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


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.


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!


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. 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.
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.

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.


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 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.