Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Need help with the oven

Does anyone out there know anything about ovens?

Mine caught on fire last week.

And you know how I am about fires...

And in case you don't... To say that I have a healthy respect for them might be a bit of an understatement.

I've survived two apartment building fires, once when I was ten and another when I was 23; as well as a third, outside my house… started by a boyfriend… who quickly became an ex after the display of stupidity that started the blaze that brought two fire huge trucks to the condo complex where I live…

But that’s a tale for another day. (Moral of the story: Now I only date smart boys, thank you very much.)

But last week, there was no stupidity involved. Just two loaves of bread, being baked by my housemate, Leah. She bakes wonderful bread… full of whole grains, a variety of flours and a variety of other things that could be called both “yummy” and “good for you".

Last week, as the bread was in the oven, I heard a noise in the kitchen. Thought one of the cats was up to something (again). So, I went to Investigate.


“The oven’s on fire!”

I quickly turned it off. Leah came flying in from the living room, got some baking soda and as I opened the oven door, she threw the baking soda on the flaming element.

The bread sat there innocently, each loaf in its respective pan, as if to say, “Whaaat???? It’s not our fault!”

And indeed, it appeared not to be. Nothing had dripped on the element. There was no smoke, really… Just flames.

The bottom heating element in the oven had melted in one corner.


How does that happen?

Has this ever happened to any of you? It’s certainly never happened to me before…

Now, does anyone out there know if the bottom heating element can simply be replaced? Or do I need to buy a whole new stove? The darn thing is less than 10 years old, for sure… Maybe less than 5 years old…

For now though… Leah is eating lots of stir fry and I’m confining myself to toasted bagels and fresh produce.

Leah finished baking the bread at a friend’s house, by the way. It’s very good bread, as always.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Reflections on taking the time... while there still is time...

I know I said in the last post that I’d give you an update on the knee and running, but it’ll have to wait. Sorry, folks.

There’s something else I want to write about today.

A few things happened this past week, in between class presentations, a musical and an opera. One is that I took the time to tell someone I see on a fairly regular basis that I appreciate the positive influence he’s been in my life.

I think we often don’t take the time to tell people these sorts of things. I’m as guilty of this as the next person, I confess. I know that life is short and you never know when your time might come and you may never have the chance to say nice things to people, but even so… Like most people, I get caught up in my own list of things to do…. goals, plans, doing, being… that I often don’t let my thoughts or feelings for others evolve into expression.

Besides, I think our society almost conditions us not to, in some ways. Ever notice that if you tell someone you admire them, they often feel awkward… don’t know what to say? Or worse, wonder why you’re “really” saying it? I have found myself in that position before, too. We almost get programmed not to accept it when people pat us on the back, at times.

Anyway, this week I took the time to say positive things to someone. Of course, me being me, it all went down in a letter. Lucky for the recipient, it was a short one – only four or five pages, I think, as opposed to the 15 to 20-pagers I’ve been known to churn out more times in my life than I can count.

That was one thing.

Another thing was that I received news from my step-Mom and Dad, that my Aunt Donna (Dad’s 70-something sister) has been in the hospital for three months, with a splintered femur. One day late last fall, she slipped outside and next thing you know, she's in the hospital, with multiple breaks in her leg. It happened about the same time as Dad needed some emergency eye surgery, which meant traveling a good eight hours or more, from their rural home, to get to a hospital equipped to perform it. In all the flurry of activity, they forgot to tell us about our aunt, which is perfectly understandable.

Anyway, I found out about it this week. Now, I just have to tell you, my Aunt Donna is one of my favorite people in the world. She shares a birthday with my best friend and both of them are strong, smart, vibrant women with spirits that shine bright enough to light up the entire earth, as far as I’m concerned.

Today, I called Aunt Donna at the hospital. She sounds as happy as ever, not being one to let life get her down – even when there’s a rod in her thigh and the only thing that gets her out of her hospital room is a motorized wheelchair.

We chatted. I told her about school. She told me about what books she’s reading, about my cousins and her upcoming surgery tomorrow, along with the intense physical therapy she’s doing every day.

Then she said, “Ya know… It’s eleven years ago today that Brian died. Can ya believe it?”

Brian was one her boys… my cousin… And someone I adored. Some of you will remember that back in September, I did the
AIDS walk in his honour.

Brian was another positive influence in my life… a language teacher, world traveler and someone who loved life. He often walked around with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and a sense of humour that was at times witty, at times playful and at other times, just plain goofy.

When I was brand new to teaching, Brian put together a huge package of activities for me to use with my classes… things he’d developed over the years and knew I could use. He had no issues with copyright or ownership. He just shared it and told me to use them, modify them however I wanted and share them as I saw fit. I still use some of his activities in my classes. And I still get a bit choked up when I see his small, neat handwriting in the margins, offering tips or hints on each activity.

So one theme that has emerged out of this week, quite by accident (or maybe not?) is mentorship. I’ve been thinking a lot about people who’ve had a profound and lasting positive influence on my life… how we carry a piece of them with us through memory, shared experience and lessons learned, even after we say goodbye. (Knowing, of course, that there are many different ways of saying goodbye to someone...)

I’m sure Aunt Donna will recover just fine. It’ll take time, but she’ll get there. She has a lot of pluck, that lady, and she’s known to not let life get in the way of her living.

I do think I’d best go look for a bright, happy birthday card for her though, since her special day is next week…

Friday, January 27, 2006

Running around, trying everything new...

And this just in via e-mail…"Can it be, the Blog-Queen is not blogging?? Your fan club will revolt! Some of them are already revolting, mentioning no names - but let's not get into insults. All okay? just insanely busy?”

So, umm… profuse apologies!

Yes, yes… just insanely busy… Two presentations to give in different classes this week, one of which involved writing a draft thesis proposal – already! It’s only my second semester! I was engulfed in books last weekend….

Did that presentation on Monday, only to pop up for air long enough to get the election results before submerging myself in material for a (3-hour) presentation for another class yesterday.

And just in case you're thinking that all work and no play makes Sarah a dull girl... Never fear… I did make time for play, too. Went to see the musical “Evita” on Tuesday night, featuring my qualitative research methods professor as Juan Peron. (His real passion is opera, academics are a close second, I think… And he’s a brilliant prof, so you can just imagine his life as a performer.) And last night, went to an operatic production of Dead Man Walking put on the by Calgary Opera. The singing was great, but the production was hideously overdone and melodramatic (even for an opera) – in my humble opinion, of course!

So…. Don’t cry for me, fellow bloggers. The truth is, I never left you.

PS: In case you're wondering about the title, I'm not actually "running around" yet... Still on the walking program with the knee. I was happy this week to be spared needles in my leg by my Physiotherapist. He gave me a good handful of them in the back, instead. Something about too much core work... Will update on the running and knees more in the next post.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Voting in my riding... (a.k.a. my Twilight Zone)

Like any good citizen I went to cast my ballot in the national election today.

When I got to my voting station, I told the 20-something man at the front table that I hadn’t received my voter’s card. “What should I do?” I asked.

“Do you know your last name?” He asked me.

I stared at him for a second and then replied, “Did you just ask me if I know my own last name?”

“Er….” He said, realizing what he’d done. “Yes.”

“I do.” I said, giving him my last name. I was thinking to myself, “My God, not only do we let people like you vote, we hire you to work during the election? Brilliant…”

I did not voice my thoughts.

“O.K.” He replied. “And… do you know where you live?”

“As a matter of fact, I do!” I said. And I told him.He shuffled through some papers and then directed me to one of the tables in the room.

I went over and explained the situation. They looked me up on their sheet and the man sitting at that table said, “Oh yes… Here you are… And according to this… You have already voted.”

“I have?” I asked. “Um… well… actually… no… I haven’t. And here’s my driver’s license, saying I am who I say I am.”

“Oh!” He exclaimed, looking at his papers again. “Well, it says here that you’ve already voted… Oh, no… Wait a minute… No, it says you’ve been deleted.”

“Deleted?” I asked.

“Well… yes.” He replied. “Have you moved?”


And clearly, I was not deceased, either.

“Hhmmm….” He said. “I think I need a Supervisor.”

(You need more than that, I thought. But again, I kept my thoughts to myself.)

A Supervisor was brought over. It was someone I knew! He was a student I’d had in an adult education Spanish class some years ago.

He appeared not to recognize me, though.

He looked at the documents, checked my driver’s license and then said, “Hhhmm… I need to call this one in to find out what to do. Come with me, please.” I was escorted out of the voting room.

As we walked out of the room, I said, “Have you ever taken Spanish?” I knew the answer, but I wanted to see what he’d say.

“Yes,” he replied, looking at me with surprise. “How did you know?”

“I was your teacher.”

He looked at me again and said, “Oh! Sarah! It’s… been a long time.”

“Yes, it has… maybe eight or nine years?”

“Something like that. Well, let’s see if we can’t get this sorted out so you can vote.”

He ushered me over to a phone, pulled a business card out of his breast pocket and dialed the number on it. As he was dialing he said, “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you. You’ve lost some weight… A good deal of weight?”

“Yes,” I said. I am always shocked when people say they don’t recognize me for that reason. I see me every day, so I suppose that I don’t notice much change. But I must confess, I do appreciate it when people tell me they’ve noticed. It’s encouraging.

At least he didn’t say, “Oh, it’s been eight or nine years and your hair wasn’t so grey back then.”

At least it wasn’t that.

And in fact, his reason for not recognizing turned out to be the highlight of my time at the polling station.

After the phone call, he was Authorized to allow me to vote. I was unceremoniously handed a registration form, which I had to fill out to confirm that I was who I said I was. Then I was allowed to go and mark my X on my ballot.

But not until I had proven that:

  • I knew my last name.
  • I knew where I lived.
  • I was able to effectively argue that I had not already voted.
  • I did not deny that I was not already deceased.
  • I had, for all intents and purposes been “deleted” by the government.
  • I patiently waited for Authorization that would allow the electoral staff to “un-delete” me and permit me to vote.

As I write this, I do not know the final results of the election. But I confess that this morning's events have not inspired confidence in me.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Fitness - body, mind and spirit (answer to last post)

Kudos to TG, Mac and W. for their guesses… Yes… you are close.

If you read back a couple of posts, you know I’m taking a course on leadership this semester. Well, as I was reading, it got me thinking about my work, which has never really been so much “work”, as a “vocation” for me. I’m not a particularly religious person (sorry… I know some of you will be disappointed by that), but I am deeply (and almost equally, privately) spiritual.

For me, being a teacher and a student is definitely a calling. I pour my heart and soul into my teaching, and my studies. I crave books and get charged up by research. I have a positively insatiable curiosity about most things (which I try to curb at times, hoping it will keep me out of the realm of “social freak”).

For me (and for many teachers, I would guess), being a teacher isn’t a job… it’s part of my identity… It isn’t what I do… it’s who I am… why I was put on earth by the Powers That Be.

I realized that by making a conscious effort to be healthy and fit, I will be able to “be” better at this… will have more mental clarity and more energy. It also means I’ll be able to connect more deeply with more students… and I’ll also be a more effective student, too. In the long run, it probably also means that I will be healthier for longer and will be able to follow this life path for a few extra days… (I hope).

I ran into a former student the other day in the gym. She’s moved on to another level of Spanish and we got to chatting about how it was going. She pulled out a cue card with all her latest verbs written on it… She was studying Spanish (memorizing infinitives, to be precise) at the gym!

I beamed.

I told her how thrilled I was to see how into it she was.

She beamed.

She’s a kinesiology student and although she likes Spanish, it’s not as easy for her as her "kines" (the kids say it "k'neess") courses. I would guess that the gym is a kind of sanctuary for her…. And it’s a sanctuary that I too, often frequent… Meeting her there and crossing paths for a few minutes confirmed that there are many places to connect with students… with others… with self…

I feel like there’s finally a connection between body, mind, and spirit. I always knew I was not exercising to have a perfect body. That just ain't gonna happen. What I did not know was what, besides that ever-vague thing we call "health", was motivating me. Then I figured it out... So I could live the life I was put here on earth to live with more strength, endurance and clarity.

I told my trainer all this.

He didn’t say much… I suspect he just thinks I’m weird.

You might, too.

And I probably am.

I'm OK with that.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Another exercise epiphany

So, I had another fitness epiphany the other day.

Sat down and typed out three solid, single-spaced pages about it. (I'll spare you the details.)

You see... I've been troubled by something...

Yes, I've been going to the gym regularly. Yes, I am less intimidated now. You could even say I like it. (I can hear Z. shrieking as I write that...)

But I've been asking myself, "How do I know this is a lifestyle change and not just some fad?" It just didn't feel like part of my lifestyle. (I'm sure Trainer would be happy to see I can "feel" things... though in this case, once again, I was perturbed precisely by what I was not feeling...)

Then I clued in.

In order for it to be part of my lifestyle, fitness and exercise must be connected… fundamentally and profoundly intertwined with… one's values and what’s important to a person as a human being. If not, it won’t work… not long term.

At least, that was my theory.

Finally, the light bulb went off in my head… and I saw the connection. I felt like a fairly major piece clicked into place and suddenly, it all made sense.

I suppose you’re all wondering what it is, eh?

Well, maybe I’ll post about that next time…

For now... any guesses?!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

And in the spirit of humour...

And now for something completely different….

After all the thought-provoking comments on the last post about leadership, I thought I’d lighten things up a bit… (and to be true to my theme of 2006…. Strong body, light spirit… I figure that regular injections of humour are allowed; indeed, advisable!)

Z. sent me this one this morning… one of those e-mail funnies that goes around. I don’t usually forward stuff like this on, but for some reason, this one gave me a good chuckle, so I thought I’d share it here.

As Z. said herself, “Doubtless this will be less than compelling for non-drinker types …” So I’ll beg forgiveness now if you’re a teetotaler…

16 Reasons to serve red wine at work

  1. It's an incentive to show up.
  2. It leads to more honest communications.
  3. It reduces complaints about low pay.
  4. Employees tell management what they think, not what they want to hear.
  5. It encourages car pooling.
  6. Increases job satisfaction because if you have a bad job, you don't care.
  7. It eliminates vacations because people would rather come to work.
  8. It makes fellow employees look better.
  9. It makes the cafeteria food taste better.
  10. Bosses are more likely to hand out raises when they are wasted.
  11. Salary negotiations are a lot more profitable.
  12. Employees work later since there's no longer a need to relax at the bar.
  13. It makes everyone more open with their ideas.
  14. It eliminates the need for employees to get drunk on their lunch break.
  15. Employees no longer need coffee to sober up.
  16. Sitting "bare butt" on the copy machine will no longer be seen as “gross”.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What does it mean to lead?

One of my required courses this semester is on Educational Leadership. Needless to say, we have piles of reading to do. On the bright side, there are only 3 students in this seminar class and my two class mates are brilliant, I think. So, I'm thoroughly looking forward to it.

And it has gotten me pondering leadership again... deeply.

A few years back, I took part in a program called
Leadership Calgary. I was part of the class of 2004. That experience shaped many of my ideas about leadership, community and what it means to care about both. I was immersed in the concepts of transformational leadership. Now, I find myself reading more and different things about leadership and what it means… in terms of a job, a vocation, a person… a life.

I’m interested in your thoughts on this topic, as well as your favorite books, movies, etc. Which leaders have inspired (or enraged) you the most? Why? Is it possible for anyone to be a leader? If so… when and how?

Looking forward to some good discussion on this one...

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Zen of a puffy knee?

After spending a couple of days with this taped up knee, I am coming to terms with reality. My head, heart and soul are settling back into balance and … well… it’s O.K.

The cold that invaded my body for most of last week is also subsiding, so I’m a much happier camper in general.

I made a mistake in the last post. I said the squats hurt. They don’t really hurt… more like “burn”… in all the places they’re supposed to. That means I’m probably doing them relatively correctly and they’re working the muscles they’re supposed to work.

Tim has added a new form of squats called “one-legged drop squats”. Imagine someone comes along behind you and pokes you behind your knee, making it collapse and you sink downwards. The new squats involve that type of motion… but controlled on the way back up. I find these desperately difficult, but if I think back to the beginning of December, I was barely able to do two-legged squats then.

So, there has been progress. I just need to remember it. I had a look through my training log for the past six weeks and I see that indeed, things actually are coming along… it’s just slower than I would like.

As for Tim, I have to say that I respect him and trust his opinion. Remember, this man inspired enough trust in me that I let him do accupuncture on me in our second session. I might go so far as to call this slight, unassuming and quiet man a "warrior healer" of sorts... He's knows exactly what he's doing and his job isn't a job, but a vocation. He knows he's a healer and uses the gifts he's been given in his job. I don't want to get too airy-fairy here, so let me just say that at this point, my gut tells me that I don't need a second opinion. I need to be patient.

As my dear old Mum used to say, “Patience is a virtue… It’s just not one of mine!”

Anyway, I’ve done a little re-wiring of my brain these past few days and I figure that if this fitness and health thing is going to be a lifestyle, then it’s the lifestyle that matters, not just the running. I like running and I hope I can get back to it one day.

If the reality is that my body doesn’t like running, I’ll find other stuff to do. Maybe I’ll take up badminton so I can whip Young Cousin’s butt when he comes to visit? Or maybe I’ll finally learn how to ice skate. Considering I live in Canada, that seems like a reasonable thing to know how to do… And I have this fantasy about learning hip hop dance. (I know… it’s not what you’d expect from me… but it just looks like so much fun!) So… there are things to do… And a life time to try them… as my confidence grows and the raging fear inside me subsides ever so slowly, I admit, I am getting curious about other kinds of activities…

I recognize that I am a creature of habit and comfort… I have come to rather enjoy my time at the gym. I never thought I’d live to say those words, but there they are! If I think back, there have been plenty of things that I hated... mostly because I couldn't do them and felt stupid and embarrassed about that. But I kept trying... and they've gotten easier... not always perfect, but easier.

In fact, I’m almost starting to think that it’s comfortable enough now that it might just be time to challenge myself to leave that comfort zone from time to time, change things up a bit and try something new… wall climbing… volleyball… capoiera… something that puts that knot back in my stomach, leaves me paralyzed with panic and has me feeling like I could never possibly do it…

Well… then again… maybe I’ll just contemplate that for now… as I continue to walk on the treadmill… Walk with the pain, as my Buddhist friend and mentor, Roberto, would say.... There's less pain than there used to be... but whatever is there... breathe it in, feel it, own it and walk with it... head and spirits high and centre balanced.

PS: I am happy to report that there has been no wallowing in ice cream... except for one small scoop while having dinner with Z. and L. tonight... But that was hardly wallowing... more like savouring... Yes, there was lots of laughter, giggles and good stories to go around... no wallowing at all!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dealing with injury - help!

Six weeks. That’s how long I’ve been in physiotherapy.

The good news is that we started out with both knees messed up and we're down to one. The bad news is that I’m back to being banned from running and my right knee is still messed up.

Messed up but good.

Tim, my physiotherapist, has it all taped up at the moment, and I have to leave it that way for a few days.

I think what gets me is that I followed my training program exactly. I’ve been following Tim’s strengthening program exactly… Doing my exercises with a diligence that is almost religious. I don’t skimp on the exercises… I don’t do more than what’s prescribed. I stay within the boundaries we talk about and I’m dedicated, dammit.

So, WHY am I still injured?

I feel like I take two steps forward and one step backwards.

And to be honest, I’m pretty pissed off about the whole thing. I guess I could understand the lack of progress if I was a lazy ass who expected to get better by sitting on her rear end. But I don’t. I do leg lifts. I do core work. I do the modified leg press. I do one-legged balancing-act, hurt-till-I-almost-cry squats. I stretch. I walk. I do pool work. And yes... I rest, too... That's part of the program... and I follow the program.

It’s one thing for your body to be injured, but now my head is entering the picture. I’m officially down in the dumps (which is rare for me, making it all the more difficult…)

How can you do everything right and still not get anywhere?

I’m sure that it’s quite human and normal to get down about such things. But I need to get back into a positive headspace, or I’ll … start wallowing in ice cream! Not good… not good at all!


Where from?

So, KT and IPM have asked, on different occasions, about my heritage. Well, like many Canadians, I have a mixed heritage of sorts, though mine is mostly British (English, Scottish, Welsh... and who knows... maybe some Irish, somewhere along the way?)

I am from a bi-cultural family. My Dad is Canadian, born and raised. My Mum was English, with Welsh heritage (though my Young Cousin says that the English don't admit it when they're originally Welsh... must ask him to clarify that one for me again, since I've forgotten why...)

My Mum also told me that there's some Italian in our family. Something about how the Italians were brought to Wales to work in the coal mines, but ended up thumbing their noses at that and made loads of money by introducing ice cream to the nation... and by extrapolation, Italians were introduced to into our family.

Who knows if it's true or not... Mum had a wry sense of humour.

But it could explain my affinity for Romance languages, perhaps... ? And I do love ice cream... gelato... helado...

I lived in England for a year, when I was about seven or so. Yes, I had to wear a uniform to school. Hated it (the uniform, that is. England, I liked.)

Ice cream in England is divine by the way, at least, in my humble opinion. I remember my aunt always had a box of vanilla in the freezer. If memory serves me correctly, it was a blue plastic box with a white lid. Then there's the ices you can buy at the shops... mmmm...

But I digress...

I have cousins in the southern and mid parts of England. With any luck, I'll get to see a few of them next year... but let's live one day at a time, shall we? 2007 is still a long way off... Many pennies must be saved!

I moved around a fair amount as a kid, but most of my growing up years were spent in Nova Scotia. No family left there now... though still have some good childhood friends who are still there.

The rest of the family are in various parts of Ontario (central Canada) and here in Alberta (western Canada).

I'm not particularly tied to Alberta as a place... Beautiful though it is...

In general, I'd have to say that there are good people around me here... a brother not far away... and a few others who are close enough to be family... They keep me here... and keep me grounded... more than anything, I suppose.

So there you go... Hope that helps!

Monday, January 09, 2006

To be or to do? That is the question...

I have this philosophical side, you know. I try to turn it off, or at least tune it out some days, but it’s not really in my nature. I wonder about … well… just about everything… almost all the time.

I haven’t had a philosophical posting in a while, so indulge me for a moment, OK?

One of the questions I get to ponder while I’m in “Earth School” (as my friend Davey J. would say) is “Being vs. Doing”.

Along with an almost insatiable wonderment about most topics, truth be told, I also have a quiet obsession with goals. I have dozens of them in my head at any given moment... specific ones about what needs to get done this year, this term, this month, this week… in the next ten minutes and vague ones like my 2006 theme of “strong body, light spirit”. I write some of them down, but mostly, I keep them silently catalogued in my head (or in this blog!)

I suppose you could say that I have done a respectable amount of stuff in my life so far… Mostly because I think I set my mind to do something and then do it. I set mini-goals each step of the way until I’ve done whatever it is I had in mind. (And of course, I think about each little mini-goal and the process that goes into achieving it, too… I wouldn’t be a philosopher unless I did…)

I have school goals, fitness goals, financial goals, travel goals, personal goals… and on and on the list goes. I can’t help it… I don’t really know how NOT to have goals.

I have learned that it isn’t wise to hyper-focus on them… but I haven’t learned how to completely turn them off either.

Haven’t learned how to just… be.

It’s the ultimate irony… To have a goal where the goal itself is to just be… Not do anything… just be.

The other irony is that I rather enjoy meditation… and can settle into the quiet tranquility required for it, without a lot of angst or frustration. That definitely requires less “doing” and more “being”.

With the start of the new school semester, I can foresee there will be many things to do. I ponder how it can be balanced with “being”.


First day back at school

So, today is the first day of classes for the winter semester.

Believe it or not, I have to give a presentation tonight in my class. It's a year long class and before the holidays, we each had to sign up for two presentations. I insanely offered to be one of the first presenters, thinking I'd get it over with sooner, rather than later.

I hope I look back and appreciate that wisdom. At the moment, I'm just thinking I was a little insane when I offered to do that!

Ah well... no one said students were actually smart, right?!

Anyway, here we go again... Week one of thirteen...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Happy Birthday, Aaron!

Oooh! Before I go to bed I thought I'd post a quick note for my older brother, Aaron, while it's still his birthday.

Here's a picture of us taken last May in Banff... Couldn't seem to find anything more recent.

And no... I'm not really taller than him... Look closely... I'm just standing on a big rock. (Hee, hee!)

Anyway, Happy Birthday, bro! Love ya, baby!

Quandary solved...

I walked.

In fact, I dressed in such a way that I was comfortable for walking, but not for running. (Translation: too many clothes and only one sports bra.) There was no way I'd be tempted to run without being properly attired!

My knee is squawking at me at the moment… but only mildly.

Funny thing… I never used to be aware of much pain at all… As my sense of body awareness increases, so does my awareness of pain. I can still tolerate it... but I certainly am more aware of it. Not sure I like that part! Gggrrr!


So... I'm in a bit of a quandary… Remember my 30 seconds of blissful running a couple of days ago? (Yesterday was a gym day, not a running day…) Well, my knee hurt again yesterday.

And it was back to being puffy.

Puffier than it has been for the last little while.


Today I could do the walk/run program again. I really want to. (And Rob, I don’t think I was actually high from the running. There wasn’t enough of it for that! I was just excited to be back on the track…)

Anyway, back to my dilemma…

What to do? What to do?

I’m usually very good about following doctor’s / physical therapist’s / trainer’s orders. I know the walk/run program is progressive and the deal is that if you feel anything… even a twinge… you either stay where you are, or take it back to the previous level.

Well, the previous level was walking!

Do I really want to go back to 30 minutes of walking?

It’s only 30 seconds of running, right? It can’t really be that bad for the knee can it?

Sigh… And having said all that my swim suit stares at me from my locker. It silently says, “You suck at swimming, remember? Do you really want to have to go back to the pool?”

I’ll update later… after I’ve been for my workout…

For now, I think a cup of coffee might help to clear my head.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Superfeet update

Mac commented that he was surprised I didn't mention the Superfeet in my last post.

Oops! Sorry!

Well, they felt weird for about the first five minutes, then I forgot about them. I was slightly high, remember! (Natural high, but whatever...)

Hell, the damned things could have been made of rusty nails and I wouldn't have cared.

In all seriousness though... I'm getting used to them pretty quickly.

Even my squats are more stable because of my Superfeet.

(OK, I just re-read that... if you hadn't been following the last few posts and just read that line out of context, it would seem pretty weird...) Thank God you all know what I mean! (Wiping beads of embarrassed sweat off brow...)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Back on (the) track!

As I re-read my last post, I just shook my head thinking to myself, "Gawd, Sarah, you sound like some kind of junkie. 'Please, I'll do whatever. I don't care.... just give me a taste of what I want! I'll do anything!!'"

Well, maybe not anything...

OK, who are we kidding? I would have done just about anything, including squatting as low as I can go.

Today, I got my fix.

I had another physio session at the end of which, Tim said I could start the walk/run program.

"Today?" I asked, salivating like a famished animal. I almost had to wipe the drool off my chin.


"You mean, like... right now? I can go to the track when I leave here?" I just wanted to be clear...

"Yeah... sure." He said it casually, like it was nothing. To me, it was the best news I'd had in weeks.

I just about bolted out of there without saying good-bye. I think I said bye... but I can't really remember...

I zipped back to the locker room, dumped my jacket, stuck my hair up and high tailed it back to the fitness centre. (The physio clinic is located in the same building as the gym at the university, in case you're wondering...)

Saw my trainer, Chris, as I was headed for the stairs up to the track. I smiled, but didn't stop to chat today. He probably wondered what the hell is up with me, since I haven't been pestering him for a training session...

Oh well, I know I've got some sessions banked. I'm sure once he's dealt with the "New Year's Resolution crowd", he'll slot in his regulars again... In the meantime, I'll leave him to deal with the January mob. I have other things to do!

Like run!

I got to the track and noted that my heart rate was above 100 as soon as I started monitoring it. This is unusual for me... I had trouble getting it up when I was swimming and walking... The fact that it was over 100 before I even started made me chuckle. I guess I was excited or something...!! (Hee hee!)

Anyway... 4.5 minutes of walking, followed by 30 seconds of running. Six times, for a total of half an hour.

That's it.

That's all I got to do... 30 seconds of running, once every five minutes.

Not much, is it?

But it's more than I've done in a month. And it felt great!!!

Of course, I was supposed to focus on form, foot placement, which muscles I was using and so on.

I tried.

Really I did.

But I was so excited I could hardly breathe, let alone concentrate.

After a half hour... my knee was a little swollen and I was aware of it, but it was not what I'd call painful. Not at all!


Look, Ma!

No knee pain!!

Can you tell I'm on a bit of a high?

Good fix. Much needed fix.


(I cannot believe it's the same person writing this as the girl was who almost quit the gym at the beginning of the fall semester because she was too intimidated. Who the hell is this new woman, anyway??)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

"Superfeet" and the one-legged squatter

Anyone ever heard of Superfeet? Or tried them?

If not, allow me to enlighten you...

They come in a variety of styles, colours and levels of torture. Mine are bright (almost lime) green... and they're "Performance quality"... for athletes... (Yeah... that's me, for sure... Right...)

I bought them yesterday, at the urging of my physical therapist. During our last two sessions he had me stand in sock feet in front of him. Both times, he crouched down, looked at my legs, and knees and feet and would then say.... "Hhhhmmmm.... Well.... You're pretty flat-footed..."

Me, being the wizard of body awareness I am (... er... again... not so much...) would stare at him blankly and say, "I am…? What does that mean?"

Yesterday, this resulted in an examination of my running shoes and a long and detailed explanation about how my feet hit the ground when I walk or run, how they roll around and why what I do is bad.

Very bad indeed.

I was told yesterday to go and by some "Superfeet"... In case you're still wondering what they are, they're special insoles with arch supports. One stop short of orthotics and about a tenth of the price.

So after work, I trundled off to Mountain Equipment Co-op, runners and gym socks in hand, and got myself a pair of Superfeet.

They didn't feel great when I tried them on in the store, but hell... if they get me back running again, I really don't give a damn.

Tim gave me a carrot, you see. (He's very good at that...) "Once you get used to the Superfeet, we can get you started on a run/walk program... after we teach you how to tape up that knee, too..."

All I heard was the word "run" and I nodded in agreement – quiet and calm on the outside and eager almost to the point of salivation on the inside... Sure... yeah... whatever it takes to get these short, stumpy little legs back to running.

I don’t quite know why I’m like this… it’s not like I’m even good at running (and really… it’s barely faster than a walking pace, what I do…) but it is one of the few physical activities I’ve ever enjoyed in my life… Having had a taste and then having it taken away has left me… hungry… shall we say…

Anyway, I tried these new Superfeet today at the gym. Felt like there was a sizeable, round, smooth rock nestled under each non-existent arch. I walked on the treadmill for half an hour and survived, but it wasn’t exactly fun.

Today’s balance exercises were positively laughable. There were hints of balance here and there, but I felt like I was tumbling all over the place today. Very embarrassing…

Then there were squats.

New and improved squats, I might add. (My trainer will be thrilled, I'm sure...)

When I complained to Tim that I didn’t have great balance with my assisted-one-legged squats, which entail bracing myself against the wall with one leg and squatting with the other, he replied, “Well… you’ve got to learn to balance. You’ll need to balance when you run…” (There’s that word again… “run”… making me salivate like Pavlov’s dog…)

He continued, “So… we’re just going to take that wall away from you now. Just squat on one leg… no wall.”

No wall!

I tried today… Minus the wall and adding the Superfeet.

Surprisingly, I did not fall down. The squats were far from perfect, but I managed 2 x 10 for each leg. Rivulets of sweat streaming down my back... Tell me, how can one exercise be so damned hard??

If I look back one semester, at the beginning of the fall semester, Chris showed me two-legged squats. I hated them, could not (and would not!) do them. I tried at home a few times, just about fell on my ass and everything shook like a big bowl of jello. Far too demoralizing....

Now at the beginning of this semester, not only do I do squats every single freaking day, I sometimes do them in public… now on one leg…

And I might add… everything still jiggles like a big bowl of jello… Maybe lime jello… to match the colour of my Superfeet... and my iPod mini.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Back at work... feeling a little low about it

I came back to work yesterday, though many people took it as a "floater day". I was happy to ease into my work load on a quieter day. In case you didn't know, I also work at the University where I study.

Today though, I'm a little sad. But not because I'm back at work.

Unlike many people, I actually rather love my job. I work with great people, some brilliant minds and my job in language research is well suited to my skills and interests.

I'm sad mostly because I'm crawling out of a state of denial that I've been in for some months now. You see, our Director, N., is going on a six-month leave and will be living outside the country.

He's a fascinating person and by far, the best supervisor I've had in a job, ever. I watch how he works and closely observe how he strategizes and makes decisions. I have learned more from working with him in the past couple of years than I have from most people in my life.

I have asked him if he would mind leaving me his brain, pickled in a jar on my desk, so I can poke and prod it for advice on a daily basis. Alas, it turns out that he will be needing his brain during his leave, so I can't have it. (Luckily, we understand one another's slightly warped sense of humour...)

The fact that he has a daughter about my age (or so I would guess, from some of our conversations), has created an interesting dynamic between us. I often feel "taken under his wing", in a fatherly sort of way. And I look up to him... as both a mentor and a human being.

We have, in fact, joked about me being a young Jedi and he, Obi-Wan. (I'm not really so young, but the comparison still fits. :-)

I am well aware that this level of respect between superiors and subordinates rarely happens in a working situation. I won't say that I've been spoiled, because for the most part, I work hard and smart in my job. The mutual professional respect is, I believe it would be fair to say, very much earned... on both sides.

The Interim Director is a wonderful person, accomplished scholar and experienced administrator. In our dealings so far, we get along very well and I have every confidence that we'll have a good, solid working relationship... probably even an excellent one.

Nevertheless, I start this first day, when campus is abuzz with most staff and faculty duly stationed back in their jobs... I am a little bit sad... as I realize that in a few short days, my mentor of a few years will head off to what might as well be a galaxy far, far away.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

To lightly and strongly tread where I've never gone before (not a resolution, but a theme)

Rob the Runner has inspired me. He's inspired me in a number of ways and I've told him so. He's a bit nutso when it comes to the distances he runs, but he knows that and he's OK with it... as are most of his blogger buddies, not to mention his wife and family. (Some of us just sit back in awe when we read his posts.)

What he’s inspired me with specifically and most recently was that he has picked a “theme word” of sorts to sum up what he wants 2006 to be about for him. He picked the word “epic”. If you want to get the details, you’ll have to meander over to his blog.

His post, and more specifically, his word, have been bobbing around in my head for the past few days. I would think to myself, “‘Epic’, what a great word!” It’s Rob’s word and I believe that 2006 will be an epic year for him.

Being the linguist I am, I understand the power of words. He inspired me to pick my own theme word for 2006. I thought ... and mulled... and pondered. I had a word… but it didn’t seem to sum everything up for me, the way “epic” did for Rob.

Then it occurred to me that in 2005, I had two theme words that I didn’t even recognize as such until … about now. They were “health” and “balance”. I realized throughout the year, that these words are not an end or a goal that one achieves (which was a bit disappointing, given my type-A personality…) but rather a process, an evolution… and a guide for personal choices. There are no guarantees that one can ever have either health or balance. And if you do have them, there’s no telling when they can be snatched away from you again, despite your best efforts. I learned from focusing on these two words in 2005 that you can do your best and still get all out of whack, get stressed out, make unhealthy choices and get injured or, as others in my family experienced, have your health change quickly and unexpectedly.

Nevertheless, I learned a lot from having them as my guide through the journey that was 2005.

Rob inspired me to think of a new word for 2006. But alas, I am not so efficient as he. I couldn’t think of one. Instead, I have a pair. (Apparently, I like the balance and complementary nature of two words, rather than one.)

My words for 2006 are “light” and “strong”. ("Strong" was the first one that came to mind, but it didn't seem enough on its own, so it will work in harmony with "light".) Let me explain:

Strong” is mostly, though not entirely, for the body. I want to get strong so I can run (not plod… run!). My legs, hips and core need a lot of work. But they don’t work in isolation… the upper body needs to get strong, too. Physically, I have never been particularly strong. Through my training I am learning that I can be healthier and stronger than I was before… but it’s all relative, right? I shall dedicate 2006 as the year to experiment with physical strength, with a view to getting outside and running sooner, rather than later.

Note, this does not mean that I have any intention of bulking up! That might defeat the purpose of gaining strength so I can finally run.

Strong” also applied to the soul, spirit and mind. But typically, I’ve had less trouble with those sorts of strength than I have with physical strength, so we’ll leave those alone for the moment. This was part of the reason that I felt the need for another word.

Light” is that word. It is mostly, though not entirely, for the mind and soul. I tend to be a bit of a thinker, you see. (I know, you could never have guessed, right?) I get my head wrapped around my books, the problems of the world, issues facing the community or just about anything. It’s what MCM calls having a “cerebral existence”.

Part of 2005 was spent trying to get out of my head and into my body. I have realized this is impossible to do… They’re connected and trying to separate them, even theoretically, doesn’t work.

So what I will focus on instead is having a lighter soul in 2006… still being engaged in my studies; still caring about the world and people around me; still being conscious and conscientious… but doing so with a sense of lightness. I have a playful side… but it doesn’t show much. This year, I will attempt to bring it to the surface in a genuine way… keeping it in balance with my natural, more “cerebral” side; be “mindfully light” (as opposed to “lightly mindful”, I suppose!)

Perhaps if I can manage to do that, I won’t get my knickers all in a twist about issues like the one in my last post! Ha!

I could also say that I could try to be a “light” in others’ lives, but that sounds like a lofty and important goal… one I’m not sure I could fulfill anyway, so let’s not go there…

Light” of course, could also apply to the body, but I shall choose also not to focus on that. In fact, I have a good mind to throw out my bathroom scales today, January 1, 2006! To hell with monitoring my weight! I don’t care about it!

Well, OK… I do care about it… but not as much as I used to. But for me... this year… living light of spirit and soul… far outweighs the importance of any number on the scale.

So, no… I won’t throw them away… my house mate might clobber me, since her number is also steadily decreasing and she likes to see that. But I may well just ignore the fact that the scales are there.

I have other things to focus on… Strong body; Light soul. Here's hoping the words can guide me through 2006 as well as "health" and "balance" did in 2005. (This doesn't mean that the words of 2005 get tossed out, by the way... they are now as much part of me as my healing knees are... I walk with them daily and will one day run with them, too.)

To Rob: Thanks for the inspiration, buddy. May you have an epic 2006.

To all: Happy New Year!

Dating... sizing it up (part two)

Thanks for the comments on the last post, all. Since some of you hinted that you'd like a follow-up post, here it is.

First of all, let me say that was got me about the exchange was the "blanket statement" quality of the conversation. To me, it would have been similar to saying, "Black women are more interesting"; "Short women are more interesting" or "Brown-eyed women are more interesting". It was the idea that there was a certain quality that makes some people interesting and others not.

But as one female friend pointed out to me, skin colour, height and eye colour are not things that most of us can change (at least not on a longer term or permanent basis)... except if you have vitiligo, as another friend does, a condition which causes her lovely chocolate-coloured skin to turn porcelain white in patches.

Weight is something we can change and society (and medical professionals) urge most of us to either change (as in, lower) or keep an eye on. For many women, weight is a particularly sensitive issue (damn the media!)

The idea that shocked me was that for this fella, there’s a direct relationship between size and interest, with “bigger” being “better”… in his experience of course. Being the pragmatic, analytical type, I went for the logical extrapolation… as a woman gets bigger, she becomes more attractive; smaller, less attractive.

Apparently though, you can’t apply logic to matters of the heart.

I did probe the matter a bit further. Turns out that some of those “bigger women” (still left undefined) suffered from depression, which had also had a direct -- i.e. negative-- effect on the relationship. So… it seems that he was drawn to these women because he perceived them to be “interesting” (still left undefined). It appears as though there was a coincidental (rather than cause-effect) relationship between these women’s quality of being interesting and their size. There was, however (in his opinion) a cause-effect relationship between the women’s size and their sense of confidence… and perhaps another link to their depression… thought that was left unexplored… whether the depression was coincidental or cause-effect.

In the end, the negative effects of the depression outweighed the women’s attractive qualities (no pun intended) and the relationships ended.

The issue of cause-effect versus coincidence here is a key element for me. If someone said, “Women who are vegetarian are more interesting.” or “Women who have llamas as pets are more interesting.” I would probably retort with the same, “Excuse me?!” Meaning, “There’s no logic at all in that statement. Explain yourself, please, because I don’t get it.”

Next time perhaps I’ll just say that.

But wait… that’s right… there IS no logic to matters of the heart, is there?