Thursday, November 30, 2006

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth

Part of my lower body training days involve standing on a physio ball. The one I use is pretty big: 65cm in diameter (don't ask me what that is in inches. My brain can't convert it.)

After taking a few weeks to actually learn how the devil to stand on the thing, my objective was to get up on the ball, stand up straight, and then slowly lower myself down and get off the ball. Five times.

So far, I've been doing OK with this.

Until today.

Before I go any further in this story, let me just say that when A. heard I was standing on a big ball as part of my program she made a funny face and said, "That's nuts! My trainer won't LET me stand on a ball. There's a guy in our gym who does it... and does squats on the ball... I kneel on the ball, but no standing. She says it's just too risky. If you fall, you totally wipe out. "

Today, I proved that to be the case, as I nearly undid thousands of dollars of dental work when I got up on the ball, only to have it lurch out from under me, as I landed on my face, with arms and legs splayed in all directions.

Imagine a cat on its belly, with limbs outstretched, sliding wildly down a hill of ice, yowling.

If you can get that picture in your head, you may have a pretty good idea of what I looked like.

I was Not Entirely Happy, as the ball in question (IMHO) felt a bit flat, but it was better than the other one of the same size, which felt even squisher. So, I took the Lesser of Two Evils and proceeded to try my "Ball Get Ups", as my trainer calls them.

Did I mention that at the precise moment I landed on my face, an absolutely stunning specimen of a male human form running on the track just happened to cross my path? Of course, he saw the entire wipe out.

Naturally, I would have to go "SPLAT!" right in front of a G.Q. cover candidate. I hadn't even noticed him until I saw him glide by, demonstrating a gracefulness that was galaxies removed from my world at that particular moment.

Mind you, I later decided that while he may have been nearly an Adonis, he was most certainly Not A Gentleman. A Gentleman would have, at the very least, hollered from the track to see if I was OK.

That all happened on my fourth Ball Get Up. I have to do five.

So of course, I got up and dusted myself off, checking my neck and head. (Thank God I see the chiropractor tomorrow...) Then, I proceeded to do the last one.

On the last one, I always try to stand on the ball as long as I can before I get down. I'm lucky if I get 30 seconds on it. Nevertheless, the goal is always to have a nice, smooth dismount, which I managed for that last one, at least.

It happened that Mr. G.Q. made another lap around the track one more time as I was busy standing on the ball. That time, he looked at me as if to say, "What the hell kind of freak are you, anyway?" (Definitely Not a Gentleman!)

I think I should make a point to "Live Close To the Earth" for the remainder of this year's training season, or I may not have my two front teeth for Christmas after all. (Mind you, you don't necessarily need teeth to run, do you?)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Today I ran

I’ve been holding back blogging about the walk/run program. In fact, I’ve been holding back even talking about it, unless someone asks about it directly. After re-injuring twice, and being told by the physiotherapist (whom I later fired) that I would likely not run again, I was scared.

Terrified, actually.

So, for the most part I just tried to keep my terror to myself, occasionally sharing bits with the chiropractor, the trainer or a select few people who would ask me how things were progressing.

It's time for an update. A big one!

Today I ran. 30 minutes, without stopping. I warmed up for 15-minutes by walking and cooled down with another 5 minute walk.

But the important part is the middle bit.

I ran.

It’s been a year and 17 days since I first noted in my training log that my knee hurt. Not that I’m counting. Well, I was, actually… to the extent that A. rolled her eyes at me and said, “Now, Sarah, you wouldn’t want to obsess about keeping track of things, would you?”

What? Who? Me? Never!

That conversation happened a few weeks back when she was asking how things were going. “Good,” I said. “With any luck, three weeks from Monday, I’ll do a full 30-minute run.”

I could see the wheels turning in her head and then she looked at me and said, “That’s your birthday!”

“Yup,” I said.

“Did you plan it that way?” She said with that half-chiding, half-twinkly look in her eye that only a good friend can give you.

“No,” I replied, honestly. “I set up the training program, decreasing the walking by 30 seconds and replacing it with 30 seconds of running every week. Had it checked by the chiropractor and the trainer, both of whom said it looked OK. It just happened that the first full 30-minute run would fall on my birthday. So no… I did not plan it that way… But I did take it as a sign,” I said, returning the twinkly look.

It’s hideously cold here today… about -25 Celcius (which is about -11 F, I think?), so I was inside. I warmed up on the indoor track and then did the run and cool down on the treadmill, so I don’t really know how far I went, to be honest. (I’ve figured out that the machines at the gym are not always reliable for the info they give, so I try not to pay much attention.) I’ll post real stats once it warms up again and I get outside with my Garmin.

What I can say for certain was that it was a full 30-minute run. And I felt fantastic!

It was not a perfect run. The plantar fasciitis threatens to come back. I spend a good deal of time every day stretching and icing my right heel. The knee is not 100%, but I have accepted that it may always be a Slightly Grumpy Knee. I’ve learned to work with it, and the pain, if it comes, is only minimal… and it seems to come and go. I’ve noticed that if I focus on my posture and alignment, it seems to lessen, so I spend most of my time trying to listen to my body, make adjustments along the way and gently nudge it forward.

I am trying not to get too excited about this. I know that there are no guarantees… Injury could happen again at any time. And the validity of an experiment is in its repeatability. So, I have two other 30 minute runs scheduled this week. Let’s see if we can get the same (or better!) results more than once. If I can do it, I'm a going to have a lot of people to thank for helping me get there and sticking by me, but that's a post for another day.

On this day when I turn 36 years old and am officially now closer to 40 than 30 (sigh), I take heart in the fact that while I may not have a young, buff body, I'm in better shape and healthier than I've ever been. And today, I am a runner.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Heathen girl hits gym (uhhh... that would be me)

There I was in the gym today, doing my workout... 45 minutes of cardio, followed by an upper body workout.

It was later in the day than I usually work out and I found myself a bit tuckered out, with a tummy rumbling because it was supper time, not exercise time.

I climbed up onto the assisted pull up machine for my last set, psyching myself up because I was seriously bonking... low blood sugar levels and the whole bit.

"You are GOING to do this!" said my Inside Voice, as I hoisted myself up.

One. Two. Three. Four.


There it was. My first (and I do mean first EVER) audible (make that, really loud) gym grunt. Well, to be fair, it was more like a cross between a grunt and a gasp.

I couldn't believe the sound that escaped my mouth. I even heard it over my iPod, which was blasting Eminem so loud I couldn't hear anything else... except my screeching grunt.

I think I was more surprised than anything. It was completely involuntary... I daresay I've never made a sound anything like that before in my entire life.

Well, at least.... not in public! (Details are not going to follow. Use your imagination if you must.)

I looked around to see if anyone was staring. They weren't. Or at least, they were keeping their eyes averted and muttering discreetly amongst themselves.

But they must have heard it. Gawd! It was brutal. Raw. Primal. Like some kind of animal.

I have a British background you know. I was raised to be stoic and at all costs, dignified. One doesn't wallow in one's pain or effort. One keeps a stiff upper lip and does not embarrass oneself.

How did that noise make its way out of my body?

I swear I could see my mother roll her eyes from the grave and hear her say, "REALLY, child! Have you NO sense of decorum? You were not raised to be a heathen!!!"

I have this feeling Mum just wouldn't understand her daughter's almost daily pilrimage to the weight room, especially considering that said daughter does not "glow", but rather sweats; isn't graceful, but rather flails around at times and is totally uncoordinated; she almost certainly smells disgusting after working out and now, apparently... she grunts, too.


And with that, I really need to go make myself a cup of Earl Grey.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I have this bad habit, you see...

When I started in my current job (almost 3 years ago now – my how time flies!) I started nudging for an assistant.

Naturally, there was no money... I had to get creative.

A year later, I made a petition to work with a non-profit program that has a placement program for under-employed immigrant youth. The government pays most of the salary for a year and you can top up if you want. We got an intern (I’ll call her “O.” for short) and at my urging, we were able to top up her salary so it was above minimum wage (though only slightly so). So, we got our assistant, and it didn't cost us very much. Life was good.

After a year, her internship was up. I made a plea to keep O. part time. The plea was heard. I negotiated to have her part-time salary match what her full-time salary had been before, so she wouldn’t be short on money. That worked out, too.

This year, after further negotiations, we got O. hired on a one-year full-time contract. It’s been a win-win situation all the way along.

Prior to working with us, O. had been working as a junior janitor at an office tower downtown, cleaning toilets during the night shift. She’s fluent in 3 languages and was 6 months away from having a degree in Education when she left her native Russia to immigrate to Canada with her husband. She’s a bright and capable young lady.

The two main things I noticed right away when she came to us were that her English needed improvement and her confidence levels were pitifully low, despite being capable and an absolute wizard with office computer applications.

So, we got her into an English class and covered the costs for her. The confidence levels were slow to develop and she’s still not always entirely sure of herself, but she’s come a long way in two years.

At one point she started talking about how she was sorry to have left Russia before she finished her degree. She was almost done, and to start a degree in Canada again would take forever… even if she could pass the necessary English tests.

So, go finish it, I told her.

What? Go back to Moscow? For six months? Give up job? Was I crazy? What about husband?

Your marriage is strong, I told her. It will be hard, but you can do it. If you go, I promise we’ll keep your job for you. It will be here waiting for you when you’ve graduated. Besides, I told her, we are working at a university here. We would be hypocrites if we held you back from pursuing your education!

She hummed and hawed. She talked to her husband about it. She talked to her family back in Moscow, and her supervisor at the university there. Finally, she went.

She returned six months later (in July of this year), showing us her completed diploma in what we would call Early Childhood Education. She has a secondary specialization in working with hearing impaired children. (One of her 3 languages is Russian sign language.) We were so very proud of her! And I kept my promise to her. She came back to her job – and a small raise.

I can’t believe how much she’s grown. She started talking a few weeks ago about maybe taking a course or two at the university here. She finally believes she can do it. (She’s still taking advanced English classes, even though her English is excellent now.)

Today, I walked with her over to the Education faculty, where I’m studying as a Ph.D. student. We took her original degree, and the certified translation, to see about getting her into a course or a program here. She thinks she might want to teach one day… but she is not sure.

Turns out that her qualifications need to be assessed by the provincial teachers’ union here, before she can take any courses. They determine which courses, if any, she would need to take in order to teach in Canada. So, we got information on how to do that.

She hesitates to dream… but I nudge (even push) her forward.

I have this bad habit you see… I can’t help but look at a person and often, I see almost unlimited potential. I have told O. that I’d be thrilled for her if she outgrew her job as a front desk assistant and realized her dream of becoming a teacher… that so many people come to this country and never use their education, because they can’t due to circumstances or language barriers… that she’s working in the ideal situation (at a university) and has people around to support her every step of the way.

This is a very bad habit I have… of seeing the potential in others. I do it with my students, too. I feel compelled to say, “Go on! Be better than you are right now! Show me! Get so good that you surpass your wildest dreams and my expectations.”

A very few of my Spanish students have gone on to teach the language themselves. When I find this out, I am quietly smug. I think, “Yeah! That’s the ticket! I was YOUR teacher and now look at you! YOU are the one teaching now. Good on ya!”

I have this feeling that I’m going to be losing my very capable assistant not so long from now… and at least some of that will be my own fault! Though my life might suffer because she’s so darned good at her job (and really, she bends over backwards to help me... where do you find that these days?) I suspect she’ll be touching the lives of a great many more people.

Really, I need a new bad habit… If I keep this one, I’ll never be able to keep future staff pinned down under my thumb, will I??

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Damsel or Dynamo?

Well congratulations to Robb (who knows his Maritime women too well!) and others who also guessed right.

I did not bat my eyelashes and look all helpless. I imagine that if I had done that, it would have come across as so fake that the gentelmen offering their help would have seen right through it, snorted and walked away.

Instead, I did what many of you expected. When I was (repeatedly) offered help, I looked up from my position crouched in my LBD (little black dress) over the bin of cupboard handles, then smiled and gently said, "I found what I need. Thanks, though!"

After all, the attire did require at least an attempt at being gracious. :-)

I do like Ginger's idea of dressing opposite of what might be expected in a certain situation, just to see what the reaction would be. That could provide some interesting blog fodder for a while, eh? But then again, it doesn't surprise me that Ginger would say that... given the photos I've seen of some interesting race attire that cookie has been known to wear! ;-)

Thanks for your guesses! I'll be around to visit some blogs over the next few days...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A funny thing happened on the way to the opera...

I went to the opera tonight. It was Rossini's "Cinderella".

On the way there, I stopped at the Home Depot that is close to the Jubilee Auditorium, where I was headed. You see, I'm changing the hardware on my cupboards to update their look a bit. (Part of the preparations to get the house ready to sell...)

Anyway, I picked out these new handles last weekend. They're nice, sleek, and look like brushed steel. Much more modern than what was on there before.

Turns out, when I got them home, some fit, but some were longer than the rest. Exact same style and look, just longer. It wasn't by much, maybe half an inch or so. But it was enough that they wouldn't fit my cupboard doors. And naturally, they were all in the same bin together at the store... and their codes were one number off (a fact I did not notice until later).

So, I took the wrong ones back tonight, to exchange them for the correct size.

Me being the pragmatic type I am thought it was perfectly natural to stop by the hardware store on the way to the opera.

But, it's funny the things that happen when you get a person "out of context".

I've been to that hardware store many times. Often, I have to hunt someone down to help me.

But not tonight!

Did I need help with anything? Was I finding everything OK? Did I need a hand?

Offers of help seemed to come from nowhere... and everywhere!

I was a bit flabbergasted, actually.

Then I figured it out... There didn't appear to be anyone else in the store in a fitted black dress, a pair of heels and lipstick.

At the opera, I simply blended in with everyone else. At the hardware store, I was "out of context". Same person in both places of course... That's the irony of it!

Anyway, the opera was delightful, with very clever staging and sets.

I came home a bit too tuckered to change the rest of the cupboard handles out, but I'll get to it on the weekend, I'm sure.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

General update on a Sunday night

I continue to clean, purge and organize things around the house. I feel like it's just time to let go of stuff.

They say things go in seven year cycles, don't they? This year marks seven years since my Mum died. At this time seven years ago, she was in hospital with the cancer that had been diagnosed in late October. Five weeks later she died.

Her passing has become a marker in time of sorts. I am finding things around the house and thinking to myself, "Gosh, I've had this since before Mum died... And I never use it!" And so, many things are being sorted, donated and ditched. It is mentally and emotionally draining work -- and it feels great!

I'm especially happy becausemy basement is now neater and more organized than it has been since I moved in! I still have a ways to go on it, but I'm thrilled to go down there and see it looking so spacious.

I am realizing how very little one actually needs.

And I am becoming more comfortable with scaling down in a major way. The less, the better.

I'm still thinking about selling the house. Still not sure... But am leaning towards it at this point. Will keep you updated.

At school, everything is ticking along. The class I am teaching is going OK, but they are not the most stellar group I've ever had. They are not the worst, but I've also had better.

As for school work, I'm currently drafting my final paper for my stats class and getting together an outline for my thesis proposal. My thesis committee (comprised of my supervisor, and two other professors) has officially been set, so the next step is to get the outline for the proposal done and hand it in to them. With any luck, that will be in January.

And stay tuned for an update on the walk/run program. So far, it is progressing as planned. Now, if I can just keep this plantar fasciitis at bay...

Only 4 more weeks until the end of term!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dispassionate Non-Attachment - Part Two

Dispassionate Non-Attachment has taken a new twist.

I'm thinking of selling my townhouse.

Now, before you think I've gone totally nuts, let me just say that when I bought it 2.5 years ago, I was in a relationship and the place was for "us".

The boy is long since gone (and a horrible mistake was narrowly missed -- she says, wiping sweat off brow, as she remembers taking off the ring that graced her finger...) In fact, we'd been here only a few months when things ended.

I haven't had much attachment to the place I call "home" in a long time. I do, however, resist change. And I hate moving.

But maybe it is time to downsize as I move into thesis-writing mode...

Hhhmmm... must think on it more... Dispassionately, of course.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Dispassionate Non-Attachment

That's what my yoga teacher calls it. This week, he started class by reading from a little book he brings sometimes that gives tidbits about yogic philosophy.

No doubt that various events of late (and I've only blogged about some of them.. I can't find the energy to blog about all of them) and the fact that as usual, I have taken on too much and find myself teetering on the brink of exhaustion, have left me wondering about the meaning of life...and death. Mind you, I'm a Sagittarius and by nature we're supposed to feel an incessant need to know "Why?!" All the time. About everything.

After a while, your brain starts to hurt. Even mine.

So, this week, I listened to Michael talk about "Dispassionate Non-Attachment". It goes along with earlier blog posts (and heck, a life mission!) to "Do Less" and "Be More".

I've felt an insatiable desire to become less "attached" this week... to things, to people, to just about everything.

The irony of that last sentence should not be lost on you... Dispassionate Non-Attachment is about not having any kind of Insatiable Desire at all.

Oh boy. Do I have a long way to go! So, I have even tried to let go of wanting that too much...

I have been busying myself (as if I don't already have enough to do!) doing things like going through old clothes, sorting what fits and what doesn't. What doesn't has gone into bags, ready to be donated.

I've been cleaning out drawers, organizing the contents inside them, tossing things I was keeping for no good reason.

I've been making trips to the recycling depot, ridding the house of excess paper, cardboard and whatever else I can get my hands on to recycle.

I've been re-organizing the kitchen cupboards and pantry, too. This re-organizing is part of the preparations on the home front to welcome Roommate #2 in a few weeks. Gord moves in December 1. We need to make room for him.

Part of my mission to Have Less By Choice and be Dispassionately Non-attached, has included letting the food supply run a bit low. (Mind you, that's relative. There's enough food in this house to feed a small village, though not all of it is mine.) Lunches this past week included several small containers of "mystery food" that I tucked away in the freezer ages ago, before I got smart enough to label and date what I put in there. Thank God I am a good cook. Even though I had no idea what it was when it was frozen, it all made for good lunches.

Heck, I've even been working on cleaning out my e-mail accounts. I'm proud to say that I got one Inbox (I have several e-mail accounts) down from over 600 messages to 45. Some messages dated as far back as 2002.

I shake my head. I'm a horrible pack rat. Less than I used to be, but still...

I remember that in 1997 my friend M. (with whom I have since lost contact... I should look her up) gave me some beautiful writing paper with explicit instructions, "You musn't hoard! Use it! You write lots of letters... Don't keep this paper, no matter how much you want to save it!"

I still have most of that paper.


Now is a good time to find it. And use it.

Some of you may be getting letters soon! ;-) And if you do... enjoy the paper, OK?

And if you don't... Not to worry... I'm probably still just as attached to you as I have always been. ;-)