Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays

Thought I'd share a little holiday chuckle, and send my best wishes for the season. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Splash of Colour

Every once in a while there are little things that pop-up in our day-to-day lives that add a splash of colour to the otherwise mundane. Often simple, and brief, they're things like that rare smile that emerges from the solemn faces along those cold morning runs, or that day you're working in Starbucks and they just happen to be giving out samples of all their goodies behind the counter.

In reflecting on these "colours" I was reminded of a brief interaction I had with a child a few nights ago and decided to write:

Being end of semester, life is pretty much school at the moment. As deadlines are approaching, and a workload exists that (ofcourse) isn't as far along as it needs to be, time is tight, and every second of the day feels precious. So precious, in fact, that things like eating and sleeping start to fall down the list of priorities.

I was headed home from a long day at school where realized I could not go another night eating hummus and crackers for dinner, and reluctantly decided I should probably restock my empty fridge. So, I headed to the grocery store promising myself it would be a quick pop in and out.

Now, have you ever noticed that every time a trip to the grocery store fixed to a tight time limit, the grocery store context seems to morph into some sort of nightmarish obstacle course? Argh. For some reason people move slower, the sections you frequent have mysteriously been moved to other parts of the store for no apparent reason, and basic items never out of stock are seemingly out of stock. It feels unusually hot and stuffy, and the pale yellow fluorescent lighting seems to sting the eyes more than usual. For once, things are on sale that are never on sale, so you're forced to pause at each choice and debate between your present and future self. There is always a sense of euphoria at that glorious moment you see the finish line in sight. You finally make it to you the checkout, with a basket too small for the tokens of your grocery store experience. When you notice the express lane has one person almost finishing checking out, you can feel the corners of your lips lift temporarily forming the glimpse of a smile as you make a b-line towards the cashier. Sadly, the smile fades as quickly as it emerged, as you count the items in your basket and realize you are 2 items over. Like a dog with it's tail between it's legs, you retreat from the express lane to realize the only other cashier has a line so long it runs down the aisle. At this point you slow your pace to match all the other patrons in the store and submit to the line.

This, is a fairly accurate description of my grocery store experience that day.

Upon finishing at the checkout and squeezing as many of my groceries into my backpack without breaking the zipper, I heaved the bag, about the weight of a small person, onto my back and let out a sigh of relief as I was that much closer to returning to my pajama pants. With a pep in my step, I began exiting the store.

My escape came to a quick stand still as I got caught behind a couple and a child dawdling along a hallway too narrow for me to pass. I slowed down and patiently reminded myself I was almost there. Trundling along, I noticed the child in front of me look back. He was probably 8 or 9. Both ears peirced, a big puffy jacket, and big trundling winter boots, he had dark hair, dark eyes, and big black rimmed glasses that magnified his eyes. He was a cute kid for sure, one that you could just tell had a personality. Anyway, he turned away after making eye contact with me. We kept walking.

But then he looked back again. I smiled this time. He turned away, timidly, and kept walking beside his parents.

But again, he looked back. Smiled this time and slowed down to walk beside me. Looking up at me silently, we walked side by side for a while. I smiled again and said "hello." He smiled back this time.

We both kept walking, side by side, when he muttered something under his breath. Unable to hear him, I stopped and crouched down and said "Sorry?" He put his hand up to my ear, and said "Say excuse me" and lifted his hand making the motion that I interrupt his parents ahead and ask to go around. This kid was maybe 8! and here he was taking the lead ahead of his parents! I said, "Aww, I'm ok.. we're almost there." This time he stopped however, and with a smile he said "Go" lifting his eyebrows and nodding his head nudging me to be more aggressive to approach his parents and go around them.

When I left the store that day, I had forgotten that whole grocery store experience and left with a smile . It was such a subtle act, nothing profound had occurred in those few minutes, it was just a small act of kindness from a child more aware than most of us. That boy was the colour to my mundane that day, and I suppose I treasure it for it's simplicity.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

'Tis the Season for Papers

Probably one of the hardest things in doing a PhD is the isolation.

Days will pass where I don't leave my house, nor my head.

...and this is only the beginning. Only the beginning.

Gives you a bit of empathy for those academics that lack social skills huh..

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Was the sky really falling? The 3am Dilemma

So, I was having one of those dreams... that you just know are about to turn bad, a borderline nightmare per se. It was at the point it was escalating, where I wished that A. I had taken those self-defense classes I'd always been meaning to take and B. that I had my phone so that I could call 911 for help. But then I awoke suddenly in cold sweat. I opened my eyes, looked at the time in hopes it was almost morning, but it turns out I hadn't been sleeping that long.

My room was dark and the air felt unusually thick. It smelled a mix of cooking and burning rubber or metal, you know the kind of smell when you maybe leave a pot on the stove too long. Still lying in bed, I looked out the window and noticed a slight mist modifying the view. Puzzled, I sat up and turned on the light. My room, was filled with smoke. I immediately remembered the advice I'd received from my brother, a firefighter, to never sit up if you smell smoke. I guess I failed that test.

Anyway the smoke in the room was translucent; the type of smoke we've all experienced after a burned piece of toast fills our house. It wasn't an alarming amount, but enough that at 3am in the morning it was difficult to just brush off as someone elses cooking. So I got up, and to a surprise my entire apartment was filled with a mist of smoke. I thought, hmm, it's odd my fire alarm didn't go off. I went to check it, and noticed that it was not snapped on tightly. It looked as though the last tenant had probably removed the cover slightly, like many of us do, when we have a little cooking slip up. I wasn't pleased to find this.

I proceeded to check the rest of my apartment. Maybe I left a candle on? Maybe my hair straightener? Maybe I really screwed up and one of the stove elements was on? But no, nothing. I went back to my room, and thought, man I sure hope this isn't a fire somewhere else in the building as I don't have insurance. Like I was kicking myself in my dream for not having self-defense training, I was kicking myself for not having house insurance and up-to-date fire training. An interesting parallel.

It was at this point, that I threw on some pants and a jumper and decided to check the rest of the house. Turns out there was a thin mist of smoke throughout the whole house. Certain that this situation was probably nothing and that someone was probably just cooking, I went outside to see if any lights were on in the other apartments. All lights were off. It didn't look like someone was cooking.

Now, I wasn't sure what to do. When you're awake and alone, isolated from a world that is asleep, what do you do? You can't call a friend or family member.. well, more so, you don't want to wake them up over something that you are still convinced is probably too trivial to alarm them about. But given there were no fire alarms going off, the smoke was thin and seemingly not escalating, it seemed silly to call 911. It's seems like no big deal, so maybe I should just go back to bed? I texted my brother to see if he had any advice, and returned to my apartment, crawled into bed and thought... this is probably nothing.

A few minutes later, after not hearing from my brother, and after running through the "what-ifs" in my head, I decided to call 911 - just for advice. That's all I wanted. I didn't want fire to come, I didn't want to be chicken little in this case and claim a sky was falling that seemingly was not. I just wanted to see if there was anything I should do or look out for.

It's funny calling 911, it's kind of one of those things... that you never think you'll have to do, or one of those things you dread having to do. And there's definitely a mystery around it - almost as if the second you dial those numbers big things are about to happen. There is also a severity around it, like its the last resort, and if you call you know you're in an emergency. The scope of reasons why you should or can acceptably call is also hard to define. Really, you just don't really know what to expect the second you dial those numbers.

It was on the first ring that I received an answer. "Good evening, is this a fire, police, or ambulance call?" he said. "Fire" I responded. He connected me through. It was on the second ring a man picked up. I explained I was calling for advice, that I didn't know if this was a call worthy of 911, and explained the situation. He asked if it could be someone cooking, and I said from what I investigated it looked as though everyone was asleep. I highlighted there were no fire alarms going off, and it seems incredibly minor. He asked more about the smell, the air, and following my description he asked if I could pull the alarm for the house and get everyone up. Oh dear I thought. I'm going about this with the right intentions, it's probably nothing, but now I'm going to have to involve everyone in what I'm 95% sure is just being over cautious. I questioned the man on the phone and said "is there nothing else I can do first?" And he became insistent with me. "There is smoke in your house, that cannot be explained, it could be something starting. You have to get out and everyone else out of the house now." So, I agreed, thanked him gracefully and hung up.

Have you ever asked yourself if you could only take one thing with you, what would you take? I had that moment for a second, being in school and my life being my academic memory, I grabbed my laptop. A sad state of affairs huh.

Anyway, I'd had enough time to put on some more clothes and was just grabbing my jacket to go, when I heard the sirens in the distance. Before I could get out my door to awake the other tenants, fire had arrived. I'd say they had a response time of roughly 5 minutes. I was impressed.

Still waking up, I made my way down the stairs to the silhouette illuminated by flashing red lights in the background. I opened the door to be greeted by 2 men towering over me in full fire gear. I explained the situation, and they made their way in to look around. Eavesdropping on their conversation, it seemed as though consensus was that it was a cooking smell... like someone had left something on the stove for too long. They went into each apartment, banging on doors, and exploring the house. More firefighters piled in at this time... there were probably 7 in the house at one point.. two fire trucks outside. They spent probably 20 minutes checking out the building, agreeing with me that the smell wasn't just a food smell but like someone had forgotten about something that could be heating up. Fortunately, I was the only one home... in the upper floors. After knocking on the door to the basement long enough, a man came to the door however. One I'd never seen before, who spoke maybe a few words of english. He was insistent on calling the landlord, and did so before allowing the men to enter his apartment. They seemed a bit agitated. Upon exit of his apartment, the man whom appeared to be in command said that it looks like it was him.. that he'd been cooking, and left something on too long. So, my instincts were right, it was nothing.

It was at this point I said "I'm sorry for bringing you all the way out here for that." I explained I wasn't sure what to do, so I called. I reiterated I explained a minor situation on the phone, and thought it was nothing, but the the person on the phone was insistent that fire come to check it out. The firefighter smiled and said "You did the right thing. You see smoke and you can't tell where it's coming from? You did the right thing." I felt a huge wave of relief. I then asked him, "I guess as much as this is a good ending, your guys probably don't like calls like this eh? They're kind of dead end. You probably like a bit of action, no?" and he responded "ha ha.. well, the young guys maybe a bit. But, I've been around long enough, I like these type of calls." We both smiled, I thanked him again, and we parted ways.

With a clear conscience, and a slight headache from the smell of whatever he was cooking, I was wide awake and wanted to tell SOMEONE about this experience. But, given it was now 4am the blog is the only one I felt comfortable asking to "listen" at this time of the morning. I did really question whether  I should write this post however, mainly because of the ending. The story is such a good build up, and for it to be a false alarm in the end doesn't seem to be exciting enough. That's pretty sad huh. That news is only news if something bad happens. And you have to admit, if the firefighters had gone into the basement and found a small fire starting to happen, that would have been a great story! I could say things like "the universe made me wake up, to save myself and my house mates from a potential deadly fire!" I could have been the heroin! The local community member that "did the right thing and saved lives for it." But sadly (and gratefully) that is not the end to this story.

At least there is the parallel to my dream that makes this story interesting! As mentioned, it's funny I was kicking myself in my dream for not being proactive in learning the life skills I needed at that moment. The regret of not taking self defence classes in the dream, translated very quickly in not taking enough fire safety training in real life. And the desire to call 911 in the dream, came to fruition in real life just minutes after I woke up. Coincidence can make life interesting sometimes.

In many ways, however, this post is not about my story but more about what I took from this experience.

First, I have to say I was really impressed with how quick and professional fire was. Again, I'd barely had time to get dressed and they were here. They were quick, thorough, and patient. Definitely a very positive experience in that sense.

Second, I was overly concerned with the situation being a false alarm and didn't want to inconvenience anyone. Coming out of this, however, I learned it's better to be safe than sorry. My discussion with the fire fighter at the end taught me that it's good to be proactive with these things. If there is question, call. Yes, it was a false alarm after all, but the repercussions of it actually turning out to be a fire made it a risk worth taking. In the future I will call again.

Third, I didn't know what to do. I know a couple things now though. The advice heeded by my brother was a big one - to never roll out of bed if you smell smoke. That one really hit home. After doing a quick google search, it's all over the web, never rise out of bed if you smell smoke, roll out of bed. So the question is why? Because heat and toxic gases rise, sitting up into this smoke can disorient you or cause you to pass out. That's what the internet says. My brother told me about the more dangerous implications the internet doesn't tell you. Apparently sometimes the smoke above you can get so hot sitting up is like sticking your head in an oven. And there are actually instances where firefighters have found just the trunk of the body remaining in some bedrooms. Disturbing isn't it. Now that is the kind of stuff they should tell you in primary school to make you remember! The other aspect of fire safety that emerged was to touch the doors to see if they're hot. That is one thing I didn't do. I could have checked the temperature of my housemates doors to see if there was heat coming from any of their apartments. As for other fire safety tips, I did a quick google search and here's a link to one that seems fairly comprehensive. I'll definitely read this in the morning.

Fourth, I think fire safety training should be pushed more often. In frustration I couldn't remember much about what to do, I did a quick google search. The results seem to show that a lot of the training is either self-directed or geared towards children. This is a problem I think. Although we are a society of "life-long learners" there is so much information competing for our attention all the time, learning about fire prevention is one of the things that easily gets placed on the back burner. No pun intended. And yes, it's good to teach it to children, but really, for those old enough to remember Knight Rider, how much do you really remember about your formative years? If that's the only training we're forced to participate in, no wonder it's difficult to remember. Really, like we have fire drills at work or at school, we should get trained just as frequently on fire prevention. Why not dovetail quick 10 minute refresher training on fire drills each time we have one? While people are left to wait idly outside their buildings during fire drills, as administrators, peers, floor wardens, union reps, workplace safety representatives, or whomever? Fire departments could even even send an extra fire fighter? Why don't we capitalize on these captive audiences when we have the chance, and do fire awareness training during these times?  It doesn't seem like the worst idea!

In summary, it's funny how it took a close call like this for me to take fire safety more seriously and make a change. Often times we're not fortunate enough, as I was, to have close calls like this and these situations end up being real. And with profound consequences. Thus, I hope that my story will make you think: what would I have done in this situation? and what would I have wished I'd had done prior to prepare myself for this situation? Then, do these things. Sometimes, it's ok to be the chicken little in your story, and often times the sky isn't falling... but on the off chance it does, you'll be glad you took the steps to protect yourself and others.

Monday, November 28, 2011

MUG SHOT! The Pink Tongue

So, I had to share - May I draw your attention to the woman on the right in the photo below.

Working in one of the cafes around town, on this particular day I kept seeing flashes of pink out of the corner of my eye. Finally, when I turned, I saw a woman paying an unusual amount of attention to her espresso mug with her tongue. She licked that thing inside and out for the entire time she was there doing crosswords - at least a solid hour. Ha ha, this pic still brings a smile to my face. I love this woman.

Hmm, definitely does make you rethink reusable coffee shop mugs though huh... 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

MUG SHOT! An Introduction and Quote of the Day

Given I spend a lot of time, and I mean A LOT of time, in coffee shops, I have decided to integrate a component to the blog called, Mug Shots. With the aim to shed light on the life in coffee shops, these posts will include photos of rarities, unusual stories, and fragments of conversations that are entertaining when you remove the context.

Today, I begin with a discussion I heard between the cafe owner and one of his staff. I couldn't contain my laughter when I repeated this back to myself. I overheard:
"I’m running up to the Nuthouse. We have an Ethiopian but we might need a Guatemalan" 
He said this as he checked one of the carafes and left to run to the store down the street.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Turn Left or Turn Right: Is it a bigger choice than we realize?

I went for a long run this morning. It was one of those absolutely stunning fall mornings where the birds are singing, there is that crisp freshness in the air, the water is blanketed in mist, and the sun illuminates the colours of the leaves creating an illusion like they're almost on fire. Definitely one of those mornings where I found myself humbled by the beauty of nature. Pensive, perhaps a little more than usual, I found inspiration along this run today to write. Today's topic being choice, all stemmed from a simple right instead of left.

When I run in the mornings, I usually run through the park. Down one side and up the other. Usually for the purpose of time, but also familiarity, I stick to this route pretty religiously. Some may think that's boring, why don't you mix it up?! Well, in fact, most of the time I like the routine. I like to outsource the decision making of where I'm going to my subconscious, and free up the mental space to internalize and think about life. Anyway, it was at the point when I hit the bottom of the park, where I usually make the turn to go left, that, given today was so gorgeous, I decided to go right. It was at that moment I got thinking about the little insignificant choices that we make in our day to day life that sometimes bring us to places we would have never expected.

The outcome of my choice, this time, was an even more inspirational run along a lakeshore path I have never taken before. While listening to Holocene on repeat, imagining myself as the child in the video, I felt like the map of my familiar territory had just been illuminated with new territory, and I was the explorer. A truly wonderful feeling. Interspersed in these thoughts, however, I thought a lot about my decision to turn right and about other decisions like these in our day to day lives. Choices like opting for an earlier flight simply for convenience, for example, seem insignificant at the time. However the choice becomes profound pretty quickly when you learn about a plane crash that evening which just happened to be the flight you were supposed to be on. Other split second choices, offer consequences that are not necessarily as profound, but are still memorable. Such as that moment you opt to take a walk on your lunch break "for a change" and you randomly encounter a group of people huddled around the back of a pickup truck, handing out free Dr. Peppers. Not a life altering experience, yes, but it adds a splash of colour to dullness of repetition. This leads me to discuss routine.

I remember reading once about routine, and its relationship to the notion of "time speeding up as we get older." The article claimed this phenomenon is not a result of aging, and time is not flawed. The problem, they explained, lies in the way we behave in time. As we get older, we steer towards routine and become more and more adhered to it. Although comfortable, however, routine has a way of leading us to desensitization. Things become so familiar that we render ourselves unconscious participants in our daily lives. This theory rings true, when we look back on typical day and feel like it has "flown by." Perhaps it is because we don't remember being a part of it. As such, the article recommended that to "slow down time" or "add some colour" we need to do one thing a day that is outside the routine. In many ways, I think this is a good suggestion. How about you? If you were asked to recall on the events of your day, what do you remember? Do you remember the drive to work? Or that moment after you became frustrated waiting in line waiting for your double tall vanilla soy latte, that you opted for that new coffee shop down the street to run into that friend you'd lost touch with.

In thinking further, the question that arises is where does this "colour" come from when we deviate from our routine. Is it extrinsic or intrinsic? Some would say "it's the universe, it's rewarding you" or "it's testing you." If you were to ask my brother, he'd probably say "You know, maybe it's fate... " The religious folks, would say, it's all in gods plan. And to others, these colours are merely a product of chaos, and the events that occur off the path have no greater implication or meaning than the ones that happen along the path. On the contrary, perhaps this "colour" comes from within. Perhaps the second we break from the mould we instantaneously awaken to simply see that which is always around us but we're just blinded from. Maybe the answer to this question depends on how you view the world, and where you lie on the spectrum of monochrome to full Technicolor. The answer is up to debate I guess.

Either way, it seems as though it is the little insignificant choices and minor interruptions, that make our lives richer, for better and for worse. And it is at this point, I'm reminded of advice I received in my youth from a nostalgic woman in her 80s. She said "You know, when I look back at my life, the choices that felt the biggest at the time, often ended up being the smallest choices. It was more the little choices that often ended up being the biggest ones." It's funny, but it's only in writing this article that I'm reminded of these words. And now that I reflect, I don't think she's that far from the truth (from my perspective that is). In many ways it seems like the big choices, often feeling debilitating at the time, have been relatively painless once the decision was made. And when I look at the little choices I've made, those have been the ones that have taken me to places I never anticipated. And, in many ways, it feels like it's that spontaneity of life, that unknown of "what the universe may hand you," that is the essence of life itself.

I conclude this article to say one thing: Turn right more often.

Monday, October 17, 2011

4 Tips For Successful Facilitation

I recently came across an article written by Walter C. Parker titled Public Discourses in Schools: Purposes, Problems, Possibilities which highlighted some key strategies for running effective discussions. As many of us facilitators out there are always looking on how to improve our facilitation skills, I thought I would summarize his work into 4 keys points for a successful facilitation.

1. Establish Your Objectives
Reveal the World or Change the world

In choosing the format for your discussion, it is important to identify the objectives of your discussion. Do you wish for your participants to learn about the world through discussion OR do you wish for them to learn about and change the world through discussion? To answer this question, Parker (2006) suggests two classroom discourse structures: seminar and deliberation. Seminars aim to build understanding through discussion. Deliberation also aims to foster learning but places the emphasis on decision making.

In both instances a topic and readings are selected, and participants will be presented with a central question.

If a seminar format is selected, dialogue could begin with “What does this mean?” or “what is happening?” and subject matter of the discussion will focus on ideas, issues, and values associated with the text. An example presented by Parker (2006) for this format could be a discussion on the Pledge of Allegiance prompting participants to question who are they pledging to.

If a deliberation format is selected, dialogue could begin with “what should we do?” or “what is the best alternative?” and subject matter of the discussion will focus on alternatives related to the problem. The example presented by Parker (2006) for this format could be a discussion on what the schools should be teaching about the Pledge of Allegiance.

When selecting a format for discussion, it is important to note the interplay between the two. Using the Pledge of Allegiance example provided by Parker (2006) for example, one could see that the question addressed in the seminar discussion had to be addressed in the deliberation discussion as a means to facilitate making a decision. Thus, when setting your objectives it may be valuable to establish if one format or a combination of the two will help you meet your objectives.

2. Avoid Recitation
Promote Diffusion Not Osmotic Discussion

When we think of the concept of discussion, we typically envision a balanced exchange of ideas between two or more parties. However, you might be surprised to hear that often times, discussion is confused with recitation. According to Parker (2006), teachers claiming to use discussion regularly are, in fact, leading recitations. Nystrand, Gamoran, and Carbonaro (2001), proved this claim in a study using 48 high school social studies classrooms. In a context where discussion should, in theory, be rampant, they found that approximately 90% of instruction involved zero discussion, and the remaining 10% lasted for an average of 31 seconds. Surprising? Most definitely! Discussion as recitation diminishes many of the educational benefits to facilitation, stripping participants from opportunity to learn from the opinions from others and develop their own ideas through debate. Thus, when planning facilitation, pre-establish the proportion of time you’d like to allocate to presentation versus the exchange of ideas. As an example, set a 50:50 rule. During the facilitation, try to stick to this ratio. Post facilitation, take the time to evaluate your participants on how closely you were able to stick to this ratio.

3. Ensure Effective Listening
Be Humble! Be Patient! Be Empathetic!

When we think of discussion, we often think about what we would like to say but rarely on what we would like to hear. As listening plays a role equally as important as speaking, it’s important to exercise effective learning skills to fully realize the benefits of discussion. As such, Parker (2006) provides three strategies to promote effective listening that can be exercised both by the facilitator and the participants:

Humility – Admit there is always more for me to learn; I am not the expert.

Caution – Take time in listening, reserve expressing thoughts to give speaker space to express their thoughts

Reciprocity – Adopt the perspective of the other by acknowledging they understand their social position better than I do.

4. Establish a Purpose
The Lefts and Rights Both Have Good Points

It may be surprising to hear that debate exists over the value of discussion. The critics from the cultural Right perceive discussion to be a waste of time explaining that discussion takes time away from curriculum coverage. The critics on the cultural Left perceive discussion to be a charade explaining that it is just another form of domination where discourses that typically emerge from discussion often reinforce the problem. Perhaps you may not agree with these arguments, but maybe you can gain insight from them.  At the end of the day students need knowledge, the your role as a facilitator is to identify which knowledge they need. Thus, in response to the opinion of the Right, avoid discussion that detracts from the larger objectives of the subject matter. Use this argument to ensure rigor and mind the subject matter; do not let discussion overpower the subject matter itself. In response to the opinion of the Left, its apparent that omitting discussion is not an option as it simply compounds the problem, and just marginalizes citizens further. Noting the essence of this argument however, it is fundamental that a facilitator ensures an equal exchange between all participants for a successful facilitation.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Perfect Buzz: An Analogy of Falling in Love

I was having a conversation recently about the sense of feeling "guarded" in relationships, and that feeling of not *quite* being able to fall in love the way it seemed we could when we're younger. I think we've all been there... you know, that feeling of being completely vulnerable to someone else. Like you're driving 160 mph and they have the steering wheel. That state of feeling totally, helplessly, intensely in love to the point that you can't see a world outside your partner. I'm sure many of us idealize these feelings and, in many ways, long for them back. However, we often forget how uncomfortable we were in this state of love. In many ways, being a victim to an emotion so strong that we lose all sense of rationale thought, completely unable to be self and situationally aware, is far from ideal. Thus begs the question, what is the ideal balance of being in love. When we say we want to be "head over heals" are we aspiring for that familiar "head over heals" we can relate to from our youth? Or is there a "head over heals 2.0" that, like a fine wine, has improved with age?

Upon thinking through these questions, it came to me that in many ways falling in love is like becoming intoxicated. Consider my following analogy I call, The Perfect Buzz.

The Perfect Buzz
The process of falling in love is very much like the process of becoming intoxicated in that there is a progression of feeling not enough to feeling too much. Think about the following:

Drink 1
You start to feel good but you know you could feel better. You are completely in control. Nothing to lose. Totally yourself.

Drink 2
Now you're starting to feel it more but you know you could probably feel a little more buzzed. You still feel in complete control.

Drink 3
The buzz is setting in, and you're starting to feel great. You're feeling happier, more energetic... ambitious

Drink 4...5
Ok, now you feel really good... you've reached a state of "perfect drunk" where you realize you're enough in control that you're not out of control, but buzzing to the point you feel in the moment and you're loving it. You think to yourself, I wish I could be this person all the time. I'm so cool, so funny, I look great AND you love everyone else around you. The world is a beautiful place. You are careless. A hangover is likely, but impact will be mild.

Drink 6
Sooo... you have maybe gone a bit too far... you start to lose control a little bit.. you start saying things you wouldn't usually say... you start being someone you're not. At this point a hangover is guaranteed with a moderate impact.

Drink 7
This is the point where you become one of "those". "Oh, poor dear, she's had too much" they say. Everyone around you sees you've lost control, they stop relating to you like you are a human being and see you more as a liability.They support you, get entertainment from you, but want to help you out of this state. You lose awareness of your body, and self. Rationale thought is non existant. Hangover is guaranteed, and it will be severe.

In translating this progression, it's apparent that there are many similarities to falling in love. Reflecting back on this feeling of being "guarded," this sensation is very similar, in fact, to the lesson of knowing when you've had too much to drink. Although it feels great at the time to "have too much" we often forget about who we really are at the time, and how, not so great it is that we become someone other than who we are. We are out of control in a state that is unsustainable, with no rationale thought but plenty volatile emotions. The hangover, the moment when our world crashes in around us, is always one of the worst.

Consequently, perhaps falling in love is about finding the perfect balance, or "learning our limits." In many ways, many of us may settle for that 1st or 2nd drink buzz simply because we can remain completely self-aware and in control. It's safe. If there is a fallout, damage will be minimal. The hurt is mendable, and these feelings we had are quite accessible in another partner. Others, may still shoot for that 6th of 7th drink intoxication, simply because they thrive on volatility and intensity of emotion. Many of us, however, can admit although the lead up is fun, the 7th drink hangover is not to be desired. Therefore, it makes sense we would aspire for the 5th drink ideal. That state of being totally in love where we feeling alive and inspired by the person that penetrates our life, yet feeling as though we are in-control enough to support and attend to ourselves and others. It's a fine balance, and for some of us it may be the 4th drink and for others maybe the 6th, but what's important is that we shoot for that "perfect buzz" and live it with every sense of our being. The one thing that differentiates love from the magic of the 5th drink, is that if we strike the perfect balance of love, this state IS sustainable.

So Goldilocks, what's your "just right" ?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Foreshadow

Shared by a good friend.... I can already relate to some of these already... AND it's only been a month! Argh

Back and ready to start blogging!

Ok, so there has been little activity on this blog... probably because most of my activities have involved creating a new life here... but good news! I think I can NOW start to blog again!

For today, I'll keep this short... I created a Twitter account today, check me out, add me, read me...

Monday, August 22, 2011

In the beginning...

It was late last night when the idea to start this blog came to me. Hmm, funny, it seems like most revelations come to us late at night huh.. funny, I wonder why it is they tend to occur when our mind is not fully functional. Anyway, I was sitting alone in my living room, trying to take in the present of a life set to change in less than a week. Incapable of doing so however, all I could think about was the past I am leaving behind and the future that lies ahead, standing there, at the end of this path like a blank canvas awaiting it's first strokes. Filled with both excitement and dread, I couldn't help but focus my thoughts on what exactly would go on this canvas. I reflected for a while on the patterns on my life, my interactions with people along the way. Then I thought broader.. about my relationship with change, and the hardships and surprises that are accompanied with it. The more pensive I became, the more motivated I became to document these changes as I start my journey to achieve a PhD. It was at this point, I determined there are many facets to this experience I would like to share. Hence my decision to do as the kids do these days, and "blog" about it...

So what is the change specifically? Well I will be moving cities, and starting a four year PhD. The details of what I plan to study are yet to be ironed out.

What can you expect from this blog? Well for those of you who know me, you won't be surprised to hear it will be an eclectic blend of sorts. There with be both anecdotes and cathartic notes on the random thoughts and experiences I have along the way both in my personal and academic life. I will post resources I encounter, tools I may develop, and lessons learned... some of general interest and others specific to readers that may also be in school. I'm sure there will be the odd TED talk here and there (hopefully one day one of them being mine!). I'm sure, after sitting pale and motionless at a computer screen for days on end trying to assemble words for the plethora of papers I'm about to write, I'll find plenty useless distractions to share. Music. As I can't lift the needle from the ever playing record that is the soundtrack to my life, I'm sure I will post music related content as well. This list... will go on I'm sure as I continue to update this blog.

Who is this blog for? Well, I foresee a variety of audiences really. First, and foremost, friends and family. I hope to be able to maintain this blog to keep those I care about informed. Second, the budding, past or present student looking for experiences, tools, resources that may facilitate their understanding of the progression of a PhD or contribute to their work. Third, the general public looking for a good read or interesting tid bits here and there.

Ah yes, why Dr. Changelove... many of you are probably wondering "hmmm, it sounds like the title of the 1964 cult classic "Dr. Strangelove" but... in fact, I chose something similar but why? "Dr." because I am doing my PhD, "Change" because my area of study is on change, and "love" well.. the reasons will become clear as this blog develops...

Happy reading!