dreaminghope: (Cute but Deranged)
My Most Annoying Personality Trait

When I first get into work on Sunday mornings, I turn all the highlighters cap down, make sure the pens and scissors are in the correct slots in the desk organizer, flip the ruler so it sticks out the left side of the file holder, and return the stapler, post-it notes, and calculator to the correct spots. My Friday assistant always shifts things around when she uses my desk; I need everything in its place before I start to work.

***

"I have a plan. I always have a plan."

***

It was like something straight out of a Judy Blume novel (Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, to be exact):

"Everyone take two pieces of paper and write your name on them both. On one, write Good Things and on the other, Bad Things, or Not So Good Things, if you prefer. Then we will all write about each other’s best qualities and worst qualities on the sheets."

I took the leader's Bad Things paper first and wrote on it in my big handwriting: "I think this is a passive-aggressive exercise and if you have anything to tell me about my personality, you can tell me to my face." As we all grabbed papers at random in the half-hour that followed, I always knew who had that paper because they would look at me and chuckle.

At the end of the exercise, I stuffed my papers into my purse unread. At home, I dropped them into a desk drawer and forgot about them. I came across them months later while looking for something else.

I don't remember anything from either page except for one Not So Good Thing entry: "Sometimes you get a little 'my-way-or-the-highway'."

"Just a little?" I asked.

***

"There is a plan. Don't fuck with the plan."

***

I am going to start training a new assistant at work tomorrow. Wish him luck.

Orange highlighter for the customers with changes to their deliveries. All the grocery codes are written in black ink: a four letter code, one space, a slash, one more space, then the next code. Circle them in blue highlighter. Notes to the customers are highlighted in green; packing instructions in yellow; packing instructions in pink. Bin counts in blue pen. Office notes in red pen.

I have very specific ways of doing every tiny task. I always have a reason for doing things the exact way I do, but sometimes my reasons don't seem important to other people. I seem controlling and obsessive...

***

"Just stick with the plan, and everything will work out perfectly."
dreaminghope: (Cute but Deranged)
There's a story about me from my university years that has been told over and over in the years since I graduated: the story of a million muffins.

When I was in university, I was a typical student with a typical schedule: too much reading, too much writing, too much studying, too much coffee, too much stress. I did have a somewhat unique coping method when it all became too much: I baked muffins; a lot of muffins.

Depending on who is telling the story, I baked six dozen, ten dozen, or fifteen dozen muffins at a time. I may have made six, twelve, or twenty different kinds: cornmeal, cranberry and chocolate, mushroom soup, lemonade, and more. My freezer is always stuffed full, but only some tellings include the detail that each muffin was individually wrapped and labeled before freezing. Some remember that I looked a little manic as I baked; some remember how I pushed muffins on everyone who walked through my door. Some watched me bake. Some saw the overflowing freezer. Some ate the muffins. Some just heard the stories later and retold them.

The story of a million muffins has been an amusing anecdote, a way to summarize my personality, and a teaching tool. As the latter, it was used as an example of one way someone coped with stress; it may also be serving as a cautionary tale of what happens if you don't create more normal coping mechanisms for yourself.

I don't remember how many muffins I made at any one go, or how many different kinds. I don't know how often I went into muffin-making binges. All the story-versions are mixed together in my head, creating a new memory. The story isn't just mine anymore.
dreaminghope: (Confused Zoey)
I have been a vegetarian for about a decade now. Since eating and socializing so often go together, at some point I mention my vegetarianism to most people I see more then once. Unlike my cousin, who is notorious within my extended family for having burst into tears over the Thanksgiving turkey during her brief time as a vegetarian, I try not to make a big deal out of my eating habits. A typical conversation would be:

"You have to try my beef stew! I always bring it to potlucks because everyone loves it."

"Oh, thank you – I'm sure it's great – but I'm a vegetarian."

The normal responses are "Well, more for the rest of us!" or "I also brought this veggie dip... no meat in there."

However, about a quarter of the people have a different reaction:

"I don't really eat much meat. Mostly just chicken and fish. Just a little red meat. I eat a lot of vegetarian meals at home, really."

I know some vegetarians are preachy, so I always assumed that the defensive reactions were trying to head me off lest I begin to lecture on animal rights or health concerns. Fair enough, really.

The other day, something reminded me of a funny commercial I'd seen on TV the night before, so I asked the person I was with if they'd seen the commercial.

"I don't have a TV, so I haven't seen it," she shrugged.

I wanted to say "I don't watch a lot of TV" (a blatant lie), or "I only watch TV while I'm crafting" (closer to true, but she wouldn't care), or "I didn't have a TV during university" (so what?), or "I watch a lot of TV because it makes me think less, and worry less, and then I don't get as worked up and anxious" (too much information).

I don't feel like watching a lot of TV is a healthy thing, but I do it anyway. I have it on in the background while I craft, while I surf the Internet and play on LJ, while I write, and while I nap.

I want to defend myself because part of me thinks that the girl who doesn't have TV is better then I am. She's right, but I don't want her to be. I don't want to have to change.

I said: "Well the commercial goes like this..."
dreaminghope: (Giggle)
Taken from the near-future website: http://www.howcanadianareyou.ca/:

As Canadians, we have trouble with our national identity. Our multiculturalism makes for a rich cultural mosaic, but there is little to unite us. It is clear that we need to set out clear guidelines as to what is "Canadian", whether we were born here or immigrated. We can all achieve Canadian-ness, regardless of our ethnic, religious, or cultural backgrounds.

1 Point. 2 Points. 3 Points.

You have lived somewhere other then the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor, the BC Lower Mainland, and the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor.
You have lived in the North-West Territories or the Yukon.
You have lived in Nunavut.

You have ever said "s/he's Canadian, you know" about a famous person.
You have played "spot the Canadian landmark" while watching a US movie or TV show.
You have watched a Canadian-made movie all the way through.

You have ordered a "double-double".
You have ever said "hoser", "eh", or "chesterfield".
You did so without irony.

You have eaten Shreddies.
You have eaten poutine.
You have eaten moose.

You or someone you know has hit a deer with a car.
You or someone you know has hit a moose with a car.
Your response to hearing that someone hit a moose is "is the car OK?"
dreaminghope: (Playing Zoey)
This is a follow-up of sorts to my last post on what basic skills every adult should have.

The biggest test of whether or not something is a basic skill is whether or not most people are capable of doing it, so it shouldn't surprise me that everyone on that post responded with skills that they themselves possess. Obviously, we are all smart, well-adjusted people who have mastered all the basic skills.

But no one is really a finished masterpiece. We're works in progress. At least, I am. Or I'm just neurotic; depends on when you ask.

Confession is supposed to be good for the soul...

I always thought that an adult should be able to hang a picture straight. And yet, no matter how much I measure and even when I use a level, I always manage to get the picture crooked. Russ hangs our pictures.

I always thought an adult should be able to deal with hiring whoever is necessary to fix or improve their home, but I am very easily intimidated and overwhelmed by salespeople. Russ deals with them until it comes time to decide what colour of roof we should have. I point to a colour, sign the cheque, and smile a lot.

I always thought that adults should wash their floors regularly. I thought they should iron their clothing (not their underwear or their jeans, just their cotton shirts and things like that). I thought they should change their bed sheets every week. I am capable of doing all these things – they are basic skills, after all – but I never quite seem to get around to it.

But, I know how to refinish an oak floor, I can install moldings and baseboards, and I can put up towel rods (for some reason, those come out level). I almost never forget to scoop the kitty litter. I am a wizard with budgeting.

I feel better. So, confess: What life skills do you think you should have that you lack? What skills do you have, but never or rarely use? Do you feel guilty about not using those skills, or is that just my personal brand of madness? And, finally, what more-than-basic life skills do you possess?
dreaminghope: (Naked)
On Thursday night, Russ and I finally went to see the Body Worlds 3 exhibit at our Science Center. If you've never heard of this exhibit, it is an exhibit of real human bodies that have been preserved by a method called plastination. There are displays of different body organs, complete and in cross-section, and displays of whole bodies.

Most of the bodies – referred to as plastinates in the exhibit – were displayed without glass cases, so you could walk around them and lean in close to see the muscles and tendons and organs.

One plastinate, about a third of the way into the exhibit, was about how the muscles connect, so the organs had all been removed. Facing the display, I could see the body's spine at the back of the empty torso. I had a rush of light-headedness. I wasn't feeling faint or squeamish; it was just a sudden physical reaction to my sudden realization (or re-realization) that I was looking at a real human body. The body in front of me was once a living person. That spine once bent so the person could pick up a pet or child.

There was another plastinate, in a gymnast pose, that showed the muscles under tension. I was admiring the grace in the limbs and the way the muscles all work together when Russ came up beside me. And I had another rush of light-headedness as I realized that beneath Russ' skin, he would look like that plastinate. I would also look like that. Everyone around us was exactly the same under their skin: muscles and bones and organs. Our spleens may be different sizes, but no one's going to tell.

You couldn't tell what race the plastinates were. Without their fat and skin, you can't tell what shape they were. Without looking at their genitals, you couldn't even tell if they were male or female. Because the exhibit is about the human body, there were no names or stories attached to any of the displays.

We are all alike under our skins. It is one of those super-simple truths that sounds cliché until you are actually looking at a bunch of bodies without skin and they do look alike. Even now, thinking about that, I feel that light-headed sensation again.
dreaminghope: (Cave Gargoyle)
Everyone else agrees that I am who I thought I was. According to the government, I am myself.

Getting a passport is the process of proving that you are who you have always been.

Since I'd misplaced my birth certificate during the move, I had to start by proving that I was born in a hospital in Timmins, Ontario, in the month of March, 1979.

Then I had to gather my rarely used photo identification and the names and phone numbers of people who are willing to admit to knowing me. And I had a cop sign the papers and pictures – though he didn’t look at them – saying that he, as a very important and official person, agrees that I exist and have existed for at least two years.

Now I am the proud owner of a Canadian passport, which none of you will ever see because my picture makes me look like a frog. An unhappy frog, because you can't smile in passport pictures.

Getting a passport is like solving a mystery: you gather all the clues and put them together in the right order, and you get a solution: an identity. I like how systematic and uncompromising it is. If you check everything off the "to do" list – if you take all the right steps – you get what you want.

Now I have one more piece of paper that tells me who I am and where I belong; one more tie to the world of government, politics, citizens, and borders. I am the same person as I was a couple of days ago, when I not only didn't have a passport, but I didn't have a birth certificate or an identification card either.

Without my official documents of belonging, I was still me, but I had to prove it over and over: to pick up theater tickets, to use my credit card, to pick up a package from the mailbox, to get my new passport. I used my Costco card and my GST form.

I'm me, according to the cards in my wallet. Why is that comforting?
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
In regards to the 3-Day Novel Contest I am entering this weekend.

There's a new document on my computer's desktop. It seems to have a pulse. I can hear it; I can feel its echo in my chest. I don't know if I'm going to able to sleep tonight, much less tomorrow night, because it is so loud.

The document whispers to me: Why are you doing this?

It is a good question. I don't know that my answers are good enough:

Because it is there to do.

Because I want to be able to say that I did it.

Because there's a teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy chance that mine will be the best.

Perhaps I should create more noble reasons. I should have a story that must be told, a perspective that will change the world, or a muse that demands obedience.

To be a Writer*, I would be more tortured and driven, more romantic and artistic.

Really, I just write, but I think a little part of me wants to be a Writer, so I enter challenges and contests that let me play at it for awhile.

Are you ready for this?

I don't know how the story ends. I'm nervous, because I like to have a clear plan for everything, but I am trying to trust that I will figure out what to say by the time I am saying it.

Why are you doing this?

Because I've sent in the non-refundable $50 registration fee.

Because I told my Mom I was going to do it.

Because it is a good excuse to ignore the housework, eat junk food, and have Russ make me coffee.

Are you ready for this?

No, but that's OK. I don't have to be ready for everything. I can't be ready for everything. I'm a planner; this is the closest I've gotten to flying without a net.

Are you ready for this?

The closer it gets to the start of 12:01 AM Saturday, the less sure I am that I know what I'm doing or how I'm going to do it.

Why are you doing this?

The closer it gets to the start time, the less sure I am of why. But I am still sure that I want to do it.

One novel in three days.

I'm sure I will do it.

*With a deliberate Winnie-the-Pooh-like capital W.
dreaminghope: (Cave Gargoyle)
W.I.F.E.: Wash – Iron – Fuck – Etc. I saw this on an icon today. And I am doing laundry again. And my mother called Russ her "son-in-law" again.

I'm a good third-wave feminist. Well, I'm a good theoretical feminist. Or a good feminist in theory. Anyway, I know it is possible to be a wife without being the kind of woman they always make fun of at [livejournal.com profile] domestic_snark.

But... Russ' Mum, when she catches him doing something like leaving his socks on the floor, says to me: "Well, he is your problem now." He is now mine to train, or to pick up after if I fail to train him adequately.*

My mother is a full-time wife and mother. She keeps an impeccable house and cooks a good dinner, to be consumed as a family at the kitchen table, every night. I thought I could avoid triggering that image of "wifedom" by not marrying Russ. We would live in blissful partnership. No wedding, no contract, means no expectation, from him or from myself, of being a good wife.

But, I am the one in our relationship that cares how the house looks, so I end up doing most of the cleaning and tidying. I am the organized one, so I do the bills, schedules, and meal plans. I am not very strong or handy, so I cannot fix the caulking in the bathroom or fix the living room fan. Russ is better at talking to contractors and electricians then I am. And I don’t drive, so I don't know how to change a tire or check the oil.

Russ does do the cooking and cleans the bathroom, but otherwise our housework is divided along very conventional gender lines. That's not how it was supposed to be; I'm a feminist. Skills be damned – I should be re-finishing the deck while he does the vacuuming.

There was a StatsCan survey back in July that the media tended hail as proof that "more men are doing housework", as if there was suddenly gender equality in household matters. What struck me was how little equality it actually represented. The gap is narrower, but we've got a long way to go:
The proportion of men who did some housework daily rose from 54% in 1986 to 69% in 2005. The proportion of women who did daily housework held steady at 90%.

Looking only at "core housework", men’s participation went from 40% to 59% and women’s dropped from 88% to 85%.

Russ does core housework every day, so he is part of the 59%. But when did I become a conventional, traditional woman doing "woman’s work"?

And just a quick look at the wedding industry reveals how old-fashioned we can get about marriage. When a woman gets engaged, perfect strangers will congratulate her as if she's just won some sort of contest, without knowing anything about her husband. British journalist Jemima Lewis: "If [the bride-to-be] is defensive, it is because she has realized how little the condition of womanhood has changed – and how antediluvian her own instincts really are."

When I took my minor in Women's Studies, I had little patience for the theorists who claimed that it was impossible to have gender equity within marriages and that we would have to create children in test tubes before we could be treated as equals.~ Though I still don't agree with them, I do see their point: I am a feminist; I have a university degree and a full-time job; and I was raised to believe that I can be anything and do anything – I should be the poster child for an non-traditional relationship. And I still change the bed instead of fixing the drywall.

Third-wave feminism, to speak very broadly, tends to be about choice: for example, women can choose to stay home and raise children, or choose to work. But what of the choices we seem to make that aren't really choices at all, such as to do the vacuuming because your mother taught you to, while your partner fixes the fence because his father taught him to. Am I making a deliberate choice to be this kind of wife and partner, or am I caving to my social training?

I'm going to go fold my partner's t-shirts.

*This isn't a slight against Russ, or any sort of hint that he needs to behave any differently then he does (really, sweetie). That is just what his mother is saying to me.

~An Internet cookie for anyone who can name that theorist – my mind is drawing a blank.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
Hope is the name passed to me from my father's side of the family. My mother took my father's name when they married, as was the standard then.

One of my earliest memories of playing with language is from when I was about five or six years old, when my grandmother, a retired school teacher who married into the name, explained to me over dinner that if the "e" is left off, it spells "hop". I remember her patiently writing the two words out on a scrap of paper so I could see how it worked. This was a great revelation to my little self, and one I remember sharing with several friends, who obviously weren't as impressed as I. They were unappreciative of the wonders of words... they preferred Cabbage Patch Kids.

Hope means expectation and desire.

My aunt gave up this name when she married, but she gifted it to her first born daughter as a given name.

It took me a long time to learn to appreciate carrying the name "Hope". When I was little, I didn't think about the meaning of my name. I thought instead about its ugly sound, and how it rhymed with "pope", "taupe", "rope"... words that were unattractive and dull. The "pph" noise at the end is what did it, I think; it was ugly to my ears.

I've carried this name for 27 years, so I've heard all the dumb jokes and easy puns; plays on words about being "hopeless" or "hopeful". People still try to catch me with them. I haven't heard a new one in a dozen years (that is not a challenge).

Hope means trust and faith.

I've overcome my dislike of the sound of "hope" and learned to love it. By luck of birth, I've been labeled with the blessing of expectation and wishes to be fulfilled. Or with the curse of always wanting... though that may not be a curse if the journey is the whole point.

I don't know if I'll ever get married, but if I do, I may want to keep my family name. It has taken this long to really want the name; I'm not ready to let it go. Maybe I'll try to convince him to take my name; what better way to enter a marriage then with hope.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
I do laundry once a week: three or four large loads one after the other, in cold water with biodegradable, allergen-free detergent. In the spring and summer, the t-shirts and towels flap in the breeze over our deck. In the winter or the rain, everything is hung in the basement. Our house's electrical system won't support a dryer.

Today, I stood on my deck in the warm morning sun. I hung a sheet; the wind swept it out like a tent. Then I pinned up socks in neat matched pairs – little knit couples to flutter around the sheet home.

Though I'm not married, at some point I became a wife. I thought that it snuck up on me; that it happened in little steps over the five years that Russ and I have been living together. I started becoming a wife when I picked up his dirty socks, when I took charge of the bills, when I referred to his mother as "mother-in-law", when he started having to ask me where things were around the house... but there was still a defining moment that solidified those other moments and transformed my role.

I don't actually remember the exact moment when I crossed the line between when I was not-a-wife and when I was a wife. It is only important in retrospect. But it comes down to laundry.

For our first four years together, Russ and I took our dirty clothes to someone else to wash. About every two weeks, we'd hand over big heavy of bags of clothing and a credit card, and the next day they would come back: the bag full of neatly, but unfamiliarly, folded items and the credit card bill a little bit heavier.

With our own house came our own washing machine. I like doing laundry, and my writing keeps me at home evenings while Russ' activities frequently take him out, so it seems natural for me to take over the task of keeping clean clothes in our closets.

I balance a basket of wet t-shirts on one hip, get the door with the other while gently pushing one of the cats out of my way with one foot. Russ' t-shirts are mostly black and jewel toned. I turn them inside out and try to hang them out of direct sunlight, to prevent fading.

On the deck of our first house, sometime during the hanging of the first load of laundry out of our first washing machine – it was probably work clothes from the renovations – I became a wife. Now I need to figure out how I feel about that.
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
If you'll allow my inner political science geek a little space: John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty that progress and social growth in a society depends on allowing unpopular opinions to be heard so we can consider their value. It allows society to continuously re-evaluate values, laws and standards, and will hopefully reveal both where we are going right and where improvement may be possible. For this reason, free speech (and its assistant, free press) is an absolute necessity in a society that values progress and improvement.

Politically geeky details )

If this is healthy on a society-wide basis, I wonder if it might be healthy on an individual basis too. Perhaps systematically challenging our beliefs, our morals, our very understanding of ourselves and the world will keep us mentally flexible and result in personal growth.

So, I am trying to figure out what questions I need to ask myself to get the right effect. They need to be questions that provoke a reaction in my gut: disgust, excitement, passion, something. The best questions may be the ones I don't want to ask, but it is hard to even think of what those might be.

I figure everyone's precise provoking questions will be different, for they have so much to do with challenging deeply held, personal beliefs and perceptions. But, generally, questions would be about religion and spirituality, relationships, beliefs about money and work, politics, memories, lifestyle choices and beliefs about the world that all of these things are based on.

It will take a lot of thought to come up with the right questions, much less give the answers the consideration they deserve.

*And not to forget the people whose hard work and sacrifice resulted in slow change.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
When I was about seven, I was supposed to be in a recital for my skating class. It was a big recital, with all the classes participating. The different levels were different animals. My younger sister's class were all little bluebirds. My class was to be a mob of kangaroos.

For whatever reason, I did not want to skate in the recital. I can't remember why I was so resistant; perhaps I didn't want to wear the big, bulky kangaroo costume, perhaps I got claustrophobic in the big kangaroo head we were supposed to wear, or maybe it was plain old stage fright.

I went to all the rehearsals and skated with my class during the whole lead-up, but I made it clear that I didn’t want to participate in the final recital. My mother, having been around me for seven years and already having a fair idea of my determination (or stubbornness, if you will), knew that I would not be convinced, coerced or forced, so she advised the costume maker not to bother making me a costume. The costume maker, being experienced in dealing with more mutable and fickle children, tried to tell my mother that I might change my mind.

To paraphrase my mother: "No chance in hell."

I very happily did not skate in the recital. I cheered on my bluebird sister, flapping her little arm-wings with her class. I worried when she fell way behind her slightly older and larger classmates, and ended up half a rink behind them when they left the ice. I was very (and vocally) relieved to see one of the assistants skating out to meet her as she slowly crossed the ice alone. She continued her flapping as she was carried off.

I did not once doubt or regret my decision.

Ah, to know my own mind so well now!
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)
Adults work full-time and get their own place; they buy appliances, furniture and art; they have dishes that match; they acquire car and mortgage payments; they have credit cards and cheques; they contribute to RRSP funds and save their money for practical things.

I have done or am doing all these things. I'm excited about getting myself a DustBuster with my Air Miles points. I even like doing dishes and laundry (most of the time). I joke about relationships and the difficulty of living with a man with my mom.

But I'm not a grown-up. I don't drink wine with dinner. I don't get a morning paper, nor do I get up early enough in the morning to read it before work if I did. I don't dress up for work. I can't remember the last time I bought myself brand-new clothes. By my parents' examples, those are the things that real grown-ups do.

I don't want to be my parents (though they are good and wonderful people; we simply don't share all our values), but they have set the standard for my adulthood in the small details of their lives and routines. I'm not sure how to feel like an adult without following their example. I'm sure everyone's standard for feeling like they've finally achieved adulthood is different because the truth for each person is in their upbringing.

It isn't bad, not feeling like a grown-up, but I have all the responsibilities, so it would be nice to have that satisfaction, instead of just feeling like a big kid playing house.

What are your standards for adulthood? Do you feel like a grown-up? If you do, when did it happen?
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
Responses to my last post (about bumper stickers) got me to thinking about signs of belonging. Bumper stickers, for example, not only advertise someone's beliefs and hobbies, but they also signal what community that person belongs to. An inside joke stuck on the back of a car tells other members of the community that you belong.

Everyone wants to belong. But belonging is meaningless if other people don't know you belong. Other people need to know where you belong, and, by extension, where you don't belong.

Most of the messages we send out are subtle. We tell the world about ourselves through our clothes, our cars or other vehicles, our homes, our hairstyles, etc. Many of the things we surround ourselves with in our homes and our office desks, and many of the things we carry in our pockets and purses are, at least in part, symbolic of our membership(s). Individually, a notebook with a cat picture on the front, a cruelty-free cosmetic product, a hemp wallet and a bike lock don't mean anything. But together, they speak about the person carrying them all in their backpack.

The problem is that other people can misunderstand these passive messages. A stranger can't tell if you are wearing thrift store clothing because you don't have a lot of money or because you choose not to spend money on new clothing as a way of resisting wasteful consumerism. Or both. To clarify where we belong, we add active signs: bumper stickers, membership cards, pins, backpack patches, etc.

This leads me to thinking about identity and membership in LJ. Before you start reading someone's journal regularly and getting to know their personality (as presented in this personal but public format), much of what you know about a person here is their LJ icons - the equivilent of their physical appearance, prehaps - and their interest lists and community lists: their chosen memberships.

When creating and editing your LJ account, do you pick and choose your interests to indicate the kinds of communities you want other people to know you are in?

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dreaminghope: (Default)
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