Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thinking

thinking.
about hope. love. anticipation.
about softness. and art.
about making memories. and living with purpose.
about new beginnings.
new month. new year. new decade.
new blog?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

New Photos on Flickr




Hi all. I've started uploading some of the family photos I took in September for my sister and her family. You can see them on my Flickr page - http://www.flickr.com/photos/carmen_klassen/

Monday, October 12, 2009

On Vulnerability

Telling the truth is hard. Mostly, I think, because we don't know the full extent of the truth about ourselves. It's easier to go through life tending to the daily necessities than to sit down and confront ourselves. It's easier to go to work, get the groceries, do the laundry, clean the house and then fall into bed, than it is to be still and honest with ourselves.

I thought I was pretty good at telling the truth. I love conversation and have shared many evenings talking with friends about life and purpose and meaning.

Then I went to an all day writing workshop and discovered there are many levels of truth, and I was living in the top few. I wasn't strictly a surface dweller, but there were things I discovered that surprised me. We did several free-writing exercises, where you're given a topic and you start writing and don't stop until your allotted time is up. It would often start out completely innocuous, as I wrote about the minutiae of the day, sometimes just writing about the sound of the other writers scratching away in their journals. Then my mind would take a dive and go somewhere unexpected. Sometimes I kept writing, and sometimes I just didn't have the courage. Afterwards, we would share what we'd written, and I would be completely blown away by the truth that had found it's way out. And I respected and admired those that broke open their souls and shared their true selves. And I wanted to share just a little bit more, but wasn't quite ready.

I don't mean to suggest I have some dark, hidden secret that needs confessing. It's more pedestrian than that. It's the little disappointments that turn into big deals and bother us more than we let on. It's the fears that keep us from growing and trying new things, although we have another explanation for not being involved.

I'm drawn to those writers that embrace vulnerability; that share the good, the bad, and the things hoped for but not yet seen. I will get there, in time, but it's definitely going to be a process. If I were writing anonymously it would be so much easier! I know,though, that there are friends and family and co-workers who happen by this blog every now and then. And some of those very wonderful people have a habit of commenting about what I've written, and I need to be able to own up to my confessions in real life.

I don't think I'll ever write some big tell-all post (mostly because there's no big "tell-all" secret) but I am going to try to continue growing in the area of truth-telling, one blog post at a time.

So I think I'm good for today then.

If you're looking for more, may I suggest visiting one of the following blogs:

http://loraleeslooneytunes.com/ - I laughed, I cried, and then I went through a lot of kleenex. Seriously? Don't read this one in a public place, because sooner or later you'll get to a post about her son Matthew, and then you may fall apart a little. She is a woman who went through hell, managed to find her way back, and now has the courage to write about it.

http://inkonmyfingers.typepad.com/ - Beautiful writing and photography. Not quite as raw as the one above.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Next Time I'll Sing

I went to a concert this week. A great concert. An almost-sold-out arena concert with thousands of people who knew every word to every song and weren't afraid to show it. And I enjoyed it thoroughly.

But.

It wasn't until the last song that I got up and sang along with everyone, and it wasn't until that moment that I realized how much I'd missed out on.

I'd sat in my seat, foot-tapping and clapping along. Feeling slightly annoyed with the two women next to me who were invading my personal space. Trying not to get elbowed in the head because they were standing and I was sitting and there wasn't enough space between us.

I knew all the words, and there was a part of me that wanted to get up and sing and cheer and participate in the concert. But I didn't.

To be fair, the people behind us weren't standing up and I didn't want to get in their way. Also, I have to wear ear plugs at concerts now due to an obscenely loud show I went to that did a bit of damage a few years ago. And although I can hear the show just fine, the ear plugs muffle the noise of the crowd and take me out of the moment. I feel a little bit removed from my surroundings and too much inside my own head.

However.

I could have still sang. And I could have got up for the songs when just about everyone was on their feet. And I would have loved the concert so much more, if only I'd participated.

I realized that this is true for all of life. I can be present. I can enjoy and appreciate what's going on around me, but until I invest myself, until I participate in whatever is happening, my experience and enjoyment will only ever be muted.

So next time?

Next time I'll sing.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Lightness of Being

(Thoughts from yesterday)

Today started like any other day. Get up, shower, get ready for work, feed the cats, feed myself, a few finishing touches, and out the door to work.
I felt a little scatterbrained for the first little while, running on autopilot as my thoughts bounced around from one thing to the next. And then I started to feel it.

A lightness in my being.
A bounce in my step.
A song in my heart.
A welling up of joy and goodness that threatened to spill over into song if I wasn't careful.

The sun was shining, I was full of ideas, and my blog stats were up. I have a few great books on the go, and the upcoming weekend holds the promise of laughter and fellowship.

In the midst of this happiness, I stopped and whispered a prayer for a family friend who is in the middle of a fierce battle with cancer. A prayer that they would see good days ahead.

When everything is going so very well I get a little bit nervous. I want to revel in this feeling, but at the same time I worry that if I let down my guard and allow myself to be swept away by joy I'll be too vulnerable if and when life takes an unwelcome turn. There's a part of me that seems to believe if I'm constantly cognizant of all that can go wrong, if I acknowledge that this can all change in an instant, then I'll somehow be more prepared when it happens.

I know that isn't true. You can't prepare for bad news.

Knowing this, I shall endeavor to fully celebrate the good times. I want my awareness of the fleeting and fragile nature of life to be a catalyst for greater celebration when life is good. I want to be fully present and allow myself to indulge in happiness. I want to imprint on my memory the smiles and laughter and sense of well-being I experience in those moments.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sweetness


Jillian, June 2009

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Supper Time



I approach cooking more as an art form than a daily necessity. I like trying new dishes more than whipping up old favorites, and my cupboards are well-stocked. There's something therapeutic about chopping and mincing, grating and slicing. Rubbing dry herbs between my fingers to release their flavors. Filling my house with delicious smells. I particularly like to cook things that need several hours of simmering, building anticipation for the meal all day.


Which brings me to tonight's meal.


Yesterday I ate a frozen dinner for lunch. Linguine, pasta sauce, shrimp, spinach and mushrooms. Sounds more appealing than it looked or tasted. For a frozen dinner it was ok, but as I ate the watery concoction I thought I could probably do better. Made fresh, it would have been wonderful.


I went online (to my favorite recipe site) and found a recipe for pasta sauce. After work I stopped at the grocery store and liquor store (for the dry red wine) and zipped home to throw it together. This particular recipe is supposed to simmer for 3-5 hours. Which means I probably should have waited for the weekend to make it, but I'm impatient like that.


I'm cooking it up tonight, and will eat it for supper tomorrow.


After getting everything together in the pot, I glanced (one more time) at the directions. Because I'm a faithful follower, particularly with a new recipe.


Bring to a light boil.


Ummm...the only liquid in the pot was the half cup of red wine.
So it was thick. Very thick. And my dutch oven was three quarters full. Of very thick wonderful red sauce.
As soon as it started bubbling, the pot nearly leaped off the stove from the force of the boil. It produced big red pasta sauce bubbles.
Bubbles that did not stay in the pot.
A bit of a stir and the sauce calmed down, and with some experimenting I got the temperature just right. Hot enough to simmer (sort of) without popping big red bubbles all over my kitchen.

And now I wait. First I'll wait until it's done simmering. Then I'll wait until it's cooled enough to refrigerate. Then I'll wait until suppertime tomorrow, and hopefully it will be fantastic. Good enough to justify the bottle of wine. Red wine, which I don't usually drink. So either I'll be making a lot of pasta sauce, or indulging in a glass or two.

I'll let you know tomorrow how it turned out.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Way I See My City






Sunday, September 06, 2009

self portrait

i stand in front of the mirror. i came to get a bobby pin, but upon seeing my reflection decide I like the way strands of hair are escaping my ponytail. they fall around my face in a delicate frame. i smile at my reflection and think to myself - i look cute right now. navy thrift store shirt with pink letters - Las Vegas - slightly off centre. pink tank top peeks out from beneath. soft brown capris rolled up above my knees into makeshift shorts. bare feet.


happiness with a touch of longing reflects in my eyes.

Garden Shots












Friday, September 04, 2009

Hilarious Thoughts Stolen From a Friend's Facebook Page

I did not write this post. I stole it from a friend's Facebook page. I'm not sure where it originated, but it was too good not to share.

* I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

* More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves me.

* Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

* I don't understand the purpose of the line, "I don't need to drink to have fun." Great, no one does. But why start a fire with flint and sticks when they've invented the lighter?

* Have you ever been walking down the street and realized that you're going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the direction from which you came, you have to first do something like check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.

* Ok, that's enough Nickelback.

* I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

* Is it just me, or are 80% of the people in the "people you may know" feature on Facebook people that I do know, but I deliberately choose not to be friends with?

* Do you remember when you were a kid, playing Nintendo and it wouldn't work? You take the cartridge out, blow in it and that would magically fix the problem. Every kid in America did that, but how did we all know how to fix the problem? There was no internet or message boards or FAQ's. We just figured it out. Today's kids are soft.

* There is a great need for a sarcasm font.

* Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what the f was going on when I first saw it.

* I think everyone has a movie that they love so much, it actually becomes stressful to watch it with other people. I'll end up wasting 90 minutes shiftily glancing around to confirm that everyone's laughing at the right parts, then making sure I laugh just a little bit harder (and a millisecond earlier) to prove that I'm still the only one who really, really gets it.

* How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

* I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.

* I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

* The only time I look forward to a red light is when I’m trying to finish a text.

* A recent study has shown that playing beer pong contributes to the spread of mono and the flu. Yeah, if you suck at it!

* LOL has gone from meaning, "laugh out loud" to "I have nothing else to say".

* I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

* Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart", all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart".

* How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?

* I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a dick from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!

* Every time I have to spell a word over the phone using 'as in' examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete idiot. Today I had to spell my boss's last name to an attorney and said "Yes that's G as in...(10 second lapse)..ummm...Goonies"

* What would happen if I hired two private investigators to follow each other?

* While driving yesterday I saw a banana peel in the road and instinctively swerved to avoid it...thanks Mario Kart!

* MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

* Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

* I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the shower first and THEN turn on the water.

* Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

* I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

* Bad decisions make good stories

*Whenever I'm Facebook stalking someone and I find out that their profile is public I feel like a kid on Christmas morning who just got the Red Ryder BB gun that I always wanted. 546 pictures? Don't mind if I do!

* Is it just me or do high school girls get sluttier & sluttier every year?

* If Carmen San Diego and Waldo ever got together, their offspring would probably just be completely invisible.

* Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I'm from, this shouldn't be a problem.

*You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything productive for the rest of the day.

*Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after DVDs? I don't want to have to restart my collection

* There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.

* I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.

*"Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.

* I hate being the one with the remote in a room full of people watching TV. There's so much pressure. 'I love this show, but will they judge me if I keep it on? I bet everyone is wishing we weren't watching this. It's only a matter of time before they all get up and leave the room. Will we still be friends after this?'

* I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Dammit!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

* I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

* When I meet a new girl, I'm terrified of mentioning something she hasn't already told me, but that I have learned from some light internet stalking.

* I like all of the music in my iTunes, except when it's on shuffle, then I like about one in every fifteen songs in my iTunes.

* Why is a school zone 20 mph? That seems like the optimal cruising speed for pedophiles.

* As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.

* Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

* It should probably be called UNplanned Parenthood.

* I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

* Even if I knew your social security number, I wouldn't know what do to with it.

* Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, hitting the G-spot, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I’d bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time!

* My 4-year old son asked me in the car the other day "Dad what would happen if you ran over a ninja?" How the hell do I respond to that?

* It really pisses me off when I want to read a story on CNN.com and the link takes me to a video instead of text.

* I wonder if cops ever get pissed off at the fact that everyone they drive behind obeys the speed limit.

* I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

* I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lites than Kay.

* The other night I ordered takeout, and when I looked in the bag, saw they had included four sets of plastic silverware. In other words, someone at the restaurant packed my order, took a second to think about it, and then estimated that there must be at least four people eating to require such a large amount of food. Too bad I was eating by myself. There's nothing like being made to feel like a fat bastard before dinner.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Home

I've been reading a series of posts on La Belette Rouge about how people define Home, and started thinking about what Home means to me.

Home is walking in the front door after work and being greeted by my cats. It's sitting on the couch and doing a little reading before I start supper. Maybe even having a quick nap, just because I can.

Home is the feeling of unquestionable belonging.

It's where I can be and feel and express everything exactly as it is. I don't have to try to make a good impression on anyone. If I'm watching a sad movie and blow through a whole box of tissues (pun intended) I don't have to feel self-conscious.

Home is where I can just be.

Home is where good conversations happen. I'm fortunate to have a roommate who is also a friend, and a very gracious one at that. I'm a bit of a talker and she's heard pretty much everything I have to say on every subject you can imagine. And she's still my friend.

Home is where all my dreams begin, and the place I will always come back to.

It's where I can laugh well beyond the point of decency, without feeling like I should really get it together because people are starting to look.

Home is where I work through the difficult times; where I can voice my fears and gather the courage to face them.

At the end of the day,

Home is where I want to be.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Glee!

I just finished watching the pilot episode of Glee.
It's amazing. There is no way I should be this excited about a television show, but it's like a Broadway production, summer movie, and great TV all rolled into one.
Seriously, after one episode I would buy the series on DVD.
I just wanted to share that.
Because it's awesome. And every Wednesday night from now until Spring, you know where to find me.
Now, on to more important things.

Faded

The overhead sun was bright

washing out the color

of a normally vibrant

riverbank.

I was liquefying

amazed at the heat

of this September

afternoon.

You Look Like A...

Roommate (observing my green shirt and brown pants): You kind of look like a bean sprout. But in a good way.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

look up.

on a day crowned with blue skies
and puffy clouds
lay yourself down
beneath the branches of a large tree
and look up.
watch the world turn slowly above you
feel the grass cool and soft beneath you

breathe in the silence

and

just be.

Whispered Prayers

an email is sent. please pray for this little boy - he has cancer.
around the world whispered prayers are offered up from
cubicles and kitchen tables,
classrooms and boardrooms.
simple words from strangers.
please don't let him die.
then "forward" and the message continues on.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Everywhere You Look


I've started to carry my camera with me all the time. This causes me to slow down, to look around, and really see the city around me. Here's what I saw today.


From the park bench where I sat, reading, during the noon hour.



On my way back to work.

Walking to the bike shop after work.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

People You Should Know 08.30.2009

I would like to take this time to introduce you to the people on my blogroll. Some of them are friends and family. Some are strangers whose lives I feel suspiciously familiar with, in that internet kind of way.

Family & Friends
roses in my heart - my friend Sherri. Makes beautiful cards and other paper crafts.
the angry turtle - my friend Coralee. Amazing sewing talent.
the prairie penguin - my sister. Family blogger. Incredible mom to 3 incredible kids.


Writers & Other Artsy Folk
kelly rae roberts - mixed media artist & writer. Author of Taking Flight.
schmutzie - Regina writer. One of the best Saskatchewan blogs I've come across.
superhero journal - friend of kelly rae. Writer. One of the founders of the Mondo Beyondo e-course.

These people inspire me. I read their words for encouragement, challenge, affirmation, and entertainment. If you have a minute, you should check them out.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Saturday in Pictures



Sunset, downtown




Under the Broadway Bridge



Flowers, down by Prairie Fare at River Landing



Strawberries fresh from the garden

Cheap Seat Review: Public Enemies

Public Enemies, with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, is a mediocre film. I'm a fan of both actors, and this wasn't either's best performance. Bale in particular seemed like he was reading straight from the script, and I didn't buy his performance until the last scene.

For the better part of the movie, the actors worked with a backdrop of silence. A soundtrack engages emotions and heightens dramatic moments. As it was, I didn't connect with the characters until the final five minutes, when they cued the music. It was too little, too late. I'd already spent two and a half hours trying to care about Dillinger and his ilk.

There were some misleading scenes, as well. I got the impression that it was during this time, 1930-35, that the FBI was formed and that John Dillinger's nationwide spree of bank robberies was a catalyst. He was one of their high-profile captures, and the statewide police force was renamed to the current FBI (formerly known as just the Bureau of Investigation) during this time. However, the two are not quite as closely linked as the movie would have you believe.

The bank robberies were unimpressive. Men with guns enter banks, force the manager to open the safe, stuff canvas bags with money, then drive away with guns blazing. Same thing every time. According to Wikipedia, Dillinger was actually quiet creative with his methods of monetary accumulation.

All in all, it wasn't a terrible movie, but you can probably find a better one.

Rating: Save It

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Picnic on a Wednesday Afternoon






An unseasonably warm day + family + picnic lunch = one sweet summer moment

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reaching


I love photographing trees.
They are filled with movement and life;
they are the keepers of secrets.

The Writer's Ego

Sitting at the kitchen table eating supper.
Reading The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging.
Come across the section about blog awards.
Read about The Webby Awards - "Winners must limit their acceptance speech to five words."
Immediately compose acceptance speech.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Take Pictures, Too

I'm in the process of labelling all my posts, and have added a list of said labels in the column to your right. Most notably, I've imported my photo blog from a few years back, and you can easily have a look through my work by clicking on the photography label.
A note to my faithful friends and family who've been reading this blog for years - you've probably seen all of these photos but feel free to check them out again.

Cheers!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wise Beyond Her Years



My niece, modelling her mom's glasses.

July 2006

Found this picture while looking for something else, and my goodness isn't she cute!


Flat

There goes my afternoon bike ride.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

When All You Have is Attitude

Sooner or later we all end up in situations not of our choosing. There are jobs to be done that just won't go away and difficulties to be dealt with that we don't want to face. It's all very overwhelming.

But if your only choice is sink or swim, here are 4 things I re-learned this past week that might help you keep your head above the water.

1. If you've done it before and it was a struggle even then, don't focus on the struggle, focus on the fact that you've done it before. And survived. Because here you are telling your story.

2. However you've imagined the scene will play out, it's probably worse in your mind than in reality. Don't handicap yourself with premature negative thoughts.

3. Zoom in. When you've decided to take it day by day and you're still overwhelmed, focus on the individual moments that make up the day. Deal with whatever is immediately in front of you. One step at a time, and eventually you'll get it all done. (Not unlike running a race.)

4. If all you've got left is attitude, use it! Sometimes the only control you have over a situation is how you're going to handle it. Choose to handle it graciously, and look for something you can take away from the experience. You might learn that you're stronger than you thought. You might discover hidden abilities that will serve you well in the future. Or you might learn that you never, ever, want to end up in this kind of situation again, and that is valuable too.

So here's to you, graciously making your way through the difficult days.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

So You Want To Be A Runner

So you've decided to start running? Congratulations! You won't regret it. Most of the runners I know are positive, happy people. There are some things you should know, though.

The first few days, maybe even a week or two, will be wonderful. They will be challenging days, but filled as you are with such enthusiasm and excitement it won't be difficult to convince you to go for your regular run.

There will come a time shortly after this initial burst of enthusiasm when it will get really hard. You will want to quit. You will tell your running buddy that it's too much work, you're not getting any faster, and why is it so hard to run?! You decide that running isn't your thing.

Stick with it. Your time is coming.

The months will pass and soon you'll be able to run 20, 30 minutes at a time. Oh glorious running! This is what it's all about. When you can legitimately go out for a run, and do nothing but run - no walking for me, you'll say.

Then your running buddy will suggest you enter a race. Sounds like fun! T-shirts and medals and goodie bags at the end. You might start with a 5K, or a 10K if you're ambitious. You'll become addicted to the incredible feeling of standing at the start line, covered in anticipation. Mere hours after finishing your first race, you'll start looking for the next one.

Then you'll begin to consider what you once thought ridiculous, crazy, and impossible. Running a marathon. You'll think about this for awhile, but then common sense will kick in and you'll admit that you should probably start with a half-marathon.

One of your colleagues will give you a training schedule. You'll be amazed at how many people in your office are runners. Just like you! You'll start talking about running all the time, even when no one is asking.

"What's up for the weekend?" they'll ask.

You start with "Oh I've got a long run on Sunday" and then proceed to tell them about how your training is coming along, how you ran a new PR (personal record - it's important to learn the lingo) the other day, and how you've been experimenting with various gels and energy bars during your longer training sessions.

You won't notice when their eyes glaze over and a distinct air of disinterest enters the space between you. It doesn't matter. Because you love running. And talking about running.

You'll sign up for a subscription to Runner's World, because now when you're not running, or talking about running, you can read about it! Yay!

You'll complete your first half-marathon and swear off running forever.
Because it was hard. Very hard.
Two days later, you will sign up for another race.

You'll run a few races, getting faster with each one, until you get lazy and slack off on the training. Then you'll run your slowest race yet, but you'll say it's ok, because you were just doing that one for fun anyway.

Even though you know you're destined to be a middle-of-the-pack runner, you'll get a bit discouraged when you read about the guy who's not really a runner but who decided to do a race just for fun, and ran it 30 minutes faster that your fastest time. Or the friend who, in her first marathon, accidentally qualified for the Boston Marathon. Really? I don't think so.

Never mind them. Running is about you. Unless you're an Olympic athlete, there will always be people faster than you. And even the Olympians don't get the gold every time. So remember to run your own race.

You'll reach a point where you start to falter, and the joy of running seems like a distant memory. You've conquered the distance goals you set for yourself, but lack the gumption to press on to greater heights. Or lengths, as the case may be.

When this happens, there are a few things you can do.

Quit training and just start running again. For fun. Without a watch or a GPS. Run freely, with no strings attached.

Find something new to work on. Maybe you've always just plodded along, but now you want to work on speed, or become a master hill runner.

If you're a road runner, take to the trails and learn some technical running.

Or just take a break. Because every now and then you need some time apart from your beloved running to appreciate it again.

And you will come back to it.

Because deep down you know what you've become. No matter how fast or slow you are, no matter how far you can run. Miles logged, medals earned, and negative splits are only part of the story. Whether you're knee-deep in training or taking a breather, nothing can change the fact that you are now a runner.

Welcome to the club.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vacation Thoughts

My two glorious weeks of summer holidays drew to a close today. It was a much-needed break from routine, and I've enjoyed every minute of it. Except perhaps the 90 minutes or so that I spent watching Year One. But I digress.

In the past 16 days, I've started to regain some perspective on the future. My life has been somewhat static for a long time. Contemplating any sort of change, be it personal, relational, or professional produced feelings of uncertainty and anxiety at first. I can see now, though, that there are always options; that the future is still unwritten and it's time to pull out those dreams and ambitions I'd almost forgotten about.

Every day for the past two weeks I've worked on projects that I love. I'm learning more about social media and all the wonderful ways I can connect with talented, inspiring people online. I'm learning about writing, and have enjoyed practicing almost daily here on my blog. (Thank you to those who have left encouraging comments. You have no idea how happy I am to hear from you!) I've discovered amazing websites and blogs, like the one by a Regina writer who goes by the nickname Schmutzie.

I've realized how important it is to acknowledge your dreams, and not accept the notion that where you are right now is where you have to stay. We all have ideas about what our lives might look like, if we could custom-design them. It's up to us to pursue those dreams.

I'm learning to think proactively instead of passively. Just now I typed a sentence with the phrase, "where your dreams might take you," but sometimes you have to take hold of your dreams and go with them where you will.

With these thoughts in mind I look forward to going back to work tomorrow and exploring a future that's expanding in front of me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Grandma's Handwriting

(note: I wrote this post awhile back, but needed to give it some time before I could let it go.)

In the course of tidying up the bookshelves in my bedroom today, I pulled down an old cookbook that belonged to my grandma. It's titled The Mennonite Treasury of Recipes. Coil-bound with yellowing pages, I flipped it open to look for handwritten notes, some extra instructions jotted in the margin perhaps. She was in my thoughts, and because the written word holds a great deal of meaning for me, I wanted to see her words. Even if it was only a notation to cut back on the cooking time.

In the notes area of the Butchering section, I found a handwritten recipe for brine for curing beef roasts. I read it through, considering her handwriting more than the instructions she penned. She wrote with flourishes, which surprised me because she was such a practical woman. I think I expected some no-nonsense script - a spartan use of ink and effort.

I realized that there is so much I never knew about my grandma. I wish I could go back and ask her to tell me stories. And to give her one more hug. She always hugged me so tightly, squishing my glasses against her cheek.

Every now and then when the family was visiting, she would catch my eye and give me a knowing look, and even if I don't know exactly what it was she was sharing, it was a special moment between the two of us.

She's been gone for many years now, and I think of her often when I use the kitchen items that formerly occupied her cupboards. Although I may not have known every side of her, I recall with a smile the woman I did know.

And sometimes, like today, I really miss her.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I've Had Better Ideas

Yesterday was supposed to be a lake day. My roommate took the day off and we made plans to head up to the usual spot to spend the day lounging on the beach and floating on the water.
But it was not to be.
The forecast called for thundershowers at the lake, but beautiful sunny skies here at home, so we decided to stay put.
Thoughts of a laid back lake day lingered. How could we make this day in the city more like a lake day?
I know! Let's buy a kiddie pool for the "backyard" (shared common space behind the condo). Perfect. Then I can lounge in the water with all the comforts of home just a few feet away.
Fast forward - kiddie pool bought and inflated and ready to be filled.
Hmmm...how to fill the pool. No water tap in the backyard. No adapter to hook the hose up to the kitchen tap, although we did try this method without an adapter and managed, with the help of gravity, to get a few dribbles of water into the pool.
Jugs and pails it is then.





We got a pretty good system going, with Nicole filling water containers and me dumping them into the pool. Still, it took close to an hour to get the pool mostly filled.
Quick change into bathing suit.
By this point it was quite hot outside and I eagerly hopped into the pool.
Ahhh...refreshing.
5 minutes later - So now what? I couldn't lean back on the edge because the water, which we'd worked so hard to collect, would run out. It wasn't big enough to flip over and lay on my stomach, and it ended up feeling like I was sitting in the bathtub, but outside.
So, out of the pool and back into dry clothes.
We couldn't bring ourselves to dump the water out right away, so I was able to enjoy it again today, if only to cool my feet off.
Here's to hot summer days and bodies of water, be they large or small.

Cheap Seat Review: Year One

You think you'd be safe with a $2 movie. Even if it's not great, it's probably good enough to warrant $2 and a couple hours of your time, right?
Not so.
Year One is a vulgar, unfunny, film that is trying very hard to be a comedy but just can't pull it off. Most of the jokes are in poor taste, and there are scenes that made me turn away in disgust. There is no scenario in which beating a man to death with a rock is funny.
Although I don't mind Jack Black and Michael Cera, this movie is an unfortunate mess with no redeeming qualities.

Rating: Save It

*Save It = Keep your $2. Your time and money would be better spend elsewhere
*Spend It = Worth a couple bucks and a few hours of your time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cheap Seat Reviews

The cheapest movie ticket in town is at Rainbow Cinemas on Tuesday night. If you're willing to wait until a movie has run it's course at the premium theatres, you can catch a show for merely $2 at Rainbow.

I attended such a screening tonight and came away with such strong opinions of the movie that I've decided to launch a new feature called Cheap Seat Reviews. Every movie at Rainbow has most likely already been reviewed by a seasoned critic somewhere. What I have to add is that, while some movies may not be worth the big bucks to see at a first-run theatre, they're just fine for a $2 Tuesday night out.

Or, as I learned tonight, they may not even be worth a $2 ticket.

My reviews will be short and sweet, with either a Spend It or Save It rating. Hopefully this will help you avoid wasting your time, if not your money, on a movie that isn't worth the effort.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sask Blogs

I just got added to the Sask Blogs Aggregator 2.0! This means I'm on a list of Saskatchewan blogs and my posts will show up in their feed. It may mean other things too, but that's all I know at the moment.
Cheers.

Day 4 of 36

I did not feel like running tonight. My eyes were sore from being outside in the bright sun all day, and my legs were tired.
But I went anyway. Because I told you all I was going to try.
And it was awesome.
The night was warm, the sunset beautiful. The people I met along the way were friendly. And I managed to fall into The Zone for a little while and almost forget I was running.
I passed a family that was out for a bike ride. Going the same direction.
Passing a person on a bike while you're running is a pretty good morale booster if ever there was one.
And now, goodnight.

I Got THE NOD

Last summer I came up with the brilliant plan to ride my bike from my house (in the southeast corner of Saskatoon) to my parents' house (in Martensville). It was an ambitious plan for someone who could only qualify as a very casual cyclist. By car it's about a 30-35 minute drive, with much of that at highway speeds.

Last summer, it never came to pass.

But my mom didn't forget, and she's been reminding me of The Plan every now and then.

When this past Saturday dawned sunny and calm, it seemed like the perfect day for ride out to Martensville.

After a quick breakfast I pumped up the tires, donned my bike helmet and gloves, and off I went.

It was a gorgeous day for a ride. I made my way downtown and then took the Meewasin Trail up to the north end of the city, biking along the river the whole way north. Not for the first time I thought how thankful I am to live in such a beautiful city.

As I zipped along, I came across several groups of cyclists. Actual cyclists, with road bikes and dropped handlebars, form-fitting outfits and shoes that clip into their pedals. Going at speeds much great than I.

And they gave me The Nod.

And sometimes even a wave.

You know what I mean - the nod that signifies solidarity in your choice of transportation. Like, "Hey, there's another cyclist! Nice to see you out on such a fine day."

They acknowledged me as One of Them.

Which I thought was pretty cool. And may have had something to do with the fact that I was wearing a yellow tee shirt not dissimilar to theirs, and perhaps they pegged me as a missing link in their peloton.

Whatever the reason, it was nice to feel for a few minutes like I was part of something greater than myself.

Which made me think about how we all need to belong somewhere.

And then I carried on my merry way.

Some parts of the ride were rather harrowing. Choosing a stretch of road with a 90 km/hr speed limit and no shoulder was not a wise option. But I felt myself relax as soon as I turned off onto a gravel road and the sound of crickets rivalled the traffic noises from the highway not too far away. The tall grass and blue sky, with nothing but a straight dirt road stretching out in front of me made me think of when I was a teenager and I would go out for hours and just ride around. No destination in mind, just my two wheels crunching over the gravel, giving space to my daydreams.

I arrived in Martensville safe and sound, happy to dismount for a few hours and have lunch with my mom and dad.



Due to some prearranged supper plans, though, I had to hit the road before too long. I took a different, safer, route home and aside from riding through a brief bug storm, (thankfully I had my mouth closed at the time,) arrived back at my house in one piece.

The round trip took 3 hours, 17 minutes and made me wonder where else these wheels can take me this summer.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Day 1 of 36

A few weeks ago I signed up to run the half marathon in the Queen City Marathon in Regina. I was on a high, having recently returned from Seattle (where I ran the Rock N Roll half marathon) and felt slightly pressured to make a decision quickly because there were only a handful of spots left in the race.

I signed up with the intention of training hard for at least 2 full months with the hope of setting a new personal record.

As of today, the race is 36 days away and I've done basically no training. I have been biking a lot, so at least I've been active, but my runs have been around 30 minutes or less and quite relaxed at that.

So today I resolved to go out and run/walk for 1 hour.




Goal set, goal met. I was gone for just over an hour. (And no, I'm not 7 feet tall, as this picture seems to suggest.)

During this time I thought about why I haven't been running much.

Part of the reason was weather related - either too hot or raining.

I've also been trying to spend more time writing, usually during the time I would be running.

This is my third race in 5 months, and I'm tired of following a training schedule. Not that I have been following one for the past couple of months, but tired of feeling like I should be on a schedule.

I thought about whether I was disappointed with myself, for not putting in a better effort, or if my reasons for not running were legitimate.

I thought about quitting. About admitting that I hadn't put in even the minimum effort needed to adequately prepare for a 21km race. And I thought that I would probably be OK with that. I know I can complete the race, having run 5 half marathons already, so it's more a matter of finishing well than just finishing. And what if I came in last? That would be a blow to my pride, if nothing else. Quitting would definitely be easier.

Or.

Or I could step up the training and make these next 36 days count for something. Renewing my effort would at least give me something to write about for the next month, and at this point I'll take every bit of motivation I can get.

I chose Option B. I think. My resolve hasn't hardened yet, but I think I want to do this thing and do it right. If for no other reason than to prove to myself that I have it in me to finish well after a faltering start.

Here's to renewed enthusiasm and 36 days of optimistic running.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

These Feet Were Made For Walking



Ever since reading Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, I've been intrigued with the idea of barefoot running. I've even incorporated a few barefoot sprints into my regular shod runs. Never, though, have I left the house in nothing but my tender tootsies.

Until today.

It's a strange feeling to leave one's house without footwear of some sort. Even the flimsiest sandals are worlds away from stepping out with naked feet. And although I've never left the house without pants (or shorts or some such lower body covering), going shoeless felt like how I imagine it feels to be without pants - exposed.

Being barefoot seems to suggest poverty or the after-effects of an unfortunate incident.

Or weirdness.

So it was with some trepidation that I locked the door and started on my way. I didn't go far; merely around the little pond about 1/2 a block from my condo.

I didn't think that other people's opinions of me mattered quite as much as they do. But as I got further from home, I was quite conscious of my bare feet and how much I wanted to do my loop and then get back home.

Why? Why was I so worried about what people might think or say?

I'm good at flying below the radar and not making much of a scene, so doing something that might attract attention, particularly cause people to look askance and wonder what's wrong with me, that I don't have shoes on, is cause for a bit of nervousness.

Thankfully there were only a few people out, and the one lady that I passed on either side of the pond kept her eyes averted, possibly in the hopes that this crazy shoeless person would just leave her alone. (Not knowing that I was having similar thoughts about her.)

As for the actual barefoot experience, it was enjoyable and I can understand how it could become addicting.

I could fee the warmth of the pavement underneath my feet, and the grass still wet with dew. It hurt to walk on the gravel, but thankfully there wasn't much of that. I was aware of how springy and soft the grass is, how warm and smooth the pavement is, and the coolness of the dew was pleasant underfoot. I thought about how insulated we are from the surfaces we trod on daily, that we forget what it feels like to run across the street barefoot, like when we were children.

Having said all that, I'm not going to forgo shoes entirely, or even mostly, but I think I will continue with occasional barefoot walks, as long as I can get over the feeling that others must surely think I'm a bit of an oddball.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Adventures on Two Wheels

In the middle of reflecting that I'd yet to be caught in the rain on my daily ride to and from work, I was hit with a big, fat raindrop. My first thought was to put the pedal to the metal, so to speak, and get home before...what? Before I got wet? Because being wet is...not good?

I decided to enjoy the rain instead, smiling at the man & his son who pulled up beside me at the lights on their motorbike. Like we were in this crazy situation together.

"You're getting rained on too, hey?" Smile and shake of the head.

I was almost a little disappointed when I rode out from under the cloud. Riding home in a downpour would have made a much more entertaining blog entry. And made me feel just a little more like a hardcore biker.

Although cyclist is probably a more accurate term.

If I was honest, I'd admit that I'm proud of the slash of grease on my leg that I arrive home with almost daily. (Compliments of the generous Bike Doctor mechanics who tuned up my bike.)
I might even take a picture of it.



I've finally found some routes that I like to and from work. They're not the same, because although I enjoy crossing the Broadway bridge on my way to work, it's not so fun to have to ride across the other direction.

In fact, the bridge is one of my favorite segments of the ride to work. On my first day biking, I realized a little too late that the walkway on the north side of the bridge was closed, and I didn't want to go back to the lights and cross to the other side. So I waited for the lights at the top to turn red, leaving a significant gap in traffic, and I hightailed it across in the driving lane.

I have never gone that fast on my bike before. Oh my goodness! So much fun, I decided to go that way every morning.

I've tried a variety of options for the home route, but most of them involve me huffing and puffing and pedaling crazily in an oxygen-deprived state as I try to crest the hill at the top of Sask Crescent and Broadway. Today I discovered that using University bridge is a much more enjoyable option.

Riding my bike to work is becoming second nature, and on the days I drive I feel sluggish and slow, aware that there is a much better way to get from A to B.

Here's to early morning rides in the fresh air, and starting out the day with a smile on your face.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Carry a Small Grape

Today I found myself humming along to nothing in particular, brimming over with possibilities. A series of events, comments, and nuggets of wisdom from a beautiful book have coalesced to inspire an idea.
A plan.
A project.
I won't share all the details yet, because some dreams need to be nurtured a bit in the quiet of one's heart before they can stand up to the knocks they'll take once out in the open. But it's all about having a dream and a purpose. Moving forward with intention. Giving shape and reason to my activities.
The beautiful book I'm talking about is Life is a Verb by Patti Digh. The title bugs me a wee bit, because as a statement it is incorrect. Life is a noun, or sometimes an adjective, but never a verb. HOWEVER, as a concept it is brilliant. It's not a new idea, but at this very moment in time, this is the book I needed.
The subtitle is 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally. Sounds a bit self-helpish, but it's actually quite wonderful. Every page is full color, with stories and quotes and pictures and really wide margins to make notes in. Which I have.
There is a story about dancing in your car that made me smile, because I love to dance and sing in the car. One of my co-workers has caught me on more than one occasion and commented that I looked awfully happy on my drive to work that day.
Digh relates a story about her daughter who was delighted to find a minuscule grape in her snack one day, and carried it around everywhere with her, marveling in the wonderful smallness and cuteness of the grape. She challenges the reader to "carry a small grape"- to find something that creates wonder in you and carry it with you, taking it out every now and then to remind yourself to find the joy in every day. I haven't printed it out yet, but I think my "small grape" will be a picture of my niece, Jillian.



Because how can you not smile at this picture? It's her expression that I love more than anything. Happy, and a little bit sneaky.

Here's to the future. To dreaming and planning. To anticipation. To inspiration.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Running in Aqua Socks

I recently finished reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, and oh my goodness. It has changed the way I think about running, and is slowly changing the way I run.
In a nutshell, he puts forth the idea that people are created to run. The presence of our Achilles tendon, the nuchal ligament on the back of our head, and our big butts are all useful only if we're running; we don't need them to walk.
He writes about barefoot running and how much more natural it is than running in running shoes, and how American marathon runners were faster back when they wore canvas flats than they are now with their expensive shoes. And they were injured less often.
One of the most important things I learned was that "shoes block pain, not impact." So you slam your feet down over and over, because you don't feel the pain that would normally tell you to correct your stride.
Our feet are incredibly sensitive for a reason. "They're self-correcting devices. Covering your feet with cushioned shoes is like turning off your smoke alarms."
So I've started training, for very short periods of time, in aqua socks. Rather than spend a bunch of money on brand name minimalist running shoes, I got this idea from a barefoot running blog I stumbled across.
And boy is it fun! I feel much lighter on my feet and not like I'm plodding along in these thick-soled, "pronation-correcting" chunks of rubber and foam.
So far I'm on day 2 this new training, and am curious to see how it will effect my race in September.
Here's to running like a child again!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My Echo




What a busy weekend! I bought a different car yesterday - a 2005 Toyota Echo. It's very different from my Cavalier - smaller, taller, and kind of fun to drive. I imagine it emitting a little "meep meep" sound as I zip around town.


So - test drove, bought, and licensed the Echo yesterday. Then I gathered up some more stuff for a garage sale next weekend and hauled it out to Mom and Dad's in the afternoon. In the evening, I had some errands to run, and then my day was done.


Today I got up early and volunteered as a road marshall for the Bridge City Boogie (2k, 5k, & 10k run/walk). An interesting experience. For the most part people were understanding about the delay getting across the intersection, but I had one lady who was late for church and quite angry that our race was preventing her from getting there on time.


After the Boogie, I came home and had a much-needed nap. Then I helped Nicole dig up some grass and make a little flower bed in the back yard. And by little, I mean probably 3'x1.5'. Just enough to plant a few herbs, and maybe a tomato plant. It was fun to have a reason to putter around outside on this gorgeous summer day!


After supper I cleaned out the inside of my old car, washing and vaccuming it to get it ready to sell. If you know anyone who needs a reliable 1997 Cavalier, let me know!


Tonight I ran to the store and picked up a few groceries, and when I collapsed in the living room chairI couldn't believe it was already 9:30!


Here's to a good weekend, and I hope there are many more to come.




Thursday, May 07, 2009

32:50

A few posts ago, I wrote about running a new personal best (34 min) on one of my regular routes. Today I ran it in 32:50, another personal best. I'm finding that my body is doing ok at the faster pace, but I quickly run out of air and am left gasping for breathe and often cramping up. That's something I'll have to work on in the coming weeks and months.
I'm looking forward to the race - 17 days! I feel like I've tried harder in my training this go-around, even though I still didn't run as much as I should have.
One of these times, I'll get it right.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Happiness

"It was Don Paolo's birthday and all the people of the village were gathered in the piazza to celebrate him. The band played, the wine flowed, the children danced, and, as he stood for a moment alone under the pergola, a little girl approached the beloved priest.

'But Don Paolo, are you not happy?' she asked him.

'Of course I am happy,' he assured the little girl.

'Why, then, aren't you crying?'"

- from The Lady in the Palazzo, by Marlena De Blasi

Tonight I Remembered

This evening was beautiful. Just cool enough. No wind. Fresh rain water on the street, just enough to keep the dust down, not enough for puddles.
Tonight I remembered why I love running.
The way you can breathe in new life after a stuffy day inside.
The way you can stretch your legs, pump your arms, and work your lungs after sitting for hours on end.
The way an hour can feel like five minutes.
The way problems shrink and anything seems possible.
The way you can be alone with your thoughts and your footfalls and truly enjoy it.
I love nights like tonight.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

34 Minutes, Baby! Yeah!

In the course of training for a race, there are good runs and bad runs. Today was great! I ran my 5.5km (or so) route in 34 minutes, a new personal record. Whoop!
[credit is due, in large part, to the Podrunner podcast I downloaded before I ran. Podrunner is a fantastic series of podcasts available on iTunes to help you work out at a chosen pace.]
In past years my enthusiasm for training usually tapers off quite a bit by late April, early May. This year, though, I feel fired up to put in my very best effort in the weeks to come and see what I can accomplish on race day.
Here's to all the training days ahead!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Unexpected Results

If you search my name on the StarPhoenix website, you'll get a list of my most recent book reviews.
I did such a search today to see if my review from Saturday was listed, and it was.
Along with the StarPhoenix search results, you can click on canada.com and see articles that have either my first or last name in them, and usually they are not related to me at all.
I laughed when I saw an article titled "Cougar Roundup" in my search results.
Is the universe trying to tell me something?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Boston

Over waffles this morning I read about the Boston Marathon, in the current issue of Runner's World magazine.
I've been a runner for only a couple of years, and when I started my goal was to run for 20 minutes continuously.
Then I decided to run a half marathon, using the run 10 min, walk 1 minute approach.
Then I decided to run another one, and try to finish just a little bit faster.
This year I am attempting to just run, flat out, the entire half marathon.
Quite often on my long training runs I daydream. A recurring scenario is me crossing the finish line in record time. Sometimes, every now and then, I think about what it would take to qualify for Boston.
The Boston Marathon is the only marathon that you have to qualify for. For non-elite runners, making it to Boston is the ultimate achievement. It is the Holy Grail, the El Dorado of running, and only 10% of American marathoners are fast enough.
10%.

To qualify, I would have to run a marathon in 3hours, 40 min. I have yet to even run a marathon at all, never mind at such break-neck speeds.
(That would be a half-marathon in 1 hour, 50min. To date, my fastest time is 2:16.)
I can't even wrap my head around running that fast for that long.

But still.

When I read the article about one man's qualifying attempts, I'll admit I got a little teary-eyed. He qualified with only a 21 second margin, after "running through the worst cramp of my life and lay(ing) my guts out in a ropy strand up Michigan Avenue." Because that's the kind of effort it takes to be one of those 10%. Everything you have, and then a whole lot more.

For now, I'll focus on today's hill workout, but dreams of Boston will probably linger. With any luck, they'll make my step a little lighter and my pace a little faster.

Time to lace up.

Monday, April 06, 2009

original church

I exit Tastebuds tonight, and the sky is clear; the breeze from earlier today settled down for the night. I love this kind of weather. It makes me think of my friend Kyla, and if it weren't almost 10:00 on a weeknight, I might just call her to see if she would want to go for a walk. Few things are better than late-night jaunts under a clear sky, with a good friend, meandering conversation that leaves you feeling as though all is right with the world.

Tonight was poetry night, and I leave the cafe feeling happy. On my drive home, I think that this is what God had in mind when he thought about building his church. This small group of people who are growing friendships and laughing together; sharing food and tea, lemonade, hot chocolate (curiously, no one drinks coffee). People learning to trust each other enough to share secrets, failures and longings, punctuated by peals of laughter. The kind of true laughter that follows a bit of sadness, refreshing like a glass of ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day.

There is nothing, I think, that I could tell this group that would invoke any kind of judgement. I suppose it's easier to share because we're writing and then reading, not talking directly to a round of people, intent on helping you out of whatever mess you (or they) think you're in. I don't share something with the hope that they will have any sort of answers; it's merely a statement of fact - I feel this, I was disappointed in that, these are the things that make me happy, etc.

All too often, we gather in small church groups, well aware of how far from perfect we are, but for some reason we pretend it's not all that bad. Or we share something that we secretly don't think is all that bad, and act like we actually want to change. We may share something once every few weeks, something we're "struggling" with, or working on, but it's probably not the biggest thing on our minds right then.
(Even now, I write using "we" instead of "I" because it seems like less of a confession, and I'm sure these thoughts probably stem from my own lack of participation in other groups.)
Still, I feel a definite contrast when I meet my poetry friends every second Monday.

Not to say that it's all seriousness and sadness. Tonight I wrote about a picture of myself, taken when I was a kid. I'm sitting on the kitchen floor, worn blue jeans, western shirt, and my favorite stuffed toy - a lion that was actually very scratchy and not at all cuddly. I'm smiling. And through my exploratory"first thoughts" writing exercise, I realized that picture is a good representation of me. Smiling. Happy. Comfortable. Not doing terribly much, but quite content just to be.

Here's to small groups, in whatever form they come in - whenever we meet, may there be honesty and openness, peppered with laughter.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Getting Faster

Set a new personal record for 3 miles today at the gym - 28:24. Yay! I can't wait until the snow and ice is gone so that I can run outside.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Confronted With The Truth

I had the privilege of attending an all-day writing workshop today with my poetry group. I wasn't really looking forward to it, because I was tired and I wondered how we could possibly fill 6 hours with writing.
I am so glad I went.
The day turned out to be so much more than I expected. It was challenging, inspiring, and at some points rather emotional.
Lynda Monahan led the workshop, and focused on writing bravely and honestly, with courage. It might seem obvious that one should always write the truth, but if you sit down with pen and paper, you will find that it is a lot harder than it sounds. We went through a series of exercises designed to help us dig deeper into ourselves and find the stories that we really wanted to tell but were afraid to, for one reason or another.
Sometimes we don't write because we're afraid of hurting or offending someone; sometimes it's just too painful to deal with past hurts and losses; sometimes it's a matter of not wanting to admit the truth to ourselves. There are myriad reasons for not being still and getting the truth out onto the page.
I was blown away by the level of honesty in some people's writing, the way they laid themselves bare and faced incredibly difficult issues head on. (Part of the exercises was reading what we'd written to the group.)
I haven't reached the point of complete openness in my own writing, but I feel like today was a giant push in the right direction.
I feel honored to be a part of this amazing writing group, and blessed to call them my friends.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Perfectly Picked Playlists and Smooth Elbows

During a particularly difficult interval on the bike today, the song I was listening to kept repeating the line, "you've got me begging you for mercy."
It made me smile and think how wonderfully appropriate my playlist sometimes is.
[aside: if you want a song to get your legs pumping, try running to "Walk Like An Egyptian." That song has a seriously fast beat.]

I went to Bath Goddess today with Nicole, and got a fabulously scented body butter. You can choose one of their pre-mixed scents, or you can put together your own custom scent from something like 150 different choices. The combo I settled on, (with some help from one of the sales associates,) is Bamboo/Green Tea/Lemongrass. It is wonderfully fresh and light. And the body butter concoction is oh-so-creamy! I will have the smoothest elbows in town!

A Guilty Response

Getting the mail.
Yay! A letter!
oh no...it's from my sponsor child.

This is definitely not the way I should feel when I get a letter from my sponsor child, Gustavo. I've been his sponsor for approximately 8 years. He turned 16 this past September, and I wonder at how the time has gone so fast. My first photo had him in a spider man shirt and jeans; in a recent snapshot, he was sitting around a campfire with his ball cap on backwards, his slouched posture exuding teenage attitude.
I truly love his letters, love hearing how he is doing and what he's been learning. My guilt (and subsequent perplexing response to his letter) stems from the fact that he has sent me way more letters than I have sent him. I think about him often, and pray that he will be a strong Christian and an honorable man; that he will put forth his best effort in everything he does. I often pray that he will have a reason to smile. What I don't do often enough is put these thoughts into words.
In a couple of years he will graduate from the Compassion program, and I hope it will be with fond memories (as much as is possible through letters and infrequent photos) of me as his sponsor.
I guess that means I should start writing more often, and begin to make a concerted effort to let this boy from Honduras know that there is someone who thinks of him often, prays for him, and feels blessed to have been a part of his life, if only from a distance.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Confessions/Affirmations Part 1, or 16 Things About Me

1. I have loved photography ever since my high school photography class. However, I don't believe I possess an extraordinary measure of talent in this particular art. This year, I would like to learn how to see, how to compose, how to wrangle the meaning out of a scene that appears mundane and drab.

2. I grew up in a very clean and tidy house. My house is usually quite the opposite.

3. I love books. Usually to read, but sometimes just to hold or look at.

4. My sister and I have always been friends. (She can correct me, if I'm wrong.)


5. I used to dislike cats and was mildly afraid of them, until my roommate brought home the cutest little kitten several years ago, with the caveat that we could always send her back to the farm if it didn't work out. Now I have 3 cats.

6. I am not a dressy girl. I love jeans, t-shirts, and sweatshirts.


7. I don't have children, but I have 2 nieces and 1 nephew that I love dearly. I consider myself blessed.


8. I can be stubborn, and sometimes bossy.

9. I like to make plans, and am secretly thrilled when I manage to carry them out.


10. I love big, loud concerts.


11. I would not be a runner if not for my sister. Two weeks into our learn-to-run program I announced that it was too hard and I was going to quit. I'm not sure what happened, but we made it to 20 minutes and I just kept on going.


12. Things can be more than just things. I have several kitchen items that used to be my grandma's, and I often think of her when I use them.


13. I am a very emotional person. I can cry at the drop of a hat, lose my temper over something completely insignificant, and feel so excited that my teeth chatter. I like to think this helps me experience life more fully.


14. I've only had 2 cars in the past 13 years.

15. The first song on the running playlist on my ipod is called "I Am a Gummy Bear."

16. If I could learn to play one instrument, right now, it would be the drums.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A Movie Moment

I had a moment today on the treadmill when I felt like pulling a Brad Pitt move, from his movie Burn After Reading. You can see it in the preview here - it's a very quick clip where he's running and waving his arms in the air.
I was listening to my ipod and a great song came on, and I felt like doing a few little fist pumps in the air. I had the good sense to restrain myself and calmly keep running like a nice, normal person.
But you know I was rockin' it out in my head!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Adulthood

"Being an adult is knowing who you are and having the courage to be that person." - Erica Strange from the TV show Being Erica



There is an ambiguousness to becoming an adult. While it would seem that the transition from "young adult" to "adult" should happen in one's early 20's, I have yet to reach the point where I feel completely grown up.

I have a job, a car and a mortgage. I make plans and carry on more or less as I wish. I do not get asked for ID when I go to the liquor store. The young cashiers working in the grocery store call me "ma'am." I have RRSPs and a pension plan. Occasionally my hips hurt. By all outward appearances, I am an adult.

So often, though, I feel as though some piece of the puzzle is missing; I am almost an adult, but not quite.

Will it happen when I am disciplined enough to do the dishes every night? When I learn to file my mail as soon as it enters my house, thus avoiding the need for a 3-hour sorting session every few months? When I quit procrastinating and do some of the things that have been on my to-do list for a long time, like getting in touch with a financial planner?

Would I feel grown up if I was married and had children?

I don't know. But I was watching TV last night and the above line stuck with me. It seems like a good definition of what it means to be an adult.

I feel like I'm on the road to discovering who I am, and not just who I think I should be. One of the ways I'm doing that is attempting to write more transparently here on my blog. The writers I most admire are those that present themselves openly and honestly, "warts and all" if you will.

I took a one-day writing class awhile back, and the writer who was leading it stressed that you have to be truthful in your writing, because as soon as you're not, people will know and your writing will lose its impact.

So here's me, taking one more step toward adulthood.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

New Record

I set a new personal record for myself at the gym tonight. I ran 4 miles in 39 min, 42 sec. After accidentally pulling the emergency stop cord at 2.42 miles, I had to work hard to keep motivated for the last 1.58 miles.
It's quite common for me to start an internal pep talk near the end of a run, when I would give anything just to stop and take a walking break. Today I ran out of steam with 4 minutes left, and so my mini-me motivational speaker kicked in. It's strange the things I say to myself to keep going. Usually it's along the lines of "just 4 more minutes, you can do that," or I distract myself with whatever else is going on around me. Today the phrase "I eat 4 minutes for breakfast" popped into my head.
Really? What is that? I eat 4 minutes for breakfast? The phrase was sufficiently distracting that I was able to finish the distance in my goal time.
I'm thinking of having that emblazoned on a t-shirt for my next race - I eat 4 minutes for breakfast.
What do you think?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Never Boring


Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Antithetic Workout

My experience at the gym today was the exact opposite of what I generally enjoy about running. I love getting outside, alone with my thoughts and the rhythm of feet on pavement. Running brings clarity, calmness, and usually instills in me a sense of purpose.
I've chosen to run inside this winter instead of fighting the snowbanks and ice, and have found that some of the intangible benefits of running are indeed only to be found in the great outdoors. However, for the most part I've enjoyed my indoor training experience.
Today, though, seemed like a test to see just how committed I am to this whole gym thing.
When I first pulled into the parking lot, there were A LOT of cars there - more than I've ever seen. Generally I like going to the gym on the weekend because it is a lot less crowded than during the week. Not today. I considered just turning around and going back later, but knew that I probably wouldn't return.
So I went in and was happy to note that there were several classes going on, which explained the sudden influx of people. There wasn't anyplace for me to warm up properly, so I claimed one of the few remaining treadmills and got down to business.
Rather than the calm, clarity-infused running I love, I was subjected to an aural barrage from every direction. Combine the louder-than-usual music with the whirring and feet-stomping from treadmills all around me, the staff member who thought right then was the perfect time to vacuum, and the people having outdoor-voice conversations, and my tranquility was shot. Add to this the fact that I'd brought my ipod today because I wanted to run for longer than usual and needed some hand-picked motivation, and I wound up with the exact opposite of what I was looking for.
However.
I have to say that the plethora of distractions made the time go faster, and I actually had a pretty good run, once I got tuned into what I was doing.
I'm finding that indoor running, while it definitely doesn't have the challenges of weather and road conditions, has been good practice for my mental state. The ability to focus when there is so much going on around me, as well as the challenge to stay motivated when there is nothing going on to distract from the monotonous whirring of the treadmill belt, will surely only help me be a better runner.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Growing. Older.

I realized yesterday that I am not comfortable with the thought of growing older. I have no problem being the age I am; I don't even mind thinking about sticking a 1 behind that 3 in less than 2 months. What I do mind, apparently, is the thought of the inevitable decline of our bodies as we age.
I had this revelation as I was reading my February edition of Runner's World magazine. They've dedicated a number of pages to a feature called "Age Matters." I've just skimmed the articles, but the news that bones start losing their density, muscle mass declines, recovery rates increase, weight gain is almost inevitable, and your heart starts beating slower pretty much discouraged further reading. I know there is some good news in there somewhere, but for some stubborn reason I find myself unable to sit down and read the whole series of articles.
I've only been a runner for a couple of years, and I'm sad to think that I have only 4 or 5 years left to run my fastest race before age becomes more of a issue.

However. I do not know what the next 5 years, or even tomorrow, may bring. What I do know is that today I can run. So I will do my best, because I can.

(aside: Sometimes it's good to express doubts and worries, because in the simple black and white letters, lining up all orderly on my page, things make more sense than when they're swirling thoughts, all disorderly and panicked. This is one of those times.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Serious.


Jake, with books.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Thankful

Today I am thankful for spontaneous laughter and sisters to share it with. I'm thankful for good news, and optimism about the future.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

I've Gone and Done it Again

Yesterday I signed up to run the 2009 Saskatchewan Half Marathon in May. I've been anxious to get back into running, and knew this would be good motivation for me. After all the eating I've done over Christmas and New Year's I think I've put on a few pounds and am looking forward to going back to the gym on Monday.
This will be my 3rd winter of training for a race, and I have to say it's great to have something to look forward to after the holidays. This year I'm going to put a little more effort into my training and hopefully be able to run a little faster come May.
Here's to looking ahead and starting 2009 filled with anticipation!