Saturday, February 16, 2013

Past Deadline: High Fives and Wahoos All 'Round

Here’s this week’s Past Deadline, published in The Perth Courier on Feb. 14/13.

High fives and wahoos all ’round

Back in July 2009, I revealed in this here space that I had embarked upon a new exercising adventure, thanks to my good friend Heather, who lives in Calgary.
That was the dawn of my indoctrination into The Cult of Running™, which was a brief and torrid affair.
See, Heather and I share some motivational issues when it comes to staying on the healthy diet and exercise bandwagon. She’s a great one for encouragement, though.
She had posted a “Super Beginner Learn to Run Plan” on her blog back in 2009. I lamented that I wished I, too, could be one of those graceful, calorie-burning runner types.
I was never a good runner as a kid. Long-legged and lanky (yes, there was a day when I looked as if I truly needed many cookies to sustain me), I never mastered my breath. I looked like a windmill and generated a lot of puff.
Heather encouraged me. She urged me to get some good shoes and, when she came to Ontario to visit family that July, we took my inaugural run.
The beginner plan is a walk-a-minute-run-a-minute scenario. Those first 18 minutes led to many more runs over the next two years.
Then, in August 2011, my right foot had a nervous breakdown. For many months, walking, never mind running, was a painful thing. Apparently I have silly feet. Orthotics have helped, but I still can’t push it.
I have struggled to find a way to replace running, which I found to be the Best! Stress! Reliever! Ever! Y’all may recall how I lamented about my lack of enthusiasm for cycling (“I’m gonna die!) and I may have offered up lame-ish excuses about scheduling swimming and disliking gym, and blah blah blah.
Heather of Calgary to the rescue with her enthusiasm! Two months ago she started a private fitness group on Facebook and invited a bunch of her friends to join. The aim is to post a message in the group about our “daily” fitness activities. (So far they haven’t kicked me out of the group for not fitnessing daily.)
One of the things I liked about running was going off on my own and trying to beat my own bests while listening to my “Run Forrest Run” playlist. (Say – has anyone seen my iPod? I think my desk ate it.)
Solitary running was good, but chatting with others about exercise is great. Plus I am very vain and I like to talk about myself. No really!
There are some very active people in the group, which is inspiring. Fortunately, I am comfortable enough with my lethargy to not feel intimidated.
Meanwhile, Heather is awesome at prodding and prompting, too. If you have shown no sign of movement after a few days, she’ll ask you what you’re up to before calling 911.
The best thing is that this group is really supportive. When I post something saying the only exercise I did all week is shoveling, I get cyber high-fives and wahoos, which makes me want to try harder.
So let it snow! (Okay…maybe not.)
Actually, as exciting as shoveling is, I am much more enthused about the fact my foot is tolerating power walks. Apparently my long arch appreciates the fact my ample weight is not crashing down upon it with every running step. Walking is gentler.
I’m walking farther and faster these days (High fives! Wahoos!), so there is hope for me yet. Maybe, if I am careful, I could work up to the Kilt Run this summer. Or maybe a Kilt Run/Walk. Or just a random walk while wearing a kilt.
Whatever! Exercise is good! Let’s shovel!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Past Deadline: Milestones Big and Little

Here’s this week’s Past Deadline (really this week!) – a milestone! Published in The Perth Courier on Feb. 7/13.
Milestones big and little
You guys. This is my 900th column!
Wow. I feel old. And I bet if you have read 900 of these you feel a little old, too.
Did you know 900 columns (one per week – give or take) represents 17.3ish years?
I’d like to tell you I started writing in this space when I was three years old, but somehow I am not sure you’d believe me. (It’s kind of like no matter how many times I remind my hair what colour I would like it to be, it keeps blinding me with a startling whitish greyish shade.)
So what to do about this milestone? What would have been really awesome is to have planned some kind of spectacular Pulitzer Prize-winning literary marvel for this exciting event.
That’s not going to happen, however. (You may have already guessed this.)
In fact, 900 isn’t really any sort of magic number, except that it is 100 short of 1,000, which is a much more exciting thing.
A clever columnist would launch a 100-week-long celebration with prizes and raffles to mark the lead-up to column number 1,000. (That clever columnist would probably also have a committee of people busily rounding up said prizes. She would likely have an outline for every single one of those fantastic literary pieces, with each one getting better and better and culminating in some sort of life-changing missive with a grand prize draw for a trip for two to Paris. Or maybe Australia.)
I can assure you none of that is going to happen, though, and it’s all the committee’s fault. That committee, as soon as I find it, is so fired.
Truth be told, I didn’t even realize this was column number 900 until I set down to write it. When I save each new one I number it, see.
To mark the occasion, then, I thought maybe I could go back and do something riveting like recap the range of topics I have covered at other milestones. Unfortunately, the earliest ones appear to have been saved on 5 1/2-inch floppy disks and are currently unavailable, but I opened up WordPerfect and had a peek at a few others.
At 300 (back in 2001) I was writing about pigeons and squirrels.
Number 400 in 2003 was something about how rumours get started and how sarcasm can get people in trouble. Interestingly (or not), it referenced pigeons again.
The big 500 in 2005 brought out The Armchair Express™ to wax poetic on an upcoming federal election.
By 2007 I had switched over to Word and column 600 was all about this new-fangled social networking thingy I had joined. Word and Facebook – big year!
In 2009 I remarked on the fact I was writing my 700th column and wowed y’all with some big math about how many words that is. Then the column morphed into something about how long our cat MacGregor would live. (In case you are curious, I figure 900 columns equals about 585,000 words, and the cat featured in column 700 is still with us, as predicted back then, although he is getting to be quite an old fella.)
An old picture of the old cat.
An old picture of the old cat.

In what is becoming a trend, number 800 in 2010 noted the milestone and added another one to the list – I signed up for the Kilt Run that year. This was soon followed by a series of columns about a sore foot.
Fortunately I have a good couple of years to come up with a whopper of a column for number 1,000. Maybe I’ll turn to that new-fangled Facebook thingy to gather some ideas!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Past Deadline: I Don't Hear Anything

Here is Past Deadline from Jan. 31/13 published in The Perth Courier.
I don’t hear anything
Saturday at my house is laundry day. Sometimes I like to squeeze in a load or two during the week, but in this particular week I saved it all up like any good hoarder and made Saturday an official Laundry Event™. My life is exciting that way.
I loaded up Ye Olde Clothes Washing Machine and was somewhat alarmed as it kicked into gear. It was making a strange noise. I stood there for a couple of minutes, hands on hips, scowling, and listened. Oh, dear.
Maybe it was because I hadn’t used it for a week and it was feeling sluggish? Maybe the water was a bit more frigid than usual (quite likely!) and it was complaining a little?
What to do? Do I stop the machine? Call upon Groom-boy? Call upon someone who might actually know what to do? Panic?
So I did what any high-functioning adult does these days – I turned to social media. I posted: “If I pretend I don’t hear the funny sound my washing machine is making, it’ll go away, right?”
I had a variety of responses, such as “Yes” and “Think positively.” One suggestion was to give it a “good kick” and another was to “stop doing laundry.”
My favourite by far was from the Rising King of One Liners, my little bro: “Turn the radio up. It works with my car.”
I may be regressing into my teenage years because more and more I am finding loud music to be a tonic for a lot of things. I have always liked to listen to music while working. When I need to do something terribly cerebral I turn to classical, but lately I have been relying on my running playlist to get the job done.
Back when my Stupid Foot™ wasn’t so stupid and I was happily engrossed in the adrenalin rush/stress-release that was running, I compiled a great collection of music on a playlist I call “Run Forrest Run.”
The title is inspired by the movie Forrest Gump – the part when Forrest decides to run across the country. See, running was never effortless for me, so sometimes 5K felt a bit like a marathon. “Run Forrest Run” is quite a mixed bag. It includes nostalgia stuff from the ’80s and ’90s, some unusual stuff, songs that remind me of dancing up a storm with friends at university and enough new stuff that if my kids stumble upon it they might say, “Hey, Mom’s not as dorky as we thought!” It has a lot of fast-paced material and a smattering of slower stuff in strategic spots to enable one to catch one’s breath as they pound out a 5K.
These days it is good walking music and also decent for the stationary bike, but I find I am turning to it often as I toil at my desk. If I am working on a big deadline or a large document, sticking in the earphones and playing “Run Forrest Run” is an excellent way to pass the miles. I mean time.
It also works well if one is trying to meet a deadline while a boisterous play date is happening elsewhere in the house, but this is only recommended if there is another competent adult in the vicinity who is paying attention to the chaos.
Just as I was about ready to crank up the tunes on laundry day, the washer stopped making the funny noise and all was well.
For at least the foreseeable future, it appears my Laundry Events will carry on as usual. Given the sheer volume of the task, however, I might do the loud music thing anyway….