Saturday, March 10, 2018

Spring is here...we hope

The weather's been weird lately - far too warm  for February and early March. Mind you, I'm not complaining. It's tough enough to get back to regular training without the frigid temperatures we usually have at this time of year.

A couple of weeks ago, we had snow but it was so warm it didn't hang around long - though it sure was pretty while it lasted. It was so wet it clung to everything, creating a gorgeous winter wonderland. Husband and I took Jackie to Peace Park early enough to savour the effect before it melted off the trees.

It's a good thing Jackie's got brown ears and a pink tongue, or we'd have lost her in all that white stuff.

It was easier to keep track of her when we headed out for a short run up river the following weekend when the snow was mostly gone.

I finally signed up for the Bluenose 15k a few weeks ago, so it's time to get busy training. I'm hoping Jackie will accompany me on shorter runs and she's done pretty well the few times I've taken her - trotting along steadily, with only occasional stops for pees, water, and stick-chewing. Last week, we started a trail training class, which should help. She loved running and playing with the other dogs but we were all pretty tired by the time we got home. It turns out paying attention is almost as tiring for Husband and me as it is for her.

It will be interesting to see how my Bluenose training goes now that I've dropped a few pounds and had a long break. I've lost a lot of fitness and flexibility in recent months so it'll take a fair bit of patience I expect.  Most years, I maintain a solid enough base throughout the year that it's relatively easy to transition to longer distances when spring arrives but, after running so little these past few months, my base has eroded to the point that even 5k feels like a workout.

I'd be lying if I said I was okay with that, but I refuse to let myself be discouraged. After all, when I started running regularly at 40, I was 20 pounds overweight, desperately out of shape, with very little running experience, and I still managed to do things I never thought I would - like complete 9 marathons, a 50k ultra, and a slew other shorter races.  I may be older now (56 in a few weeks) but I've succeeded in keeping my weight down and still enjoy running enough to want to do it regularly, so there's every reason to believe I can find my way back to a comfy training groove soon. Here's hoping anyway.

Speaking of weight, Husband and I are continuing to track what we eat and avoid foods that don't agree with us and it seems to be paying off. We're no longer losing weight - which is fine since we're  happy where we are - but we're eating heaps more veggies, feeling better and no longer gaining, which is terrific. We're also expanding our repertoire in the kitchen. A couple of weeks ago, I cooked five spice duck breast with balsamic jus for the first time and it was pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself.

In other news, I've been busy making my way through a few more books on photography. I find them inspiring - but only theoretically, since I don't have a lot of time or energy for taking photos at the moment. I'm hoping that will change when the weather warms up and there's more daylight. In the meantime, I try to spend time each day "seeing photographically" and capturing images like these with my iPhone.

Finally, just because I so seldom mention her, here are two photos of Her Highness. She really is a beautiful girl - especially for an old lady of 15.

I hope spring has arrived where you are! Are you training for a spring race? How's it going so far? What tricks to you have for getting back to regular training after an extended break? When and how do you feel inspired to take photographs?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Currently...the February 2018 edition

Time and place...
A lazy Saturday afternoon in the country.

A Mexican-inspired rice and bean salad to take to dinner at Janet and Ron's this evening.

4:00 pm, when we will head out to pick up Jackie, who's spending her very first day at puppy daycare today. And, yes, I am a nervous puppy-mama - desperately hoping she enjoys the adventure and makes some new puppy friends.

Working on...
This post, at the moment, but I've been noodling a lot about work lately - how to get the pieces to fall into place on a major new project, while keeping all my other balls in the air. I'm also knitting a new wool vest for Husband and slowly getting back to running after nearly two months off. 

Lots of books intended to inspire creativity - including several books on writing, and street and travel photography. I'm hoping they'll motivate me to spend more time with my camera and notebook in the coming months. It would be nice to return from our next trip with some reasonably good images and stories to share. 

Listening to...
Husband vacuuming the house. Bless his heart. I guess that means I'll have to dust later.

A vacation. It's been far too long since I had a proper break. Fortunately, we've just booked two weeks in Ireland, with a quick stopover in St. John's en route, so I've got one to look forward to in a few months.

Donald Trump and his mini-mes.

These two. How could I not? Also Snapseed, a fun photo app I've just started using - mostly to tweak photos I post on my Instagram account.  

Did I mention we're going back to Ireland later this year? Also, dinner tonight. Its always lovely spending time with good friends.

Selected Olympic events. I loved watching the curling mixed doubles and team figure skating - and not just because Canada won golds. Both teams exhibited so much determination and class, they made me proud to be Canadian. The same goes for Patrick Chan. He may not have earned a medal in the singles event yesterday but he did us proud all the same!

The Plan. Both Husband and I have lost weight and are feeling better since we began following it a couple of months ago. My new favourite breakfast is this chia seed and blueberry compote. It may look a bit odd but it's high in protein, low in calories, and downright delicious!

Mirrors. My incision is looking much better three and a half weeks post-surgery but it's hard not to feel anxious about how the scar will "mature". I've been trying to think of it as "interesting" but am still hoping my right and left cheek will more or less match again one day.

What about you, dear reader. What are you up to...currently?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Battered and bruised, but (mostly) undefeated

I won't lie. It's been a rough week. The minor surgery I had on Tuesday turned out to be a bigger deal than I thought it would be. The surgeon had to make a larger incision than expected and my face swelled up like a balloon in response to the local anesthetic so I looked decidedly lopsided for a few days. As the week wore on, the swelling subsided but bruises developed around my eye and mouth that added a certain toughness to my demeanour.

Day 2, still swollen but not too bruised yet
I can't share a picture of the scar because it's still covered by surgical tape and, to tell the truth, I'd prefer to keep it that way for another few days since I'm dreading whatever's under there - though I'm hoping it won't be as bad as I imagine. 

There are a couple of things worth observing about the experience. The first is how challenging it was to deal with the surgeons. Upon my arrival at the "Minor Procedures" clinic, I was informed by one of the residents (blithely, I thought) that she would be performing the procedure while the supervising surgeon looked on. Don't get me wrong, the resident seemed completely competent and, if the surgery had been on almost any other part of my body, I'd have gone along with the plan quite happily but, since we were talking about someone cutting into the middle of my face, I asked my original surgeon if he could please do it instead. He agreed, but didn't seem entirely happy about it, which left me wondering if I might pay a price for my "disagreeableness". 

I hasten to add that everyone else in the room was kind and supportive throughout. One of the students in attendance even offered to hold my hand when it became clear how nervous I was, and the nurse on duty did all she could to ensure I was steady on my feet before I made my way outside to meet Husband. So, all in all, the experience could have been far worse. And to be fair, the surgery was a minor, run-of-the-mill sort of thing from the surgeons' point-of-view - certainly nothing to get worked up about. It was only my vanity that made it at all significant.

The other thing that struck me was how little empathy my younger female colleagues demonstrated when I returned to the office on Wednesday. Two of them reacted to my battered face by telling stories about friends who'd had similar procedures that went badly at first but turned out okay in the end (four surgeries and several years later!). Not what I wanted to hear! The third observed that she supposed I wouldn't be very worried about the scar given that I wasn't in my 20s. Seriously?  Fortunately, older colleagues and friends, not to mention my darling Husband, were far more sensitive and encouraging. 

In any case, the fact it had to be done and perhaps the larger incision means the cancer won't be back anytime soon, which would be a good thing. I'd prefer not to have more surgery if I can avoid it. 

In other news, though I haven't run all week (to avoid further bruising), I have been diligent about doing yoga. An appointment with my massage therapist Monday evening convinced me I need to make stretching a priority if I'm ever going to feel comfortable in my skin again. 

And, on the assumption that I'll soon be running regularly again, I've decided to register for the Bluenose 15k in May. It's the only race I haven't completed at Bluenose (because it's new this year) and, given how little I've trained in recent months, 15k will be challenge enough.  If it goes okay, I'll think about registering for a half marathon or two later in the season.

By the way, here's a photo of Jackie yesterday, sleeping by the fire after a big beach walk with her best pal, Jessie. 

The walk happened at Conrad's Beach, just a few kilometres up the road from our city place. I'm not sure why we'd never been there before because the beach is truly spectacular - the perfect spot for a long walk and romp with the puppies. The icing on the cake is that Jamieson's Irish pub is conveniently located on the route home. In fact, we stopped there for a yummy lunch after our walk. Jamieson's is always a treat - especially in the company of old, dear friends.

Before wrapping up, I want to recommend an article I read on Becoming Minimalist this weekend. It outlines 15 great reasons to blog and reminded me of how and why I starting blogging in the first place. Here's hoping it also inspires me to write more often in the weeks and months ahead. 

Until next time, happy running and writing friends! If you're a blogger, be sure to share a link to your blog so I can check it out!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Food, beach, puppy, and books - what more could you want?

We're three weeks into the New Year and things are going well so far. I'm finally over the flu that laid me low over the holidays, work is busy in a good way, my weight is more or less where I want it, I've been doing yoga more regularly, and finally started running regularly again a couple of weeks ago (albeit only short distances). I haven't made it to the swimming pool yet but am hoping that will happen in the next week or two.

Yesterday morning first thing, I whipped up a batch of biscuits, which we ate warm from the oven with homemade strawberry jam and blackberry jelly. They weren't as good as mom's but my skills are improving. The trick is to avoid overworking the dough, and pray for the right barometric conditions so that the biscuits rise properly. Yesterday's were the best I've made in awhile so I was pleased with them.

After breakfast, Jackie Blue and I headed out for our first real run together. Now that she's nearly a year old, and runs several kilometres at a time on the beach, I figured it was safe to take her for an easy 5 km run into town and back. The challenge was to keep her from stopping too often or dashing into the road. She did well all in all - though she seemed anxious about going so far from home without "poppa". She kept stopping to look back with a worried expression on her face until we turned to retrace our steps - after which she ran along happily, grinning from ear to ear. I took this portrait when we stopped for a moment at the waterfront park in town.

With breakfast and a run out of the way, Husband and I got busy prepping to host a birthday party for my mom last night. She'd mentioned she was hungry for lobster and we missed having any over the holidays because I was sick, so we picked up some good sized bugs (nearly 2 pounds each!) from a local fisher in the afternoon and Husband boiled them in time for the party. I have to say there's not much that tastes better than fresh, perfectly cooked lobster dipped in melted butter. Everyone enjoyed them thoroughly. And the best part was there were leftovers!

Today was more low-key. I was pooped after a busy week so slept in for a few hours, then spent an hour or two helping Husband with post-party cleanup before calling my best friend for a lovely long chat. This afternoon, we trimmed Jackie' front claws - a chore we'd been postponing because she hates it - then headed to Risser's Beach for a good walk. The wind was offshore so the beach was relatively warm and none of us was in a hurry to get home.

As I write this, Jackie's crashed in front of the fireplace, exhausted by all the activity yesterday and today, Husband's in the kitchen putting leftovers together for supper for tonight, and I should be upstairs prepping for the week ahead - but I'm finding it hard to get motivated. I love being in the country so weekends never feel long enough. What I really want to do is curl up by the fire with a good book.

Speaking of books, I've got seven or eight on the go at the moment. I've nearly finished a couple on street and travel photography that I picked up at the library last week, and I'm more than half way through a book I gave Husband for Christmas, Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro, which is great fun. I'm also a few chapters into Joan Clark's An Audience of Chairs, which I started over the holidays, John Demont's The Long Way Home, which I purchased when we attended his reading the week before last, and Under the Tuscan Sun, which I'm rereading for the fourth or fifth time. The only book I've gotten all the way through since the new year is Jann Arden's Feeding My Mother, which I read in one sitting over the holidays and plan to reread soon. It was wonderful! There are two or three other half-read books beside our bed in town - including Virginia Woolf's Orlando - which I still hope to finish eventually. I think maybe one of my goals for January and February should be to get through as many of them as possible.

I didn't used to read this way - in fits and starts, hopping from one book to the next. It's partly a function of never having more than a few hours at a time, but it has as much to do with my smartphone-addiction as anything. When I was younger, I fell into books, losing myself entirely in the worlds they created. That still happens from time to time, when I'm not too tired and there's nothing to interrupt my reading but, more often than not, I struggle to focus for more than an hour or two, so it takes me forever to finish a book.

I've been reflecting on how I use my smartphone since I read this article in the Globe and Mail a few weeks ago. It infuriates me to think about how often we're manipulated by the apps and devices we use, and makes me more determined than ever to regain control. I deactivated most app notifications ages ago, and am now working on minimizing my time on social media and setting aside smartphone-free hours every morning and evening. I don't have my addiction entirely under control yet but I'm making progress and enjoy having more time for other things.

That's it for now. I'll be back soon with my 2018 running goals and an update on my wee surgery, which is scheduled for the day after tomorrow.  If you're looking for good stuff to read in the meantime, I'd encourage you to check our my friend Keith's blog. He writes much more regularly than I do and always seems to have interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking things to say. He shares lots of lovely photos too.

Until next time, happy running and writing!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

So long, 2017! Onwards to 2018!

A Christmasy family portrait - taken before the virus struck
We expected to spend the final weekend of 2017 celebrating the new year with friends from Ottawa but, unfortunately, we've both been sick as dogs since Christmas with a nasty cold/flu thingy, so they sensibly opted to postpone their visit until later. We were disappointed, of course, but they made the right decision. We wouldn't have wanted them to get this nasty virus, and the truth is we wouldn't have been very good company.

Honestly, I can't remember when I was last so sick for so long. For the first three days, I barely got out of bed and felt too awful to do much of anything. Since then, I've improved marginally each day, but it's been a long, hard slog - nearly two weeks now! 

I suppose it's fitting 2017 ended with a whimper since, in many ways, it was a tough year. There weren't any major catastrophes - just a long series of  mundane challenges that left me feeling worn out and discouraged. Here's hoping the longer-than-expected break from work enables me to tackle 2018 with renewed energy and enthusiasm. 

When I wasn't sleeping over the holidays, I spent a lot of time thinking about my intentions for 2018. Intuitively, I have a sense it's going to be a big year, filled with new adventures and challenges - but perhaps that's wishful thinking. So far, there's nothing to suggest there are major changes on the horizon - though I'm keeping a sharp eye out for interesting job prospects. 

On the running front, my expectations are modest. 2017 wasn't a great running year for me. Sure, I completed a few races in the spring and fall, but I ran all of them more slowly than I hoped and never got into a good training groove, despite kicking it up a notch in the early part of the year. More discouraging, my weight, which had remained pretty constant over the past few years, crept up to the point I felt positively chubby. Added to which, constant stiffness and joint pain were making it harder to run.

Fortunately, Husband announced at the end of November that he was willing to try going on the Plan for a few weeks, which was significant because he does most of the shopping and cooking and the burden of following the prescribed menus was going to fall mostly on him. Normally, neither of us is into dieting but we'd heard about the Plan from family and friends and thought it might be worth trying. We figured it couldn't hurt because the recommended recipes were healthy and calorie-full. In the end, we found we liked the food, and it worked for us. So far, I've lost nearly 9 pounds and Husband's down nearly 6, and we're both feeling more energetic and less achy overall - or at least we were until we got sick. 

Given our success to date, we've decided to carry on "planning" for awhile longer and couple that with more regular strength-training in hopes we'll be in better shape by the time gardening season rolls around. I'm hoping carrying less weight again will make running feel easier when I get back to it, but time will tell. I'm pretty darn stiff after laying around so much the past two weeks so more yoga is in order as well.

Anyway, back to those intentions. In terms of my physical health, what I most want is to end 2018 feeling comfortable in my skin - more flexible and energetic, as well as stronger - which of course means eating well, getting enough sleep and varying my exercise regime so its not so focused on running. With relatively little effort, all that should be do-able.

Emotionally and psychologically, my intentions are more challenging. I'm not particularly happy at work these days, and the situation isn't likely to change so I need to find a way to address that. I started exploring other opportunities before the holidays but there's still plenty I can do on that front.

Most importantly this year, I want to get more serious about practicing gratitude and compassion - towards myself and others - and to be braver and more accepting of "what is".

Case in point, I learned just before Christmas that I have a tiny cancerous lesion on my cheek. It's no big deal in the sense that the doctors who've examined it all assure me it's entirely treatable. I just need to have the darn thing removed. Nonetheless, I found myself feeling dismayed last week when the surgeon advised that I'll end up with a scar about an inch long. Of course, no one wants a scar in the middle of their face but I was annoyed with myself for finding the news so unsettling. What I should have felt was happy and grateful that the lesion was identified while it's so small and that I'm able to have it removed quickly. Chances are the scar won't be that bad and, anyway, now would be a good time to get over worrying about my looks and accept that I'm aging and my face is going to reflect that.

I'd like to be braver in other ways too. Husband and I have been talking for some time now about when I'm going to "retire" - by which we mean leave my reasonably well-paid government job to pursue other paid and unpaid opportunities, do more traveling, and work with him to develop our country property - but it's hard to give up the "golden handcuffs". I can't help worrying about what will happen if one of us gets really sick and we have to hire folks to look after us for an extended period. Of course, it's sensible to consider such contingencies, but the reality is none of us knows how much time we have, and Husband and I won't be able to tackle even half the projects we have in mind if I postpone retirement too long.

My intentions around gratitude and compassion have a lot to do with not beating up on myself when I fail to meet expectations, but also about being kinder and more understanding of other people. After all, we're all going through stuff others know nothing about.

Last but not least, I'd like to spend more time reading great books, writing, knitting, painting and doing whatever else flexes my creative muscles. With everything else going on, there wasn't much time for creativity in 2017 and I found I really missed it. If I want to live more creatively in retirement, I need to stay in practice.

In summary, my intentions for 2018 are to:
  • get more comfortable in my skin
  • deal with my work situation
  • practice compassion and gratitude
  • be braver and more accepting of what is
  • spend more time doing creative activities
In addition to the above, I am of course planning to spend lots more happy times with this little guy.

What about you, gentle reader. What are your intentions for this bright new year?