Boundaries: Saying No

I have had a hard time saying no. This is the nature of one dozen years as adjunct or sessional faculty–what many refer to as the New Faculty Majority. Now, I’m about to start my fourth year as tenure line faculty and this will mark the fourth year out of fifteen when I shut my door. My door is only open during office hours. I make no apologies for this. I am open and available for consultations during my office hours or appointments. Truthfully, a senior colleague insisted that I shut my door to get my work done. To this day, I thank him for his honesty.

Likewise, I’ve  become better at allowing myself to take a vacation. This means not responding to student emails and more importantly not feeling guilty about it. Of course, I never got the sheer volume of emails previously. This changed when I got my tenure line job and was also made an Undergraduate Advisor. Students need advising year round. The department where I work has assigned other faculty during my vacation, but that doesn’t stop the emails from trickling in. Perhaps it helps the deluge!

This May I started an email to myself where I remind myself of my professional declines. I cannot do everything and anything. I note my achievements via my CV, but what about those moments when I protect my time and sanity and say, “no.” Well, I have an email to self that shares my no accomplishments. I started this in May and I’m only at 18, but each one of these declines allowed me to spend more time on teaching, advising, myself, and work/life balance. So, I suggest that we remember to celebrate boundary keeping and those moments when we must politely decline.Don’t get me wrong–I say yes to lots of meetings and opportunities. I do believe the department head would concur that I am a good citizen in the department and for the faculty at large.

But, the department head has also encouraged me to say no more. I’ve had colleagues who have a printout that read: Just say NO within their field of vision as a reminder when they are on the phone. Oh, that reminds me to add another point. I’m at 19! And, I am also reminded me of themes at Breathe Now, a conference that I co-coordinated with Janice Mansfield, Angela Rafuse-Tahir, and Yukari Peerless. Many of our speakers noted that it’s important to take time for yourself–breathe. Say no, when you need to!

Catching my Breath: One Week Post-Breathe Now

It’s been more than a week and I am still processing the magic behind the Breathe Now ( #breatheyyj ) conference that I co-cordinated with Angela Rafuse-Tahir, Janice Mansfield, and Yukari Peerless. We wanted to organize a conference that we wanted to attend in Victoria. Between the four of us we have attended business women conferences, social media conference, academic conferences, BlogHer, Blissdom, and other work-related conferences. We wanted something completely different that spoke to women’s need to balance work and life and remembering to take time out for yourself and breathe.

The conference was a resounding success from head to toe. The energy was pulsating at the various panels and workshops that the 100 delegates attended. I saw lots of smiles, tears, and heads nodding during the presentations. A common theme throughout the weekend was that it’s important to have balance in our lives. Many women spoke to how imbalance led to different types of crises and the need to reflect and reboot life. I was pleasantly surprised to hear repeated speakers talk about how important therapy, exercise, sleep, eating right, and taking time out for oneself was crucial to mental health and overall physical well-being. When the conference ended, I got sentimental and felt a little sad that the weekend was ending, but so many great connections were made.

I’m thankful for all the emails, coffee dates, and tweets that I’ve read since the conference. I learned lots about myself, my friends, and the various speakers. Our choice of keynote speakers was perfect, too. Rona Maynard and Bif Naked both spoke their truths and offered the delegates a chance for important reflection. We all left the conference energized and ready for everything and anything. I look forward to chatting with my friends about Breathe Now 2013!

Bif Naked: Keynote at #Breatheyyj

Bif Naked @BifNaked was the keynote speaker at Breathe Now ( @breathenow #breatheyyj ) in Victoria, BC ( #yyj ) on Sunday, April 15th. I was lucky enough to spend some precious time with her and the Breathe Now co-founders, Janice Mansfield, Angela Rafuse-Tahir, and Yukari Peerless. We shared our truths talking about different topics. But, overall, we repeatedly thanked her for joining us.

She notes that optimism is important and we all start off with it. Somehow we lose our optimism, tho. This is akin to the well-spring that @ronamaynard noted yesterday. Again, we see that taking care of selves is important and this includes emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Naked’s talk is genuine. I think we’re all starstruck honestly, and she’s just so real.

“I started university with the best intentions, like everyone else.” Bif Naked

I imagine that many people understand her statement, but then she met a young man with a mohawk–lots of laughter ensued! The band he was in needed a new singer and she joined the band. Add this to her majoring in Theater and writing poetry and it’s easy to see how she turned to entertainment. She shared anecdotes from her youth, “…what sweet intention there was.”

“Everyone has their own story. Every single story is equally profound.” Bif Naked

The audience is rapt paying attention to Naked’s story about her experience with cancer. Most women’s first thought when they find out that they have cancer is: Will I lose my hair. What does this say about women, our society? Naked speaks to the ways in which she was surrounded by other women, other cancer patients during her treatment. “The power of sisterhood…saved my life.”

Speaking to menopause, “You’re going to have a riot.” Oh, wow. I don’t know what to say. I’m not looking forward to it. Her ovaries were removed as part of her treatment and she subsequently went through menopause as a young woman of 38. She’s clearly at peace with her life and the journey that she’s taken in these 40 or so years. She’s amazing. Just two weeks ago she had a procedure to fix the hole in her heart. Mind blown. Procedure went through her leg and she was awake the entire time. Love that she commented on the good-looking male nurses that were in her room.

Breast cancer was not her medical emergency–instead fixing the hole in her heart was. She made lists. She’s worked on some of the points, but still needs to get the health directive done. During these last two weeks, she’s talked to her mom daily, had lots of dinner parties, kissed Nic (her baby pup), cleaned her car, painted her toe nails, and taken the time for herself. Sigh–important to take the time. Breathe!

Great reminders and what an end to a thoughtful weekend. I’m honored to have had a part in this event and thankful that Naked’s schedule was open so that she could speak at the conference.

Working in Man’s World: #Breatheyyj

It’s OK to be a Woman in a Man’s World! #Breatheyyj Really looking forward to this preso! Participants are: Marisa Goodwin @organicfoodme Anya Sereda @tinybean and Katie McDonald. What a great panel of woman who are working in male dominated fields. I just want to add that a great majority of the #BreatheNow meetings were held at Discovery Coffee, which Anya Sereda works for as their Green Bean Sourceress!

Sereda speaks to the coffee industry and refers to the baristas–the boys–as the show ponies, while the women are more apt to manage! It’s really interesting to hear about how so many coffee farms owned by women in the countries that she’s visited, but men run the farms. Interesting. I love that she admits to looking young. She’s 26 and looks like she’s 20. (Her words). She has a passion for beans, for coffee. And, after listening to her preso, she really knows coffee!

“Coffee has really taken me on a trip all around the world.” Anya Sereda

Her job sounds amazing. Out in the field doing her work… She noticed the ways that some people have treated her due to the issue of her youth and gender. She acknowledges her strengths and knowledge in the field and how it can at times be difficult for people to take her seriously. Happy sigh that my teen is here listening to this and hope it’s insightful to her and the rest of us in the audience.

The next speaker, Marissa Goodwin, reflected on her experience with her business Organicfair and the farm that she and her family run! She shared compelling stories about the level of sexism within the industry. We have more work to do! Looking at her bio it’s nice to see that their company includes 99% women employees. They are making change day to day in their work and their philosophy. Organicfair is based in Cobble Hill not too far from the Greater Victoria Region. Overall, Goodwin is another trailblazer! You, go!

The last speaker Katie McDonald is a mixologist who works at Veneto Tapa Lounge in Hotel Rialto. She has avoided thinking about being female in her career. She knows it’s there. “This elephant in the room.” I have to say that this is really common with lots of women—ignoring gender. But, she notes that we do need to think about gender. I like that she brought up equality and difference. Oh, those debates have not been resolved years later. Really? Some men call themselves, “Cocktailologist.” OK. She says that she’s a Mixologist or Bartender.

“It’s a dirty job. Lots of heavy lifting.” Katie McDonald

Interesting that for every one resume from a woman they field twenty resumes from men. And, this quote below also speaks to another binary in the job or industry. These quotes are telling. I’ll say it again and again: we have more work to do.

“If I’m the best female bartender on the line…you don’t have to compete with me.” Katie McDonald

She’s right, it’s an idealist view if we insist on saying that we’re all just people. This erases different components of identity. I do think that at times when people say this they are coming from a place of privilege and do not think that any difference exist at all. Again, this is in some instances and not meant as a sweeping generalization. And, McDonald notes that she wants to be just another Bartender and not the fact that she’s the “best woman bartender on the island.” On the flip side, she likes seeing women at competitions so that more women can/will attend these competitions. She’s sharing some honest, good points in her preso. I’m really enjoying the frank anecdotes.

“I do notice my gender.” Katie McDonald

Rona Manynard Rocking it at Breathe Now

I’m sharing my almost live tweets about Rona Maynard’s keynote today at #Breatheyyj. @ronamaynard Wow, great preso. Any keynote coach would say: Brava! #Breatheyyj Thinking about her comments about resentment. She grew up in alcoholic household, but on the outside everything looked fine. Maynard knew that she wanted more–a different type of life. Trailblazer.

She was part of the generation who was trying to do it all. Remember she was the Editor in Chief of Chatelaine. But, it was hard to do it all–hard to keep balance. Lots of head nodding in the room, as she shared these points. We think we have to be Super Women. This can be an issue in a hostile work environment. We will burnout. We will get sick or worse. Maynard left one job and worked at home and slipped into a depression. “With trembling fingers I made the call to a women’s mental health clinic.” I’m glad that she’s sharing this story with us today. We need to get rid of the stigma about mental illness, as it is so common.

“Say no to unreasonable demands.” Rona Maynard

This is really hard to do. People expect us to say yes. Oh, this is important to me right now. I’ve recently said no to a few things and stood my ground much to the surprise of those around me. I said no to protect myself and my integrity and refused to get bullied. Back to Maynard, I really want to read her book, My Mother’s Daughter: A Memoir. I want to read her life story, as I think I have something to learn from her.

“Saying no is not about fighting with people.” Rona Maynard

Her preso is reminding me that I’m not alone in parenting a teen. You do have to pick your battles. You do have to call a truce on certain issues with your teen. Boom. Thinking maybe a family meeting is in order to chat about things. Maynard’s speech is making me think of so many things.

“40 is a magical age for women.” Rona Maynard

Maynard shared that her articles led women to write her letters. She was motivating them. It’s refreshing to hear that she made a difference in so many women’s lives. I am impressed. What a perfect fit for @BreatheNow. I am so proud of the team of co-founders, sponsors, and volunteers in making this possible. This is our little slice of community building in Victoria #yyj.

“My gift is building community through stories…” Rona Maynard

I really love her comments about resentment. Makes me think of the resentment olympics. It’s important to protect your time, so that you don’t feel resentful. You need to keep the well-spring full. We need certain mantras to stay happy. It’s work. Can’t say, “Accio balance. Accio happiness.” You have to work on it and keep your boundaries in order to do it. And, I will be honest, I do keep the positive emails and when I need to–I will review them. It’s grounding after a tough day.

Thank you, Rona for giving me food for thought.

Of Heroes and the Fellowship of Women/Guest Post

Today’s post is a guest post via Breathe Now. I am one of the four co-founders for Breathe Now. Our conference will take place in Victoria, BC on Friday, Sept 30th and Saturday, October 1st. This conference is geared for college aged women through women established in their careers. This particular post penned by the lovely and talented Janice Mansfield was posted on April 18th on

Thanks to the powers of Social Media, I was alerted last week to the fact that Marilyn Waring was going to be speaking at the University of Victoria as part of the Centre for Cooperative and Community Based Economy‘s Distinguished Speaker series.

Marilyn Waring is a distinguished economist, researching and exploring issues of gender balance and the impact it has in the traditional economic paradigm.  Her work also extends to analysis of environmental issues, governance, human rights, and economic valuations of public goods or “the commons”, and she regularly contributes to international discussions on economic measurement and valuation.

As an economist in my previous career, I have to say I did a quiet squeal at the prospect of listening to her latest.  Her groundbreaking work in the latter 1980s on public accounting practices and their omissions of subsistence activity (much of it by women) in developing countries was front and centre in my bookshelf.

After the Thursday evening talk, my friend Dr. Janni Aragon invited me to come as her guest the next day for an afternoon of tea and talk with Dr. Waring — an exciting prospect indeed to meet and talk with someone who has had such an influence and impact on my thinking early on in my career.

The following day, we gathered around a table with tea with Dr. Waring as a small group of women, seeking fellowship and connection.  The first thing Marilyn said when we sat down was she seeks out opportunities to listen to what other women are interested in and researching, as she spends so much of her time on the road talking.  The thing that struck me through the afternoon was the genuine interest with which Dr. Waring had for areas of work being undertaken by each woman in the room — and a diverse group indeed (Political Science, Environmental issues, Cooperative Economic models, Womens Studies …).  Dr Waring has such a wealth of knowledge and experience, she spoke to each woman with an equal level of expertise, but was also making notes through the afternoon of things that piqued her interest, and provided some great guidance and feedback for the undergraduate students who had joined us.

Janni and I had the chance through this discussion to share the fact that we are two of the co-founders of the Breathe Now conference — an opportunity for all women to connect, decompress, enjoy the fellowship of each other and talk about substantive issues they are dealing with in a supportive environment.  While neither of us remember the exact quote (I have to confess being a little starstruck!), she was quite interested in the conference, and remarked that it was such a such great idea to bring women together to support each other.   Dr. Waring is a mentor in the truest sense of the word, and the afternoon with her and other like-minded women was a priceless experience.

It struck me after, that this afternoon of tea and easy conversation was a micro-version of what we are hoping to achieve through Breathe Now — mentorship and fellowship with some goodies on the side!