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Saturday, April 30, 2011

One Must Be Brave to Blog

What the Metrosexual Man is Wearing to the Office (as modeled by Peter).
The birthday party is over. It was a success. Twelve kids, most aged 4 and 5. But we did it! I will post pics of it soon.

 I cleared my head by walking up the back of the mountain with Fernando. Was it HOT! I had to carry Fernando at one point because his blackness caused him to over heat. I whispered to him as I held him in my arms, climbing, "If it was any hotter, we'd both be dead." (I didn't bring any water.)

When one is a blogger, one puts themselves out there for public scrutiny. And the public love to scrutinize. There will always be haters and lovers. What I choose to post and don't post is open to constant criticism.
But I am true to myself. I post what I want. My only rule is to never knowingly dis anyone. I don't want this blog to ever cause harm to anyone. After that rule, I give myself free rein to be me.

I know there are those that will be disappointed that this post does not include a picture of myself. Because they take pleasure in believing I'm a narcissist.
But to be clear, to post pictures of oneself on the net is not narcissism but courage.
Because trust me, one is ripped to shreds. I choose to not care what others think and do what I want. I am an artist and I'm not shy to use the medium of self portraiture despite knowing the critics will be delighted to rip me apart.
But not to worry, as an artist who isn't shy--you can count on a few more self portraits to delight in the future ;)

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Let Me Go

Found this serious pic in my archives and thought it suited
my mood at the moment.
There is a reason.
My Vipassana teacher told me my craving to push myself was very strong. I had trouble relaxing in the moment. If meditation felt effortless, I deemed it couldn't be that easy and I was being lazy and needed to push myself make it hard.
My life is very, very, complicated at the moment. I am driving my self ahead in many directions. Driven to excess.
Of course, things happen that shake one up. Again, tonight, in the eleventh hour, I have received a phone call to tell me my thesis defense is cancelled yet again. The external has decided she wants many changes. I have put in way, way too many hours on this thesis. Too many. I am done with it. I can do minor corrections but anything else--no. It is a good, solid, groundbreaking thesis. I stand by that.
However, the news is a kick in the stomach. Another set back in my schedule. A schedule I can no longer keep up. I need to be twenty women to live the life I expect of just me.
I must dig deep in my Buddhist knowledge and try to follow the teachings. Simplicity is needed. Letting go. My drive to be better, stronger and faster always catches up with me. It's let go or crash.
 What to let go of? Almost everything. I had no idea a thesis would take over my entire life like this. I have been trying to juggle being a mom, seeking jobs, getting certified in Zumba, getting a painting collection started again, editing my novel, getting my BC teaching certificate to name a few things. I cannot do it all anymore. The thesis is huge--it takes all my time and thoughts. I have to surrender to this one goal and forget the rest for now. It hurts to surrender. Hurts because I am sick of this thesis---wanting to  move on ahead full steam to my other interests. But I cannot. The thesis refuses to let me go. Surrender or bust.

My life seems to get more complicated and Peter's seems to get easier. He won another teacher of the year award at UBC today and he's presenting a paper in Barcelona, Spain this summer.

Me? I am working hard and hitting yet more set backs. Unknown to me, I lost weight on the retreat. I didn't notice until I tried on my Ralph Lauren jeans that should fit me tight. They are too big. Last time they were big was when I caught the 2 week flu in San Antonio, Texas. No sweat though, I just got back from ordering myself a Dairy Queen Blizzard.

Surrender to the process, my sister tells me. Bask in the glory of knowing and sharing. I have learned so very, very much about the grassroots digital world of story telling--a hidden world no one can even access unless they are a part of this covert subculture. I have a few conferences scheduled where I must present my work--my study and findings. These are the things I must focus on. Sharing my knowledge.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

That was Lovely. I Have to Scream Now.

My Pip and I this morning. Her antibiotics kicked in in the night and she is much improved...Thanks Theresa for Fernando's meds.

O.K. I just stopped by to vent.
I arrived home to amazingly gorgeous new hardwood floors in all the bedrooms thanks to Peter and my wonderful parents :)
However, the house is upside down--all the furniture in the living room. So difficult to navigate the girls off to school when their dressers are impossible to access.
 My girls arrived home from a lovely Easter at Aunties. It was so good to see my babies again. They are the very best. Though, darling Pip had a 40 oC fever last night.

The crazy part is that my thesis defense was postponed due to an external committee member so it is this Friday morning! Not to mention, Pip's big birthday party is on Saturday. And to add to my freak-out, I have a three day conference on Monday and am presenting a paper Tuesday morning at it.
Also, 2 jobs to apply for within the week.
All of this and an upside down house.
Focus...thesis first, organize house, prepare for the party and then prepare for the conference. The jobs???
Waiting for Vipassana to simplify my life. I suppose a really good kamma change takes time...

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Vipassana: Dhamma Surabhi

Home again.
Looking rough and feeling hungry.

So much to capture in a few words. The eleven days felt like eleven months.
It was grueling.
It was amazing.
A line from Amazing Grace comes to mind, was blind but now I see.

Meditating twelve hour days.
Living like monks and nuns.
4 a.m. wake-up gong.
No food past 11 a.m.
No communicating with the thirty other women and thirty men.
Three roommates in my room.
No writing, no reading.
Nothing but: meditate, eat a little, meditate some more and sleep at night.

The very first morning, with the wake up gong at 4 a.m., my instant reaction was to blurt out "oh man..."

That first morning meditation was an adventure. My eyes were closed, I was meditating and suddenly something heavy landed in my lap, I opened my eyes to discover a body on top of me. The woman in front of me had fainted and fallen back onto me, her head in my lap. When she came conscious, I helped her back up. Later, before we left, I spoke with her and she told me the eye contact I had with her and my arm around her shoulder gave her comfort and she knew she was o.k.
Then, the very next morning, in meditation hall, I received a tap on my shoulder. This time, it was the woman behind--alerting me that I had a huge spider crawling up my back. I looked at it and discovered it wasn't poisonous so I ignored it--I have never been afraid of spiders.

Vipassana was the most grueling of experiences and yet the most rewarding. I learned much.

It is an amazing meditation technique that I believe would benefit so many that suffer from brain damage. A bonus to the meditation is that as one mentally feels the body to find sensations everywhere, in doing so, sharpens and rewires the brain's body map.
It proved challenging to feel my legs as separate limbs after sitting crossed legged for so long--the brain morphs then into one entity (in the brain map) naturally. I had to work to separate them in my brain's body map and feel them as separate.
 The practice sharpened my mind such, that in mediation I felt my mind was like a laser that could burn a hole through matter if I focused it on one spot.
Also, if you know a little about neuro-science, you might understand that after so many hours of "feeling my entire body sensations", I was able to "see" my body with my eyes still closed. I looked down and my brain received optical images of my arms and legs even though I kept my eyes shut. I moved my hands and arms and watched in my brain like my eyes were open. The optical space in my brain was being stimulated by input from other than the eye lenses.

The most bizarre thing that happened was that I had life changing meditations. Very odd meditations. Not your traditional Vipassana. In one case, on day five, it was as though I touched a live electric wire. My entire body was on fire with electric like vibrations. These were very intense. And my eyes were moving rapidly although they were closed. It was not a pleasant sensation, as it was so intense.  The current through my body was very strong and it was like my skin was on fire. I honestly felt like I was floating above my cushion. My limbs were locked and my fingers stiff and immovable. But, like a good Vipassana meditator, I observed the entire experience and it lasted for a good 5-10 minutes and afterward I discovered tears running down my cheeks. While it was happening my entire inside was brightly lit like a sun was shining from within me. It was a little frightening as I thought bodily sensations like that only happened in supernatural thriller movies. It must have been the mother of all sankharas I was feeling (negative reaction surfacing from my subconscious mind).

On another day, the agony in my hips was too great. I couldn't sit still for the hour long "sitting of determination." I talked to the teacher afterward and said, "Womens' hips are not the same as mens. I have given birth three times, if Buddha had given birth three times, he would have moved his legs too." She laughed and agreed with me.

My roommates were cool. One woman commutes to the UN in Geneva (she founded a non profit organization for refugees from Afghanistan to make sure they have human rights in their new countries). Another just moved to Vancouver from Dubai. When the nobel silence finally ended on our last day, we talked so late that everyone else in centre was asleep but us. It was the middle of the night and all 4 of us crept down the dark hall to use the bathroom. It was rather humorous from our point of view that suddenly our fellow meditators were treated to the flush of all 4 toilets at once in the middle on the night (11 p.m. is the middle of the night when 4 a.m. is wake-up call).

I enjoyed their company even though one of my roommates was a tattle-tale. She complained to the management that I "wrote something with a pen on paper." Writing is against the rules. When my teacher asked me if I was the culprit from room #8 behind such a deed, I just laughed and said, "Guilty as charged. I can't believe someone tattled on me!" It felt like second grade prison.

 My humor pulled me through the entire eleven days. In the deadly silence, I would tell my self little jokes and hide my smiles. My humour must have been sensed in my energy because after the silence lifted on day ten, one of my roommates told me I should be a stand up comedian because everything I did made her laugh and she couldn't look at me all retreat because she would crack up.

One of the greatest gifts was on the morning of day eight, I was walking in the forest yard and I heard wolves howling. It was a dream come true. Wolves are so difficult to hear as they are rare. Dhamma Surabhi is located in pure mountain wilderness off of the Coquihalla. The forests are teaming with big mammals: moose, bear, cougars and wolves. And the stars! They shone so brightly at night, reminded me of how clear the sky is in Hawaii.

It was excruciating at times and what pulled me through were the little pleasures in life. I made friends with a squirrel and chipmunk in the forest and spent my few free minutes outside watching them. The squirrel had unearthed its stash of pine cones from last fall and would dig one out at a time and excitedly eat each one like a cob of corn.

Can I maintain the 2 h a day meditations to keep my mind free of misery? I will do my best. I will return to Dhamma Surabhi to serve while my girls are in summer mini-meditation camps. I am also in charge of finding us Kelowna meditators a place to meditate weekly as a group. I am very close to securing us a room on campus.
Thank-you, to the Buddhas-in-training that helped me find the path.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Beautiful Mom!

My mom on her 70th Birthday!
Mistaya playing for my mom
Tabitha playing for my mom
My niece Anemone playing for her Granny (my dad, Miranda and Artemisia enjoying the music)
Present opening with the grandgirls and Yianni
Granny with Anemone and Tabitha
Granny with Penelope and Artemisia
Granny and Mistaya
Me holding the smocked dress my mom made for Pip's birthday and gave to her on this day
Tabs and Pip
Black Forest cake made by my girls and I
Miranda and I and our families drove to Kamloops to surprise my mom on her 70th birthday. Miranda prepared an amazing lunch she made herself: home made croissants, brie-pear-prosciutto tart, salad with pumpkin seeds-feta-beets, ginger-lemon squares, cheese plate and strawberry plate. My girls and I made the cake together (yes even Pip).
I will be incommunicado for a while from here on out--a Vipassana retreat which I am in dire need of. I have had the most hectic, stressful few months of my life and I have been holding onto my sanity by a thread--waiting for this retreat to train my mind. So...here's hoping the next time we meet, I will be of a very calm, wise and happy mind.


Thursday, April 7, 2011




In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Arts in Education

Melissa Hart

will defend the thesis entitled



Fall down a rabbit hole and enter into a digital world where reality and fantasy intermingle and avatars are not only phenomenological but also tactile.
Beyond the eBook: The Pinocchio Revolution-When Protagonists Come to life delves beyond the e-Book into a digital fiction unrecognizable in the
traditional sense of fiction. This thesis focuses on research that examines the covert fiction practiced on Facebook. This fiction involves cybercitizens
that are stuffies (in the United Kingdom they are referred to as fluffies)-stuffed animal toys. The stuffies do not represent an actual human individual
but rather, an autonomous fictional character created by a (covert) human being. However, the characters' identities often intertwine with that of their
human creator.
The ethnographical research uncovers a secret world where the boundaries between fantasy and reality are blurred. The role of identity, authority,
agency, audience and the evolution of story: the hypertextual (multi layered digital texts, graphics, audio and links to other sites) ways in which the
story is "written" are examined. Facebook story is both fiction/non fiction and offline/online distinctions are blurred as offline and online worlds
become indistinguishable. It is a novel and covert approach to creating fiction-the participants are violating Facebook policy by their mere
existence, as all Facebook members must be an actual human being with a minimum age of 13 (Facebook, 2009). This adds a dimension of tension
to the story as authors create with the constant threat that their "work" and cyber identity may vanish at any moment.
This study challenges the multifaceted role of researcher as participant, covert creator and researcher. Theories that influence the study are the
theories hybridity and intertextuality and socio semiotic theory; all included in the broader multiliteracies theory. In addition, the theory of popular
culture as everyday culture theory is considered. Furthermore, as the cybercitizens are both tactile and phenomenological, the theory of
phenomenological immersion is explored in the paper.
The research will benefit the areas of Education, Media, Literacy and the Arts. Exploring new ways in which story is evolving through a multiliteracies
theory is important for educators. They will learn new and innovative ways in which students practice literacy, writing skills and artistic expression
within new media. Facebook fiction includes but is not limited to online: prose, poetry, video, audio, photography, multi-authoring, role-playing, and
social interaction. As well as offline: art creation, set design, costume design, travel and social interaction. Especially interesting to educators and
new media designers will be the formation of online identity and the relationships between identity, cyberidentity, cybercitizenship and
cybercommunity and cyberartifact.

Faculty, students and the general public are welcome to attend.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stylin' Tabs

Tabs in her new fedora, Pumas and jean jacket--all purchased in Seattle.

I have been told not to blog until I have finished my thesis defense (Monday). But I am addicted to writing.

Met with my committee this morning. The meeting was a record 3 hours. Now I have to do more revisions. I feel good about it all though. I received good comments about the strength of my thesis: being ground breaking research and very well written. Also one member commented that my literature review is excellent because it grounds an unknown field in strong literature about digital fiction. I also felt good about my ability to defend any questions that came my way on my study. All in all, I feel proud of this research and thesis. I gave it my all in writing it. Though it is not done yet so I cannot say anymore. Unfortunately, the girls music festival pieces are on Monday--Peter will have to take them--I'll miss their performances and he'll miss my defense.

I am addicted to  dancing Zumba. Have danced every night since arriving home--trying out every studio. Tonight my teacher I recognized as a ballerina from Ballet Kelowna--she gave a killer workout. I am hunting down the best teachers in Kelowna to learn from them. She was good. Dancing each night is the cure to all that ales me. I am hooked--it is what I desire to do each and every night--just dance. It is so good for the mind, body and soul. I can only compare the addictive quality is has to sex. It is satisfying and you just want to do keep doing it. But I must never eat before class. Tonight I so regretted that burrito.

So, all I am doing for the week is Thesis, Zumba and applying for one job in media writing and communications at UBC that I sooooo want--the deadline is Friday.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Pike Market, Seattle

Pike Market, Seattle

Have to blog even though I don't feel like it...have to put some space between me and the bathing suit shots. They're all right, but I am sick of myself.
Arrived home exhausted. We pulled off the highway in Hope at 9:30 last night because it was really snowing on the Coquihalla and Connector and icy. We drove home this morning. I am about to leave for a meeting at UBC and then rush the girls to piano and rush myself to Zumba. Peter will have to pick up the kids from piano and then drop  by Zumba and pick up Pip (who will have to watch the class for awhile).
Seattle was tiring because I had to work each and every day. The last 2 days were overwhelming. Dancing 9 h days and too much information for me!
My life right now is insane. I might even venture to say that at times I do not like it. No, I do not.
But I am in transition mode. I don't know what to give up for now and what to keep. I fear giving up something will limit my income possibilities. Yet, trying to work so hard in so many areas is killing me. Getting my painting going again, my writings published, Zumba teaching, applying to teach k-12 again, applying for every single job I can. Worrying about more workshops to further train myself in my fields. And at this time, defending my thesis and looking after my family of 3 kids. God, I am not enjoying this. It is too soon to know what door will open for me and thus what fields I can put on hold.
Right now teaching Zumba requires so much time and serious work--it is something perhaps I should have waited to do. But again, I think teaching it to kids will help me get a k-12 job
YIKES gotta leave for that meeting...

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Zumba Exhausting!

Peter and the girls heading to the pool
Mist, Me and the Pip

I am so tired--all day dancing and dancing 
and dancing. I learned so much new choreography, new moves. A total workout for the mind, body and spirit. There were 3 Canadians taking the training. The other 2 were from Vancouver. Joy Smith, our trainer is from LA. I love Zumba. I love the music and the dancing. Though, I will have to go crazy doing Zumba every single day if I want to teach this stuff. I figure I will attend other's classes 3x a week and practice my dvds everyday at home. I need to teach about 12 songs per hour of class. That is a whole lot of choreography! And it is a hard core cardio workout, so I must get myself super prepared. Like I mentioned, I love the dancing so it will be fun preparing to teach. 
I almost thought I'd leave Zumba Atomics training for later because the day was exhausting and so much info to digest. But Joy said I should just go ahead and get Atomics certified too as she doesn't know when she'll be back up in Washington again. And who knows how long I'll have to wait until they teach it again in BC. So....as pooped as I am tonight, it looks like I'm going to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.
I will post this tonight as I will be too busy in the morning. I have to pack up everything--we are leaving for home after my course ends tomorrow. That means driving through the Coquihalla at night and arriving home sometime after midnight. Monday, I have a meeting with my thesis committee. This is a crazy busy time for me. I will be so very, very ready for the meditation retreat on the 13th. I'll probably go into shock though--suddenly silence and stillness after this crazy month may be too much for me!
Seattle is such a cool city--would love to spend more time here. I've flown in and out of Seattle hundreds of times but never stopped and enjoyed the city before.

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Piano and Dancing

Tabs, Me and Pip enjoying the hotel balcony

Mist not wanting to practice the piano
Mist practicing her music festival pieces
Tabs practicing
Pip dancing
Pip and Mommy
There's never anyone on the piano balcony at this hotel-- a perfectly quiet place to play...

Finished revising my thesis and sent in an abstract for a conference in Spain--all this before 8 in the morning. Spent yesterday at the fashion outlets. Ralph Lauren was the prize. Purchased a dress and blazer which I love. Today nonstop Zumba 8 until 6. 
Nervous...don't know what to expect.
Wish me luck. Here's hoping I can keep up with the choreography.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

SAM Seattle Art Museum

Pics from the Seattle Art Museum. I love art museums and galleries--so much to take in. I posted 2 entries today. Scroll down for more Seattle news....


Seattle Morning

Peter and the Girls in Seattle

Peter and the girls

Tabs at the world'd highest Starbucks.

Tallest building in Seattle

The lobby of our hotel: Hotel Olympic Fairmont
I love Seattle. I need to move to a big coastal city. Sure, staying at the Fairmont adds a rosy glow to my visit, but I love the whole West Coast feel. I feel it in San Francisco, Vancouver and here. 
Yesterday, my first Seattle morning, I got up early and worked out in the hotel gym. I went across the street to the 4th Ave. Starbucks (my very favourite Starbucks ever: big, historic building, comfy chairs, good people watching) and worked on my thesis revisions. It was the very best place to work on my thesis.
 Peter and the girls went swimming, out for breakfast and toured floor 73 of the tallest Seattle building while I enjoyed my work time.
The afternoon was spent walking around the down town. We had lunch and went to floor 40 of the tallest building in Seattle and went to the world's highest Starbucks (only in Seattle). We toured Pike Market on the water front and then went to the SAM (Seattle Art Musuem)--was the best--will post more pics of that tomorrow. Many cool exhibits. My favourite was by American performance artist, Nick Cave "Meet Me at the Centre of the Earth."  The exhibit housed many cool costumes made to fit Nick--made out of stuffed toys, fun fur, yarn, buttons , etc. The videos of him dancing in the costumes were so fun.Of course, I am drawn to the paintings--so excited to be getting back to my painting. I love to paint.
We ate supper at Wild Ginger--Asian fusion. Most tasty and our waiter was the best.

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