your rave pants, or how low your hiphuggers were. Now its thick geek glasses and skinny jeans. Instead of throwing stones, why not address ones own image and try to accent it to the max? Why not indulge in your appearance everyday? Why would you not want to appear the utmost YOU that YOU can be? Who doesn't want to belong, to mesh well with their chosen crew of friends? I honestly don't think its fair to take issue with the hipster because it is only a label, and the semiotic link to a negative attitude perception is really assigned by the viewer. If only reviewing the label of 'hipster' as a reference to the clothing style, then you are challenged to judge the person as a person... Like your mom would want you to. Additionally, since prejudging the hipster as a nasty group of rich trendsters is not very nice either, isn’t the whole concept a bit... hypocritical? What if they see you as a WASP, a jock, or a hipster wanna-be (ie: oh gosh you own a scarf). Why can’t we just all get along!?!

I have one pair of slim (not skinny) jeans, a few cardigans, and many scarves. My husband wants to buy some thick rim geek chic glasses. If that makes us hipster, or trendy sheep, or whatever... I can’t say I’m disappointed. I’m not heartbroken by it, because it means I am attuned to the current undercurrent of fashion, and I hope that I stay that way, since my livelihood depends on it. I think anyone who disregards an entire gaggle of people because of perceived attitude is absolutely absurd and prejudiced. People all fit into a genre, even if you buy into an alternative vein- be it Goth, Rock n Roll, or boring old Eddie Bauer chic, you fit somewhere, and to deny others the right to fit somewhere without a fair shot at being a nice person is absolute bullox. I dress for the most part in t-shirts and jeans, and thats not likely to change until I’m done school. I am drawn to many different avenues of appearance- I love the clean lines of J. Crew, I am an avid camper so cargo pants and tanks are also up my alley. I like tattoos and piercings and the punk look. I also think the hipster look is fun and eclectic, and easily achieved with second hand clothes... which I love! Perhaps I need to do a social experiment and track peoples behavior in each of these looks, and define myself by how much disdain or love I receive from people. Heaven forbid I be afforded the right to wear what I want to when I want to, and be awesome all the time.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I love design in teams.

I love to design in teams, unfortunately, you don't always get the chance. Talking with some girlfriends today we discussed how having someone to work off of is really important. They will call you on your rotten ideas, and help suss out your great ones. Or, as is the case for me, they will bug me to get to work because I procrastinate way too much. I just think team work is really important for making functionality or success of a project well rounded, not just catered to the very whim of the designer... What do you think?

I got to design a project FOR someone recently, and it was an eye opening experience. Making sure communication was clear (I drew plans, she got to build it) was really quite difficult. Her project did come out really clean and fresh, I'll see if I can get some pics to post of it, but it was tricky.

Additionally, here is my latest design portfolio peice... It's all due tomorrow, but I actually like this project. Since I love teams and feedback, feel free to get me into a frantic jig fixing things if you have any commentary.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Brevity. Project Photos. Horray!

This post is just to prove I can be brief. Here is some logo stuff I have been working on in my Design class. I have a LOT of work to do, but this stuff so far was fun.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

So we're not all Doc Brown...

The term inventor conjures images of gurgling heated pyrex, large blinking lights on daunting ray-gun shaped apparatus, and the mad scientist hovering in his secret underground lead-lined lab.

As delicious as that concept may be, it is unfortunately quite far from the truth. Inventors are people who see a problem, and find a solution. Often the invention is not even a product in and of itself, but a bridge between the user and the original solution which often has a very difficult interface. Not everyone realizes that simple problem solving is the same as invention. This can be a lucrative endeavor, spiritually, emotionally as well as (hopefully) economically. Even if no money is made, your spirit will be exercised by the simplification of things in the world. Work towards good. Make things better. Not that hard! (right?)

Human Ecology touts invention as a centrifugal force behind bettering ones environment. I think part of what makes an inventor is the unification of self: if you have control of your mental, physical, spiritual, and social environments, you will be better able to integrate your whole wealth of knowledge and find solutions to share with others. Even going back to the historical figures of Human Ecology, Ellen Swallow Richards put forward the idea that "no Board of Health can separate the physical nature of man from his moral and intellectual parts." (Human Ecology: A View of the Issues, xiii) If you replace "Board of Health" with anything really- no business, no philosophy, no external framework....(blah blah). I think that it goes without saying that although this seems like a common sense statement, this is not how most of the world approaches problem solving, not to mention life, and leisure. When you unify your self, you can accomplish more, by thinking like a full well rounded person.

I am not sure what I think about this to the full extent, because there's so much that people do which is counterintuitive to this, which could be perceived as successful or not. For instance: people skip their spiritual attention when on vacation, or simply because they choose to eschew all spiritual intelligence, mistaking spiritual awareness with a need to be religious. When pampering themselves physically or emotionally, or working a lot, many people allow their spiritual selves to be ignored for convenience sake. Conversely, when trying to grow spiritually, many different belief systems tout fasting to allow for clarity or attention to only the internal self, shutting out the physical realm. While working the grind, people put their personal lives aside, their social life is forgotten because they choose to exert that effort into career development (which is likely subject to the law of diminishing returns). This career commitment is often revered by management (although not usually echoed by them, shocking....), but often the actual monetary rewards are negligible for the individual, and without extensive career advancement being possible, this effort may not be beneficial.
But I digress... Theres just so much to think about!

Back to Invention:
Needless to say, I like to be a problem solver. I think everyone has that potential. I have included lists and links of things which I think prove that we are all capable of bettering this world.

Things that prove that everyone desires to invent/problem solve:
The natural good feeling you have when you clean your house top to bottom
The number of things you can do with a rubber band
The vast number of paperclips which are not used for their intended purpose (80%)
The amount of things shown on DragonsDen that actually make sense

Solutions which make me happy:
Silver infused cleaning products which allow me to clean without chemicals (go Norwex!)
My uncles bent handle knife which allows arthritic seniors to butter their own bread (way to go Neil!)
Clothing drafting processes which standardize shape/fit so that everyone can design things
Ipods, computers, and all the engineering that helps me not break them into pieces with my rough treatment

Solutions which make me laugh:
All those weird infomercials selling bra strap do-hickeys or hair lifting apparatus'
Plug in Lawnmowers (how long did it take them to think of the battery charged kind?)

"Solutions" which make me sad:
Dumping things into the ocean
Not recycling
Cultural segregation and misinformation

Ok. I've said enough. (A couple of times). Try to think of something which needs to be solved, and how you can think about it outside the box... not necessarily solve the problem, even just pass it along to someone else who might have the agency to bring about a solution...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I don't always understand.

A year after apologizing for our ill treatment of first nations people, Canada's government continues to ignore simple requests for adequate facilities.

Does anyone else find this yucky, y'know... if you have a heart?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

And I will take door number....

Making your choices in a manner that benefits you.

Agency. The final frontier. The ability to feel in control of your situation to the point of knowing how to take steps to adjust your path if needed.

Agency is a huge issue in poverty, policy, fashion, career choices, living situations.
The woman who is in an abusive relationship thinks she cannot stand on her feet without him.
The employee who attempts to institute fresh ideas who is impeded by the old-boys club mentality.
The family on welfare (or a tight budget of any kind for that matter) buys all canned and frozen groceries from Wa.l -mart because they can buy clothes and other things there also, and don't want to take a separate bus to a market with fresh food.
The clothing industry produces most garments in the third world in questionable factories.
Overweight people who eat poorly because they like these foods, or don't exercise because it's hard.
People work jobs which take them far from their loved ones, far from their passion, in order to provide the standard of living they believe is necessary for "happiness" (the 2 days they're home every two weeks).

All examples of people who HAVE choices, but really feel like they are stuck.

I live downtown. I am surrounded by examples of people who feel like they have no agency over their situation.
The homeless sit on the street begging, and people say "there are so many organizations developed to help them". And there are. Institutions ready to give a hand up to someone willing to make change. They assist agency. So why do the homeless remain an issue at all? The homeless man feels embarrassed at his appearance, angry at his inability to control his addiction, proud that he can at least self sustain by begging rather than becoming dependent on someone else's charity. Or, sadly, some don't want to end their addiction, or it's grasp is just too tight.

But why throw stones. We all have things we like or dislike about ourselves.

It seems like the more you think about it, the more you realize- there's help out there for everyone, if you really want to change things in your life. I mean- reality television is full of self help, as long as you're willing to subject yourself to a bit of humiliation too (see Pretty Wicked on Fashion. Those girls have PROBLEMS). If not, there's hope for you yet, even if that help only comes from adjusting your attitude:

I felt like I did not have control of my academic understanding of human ecology. I have started a blog to review it's relevance in my life. In addition, it allows me to share some of my best (and worst also, I'm sure) moments with people I know.
I felt like I did not have control of my food consumption, my allergies were beginning to control me. My husband and I now eat home made food every day, and I buy groceries on the weekend and prepare a big Lunch Soup for the week. This also made it a lot easier to budget as we stopped buying takeout from school and work.
I felt like I was not being active, both socially and from a physical perspective. I set up a weekly coffee date with some of the truest friends I have ever known, even if we had lost touch. I got rid of my downtown parking space, and now park down a giant hill which I walk up and down every time I need my car. This makes me acknowledge what an amazing greenspace Edmonton has in the river valley, and also makes me consider how much I need to use my car a lot more carefully. (Walking is Rad. My view of the city parks is amazing).

I find that the more I take control of little things that matter to me, the more I am exposed to additional perks and benefits that are just along for the ride. The JOY of being at ease with who I am, and that at least in little ways I am attempting to better myself, learn from things. It makes accepting my flaws that much easier.

I want to make a lot of my own clothes; I find I put it on the back burner, because the rest of life has me busy busy busy. I know that would make me a lot more at ease with the ethical clothing issue. One course last year had us watching a documentary about a little chinese 14 year old girl who snipped threads off jeans for less than a dollar a day. I sometimes discuss with friends as a joke, "oh, little Bei Lei didn't finish my jeans, she only gets $0.06/hr now". And then my laugh turns into a wry smile and my stomach churns, that my western culture has progressed to where a $10.00 shirt is more important than someone else's living situation. Yes, they are across the world, but I am the one supporting that notion, because I am cheap and I am not taking agency over my stance on the issue. I am part of the problem.

So maybe that will be my next endeavor for personal change. If I didn't sew it myself, or buy it from a second hand store, it should be ethical. I know NICE (New, Innovative, Concious [eco], Ethical) clothing exists! American Ap.parel produces in America and pays decent(ish) wages, so I'm on board. Sure most company's have an ethical standpoint on their website, but it usually reads like a plausible deniability smoke screen. "we strive to ensure our workers receive adequate pay and appropriate benefits, upholding the labor laws of the specific country in question" ("strive" means when they visit and talk to the workers, if they say they get paid "X" and get "X" days off, it's all roses even when employees know they're forced to lie or be fired). This bothers me so much, I subscribed to e-mails from a global union support website newsletter which advises what factories are really up to, which country governments are in cahoots with manufacturers to try to discredit or destroy unions. In some situations (more often than I'm comfortable knowing about) people die for the right to get paid enough to live. What a disgrace! Go to to learn more about the insane things which occur in the name of a cheap sports bra.

What do you guys think? Is it possible to change this world we live in? Does boycotting certain brands you know have breached your personal limits do anything? What about letter writing, or do you think people should show support through monetary support of NICE clothing to get their message across?
What about places like
They rescue sheep and make clothes that are sooooo cute.
Barring me being allergic to wool, I would absolutely love this clothing.
Should we all start to think, live, eat and play NICE, and the corporations will follow?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gorgeous Weekend

Hello! So. We went CAMPING. Here is a delicious picture of my darling red car, and other precious moments of our trip. My car made it all the way to the mountains without looking like garbage, and still looks really good. We ran off to enjoy our small little weekend before my design class started.

We managed to get the car packed after our trip in a way that allows us to (gasp) go camping with minimal packing in the back seat- most of our camping gear is in the trunk, which we never use. This is a perfect example of applications of Human Ecological thinking to everyday issues. Why work if you are not able to do what you enjoy? DH (darling husband) and I enjoy getting into a tent and cooking over a stove, and have made it infinitely easier at this time! Working to live is a big deal, and by making it easier to get on with living is a huge part of the struggle. So setting ourselves up for success means we are more likely to throw some bananas and tortillas in the backseat and run off for the weekend. Go us!

And why wouldn't you want to get away? Even though we were relegated to the overflow campsite, I can say it was amazing. You may be thinking: but overflow is just a big boring field. We were able to find our own spot, we had access to washrooms, we had already brought our own water, and I think the pictures show that this was not just a boring field.... Can I say "Boom, Roasted" for only having to pay ten bucks to camp?

Saturday, when we went into Jasper for a quick trip to pick up essentials (chocolate, ice, etc) we saw a bear in our rearview mirror. We turned the car around and scuttled back down the road to see if we could get a better look. Unfortunately, little brown bear had run back into the bushes. *tears* That evening we saw a natural light show with some amazing lightening.

Sunday afternoon, we packed up our goodies and set out to go home. Ahead of us on the road, a truck was going quite slowly. Driving up, I saw a bear running into the brush, and was so excited to at least get a flash of it, but sad that we didn't get a picture. Then DH pointed out that the second bear had not yet vacated the premises...

We got fabulous pictures of a berry hungry little black bear (Get it? Berry hungry? Very Hungry? Did I mention I love puns?). Five feet from our car, we were as close to real nature as we could be.

Which leads me to thinking: what is our natural environment? We are told by parks attendants not to interact with bears and other wildlife. That we will take them away from their own natural existence. Where are we from, what exactly is our natural existence if not within the natural constructs our surroundings provide us? Why have we moved so far away from this natural existence? Is this why we yearn to go back to this world? And what does it say that our mere presence in this natural state can be so disruptive to the other inhabitants, like bears?


Saturday, July 25, 2009

An attempt to be "Green"

Ok। I won't lie. As a burgeoning human ecologist, I am exploring exactly what that means to me. In the frequently greenwashed North American market, what kind of niche can my skills fill? Who do I want to become, what do I want to represent. Human ecologists fundamentally feel that education provides people with the agency to better their lives and the lives of others. They strive to provide sound scientific evidence of these improvements so that the education is validated. Research, Education, and Facilitation seem to be at the core of their mindset. I think. (so I've kindof gathered from three years of human ecology schooling.) But what does it really MEAN? So this blog is to record my efforts- I am enabling others and myself to improve our surroundings. Or something like that. I like money. I like being environmentally sound. Often those things go together: use less gas, don't go on vacation (airline travel makes your carbon footprint span the globe), turn off the lights. Often those things don't: buy a hybrid, or newer less gas guzzling vehicle, pay for carbon neutralizing credits (Balancing out those nasty Mexico flying miles...), replace your furnace... This makes me scream for moderation. Where does this go? How does a normal person, who doesn't have the money of A.l Gore manage to be somewhat responsible, without also becoming the victim of the current financial crisis by blowing their money on Soy this and Hydro that, Eco Whatchyamacallims and Green Shenanigans ? Well. For starters... Today I washed my car with just water, and a terry rag. Shocking. For all you grease monkeys out there, jumping up and down at the thought of me not waxing, buffing, chrome detailing my car with the love and attention similar to that of a russian mail order bride, let me set your mind at ease. I drive a 2007 Pontiac Wave. It's not a work of art, it's a car. It wasn't that dirty, it got a lovely chemical infused full on wash after winter, getting rid of all the scary salt and grime that would potentially rust (? ha, sure) all of it's hard plastic pieces. My thoughts: 1)Good outside fun. Cold Water. Hot day. Sunshine (30 degrees, which NEVER happens here!). I got to see steam rise off the roof when I washed it... that is not normal in E.dmonton! 2)Saves me $20.00 or all of my hard earned Esso extra points, when it really is calling for rain tomorrow... Especially when I'm going camping, so the highway drive will likely mess this wash up anyways. 3)Brings me appreciation of those people who detail cars, or the machines that wash them 4)Doesnt expose me and my family and everyone else in the area to all the weird junk in the suds at the gas station I'm not going to say I will never wash my car at a car wash again. Im not going to say that it was super easy, or that it was the CLEANEST looking car ever. sometimes I had to wash and rinse the side three times before the streaks were gone. But the car looks awesome, I saved the planet a bit of junk, I saved ME some money, and I got a small amount of vitamin D... If I had kids, I would say this is a great way to spend time with them with some super soakers... kids love pretty much everything to do with water, sunshine, and you.. So yeh. Go ahead. Tell people its to "Save the planet a little" when really you're just a big cheapo. Hmm. That may have been a slight segue. But I'll get back to my holistic approach to life and how it works with my profession later. Mainly, I just have to stop talking.