Friday, January 29, 2010

Past Deadline: So How's the Running Going?

When you open your big mouth and reveal things like Grand Plans to Stay Healthy in the local newspaper, people are going to remember it. I get asked, “How’s the running going?” a lot. Since I began the long, slow climb toward being “a runner” with my virtual running buddy and my non-virtual running buddy in July, I’ve been able to say it is going well. I ran my first 5K (not a race – just a run) in November and I was routinely running 30 minutes non-stop three times a week up until December.

I’m not afraid to say I found this achievement to be quite surprising since until July I only ran when required to flee swarms of killer bees and never for longer than a minute and a half before collapsing into a heap of breathless misery. That doesn’t get you far from danger. To be able to go from one minute to 30 minutes astonished me. I was in a running groove – it had become a routine that I liked.

Then came December. December is generally a routine killer and mine was obliterated. Between a ramped up work schedule and the general craziness of the season, I only ran once in December. My biggest achievement for that month was to promise myself not to feel guilty about it because, well, something had to give.

So here we are in January and as of writing this missive I have run a grand total of – wait for it – twice. As pitiful as that is, I have managed to extract two positives out of it. First, I’m pleased to report that when I do run in winter, I’ve got good gear for it so it hasn’t been the nightmare I thought it could be. Secondly, even after a month’s break, I was still able to do 20 minutes without stopping.

The not-so-positives? It’s a heck of a lot harder. Some of the painful bits have come back. Even though running in snow and slush makes for a darned good workout it, well, it is running in snow and slush and my legs definitely recognize that pull.

Another interesting feature of this running gig is the role-model aspect. When you write about running in the newspaper, you get a range of comments – everything from “Are you doing the [insert upcoming race here] this year?” to “Omigod. I don’t know how you do it. I could never do that.”

It’s kind of cool because I never thought I could do it either, but I did. And I will keep doing it, it’s just hard to climb back up on that wagon after falling off – especially in the winter. I’m also in the, um, special position of being a role model to people who think running in the winter is insane. When they see me (rarely) doing it they clap and cheer and organize parades. When they hear I’m having trouble doing it, it is gratifying because it feeds into all of our hibernation instincts and makes it okay to not run.

It’s nice to be all things to all people. Er, whatever.

And then there’s the issue of my notorious scale. Oh, scale, how I loathe thee. As I’ve mentioned before, it took me five months to lose nine pounds through running, which I attribute in part to the muscle I built up and the fact I didn’t work as hard on the better-eating part as I could have. Christmas pretty much obliterated that lead – I gained back six pounds, which I attribute to baked goods and inaction. Over the last few weeks the needle on that hideous scale has jumped around a lot, leaving me uncertain as to where I truly stand. Let’s just say I haven’t recovered my lead, and I have a sinking feeling all that lovely muscle may be shrivelling up. At least that’s what my pants are telling me.

I’m discovering one of those sad truths about getting older – that it’s muuuuch harder to lose weight now. I expect it won’t get any easier unless I go on a diet of celery and water, which I figure would come with different complications.

So…I’d better get running.
Published in The Perth Courier on Jan. 26/10.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Past Deadline: This Column Rated PG-13

Last week’s column about swearing seems to have struck a chord with some folks, which has left me in a “hard act to follow” predicament.

Do I follow up with a tale of the time we heard Boychild utter the word that begins with “f” and is followed by some asterisks? He was only about two at the time. He was playing with his friends Buddy and Chum while we grown-ups chatted when we heard, “[Insert sound of horns blaring], Buddy!”

The little boys continued to play as if nothing had happened, but we adults fell silent and looked at each other as if to say, “Did we just hear what we think we heard?” It was as clear as a bell and used in the proper context, but possibly was some sort of vocabulary mix up brought on by inexperience with the whole talking thing. Maybe he meant to say, “Move, Buddy!” or “Mine, Buddy!” or whatever rhymes with [insert sound of horns blaring] that would have made sense. Duck? Muck? Tuck? In any event, no one flinched and the word wasn’t repeated.

I could also follow last week’s chronicle with the legendary story (at least in my family) of the one time we kids can ever remember Dad inserting the sound of horns blaring. Picture it: Family vacation, I think it was 1982. Probably at least one of us was wearing plaid shorts. We were navigating hilly Canadian Shield land in a big ol’ Chevy Caprice Classic pulling a trailer on the way back from a family 50th anniversary party in Northern Ontario.

Dad was growing impatient with a driver up ahead who would speed up during the rare straight stretches and slow right down around curves and on hills. You know that guy – we’ve all followed him. The tension was building. There was muttering in the front seat. I was probably fretting about how much gas we had (as I was wont to do). My brother and I (for once) were sitting pretty quietly in the back when my father roared, “You [insert sound of horns blaring]ing something something!”

Then it got really quiet. I bet my mother was trying not to laugh. My brother and I were amazed for years. The story continues to be told at family dinners.

With that, I’m pretty sure I have now revealed all the times anyone has ever said [insert sound of horns blaring] throughout the history of time in my family. Indeed. Unless you count the times my old computer malfunctioned.

Moving on to nudity, then?

As I get older, I wear more clothes. There are many reasons for this – partly it’s modesty (read: hiding perceived flaws), but mostly it’s because I finally grew into my brains. When it’s cold out, if I wear lots of clothes I will stay warm. In high school it was cool to go bare-headed and with no socks in winter. After that, well, I preferred warmth.

It’s interesting to see how this evolution of dressing occurs. I have spent years bundling up my small kids appropriately in cold weather and they have been mostly compliant. Now the pendulum is swinging, particularly with my “no one will ever call me compliant” daughter, who has an aversion to wearing tights.

Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal as girls can wear pants with socks, right? Well, she has an aversion to pants, too. She’s an “all dresses, all the time” kinda girl.

I don’t blame her about the tights. I avoid pantyhose like the plague. But that doesn’t mean I tolerate them only while I’m outside and then strip them off when I get to indoor events. That might not go over well at meetings.

The fun doesn’t stop with tights, either. This child would happily streak around in undies all day if we let her. If you come to the door don’t be surprised to see her, on the coldest day, wearing a flimsy summer dress or a bathing suit.

It makes me shiver.

I hope this trend passes before she is a teenager. (I know, I know. It could be foreshadowing.)
Okay. So we’ve covered swearing and nudity. Next week: hangovers?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Past Deadline: [Insert Sound of Horns Blaring]

On the weekend I was helping Girlchild to get ready to go run some errands. We were struggling with her tights – I was bent over with her blond hair in my face and trying to get her to push her toes into the leg.

“Mom,” she said, out of the blue, “Boychild said the word [insert the sound of horns blaring].”


The word she pronounced so beautifully begins with an “f” and in a family newspaper would be followed by a smattering of asterisks, except she said it without the blaring horns and asterisks.

“Oh, Girlchild,” I blurted to my FOUR-year-old, “you really shouldn’t say that word!”

“I know,” she said sweetly, “but Boychild said it.”

“Well, he shouldn’t say it either,” I said, my mind scrambling for the appropriate approach. “That’s not a nice word – kids can get in Big Trouble for using that word, and even grown-ups shouldn’t use it.”

You all remember Big Trouble, right?

“But Boychild said it,” she insisted, because that apparently that makes it okay for her to say it. Note to self: Must speak to Boychild about bad words.

“Well,” I began, afraid to even ask my next question for fear Boychild had heard me speaking, um, harshly to my slow old computer late at night, “where did Boychild learn that word?”

“He learned it from Kid We Know at school.”

“Oh,” I said, only slightly relieved. “Well, that’s not a good word to use. We won’t use that word anymore,” I said.

For the next 10 minutes as we were trying to brush teeth and get ready to rush out the door, Girlchild obsessed (surprise!) on this nugget. “Mom, I’m sorry I said the word.”

“That’s okay, Girlchild, just don’t say it anymore.”

“I won’t.” Then, “I’m sorry I said the word, Mom.”

Sigh. I felt like I had been thrown into the Monty Python and the Holy Grail scene when the Knights Who Say Ni reveal there is a word they cannot hear. Come to think of it, maybe that scene was inspired by a conversation with a four-year-old:

Head Knight: Don’t say that word.

King Arthur: What word?

Head Knight: I cannot tell, suffice to say is one of the words the Knights of Ni cannot hear.

King Arthur: How can we not say the word if you don’t tell us what it is?

Knights: Aaaaugh! Aaaugh!

Et cetera. I think the Knights’ dastardly “it” is slightly less offensive than Girlchild’s [insert sound of horns blaring].

I actually remember when that sweet and charming word left my lips in the presence of my parents for the first time. I don’t think I was all that much older than Girlchild – maybe a bit closer to Boychild’s age. We were all seated around the supper table, and I remember asking, “What does [insert sound of horns blaring] mean?”

It would be appropriate to remember a choking sound at that point, but I recall a short silence and then I think Dad said something about it not being a nice word and we shouldn’t use it and “where did you learn that?” An older boy on our street was the culprit then.

I believe there was a gap of nearly 15 years between then and the next time they heard me emit the sound of horns blaring. (Because I have only ever said that word twice. Ahem.) Mom and Dad were driving my roommate and me home to Perth for a weekend shortly after we had started our first year in residence at Carleton University. It had been an exciting time of, apparently, unbridled swearing in the absence of our parents.

The question from the front seat was something like, “How’s the weather been?”

My response was that it had been “[insert sound of horns blaring]ing hot.”

That surprised everyone, let me tell you – especially me. I clapped my hand over my mouth so fast and hard it actually stung. That reaction very likely saved me from Big Trouble.

And what is Big Trouble, you might ask? I have no idea. I guess I’ll have to figure that out before the next time we hear the sound of horns blaring in our house.
Published in The Perth Courier, Jan. 12/09

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Past Deadline: It's Revolution Time

I thought, in the name of tradition, I would look back at last year’s New Year’s “Revolutions” column to see what I said I would do and how well I fared. Turns out, though, I was rather preoccupied with the prospect of jumping into the Tay River on Jan. 1, 2009, so I didn’t actually have a list of resolutions, other than to survive said jump. Which I did! Yay me! (You’ll notice I didn’t jump in the river this year, which is not intended as a slight against the food bank in any way. I pledged a plunger, but avoided any actual freezing-cold-river stuff.)

So then I looked back to the year before because I am lazy, I mean, because I was curious to see what promises I made heading into 2008.


I could have sworn I write a New Year’s Revolutions column every year, but if I do I must tuck it away in a month other than January because a review of my old files over the past few years revealed I was, apparently, resolutionless.

Perhaps one of my resolutions should be to revere tradition a little more? Nah – that would leave me inflexible for the first column of each new year. What if something else came up? Like weird weather? Or the fact that we really don’t see the world “salubrious” used often enough, not to mention the blatant misuse of the word “notorious” and its cousin, “notoriety.”

And what would an annual New Year’s column be without witty banter about how much the word “prorogue” sounds like “perogy”? (In my opinion, perogies are tastier than questionable parliamentary practices that seem to be useful when people have lots of critical questions to ask.)

Ahem. Who let in that annoying grammarian/political analyst? We need to get back to loftier debates, such as what a good girl I am going to be in 2010.

Right then.

After the positively gluttonous holiday season I have had, it’s going to take a virtually non-stop diet of celery and a running program of Forrest Gump proportions to recover lost pounds – not to mention lost endurance. Sigh. Oh, December, what woe you wrought upon my eating and exercise routine!

As my age creeps awfully high into the late 30s it has become painfully (painfully!) obvious that falling off the wagon is extraordinarily detrimental. I recently wrote a column about how long it has taken me to lose weight despite starting a running program in the summer. It took me five months to lose nine pounds. Meanwhile, in a measly four weeks I’ve regained six of those hard-fought pounds, and I’m quite certain they are going to be a real nuisance to lose again.

No one to blame but myself and a strenuous December work schedule, though. I suppose I could have been nervously munching on grapes instead of, well, everything else.


Fortunately, I have a most excellent virtual running nag – I mean buddy – who is persistently sending messages from Calgary to encourage me to stop talking about it and just do it. And by the time this missive hits the paper, I’m sure I will have hit the snowy pavement again.
Probably in more ways than one.

You know, I think maybe the reason I haven’t had a column of resolutions for the last couple of years (at least as far as I can tell) is because they really are, essentially, always the same and you probably get tired of hearing it:
1. Eat better.
2. Exercise more.
3. Be a good person.
4. Be kind to children and animals.
5. Save the world.

Blah blah blah. I suppose to shake things up a bit I should move that “save the world” thing closer to the top. I learned a few years back that it’s a good idea to set realistic and achievable goals – hence the better eating and the running and the kindness thing (yes, I can be kind).

That all said, though, it doesn’t hurt to set a goal that’s going to stretch one’s limits a bit. I’ll let you know how it all turns out. Actually, if I manage to save the world you might hear about it.

Published in The Perth Courier on Jan. 5/10
PS - Sorry to be so late with this post. Also, I did run - on Jan. 3. Still a work in progress!