Archive for the ‘helping others’ Category

Why the Blogosphere is Awesome

A couple weeks ago, I was lamenting about my lack of pregnancy wardrobe. That’s when GMP, from Academic Jungle, came to the rescue and offered to send me some of her maternity clothes.
Not being one to turn down an amazing offer, I gladly accepted, and now have a much wider variety of clothing to choose from that can hopefully get me to the end of the pregnancy.
And this is one of the reasons why the blogging community is awesome! GMP and I can hardly say we “know” each other – I didn’t even know her name – but she was willing to help me out anyway.
Thanks, GMP!!!
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Awesome Foundation

One of my goals this year is to do more planned charitable giving, and one of the ways I’ll be achieving this goal is by taking part in the local chapter of the Awesome Foundation.
If you’ve never heard of this, the basic premiss is a group of people get together, put their own money into a pot, and give it away to someone who has a really cool idea…no strings attached. 
Our group first heard about it at a cross-sector community workshop a few months ago. A woman in the Awesome Toronto group spoke about what they did and the really cool projects they funded – like making a giant connect the dots using Toronto landmarks and Google satellite maps. 
A bunch of us immediately loved the idea, and now we have 40 trustees in our local group, split into 4 groups of 10. This means each trustee takes part in 3 rounds a year, so it’s not an insane amount of money to invest. Each month there will be a call for proposals. Then, one of the groups of 10 trustees will choose their top three, hear those pitches live, and make their top choice. That person will walk away with $1000 that night to do something awesome!
Our first “call for proposals” was at the beginning of this month, and we received 41! There are a lot of really cool/amazing/touching ideas. The first award night is on Jan. 28th, and all 40 trustees are invited to attend (though only the 10 for the month can vote).
I fell in love with this idea because I think it’s “awesome” for someone to get $1000, no strings, to do something really cool and interesting – things that probably would have a difficult time getting more formal funding. I also like that I’ll be able to meet and work with the other trustees, who I probably would never meet otherwise.
Check out if there is an Awesome Foundation chapter in your area – if not, consider starting one up! It’s a low cost way to do something truly awesome for your community.

Time For Activism

I’ve never been huge into being an activist. Sure, I’ve always had opinions on stuff, but I was never one to get too bothered by politics and the like. Not enough to do anything, anyway.
But something has changed in the last few years, and especially in the last few months. I don’t know if it has something to do with getting older, and I tend to care more about the world around me, or if everything is just getting worse out there. Whatever it is, I’ve changed my tune.
It started during my PhD when I began to talk to more and more women in the sciences, and started reading science blogs. I began to find a disturbing trend: this sexism thing people were talking about not only was rampant, but it was right in front of me. I’m not sure why I didn’t see it before – I would always shrug it off as “just a joke” or it didn’t even occur to me that it was sexist. I was one of those women who would chastise others for being “too sensitive” or think they must be making it up. But, reading other peoples stories, it opened my eyes, and I started to “get it”. Not only did I start noticing comments or behavior but, as I looked back on my life, I remembered other instances of sexism. It was far more common – and real – than I thought.
That’s what started it – I began to look at the world differently. I was able to see things from other vantage points. Even if something didn’t directly relate to me, I had empathy for the people it did affect. I stopped laughing at off-color jokes (before I would so I didn’t seem “rude” – really??), and I began to quietly call people out if they made inappropriate comments.
Now, when I find things I hold near and dear to my heart are attacked (such as help for teen-mothers being taken away, the complete lack of respect for basic science research by the Canadian government, or the fact that LGBT rights is even an issue in the US) I have this overwhelming desire to DO something. To speak up. To fight. 
Here’s my problem: I don’t know how to make time for it. I get overwhelmed with the number of injustices in the world that I want to help fix. Even if I just focus on one thing, I don’t know where to start. 
I know there are a lot of you out there who are passionate about your causes. How do you make the time? What kinds of things do you do? Where should I start? Is doing something small ever worth it?

Well, here’s a start: for those of you in Canada who are fed up with the Federal Government (recent budget cuts, Bill C-38, etc.), there will be an online protest on June 4th where websites all across Canada will be going dark. Get more information on the Black Out Speak Out website. My post on June 4th will be a banner from that site.

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The Best Advice

A post over at Ask Moxie asks what was the best advice you got or most helpful thing that happened to you in the first month of parenthood. There are a LOT of great things in the comments, so I suggest heading over and taking a gander!

It got me thinking of the best thing that happened to me early on in my mommy-dom.

No question, it was one of my friends simply saying “it is what it is” (no, Mom & Dad, it wasn’t your son!) when I told her that we couldn’t get breast feeding established.

Many of you know that I was filled with guilt over this. I was worried that we would lose out on that precious bonding time people are always talking about, and what people would think if they saw me feeding Evan from a bottle (even though it was breast milk). So, I forced myself to keep trying even though it was making us both miserable.

I think it was about 4 weeks in when we went to visit friends of ours and their then 7 month old daughter. She (the mom, not the daughter) asked how things were going, and I immediately went into this long rant/sob story about the breast feeding thing. She looked at me with sympathy, but just said “Well, it is what it is. Just do what you can and don’t worry about it!”.

I was flabbergasted! I was so scared that other moms would judge me for not breast feeding. But here she was, not saying that I wasn’t trying hard enough or that it will come, but being supportive and understanding! And what I loved the most about the situation was that she was so laid back about it.

It really made me realize that, even though we think our decisions are life and death right now, in the long run they really don’t make a huge difference. Yes, I was disappointed I couldn’t breast feed, but there were a million other ways I could bond with my son. I tried my best, it didn’t work, so we moved on. It’s a wonderful, freeing feeling to think that way.

What was the best advice you’ve ever received (about parenting or otherwise)?

Depression at the Undergraduate Level

A couple days ago, I attended a teaching workshop that focused on issues facing current undergraduate students. One reoccurring theme was that today’s students suffer from stress and depression much more than earlier generations. Some of the causes could be heavier workloads, too many other things taking up their time (cell phone, internet, etc.), not taking care of themselves physically (sleep, diet, exercise), and lack of ability to deal with emotions.

A lot of time was spent discussing what the signs are for depression and what can be done to help, such as making students aware of the issues in the first place, knowing who to call for help on campus, and being sympathetic.

Although it was interesting, I was left feeling even more confused on how to deal with these types of situations. How do we as teachers (i.e., not trained psychologists, psychiatrists, etc.) tell the difference between a student who is just having a rough day from one who is truly suffering? What about students who try to take advantage of such situations (for example, I went to school with someone who’s “grandmother” died 3 times – all during exam times)? How are we supposed to know when to just lend a sympathetic ear, or when a student needs more than that?

Has anyone else been to a workshop like this one? Did you get any concrete advice?

Has anyone had to deal with such a situation in their classroom or lab? If so, then what did you do? Did you feel you did the right thing?

In a more general sense – do you believe that more people suffer from depression these days, or is it just more accepted/more diagnosed?

If anyone is interested in seeing more of what was discussed during the workshop, one of the speakers has his PowerPoint slides available here for download.

Seriously? Go AWAY!!

Three weeks ago I received an email from a random graduate student from another country asking me pretty in depth questions about the analysis that I had done for my MSc thesis. I was out of town at the time, so didn’t have access to that particular paper, my thesis, or any of my notes. So, I wrote them back saying that I would contact them once I was back in town (sometime this week).

I received another email from them this morning. I quickly looked at the paper and the relevant parts of my thesis, and sent them back an answer. I didn’t walk them through the whole thing, but I told them what I thought was enough information to move forward.

Well…I’ve now received two more emails from the student, asking very specific questions about the analysis, including questions about specific numbers.

Umm…..hello? Do they not understand I’m not here to guide them through the analysis process??? First of all, I did that analysis 6-7 years ago, and I’ve changed fields twice since then, so it’s not like I’m immersed in similar data analysis or techniques. Second of all, if someone is kind enough to answer your questions, you don’t shoot back even more annoying questions at them! Third – as everyone who regularly reads my blog knows – I DON’T GIVE A SHIT about research. So, I don’t keep all these nitty gritty details in my head, to be made available at any second where someone might ask me about it.

I’m sorry that their supervisor obviously is no help whatsoever, but how is that my problem? I just want to either a) ignore them or b) tell them to screw off, but I’m guessing either choice wouldn’t be particularly nice of me. The problem is for me to be able to answer the questions they are asking now, I would have to do some serious searching around — using time I don’t really have since I have about a million things on my plate right now (all that must be done in 5 months before Baby G arrives).

Advice?

Note: this is my 300th post! I wanted it to be “special”, but instead it’s this. I hope to post before and after shots of our kitchen soon though!!

Cake Wrecks Charities

Here is a list of charities that Cake Wrecks raised money for during the two weeks before Christmas:

Charity: Water
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Heifer International
Child’s Play
Share Our Strength
Puffy Paws Kitty Haven
Doctors Without Borders
Love146
Habitat for Humanity
Operation Smile
The Buckland Family Trust (no website, but you can donate via Paypal – just scroll down to the bottom of the link)
Free the Slaves
To Write Love on Her Arms
Give Kids the World

If you want to donate to any of these charities, please go through the Cake Wrecks website so that Jen can get closer to her fundraising goals. She has listed all the charities here, along with how to donate.

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