NEW COLUMN: Check out the Net Nerds internet picks.
CONVENTIONAL VIS-Ã?-VIS DISTANCE EDUCATION – Wayne Benedict gives us his unique perspective on the two types of university study. If you have ever wondered what you are missing by going to AU, read Wayne’s article and see traditional university through the eyes of an adult student accustomed to distance study.
SPORTS SOLUTIONS FOR AU STUDENTS – Most of us take it for granted that attending AU means we won’t have access to sports or athletic facilities, but you can always search our opportunities in your area, and round out your studies. Shannon Maguire has tips and links to get you started.
DONATING MY BODY TO SCIENCE – Debbie Jabbour joins a research project as a test-subject and explores the other side of scientific study.
UPDATE TO INVISIBLE WOMEN
Last week, Stacey Steel talked about the plight of the Aboriginal woman in Canada in ‘Invisible Women.’ The following link is an update on the case of the 12-year-old Native girl who was sexually assaulted by three Caucasian men in Saskatchewan. One of them men in question was given a 2 year conditional sentence. Comments from the judge are included in the article: http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/1062871751657_40//
You never know what’s coming:
First, I’d like to apologize to anyone I have not responded to in the last few days. I’ll get to you, I promise. Sometimes life blindsides you, and it takes a while to catch up. Bear with me:
On Friday morning I heard the news that actor John Ritter had died. I was not a particularly big fan – I haven’t watched his new show. I sat through a few minutes once, but found the obnoxious teenaged characters more infuriating than endearing, so I turned to something else. Of course I watched plenty of Three’s Company growing up. Who didn’t?
I was shocked to hear the details of his death. From my understanding he was a perfectly healthy man in the prime of his life who succumbed suddenly to an undetectable weakness in his heart that had, perhaps, been lurking for years. He might have died sooner – or he might have lived to be a very old man. No one knows what set it off.
When I hear a story like this, I can’t help but think about how fragile life is. I thought about his wife, and how she would have had no idea when he left the house that morning, that her husband would be dead in a few hours. Death is hard, no matter how it comes, but when people are sick you get prepared for the end. When it comes with no warning, it shakes you to the core. You start to wonder who might go next, and life suddenly seems very unfair.
Little did I know when I was thinking about John Ritter’s untimely death that the very next day I would know firsthand just how unpredictable and unfair life is.
Let me start by saying that my husband and I are cat people. Some people hate cats. Some seem to hate animals in general. I don’t get that, and it disturbs me to meet these types.
We love our cats more than anything in our lives. My first cat was with me for fourteen years, and when he had to be put down from kidney disease, it pulled the rug out from under me. To cope, I immediately bought a new kitten – a starved, tiny little ragamuffin from a disreputable shop in our neighbourhood [now closed] who had been brought in from a farm at only 4 weeks of age. When we walked in the store, she climbed up on my husband’s shoulder and would not get down. We had to take her, she left us no choice.
The pet store fed the infant kittens nothing but cheap, dry food, and cautioned me to do the same [to prevent diarrhoea. What idiots!]. As a result, my kitten had serious bowel trouble – she would shudder and strain and cry out in her litter box, and bleed quite heavily from her bottom. The vet said not much could be done but to give her lots of moist food, so we did, and in about 8 weeks it was all cleared up, though she had a slightly funny looking bum. Now I wonder how much damage was done to her insides from this totally unsuitable diet. Tiny Cleo also had severe ear mites, worms, and some sort of skin fungus that looked like elephant skin [it only cropped up a couple of days after we got her and we could not bear to give her up. Anyway, we found out later that this store routinely drowned kittens who did not sell.]. Her fur was so thin she was almost bald on her belly, and she was far too small for her 7 weeks. The vet washed her down, squirted sticky stuff in her ears, down her throat and up her bottom, and took a bit of the fungus for tests, leaving that tiny little leg in a thick blue cast-like bandage. It cost quite a bit too.
She was the saddest sight you could imagine, but all of the treatments worked and she got well and she grew strong and healthy with the lushest, softest coat of any cat I’ve known. All her life she carried her tail curled high over her back, almost touching her head, like a Husky dog. She was more loving than any cat I’ve known too. Nothing pleased her more than to make us happy, and her favourite place was on my husband’s lap, where she would sit for hours as he worked. She was trained to use her scratching post on command [which came in real handy when training our next kitten, and it never failed to impress visitors] and all I had to do was to glance at that post or tap it with my finger, to make her come running to scratch madly while looking over her shoulder at me to see if I was pleased with her. Nothing made her happier than pleasing us. She’d purr if you said she was a good girl. She could be bitchy to me at times though, as she was very jealous about my husband spending time with another girl.
I used to say that Cleo had no bones – just fur and stuffing. When you would pick her up she was light and soft and silky, without any hard edges. She would go totally soft in our arms, and trusted us completely. I could drop down onto my haunches and pretend to drop her and she would not even stiffen. She loved to be held, and would stand on her hind legs and reach up with her paws to be lifted up under the arms like a toddler. I could not go down to the kitchen for a cup of coffee without her running in to be picked up.
People who do not have pets never get it, but our little Cleo was our treasure and our little girl. We don’t want children, but she made us into a family. Our second cat, Lurch, is beautiful, but he’s not a people cat. Cleo loved us [especially my husband] so much that the whole house felt warm and alive. She was always in the room with one of us, and we never ate a meal without her nearby. It’s easy to get used to being so adored.
I wish I could tell you what happened, but I don’t know. On Saturday at about 7:00 pm she was frisky and happy – only four years old and so healthy. We gave her some of her favourite canned food and she was excited and ate with gusto. An hour later, she threw up – hard. But we didn’t think too much of it. Cat’s do that. Another hour later my husband found her, in deep shock, on the concrete floor of the basement. Her sides were heaving and she was unable to stand. She tried, but her hind end buckled. Her feet were cold as ice, and she threw up again, but didn’t move out of it. We knew it was very, very bad, and rushed her to the emergency vet. We could not comprehend what could make an animal so sick so fast. She nearly died before we could get her there. Thirty minutes later we were finalizing plans to have her put down. The vet thinks it might have been a heart defect, or an internal rupture [I think it might have had to do with her early bowel problems, though it never caused her any trouble in her adult life].
It’s been just over a day as I write this, and I still don’t understand how something can be so healthy one minute, and in shock and dying an hour or so later, but John Ritter proves that it can happen to people too. We were willing to pay any cost to have her healed. That was not the issue. When Ritter died, the news stations were all asking, “What could have been done to save him?” We get so accustomed to thinking that doctors can fix most anything, but sometimes they just shake their heads and tell you “it’s just one of those things.”
So my message is that once in a while we need a reminder that life is too short, you can’t count on anything, nothing lasts forever, and some things can never be replaced. I won’t suggest that you all go out and live each day like it’s your last. That’s not practical, and it’s too akin to mania. But do sit down once in a while and re-evaluate your life and ask – am I on track? Am I doing enough to further my goals? Take a look at what you do in your free time too. I know Canadian Idol and The Bachelor are ‘must see TV’, but when you are on your deathbed, do you want to do the calculation and figure out that you spent nine years of your life watching TV? Many people do. Check the link if you don’t believe me. What could you do with an extra nine years! Hell, you really could earn a doctorate in your spare time! I bet no one will be on their deathbed thinking, “I’m glad I watched all ten seasons of Survivor.”
Most importantly, ask this: if I lost everything tomorrow, what would I miss the most? Whatever that is, take a few minutes to appreciate it. Think, too, about the urge to buy more, to have more things, and to overwork yourself to secure your future. Your life is now. If it’s not fun and exciting, change it. Buy a book on the practice of Zen. It’s not as namby pamby as you might think. I’ll sum it up for you: most people spend most, if not all of their lives thinking about the past or the future. But life only happens now. Living in any other time is futile. Zen also teaches that we are almost never fully aware of what we are doing, which is why it’s so easy to regret how we spent out time later on.
I’m not the guru type, it’s true. I spend far too much time watching bad horror flicks and B-movies (I’m all excited that it’s almost October and the movie channels are bringing out all the good nasty stuff), I listen to music that makes my neighbours cringe, and yes, I’ve been known to waste an entire afternoon slaughtering hapless avatars in internet kill games. I also a-spiritual. But the philosophy of Zen makes sense to me, so I’m at least I’m trying to ask myself if I’m enjoying what I do, rather than just sitting there killing time.
I may be preaching to the converted here. After all, anyone who has the conviction, self-discipline and stamina to work toward a degree by distance education – or for that matter, anyone who takes a DE course – is someone who has goals, and is willing to take the hard road to attain those goals. Some of you might feel that you are behind everyone, for going to school so late or because you are progressing slowly. Look at it this way, you are already ten steps ahead of all those people who constantly talk about how they want to go back to school one day, but never do. For that, take a pat on the back and work with that momentum. At the risk of sounding like Red Green: we’re all in this together:
There. I’m off the pulpit. You may return to your normal, pleasurable Voice reading:
Tamra Ross Low
Editor in Chief
AUSU NEEDS AN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR!: See the posting for the Executive Director job in the News section of this issue.
VOICE WRITING CONTEST NEEDS NON-FICTION ENTRIES
The response so far to the first Voice writing contest has been wonderful. Most of our entries, however, are in the fiction category! This is unexpected since the fiction category was added at the last minute and was not even part of the original contest plan.
I’m sure that the non-fiction entries are lagging behind because it takes time to formulate a reply to an essay question, but if you are interested in a shot at the $300 in scholarship money, then trying out for the non-fiction category is a good bet!
C’mon, how hard can it be? Just tell me, in 1500 words or less, what you would do as President of AU? I know we have a lot of readers with strong opinions on this subject, so lets start hearing them!
The Voice fiction feature has become popular, but submissions have been slow. Send us your best fiction today, and it might become our next feature.
ATTENTION BUDDING WRITERS
The Voice needs some new Voices! We know you have plenty to say, so why not get paid for it. Send us a writing sample or article for submission and you might be published in an upcoming issue. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it pays. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.