If you have known me for a while you might remember that I was involved with “Women in Engineering” initiative back in University. Every year we would invite high school girls to check out the ECS faculty and tell them what a great thing it is to be an engineer. It has been fifteen years since and I thought this would be a good time to reflect on how far we have come.
For me, engineering has worked out very well. I don’t think I would want to, or even could, ever do anything else. Yet, looking at statistics of enrollment in engineering programs, it looks like the initiative I was involved had very short lived success. Not only did the women’s enrollment not rise since my halcyon days, but the numbers dropped slightly and then stagnated.
When I was at University, I thought it was only a matter of time until women are about as likely to pursue a career in science or engineering as men. Now, I am not sure if that will ever happen.
Happy early Women’s Day anyway!
Here are some things I used to be afraid of and my kids probably aren’t:
While my own parents never threatened me with the Police, being arrested for various odd infractions was the standard threat from pretty much everyone else. One time the police were responding to some kind of domestic disturbance in my grandmother’s building and she told us, with a perfectly straight face evidently not wanting to inform us of juicy gossip, that the police were called in because the neighbours were wasting energy by leaving the lights on during the day.
Old people we didn’t know
No matter what you were doing as a kid as long as you were in public, or semi-public, you were pretty much guaranteed that some old person will crawl out of somewhere and start yelling at you for disturbing the peace, making a mess or leaving the lights on during the day. One time I accidentally kicked the ball into a courtyard two houses down whose door we could not open with one of my smaller keys. We had to ask for the ball from an old man who was reportedly “Grumpier than most old people”. That required the most courage I ever had to scrounge up. He did give us the ball back, but not until a few days later.
Energy and resource conservation was a really big thing when I was growing up and everyone had to be extremely conscientious about using resources. You only got one piece of paper for each art project and if you accidentally chose bumpy paper to draw with markers, you were in big trouble a few weeks later when we used watercolour; it was your own fault if the water did not soak into shiny paper – you were certainly not getting a replacement! I only had one ball of yarn so my Barbie could have a business suit or full length dress, but not both at the same time. I am still afraid of cutting yarn, less I decide to make something else out of it later and get stuck with a knot. One time in school, someone accidentally turned the light on in the classroom and the Principal Himself came over to see what the commotion was all about. This is the only time I ever saw the Principal in the three years I was at that school.
Though usually stoic on the subject, this year I am bubbling with New Year’s resolutions. This is not surprising, birthing and taking care of small children was exhausting and somehow I feel 2014 was the bridge year for us. I think I am ready to stop merely making do. The kids are now big enough for me to be thoughtfully proactive in most aspects of life.
Over the last few years I heavily relied on “sanity days”. These are the vacation days that I set aside about once a month to catch up on sleep, chores and appointments. These were also a great time for Chris and me to go out for lunch in lieu of hiring babysitter and going out on dinner dates. Alas, this meant that I was not able to use those vacation days during the school holidays or PD days. Markus will no longer be in full time daycare as of next Septmber so the cost of Chris or me working on days the kids are not in school is adding up. For 2015 I have not set aside any sanity days and will stay home during the school holidays instead.
I am quite enamoured with our CSA and will continue to get veggies and meat from the farm in the next year. The downside is that once the CSA season is over we fall into a dietary slump. There are only so many pasta/meat/veggie disshes I can eat. When I was a kid I used to love stews, particularly bean and/or barley stews but I have no idea how to make them! Whenver I’ve make a bean stew it inevitably ends up in the freezer to be thrown out a year or two later. This has got to change as I will endeavour to perfect at least one good bean recipe. I am also going to look into stocking up on root vegetables at the end of season and finding a good way to keep us in good supply over the winter.
While I don’t keep track of how much money we spend on fruit, I am convinced that at least 1/3 of our grocery bills cover berries. I am not the least bit interested in removing or reducing berries form our table, but I would like to find a more economical way to do so. We have planted our first berry shrub in the back yard last year and are hoping to expand the berry farm and make good harvests within a few years. The challenge will come with finding an approproate way to store the berries for the winter (freeze or dry???) and to incorperate them in our diet in this form.
I really miss seeing movies at the Bytowne. Particularly at this time of year when newspapers publish lists of noteable movies of the year, I am sad to have missed some films that I might have enjoyed. However, going to Bytowne on a regular baisis I did half a decade ago is just not an option for me. For a number of Good Reasons, on weekdays from 5:45AM to 5:45PM I am on strict work/designated patent duty. To maintain this lifestyle I really need to call day a day by 10PM. Weekends are likewise booked. While there is not much I can do to support lovely establishements like Bytowne, I can at least see some movies that are out on iTunes or Netflix. My goal this year is to select a film each month and set some time aside to watch it.
Last week something unusual happened – I got rid of last unsorted box of stuff from my bedroom. Nine years after we moved into this house we are finally unpacked! Over the years I sorted out boxes and boxes of items around living room, office and the basement. It is not as if I haven’t been processing through the junk deposited in this room, but as the least public space in the house, the most unsortabe and unstorable of items would regularly get sent there. There was furniture from our old house that we could not make use of here, junk from other bedrooms as we made room for each new child, boxes of hardware, sewing and knitting paraphernalia, baby clothes that one kid outgrew waiting for the next one, overflow toys. On top of this, any time we needed to make the house tidy at the drop of a hat, we would just stuff everything in sight in bags and drop it off in our bedroom.
Yet, over the years I also managed to contain this mess. We passed on baby items, gave the extra furniture away, matched the toys with the kid that was interested in them and sorted the proper storage of hobby items. It the place where there used to be banker’s boxes and more banker’s boxes of who-knows-what there is clear tidy space where a little red head can camouflage.
I was surprised at how giddy I was when this last room was “finished”. We are cluttery people and I never expect to always have things in place but it is a nice feeling when you know that any room in the house is no more than two days away from being tidy. This in turn means that we could have the entire house tidy in less than a month – a theoretical possibility that is somehow comforting.
Frostbike is a fun new book about winter cycling from Tom Babin, a Calgary journalist. He talks about his own experiences winter riding in Calgary and then visits and interviews the usual winter cycling suspects in North America and North Europe. There is no new or shocking information in the book, but it is quite well written and free of that single mindedness and arrogance that sometimes accompanies bike advocacy. In short, it is an enjoyable read for the “been there, done that” crowd and a recommended introduction for those who would like to know more on the subject.
We sold the Accord this past August. I had never quite warmed up to that car. It was so large I felt I was riding a boat, it had almost the same mileage as the minivan, it handled terribly in the snow even days after the last snowfall, the combination of the moonroof and the cabin size resulted in a loud flapping noise making it pretty much impossible to enjoy opening the moonroof unless I was parked. The final insult to injury was that it had cost twice as much as my lovely old Protege which had none of those problems. It was not so much that I wanted to not have the second car, it was more that I did not want that particular car.
We had toyed with the idea of sharing a single car for a while, but we were never at a point where not having the second car would not be really inconvenient. This year, a lot of the things lined up and we finally felt we can give car-lite lifestyle a go. I have finished grad school and all of our current weekly activities are close to home. I have a cargo bike that allows me to go to work, carry children and pick up groceries. Chris bought a foldie bike and winterized his old hybrid for multimodal commute on the days I need the van during the day. To avoid paying the babysitter too often, we usually schedule our individual outings on different nights anyway. Finally, since we first moved here almost fifteen years ago, Kanata has grown and we have grown into Beaverbrook. Bus service has improved, there is an increasing number of shops and businesses available to us and many of our friends now live within walking distance.
In last four months, absolutely no instance came up in which I regretted not having the second car. The next four winter months are going to be more interesting. We have worked out alternatives and contingencies and, if all that does not work, we always have an option of buying another car (one that is both economical in price and fuel efficiency with good winter handling and functional moon roof hopefully!). I think we can make it with just the minivan. I am looking forward to the winter, not only because of all the exciting winter fun ahead, but I am curious to see how we meet this new challenge.
The big house project for this year was to fix up the shed.
It is now ready for Winter.
These is still some work on the door, but I am not going to have time to do it before next year.