J52: The Great White North

Journal52 2015, Week 3.

Prompt: Conversation Starters.

The idea this week was to do a spread based on a conversation you had or over heard recently. This prompt came to my inbox the day after my husband went to a meeting for the Kativik School Board. We talked about what he had learned at the meeting and that conversation was still fresh in my head.

The Kativik region is Northern Quebec from the top of James’ Bay and up. It’s not the most popular region of Quebec to live in and the school board there is always looking for experienced teachers. Why are we applying for a teaching job there? The teaching market is saturated here and moving north would be smarter economically than moving anywhere else. The Northern Allowance you get for moving up North to work would allow us to save a lot, plus they offer subsidized housing, they cover moving expenses and three trips home a year. If need be, he could move there for a year while I stay here to finish school. It’s not ideal, but the Allowance would make having two households manageable.

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It would definitely be a lifestyle change. A small town means getting used to the everyone knows everyone thing. The Inuit culture would be more prominent up there. Things would also be more laid back. There is very little crime. Kids are out by themselves a lot. Sometimes it’s broad daylight at 2am there, in which case, all the kids are going to be out at the park. If you can’t find your kid, not to worry, it is likely he is in one of the other 10 house on the street.

One thing Hubby said they emphasized at the meeting was the landscape. There are no trees. They tell everyone who applies this, but when they get off the plane in Kativik, they are still astonished by how flat and barren the land is. No trees. No hills. Just tundra.

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Everything has to be delivered. Shopping is done from catalogs or the internet. My first thought was no more grocery shopping, awesome! You order groceries online and they are delivered to your door. The shipping is covered by the government apparently. There are small stores in the villages, but a bag of chips usually costs about $7. No thanks. Even water has to be delivered. That scared me a little at first. It is delivered daily on week days, so not a big deal…unless there is a snow storm! So, if there is a snow storm on a Friday, no showers or laundry for days because you aren’t getting another supply of water until Monday! EEK!

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The weather is another thing to think about. It will be cold and there will be even more snow than here in Montreal. They told Hubby the rule is if you can’t see your neighbour’s house across the street in a snow storm, don’t leave your house. There seem to be a couple reasons not to leave your house. They said it was common enough to get a call in the early morning just as you were getting up for work, telling you to stay inside because there was a polar bear sighted near the town or a pack of wolves roaming the village. Wow, that is different.

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So anyway, my J52 spread this week is dedicated to our conversation about living in the “Great White North”. I started with white gesso, did my lettering in blue craft acrylic paint and pasted some map bits on top with modge podge. I didn’t think about the lettering too much. I just kind of slapped it on there. I wish I had taken a bit more care now. I used a Crafter’s Workshop Stencil by Jamie Echt to do the handwriting you see in blue. I then went over everything in white gesso mixed with blue acrylic paint to mute the blue paint and colour in the maps. I was aiming for a cold blizzardy look. It’s not quite what I was imagining, but you get the idea. I used the same stencil with white acrylic over my blue tinted gesso, doodled some snowflakes with gel pens and wrote bit of the conversation with a silver Sharpie paint pen.

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Self-esteem Challenge: Day 9

This blog challenge was developed by betterthandarkchocolate.tumblr.com. If you missed the introduction or want to see a summary of all the questions, go here.

Day 9:
Something that you yourself do that makes you smile. Why?
Do you have genuine respect for yourself and who you are as an individual? and if not, how can you change that?

I work with older adults. It’s primarily because they are losing their sight, but when I meet with them, it’s not all about eye tests and my research. We have conversations. I answer all their questions and ask them about themselves. I hear about their past, their families, what they are up to and what they worry about. Most of them enjoy their appointment with me and even the ones that start out grumpy leave content. They usually thank me profusely. I’ve had a few dinner invitations and lunch break offers, lol. Maybe I make them feel important because they get to talk about themselves. Or maybe it’s just having someone to talk to that makes them happy. A lot of them live alone or their family lives far away. Anyway, knowing that they are happy, makes me smile. I think it’s time well spent.

Looking up the definition of self-respect gives me this: “pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity.” I have some self-respect. I try to conduct myself with dignity and honour, but as for being proud and confident in myself? Nope and nope. My last session with psych was all about my self-worth and how I let it be determined by other people’s opinion of me. I am also guilty of making myself feel inadequate by comparing myself to everyone else. Apparently, I can get better respect for myself by getting to know myself better. Psych asked me to figure out what was most important to me. The answer came right away, I want everyone to think highly of me. I knew right away that was a bad answer. I need to figure out what is important to me independent of other people. I need to come to terms with not being able to do everything and do it all perfectly. I can’t be the best writer, the best presenter, well read, the best researcher, a good mentor, an organized lab manager, the perfect housewife, the best friend, an efficient academic, a size zero with great muscle tone, a good volunteer, a healthy cook, a good cat-mom and have a spotless home. Am I right to think that expecting all of this is unreasonable or am I just not working hard enough? If this is unreasonable, how do I learn to be ok with being less? As you can see, this is a work in progress.

self-respect is power quote

Motivation Progress Report III

Week three of me trying to boost my motivation.

Exercise. I am still running at 5 am during the week. I’ve been going later in the day on the weekends though. Who wants to get up at 5am when they don’t have to?! I ran my whole route without stopping this week. I suppose that’s a milestone. I used to be able to do it no problem without stopping, so I’m not really that proud of myself. I suppose I should celebrate a little if I want to stay motivated. I’m also tempted to weigh myself. It’ll probably be upsetting, but it would be easy to monitor changes. My clothes still feel the same. I think it’s going to a while before I can feel a difference.

Food. I haven’t been doing so well with counting my calories. It’s annoying. I have been eating the same things, so I know I am within my limit. When I get bored of eating the same things everyday I’ll have to pay more attention to counting. I mentioned in a post the other day that I was thinking about cake a lot. Do you think having a cheat meal once a week is ok? It might give me something to look forward to and make it easier to turn down cake during the week. Not a whole cheat day, just a meal…

Work. It was a decent week. I found a few participants for the studies I m working on. The problem is they are mostly French and I can’t speak French. This means I have to chase the research assistant and get him to book appointments. I really don’t like chasing people. It makes me feel like a nag. I wish he would just do it on his own.

Overall, I feel like I should be getting somewhere, but I’m not. I feel healthier, but then I look in the mirror and the image doesn’t match how I feel. It’s disappointing. I’m also annoyed with myself for letting the way I look matter more than work. Work should matter more.



Good Things Come in Threes

I know a lot of people who believe that bad things happen in threes. Whenever something goes wrong they are on the lookout for the next two. I try not to think this way, who wants to be waiting for bad things to happen? Today, I am wondering if the superstition works the other way too. Can good things come in threes? I have three bits of good news to share.

The first being my Dad. The doctors found that the left side of his heart wasn’t contracting all the way. This is scary, he is 60 now and bad hearts have claimed all the men in his family in their early 60s. He had an angiogram on Thursday and it came back clear! His arteries are wide open! We still don’t know why his heart is off, but I am choosing to focus on the positives here. The angiogram has ruled out several bad prognoses. I’m thankful for that.

The second thing is my husband’s job. He is a high school teacher and we were told there weren’t enough students for him to have a position next year. This was devastating as it brings our one income household down to none. So the last month or so of knowing we weren’t going to have an income has been nothing short of a stress fest. This problem came to an end this week. The other teachers in the science department at my husband’s school heard about his situation. One of them was planning on taking a half year sabbatical. She decided to make it a full year sabbatical, giving my husband her contract. We are safe for another year! I was speechless when my husband told me. What a huge kindness! I have to find some way to thank her! Flowers maybe?

The third is to do with my Ph.D. Lately, I’ve been lost. I’ve had no motivation to leave the house to go to work/school, whatever you consider Ph.D. research to be. My dissertation is stuck in ethics, I’m having trouble finding participants for the other studies and I’m completely overwhelmed trying to run the lab. I know this is just typical stress that most people experience, but I have this bad habit of defining my worth based on my achievements at work. Since work was going no where, I was feeling pretty worthless. I was wondering if I was cut out for research. Before we got the good news about my husband’s job I was wondering if I should be quitting and trying to find a real job. I guess I was looking for a sign to tell me if I was in the right place or not.

Thursday morning, I got my sign! The application I made in the fall for a Doctoral Fellowship from the Provincial Government came through! For the next two years, the government will pay me to focus solely on my research. This is amazing!! I had applied for this fellowship in 2012 and 2013 and been turned down. This was my last year to be eligible, my last chance. Just when I was starting to think quitting might be right, it came through. This validates all my hard work. I’m going to do my Ph.D. research!

So there you have it, good things can come in threes too. I like this superstition much better. It’ll put me on the lookout for good thing, big or small.

Do you have any good news? I ‘d love to hear it, no matter how big or small!

lego girl

If you haven’t seen the Lego Movie, you need to see it! The “Everything is Awesome” song is very catchy and will put a smile on your face!



The Panic Devil and the Optimistic Angel

Those of you who have experienced depression know about that battle that goes on inside of yourself. It’s a constant struggle between the devil and the angel on your shoulders. The devil tells you you are worthless while the angel tells you to pick yourself up and get in gear. At the end of the battle, you are left exhausted and disappointed because you can’t just do what the angel says and leave the devil in the dust. It’s not that simple.

This scenario was triggered in me yesterday when the husband called after work. Bad news, that high school enrollment for next September is down and he’ll likely be out of a job. He’s a high school science teacher. This really threw me for a loop. I thought we were safe. He had just gotten tenure, meaning the school board would have a position for him. I guess if there are no kids to teach, they can’t very well have a teaching post for him. We are a single income (his) household, so this set me into panic mode. What are we going to do? I’ll have to quit my Ph.D. to get a job!

What if I did have to get a job? What would I do? I’ve got a M.Sc. in biology and I’m halfway through a Ph.D. in vision science. So I’m highly educated, but I have no skills and no experience. Who would hire me?  In addition, I live in Quebec and don’t speak French. I knew this would come back to bite me eventually. This rules out the possibility of working in retail or service industries. I have babysitting experience, but if I handed my resume full of conference presentations and cadaver research into a daycare center, I’m pretty sure they’d laugh me out of the building.

After some major panic, throwing up and a rather nice chat with some new friends I’ve made through blogging (thank you!), I came back to Earth. I tried to look at the situation logically. It’s not certain there wont be a job for him, so it’s not worth more panic….yet. There is a possibility of me getting a government fellowship. Please provincial government, fund me! I wont know about the fellowship until next month. So I can delay more panic until then.

This is the problem with higher education. You get stuck in a small bubble with all the other competitive, highly motivated students and professors and you forget that there are destinations other than being a tenured professor. You forget that there is a whole world out there that requires skills other than being an encyclopedia for a very specific field. It becomes hard to see a relationship between your specialized training and employment in the outside world. At least this is how I was feeling when I started my second round of panic.

Just as the panic devil was about to get me going again, the angel on my other shoulder chimed in. If this were true, then there would be an awful lot more highly educated, unemployed people. Of all the things I’ve done in grad school, there must be some transferable skills there. I was a teaching assistant for an anatomy lab. I dissected cadavers and taught students what was what. Unless I wanted to be a serial killer, the dissecting wasn’t going to help, but the teaching, that was good. I taught them about all the different nerves in the body and how to tell a vein from an artery. That’s attention to detail. Another skill! I was starting to feel better. What about all my conference presentations? There’s organization, communication and interpersonal skills. Alright! I was starting to feel like a rock star! Albeit, an unemployed rock star.

It’s important not to look at a situation through the devil’s eyes. You need to knock some sense into that angel too though. Singing empty optimism isn’t going to get you anywhere. What is true about the situation? I mean solid facts, not what you think you know or what you assume others think. Facts. Since I am being forced out of my academic bubble I have to make changes. I’m going to take my set of facts (knowledge and transferable skills) and go in a different direction.

I’m feeling better about this forced change. I know it’ll be hard and extremely unpleasant and part of me still wants to curl up in a ball and hide in the corner, but I know buried under all that theory, there are transferable skills. The thought of leaving my Ph.D. still breaks my heart, but I know I’m not doomed.

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