January 6, 2017 – A Canadian Sister’s Perspective

I feel a bit like the younger sister who has gone to a party with an older sister and suddenly realized that things have gotten out of control.

When we decided to go to the party we knew that it might get a bit crazy. We were nervous but optimistic that everything would turn out all right. You hear things but never really know how these things are going to go down.

So now the party is in full swing and my sister is getting scared. There’s a guy my sister met who keeps telling her what to do and when she doesn’t do it he gets angry at her. She’s looking around at me and her friends hoping that somebody is going to step in and help.

The problem is that there really isn’t much we can do. We can make suggestions and give advice. We can be sympathetic and comforting. We can tell the guy to stop, behave himself and act like a gentleman.

Ultimately though, my sister has to be the one to stand up and make herself heard and tell this guy that he can’t treat her that way. It’s the only way to make it stop.

I love my sister and our relationship has always been close.   If I could, I would step in and make the guy go away.

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January 9, 2017

Sometimes you need to compromise in life.

A very wise woman once told me that it’s totally acceptable to take a day and just recharge. Sometimes our bodies and minds need a break. Life can get pretty crazy and if you don’t take some downtime your health an suffer. Thank you JoAnn.

This is contrary to how I was raised. I was taught, through observation mostly, that an idle day was a wasted day. The only reason to be at home and not accomplishing something was illness. And it better be a serious illness. The kind that keeps you in bed. Thanks Dad.

So today I compromised.

Dad, you would be proud of what I achieved this morning.

Jo Ann, you would applaud my slothness this afternoon.

Home Alone

cat sleeping

It was two minutes before eleven when she finally finished the novel she had been trying to read for the last couple of days.  The cat was leaning heavily against her leg.  He twitched in his sleep then snuggled in a little closer to her in the big soft chair.

As she stood up and stretched she caught sight of the dirty breakfast dishes still in the sink.  She chose to ignore them and put the kettle on instead.  A cup of tea and a snack maybe?

The pounding rain had eased off to a drizzle and she wondered how her daughter was doing at sailing camp in the cove close to their house.  She had dropped her and a friend off this morning in the early morning greyness.  The had happily grabbed their life jackets and headed down to the dock.  The rain didn’t seem to bother them but she was more than glad to head home to a quiet, dry house for a few hours.

There was something cathartic about being at home alone for the first time in weeks.  The laundry was done, the “to do” list was all but complete, the bathrooms were clean (pretty much) and emails had been answered.  Okay, so the breakfast dishes were a bit of an issue but, really, they could wait.  At least for a bit.  Nobody else would be home until after 4:00 so she had….five hours.  Five hours.  Alone.  Excluding the cat.

June had been a full on month of work, year end wrap ups, ear infections and many, many challenging parenting moments.  Then a week full of Disney and dancing in California.  Late nights, early mornings and crowds.  So many crowds.  The input overload had resulted in a few headaches and numerous medicinal glasses of wine.  And the occasional margarita.

As she poured the freshly boiled water over the tea bag and spooned in a generous portion of honey she thought.

“What should I do now?”

It was genetically imprinted in her that after a few hours of idleness she must now accomplish something.  Her dad was the culprit.  Even at 87 he still wasn’t capable of sitting still for long.  It often resulted in exhaustion for him but damn it if he was going to change now.  So way back in her mind the tiny “stay busy” gremlin was getting restless.  What to do?  What to do?

She could put away the dishes?  There was that stack of filing that needed to be put away.  When was the last time she vacuumed?  Should she talk something out of the freezer for dinner?  Has she call her mom in the last few days?

The cat stood up and yawned.  Circled the cushion and curled up.  Asleep again in seconds.

She thought about it for a moment.  The dishes could wait.  She picked up the remote, turned on the TV and pushed the cat over to the side of the chair.

The Best Thing in Life is changing the way you spend your days once in a while.

 

 

 

Two Crazy Ladies on a Mountain

rainy trail

What makes people run in the woods?  In the rain and wind.  Up and down the side of two mountains?  A screw loose perhaps.  Maybe.  But for my running partner and I it was what we chose to do last Saturday.  I documented the first half of the run in A Rainy Day Run on Monday.  I’ve also looked at what makes ultra trail runners tick in Run Lisa Run.

I guess the other question is, why am I writing about it?  Partly because it was fun and partly because I wanted to remember the experience.  Because I won’t be doing it again.  Ever.

When I signed off on Monday we had reached the ski lodge at Cypress Bowl after climbing to the top of Eagle Bluffs.  We stopped just long enough under the ski lift base to scarf down a Lara bar and chug some water.  We assumed we would need to find a port-a-potty or just pop a squat in the forest but as we started out again we realized that the lodge was just around the corner and open.  Hallelujah!  I have to admit the warm fire, grilled burgers and cold beer sign were tempting but it was time to use the facilities then get back on the trail.

The course description I had printed out said that from here on it was pretty much 7.5 miles of downhill.  Ya.  Not so much.  We got back into the forest and spent the next hour dodging mud holes and slippery roots all while going uphill.  Okay, so it was a gradual incline, but at this point up was still up.

At one point we heard the thumping of a wild grouse.  It’s an eerie sound that, if you didn’t know what it was, would be kind of scary.  Wildlife is everywhere.  We would find out later in the day that a cougar had been sighted on the same trail a few hours before we passed by.

Just when we thought we may have taken a wrong turn, we heard what we thought was singing.  Or maybe somebody camping?  We came to a trail junction and came upon a group of about twenty Asian hikers.  Covered head to toe in gortex rain gear, carrying hiking poles and at least half of them had……umbrellas?  Keep in mind that we were half way up Hollyburn Mountain by this point.  As we said excuse me, on your right, on your left and thank you over and over while passing them, we giggled a bit to ourselves.  We then realized that they were probably giggling at us too.  Two crazy women in runners, tight and t-shirts running in the rain and wind on the side of a mountain.

The trail opened up now and the rain and wind was relentless and cold.  We stopped briefly to pull on toques.  If my hands hadn’t been so cold I would have taken my camera out and taken a picture of us but that was not going to happen.

From that point it really was all down hill.  For the next hour we headed down.  And down.  And down.  While it was a nice change from the uphill it didn’t come without its torture.  After a while my quad muscles starts to cramp up pretty good.  Even though it was easier and faster to run this section we had to be careful.  We had been warned about “the chute”.  A steep rough section with intermittent drop offs.  Turned out to be a bit anti-climactic.  We kept waiting for it only to realize we had already done it.

trail in the trees

Back into the woods briefly and we ran into a guy coming up the trail.  We had a quick conversation with him about his Hoka runners and asked if we were on track to come out on Craigmohr Road.  He had no idea what we were talking about.  I’m sure he would eventually run into the Asian hiking group and would have a good laugh about the crazy ladies running on the mountain.

We eventually reached out destination.  A bit off course but close enough.

The Best Thing in Life is that as we stood there in the rain we both said “that was so fun”. Yup.  Two crazy ladies on the Mountain.

The Art of the List

lists

Lists make me happy.

An article I read recently actually puts science behind the fact that lists can calm anxiety and bolster creativity.  For me, that’s just the icing on and already delicious cake.

What is it about writing out words on a note pad that is so magical?  I think it’s an OCD organizational thing.  If I feel like my life is getting out of control or becoming too chaotic, writing out tasks gives me some clarity.  By bringing some order to what needs to get done I can see that in reality my life is not quite so crazy as I think it is.

list of lists

Besides would late night tv be without David Letterman’s Top Ten List?  Even Shakespeare references lists in Hamlet.  The Bard refers to “a list of landlesse resolutes” in Act 1 Scene 1.

So what does it take to make a good list?  Well for starters you never have just one list.  On any given day you will find multiple lists in my kitchen.

  • Master To Do List
  • Thing To Do That Day ie: Wednesday
  • Groceries
  • Ideas or Posts to Work On

But it’s not that simple.  There is, I believe, an art to it.

You must have the appropriate piece of paper.

Sure, the right size is important, but so is the layout and look.  You wouldn’t put your Master To Do list on a tiny pad of paper with some realtors face on it.  But a quick shopping list?  Totally okay.  It has been suggested to me that I use my smart phone to record my lists.  It just doesn’t sit right with me.  I’m not sure if it’s an old school things or a tactile thing.  Regardless, the right tool for the job is always key.

blank page

Lists need to be about timing.

Now obviously making a Christmas card list in March is a bit of overkill.  Although, now that I’m saying it, it does make perfect sense.  What I am saying, is that one of the purposes of a list it to save time.  So make it work for you.  Writing out your grocery list in the order that you walk the aisles at the grocery store is a huge time saver.  If you have half a dozen errands to do not only will your list remind you what needs to get down but it can serve as a map for your route.

Tasks on your lists need to be realistic.

If you make a list of things to do that are unattainable, the list can’t serve it purpose.  It will only serve to frustrate you when you are unable to complete them.  There’s definitely a sense of accomplishment that comes with crossing things off of a list.  Even if you are just crossing it off because you have decided that it belongs on a different list.  Ya, that counts.  Bottom line?  World Peace shouldn’t necessarily  be on your list.

It’s really not rocket science, but lists can make you feel like a super hero. Everyone admires somebody who can keep things on track and get stuff done.  Don’t they?

The Best Thing in Life is a really good list.

Elvis is in the Closet

elvisSo there I was sitting in the den surfing the net and thinking about what to write about this week. Sometimes it’s easy and the words and ideas come quickly and effortlessly. Other times the brick wall in my mind is close to ten feet tall and completely impassable. Today was a brick wall day. I wasn’t particularly worried though, as I sipped my tea and watched the last of the leaves fall off the Japanese Maple in the back yard. And then it jumped up at me. Literally, jumped up at me. My eleven year old cat was looking for some attention and I was the only one home.

When we moved into our house my son was six and he desperately wanted a pet. I had been promising him for months that once we moved from our rental into our own house we could get a cat. Day one. “So can we go get our cat today?” Sigh. Every day for the next month I was asked if today was the day we could get our cat. Finally I couldn’t put it off any longer and I started to make some calls. I remember my son and I having some discussions about what kind of cat we might get and what we might name a cat. “If we get an orange cat I’m going to name it cheese.” He said. Note to self; do not get an orange cat.

When the clerk at the pet store brought the two cats into the room he put them both down in the middle of the floor. “They’re brothers.” He said. (probably hoping we would take both) One was completely black and the other was what we now know is a tuxedo cat. Black with white paws, chest and half a white nose. The all black one retreated to a corner and sat down to wash itself. The tuxedo cat stood up and walked straight over to us with his tail straight up in the air. “That’s the one I want”. My son said. I couldn’t have agreed more. We couldn’t bring him home that day but went home excited that in a couple of days we could come back and pick him up. I remember when we did bring him home and he tore around on the hard wood floors bumping into the walls. I’m not sure if it was the fact that my husband was, at the time, working in Memphis or of it was just because he was such a cool cat, but we ended up named him Elvis.

Life with Elvis as a kitten was not boring or easy. We made the decision that he would be an inside cat. We live in an area close to a forest that is full of racoons, coyotes and the occasional cougar and it just didn’t make sense to put him out on the front doorstep. We tried a collar and leash, but really he was just bait at that point. The problem was that he was bound and determine to get outside. We had a Swiss student staying with us that summer who quite often stayed out late and came home mildly intoxicated leaving the front door ajar. I can’t tell you how many times I chased that God damn cat up and down our street with a flashlight in my hand. The neighbors must have thought his name was Stupid not Elvis. (at least I didn’t have to call him Cheese). Then there was the day that he escaped and bolted up the tree in the neighbors backyard. I managed to get up to him without incident but coming back down I missed a branch and had a wicked bruise in my thigh for a month. God damn cat.

He has mellowed out in his older years. He now sleeps in our closet and some days doesn’t wander out until mid morning. His attempts to sleep on my head did not gain much admiration from me and I may have thrown a pillow or two at him in the middle of the night. The closet was just a safer option. He rarely tries to escape anymore. The look on his face says, “meh, it’s just too much effort.” With my husband away as much as he is, I am happy for his warm furry comfort in the evenings. Although his habit of patting my face (with his claws out) when I stop paying attention to him, can be a tad annoying.

So here I am with Elvis curled up in my lap thinking about all the crazy things he’s done and how over the years we have laughed and cursed at him too many times to count. He’s purring softly and probably having a cat dream about tuna or the yummy kitty treats we occasionally give him. I’m grateful to have the time to sit and let him nap for a few more minutes but then the day must go on for me. The Best Things in Life for Elvis is that he can just head upstairs and go back to the closet to sleep.

Puttering

School has been out for two months. Add to that the two weeks of teachers strike and you have 75 joyous days my daughter and I have spent together this summer. Don’t get me wrong, she has been in some awesome summer camps that have given me the time to enjoy the incredible summer we have had in Vancouver this year and her some great experiences. When the weather is good I can not stand to be inside and as a result my house tends to get a little out of order (and dirty) during the summer months. So here it is September 2 and it’s raining. My husband and daughter are at the hardware store and I have a couple of hours in the house alone. Will I nap? Watch some tennis? No, I will putter.

Putter (verb) To be active, but not excessively busy, at a task or a series of tasks.

That sum it up for me. I am a putterer. Not sure that is a real word but it works for now. My husband also calls it busy work. Given a Sunday morning (or afternoon for that matter) with nothing really pressing to do, he will chose the sofa, football and, eventually, a nap. I will find something to do. There’s always something to do isn’t there? Dust, sort the art supplies, go through my kids clothes and put away what doesn’t fit them anymore, make a list (this is my favorite), search for a recipe, send an email about having coffee with somebody next week. The list is endless. Laundry is the ultimate task for a putterer because it can be done anytime. There always seems to be laundry to do. And it’s a process, which I love. I am starting to sound a tad crazy aren’t I? Sort, wash, dry, fold and put away. Is there a term for what I have?

There has always been a certain comfort for me being in my home and being able to sort or tidy things up with no deadline or end game. Perhaps tackle something I’ve been putting off. There’s no hurry to do it, but it keeps my mind busy and somewhere down the road I will appreciate the fact that it is done. Even if I do sit down to watch TV I rarely sit through a whole show without getting up to do something else. I have noticed this in my daughter as well. As a child, my son could, and still can, sit motionless for hours watching TV. I have often thought that the house could burn down around him and he still would not move. My daughter, like me, has to be doing something else while she is watching TV. Sorting her beads, making a bracelet, coloring or perhaps dancing.

But I have come to realize over the past thirteen years of living with my husband, that there is a lot to be said for stopping and smelling the roses, so to speak. It really is okay to just let some stuff slide. In fact, it can be quite therapeutic. I think that is why this blog has been good for me. It has forced me to stop “puttering” occasionally and focus on something. Wait, that’s not totally true. If I’m being honest I will admit that I often stop writing and do some small task that really could wait. It’s just not in me to let it go. Since starting this post I have emailed a friend to make plans for a day trip next week, called my husband to see if my darling daughter wants to go for a hike when they get home from the store and unloaded the dishwasher.

A I sit writing this I glance around the room and see half a dozen things I could be doing. I see that the sun is out and think “we should go for a hike”. But after a long hot summer I should be quite happy to just be writing again. And really, as I finish a post I do get a similar feeling as to when I finish a task around the house. Like a nice little present has had the bow stuck on top of it. I am very fortunate that I CAN do this. Having a home to putter in and a kitchen table to write at makes me very happy. Having the still developing ability to just “be” makes me even happier. The Best Things in Life is being a work in progress.

33 Hours in a Van

ragnar start

It’s 7:30 am and twelve moms are arriving in two vans at Peace Arch State Park in Blaine, Washington. The plan is to race with 500 other teams on a 200 mile course from Blaine to Whidbey Island, Washington. Each team member will run three legs over the course of about 33 hours. Some legs are easy and some are hard. Some will be run in the heat of the day and others in the dead of night. We are all excited and nervous at the same time. Am I ready? Can I do this? Too late now. The announcer is calling our team. We line up to see our first runner go. Five, four, three, two, one…..race!

Lisa starts us off with a 10 km leg while van two heads back to the hotel. They won’t start running until 1:45 this afternoon. They may get a bit more sleep but I don’t imagine waiting around for five hours does anything for the nerves. At least we, van one, are off and running; literally. The temperature isn’t bad for the first two or three legs but by the time I run at 11:40am the sun is full on and it’s hot in Ferndale. As I start my 10 km run through the small town, I can’t see any other runners and no vans have passed me for a while. I start to panic and my heart rate goes up. What if I missed my turn. I don’t see any signs. Crap. Finally a van passes me with writing all over the windows. Okay, I’m going the right way. Head down keep running. Where the hell is that “one mile to go” sign? Once I’m done there’s one more runner and we are done our first legs. Time to eat and rest.

ragnar 1

After a much needed meal at the Train Wreck pub in Burlington (how appropriate) we get out our sleeping bags and find some shade at the high school designated for our exchange with the other van. All over the schools lawn teams are sleeping, fueling or just chilling. Team spirit is alive and well in these events. Some go all out with costumes and themes. We see two team members dressed as sumo wrestlers preparing to meet their runner. The “butt girls” as we have named them, are all running with plastics bare butts around their waists. These runs are hard enough as it is, why make it harder? Another team is dressed as the cast of Star Wars. Storm Trooper and all. We are Team Reruns Eh. We proudly represent Canada in our red and white maple leaf t-shirts with some embellishments provided by Sharon. We can easily identifiy Emily by her sparkly tutu. We wonder how van 2 is doing? It’s hot and they have some serious elevation to run.

At about 6:30pm our second legs start. It will be dark soon so we all make sure we have our night gear. Reflective vest, butt flasher and head lamp. My second leg starts at about 9:30pm. It’s pitch black as I ran up the hill and around the corner in a light rain. I hear bull frogs croaking in the ditches and imagine some backwoods crazy jumping out and pulling me into the woods. It weird what goes through your head when you’re running alone in the dark. All the runners I had seen during the previous leg have suddenly disappeared. Did I smell that bad? Slowly they start coming up behind me. One at a time they pass me. Good job. Good job. They each say as they motor past me. I was probably at about 13km and I needed to walk for a bit and stretch my calves. A guy comes up behind me and says “Don’t stop.” Under my breath I say “Asshole.” Two seconds later another guy passes me and says “You’re doing great. Keep it up”. As he catches up to the asshole who has just passed me he chastises him for being negative. My faith in runners is re-established.

So we are done with our second legs and it’s time to get some rest. We drive to Oak Harbour and find some space in the gym to lay out our sleeping bags. It’s 1:15am. Within minutes we were all asleep. Okay, maybe not everybody as Donna made the unfortunate choice to lay down beside somebody who snored; loudly. In what seemed like about 10 minutes it’s time to get up. it’s 4:30 am.  At this point the only thing keeping us going is the fact that we know this will be our last leg. When this one is done we were finished. It’s cool and threatening to rain. The last runner for van 2 is coming in. They have had a brutal night. Three of their head lamps died, Leanna had to give another team her flashlight as their headlamp died too and didn’t have a back up and Rosa tripped and gashed her knee. They are still smiling though.

ragnar 2

At this point you can tell that runners are tired. Stiff legs and lack of sleep is catching up with everybody. My final 8km leg is along a beautiful shady road with views of the water. I could have just stopped and headed down to the beach. No, really I could have, that’s how tired I was. Somehow, though, we all manage to cut a few minutes off our projected times and arrive in Coupeville ahead of schedule. Chris, van 2’s first runner, is fueled with a good breakfast and ready to go. They have gotten some rest and are also looking forward to their last legs. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you have accomplished so much in really, a very short time. As Jen said on Saturday night when it was all over, it’s a leap of faith to get into a van with 5 women who you may or may not even know and push yourself to do things you probably have never done.

At about 3:45 pm as we all run across the finish line together I think to myself, The Best Thing in Life is spending 33 hours in a van, finishing a race with 11 other crazy women and having memories and friendships that will last forever. It is a leap of faith that I will most likely take again…..but not for a couple of years.

ragnar 3