Topic Sentences

Academic writing is boring to write and soul sucking to read. Instructors label a concise paragraph “good writing”, readers find these paragraphs terse and unapproachable. Sentences are staccato and offer limited opportunities for readers to pause or be engaged. Readers feel information is being hurled at them (Hurl, C, Flail, R, 1996) and they actively disengage their reading skills to avoid being harmed by sharp and uninteresting facts. (Dullard, M, 1948). Direct and plain communication limits opportunities to inspire. The best academic writing uses a formula of Topic Sentence, Claim, Evidence, Conclusion in every paragraph. Boring Scientist James Ilivealone says “most readers would rather poke their eyes out than read an MBA paper that uses the same paragraph structure.” (Ilivealone, J, 205).  Neither a writer nor reader of an academic paper should expect to be interested and engaged by the process.

********

I may have gotten my first 2 papers back. I actually was exactly average, and I know what I need to do to fix it. I will verify that with the writing coach on Sunday. I suspect I shouldn’t bring the above paragraph.

Thanks for bearing with me, it felt great to write it!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

6.7%

Firstly – I know I have not posted every day in a long time, and I thank you for bearing with me. Graduate school turns out to be intense. I appreciate having a ready made space to unpack my thoughts and feelings and knowing that some of you are still listening and sending good wishes.

It turns out that roughly 7% of the world’s population has a graduate level education.

I’ll start there (and I’m going to end there too, if you were curious), because I am griping and groaning about some of my classmates and the sounds of the peacocks and how small and cheerless my dorm room is.

In reality, and this matters, I am singularly fortunate. I have a company willing to help with tuition, savings (my retirement savings, but savings all the same), family and friends willing and able to let me put my life on hold while I do this thing.

The staff say the program is brutal – they call it boot camp. I’ll not lie, it’s tough. There is a lot work coming at me. An enormous amount to read, synthesize, analyze and formulate responses to. That’s my entire academic career and a chunk of my professional career. It’s volume, but it’s not difficult. It’s just a lot of work. Put your back into it, grind it out. I’m no stranger to the 70 hour week.

And I’m griping because I don’t think my classmates like me and I can’t figure out how to make connections to them, and as much as I want to be the person who says that making connections doesn’t always matter, I think it does.

Day 2. I still feel small and alone.

I’m trying to focus on my great good fortune tomorrow. The little things that I like. The discipline of a million tiny points of light.

Here’s to Day 3.

Posted in Grad Student, Tiny Points of Light | 4 Comments

Suits and Jeans

Today was the first day of school.

I didn’t take a business degree. It bothers me because I feel like there is all this stuff I should know, because I work in business. There’s stuff I know $5 about, and stuff I google late at night because “next best alternative to a negotiated agreement?”. Who knew?

You want to talk hegemonic stability theory, the prisoner’s dilemma, Giffen goods and Aristotelian ethics? Oh, I’m all over that. I’ve taught myself the basics of enterprise architecture, I write papers on process. I haven’t stopped learning. I just didn’t take the commerce degree.

There was a guy in my class, and he was wearing a shirt and tie.

It was Sunday.

At 8:30 am.

A shirt and tie.

ON THE WEEKEND.

I upped my game from my undergrad degree. I wore a t-shirt dress and a cardigan. Nice flats. Makeup!

No birks. No jeans. No flannel shirts. My hair looked good. I had a freaking manicure!

I say all of this because before noon my voting preferences  and the idea of safe spaces – things that I hold sacred – were mocked. No one said a word. I looked around, waiting for someone or even the instructor, to raise their hand an call a time out. Nope.

 

These are not my people.

When I come right down to it, my nervousness for the last few weeks, my obsession over clothing, my worries and my fears:

I want them to like me.

I want to fit in.

I want to be a cool kid.

Nope.

Tomorrow I’m going to be the woman to telling someone from Oak Bay- with a median house price over a million dollars, a population that is 92% white, in an area that has more private high schools than public ones . . .

Safe spaces matter.

When you are a white, straight, educated, middle aged, upper middle class man in North America, the world is made for you. You have probably never felt unsafe. You never feeling unsafe does not mean that no one ever feels unsafe. Your lived experience is not everyone’s. You don’t have to live everyone’s experience.  You do need to listen and try and understand.

It’s hard to imagine how this is going to go wrong. Who doesn’t want to hear this?

But seriously.

Screw it.

I’m wearing Birks and Jeans tomorrow.

I’m lighting the idea of people liking me on fire.

I’m wearing comfy shoes and jeans while I do it.

 

Posted in Grad Student, This I believe | 1 Comment

The Table by the Window

When I was 18, in the summer before I started university, I worked as a dishwasher. I credit that job with being the reason I went to university.

I have been thinking of a particular memory all day. From the time I got up at 5:30 am, on to a plane, to when Ms. Fab picked me up, through fighting with the keys in my dorm room door. All day, I keep thinking back to that restaurant, to the table by the window, that summer afternoon in 1997.

I remember a man and a woman – likely husband and wife. She was older than I, say maybe mid 50’s. Her husband was writing a cheque for her to grad school. It must have been about August.

He was teasing her a bit, about her grad school tuition. Not in a mean or unkind way, in the way you tease someone you love. He was joking about the cost, about the time she was away from home. I guess we could say some things about how he was writing the cheque, or why she was doing a degree that late in life, but mostly I remember that he was clearly very proud of her.

I joked with Mr. Spit on Friday night, that I was going to get a t-shirt that said “my wife and my money go to Royal Roads”. That’s not true – not really. It’s my money and work’s money, but in the end, it’s all the same pot – my money is coming out of our retirement  savings and it’s me who won’t do the cooking.

I’ve spent all summer with my nose in an accounting textbook, and it’s about to get worse. On Sunday a bunch of classmates will meet me for the first time. I am terrified. It’s the first day of school all over again, and I’ve mentioned that I am worried?

They will see me. For good or ill, whether they like me or not, they will see me. They will not see Ms. Fab, who picked me up at the airport, ran me around town and told me over and over that I will rock this. They do not see Jason – who drove me to the airport for 6 am. They do not see the friend who sent me away with gummy coke bottles, in case I got hungry and lonely.

They will not see Mr. Spit, even though his money and his wife are getting an MBA. And he is incredibly proud.

 

 

Posted in Marriage | 1 Comment

I wanna go home

I almost took another job a few weeks ago. It was more money, a kind of interesting challenge and the sort of thing I’d be really good at. I turned them down. It was the right job for a woman who doesn’t live here any more.

2014 was terrible. A year the likes of which I never want to see again; it brought me to my knees – MS, work changes, family tragedy, my mother’s death – left me unable to breathe.

You know that I went to Paris and London in October of 2014, but you don’t know why. You don’t know about the conversation in the Maple Leaf Lounge – the one where the Handsome Australian asked if I had made up my mind.

I went to Paris and London to try and figure out if I was going to stay married. In 2014, in the midst of all the other problems, my marriage was indisputably broken.

I had both realities all planned. I just didn’t know which one I wanted. I didn’t really choose to be honest. Somewhere over Greenland I decided that I had fallen in love with Mr. Spit once, 14 years ago, and I wanted to see if I could do it again –  I felt I owed him that.

If you were at our Vow Renewal last September, you heard us say in a very real sense we got divorced in October of 2014. We got divorced and decided to get remarried, only under different, better, more realistic terms. We went through our assumptions and our agreements and our beliefs about what marriage was and what it wasn’t.

We finished our vow renewal by promising to trust in our growth, our ability to change and discover new adventures together.

If you asked me why I turned down the job; I would tell you many things. I would tell you that money doesn’t equal happiness, I would tell you I am happy enough where I am, I would tell you that my MBA will be enough change. I would tell you that I was driving through the river valley, thinking about all of the fun stuff I had planned for the summer, stuff I never did on the road. I was coming home from meeting new friends for coffee, thinking about growing beans and music festivals and thinking about how much  I liked going home.

The job looked like an adventure, and I suppose it would have been. It was also running through the motions. What I’ve built here, what I’m building, it’s harder. More confusing.

More satisfying.

This post is late.

Happy 15th and Happy 2nd Anniversary Babe. I’m glad I chose you.

US15

Posted in Marriage, Mr. Spit | 2 Comments

Once In a While

People sometimes ask if I am a cat person or a dog person and I never quite know how to answer.

Yes. 

In truth I’ve had a mix of dogs and cats since I was about 14, and I really can’t imagine life without both. There is no either/or. I like them for different reasons, and over the years that means that I have given my heart to 9 cats and 4 dogs. It also means that I have had my heart broken by 8 cats and 3 dogs. This is what it means to be an animal person. You will give your heart to what cannot outlive you. You will pour love and care and concern (and often large amounts of money) into an animal and it will reward you with purring and barking and doggy smiles and cat drool (and barfing on your shoes), until the day it can’t.

As I type this, brave, brave sir Toby is slowly walking around my back yard. I am sitting on a chair and working away, and he is doing his best impression of a brave explorer cat. I’m keeping a watchful eye out for the bully magpies.

This is Toby’s last day. The vet and I, in February, thought that he might make it 2 months with the pancreatitis, but he’s actually made it 5. Now there are more days with strong pain medication than without, Subcutaneous fluids every night, and he’s starting to eat less and hide more. He is slowing down and it is time.

Today is a glorious last day. Crab for breakfast, cuddles in the chair in my office. He has been laying in the sunshine, and in a few hours we will drive to the vet. I have promised him that I will stay with him to the end. My voice will be the last thing he hears. I will scratch his ears until there is nothing left to feel. I’ll get his ashes back and he’ll go under Gabe’s tree, next to Maggie and Delta.

My heart is broken and it will be more so after tonight.

It is but a trifle. The smallest bit of inconvenience to have shared 7 spectacular years with Brave, Brave Sir Toby.

Toby1

Posted in Furry Slugs | 8 Comments

69

I drove out to the garden and paid my admission, walking to what they call the Iris Dell, and what I irreverently refer to as ‘the place we tipped your mortal remains into’. Iris Dell sounds nicer.  

There’s a bench (shaded, mostly owned by mosquitoes and a few brave mice). 

I sat on it and told you about my year.  There is no need. I of all people know that death really does nothing but move physical presence to the space between heart and lungs.  

I did it for me, not for you. When all of the hurt and sadness and anger is gone, when I let that float away because I do not need to hold on to it, I have the best of you, and I miss that.  

So I told you that your best friend sold the house and is moving to a condo, about my MBA and work stuff and how Mr Spit has to have shoulder surgery.  I told you what went well and what I was worried about.  

I read ChurchGoing to you and walked back to the Japanese garden and I rang the bell for you, waiting until it stopped reverberating.  

Happy 69th Birthday mumsy.  

Posted in The language of families | 2 Comments

Time Doesn’t Stand Still

I went in the back door. In truth, while I know there is a front door, I don’t think I’ve ever been through the front door. I go to the back door. I don’t ring the door bell and I just walk in.

This is what you do in the old places. The thing you have always done – in my case you walk through a back door your have been walking through since you were 4 years old. This will be the last time because the house is sold. My god parents are moving to a Condo. I didn’t ever have a single childhood house, this place was as close as it gets. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, random weekends, long summer vacations. This was my other home as a child.

It’s a combination of things really. It’s close to my mother’s birthday and I find myself especially missing her and now the house has been sold.

I was out of kilter that night. It’s hard to say goodbye to your childhood. We, or at least I, seem to want some portion of life that stays the same. I don’t have to be a part of it, but somewhere and somehow it would ease the ache in my soul if I knew the home I spent my childhood in would continue on, just as it was.

If there was a place that I could turn up, should I need it, and I could walk in, drop my keys in the basket, pour myself a cup of coffee and grab a cooky from the jar and collapse into a heap on the sofa. A place where time stood still, even if that is an utter impossibility.

Even if I never need it, I liked knowing it was there. And now it’s not.

And I’m a bit sad.

Posted in The language of families | Leave a comment

Taller than I

I took my niece to the 100th anniversary of universal suffrage at the Alberta legislature, and as I stood behind her, with my hands on her shoulders, I joked that I needed to weigh her down. By this time next year she will be taller than me.

She asked if that was ok, if I really did want to keep her short. As with all of my nieces and nephews, I am crazy in love with her. No, I want her to grow up, grow wiser, find her voice. I want her to be an adult, to leave home, to find her way in the world and have magnificent adventures. She had to be taller than me to do this.

His tree is taller than I am.

I don’t remember when that happened.

Was it so last year? Did it sneak up on me? It’s just the passing of time. Water and sunshine ever did create growth.

He is tiny: in the urn that holds his ashes, in the handful of people who remember that once I was a mother. For a short period of time, his heart lay under mine and I tried to shelter him as best I could. He is tiny.

He is not tiny in the way I love him. He does not occupy  a tiny part of my heart. With me like the breath in my lungs, his memory and my love remain as boundless as the air I have breathed in and out of my body since the day he left me.

Gabriel’s tree is tall and strong, the branches full and the leaves whispering in the breeze.

Taller than I.

As it should be.

Posted in Gabriel, Gardening, The language of families, the nieces and nephews, Tiny Points of Light | 3 Comments

Would She

The day my mother died, well, the night before really, I was talking to her nurse. The nurse commented that she was so glad I had arrived in time and asked if I had a nice flight.

Now, on the face of it, in 2014, it was not crazy to ask if I had a nice flight. I spent a lot of time on planes. But Edmonton, it was home. I hadn’t been flying. By stroke of goodness, I was in Edmonton the day I got the call that my mum lay dying. I came to the hospital from my office, just across the river.

My mother had told this nurse, told everyone, that her daughter was a partner in a major law firm in Toronto.

That was the person my mother wanted me to be. That was what would have made her proud. To her dying day I don’t think she forgave me for not going to law school. I wasn’t the daughter she wanted in oh so many ways.

I was accepted to an MBA program today. I had a discussion about promotion today. It was a good day.

It’s ok that I wasn’t the daughter my mum wanted. I’m the kind of person I want to be. That feels like enough for today.

Posted in The language of families | 1 Comment