Archive for the ‘strong women’ Category

The Activist In Me

I grew up in Calgary, Alberta  – a pretty conservative area of the country, by Canadian standards, anyway. So,  I therefore grew up with fairly conservative views that were common at the time in the 80s (pro-oil/gas, anti-union, the homeless should just get jobs, feminists are “feminazis”, left-leaning people are “bleeding hearts”, etc.).

Those views followed me to Manitoba, where I did my Masters degree. Even though I mostly held strong to those views, I was beginning to be exposed to more left-leaning views (mostly the inequalities of the education system when it comes to First Nations communities, and inner-city schools).

I moved to Ontario in 2005, and noticed my views moved slowly from right-leaning to centre, then to the left. I began mostly with finally being able to see  (I’m sure it was there in the past, I just had my eyes closed to it) the sexism in the academic world, which turned into me caring about women’s rights in general.

That started an avalanche in me and I’ve learned more about (and have started to care much more about) the inequalities in the education system, the environment crisis, the struggles and burdens of other marginalized groups, the poverty in our own cities, and what privileges I am automatically given because I’m white, middle-aged, middle-class, able-bodied, and cisgendered.

Though I’ve tried to be more vocal and open with my views in recent years, this past year I’ve felt like I’ve been pushed become involved in a more visible way: our family walked in the Pride Parade, and I marched in a Sister March on January 21st, with 2.5 million other women from around the globe. To keep that momentum, I sent letters to the leaders of all the federal political parties in Canada outlining a call to action for them to commit to ensure women’s rights are part of their agenda (want to do the same? Find a template here).

One of my goals for this year is to become more involved in my community, and I feel taking part in these events that mean so much to me is a step in the right direction.

I think my political evolution has to do with several factors:

  • Political geography (Alberta is right-leaning, Ontario is more left),
  • Who I interact with (Alberta: I was young, so family and other adults in their sphere + other teenagers/20-somethings – we knew nothing; Ontario: mostly academics/teachers/other professionals)
  • I’ve gotten older, and therefore empathize more with the struggles of others, and am finding what’s important to me (I assume this happens with age, but maybe not?)
  • Learning, reading, and trying to keep on top of current events

Regardless of the reasons, I have witnessed and evolution in myself but  I am trying my best to be unapologetic about it. I’m sure some see the change as negative and others as positive, but it shouldn’t be US vs. THEM, or LEFT vs. RIGHT. We should find ways to work together to solve the issues facing our world today.

Yes, I’m a feminist! Yes, I care deeply about our environment! Yes, I am troubled by how marginalized groups are treated as second-class citizens! Yes, I think everyone should have a minimum income level! Yes, I think many of us in Canada are privileged and refuse to acknowledge it and the problems it causes!

So….Yes, I’m a bleeding-heart liberal! And I’m not sorry.

Kinda Traumatic

I just had a follow-up appointment with my stroke specialist. It was at her clinic, on the same floor I resided on for the first two weeks after my stroke, and it was a bit more traumatic than I expected.

DH was with me, and we were struck with a very medicinal smell as we got off the elevator on the 7th floor and we both were also struck with not very fond memories of the place. It’s amazing how much a certain smell can invoke a whole host of memories and feelings.

I felt okay, but when I had my appointment I fell back into the “patient” role. I felt like I  couldn’t articulate how well I’ve been doing, or that maybe I wasn’t doing as well as I thought. She asked me what things I still can’t do (always the focus at the hospital — what I CAN’T do.). She seemed very concerned about my moods, and warned me that going back to school might be harder than I expect.

I guess it’s part of her job to talk of the negative things, but I just felt so down and a bit demoralized coming out of the appointment. I mean, I just put together this awesome (I think!) scholarship application this week, and am getting excited about our upcoming cottage vacation, but now I wonder if I can handle things as well as I thought.

Then, since I had Carter with me, I decided to do a lap of the floor (just like I used to to test/work my legs when I was there). There were more familiar smells, sounds, and sights that brought me back. It was almost too much when I walked by the high acuity ward and saw a younger women trying to walk with the help of two nurses.

On my way out, I passed the nurses station and ran into the social worker who worked with me there. It took a couple seconds for her to recognize me, but she came over, hugged me, and we had a nice chat. She told me how great it was to see how well I was doing – so at least the visit ended on a positive note.

I couldn’t get out of there fast enough though. But, then I got outside, drove home, played with Carter, went to the post office and grocery store, and started to feel normal again.

Sure, I’ll always be a stroke patient, I guess…but the doctors never knew how strong, resilient, and smart I am. I can do anything I did before, and will do anything I want to. Yes, school might be stressful, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.

Daycare Update

You may remember me writing about our daycare, and the associated centre for teen mothers, closing. After the announcement, there was enough of an outcry from the community that the Salvation Army slightly re-thought their stance.

Just last Friday, the Salvation Army announced that the centre and daycare will close on August 31st unless $1.5 million can be raised by May 31st. It seems like an impossible feat, but the centre is going to do its best. They are in talks with Justin Bieber’s mother, who actually stayed at the centre while she was pregnant with Justin. But, I don’t think we can depend on her for the full $1.5M.

We will be making a donation, but we’re unsure how much right now. The fact that The Salvation Army will still be involved puts us off a bit, but it seems like that’s the only way the centre will stay open in the near future. Of course, we are also have a vested interest in keeping the daycare open, but we also are strong supporters of the centre for the teenage mothers as there is nothing else like it within a 200 km radius.

You can read more about the centre here. They also have a Facebook group. If this is something that you would like to support, the donation page can be found here. Donations are made in-trust, so refunds will be made if the goal is not reached. If anyone has any ideas on who to contact for help or donations, or if you have any fundraising tips, please let me know.

Dr. Susan Niebur

On Tuesday, February 6th, Dr. Susan Niebur passed away after a long fight with breast cancer. For those of you in the astronomy and/or planetary science community, you will most likely recognize her name from the Women in Planetary Science blog. For those in the mom-blogosphere, her blog Toddler Planet was also well-known.

Susan had a distinct ability to get women to pull together and rise up against sexism in the academic world. She started the 51 Women of Planetary Science, to show that there are indeed a great number of women doing amazing research in the area. I was very lucky and honored to be one of those interviewed.

Susan touched thousands of women through her work in astrophysics, as a mother, and through her battle with cancer. She leaves behind her loving husband and two young sons.

We thank you, Susan, for your tireless dedication to the equality of women in the sciences, and may you rest in peace. You will be greatly missed.

Grandma M

My paternal grandmother passed away earlier this week. She was a month away from being 95, and had been in a home for a while, so it wasn’t unexpected; however, it’s sad nonetheless.

I haven’t seen much of her in my adult years, but I have lots of fond memories of her from my childhood. My parents would send my brother and I to visit her for a week or two during the summer. She always had wonderful goodies in the fridge and freezer, gorgeous flowers growing outside that she let me pick, and a giant yard where we would play endlessly. She was so caring and loving, especially when I was home sick. She was constantly smiling and laughing.

For some reason, one of my clearest memories of her was during a drive between Alberta and Saskatchewan. Every time we passed horses, she would say “Look! Cows!!” and I would giggle and say “No, Grandma! Those are horses!!”. I don’t know why that stuck with me, but it always makes me smile.

Back in May, Evan and I made a visit to Saskatchewan, seeing both my grandmothers. I am so glad he was able to meet her before she passed, and it was wonderful the way he made her smile.

Grandma, I hope you know you are deeply loved and that you’re now with all your family and friends who passed before you. See you on the other side.

June Scientiae: Inspiring Women

Biochembelle, over at Ever On & On, is hosting the second Scientiae of the year. She asks bloggers to:
Contribute your stories of historical or contemporary women in STEM who motivate you.

When I read the call for posts, I thought, and thought, and thought about this. As you may have read recently on my blog, I don’t have anyone in real life I would consider to be a good mentor – female or male. There really hasn’t been anyone who I look at and think “Yes, I want to be like them.”

But, perhaps that’s the point. Maybe I don’t need to be like others. Maybe I need to go forward in my career and in my personal life the way that best fits me and my family.

Since that post, I’ve gotten together with my master’s supervisor and my post-doc supervisor. Now that I don’t work for them, I find our conversations are much more open and personal. It could be because Evan accompanies me to these get-togethers, and so conversation automatically goes toward children, work-life balance, etc.. It was quite interesting hearing how my master’s supervisor had to change her priorities once she had children (when I worked for her, she did not have children, and I always thought I could never be successful like her because she worked so much), or how my post-doc supervisor had to juggle three kids while her husband was out of town.

These are just two women who have managed to have a family and be extremely successful in their career…I just never knew about it until recently.

I think this is one of the problems with finding someone whom you would like to model your life after: it’s just not talked about (this is one of the wonderful things about the academic blogging community, of which Dr. O writes about here). People go about their business, keeping family life and work life separate, and it’s difficult to imagine them worrying about their daughter who has a fever or making sure they get to their son’s soccer game on time.

There should be a conference for academic parents, where we can share our hardships and celebrations, and share ideas on how we balance it all. We could all serve as roll-models for up-and-coming academics. Instead of never discussing our family lives, we can be open, honest, and supportive and show them it can be done.

I wish…

…I had a mentor.

Now that I’ll be starting my first real job, I wish I had someone who could help me navigate these uncharted waters.

What would I look for in a mentor?

A woman who holds a similar position to mine – someone who interacts with faculty at the university, but also people off campus. Someone who is confident, approachable, and trustworthy, but who stands up for herself and does not shy away from confrontations. Someone who loves their job, but has a home life too and keeps the latter a priority. Someone I could feel comfortable enough to be open and honest about my experiences, and who would do the same with me.

Do you have a mentor? How did you find them and how have they helped you?

If you don’t have a mentor, do you feel like you’re missing out? What would you look for in a mentor?

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