Tag Archives: self-study

What’s the boulder in your path?

Colin Marshall probably thinks I’m stalking him, but his writing is SO good and today’s piece hits very close to home.

He speaks about how we make excuses for not doing things, things we supposedly want to do, except that, well, we don’t have the time, or we’re too fat, or we don’t have enough money.  How it’s easy to think that we want to do those things but find that when what we thought was the obstacle is removed, we still don’t do them.

Marshall comments about the time before he lost weight in junior high:

I’d often fantasize about my glorious post-fat future. Oh, the question wasn’t about what I would do after being fat; the question was, what wouldn’t I do? This gave me a certain amount of motivation, but in retrospect it was a recipe for grand malprocrastination. I pushed everything into the then-speculative after-fat era. Should I play music? Nah, I’ll do it when I’m not fat. Should I act more? Nah, I’ll do it when I’m not fat. Should I maybe make some more friends? Nah, I’ll do it when I’m not fat. Now are you gonna pass that tray of peanut-buttered bagels, or aren’t you?

[Go read the whole piece.  Very convicting stuff.]

Lots of us (most of us?) do this or a version of this.  We substitute losing weight with “having more time”, “having more money”, “once the kids have moved out”, or even “once I retire”.  About three seconds of introspection on my part suggests that I have more free time than the majority of 50-year-old women, yet not that much to show for it.

That’s not to say the past few years have been easy.  Job-loss, international moves, teenagers, depression, downsizing have at times been paralyzing.  Just moving from a nine-to-five job to grad school to full-time motherhood took me a few years of adjustment.  It really did a number on my sense of self, particularly when the world around me really doesn’t value the work of a woman at home, even when it’s her choice.  Plus a partner with a high stress job and relatively little free time.  

But crossing the threshold to the big 5-0 has caused me to pause and consider plans for the next fifty.  I’ll always be a wife and mother.  A very part-time housekeeper.  I know that I want to get more involved in genealogy, perhaps starting a consulting business as I work my way through my own research and complete course-work.  Z wants me to do some investment/trading but I’m not sure that I’m really jazzed by that (although I’ve done pretty well in with my fake portolio.)  I’m involved in volunteer work and enjoy singing in choirs.  I’m taking courses and encouraging my sons in their work and life outside of school. I attend arts events with Zouheir and/or the kids, with friends, and on my own. I like to do all manner of needlework and sewing. 

I remember a management training course based on Stephen Covey’s First Things First. We were supposed to think about what our obituary would look like: how people would remember us after we died.  I remember thinking that the exercise seemed kind of arrogant.  Why would you care, or want to think about how other people thought of your life?  But yet it was compelling.  What DID you want to be remembered for?  What were the accomplishments that you would want your friends and family to remark on?  I’m not sure that I’ve figured this out yet.  But I know that I spend a lot of my 24 hours not doing things that are notable whatsoever, or support notable goals.  Mindless internet surfing comes to mind. Running errands every day that I should be grouping into once or twice a week forays. Perhaps a little goal-setting is in order as I begin the next fifty, not to stress myself out but to link my core values with how I actually spend a lot of my time.  And to just get things done.

Four new-to-me podcasts that I’ve recently picked up…

Definitely Not the Opera (CBC) – With Sook-Yin Lee;  An entertaining look at popular culture.

Wiretap (CBC) – I love Jonathan Goldstein’s columns in the National Post.  This is even better!  Wilson’s been getting long walks so that I can listen to two eps back to back.

Freakonomics Radio (NYT) – You read the book. Now listen to the podcast.

The Therapeutics Education Collaboration podcast is intended for medical practitioners.  It presents information on evidence-based drug therapy content, and give that I’ve been getting some, I’m interested in looking at the evidence.  It’s Canadian too, which is good ’cause we’ve got a slightly different approach to pushing the pills.


Finding your passion

Zen Habits and Zen Family Habits are two very inspiring sources of inspiration for clarifying and decluttering ones life.

Today, Zen Habits had The Short but Powerful Guide to Finding Your Passion and it really spoke to me.  As someone who worked outside the house for almost 20 years and then found myself at home in a new country with school-age children, the notion of finding my passion has never been far from my mind.

The article suggests that you answer a number of questions including

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What excites you?
  3. What do you read about?
and then walks you through a process for narrowing down your choices, carving out the time, and even making a living at your passion.

The article is very worthwhile, and if you haven’t been to these sites before, spend some time looking around.  You won’t be disappointed. 

St Teresa of Avila


I attended the first lecture of a six-week continuing ed course at St. Mike’s this morning.  The title is Teresa of Avila I:  World and Life.  The suggested reading is her spiritual autobiography titled  The Life of St. Teresa of Avila by Herself (or a variation, depending on translation).

The instructor is a spiritual director and retreat leader at a local Jesuit retreat centre.  She seemed very knowledgeable and we got some background on the genesis of Teresa’s autobiography (why did she write it?  for whom?  what constraints did she face? etc).  I had read the first quarter of the book and found the information very useful in understanding her style of writing as well as the content.  

The course was held in a seminar room that became standing room only (well, sitting on the window ledges).  There were 25-30 people there, including 3 men and 4 nuns in habits.  The rest were mainly women my age and older.  I arrived rather early as I wasn’t confident that I knew my way around campus, and another woman plunked herself down beside me and started chatting.  She had been on a pilgrimage last year that included a visit to Avila.  During the course, though, she seemed to zone out, and spent a good deal of it flipping through my copy of the text.  

Teresa lived in the 16th century, at the height of the Inquisition and the beginning of the Reformation.  Women’s voices were suppressed and they typically were denied much formal education.  There is lots to learn about this time, and it looks like it should be a great course.

Next semester the same instructor will teach a course that focuses more on her mysticism/spirituality, based on her book The Interior Castle.  Depending on how this goes, I’ll likely sign up for that one too.

My classical education

Most of you know that I homeschooled Michael for Grades 4 and 5. It was a wonderful experience that I recommend to anyone with the desire, opportunity, and energy. Not only great for the student, but I learned a lot about myself that I didn’t know before.

One of those things is that I actually like history. I have lived for a long time believing that I hated history. I didn’t think I had a good memory, and it all seemed so dry. Well, my memory isn’t good for lists of facts or disconnected stuff, but I have found that I actually like learning history, and that has opened up the vast realms of historical literature that I have in the past ignored.

I followed a classical approach to homeschooling as outlined in The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. I can’t go in to the details about the program in this post, but essentially you do a four year cycle, roughly covering Ancients (5000 BC-AD400), Medieval-Early Renaissance (400-1600), Late Renaissance-Early Modern (1600-1850), and Modern (16850-present). You do it three times, which takes you through 12 school years (grades). Each time, you look deeper into the period and read more complex literature. We did the first two years, using age-appropriate history resources and coordinating novels/literature.

I have decided to embark on some self-study, roughly following the high school recommendations. I am going to start with the Ancients and plan to read:

There are more possibilities in the book but I’ve picked out readings which either I already own or were easily available to me. I will be using Spielvogel’s Western Civilization as my history text book and am still awaiting it’s arrival from Alibris as I managed to score a good used copy to keep my costs down.

I’m almost finished the Pentateuch and used the reading guides in my New American Bible Study Edition to give me some background, as well as A Catholic Guide to the Bible by Fr. Oscar Lukefahr that I got from Paperback Swap a year ago and hadn’t cracked.

I’ve also been listening to a podcast from UC Berkeley that I found on iTunes. The course is called History 4A: The Ancient Mediterranean World and it’s free. The first three lectures are missing (I think she decided to record the lectures at that point) and unfortunately, I missed the discussion of the Sumerians which will be useful for the Epic of Gilgamesh. The drawback of these podcasts is that I can’t see any of her slides. And she’s slightly disorganized, which makes listening a bit of a chore when I can’t see what’s happening in the classroom. As I said, it’s free and interesting, and kills time in the car.

There are a ton of online (and offline) study guides for the works I plan to read, but I’m going to try to go without, at least somewhat, and let the works sink in to my brain on their own.