Post-Exam Season To-Do List

You’ve finished exams! Congratulations! Chances are you’re pretty tired and maybe a little lacking in Vitamin D from all that time in the library… Well, not to fear, I have some suggestions of a few activities to get you back to your pre-exam, non-sleep deprived self!

  1. Remember that placed called “outside”? Get out there! Soak up that Vitamin D! Sit outside in the sunshine with your friends. Go for a walk. Either way, don’t make too strict plans and if you can, give yourself a full day to just go with the flow.
  2. Along the same lines, remember “nature”? Change your mind space by getting out of your house and looking at plants. Go to Allan Gardens Conservatory or Cloud Gardens Conservatory… Look at these beautiful leaves!

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    Allan Gardens. August 2016.
  3. Make yourself some food! Maybe you’ve been eating a lot of frozen pizza lately and that’s OK, but your body would probably love some greens. If you’re looking for some healthy inspo, check out my other post: Nourishing Your Body: End of Semester Recipes
  4. Be selfish! Need a day to just chill out? Maybe binge watch your favourite show for hours and hours? Do it! You deserve it.
  5. Did you have amazing professors this semester? Write them a “thank-you” note! Professors don’t often get them and, like anyone else, would appreciate your positive feedback! Here’s some cool advice on writing thoughtful “thank you” notes… Lemony Snicket’s Thank-You Note Advice
  6. Go on a “photo safari” – which is what my dad calls walking around town with the sole purpose of taking pictures. I love this activity because I get to see my favourite parts of town in a new light OR get to discover a new part of town! Toronto is huge and I’m always discovering something new…
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Sugar Beach, Toronto. August 2016.
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Thanks to the Profs that “Get it”

I want to put on paper (so to speak) something that has been brewing in my mind for months and is important enough that it will not go away.

In the fall (2016), I had to deal with a very significant family crisis. One so important and all-consuming that I left my apartment, my campus and my city, in order to go to Ottawa to be with my loved ones. Most of what happened “on the ground” as in, in my sister’s bedroom or at my boyfriend’s parents’ house where I lived while outside Toronto, is still painful and I am not sure I am ready to talk about it here. Like most issues, its resolution is still in the making months later. I read something recently about needing to be able to understand your own experiences, for them to not be painful anymore for you to be able to really help others move forward with their own issues. So, anyway, when that time comes, I’ll probably blog about it.

Until then, here is the heartfelt thanks that I want to give the professors I had first semester who helped me cope when I really needed it…

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When my heart was breaking in two, when I felt pulled in two opposite directions (one home and one to school/my normal life), I was lucky enough to have a bunch of really supportive and really amazing professors. One let me cry in her office for a good thirty minutes; she listened to me as I sobbed and snotted on tissues that she kept handing me. Another hugged me and told me about his own issues so I wouldn’t feel so alone. Another told me that I needed self-care and quick (!) because I was putting myself on the edge as I tried to be the rock for someone else.

My particular situation was that the crisis wasn’t happening to me directly, but rather to a member of my immediate family who I needed to support. I had no real paperwork; just a note from my own counsellor who could attest to the fact that I was a mess.

But none of that mattered because I lucked into some pretty understanding profs who accommodated me and made me feel I had the space to do what was important.  The thing is, when your whole world feels like it’s imploding, you don’t need a professor to insist upon a doctor’s note – to insist upon bureaucracy and paperwork.

You need someone to tell you that it’s OK that you need to disappear for a while. You need someone to tell you that the fact of the matter is, you should disappear for even longer than you think you may need because even when your crisis is over, you’ll need time to recoup – and that that likely will not happen on campus.

You need someone to tell you that your participation mark will be made up of self-care on your own time – as long as you promise to check in. You need someone who will suggest that you make a chart, a 1-10 scale of your well-being so that you do not internalize others’ trauma while you try to be a care-giver. (If you are interested in what the 1-10 scale is, please let me know, as I would be happy to share.)

I am infinitely thankful that all of what I just enumerated is what I got at Glendon in my time of crisis this fall and I feel it’s important to share the things that people do right by you, because as Gertrude Stein once said:

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I do understand the reasoning behind the notes and the paperwork all: there are some (very) rare people who may want to take advantage of a system that is put into place to help those with real needs. But some needs cannot be explained away with a doctor’s note – especially mental health ones.

Ultimately, the work got done (with a delay) and I finished my semester. I was drained, but knew that everything had gone as smoothly as possible given the circumstance.  All of this to say, “thank you” to my professors who have been positive forces in my life. Without you, my first semester would have an even harder slog.

Nourishing Your Body: End of Semester Recipes

It’s pretty much the end of March and you’re probably a) swamped in work; b) you have still weird lull in your to-do list followed by two weeks of back to back assignments and exams… Either way, I have a few things to share with you…

  1. You can do it!!! You’ve made it this far and that’s something to celebrate in and of itself!
  2. Take care of yourself! You’re probably tired and stressed and eating healthy is low on the priority list… EXCEPT, that you’ll need energy to finish this semester on the right foot. And, it’s often nice to step away from your desk, make some food and gain some mind space…
  3. These recipes are super simple and with some substitutions, can even be made in your dorm! Happy cooking!

So, with that in mind, I want to share two of my go-to recipes when I need a extra “kick in the pants” so to speak and something healthy that with make me feel good and fuel my mind and body for completing my work (and also just being a human being!).

RECIPE 1: a blueberry smoothie bowl topped with lot ‘o good stuff.

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This smoothie bowl is super simple: all you need is a blender and just a few ingredients!

Smoothie:

  • 1 handful frozen wild blueberries
  • 1 ripe banana
  • ½ cup kefir (probiotics!!!)
  • 1 cup soy milk (or almond or regular milk)
  • 1 portion (vegan)* protein powder (optional)

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Toppings:

  • Chia seeds
  • Bee pollen
  • Homemade granola
  • Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Hemp hearts/seeds

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PS: don’t have a blender?? Get a smoothie at RevUp (Glendon friends – you know what I mean) and add the toppings in your room…

RECIPE 2: Super Yummy and Super Wholesome Hummus Bowl

I love this meal a) because it’s so delicious b) it’s filling and gives me long lasting energy when I’m trying to get stuff done.

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The Hummus Bowl is comprised of:

  1. Hummus, of course. I make mine at home because it doesn’t take that long and I love to cook. Here’s the recipe I use: Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi’s Basic Hummus. The hummus is a crowd pleaser and never fails me… (If you don’t have access to a kitchen, store bought hummus will totally do the trick!)
  2. Pickled turnips! I love the sharp vinegary flavour of the turnip with the hummus… Yum! I don’t make these… Most big grocery stores (i.e. Adonis) will have them.
  3. Roasted beets! Super simple… Toss in EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), add salt and pepper and then put them in a hot oven until soft or crispy (whichever you prefer). If you need more guidance, see this link: How to Roast Beets – The Kitchn (No kitchen? Lots of grocery store sells pre-roasted veg that you can store in your fridge for your hummus bowl! Not a fan of that extra expense? Other raw veg, like carrots, broccoli or fennel would be tasty too!)
  4. Kale salad! This kale salad is so simple: de-stem kale (I prefer Calo Nero or Lacinato kale), wash and then chop coarsely… Put the kale in a large bowl and add EVOO, salt, pepper and grated parmesan (or nutritional yeast if vegan) and massage with your hands to a) mix it all together b) soften the kale… Trust me, the massage is worth it for the texture of the kale and maybe it’ll help alleviate some of your stress!
  5. Finally – top with a drizzle of EVOO and some Armenian (also called Syrian or Aleppo) pepper for taste.

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The best part of this recipe is that it can all be made in advance (the kale salad can even last a day or two in the fridge) and you can assemble as you go!

Hope you enjoy! Good luck with finishing your semester! And please let me know if you make any of these recipes! Happy eating XX.

* I am not vegan, although I do eat a lot of vegan good; I just prefer this powder. Feel free to use whatever you have on hand/prefer.

Visiting Red Cloud, Nebraska

For my first blog post I thought I’d share my trip to Nebraska that I went on thanks to the Janet Warner/Eric Rump Travel Award! I want to shamelessly promote this award because it allowed me to go on such a fun and educational trip! I am a little giddy just reminiscing…

Dear Fellow English Majors,

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Me at the Minneapolis Airport

I had the amazing opportunity to travel to the Willa Cather Conference in Red Cloud, Nebraska thanks to this generous grant. My love for Cather is quite simple: I had the distinct pleasure of reading her novel My Àntonia in the first ever English course I took at Glendon in my first year. The novel and this course as a whole are to thank for my realization that English is the field for me, and my subsequent major switch, as I was previously in Translation. Basically, by reading and critiquing Cather’s work, I had started down a literary path for which there is (happily) no turning back: when I found out about the Willa Cather Spring Conference, I knew I had to go and meet other people whose lives had been so changed as mine had. Thus, I embarked on my journey, first to Lincoln, Nebraska and then onto Red, Cloud, Nebraska, the place where Cather spent some o her childhood and continued to write about for years…

I arrived in Lincoln, Nebraska, just prior to the conference in order to visit this small college town and learn more about Cather’s state. I toured the city, which consisted mostly of visiting its State Capitol building, and waiting for my ride to the conference. There is no way to get to Red Cloud, a twelve-hundred-person town,except by car, and being too young to rent a car, I was dependent on the lovely people at the Willa Cather Foundation to get to and from the conference.

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The Plains

My ride was to be given to me by a gentleman named Tom – a former president of the Willa Cather Foundation and as I soon would discover, a fairy godfather of sorts. Tom and I hit it off right away and in addition to driving me to the conference, he also drove me to visit the memorial prairie (and to its close neighbour, the state of Kansas!) and to the home that he is renovating in Red Cloud that was the home of one of Cather’s characters. As we drove the two hours from Lincoln to Red Cloud, I watched as the scenery I had so often read about passed before my eyes.

The conference itself was, of course, another experience I will not soon forget. I got to listen to presentations of scholarly papers on Cather’s work but also on the other theme of the conference: The Great War. This was my first experience at a literary conference and I learnt so much. I also met so many individuals who have made me even more motivated to pursue graduate studies in English and maybe even on Cather!

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Catholic Church in Red Cloud

Attending this conference was a very significant moment for me; so much so that I  currently am pursuing a Cather directed reading course with my professor, Dr. Danielle Russell. My plan was to use this opportunity to prepare a paper for the next Cather Conference in Pittsburgh in June 2017 –  something that a number of professors in Red Cloud encouraged me to do! I am happy to say that my paper was accepted! I will write another follow-up post about the conference later… Stay tuned! Anyway, I feel terribly privileged to have been able to make these connections.

In addition to the presentation of academic papers, the Willa Cather Foundation provided guided tours of the historic buildings in Red Cloud. I thus had the pleasure of visiting so many of the places I love reading and writing about.

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Annie Pavelka’s House (Àntonia Shimerda inspiration)

I am so thankful for this experience – that without this grant would not have been possible. So, please do yourselves the favour of applying to this award! You have until March 24th. Find more info here: http://www.glendon.yorku.ca/english-studies/2015/03/24/janet-warner-eric-rump-travel-award/

If you wish, you can see more photos from my trip by accessing this link: http://www.imgrum.net/tag/EmsWillaCatherTrip