Wednesday, November 23, 2011
First stop, Minneapolis for the 2011 NASSS Conference. I was giving two presentations, though that's against the rules, in theory. But, I wasn't breaking the rules, in theory. My first presentation was actually for a co-authored paper, as part of my summer research assistanceship. You can re-watch Avery-one Has An Opinion: Twitter, Same-Sex Marriage, and the NHL here. My second presentation was based on a paper I wrote last year. Watch Tweeting the Game: Is live-tweeting reshaping the NHL fandom experience here.
But this trip wasn't all business. I did some shopping at Target. Several times. Including at the original store location. I rode a rollercoaster at the Mall of America. And I got to see the local area through the eyes of a co-conference attendee and friend who is from the area. Plus, I got to meet Celebration Generation!!
Next stop, Phoenix, where I stayed with a friend and explored the area for a few days before attending my cousin's amazing wedding. I visited the Heard Museum, an experience that made me smile at all the beautiful symbolism but also deeply angered me. There was so much "othering" in the exhibits, as well as by the tour guide, that I left more frustrated than anything.
I also drove up to Meteor Crater (on Historic Route 66!!), the largest and most well-preserved meteorite landing site on Earth. What an amazing and jaw-dropping experience! It's one of those things that photos just can't do justice, so I won't even bother posting one here. You have to see it in person to understand. The vastness makes for a truly spiritual experience that cannot be replicated. Nature is simply... ungraspable.
The wedding events were absolutely spectacular too. As a part of the family, I was able to attend basically everything, and, as a wedding lover, I was in heaven. On one of the days, between the civil ceremony and the mendhi night, I also got out for a hike! I chose Pietsewa Peak rather than Camelback or Echo Mountain because it was supposed to be less steep. This was the case... in theory. The terrain was very rocky and there were several ups and downs along the way. My knee was very unhappy. But just imagine if I'd gone with a steep trail! After 2.5 miles of my 4ish, I started feeling stabs of pain that made it very tough to walk. It didn't help that the trail indications were a bit confusing. But with some rest and inspiration from a Ms Tracy Lee I met on my last leg, I made it 'til the end!
Tracy told me about her connective tissue disorder, and how her doctors say she should be in a wheelchair. Instead, she hikes Phoenix mountains almost daily despite her torn ligaments and dislocations. And the best part is, she was inspired by me in return! She was glad I took the time to appreciate the mountain when so many locals don't, and despite my recurring knee pain. And all of this started with my simple question about how her Vibram Five Fingers were holding up on the rocky terrain.
After a day of rest, it was time to test my knee on the dance floor... but sadly, I could not bear to even stand in heels. I did dance most of the night away in my flats though, and the fun and cousin time was absolutely worth it!
The one downside of this leg of the trip was our hotel woes. We stayed at the Homewood Hilton in Biltmore-Phoenix. The room was fine... until the card reader decided to stop working on wedding day, leaving us stranded without our outfits and running hours late. After 3.5 hours, two technicians, and two failed attempts to get us in (using a card reader resetting machine and attempting to jack the door), the manager finally decided to take us up on our many many suggestions to try to get in through the window. Within 10 minutes, she was in, having shimmied the locked window "just enough". At ceremony start time. My brother was therefore 2.5 hours late, and I, 1 hour late.
Needless to say, we were very unhappy. We refused to pay for the rooms, and requested a new room. How can I feel safe knowing that, 1. I can get locked out at any time, and 2. Someone can come in through my window in the middle of the day or night and steal my stuff, or worse? But that's all water under the bridge now. The wedding - the part I got to see - was wonderful
Next up, a family roadtrip to the Grand Canyon. Absolutely spectacular. Sunrise, sunset, a few hikes (mini for me, short to average length for everyone else), and amazing once-in-a-lifetime sights. The first day started off on a sour note, though. After all my careful planning, we ran late and missed the very beginning of sunrise. Then, in the afternoon, when my memory card was full, I tried to delete the first batch of pictures, which I had already transferred. For some reason, despite the confirmation message, my camera deleted that morning's batch instead. I was heartbroken. I only discovered this on our very last stop of the day. I lost so many unique shots that the rest of my family didn't get to capture, including shots of them. Thankfully, my SLR captured the landscape, but it's the people shots and the things I wanted to share with all of you that I (still) miss the most. Oh, and to cap off the day, I lost my new thermal hat.
Good news though! Day 2 was better! We found my hat in a parking lot we'd frequented, got to sunrise in plenty of time, and had another wonderful, jaw-dropping Grand Canyon day. And after sunset in Sedona, we hit the road for...
The final stop: Los Angeles for some time with our family there. So much fun! We got to hang out as cousins, I relived my childhood at Disneyland (best part: Aladdin the Musical), shopped at some outlets (and another Target), got an amazing $30 full body massage (Super Relax Massage in Chatsworth. Look it up!), finally saw Santa Monica and biked to Venice Beach from the pier (at sunset!), and had some wonderful food (Mmm... Rock Sugar). Oh, and I discovered my new favourite store ever: Cost Plus World Market. WOW. Walking through that store is like taking a stroll in my brain. But... my camera's acting up again, refusing to focus. I guess it's time for a new toy!
After a quick stop in Montreal, I'm back in Kingston trying to sort out my life. If history is any indication, it'll take me three days to unpack. And then a week to do laundry. But hey, that's what happens when you get back to real life, right?
Saturday, October 22, 2011
No, that's not a typo.
Though I never had the pleasure of meeting her, I did get to know her fairly well through my friend. He told me some of her stories, and stories of her, that made me laugh and made me cry. He may have a few years on me, but even he admits that it's hard to envisage or ever comprehend just how much she experienced in her lifetime. Think about it.
104 years ago, Pablo Picasso was alive and painting. John Wayne was born. Dmitry Mendeleyev, the guy who created the table of elements, passed away.
They'd just invited the first photocopier. Airplanes didn't exist yet. Let me repeat: AIRPLANES DID NOT EXIST. In fact, the term was coined in 1907.
Think back to your "modern" history class. Most of it took place in her lifetime. What a wonderful time it must have been to live! So many amazing discoveries to experience! So much to learn about and so many new places to explore!
I'm sure there is a lot my friend's grandma still could have taught me, and everyone else in my generation. She had strong opinions and values, but she seemed to be an extremely loving, warm, accepting, intelligent, life-long learner.
From my friend's stories, his grandma and I seemed to be kindred spirits. We both understood the importance of always smiling and learning to laugh. Of counting our blessings and being thankful for them too. Of appreciating the people around us and helping them in any way possible. And especially, the importance of loving, because love is the greatest blessing any one of us can bestow.
Most importantly, my friend's grandma taught me the difference between being lucky and being fortunate. Most of the times we say "I'm lucky" what we really mean is "I'm fortunate". What's the difference? You've got to work for the latter. The only time you're lucky is when winning the lottery, she used to scold him. Being at the right place at the right time for that job opportunity? That's called being fortunate that all your hard work finally paid off. Having someone to take care of you when you're sick? Yeah, you're not lucky to have them in your life, but fortunate.
It may seem like a subtle difference, but this difference is of the utmost importance. And learning to use the right word means you've learned to appreciate everything you have, to recognize that you are in control of your own destiny, and are thankful for your blessings.
That's what over a century of life teaches you.
I am fortunate to have known my friend's grandma, and I am even more fortunate that mine is still around to teach me life lessons like these. She may not be 104, but she's still got loads to share!
Thursday, October 06, 2011
Sometimes, finding the answer means going back to the beginning, to your origin story, to see where you belong.
Sometimes, the answer is right in front of you and has been all along. You just couldn't see it because you didn't know you could, or even that it existed.
Sometimes, the answer is something you didn't ever think possible, so you abandoned it long ago. But when the universe opens up that opportunity to you once more, you cannot ignore it.
Sometimes, the answer is doing what you always wanted to do but never thought you could, though you always knew you could, and that you would be good at it, if you could.
I think I have found my answer. And though it will be scary and hard to let go of everything I have become, I don't see how I can live with myself if I don't try.
Because if I succeed, I think I can truly have it all.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Maybe I'm an idealist, but I believe that most research has value, and that should be enough for funding agencies. I'm not sure where the money should come from, but I just don't like the thought of competing against my friends and colleagues every year, not just for money but for tenure. It gets to be damaging. Sure, I'm pretty competitive and I like to win. But I also like harmonious working environments and I feel like this process fosters quite the opposite in most departments.
As Douglas Adams would say, "DON'T PANIC!"
Monday, September 12, 2011
For most grad students, the only difference between summer and the "school year" is that your supervisor likely isn't teaching and in fact, might be on vacation. Also, you probably aren't TAing, so you have more flexibility over your activities and whereabouts... as long as you get all your work done on time.
Understandably, the days all melt into one another, and the desire to take extended breaks on beautiful sunny days is often overwhelming. However, work is work and deadlines are deadlines, and at the end of the day/week/month/summer, it all has to get done.
I submitted my thesis proposal to my supervisor last week. THE big task on my summer to-do list will soon be crossed off, once I officially submit it to my soon-to-be-formed thesis proposal committee.
To me, this feels like the beginning of summer. I can finally move forward from all the drama, academic and otherwise, in my life and start fresh... More or less. Though my health issues aren't resolved yet, negative test results are a form of diagnosis, so we're getting closer. I'm feeling secure in my friendships and my connection with the Kingston community. And I really enjoyed my sports TV break, working the LPGA CN Canadian Women's Open in Montreal for CBC, despite the ridiculous weather.
I think I'm getting better at figuring myself out and what I want and need in life. This means I am finally allowing myself to put "me" first at times and do things for myself instead of letting people I like (or want to like me) walk all over me. (Granted, I never let them walk ALL over me, but I did give them much more leeway than they deserved.)
Life, my friends, is good. This is what growing up is all about. And this summer made me realize that you really do keep learning all life long, and you keep growing up, bit by bit, until your life comes to an end.
And now that summer has ended academically, it's time for me to catch up on all the little things you let slide while working away on projects or studying for exams. You know, the cleaning and sorting and cooking real food for dinner. Taking care of yourself and rewarding yourself for all your hard work by actually getting things done in other sectors of your life. This is what summer is all about.
My summer starts now.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Thursday, June 30, 2011
At that moment, the spoon theory was born. I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have Lupus”. She looked at me slightly confused, as anyone would when they are being handed a bouquet of spoons. The cold metal spoons clanked in my hands, as I grouped them together and shoved them into her hands.
I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.
Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control.
She grabbed the spoons with excitement. She didn’t understand what I was doing, but she is always up for a good time, so I guess she thought I was cracking a joke of some kind like I usually do when talking about touchy topics. Little did she know how serious I would become?
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Just think! Your $50 donation became $300. All of it helped fund projects that are identified and implemented by local communities, targeting the areas they determine to be in greatest need and providing solutions like revitalizing a rural economy, ensuring clean water and sanitation, strengthening community-based organizations and educating new generations of girls and women. Just like that!
I raise funds for the World Partnership Walk because I want to make a positive impact on the world. I can't afford to give much, but I do what I can, volunteering my time and expertise as well. Please help me leave a legacy I can be proud of. Click here to donate now and give the gift of hope: http://www.akfcnetcommunity.ca/netcommunity/NailaJ
Together, we can end world poverty, one step at a time! Join me in Ottawa on June 12, 2011 at Major's Hill Park as we walk the Walk in symbolic support of those who walk daily for their basic necessities: drinkable water, an education, or work in the fields. In this beautiful setting, rain or shine, we will continue the legacy of the 17 women who started the World Partnership Walk in Vancouver 27 years ago. Since then, we have raised over $60 million dollars for the cause. How high can we take that number in 2011?
Thank you so much for your continued support. It means the world to me!
Monday, May 16, 2011
Sunday, May 01, 2011
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Friday, April 01, 2011
As you may or may not have noticed, I am no longer on Facebook. This was not my decision.
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@charlesjbarry: @NailaJ I was wondering why you unfriended me.
@EastCoastKnits: Keep checking to see if @NailaJ is back on Facebook yet. Nope. #FacebookUnfairToNailaJ
@ToulasTake: @NailaJ WHAT?? You should create a #FacebookUnfairToNailaJgroup and ask ppl to join!! Oh, wait. You don't have a FB account. ;) #ISoSuck
Friday, March 11, 2011