Monday, October 31, 2005

An ode to beetroot...and Jamie Oliver

I am addicted now. Ever since the market at uni started selling bags of fresh beetroot, I've been eating tons of the stuff.

We had a couple of beets left over from my latest batch of borscht and I went off on a great web-search for interesting recipes, whereupon I discovered Jamie Oliver's website and this recipe for baked beetroot with garlic & balsamic vinegar. YUM! It was the best Sunday evening supper ever.


I'm so disappointed that despite eating all this beetroot my wee has yet to turn pink.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

We're moving....

To High Wycombe.

I got an NHS Assistant Psychologist post in a Learning Disabilities Team.

Woooo...kind off. We've got to leave our wee flat...*sniff*...and our friends *wails*.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

This job...that job...the other job

I've just been offered that elusive thing I've been searching Assistant Psychologist (AP) job!

Its in a charity working with people with learning disabilities. I was impressed by the set-up - its working partly in a residential facility and partly in the community. All of the staff (I've met the manager, some of the care staff and the current APs) seemed geninely nice, friendly people and the whole place does seem to be a really friendly, people-centred place to work. The psychologist was absolutely lovely and in the interview, we did actually have a long discussion about the pros and cons of working for the charity versus the NHS and the potential for getting on to a training course from the position. I am stunned that after such a frank discussion and my own admission that I might be put off the job by the fact it wasn't NHS that they offered me the job!

The job is very heavily clinical - most of the work is direct client contact with relatively little audit/administrative work. The supervisor was fantastic - I really felt I clicked with her. She likes to work systemically (which is something I'm seriously interested in) and says she will insist on a minimum of one hour formal supervision a week and to expect much more in informal supervision as there is a lot of clinical responsibility in the job. There's also lots of working within a mul-disciplinary team, training care staff etc. Its the kind of post I think I need as I have oodles of research experience and a lot of child psych experience so this would be an entirely new area for me.

My only dilemma is that it isn't an NHS post and the pay is peanuts (less than the NHS - shocking isn't it!). I've been applying for some of the senior AP positions in the NHS and I'm still waiting to hear back from several of them. Its very competitive and I don't want to shoot myself in the foot by holding out for another job offer and then not getting one! On the otherhand, if I were to be offered another post, was impressed by the psychologist in the interview, it was NHS and the pay was substantially higher...I can't say I wouldn't be sorely tempted! I don't like messing people around, so I want to give them a straight yes or no answer. I just wish I could wait to hear back from other places first.

I have one week to decide...answers on a postcard please...

But on a more positive note. Look what partner dude surprised me with this morning :D. Thank you darling!

Friday, October 21, 2005

All our senses

All our senses are given to us to enjoy,
And to praise God.
The smell of the sea,
The blossom borne on the wind,

of the soft flesh of a little baby;

the taste of a ripe plum

or bread fresh from the oven,

the feel of a warm cat's fur,

or the body of a lover -
these are all forms of thanksgiving prayer.

-Bella Brown (in 'Plain Living - A Quaker Path to Simplicity' by Cathering Whitmire)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

5 things

Courtesy of Amanda...

What I was doing 10 years ago:
I was 15, right this moment, I was probably waiting for the bus to take me home from school. I was far to studious.

5 years ago:
I was on placement in a child mental health clinic and really enjoying it. I was running a telephone helpline and raising riot in studentland. Ah, those were the days. *sigh* (and omg, was it really 5 years ago...)

1 year ago:
I was just starting the third year of my PhD. Again, being far to studious. Getting fed up with it and preparing myself to move to NYC for 4 months. Actually, maybe I was also preparing to go to Oslo. That was fun :) Actually, it wasn't that fun because it was work related and I had to be at booorrrriiiinnnggg talks from 8am til 10pm most days. But the day I had off was fun. I discovered that handles on coffee cups are not the norm in Norway. :D

I worked from 9am til midnight. Yawn. But I did get to re-acquaint myself with a fantastic album from my youth, so all is not lost!

5 snacks I enjoy:
clementines (I love them!)
dairy milk (Americans, you don't know what you are missing)
maya gold (mmmmm & guilt free - organic fair trade yummyness)
blueberry muffins
green tea (not really a snack, but I like the stuff a lot)

5 songs I know all the words to:
Imagine (John Lennon)
Closest Thing to Crazy (Katie Melua)
These are the Days (Jamie Callum)
Eye to the Telescope (KT Tunstall)
Fields of Gold (Sting...was it him originally tho?!)
& far too many embarrassing happy clappy crappy Jesus songs :S

5 Things I would do with $100 million:
Pay off my student loan
Give a lot of it away to some worthy charity
Fund a few students who wouldn't otherwise be able to go to uni
Buy a house & pay off my mum's mortgage
Go on a world tour with partner dude

5 locations I would like to run away to:
Scottish Highlands
West Coast of Ireland (ok, the first two aren't very imaginative, but they're the most quiet, peaceful places on earth...well, in the UK anyway)
India (although I doubt I could cope with the heat)
New Zealand

5 bad habits I have:
I chew my nails
I procrastinate
I stay up too late
...and get up too late as a consequence :S
I am messy sometimes

5 things I like doing:
Going to quiet, remote places where I cannot be contacted
Web geekery related activities
Volunteer work
Watching arty farty films & documentaries
Spending time with partner dude & friends

5 things I would never wear: (We need visuals!)
hot pants (it wouldn't be pretty, ok!)
a cat suit
um, um, um, um
I'm not sure if I can think of anything else!

5 TV shows I like:
Jamie Oliver stuff
The Apprentice
The X-factor
How Clean is your House (I know, terrible choices...sorry!)

5 biggest joys of the moment:
The prospect of a job change!
Spending time with partner dude
Spending time with friends
Seeing my PhD looming towards an end (on occasion I get a glimpse of it - about 1 second a week, but still, that's 1 second a week when I see an ending)
Entering data...a lot of it :)

5 Favorite toys:
Partner dude's computer
I'm, um, I'm, er, out of pathetic is that?! Ok, I need new toys! :(
I want an ipod!

5 Next victims:
Well, whoever does it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

All I really want... a life.

Its 8pm, I've just spent a day at work teaching...

-one way anova
-how to enter more complex data sets
-repeated measures anova
-mixed design anova
-main effects & interactions
-post-hoc comparisons
-controlling for multiple comparisons using simple effects analysis second year students who are still struggling with very basic statistic concepts. Oh and, btw, they have a test on this next week that counts to their final my inbox swell...

Hmmm. I taught this course last year and I'm sure we taught all that over the course of a term - not in one 2 hour tutorial?! (I don't design the course, in case you're wondering why I would do such a thing!)

Now I am entering data (I am grateful to have data, no really I am) at 8pm at night, having been at work til 7pm. Thankfully partner dude has escaped to the pub for the evening, leaving me at home to crank up good old Alanna at her angiest.

How appropriate.

Tips on stress management welcome.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I can relate...

Friday, October 14, 2005

39% evil, 61% good

I'm disappointed - I wanted to be more evil..

This site is certified 39% EVIL by the Gematriculator
This site is certified 61% GOOD by the Gematriculator

How does your blog fare? Find out here

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


When I was in New York I volunteered at a homeless shelter for a while. Some of the young people who I met when I was there are featured here.

Seeing their photos brought back to me some of the harsh realities I discovered in New York. I've been writing another job application today, and on it I mention my experiences with these young people as giving me a greater awareness of diversity issues and the specific needs of minority communities. Is that really all it is to me? Something to add to my CV. God, I hope not.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Borscht cravings

I spent the first 3 and a half months of 2005 in New York. While I was there I spent a lot of time with Friends from Fifteeth Street Meeting.

Fifteenth street is very close to an area of New York with a lot of eastern european people and more importantly a restaurant called Little Poland, which is very popular with members and attenders of 15th St.

Anyways, to cut a long story short, I spent a lot of time in Little Poland slurping borscht and munching peroggi - and that's to say nothing of the outrageously yummy apple cake.

Ever since I have had cravings for borscht, which I put to an end to day when I went to the market and found a lot of beetroot. I stocked up and tonight I made my very own borscht.


My cravings are satisfied (I'm not pregnant, honest).

Anyway, in the style of Paul Turner, and especially for Lorcan, Ryan and Amanda (who I ate just far tooo much borscht with), I thought I'd post the photos :)

Borscht for two

Life - a gift?

I am in the last 3 months of my PhD funding. Ideally I want to finish by Christmas, but this doesn't look all that promising right now. I'm bored and frustrated, job hunting and hoping beyond hope that somehow I'll find the energy and motivation to finish this thing.

I try to see life as a gift. It is an immense joy to experience life - to live, to breathe, to love, to simply be alive. I try to appreciate it and milk it for all its worth. But, my attitude for the last few weeks, maybe even months hasn't been to accept this stage of my PhD as a gift, but rather as a curse, to be got over as quickly as possible so that I can collapse at the end of it, have my viva, make my amendments (if they tell me to re-submit or do more studies, the answer will be no way on this sweet earth), get the binded copies into the library, give one to my dad and get on with life and put this whole damned charade behind me.

But this is not a way to live. This quotation from John Woolman spoke to me.

"Open your eyes to the flaming vision
of the wonder of such a life.
Begin where you are. Now.
If you slip and stumble
don't spend too much time in anguished regrets
and self-accustions but begin again
Don't grit your teeth and clench your fists and say,
"I will! I will!" Relax.
Take hands off. Submit yourself to God...
Let life be willed through you.'

So can these next few months be accepted as a gift to unwrap and celebrate? They will be tough, I have no doubt about it. But can I accept them with joy? I'll try, I will try to stop and remember what a wonder it is simply to be. Maybe its ironic that after reading some Woolman, by thoughts turn to a quotation I read in Dawkin's 'Unweaving the rainbow' which said, 'To live at all is miracle enough.' Indeed it is - even if it means the inevitable frustration and turmoil that come with finishing a PhD.

Although damn it, I still just want a holiday free of PhD worries...)

Friday, October 07, 2005

Truth is my authority

I stumbled across a quotation the other day that brought back memories of leaving evangelicalism behind.

"Truth is my authority, not some authority my truth.'
~Mary Dyer

I remember reading it in a book and saying to myself, 'Yes, that's how I want to live my life,' kissing away the authority of preachers, churches and ancient books and opening myself up to follow my own heart and wherever honesty and integrity would lead me.

Its been one year since partner dude and I started attending Quaker meetings. One aspect of Quakerism that I find rings consistently true and perpetually challenging is the honesty testimony. Being honest 100% of the time is tough.

To be consistently honest in my work, not taking shortcuts (hey, I'm a research student - we like shortcuts). Now, as I apply for various jobs and have to present myself honesty, not fluffing up my application forms and trying to find a way to put my true self across in interviews (not just what I think they want to hear) - that's not easy.

But also in my own personal journey of discovery and exploration. Finding a way to be true to my experience and to follow the inner voice, questionning, reflecting, being totally honest. That's tiring. Sometimes it would be nice to have a book to turn to for absolute guidance (but Quaker texts are full of soul searching questions, and even the Bible itself is more of a blinding light than a guiding one!)

But this is where honesty, integrity and truth will lead, and that's where I want to go. True to myself, true to the world and true to others.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Too English to be ex-gay?

It has been really interesting to spend time with Peterson and hear what some of we good English folk have to say about the ex-gay movement. Here's the question - is it relevant here? Ok, so we don't have our very own homonomo half-way house, we don't have an ex-gay media presence - indeed, surely we quite Brits are too busy slurping tea over cucumber sandwiches (no crusts) and munching digestive biscuits to be bothered about converting homosexuals?

Not so, I promise.

I grew up in an evangelical church and in my late teens and very early 20s I was very involved in the charismatic movement - and trust me, misguided ideas about homosexuality are as prominent here as they are on the other side of the Atlantic.

The church I went to was affiliated with Ichthus and I once went on a whole week long Ichthus camping experience (yes, it was as hellish as it sounds...don't ask me about the "prophetic music making" sessions...*shudders*). At that conference, books by people such as Leanne Payne and Mario Bergner came highly recommended at the bookstall. That's where Ichthus leaders get their information about sexuality.

People in my church gave me said Leanne Payne book early on in my psychology degree. It was disturbing - anyone with half an inkling about psychological theory would know instantly how utterly crack-potted it is. But, I fear most church leaders don't have even a basic grounding in psychology or even decent counselling theories that would enable them to critically evaluate such books in the light of what modern science and psychology can tell us about same-sex attraction.

Another recent phenonemon in the evangelical movement in this part of the world is the growth of Christian Counselling. It was once recommended to me, in one of the largest charismatic churches in the UK, certainly the largest in the city where I live, that I should go on such a course so as to ensure that I had a solid Christian grounding in my work. I declined the offer in favour of attending training accredited by mainstream counselling regulatory bodies and the British Psychological Society (our equivalent of the American Psychological Association.) Some Christian leaders weren't impressed by my choice, but even as a committed charismatic Christian, I recognised the pitfalls of a counselling service operating within local churches and overseen by people with a specific religious agenda. I so regret resisting the temptation to say, 'I hear what you're saying about having a solid Christian foundation, but I'd rather have an evidence base.' Me-ow. ;)

Out of curiosity, I searched for 'homosexuality' on the Association of Christian Counsellors and found an advertisement for an Exodus conference.

My lovely and very kind house group leaders were convinced that gay people, if offered support could be celibate and have a very special relationship with the Holy Spirit. My pastor when I attended an AOG/Ichthus affiliated church and who is one of the most personable and compassionate people, publically preached that we knew homosexuality to be unnatural because we know penises don't belong up anuses. In another Ichthus church I went to, a senior leader denounced the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading as a sign of the terrible unrighteousness in the church and my youth leader in a Northern Irish lifelink church used to call things 'gay' when he didn't like them. 'Oh, what a gay piece of music,' and that sort of thing.

And yes, I even know people who have attempted to cast out those evil and depraved demons of homosexuality. How nice.

Was I involved in unusual crack-pot churches? No, I was not. I was just aware of what was going on because some of my closest friends were gay Christians - some of them still are, but many have left churches and are pursing their own spirituality, some still hurt from the rejection caused by well-meaning but very very misguided Christians.

I'm telling you now - all this is going on behind the scenes in a church near you - yes, even the ones with cucumber sandwiches, and most likely in the ones with a lively and active group of young people.

I'd be really interested to know if anyone else has had similar (or different) experiences. There are, obviously, some gay affirming churches in the UK and many of the more traditional Anglican and Methodist churches are very open. Indeed, I know a URC trained lay-reacher who says she thinks its a crying shame that Rowan Williams has let himself be influenced by those terrible evangelicals. And although, I appreciate that the situation may be more complex than that - I also sympathise with the sentiment.

But hey, next time I get asked why I have an interest in the ex-gay movement and if its really only a crazy American thing...I'll just refer them to this blog post.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Lets be sexy

"There is no such creation as a "gay" or "homosexual" person." So say Love in Action, the increasingly infamous treatment program for homosexuals.

You know I almost agree with them.

I've had a social constructivist bent ever since I studied at a centre for research into intellectual disabilities and did my undergraduate project in cultural representations of childhood in the language used during Parent-Child-Interaction-Therapy. I must admit, it is probably to the chagrin of my current die-hard positivist PhD supervisors that after 3 years of squeezing myself into a rather medicalised research group, I am more convinced than ever of the need to consider the implications of social constructivist philosophy for mental health.

But I digress, and I'm sure my intellectualised rants about the philosophy of science and the manner in which the underlying beliefs behind psychological theories and priniciples may be oppressive to people with mental illness are probably not of much interest. But brushing up on social constructionism has reminded me how much our experience of the world is associated with the language we use.

Partner-dude and I have been priveleged to have Peterson staying with us this weekend - so naturally we've spent a lot of time discussing queer issues.

I wonder why do we categorise people's sexuality by the gender of who they fancy.

Am I, someone who has always been attracted to males really so simple as to be 'heterosexual'. Am I incidentally homosexual because I posed for a camera, kissing a female friend once (the joys of photo pub crawls...and the ensuing embarrassment when a photograph of said incident made it into the hands of some of my conservative Christian friends!)

I suspect that our language constrains us to think about sexuality along the dimensions of heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. And, I'm not denying that this has any relation to reality - some are attracted to people of the opposite sex, and some people are attracted to people of the same sex and some people are attracted to both.

But I don't think these dimensions really do justice to the diversity of human sexual desire and expression and our society's obsession with these dimensions may limit our discussions on issues around sexual ethics.

So is my sexuality heterosexual - yes if you want to define it as such, but that's certainly not the whole story. My sexuality is about myself as a sexual being and part of that means taking care of myself, eating well, exercising, breathing in the fresh air and escaping the office once in a while. I express it with my partner curled up under fluffy blankets watching arty films, discussing good books, shouting at political commentators on the news, ranting about the boredom of doing a PhD, sharing Haagen-Daz under the duvet and much much much shared laughter. Its everything from subtle looks, cheeky games of footsie, deep friendship, gentle kisses and passionate snogs to overwhelming urges to rip off all my partner's clothes, blindfold him and tie him to the bedposts...ok, maybe that was too much information ;)

But these things are all part of my sexuality, all things I want to share with my partner, and in so doing I find a wealth of sexual expression that is far broader, far more wonderful and far more fun that saying "I am heterosexual, I desire vaginal intercourse with men." I wonder if we could change the ways in which we think about our sexualities would it help us better engage in discussion about what our sexuality means for us and how it can be lived well. The importance of whether you do men or women seems to pale in comparison to the tremendous diversity of what turns us on and the ways in which we human beings express ourselves sexually.

In discussions of sexual ethics, particularly in religious contexts, we so desperately need to move beyond the 'gay debate' into a whole new realm of discussion as to how to live our sexualities in ways that express love for ourselves, for one another and in the spirit/light/God/Christ (whatever that means - I'm afraid I don't like to be watched, not even by Jesus).