Just a few happy-making things today! Most pleasingly, things are progressing well, I think, with my dissertation proposal — woohoo! I've sent in the rough drafts of the Introduction, Methodology, and Literature Review, and received commentary back. In all the cases there's a lot of polishing to do, of course, and a few bits where I was told this was a very interesting point and I should develop it further — which is very encouraging to read! But I didn't receive any requests for major re-writes or do-overs, which is a great relief. I'm guesstimating this should be all completed on my part in about a month, tops, which will include sending in the proposal, the dissertation committee paperwork, and the ethics committee paperwork. Whew! I think I'm gonna make it! ;)

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Speaking of hard work, I was seated in a local Kirk's for lunch the other day, enjoying my burger — delicious, as always — and just relaxing my brain a bit from writing. I was rather desultorily doing some reading on my cell, so it took me a bit to register the two guys in the booth before me. They appeared to be two blue-collar guys on lunch break, one in his 30s and the other in his 40s, and they were slowly talking their way through a difficult problem together. I couldn't tell exactly who was talking, since I didn't want to stare and be rude, but I could hear bits and pieces of the conversation.

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There is a French term I love: esprit de l'escalier. It translates literally as "wit of the stairs," and means roughly "the concise and clever retort that occurs to you too late, as you are on the stairs and leaving the scene." I was sad to hear it is rarely used any more in French, as I think it's a perfect turn of phrase for what often happens to me when I'm having difficulty focusing, or am participating in a particularly contentious discussion where everyone is both struggling hard to remain civil, but also exploring issues which are often hard to conceptualize or verbalize.

I've noticed I often come up with the perfect answer for a question only some time after I've had time to muse quietly and in peace. So that's what this blog is: an answer — maybe two — to questions which were important to me, but difficult to answer well at that particular, often heated moment. I suspect questions like these will come up more than once in my life, and I want to remember the good answers I was able to come up with. If this helps anyone else with similar issues, all the better.

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Consumerism often confuses me.

Statistically speaking, I am apparently taller than average for US women and (depending on what charts you use) either average or above average height for US men. I also mass more than the average woman, though I've not checked my weight in comparison to US men — that has the potential to be way too annoying! This means buying clothes is occasionally quite irritating, as "one size fits most" for women is invariably defined as about 2" to 3" and anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds less than I.

Further, as a student, I dislike spending money I don't have (to), so I believe the statement "Must-have seasonal fashion!" is an oxymoron designed to separate gullible suckers from their money. I am not a clotheshorse by any stretch of the imagination, so I really don't understand why some women get frenetic over purses and/or shoes. I tend to live in sturdy, simple, colorful shirts and blue jeans that are comfortable, which means they last a long time.

That being said, on rare occasion a colorful, pretty shirt — or something — will catch my eye as we walk through a store on the way to the mall. This happened to me the other day in JCPenneys, and my sweetie was so delighted to see me (vaguely) interested in shopping — something he enjoys far more than I — that we stopped and browsed around through the clothing to see what we might find.

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Our old apple tree has a few blossoms on it! They look like lovely pinkish froth, almost, despite there being only a handful of them. I hope next year the tree has more blossoms — I remember the apple trees we had in Texas nearly exploded with blossoms each year. To my knowledge we've also got two hummingbird nests on the property, which I love. There's one in the front and one in the back, and the backyard one is right outside the window where I sit to work. I was so pleased to see the backyard hummingbird feeding babies in the nest yesterday — incredibly cool! I've purchased a new hummingbird feeder and a metal stand to make sure it stays up high; that's getting installed this weekend. I'd like to plant a bunch of flowers that attract hummers, butterflies, and bees, but that's going to have to wait probably until next year — when I have more time and money to devote to planning and performing that.

On the other hand, in order to finish the bat houses all I have to do is find all the pieces, finish putting them together, and mount them. I think we're going to have to put them back-to-back on a pole, though. While the south side of a house is considered the best location, our south side is all first floor… and they need to be at least 15' up in the air. Maybe the west side of the house would work too? There's a nice, big wall on that side that gets all the setting sun, after all… and that's when the bats should be waking up, if my understanding is correct.

Electrical madness! ;)

Electrical madness! ;)

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I am very sad to report that the Women's Spirituality program at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology is being closed down. Apparently shortly after I graduated, the much-beloved president died, though this was not a surprise. A new president was selected, apparently without enough searching into his background… because — and here I condense and simplify considerably — he proceeded to spend the school's comfortable chunk of extra budget in expensive junkets to supposedly bring in more students, changed the school's very clear and descriptive name and logo to things which were (respectively) less clear and very ugly, convinced over three quarters of the Board of Directors to quit, declared a financial emergency, fired almost half the faculty and staff when they objected and asked where the hell the money had gone, and then sold the school to a Chinese conglomerate which was interested in creating an engineering school which also taught some Eastern philosophy.

Needless to say, the school that emerged from this is very different from the ITP where I studied. As a single example, they're not interested at all in Women's Spirituality, and so are not supporting it whatsoever. Further, the three women who started this marvelous program have been running it for about 15 years now. Two of them are either retired or retiring, and the third is getting closer to that point. Moving the program to another school would not be easy — tragically, there are very few schools which would be interested in such a program. One of the few that would be already has a Women's Spirituality PhD program — it's CIIS, where I'm going to school now — but even they have effectively changed the MA program into something else. It used to be Women's Spirituality; now it's something like Women, Gender, Activism, & Spirituality… or something similar; I don't recall precisely. Basically, in an effort by the school to be inclusive of other genders, one of the last places where women can learn about themselves and their history has been lost. The only other program I know of that skates anywhere close to the subject is in Germany: Dr. Heide Goettner-Abendroth's International Academy for Modern Matriarchal Studies and Matriarchal Spirituality (HAGIA).

I find the closing of the ITP Women's Spirituality MA program to be a tremendous loss which makes me very sad. The program was quite literally life-changing for me — and I do not use that phrase lightly. Further, for seeking women there is now no other truly comparable program anywhere in the entire world. As friends have told me in an effort to be encouraging, the individual classes and teachers are still scattered around the Bay Area, so someone could still theoretically get all the teaching. However, there are two issues with this: first, the purported student would not end up with the MA — which can make a difference in one's CV. Second, part of the reason the program was so dramatic for me was because it included required classes which (were I picking and choosing classes from professors and teachers all around the Bay) I would have skipped as not really important or relevant — and yet they were — incredibly important and an extremely relevant part of the process of life change and growth which the program encouraged.

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Miscellaneous nice things

25 Mar 2015 In: Random

It is astonishingly easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that constantly needs doing in a new house! That list is never-ending, dammit. So I'm working just as hard to make sure I take time out for me as well… though I think I need to make sure I'm taking more time for my poor dissertation too. So today's a cheering-up day, I think. So first: I saw a deer!

squeee! A deer!

squeee! A deer!

Admittedly one of the housemates has seen deer here already — one afternoon he looked in the right direction when both cats suddenly stared intently that way. He's also had to stop the car to let one cross the road — in broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon! I thought they'd be shyer than that.

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I think today I'm going to do a bit more venting on my dissertation blues… and then tomorrow talk about what I think might fix things a little. We'll see how it goes.

So at CIIS there's something called the "Principles of Community." They're basically a list of suggestions to keep in mind when talking with others or attending classes — especially when contentious or highly emotional subjects come up. They're supposed to be explained to all new students when they first arrive, they're supposedly available on the CIIS website, and often professors will print out copies to hand out to their students on the first day of class if the class is going to be about something where emotions may run high.

Frankly I think all the principles are good ideas, and I try (and sometimes even succeed!) to apply them to my daily life as well as my scholastic efforts. Here's the list, just so we all know what I'm talking about:

 CIIS Principles of Community

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This is just going to be various fun/silly things in my life currently — sometimes I need to simply not think about dissertation stuff. So! For a celebratory late Valentine's with friends, I decided we should have the traditional Valentine's Day pizza — because Hawaiian pizza is totes what St. Valentine celebrated with, amiright?

valentine's pizzas!

valentine's pizzas!

Also, I got a cute new magnetic sticker for my car! Well, it's actually my housemate's car, but he lets me drive it. How could it not be appropriately decorated while I do so?

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Rambling around the hood

20 Mar 2015 In: Random

We live in an interesting area of the city. Taking the main road to the highway, we pass through an economically depressed area. There are some… curious differences there from what I've lived in previously. For example, there are an astonishing number of churches! Just glancing at google maps, within 10 miles of me I see Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Southern Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist, Evangelical — several of which are named in Spanish as well — Roman Catholic, Polish Catholic, Greek Catholic, Romanian Orthodox, several more where I can't tell their "flavor" by just their names… I had to laugh, in fact, when I realized there's a Westboro St. near where I live — and there's a Baptist church on it! I think we'll avoid that one… ;-)

My guess is that most small religious groups tend to not have a lot of money, so they gravitate to areas where land is cheap, and build their houses of worship there. In fact, in some cases that appears to be literal: there are a surprising number of these churches located in what appear to be just refurbished houses! They're not all Christian churches, either. There's a Jewish synagogue, a Hindu temple, and a big, lovely Buddhist temple nearby, as well as several smaller Buddhist temples that appear to be a mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, and… Thai? I'm not sure on that one. But watching the fireworks blooming into the night sky from all the Asian religious centers for Chinese New Year's was very pretty from our hillside. We have a truly fabulous view of the city for both night and day, I think.

One of my housemates pointed out another difference this area has from higher income areas: a lot more car parts stores. His guess was that people try to get the cars fixed themselves, since that's cheaper than taking it to the dealer. I wouldn't have noticed that, but then you can write what I know about car repair on a matchbook… and still have most of the paper left over. Hmm… now that I'm thinking about it, there's also a lot of home repair business here — there's a Home Depot and an OSH just down the road, if I'm remembering correctly. My guess, though, is that that one's a mix of both folks trying to build and repair on their own… and the fact that land was likely a bit cheaper out here, when these two big stores first moved in.

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Okay, time for more venting and dissertation blues. Haul out the tiny violins, please, and also everyone get ready to sing along with Arethra Franklin singing her wonderful "Respect"…

Whew! Always love good, passionate music. So, now that we all feel better for that, let me get into my grumpy pants again. This log is about — you guessed it — respect… and associatedly, professionalism. Again, I'm not going to go into tons of detail because I don't want to cause problems for anyone; this is just me venting.

There are two issues that stand out for me regarding professionalism and respect. The first is a professor who informed us that we had to have read the required texts over the summer before class started. This is common practice for short classes with complex subjects, and I have no trouble with it. What I have trouble with is when the professor doesn't post the syllabus for the class — which has the list of required texts in it — until less than two weeks before the class is to start!

That's absurd. It can take over a week for all the books to arrive, regardless of whether they're being purchased or requested from the library.

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Bestiaries depict mythical, moralizing animals, but are also potential allegorical sparks that can bloom into brilliant mental bonfires. My bestiary is this mythologizing animal's fascinated exploration of beauty & meaning in the wonder of existence -- in the hopes of inspiring yet more joyous flares of intellectual passion.

Help yourself & me too!

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