Tag Archives: education


In my continual desire to improve myself, I sign up like a madwoman for many online courses. Right now I am taking two such from Coursera (one on American historical fiction, another on witchcraft – from the University of Barcelona, no less), two embroidery classes from Craftsy, a ukulele class or two, and one on healing through journaling from Daily OM.

I don’t know why I signed up for the last one, as I am far too busy what with all these classes to worry about healing, but I hoped in a way it would help me start journaling again and thus writing, etc, etc. Kind like buying a new writing instrument or a new notebook. Force me to think with a pen.

It’s an interesting course, though. Lots of meditative visualization – of one’s soul, of one’s dark side, of one’s self-house. What might be like Sherlock’s memory palace, though my me-house is a smallish white clapboard house, surrounded by shrub roses and sand and salt grass. Which is nowhere in my memory.

I’ve always envisioned my soul as a candle burning somewhere near my chest, flickering and weak some times, strong others. I can summon it up while meditating, make the candle burn brighter, wiggle the flame. It reminds me of the game in WiiFit, where you have to sit very still or a mean person shouts at you in Japanese and blows the candle out.


Baba Yaga, in her pestle…

But it’s such a blah visual for my soul. I need something more vibrant, more out there. When I needle felted a Baba Yaga, she spoke to me. Her hag-like face, world damaged. Her hairy chin and excessive eyebrows. The startling eyes that see too many things. She seems more like my soul. Capable of many things, some good, some bad. Helpful if you ask her properly.

But powerful.

I don’t know why I am perceived as powerful, me in my short round frame (hardly the skinny legs of Baba Yaga, but I’ve inherited my dad’s nose…), but the perception seems to have stuck, so I guess, approaching 60, I should wear it. I have to thank my mother for it, I think. She could dominate a room in a second, even while wearing discount clothing far too old to be seen outside the house.

In the Daily OM course, you are also asked to visualize your dark side, and the image that came to me instantly was a crow, yawking from the top of a scrawny pine.american-crow-perched-top-pine-tree-calling-alarm-62539764

Crows are not “good” animals. They bear grudges. They eat those smaller than themselves. They have a sense of inquisitiveness and mischief that gets them into trouble. Their sense of humour is often inappropriate to the audience. They can be loud and disturbing. In so many cultures, they are a trickster animal, clever but not precisely helpful. People either love crows, or they hate them. I’ve admired them and wanted to spray them with buckshot, depending on how many of them are in my immediate vicinity.

Like many people, I have an outer self, the one that hangs around most of the time and tries to make me acceptable to the world. It’s the smiling happy me, the one who cheers everyone on, etc, etc. But there’s another me, the one who loses patience with things, that raises its voice, that bites and claws. When it appears, people are shocked, unable to make the connection. It doesn’t come out often enough not to startle.

In my dark self, I know the crow. I know its loneliness. I also know it survives.

Odd that both of my visualizations, soul and dark, have two sides. Though unsurprising, given the many times I’ve had to redefine myself through the years. Two takeaways, I guess – if you treat me well, I’ll do you good, and if you don’t, well, there’s no way to predict how I’ll act. Mwah hah hah!


Baba Yaga’s chicken-legged house, scene of many impromptu meals.

Some people say these are the worst of times…

Ah, Styx…..How I loved them, still do. Was mellowing out to music today while stabbing a felted mushroom (yes, my life is odd) and this came up on iTunes Shuffle.

I loved Styx in the day, though sometimes their heavy musicality, like that of the Alan Parson’s Project, overwhelmed my ears like too much Beethoven’s 9th. All wonderful things, all moving, all sometimes too demanding on a bubble pop day.

But the message of the song seems oddly apt these days of such violence and despair and sorrow. It seems every news item is about people behaving badly or stupidly, about our government in Canada acting like tinpot dictators, about the crazies just below us carrying weaponry when shopping with their toddlers or killing police or innocents in the street.

It is easy to give in to it all and give up. Like the song says, “The best of times, is when I’m alone with you…” – it’s easy to hide inside and mutter in your small groups about the outside, about the dangers. To shut it out with noise, or good books, or activities or each other. I’d love to have someone to spend the best of times with having some sweet cuddles or something to distract me from Mr. Harper for a moment or two. But I digress…;-)

It isn’t enough, is it? The hairy beasts are still outside the increasingly porous gates. Perhaps it’s time to try and recreate the paradise we once had…with each other, within ourselves, in our world.

“as long as we keep alive…The memories of paradise….”

I’m thinking that maybe we can get there again…we are smart enough, rich enough, connected enough that these COULD be the best of times…

Or if nothing else, we can sing madly along with songs of our youth and stab tiny animals out of wool…

Procrastination and classes and writing

Back when I was married, I had a certain amount of degree envy. My hyper-intelligent ex has either 2 or 3 Master’s degrees, a PhD, and a bunch of post doctoral education. I found myself wanting more and more degrees to reduce the “escalation dominance” of his education over mine.

Well, I learned lots. I mainly learned that I have a serious addiction to taking classes.

I can’t help myself. It’s a madness. My friends look at me in sorrow, asking “do you need to do this? Really?” One friend even held a mini intervention for me when I’d signed up for too many at once.

I’ve been toying in the back of my head with going back to school, with doing a degree in counselling, or a MFA, which would look nicely out of place on my wall of nursing and epidemiology degrees. I’d enjoy the contrast.

It’s tempting. The thought of testing myself against the teachers, picking new thoughts out of their brains, plunging into in depth study of writing or whatever. It is so lovely learning something new.

Not so lovely paying for it, or trying to make my unreliable MS brain perform on cue. It needs some wiggle room.

Then I wondered…am I using this as a form of procrastination, as another way to avoid doing the actual writing I have planned? I did some more research, using the excellent Poets and Writers, especially in the area of a MFA in creative non-fiction. (This was because there’s a new program at King’s College in this area and I like King’s, my so goes there, and it could be fun to go to classes right her in town. Pus the program has placements in New York and Toronto so you hang out with local publishers and such. It sounds really good. And most of my publications have been in non-fiction, creative or less so).

I floated the idea past a few friends, and one of them was fierce enough to say what was echoed in the Poets and Writers magazine. “Just write the damn book!” she said.
And she’s right.

So I took the money I’d have spent on my application and added another week at my writer’s cottage on the Northumberland Strait. I’m distracted with moving for the next few weeks, but after that it’s head down and write and rewrite. By the end of that time, I hope to have a product ready to send out – in fact two. A non-fiction book proposal with my co-writer Karen K. on Intimacy and Multiple Sclerosis, and a novel based on my my latest 3daynovel submission. More on that later as we all know plots are sneaky things and can slip away if you chase them too hard.

The cottage will be perfect. Owned and cherished by two writer/artist friends, the vibes are good, there’s a table overlooking the sea, and there’s no Internet!

Of course, I am still signed up for classes. I only need two more for my certificate from Gotham Writers Workshop. Plus one in writing a non-fiction book proposal. Cleverly, I have the last few classes scheduled for while I’m in the cottage. But I’m not going to do the MFA…

Instead, I’m going to write.

Growing creatives…

Had a wonderful breakfast chat with my chum this AM – we were both talking about whether to go to school at our mutually advanced ages. I have a mad urge to go for a MFA, to get one degree that actually speaks to my creative side. It’d look odd beside the nursing and health policy and epidemiology ones. but hey, I’ve always had a split mind…

He’s just heard he’s in! Maybe it’s time for me to try, too….

Or maybe I’ll just head to Ireland, where with a bit of mulching, I might be just fine…


Confessions of a former scientist…

I’m almost ashamed to admit this, given the atmosphere here in Canada of late. I was raised…sniff…wait a moment…in a scientific family. Yes, my parents foolishly expected me to wonder about the causes of things, to enquire and explore. My mother, though a lawyer, fell under my father’s spell. She’d make me argue, using facts and arguments, for every freedom I desired. She always won. I studied harder, researched more, and was able to persuade her, finally, that getting married was a good idea, and that being a grandparent wasn’t usually deadly. I took up a scientific occupation, even took an epidemiology degree.
I became used to making coherent arguments, using research and confidence intervals and science to prove it.
It seems unlikely now to think of parents willing to put their children through such testing.
“Oh, Billy,” they say, “If our Prime Minister says it, who are we to argue?”
I feel sorry for parents these days. Here their poor kids need science to get into university (should they be able to afford it), yet the science presented in school is directly contrary to the knowledge crushing, faith based statements we are asked to believe.
Not to worry, little children. Facts are being removed from your schools as we speak. Science curricula are being dumbed down, oil is being made a good for the environment thing, smoke and smog is being given a “green” label. It has a dollar-sign on it, and that’s all that matters.
I’m going undercover. My MS brain makes it hard to remember scientific thoughts, anyway. And as for those pesky scientists…

the joys and oddities of serendipity

Sometimes, a little hand pops along the small of your back and urges you forward, just a little but, just in the “c’mon girl, let’s go this way” kind of way. I always cherish these messages from the universe, and try to listen to them. They haven’t steered me too wrong as yet, although getting used to Scrivener and the switch to Mac might have been a wrong direction.

This week, I did a job interview that told me two things.  One, I had no reason to regret my past worklife, and two, it’s time to move on into my new one.

Today I hauled my wracked MS laden body out for a walk, thinking about where to go next. I’ve been idly thinking about taking courses in ethics at a local University, maybe using my past health care knowledge to do some focused articles about a few things. My job interview told me that I can still learn things quickly, get a grip on the situation, produce analysis. So as I lurched into the shopping centre, who should I find there but a representative of the very college I was thinking of attending.  We chatted, and I got inspiration for my future plans, and perhaps some ideas for my son.

Then I mentioned I was a writer and the lass at the table became incandescent.  Her eyes lit up and zoomed into my soul.  I smiled, and said, “so, you’re a writer, too?” She almost exploded with joy.

In no time we were discussing the critique group I am involved with with the Canadian Author’s Association, which has several people in it who write what she wants to write. We connected, and I hope she comes to join our group. I think it would be good for her….

And I feel like the gentle hand of serendipity has pushed me toward taking a better focus toward the CAA group, and toward the development I want to do.

Sometimes the path lies open before us….and sometimes the gods put the searchlights on and guide our way.  It’s folly to ignore them.