Sunday, February 28, 2010

29 + 1

1 - conquer my anxiety, or at least win a few battles against it.  this month has been more of a struggle than others and i think it comes down to being rather busy and spread thinly at times.  and things not working they way they should.  my phone relocking itself and having to buy a new one, not knowing how to hook up my wireless printer, sitting on hold with call centres.  and deciding where to watch the men's gold medal hockey game!  they all cause me to get anxious, frustrated, angry.  and although i am better at recognising those feelings, i am not always great at knowing how to lessen the negative ones.

2 - be more thoughtful of others, especially around special events, days, occassions.  i think i am doing ok with this.  apart from forgetting to bring my valentines to the cabin and misplacing my sister and brother-in-law's anniversary card...  otherwise, going good, cards have been mailed, notes have been sent, calls put in.  but i really need to catch up with a few people who have recently had some milestones and i need details!

3 - continue making visiting family and friends a priority.  although i have made no concrete moves towards this, it is still a priority.  i intend on going to visit my dad on may long weekend and just need to go and book some flights.  it wasn't exactly like i had to travel to do it, but my fam and i spent the february long weekend out at the cabin.  and we laughed, oh did we laugh!  nothing like hearing your parent say 'shut the eff up' too many times to count.  and doing puzzles!  cursing and puzzles just sort of go together.  it probably doesn't sound like it here, but it was hilarious.

4 - nail down some sort of short-term career goals.  i feel this is going well.  i have done a lot of thinking, some reading, and had some insightful conversations towards nailing down goals.  i think i have my next few months nailed down and i feel good about that. 

for the first few months of this year, things felt up in the air and that something could come at any minute (an offer of a job in haiti, job interviews in jordan, work with international organisations...), which is exciting and great, but i feel a little calmer now and am plugging away at making significant progress professionally.  towards what?  well, that is still being determined!

5 - lay a nest egg to accompany my nest.  after putting those receipts into an accordian folder, i met with my accountant (at 7:30pm on a saturday, as you do) and got the first part of paying my taxes sorted.  doesn't sound like much, but it is a significant first step for me.

6 - eat more balanced, regular meals.  in the last week, i made dinner twice!  i also ordered pizza twice in the last month (and i cannot tell you the last time i have ordered pizza before these two times), so that is not ideal because a) pizza is expensive! and b) it is not very good.  oh and another, c) it makes your house smell.

living alone, i find that if i go grocery shopping and prepare meals, it get rather expensive.  i can get a sandwich at the little cafe near my office for $4 and it is delicious and full of fresh vegetables and nice bread.  if i were to buy a loaf of bread, it will become stale (not mouldy as it seems bread doesn't mould in this country...) before i could finish it and if i bought all the vegetables they include in my sandwich, it would be expensive and i'd never be able to use a WHOLE avocado without it going brown first.

the moral of my story is that i am doing better with this.  i still don't eat breakfast very often, but i am making better choices.

7 - sleep an appropriate amount.  this past week was a struggle in the sleeping department due to my habit of late-night olympics on tv and early morning meetings, but i am sleeping better than i was before christmas, when i could've slept for 12 hours and still woken up tired.  i think that kicking my running campaign up a few notches is helping me sleep better too.

i still manage to turn off my alarm in my sleep though...

8 - maintain my priorities.  this is a tough one right now.  probably the goal that i am letting slip the most out of the 9.  i have a lot of priorities this month and will for march as well.  but which come first? 

i feel overwhelmed at times, but i am trying to balance volunteer commitments, planning an event for 300-400 people to raise awareness of human trafficking, my day job that is ramping up at the moment (and i don't always enjoy the work that i have to do), requests for information or meetings with me, and trying to balanace social engagements.

i know i need to get better at is saying no, especially when people want to get together with me to pick my brain about something.  at the risk of sounding slightly arrogant, i don't have time for people who don't offer me something.  or better put, i don't have time to get together to answer people's questions when it is taking away from my other commitments.  part of the problem with having a public email address is that i get a lot of general inquiries and yet i realise how important it is for people to engage in issues they are concerned about or interested in (just don't challenge me on my views in the middle of an event planning meeting).

it is also tough to put in the unpaid, administrative work that i know will pay off in many ways in the long run, but zaps my time and energy.
one thing that i am managing well is my running schedule and i have made a point of fitting in all of my runs, which has typically been one of the first things to fall off when i become overwhelmed.

9 - keep asking for what i want (executive decision has been made to replace keep laughing).  i figure that i will be able to keep laughing without much effort (for those of you who know me in 'real life' will know this is true).

i have done a damn good job of asking for what i want lately.  ballet tickets, a job, support to attend training, more manpower to complete a project, answers to questions at conferences.  and that is just in the first month of 29!  but i know that when push comes to shove and i really do want something, it can be tough to form the words or type out the words, so i hope i can still ask when it really matters.

ps - go canada go!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

all in a day's work

my day started out well, after picking up my newest addiction, a freshly brewed black coffee from my neighbourhood phil & sebastian coffee shop, i shocked a grizzled old police officer with my stories of drinking water in an idp camp in kenya, when i was convinced i was going to contract cholera.  at the same morning meeting, i was surprised to find out that the body shop in alberta has agreed to collect money for our organisation, which is fantastic, but even better, they brought me free stuff!  free stuff that is not even in the shops yet!  they clearly know the way to my heart.

my day proceeded at a nice clip, a productive afternoon at my day job and a hour long pep talk from my boss about doing a phd, finding ways to maintain my lifestyle (read: keep working where i am working part time to keep the money coming in), and how to make my own wikipedia page (she wants to get someone from her family on the case, which cracks me up).

after work, i got my hairs cut and coloured and now i look like a supermodel!  or at least my hair does.  according to my hair stylist.  i quite like it too.

and then i bought a red leather chair.  it might be a fake red leather chair.  but it is a great red chair that looks like leather and that is good enough for me!

i then attended a catholic women's group's meeting where i had to provide them with some information about trafficking and accept a donation to our organisation.  i sat and chatted with a nun who told me, in all her canadian wisdom, that 'people in fishing villages are like white indians.'  lord help her.  literally.

and the icing on the cake was when i found out that a guy i dated almost a year ago has moved a little closer to me.  as in, he now lives in my building!  we now share a parkade.  and i can never leave my nest to throw out my trash or drop off my recycling without worrying that i will run into him!  honestly, i have never heard of these things happening to other people.  sheesh.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

sunday evening reads

i'm reposting links that i got from good intentions are not enough because i think they are pretty interesting reads.

i like what foreign policy has to say about sending your old shoes to haiti in their article How Not to Help Haiti.  in a word, it's useless.

the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG) has a blog post of 10 things learned from one their staff's experience of the earthquake in haiti.  take that, cnn and my new least favourite reporter anderson cooper...

maybe i should lighten up my sunday reads.  it might help improve my mood...  blah.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

my secret love for stats revealed

here i go again.  insisting that you read a book that i loved.  and this time, it is called Wisdom of Whores.  don't let the title put you off, nor the fact that Elizabeth Pisani is an epidemiologist who wrote a book about statistics and preventing the spread of disease.  it really is fascinating and part of that is due to Pisani's ability to call it like it is, humbly take credit for good work, but also to admit when she (and the development world, in many cases) was wrong.

the book talks about how our hiv prevention strategies as donor governments, un agencies, and ngos has typically been ass backwards.  instead of putting money toward the greatest transmitters of the disease, commercial sex workers and injecting drug users (especially those in prison), the enormous amounts of money that have been donated/lent by the american government, the canadian government, unaids, and the bill and melinda gates foundation, among so many others, has largely gone to useless programmes targetting women, children, and the general public, who are not the hotspots of transmission.

hiv is not really that infectious, if you look at the science.  we know how it is most easily transmitted (and it is not heterosexual sex) and who is transmitting it (with minor variations between countries and cultures), but we continue to spend money on saving the poor women and children.  oh, the women and children.  the poor, poor women and children.  who don't spread hiv nearly as often as others...

another fun fact that book came out with is that timor leste (where a good friend of mine lives and works, no doubt spending money given by the americans) had a grand total of 7 people who tested positive for hiv at the time of their independence (they were the first new state to be formed in this century), but the americans threw money at the country to deal with their 'hiv problem.'  7 people does not a problem make.  but oh my god, the poor women and children, what will they do if we do not address the impending epidemic hanging above their heads!

we have been force fed the idea that poverty will equal hiv transmission rates going through the roof and Pisani shatters that nonsense as well, demonstrating that being poor does not necessarily make you any more likely of contracting the virus, but it is how we fail to address the most common ways it is passed from one person to another (man to man, man to woman, woman to child, woman to woman...) in our programming that is failing millions of people.

for example (and there are many), the us will not allow any of its money to be spent on needle exchanges for drug users, the us claims to be a saviour of those living with aids by providing drugs (shipped from the states when other generics are avilable and do not need to refrigerated) but won't fund any programmes that keep sex workers safe rather than forcing them to leave the trade.

we continue to try and fit people into boxes of 'female sex worker,' 'positive man married to uninfected woman,' and 'sex buyer,' to name a few.  but in reality, people do not fit into these, or other, boxes very nicely and Pisani makes a great case for the changing of research and reporting to better reflect this, which could result in better prevention programmes that might actually work.

there are many problems as to why hiv has taken off in some regions of the world.  african governments refuse to acknowledge that there are men who have sex with men in their countries (ahem... kenya, nigeria, uganda) and their politicans speak out against proven science that hiv leads to aids and that you can cure aids with thorough washing and herbal supplements (yes, south africa and the gambia, i am looking at you...).  so while we are pouring money down the drain, and there is certainly a lot of money in the aids business thanks to bono, pepfar, and do gooders like myself, in providing education and voluntary testing to wives, mothers, and children, we have lost the plot on what really needs to be done.

and did you know that canada is among the worst offenders for tying our aid? it means that when we give money to other countries or organisations, we have an expectation that a certain percentage of it is spent on canadian goods, canadian services, and canadians themselves in the form of hiring our nationals.  i knew we were no aid angels, but i was surprised to see that we were behind only the us, the international pariah of untying aid activists.

i take no credit for these ideas.  i have thought them in varying shades of clarity and articulation, but Pisani really deserves credit for writing a book about statistics and science that is fascinating, infuriating, and inspiring in equal measure.  go out and read it (and her blog, now listed here), you will certainly be smarter for it.  or you can go out and buy a red ipod or a cup of starbucks red coffee...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

what do i want to be when i grow up?

my dream job would be an expert (whatever that means) in foreign aid/development working within an academic institution so that i could a) teach, b) do qualitative research, c) write papers, and d) do speaking events where i could talk about how aid has not yet worked and work with other experts to brainstorm ways to make the field of development more effective.

in keeping with this dream job, i have added two blogs to my blogroll over there on the right, Good Intentions Are Not Enough (and they're not) and Aid Watch (whose website says, 'just asking that aid benefit the poor' and is partly written by William Easterly, who should really consider supervising my future phd.  i mean, if he knows what is best for him!).

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

totally ill informed

before i even begin, let me fully disclose that the opinion herein are largely ill informed and just my reactions after seeing that the duggar family had their 19th baby prematurely at  less than 2 pounds.

i am not sure why i just learned about this news (is it news??), but i figure driving around england and ireland is excuse enough.

i have spent the last few minutes going through their tlc website (because i have said it here before i compare their reality show to a car accident and i can't seem to turn away once i stop...) and it amazes me that this little 'bundle of joy' is being celebrated without acknowledgement that the older a mother is and the more pregnancies she has had, the risks of complications there are.  and i would say that a premature baby is a pretty damn large complication.

and this is also the problem with reality television.  it is all fine and dandy when everything is going the way that you want it and your life is 'picture perfect,' but as soon as problems arise and a wrench is thrown in the plans of life (which, come on, that almost never happens!), i am sure having a reality show is no longer the dream that it once was.  as well, the network has to spin everything that is presented on the show as some sort of miracle or gift or bundle of joy, when the reality is that although that child is certainly wanted, her early birth has brought a host of difficulties and challenges into the lives of a family of 18 other people.  and this is not a statement that premature babies are not 'worth the trouble' or anything like that, but that all families who have had to go through what the duggars are likely going through now will likely be misrepresented by the newly 'elected' poster family for premies.

like i said, these opinions might not be informed and i am not quite sure why i even care about a family that could be as fictional as any other that i watch or read about as far as i am concerned.  but it really is a car crash.  and everyone has an opinion on who was at fault in a car crash.

Monday, February 08, 2010

here i am

but what am i doing?  where am i going?  what do i want?

i wish i knew!

i am feeling restless and like i am not sure what direction i want to head in or what direction i should be headed in.  i am holding out hope that the universe is going to show me the way on this one.  i am not one to have faith that things just work out without doing the hard work and putting yourself out there, but i have done some of the work and have asked for what i want and i am going to try and have faith that the universe will point me in the right direction.  or that it will point the right opportunity in my direction.

part of my current stuggle is that i am a little bored with the state of my life.  it is good, don't get me wrong, but i feel as though i might be loosing my edge, loosing what makes me interesting and unique.  and i am not quite sure what to do about getting that back apart from trying to find a job outside of the country.  but then in reality, would i be ready to make that sort of change?  i wish i knew.


nine for twenty nine

having goals for my 28th year kept me on track, helped me maintain my focus, and was a nice way to monitor how my year was shaping up.  it makes perfect sense to do it again... here we go with nine for twenty nine.

1 - conquer my anxiety, or at least win a few battles against it.  this is a clear continuation from 28 and i think will likely be a regular dialogue circulating through my head.  but i would like to leave 29 a little less anxious than i found it.

2 - be more thoughtful of others, especially around special events, days, occassions.  i like to be thoughtful, but i think this past year has found me rather wrapped up in my own stuff.  now i am ready to shift my focus back out to my network when i should be thinking of others.  i like to think of others so this isn't really a challenge, just that i need to remember.  bring on the daytimer!

3 - continue making visiting family and friends a priority.  recently, i had a little birthday and was amazed at the number of places from which i had wishes from - canada, the us, the uk, greece, kenya, laos, bermuda, australia, sudan, south africa, new zealand, india, denmark, vietnam, mexico, italy, indonesia, sweden, rwanda, afghanistan, east timor, uganda, and spain.  i managed to get out and about last year and this year i hope to keep it up.

4 - nail down some sort of short-term career goals.  after a few weeks in europe, visiting with old friends, having conversations about development and academics and other mind expanding topics, coming back to work here in calgary has been a little errrr.... boring.  i like my job enough, but i think it is time that i start to look forward and set some goals.  i am not sure what those goals will be, but i do need to give it a think and come up with a direction.  i work best when headed in a direction.

5 - lay a nest egg to accompany my nest.  seeing as i effed the dog on this goal last year (but i DID get those receipts into a accordian folder, yippee!), i am going to keep it up.  i will need to learn a lot on this one, but hopefully this year i will be able to free up some of my time and monies to get it done.

6 - eat more balanced, regular meals.  i often forget to eat.  sometimes i eat a croissant for dinner.  most days, i have a latte for breakfast.  i typically eat when i am hungry, don't have any issues with the amount that i eat, and i used to be very responsible and cook healthy meals regularly.  but not lately and i am not sure why exactly.  i know i could do better and i will have to work this into my schedule.

7 - sleep an appropriate amount.  not necessarily more, but appropriate.  sometimes i can sleep and sleep and sleep and this past year, i made sure that i got enough sleep because after years of deprivation, i was amazed to see how much better i felt once i had enough sleep.  but now, i need to suck it up and find a way to get by for a day on only 6 hours of sleep because otherwise, i end up heading into work late and considering i want to have a little nest egg by the end of 29, i need to make sure i am billing as many hours as i can.  but napping, oh i could never give up napping.

8 - maintain my priorities.  this became a challenge immediately before christmas when i felt that i was being pulled in a number of different directions.  oil and gas work.  counter trafficking work.  commitments with friends.  dates and more dates.  i am going to do my best to keep my priorities in check throughout the year and make sure that as they change, my schedule changes with them.  i have started running regularly again, i have a new volunteer commitment, my trafficking work is only getting busier, and all of this stuff is good and makes me who i am so it makes sense that these would be my current priorities.  but sometimes, other commitments and aspects of life seem to take over, so i will do my best to remember what my priorities are and allow them to change and shift throughout the year.  being mindful, really.

9 - keep laughing.  when i get to spend time with my family, the next day my stomach invariably hurts from laughing so hard.  i think this is fantastic and my goal for 29 is to keep this up and to find more opportunities to laugh that hard.  (this goal was a toss up between 'keep laughing' and 'keep asking for what i want.'  i am going to see what happens with this as the year progresses, but it might shift to the other if need be.)

wish me luck!  1 week in and i gotta say that i was slightly drowning under various priorities, but after hosting a birthday/fundraising party (spread the net, people!), i am ready to start this year off right.  bring it on, 29!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

he tells it like it is

i've added a new item to my list of blogs that i like to read and it was this entry that made my nod my head at my desk and think, yes, yes, and yes.  check out seth godin's blog for a sober does of reality and a little chuckle too.

Modern procrastination

The lizard brain adores a deadline that slips, an item that doesn't ship and most of all, busywork.

These represent safety, because if you don't challenge the status quo, you can't be made fun of, can't fail, can't be laughed at. And so the resistance looks for ways to appear busy while not actually doing anything.

I'd like to posit that for idea workers, misusing Twitter, Facebook and various forms of digital networking are the ultimate expression of procrastination. You can be busy, very busy, forever. The more you do, the longer the queue gets. The bigger your circle, the more connections are available.

Laziness in a white collar job has nothing to do with avoiding hard physical labor. “Who wants to help me move this box!” Instead, it has to do with avoiding difficult (and apparently risky) intellectual labor.

"Honey, how was your day?"

"Oh, I was busy, incredibly busy."

"I get that you were busy. But did you do anything important?"

Busy does not equal important. Measured doesn't mean mattered.

When the resistance pushes you to do the quick reaction, the instant message, the 'ping-are-you-still-there', perhaps it pays to push in precisely the opposite direction. Perhaps it's time for the blank sheet of paper, the cancellation of a long-time money loser, the difficult conversation, the creative breakthrough...

Or you could check your email.