Day One

Wow.

So, I want to try my best not to sound overly cheesy, but I don’t think that’s possible. Today was a gift. My entire cohort are full of friendly smiling people. We were welcomed into the studio, The Weaving House, that was created by Chief Janice George and Elder Buddy Joseph; a space that they have created to participate in resurgence and practice the skills that their ancestors held.

We started the morning off listening to Chief Janice and Buddy share their stories and why weaving is important to them and their nation. My whole body tingled as they spoke of Residential Schools, roots, family, and story telling. I was especially touched when Chief Janice said “if there is something you want to ask someone, do it now; learn while you can.” That got me thinking of my grandparents and how they have so much left to teach me about their past and their favourite stories and adventures.

We spent approximately 3 hours weaving. It was frustrating, aggravating, rewarding, meditative, and soothing. I experienced various waves of emotions as my fingers fumbled with yarn. Chief Janice shared that many weavings, especially those worn in ceremony, are filled with prayers. I am not a spiritual person, but I made sure to respect the space. I thought about my family, those still with me and those that have passed on. I weaved in stories that ran through my head and wishes that I have for the future.

At the end of our day together, we thanked our hosts and each other for such a rewarding experience. Even though it was a mere 6 hours, I began to learn a lot about myself. I came out of my shell. I initiated conversation. I bonded with Amal: a man who likes rice pudding just about as much as I do.

When I got home, I hung my woven wall hanging next to this macramé owl that my mum made when she was in high school. Although my piece is full of mistakes caused by losing my patience, I am proud of what I created.

Tomorrow is our retreat at Camp Capilano. We will be spending 36 hours together and I don’t feel as nervous as I usually am about new experiences.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-9-57-13-pm

Starting to Worry: Semester in Dialogue

Tomorrow is the big day. At 8:45am, a former classmate, Veronica, will be picking me and another member of our cohort up and we will be heading to The Weaving House in Capilano. I think I’m nervous because this is the first time I’ll be entering an environment that I don’t know anyone and the actual details of the program are fuzzy.  Heading into Langara I had Duncan, now I’ll be going to a new school and am enrolled in a program that operates completely independently within SFU. I will be spending a minimum of 30 hours a week with these 19 other students. I hope they like me; I hope I like them.

I’m stressing out about ridiculous things: what will I wear, what jacket will be best, how do I do my makeup, what if it snows? I bought hummus, olives, and vegetables to bring, but after someone sent an email saying they were making gluten free vegan pizza (yes, you heard that right) I felt like I should have made something. So after looking into the fridge full of random ingredients, I concocted a sundried tomato olive tapanade. That’ll do pig, that’ll do.

I hope I’m ready for this. I wish I knew how to turn the calm up and the anxiety down. I also hope I don’t toss and turn all night and keep Duncan awake with my worries (spoiler alert: I probably will.)

Starting to Talk: Semester in Dialogue

During Winter break, I spent my time off being sick as well as working. For that chunk of time, I did what I often do during my time away from school: question everything. I logged onto BC Student loans and stared at the ever growing dollar amount that I will eventually have to pay back. I compared myself to people my age and younger: people that are already on their track with planted feet and a plan. I compared myself to my partner who has won so many awards and is constantly being recognized for his achievements and smarts. I experienced tsunami size waves of anxiety that just crashed into me causing my strength and determination to weaken with every hit. I am a rock that is weathering.

On Monday I will be starting the Semester in Dialogue program at SFU and I’m feeling a whirlwind of emotions. I’m terrified to jump into third year without taking any classes related to my major, I’m annoyed that I didn’t speak to an academic advisor before I applied to this program, I’m feeling overwhelmed that I waited until today to start the 15+ hours of reading and documentary watching I must complete before Monday, I’m scared to participate in a program that many have referred to as “life changing”. On the contrary, I’m excited to be in a new environment in a very intimate 20 person cohort. I’m looking forward to bonding, making friends, and learning about myself. I’m feeling like this is going to be such a challenge, but that in the long run, I will value everything I will embark on. I did something that I never thought I would do: jump into something head first without thinking about pros and cons. I knew the moment that I read the topic of dialogue “decolonizing dialogues, solidarity and activism” I had to be a part of the conversation.

So here I am a few days before the first day of class worrying as per usual. I’m trying to take notes on one of the readings, but find myself becoming more and more distracted. One positive about feeling so distracted is I am feeling inspired to write and to create. Perhaps I’ll accept these flustered thoughts and move with them by recording my emotions.

Never enough time for teddy bears

Yesterday my grandma called me. I called her on Thursday and left a message. She called me at 8:00pm. I picked up only to say “I’m working, I’ll call you tomorrow”. I called just after 3:00pm on Friday, only to leave a message that said: “call me before 4:00pm”. She called me yesterday.

I told her how I was doing, how stressed I feel, how there is never enough time. I asked how she was doing. She told me that grandpa wasn’t doing well. His heart is acting up again.

I hear that statement and my own heart plummets to my stomach and just sort of rumbles. I immediately start thinking about family life: family dinners, Christmas holidays, laughing and laughing. I think about opening up birthday cards signed “love gramma and grampa” and think to myself: grandma spells it one way, I spell it another. The way she spells it makes me think of graham crackers. I immediately picture my grandparents as teddy bear shaped cookies and smile.

I think about school and how it is eating up a considerable portion of my time: 15 hours of classroom time a week, add an additional 45 minutes for commute (180 minutes of commuting a week), add an additional 3-6 hours of homework time per class (12 – 24 hours per week). Now I can include work: 14 – 18 hours per week, plus 90 minutes commute twice a week (180 minutes). Now I add the time I spend volunteering per week, I think about special events that I attend, I think about going for dinner or drinks with friends, I think about date nights with my partner, I think about the amount of down time I require before my eyes start twitching and I start shaking with anxiety. And only then do I think about my family.

My grandpa’s heart is acting up again and I’m in the Central Branch location of the Vancouver Public Library studying for my midterm that I have tomorrow. Actually, I lied, I’m writing this. I was intending on studying, but I had this persistent thought to put this down and articulate how I feel so that I can actually muster up the courage to apologize for being so fucking busy that I can’t seem to manage my time to include more family time; any family time. Ironically, the midterm that I have tomorrow is for sociology of the family, so maybe I am studying by writing about mine.

Yesterday I was talking with a coworker about favourite smells. My all time favourite scent is old spice cologne mixed with Cuban cigars. That is what my grandpa smelled like for the majority of my childhood; this is before my grandma convinced him to stop smoking so that his lungs wouldn’t act up.

Most of my life, I have seen my grandma once a week. During that visit, I find out if my grandpa is doing well, as well as the rest of the extended family. This is because my grandma is the kin organizer. I learnt this term in my intro to anthropology class last summer, and it was reintroduced during my sociology class this semester. My grandma is the link between family members. It is her that reminds people of birthdays coming up (don’t forget to call ______ and wish them a happy birthday!) She is the original google calendar. I used to see my grandma once a week, now, I’m lucky if I see her every 6 weeks. We try to call each other once a week, sometimes it’s every other week. If I call her after an especially long period of time, she answers the phone with: “did you forget about your grandma?” and I jokingly say “did you forget about your granddaughter?” but really I feel shitty for neglecting to call one of the most important people in my life.

The older I get, the more I realize that time slips by at an alarming rate. I am so happy to be challenging myself and gaining knowledge, but I am filled with guilt for not being available. I have approximately 2 and a half years of school left, but how long do I have my grandparents for?

table d’hôte

i have to chew on this fat
for a little while
tallow that was spit at me
the taste lacks nutrients
it takes so long to swallow
you know, I don’t need to consume this
but it’s going to be dished out anyway
wanton lard displayed on a silver platter
it needs to be lapped up quickly
too vulgar to measure
i can’t speak with a full mouth
i can’t tell you that i don’t like it
so, you will never know.

BMI: Body Mass Index vs. Break Molds Immediatly

TRIGGER WARNING: references to body shaming, body size

o·bese

[ōˈbēs]

ADJECTIVE

  1. grossly fat or overweight.

    synonyms: fat · overweight · corpulent · gross · stout · fleshy ·

    heavy · portly · plump · paunchy · potbellied · beer-bellied · broad in the beam ·bulky · bloated · flabby · Falstaffian · porky · roly-poly · blubbery · pudgy · well upholstered

Today I had to witness some pretty outlandish ideas regarding obesity in one of my sociology classes. To summarize the group presentation, the information presented stated that all obese people suffer from low self-esteem, they have no self-worth, and that they all hate their bodies.

I’m moving around in my seat; I’m restless with annoyance. I’m tapping my finger on my coffee tumbler. I’m taking a sip of coffee; I’m swallowing hard. I’m fidgeting. I’m uncomfortable.

When the group was finished presenting and they gave us a few discussion questions, I felt my hand subconsciously rise immediately. I didn’t know what I was going to say, but I knew I had to challenge them.

I ended up asking them what their thoughts are regarding people who are larger than what society deems “normal” and their ability to be proud of their bodies and happy with themselves. I used Tess Holiday as an example and her online movement #EffYourBeautyStandards.

No one in that group could really answer my inquiry because my question turned their entire project on its side.

Is it really impossible to believe someone who is obese can be happy? Is it really possible someone who is overweight can be happy? Is it really possible that someone who is “average” weight can be happy? Is it really possible that someone who is underweight can be happy?

The size of your body does not determine your self-worth.

This is a statement that I use over, and over, and over again. It is a statement that means so much to me because it is an idea that has taken me so very long to wrap my head around.

I think the whole notion of Body Mass Index or BMI is troublesome. I’m currently in the “overweight” range, yet a few months ago, prior to my Whole30 journey, I would have been in the “obese” category.

Right now, I’m overweight, but I feel healthy. I’m overweight, but I’m able to run, walk, jump, and jog, with no problem. Right now, I’m overweight but I enjoy dressing up in fancy clothes. Right now, I’m overweight, but I feel beautiful. I’m overweight, but I’m happy.

I hate that society is so obsessed with categorizing people and objects. Under almost every circumstance/situation, you will find three categories:

  1. Good/beautiful
  2. Okay/average
  3. Bad/ugly

It’s almost as if we are dehumanized, become inanimate objects, and are sorted. We’re like lego pieces. If we are the board, we have the perfect shape, and everyone strives to be like us and fit in with us. If we fit correctly with other lego pieces and on that board, we are okay. If we are the random pieces of lego that don’t fit everywhere [lego heads, food props, wheels, etc.] then we are bad. We don’t serve a real purpose because we cannot connect in the same way as the other lego.

Did I really just use lego as an analogy for society?

The point I’m trying to get across is that we should not be categorizable. We have the capacity to challenge this.

I am somebody’s daughter. I am somebody’s sister. I am somebody’s niece. I am somebody’s cousin. I am somebody’s second-cousin. I am somebody’s granddaughter. I am somebody’s girlfriend. I am somebody’s best friend. I am somebody’s friend. I am a somebody’s employee. I am a teacher’s student. I am a care provider to three cats.

I am a lot of things and none of those things are defined by the size of my body.

FullSizeRender
My BMI is just a number
IMG_7466
My BMI is just a meaningless number

The Good, The Bad, The Hairy

****DISCLAIMER: This post is not a negative critique on people with body hair, nor is it meant to body shame in anyway. It is an honest look at my own experience with body hair during an experiment that resulted in a genuine conclusion that I am okay with.****

On September 16th, I shared an article on Facebook via My Favorite F Word is Feminism about growing out body hair.

That article was my push to be open about something I was struggling with.

My arm hair.

When I shared that article, I confessed that over the past two months I had been growing out my arm hair.

Some women grow out their leg hair. Some grow out the hair in their armpits (and dye it, might I add). Me, I just made the weird decision to grow out the hair on my arms to see how I would feel.

Here is my backstory:

When I was 13, I was standing outside the entrance of Fleetwood Park Secondary School with a group of people. [I’m going to call them people because I don’t really remember their names, their faces, or why I let their opinions get to me].

It was a warm day at the end of September. It was my first year of grade 8. My first year at a new school with none of my friends from elementary school in attendance. I was wearing a t-shirt.

“Your arms are so hairy. You should shave them”.

She said that to me. I remember her name. I will always remember her name. I won’t write her name because if she somehow, for whatever reason, stumbles upon this, I don’t want her to know how much her comment shaped my grooming rituals.

Her 9 words stuck with me for 14 years.

I decided a few months ago to stop shaving my arms. After all, I’m a woman in her mid-twenties. I’m knowledgeable in sociology, anthropology, and women’s studies, so why was I still conforming to gender stereotyping and social norms?

I realized almost immediately that my hair grew quickly, thicker, and darker.

I wanted to see if I would be treated any differently. I wanted to see if anyone would comment on my hairy limbs. I wanted to see if I felt any different with a layer of hair on my body that I had gone so long without having.

No one said a thing. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

My family, my boyfriend, my best friends, good friends, some-times-friends, acquantences, school friends, coworkers, or regular customers at work didn’t notice. People that I know to be honest to me, always, did not utter a word.

I was sort of shocked.

Mostly, I was shocked that I was the only one that ended up criticizing my arms. During my entire experiment, I felt conscious of my body hair at every given moment. If I was wearing a particularly cute top, I instantly felt frumpy because of the state of my arms. I even began to hate my tattoos. I felt the colours did not pop as much because they were blocked by a wall of fur. My beautiful lady head became bearded and my kewpie doll looked as if it was going through puberty. I also noticed some of my imperfections became hidden. Imperfections that I’m particularly fond of: certain scars, freckles, etc.

To put it simply, I did not feel like myself. As soon as my tattoos became hidden, I felt like a completely different person.

Tonight, while I was in the bath, I shaved my arms. It took…a while. Removing two and a half months of hair was surprisingly liberating. During my entire time of no-shaving, I thought that I would feel empowered by embracing my body hair.

I didn’t.

I was not ridiculed by anyone other than myself. As much as I want to be a strong feminist that is able to feel free from the razor, I’m not.

And that’s okay.

I told myself I wouldn’t shave my arms unless I had a legitimate reason. As soon as I felt displeasure towards my body art, I knew I couldn’t live a hairy life.

To all of you that embrace your body hair, I feel so much contentment towards you. You are amazing.

I’m glad I tried this experiment because I learned a lot about how I feel about my body and how important the visibility of my tattoos are to me.

Before:

hair

After:

hairless

After (please excuse my eczema)

no hair