Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 3, 2019 by onepercentyellow

February 1st, 2019 – The first day of buy-nothing February

I’m pretty sure I thought of everything!  I even paid for my advanced enneagram training early and bought a ticket to the Robson Valley Music Festival in time to take advantage of the early-bird pricing.  I got washer fluid and cat litter.  I didn’t buy much food, just onions and garlic and cream for at least 2 weeks of delicious coffee. I put my credit card and debit card in my desk. I won’t leave the house with them until March. I think I’ve got this.

Until I get home, and my smoke detector is chirping.  The battery is dying.

I comb the house for another nine volt battery that will keep myself and my roommates safe for the month.  All the batteries in the junk drawer are dead. I put them in recycling.  Shawn checks his guitar pedals to see if he can sacrifice one for the cause. The posts fall off as he removes it from the delay pedal.  *chirp*chirp*chirp*. You’re not safe.

The thought crosses my mind: “how important is a smoke detector anyway?”

One roommate has children, and I’m sure the rest of my roommates quite enjoy living. I don’t think we’ll have a fire this month, but what if? Am I willing to put my project in front of the safety of the people who live in my house?

I begin to consider all the others in the world who live in unsafe conditions that are beyond their ability to control.  What would it be like to need protection and not have the ability to provide that for yourself or your family?  Suddenly I’m grateful that my windows don’t need bars, that I don’t need an alarm system in my house, that a question of safety did not come up a single time as I prepared for this month’s economic fast.

Adam comes home and says he’s got a battery we can use.  We’ll be safe for the month and I can keep my pennies in my purse due to the support network I have around me.

Buy Nothing February

Posted in life, Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 3, 2019 by onepercentyellow

Maybe it’s the recent wave of Marie Kondo-inspired minimalism, maybe it’s the  tedious work of picking through other people’s things in a house purchased “as is”, or maybe it’s the burgeoning mountain of food rejected from past roommates that has inspired me to declare February a buy-nothing month. Never one to let life slip idly by without initiating practices intended to wake me from my patterns, buy-nothing seemed like an opportunity to take stock of the abundance I live within, and largely ignore.

Let me set the stage.  I know my future self will enjoy the details of my life as I see it at this point.  You, dear reader, are along for the ride, as always.  I hope to provide a few lovely views as we take this little trip.

Life, it seems, has become bent on restricting my choices.  As a (former?) gypsy scholar, I am not exactly accustomed to being nailed to anything, nor to being excluded from wandering into nearly any land I please. Yet, I have recently lost my title of scholar as I have transitioned away from teaching post-secondary.  Budget cuts and a new focus for the university has left my English for Academic Purposes course outside the mandate of the university.  And I am no longer free to gypsy as I once have as I have taken a full time position at the Women’s Shelter and *gasp* purchased a house. It’s great work, but as a new employee I am relegated to the land of Ice and Snow until my 6-month vacation time kicks in.  No Mexico for me this year. Thankfully I have all kinds of work and materials around the house that were left from an incomplete renovation from 8 years ago.

I continue to practice the Gurdjieff (enneagram) sacred movements with a group of spectacular individuals who are many years my senior.  I learn so much from them about how to accept life with grace.  These souls don’t simply work within the limits of life, they use those limits as a way to come to know themselves on a deeper level. Every restriction is a way to get to know essence on a deeper level. Some are encountering physical limitations that creep with years, others face the metamorphosis of the self as the close circle of human companions slowly pass to the other world, still others attend to the ego fractured by shifting roles of parent, worker, or elder.  In each new unfolding I am a witness to the practice of letting go.

As I read Margaret Dilloway’s article unpacking the spiritual and philosophical underpinnings of Marie Kondo, I began to see that by letting go of that which does not serve us, it allows space to hold, with honour, that which does.  The practice of minimalism is not simply tossing out the clutter of our lives, but greeting with gratitude those things (entities?), thoughts, patterns, people, purposes that have spent some time with us.  In the great swirling mass of atoms and energy, these entities have arrived in this specific form at this specific time to be in relationship for a purpose and a time. Sometimes those entities leave of their own accord when we no longer have a relationship, but sometimes I must take the initiative. If an entity no longer incites in me a form of joy, it is my responsibility to let go and allow a path to unfold where it can be in joyful relation with another.

So how is all of this connected to buying nothing?

In some ways, I’m still figuring that out, but I am called to the practice.  I want to place myself in the container of restriction in order to encounter my reactions to craving something beyond my reach. I want to intercept the pattern of consumption in order to notice the abundance that is already present.  I want to appreciate the social network of care and curiosity that arises around a new practice. I want to wake to the relationship I have with money, food, things, thoughts, patterns, people, and purposes.

For the record, I’m anxious. I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it or that I have overlooked something in my preparation.  I’m afraid of wanting something that I can’t have.  It’s a strange fear that arises somewhere in my body, behind the solar plexus and in an area around the heart.

Well… I suppose, I should get on with this post so I can get to further reflections as I move through the month.



Kieran Bonner’s Talk

Posted in Uncategorized on October 4, 2016 by onepercentyellow

Today Dr. Kieran Bonner returned to our campus to give a talk on First Questions (Why are we here? What is life for? How should we behave? What does it mean to be human?).  It’s not surprising to have a conversation about this topic on this campus as it is one of the central concerns of a Liberal Arts education.  Dr. Bonner spoke of his history at Augustana and how his time here helped shape his own fascination and engagement with First Questions.

Not all universities, it seems, ask these questions.

Dr. Bonner painted the bleak picture of the University in contemporary society.  Billions of dollars in grant funding were awarded last year solely to projects in science, medicine and engineering.  Universities are questioning the value of the humanities, and some are determining that it is no longer necessary for students to have any knowledge of some of the key historical, artistic and philosophical moments in human history.  These universities argue that it is only the skills offered by engagement with the humanities that need to be retained: writing, reading, presenting and researching skills.

Even in his own school, University of Waterloo, there is a move toward a 2-course package that provides students with all they need to know of humanities.  They get the “hard” skills mentioned above alongside a survey of the history of Western thought.  Of course, a wave of shock and disgust rippled through the room!  How could it even be possible that administrators would consider this sufficient engagement with the Humanities?

The problem is, the humanities do not do a very good job of defending themselves outside of the skills argument.  As a society we do not hold a sense of wonder and exploration of the life of the mind as a high ideal. The young adults entering our university are certainly susceptible to this thinking and are more concerned with the type of job they will get at the end of their degree than they are with the type of education or understanding of life they will attain.  There are those in administrative positions who agree and are making changes to the university as we once knew it.

Dr. Bonner spoke of the gift that students are given when they enter university: a 4-year exploration of thought, theory, beauty, wisdom, and joy.  While it may seem that joy is very far away when we are awake late at night in order to finish a paper, the exquisite moment when insight is born is an experience that transforms lives. Many are too consumed with the very real anxiety of mounting student debt to enjoy the special physical and mental space offered by intellectual pursuits.

It is this discussion of anxiety that I find most fascinating as we look to the Millenials.  Uncertainty is constantly around and every generation believes that the present problems are surely the most complex. I have learned, through both my academic training and my older friends who were present in the room today, that the treasure of sharing knowledge and story is knowing that you are not alone in attempting to solve the Wicked Problems of life.  Somehow knowing that I’m not alone, and that better minds have failed, is comforting.  It allows me to relax into life, and see possibilities that may not have become visible if I were stressing about the Right job, the Right community, the Right…. well… everything.

There were may other points in Dr. Bonner’s talk that I could discuss, but I’ll leave with a thought Dr. Milbrandt put forth: nothing worth learning can be taught (he said it was Oscar Wilde).  While this may be true, nothing at all can be learned outside of relationship, so it is imperative that we strive, through teaching and learning, to prepare the mind for insight by preparing fertile ground for growth.

What do you think?  As I said, I’ve been asking these questions for a long time..


Posted in Uncategorized on October 2, 2016 by onepercentyellow

This world is like a snowy mountain that echoes your voice. Whatever you speak good or evil, will somehow come back to you. Therefore, f there is someone who harbours I’ll thoughts about you, saying similarly bad things about I’m will only make matters worse. You will be locked in a vicious circle of maleolent energy. Instead for forty days and nights say and think nice things about that person. E everything will be different at the end of forty days, because you will be different inside. P 211 (this is from 40 Rules of Love by Elif…. Can’t remember her last name just this moment, but I’ll put it in)

The heart and mind build well worn tracks in our being.  Our psyche is like a tired animal following the path of least resistance.  For so long I was so angry.  I was hurt and railed at the injustice of inequality.  I expended more energy racing between anguish and indignation I hardly had a chance to see the world around me.  Changing slowly, inviting me to know more – to be more.

For 40 days and nights, I turned toward kindness, forgiveness, and compassion.  I tried to intervene when I remembered the pain or the unfairness by speaking into the world some goodness. As if by incantation, life began to soften around me.  I didn’t have to be so angry at you anymore, and I could begin to forgive myself.



Once upon an English adventure

Posted in EAP Augustana with tags , , , , on September 13, 2016 by onepercentyellow

It’s hard to believe that it was nearly 15 years ago that I first decided to move abroad to teach English as a second language.  Now, as I sit here in my English for Academic Purposes class at the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta, I think back to those first classes and how much I have improved as an English teacher.

“Free talking!” Mr. Jung would say when I asked him what I was expected to teach my Korean students.

“What’s free talking?” I asked.

“You know. Free talking!” He said with even more excitement.

I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing, so I decided I would ask the other teachers about these “free talking” classes.  I would learn that the school generally had very little in the way of curriculum and I would be expected to design the course any way I saw fit.  I would try out many terrible lessons, including Tongue Twister Tuesdays where we would recite a grouping of tongue twisters for 50 minutes every Tuesday, musical Fridays where my students were expected to sing along with me as I struggled with learning guitar, and games day where we would play Monopoly or Scrabble for the allotted time.  I would have a one-on-one class for 3 hours a day for 3 weeks in order to prepare a vice-president in LG for his upcoming move to Toronto.  We both fell asleep in class one day!

All this trial and error has refined my teaching style and ability.  I now spend time crafting assignments aimed at fulfilling specific learning objectives and I try to integrate multiple ways that students can engage with the English language.  I hope that my students in EAP 140 can read this post and consider themselves lucky that they are taking class from me now, and can be thankful for all those students who suffered for so long in my classes!



Book review of the Giver

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2016 by onepercentyellow

Vanessa gave us this prompt today – March 24th

The Giver was a facinating look at a dystopian society, and I have breifly discussed it with a few friends since reading it.  One of my friends thought that the holding of memory and emotion was very similar to our own society.  I was taken aback at first, but now that I consider it, the truth begins to reveal itself.

Within our society we have individuals who hold the weight of remembering.  They don’t necessarily remember those erased details of history that the Receiever of Memory does in the novel, but they hold the deeper wisdom of human kind.  These are the gurus, the spiritual leaders, and the scholars in our society.  They are the Dali Lamas and the Noam Chomskeys of the world.  They seem to look down on society from some kind of meta-level and are able to act almost as prophets for the rest of us. We also have those in our society who hold and process (or at least help the rest of us process) emotion.  In practical terms, we have psychologists and counsellors, spiritual leaders and “those friends” who have a particular gift to calm a worried heart and sooth a weary soul.

Of course these are positive, healthy modes of processing emotion and holding memory.  We also have the more insidious methods that the Elders of The Giver would appreciate.  We have retail therapy, over-prescribed drugs, and illegal vices where we can dump, delete, or delay our emotional reality.  We have media and political mechanisms that erase or alter our collective memory.  We have manipulative leaders that employ memory and information to perpetuate their own power, and we use the concept of Sameness to create divisions across borders.

The Giver, says author Lois Lowry in an interview, has been on the list of the most contested books since its release in 1997.  In our class we asked why this book would be so dangerous.  Of course the consideration of Cold War America came up, but I think the disquiet of the book touches something deeper.  There is a fakeness to this utopia that mirrors our own in the West.  It permeates our collective psyche and we can rarely break through it except by experiencing Elsewhere.  My own travels to foreign lands have led me to question if this society is the best way to build.  While others return from trips saying “Oh I appreciate Canada so much when I go to other countries,” I come back from a trip thinking “thank god it doesn’t always have to be this way.”

The Time Warp

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2016 by onepercentyellow

A creative writing exercise from my EAP 145 class – March 8th

Prompt: Making up a rule from the “older” generation

Young people these days!  None of them know how to communicate with each other when they’re in the same room.  They never look you in the eye and they can’t concentrate for longer than a television commercial.  What a crew!  We must ban the use of smart phones and texting.  People should only be allowed to make calls but not be on the internet 24-7.  Have you been on a bus recently?  Or merely walked into a classroom?  No one talks anymore.  There’s no challenge of seeing another human being – a stranger – and talking to them.


The world of silence where people’s vocal chords have deteriorated from misuse.  Finally the vocal spoken language dies and we only have text.  Then the internet dies and we have to rediscover speech.  gestures and movement again become a primary form of communication but we haven’t LOOKED at each other to communicate for so long that we are nearly unable to understand.  There is a lot of fighting and misunderstanding before we before we begin to interact peacefully once again.

————————————WARP BACK——————————-

And if these kids continue to be hunched over their phones they will lose the ability to stand straight for themselves.  Wobbly-spined question marks is no way to live a life.  What a weird world.