Sunday, August 23, 2015

A short writing holiday

For whatever reason, I woke up yesterday inspired to revise one of the stories I drafted for NaNoWriMo last November and, with minimal dilly-dallying, that's what I did. It took most of the day but, by bedtime, the second draft was done and sent to my good friend Janet, who agreed to read it (bless her!). The story still feels a long way from finished but at least I made progress.

The basic story line is this: A lonely man, faced with the prospect of a miserable retirement, tries to commit suicide by running the toughest race in Eastern North America.

I know. It's a ridiculous premise but it still works somehow - or, at least, I think it does. The story is one of four I drafted before giving up on NaNo last year. My original plan was to write five or six stories about runners participating in C2C, then weave them together to create a novel.

The first story was very dark. It's about two female university students, long time runners and friends, who become involved with a Jian Ghomeshi-like professor. I don't think I'm going to finish it. I didn't enjoy writing the professor's character and I'm not sure it fits with the other stories anyway.

The second is about an older runner, a lifelong resident of St. John's, coming to grips with the fact that he's in the early stages of Alzheimer's. When I described the plot to Husband last fall, it made his eyes tear up so I think I may be on to something with that one - though it will be hard to avoid ending up with something maudlin.

The last story is about a young Muslim woman, a recent immigrant to Canada, struggling to reconcile her desire to compete in the race with her parents' expectations. I like the premise but will need help from my Muslim friends to ensure it's credible. The last thing I want to do is offend anyone.

It felt good to spend the day immersed in writing - as if I was exercising a part of my brain in need of a good workout. I wish I could find more time for writing fiction but it would likely mean getting up early, and I only do that willingly when I'm on vacation. :-)  Perhaps, I'll get more serious about it when I retire.

Speaking of vacation, one of the things I've struggled with this week is feeling like I need to be productive every day - "productive" in the sense that I should be checking things off lists - books read, paintings completed, photos taken, blog posts written, social commitments met, etc. I enjoy all those things. I just wish they didn't feel so much like obligations sometimes.

It looks like the rain has stopped and I hear Husband upstairs, so it's time to sign off and get my butt out the door. I've lots to do before heading back to work tomorrow.

Happy running and writing, friends!

Friday, August 21, 2015

What I did on my summer vacation

This is what I've been up to the past few days. Not much of anything - just hanging out at the beach, walking, swimming, napping and reading. I've done a fair bit of thinking too - about aging gracefully (hard to do), the state of Canadian politics (abysmal), a short story I've been working on (still needs work) and the future of the planet (very worrying). I've also been thinking a lot about running - trying to work out what the heck's the matter with my right leg/hip and how to fix it.

I've only done three runs in the past week and none of them felt great. On the upside, this morning's was the best by far - I think because I'm finally managing to work my hip loose. I had to stop a few times to stretch but my right leg felt more normal than it has in awhile and, when I was stretching afterwards, my lower back/hip made a very satisfying clunk that I hope meant whatever was out of whack is in whack again. My right hip's certainly feeling better now.

While I was poking at my legs this morning trying to figure out what was tight and wasn't, I discovered a nasty knot about 6 inches above my kneecap that likely isn't helping , so took time to foam roller my quads. The knot's not completely gone yet but I'll work on it some more over the next couple of days and see if I can get rid of it. 

The issue with my hip and leg has been building for some time now. I noticed last fall that they sometimes got very tight when I walked, and all the ice and snow last winter made things worse. I hoped they'd start feeling better once spring arrived but the problem seemed to get worse - maybe because I increased my mileage a bit too quickly preparing for CTR, then Barrington. In any case, I only noticed it interfering with my runs a few weeks ago, which is when I started to get more serious about dealing with it.

On the advice of my chiro, I've been doing hip-opening exercises more consistently and trying to send less time sitting when I'm at the office. However, it wasn't until the past few days that I noticed real improvement. I hope I may be on the mend at last, but I've booked an appointment with an active release therapist just in case. It's a little over a month before we leave for Scotland and I'm determined to get it sorted out so I can hike/walk as much as I like while we're there.

Of course, this hip thing is a perfect example of how willfully blind we humans can be, I've known for almost a year that my hip was acting up but ignored the problem hoping it would go away by itself. I should have known that wouldn't happen. At 53, my body takes much more maintenance than it used to and minor issues quickly escalate into major ones.

Speaking of willful blindness, I find myself fascinated by the fallout from the Ashley Madison hack. From what I've read, it seems the company did a relatively poor job of protecting customer information - which is ironic given the business it's in - so perhaps I should feel some sympathy for its customers. On the other hand, in this day and age, I would have expected those customers to understand that most information shared on-line is at risk of disclosure. Given that, communicating with someone they don't know - who may or may not be telling them the truth about who they are - for purposes of arranging a "discrete" affair seems ill-advised, at best. It strikes me at least some of them must have been willfully blind to the risks they were taking. Or perhaps they just didn't care about getting caught. In any case, I'm finding it hard to have much sympathy.

Today was overcast so we opted to stay home and tackle a few chores. Or at least Husband did.I mostly lazed around while he kept busy investigating the issues we've been having with our well, repairing the brakes on our car, cutting a stair riser for my folks. and making supper. Did I mention he also installed a new power window motor on the car and dealt with a plumbing issue this week? Being married to such a handy (not to mention handsome) guy certainly has its benefits!

Note that I added two more titles to my reading list on the right. I picked up a third book tonight but only read a chapter before I put it aside. It looked like it might be a good one - a murder mystery set in 2060 - but the opening pages described the murderer thinking about how much enjoyed torturing a young woman for four days before killing her. I don't need that kind of darkness in my head. There's quite enough there already.

Only two more vacation days before I have to go back to work. Depending on the weather and how we feel in the morning, we may head to the Annapolis Valley to visit an elderly friend and check on a couple of wineries tomorrow. Or not. We'll see how we feel. On Sunday, I'd like to tackle a longish run if my body's up to it. Fingers crossed.

Happy running and writing, friends!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Savouring a little vacation

It's Day 5 of my all too brief summer vacation. So far, so good. There hasn't been much running yet but there's been plenty of time hanging out on beaches, swimming, riding my motorcycle (aka "Patti"), reading, eating great food, and visiting with friends and family.

Last Thursday night, my best friend M. landed in town for the a few days so I took Friday off and after breakfast we headed for Martinique Beach. I'd never been there before and it's truly spectacular - a long long white sand beach with massive waves rolling in from the open Atlantic. It was desperately foggy when we arrived, but an hour or so later, the skies cleared so we could see from one end of the beach to the other.

We spent a very happy few hours walking, sunbathing, snacking and catching up before heading back to the city for the evening. En route, we stopped briefly in Lawrencetown to watch the kitesurfers. I'd never seen so many in one place and they put on quite a show. It was mesmerizing watching them carve back and forth across the small bay beside the main beach.

On Saturday, I dropped M. at another friend's place, and made a beeline for the country to help Husband get the country house ready for an open house on Sunday. We hoped to entice potential buyers to stop in for a look while they were out touring the south shore. Unfortunately, the weather was far too nice for anyone to look at houses so our efforts were for naught. Oh, well, at least the house and garden are tidier, and hopefully some of the many people who drove by en route to the beach will have noticed the sign at least.

I wasted a good part of Sunday evening and Monday reading a trashy novel I borrowed from the library. It was so trashy, I can't even add it to my reading list at the right. It would be far too embarrassing. To be fair, it had its good points. The 45 year old heroine faced realistic challenges with a credible mix of insecurity and confidence, and the hero was a decent human being from the start (rather than a nasty brute transformed by love - a myth perpetuated by far too many writers, IMHO), but the writing was uneven at best, and the over-the-top sex and fairy tale ending, while entertaining, seemed totally implausible.

I'm always astonished at how many badly written novels get published. It seems ridiculous when there are so many truly great writers around. Of course, people have different tastes and a good plot can carry readers a long way but, when the grammar's poor and the characters unbelievable, I generally give up.

For example, I read a book written by a Nova Scotian a few years ago that was so bad it made me gag. Seriously. The heroine (in theory, an intelligent law enforcement type) behaved like a hormonal teenager, falling into bed with one pathetic loser after another, missing every obvious clue to solving the central mystery of the story. Despite my irritation, I finished it out of a misguided sense of loyalty to local authors but have been annoyed with myself ever since. Life's too short to read badly written fiction.

Fortunately, the book I picked up after the book-that-shall-not-be-named, "The Family Tree" by Sheri S. Tepper, is excellent so far. I've been a Tepper fan for years but haven't read one of her books in ages. Like the others of hers I've read, this book has well-developed characters, inventive plot twists and insightful commentary on the state of humankind so I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

I plan to spend a good part of today hanging out at the house. After a few days on the beach and a fair bit of socializing, I'm in need of some down time on my own. When I sign off here, I'll retreat to my little room upstairs for a few hours of painting. It's been ages since I painted so it may be frustrating but I'm determined to give it a go. At worst, it will inspire me to jump on Patti and head back to the beach this afternoon.

Speaking of Patti, I had a lovely ride Sunday afternoon. The weather was perfect so, en route to Risser's Beach, I took a short detour to Bush Island to take a few photos. I didn't get any shots I really liked but it felt good to spend a time with my camera. Hopefully, I'll find more time for photography in the next few days. I'm still trying to figure out how to use my new 35mm lense.

If nothing else, I'd like to get a few more shots of these cuties.

With that, it's time I signed off. It's shaping up to be another beauty of a day.

Happy running and writing, friends!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Running lessons: Coming to grips with "what is" on a lazy summer weekend

I intended to run this weekend. Really, I did. I have a suitcase half-filled with running gear to prove it. Unfortunately, the weather and my body had other ideas.

It was already hot and muggy by the time we awoke Saturday morning and the beach was calling so we tackled the most pressing chores, then packed our gear and headed for Risser's Beach. The weather was perfect, the water was warm (20C!) and the waves were humongous so we spent a very pleasant 5 or 6 hours lazing, reading, swimming with our nieces, and visiting with family. Here's a pic of Husband and my niece waiting for the next big wave. 

And here's another of my niece and me after an energetic swim. She likes being in the water almost as much as she likes dancing, which is a lot!

Around 4:00 pm, we dashed back to town to cook supper for our good friends, Janet and Ron. Husband made rotisserie chicken on the BBQ with pasta salad and asparagus on the side. I should have thought to take a picture but it smelled (and tasted!) so good we just dived right in

Sunday morning, the weather was hot and sunny once again so we skipped our planned run and headed back to the beach. I rode my pretty red motorcyle (aka"Patty") since condition couldn't have been better for it - 26C with a light breeze, and sunshine. I was in heaven.  Since we didn't have to rush back for supper that night, we made a date with my folks who were camping next to the beach for the weekend, and spent spent another lazy afternoon swimming, reading, and munching snacks before joining them for supper and a campfire. When it came time to head home, I left Patty parked for the night and caught a ride with Husband. 

After all the relaxation Saturday and Sunday, I was determined to tackle a good long run early Monday morning before it got too hot. Unfortunately, I was awakened in the night by the uncomfortable sensation that can signal only one thing - a urinary tract infection. I'd felt it coming on for a couple of days but hoped I'd manage to fend it off by drinking plenty of liquids. By Monday morning, it was clear I hadn't and I could no longer ignore it. Fortunately, I was able to see a doc at the local walk-in clinic to get antibiotics quickly but there was no way I felt up to running.

Once I'd had lunch and a first dose of meds, we made a quick trip back to the beach to pick up Patty, then settled in for a relaxed afternoon at home. I was sorry not to have another day by the waves, but it was mellow hanging out in my favourite deck chair reading and watching the world go by. (In preparation for our trip to Scotland, I started Diana Gabaldon's Outlander - not my usual taste but a good yarn with lots of Scottish history thrown in.)

I also spent an hour or so playing with my camera. A photographer friend's been encouraging me to get more serious about the technical side of photography and start shooting in full manual mode. I quite like how these photos of our cherry tomato plants turned out. 

Hopefully, I'll feel well enough to run later this week. In the meantime, I'll focus on dealing with the tightness I've had in my right hip, quads and hip flexor lately. A trip to my chiro last week finally persuaded me I need to spend a lot more time stretching and foam rollering - much as I dislike it.

I've still not made any plans for an autumn race - but that doesn't mean I've given up on the idea. I've got a week of vacation coming up so I'll have plenty of time to figure out what's possible. If I feel more like myself as the summer comes to an end, I may attempt the Moncton half marathon in late October. However, much will depend on how quickly I bounce back from this UTI. I only get them once in a long while when I'm especially run-down so I think my body might be trying to tell me something. Challenges at work and at home have left me with fewer reserves than usual and I need to come to grips with that.

Needless to say, I'm not happy about feeling under the weather. On the upside, a period of enforced rest means more time to visit with dear friends who are flying in from Ottawa tomorrow night. If the weather cooperates, we'll spend our time together walking on beaches, visiting wineries, and taking in some music at the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival. There'll be a certain amount of seafood, wine and laughter involved as well. All in all, not a bad way to spend a long summer weekend in Nova Scotia - though I hope I'll be back to more serious training soon.

In the meantime, happy running and writing friends!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


One of my favourite things about travel is having time to "people watch" and take photos of faces that catch my eye. Of course, children are the easiest and most fun to photograph. We met the little guy above while we were having lunch in a wonderful restaurant near Avignon, France.

This one was taken as Husband and I disembarked from a whale-watching tour in Newfoundland last summer. Clearly, this sleepy girl didn't find the outing as entertaining as we did. 

The next one's quite out of focus but I love the look on the boy's face as the girl sashays past him. It was taken on a street in Avignon, as we wandered back to our apartment one afternoon. 

Of course, handsome young men often catch my eye. (I'm old, not dead, for goodness sake.) This Parisian book seller looked as if he's rather be somewhere else.

Ditto for this granddad on an outing with his wife and grandson in Caen, Normandy.

In going through my photos last week, I noticed that "men looking bored with children" is a recurring theme. I'm not sure why. Maybe because I find them so sad - kids growing up too quickly, dads and granddads miss out. 

I spotted these two gentlemen riding the carousel in Avignon's main square. 

This one was taken the same week on a riverbank as we waited for a ferry to take us across the Rhone River.  I'd love to know the couple's story...and who or what he was thinking about.

Of course, some faces are more interesting than others. This fellow piloted a water taxi we rode in Malta.  A man of few words, he still came across as warm and friendly.

This young man served us in a Parisian cafe one afternoon. Charming and good at this job, he drew the eyes of many customers, I expect. 

I spotted this man having leisurely lunch with colleagues at a restaurant in Provence and snapped a photo on the sly over husband's shoulder. A moment later, he looked up and caught me but he didn't seem to mind.

Some of my favourite faces are the ones you have to look hard to see.  Check out the little girl staring into my lense from the far side of a playground in Arles, France.

And the lurker peering from behind a palm tree in the gardens of the Palais de Luxembourg in Paris. 

And the young girl checking out the Venus Envy sign on a street corner in Halifax. 

Of course, the face I most like to photograph is Husband's (though our nieces and nephews come a close second.) I took this one in Avignon a couple of years ago. 

Are you a people-watcher too? What sorts of faces catch your eye? Whose face do you most like to photograph?