Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spring miracles

After more than a month of grey, rainy weather, the sun finally appeared this past weekend and stayed long enough for me to begin to believe summer might actually arrive. The cherry trees have been in blossom for a week or more but it's been hard to appreciate them through the gloom so it was a gift to stop mid-run this evening to savour their exuberant beauty in sunlight.

Nature's constant churn seems truly miraculous to me. I'm not sure I could survive the damp dreariness of April if I weren't sure spring would eventually bring fresh greens and bright blossoms. I especially love the lilacs that remind me of the old lilac bush that grew just outside the front door of my childhood home and the two large bouquets that suffused the air with their sweet scent on my wedding day.

In the same way nature renews itself in spring, our hearts and minds renew themselves.  In what seems like the blink of an eye, things we didn't understand become clearer, the hard things we tried to avoid become bearable, and the joy and hope we weren't sure we would ever feel again creep back into our hearts. Suddenly, we know summer will come - that soon we'll sit on a beach listening to crashing waves or high atop a hill gazing at a star-filled sky and we'll feel safe and loved and happy once more.

Thank goodness for all of spring's miracles - but especially those that transform our hearts and minds in such profound ways.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Anniversary Reflections

I realized something strange lately. I almost never blog about my husband or my marriage. I'm not sure why. Goodness knows, after almost twenty-five years together, there's lots I could say on both subjects. And, since today is our 21st wedding anniversay, I think maybe it's a good time to remedy the oversight.

My husband
He's a good man. Handsome, strong, dependable, honest, kind, hard working, generous, patient, and constantly loving. He's also handy when it comes to most things (aside from cars - which is okay since my dad is great with cars), and happy to pitch in around the house. In fact, truth be told, he's a much better housekeeper than I am. He's a great cook (no, not just BBQs) and a terrific pastry chef. He loves his own family deeply, adores mine and has had the same best friend since he was a pre-teen. He never forgets birthdays and makes a point of calling or emailing each of his friends and family members on their special days. He's always volunteering for some organization or other. In his spare time, he likes to renovate, putter, read, and play guitar. And he's a terrific listener - which is a special gift in a family like mine in which everyone else likes to talk. Best of all, he genuinely seems to enjoy being with me, and does whatever he can to love and support me. And - even after all these years - he still puts his book aside to watch me get undressed for bed.  How sweet is that?

Our marriage
Twenty-one years (and nearly twenty-five since our first date.)  In this day and age, that's pretty impressive. We've worked and lived overseas and travelled to dozens of different places together. We've owned four houses, and the same number of cars. We've also had four cats (though never more than two at a time). We've lived in separate cities for extended periods. We've painted or renovated every apartment and house we've ever lived in. We prefer to buy art rather than furniture. We nearly always vote the same way. We never argue seriously about money since neither of us is particularly materialistic, and we sit down together at the end of every year to plan our charitable donations. We enjoy food shopping and cooking (when we're not otherwise too busy), hosting dinner parties with friends and family, attending folk and jazz festivals and eating out at least once a week.  We even run together now and then.

It hasn't all been an easy, of course. There have been bumps along the way, and more than once we've run hard into brick walls we didn't expect to face and weren't sure we could scale. But somehow we've survived to find ourselves here - on the first day of the rest of our lives - older, greyer, and a little more battle-scarred - but also wiser, more patient, and more determined than ever to find ways to move forward in life together.

So, here's to my husband and to our marriage. And here's hoping we have many more happy, healthy, adventure-filled years together. 

Happy Anniversary, love.

Monday, May 23, 2011

It ain't about the Tiffany necklace

Some of you know that two years ago, I ran the Chicago Marathon as a member of Team in Training to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.  Click here to visit the blog I wrote about the experience. In the two years since, I've stayed active with TNT as a volunteer and a sponsor. Now, after much soul-searching, I've decided to run another marathon - the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco - as a member of TNT Flex on October 16th, 2011.

My goals in taking on this challenge are:
  • to raise at least $4,000 (hopefully more) for LLSC,
  • to run the race in a respectable time, and
  • to support team members here in Halifax and across the country as they train and fundraise for their own races. 
Once again, I'll be running in honour of Kirsi and in memory of Jon.  But I'll also be running in honour of the many others I've met or heard about through my involvement with TNT - people who's lives have been touched in one way or another by blood cancers.

Please consider sponsoring me - which you can do easily by visiting my fundraising page here. I'll be blogging about my TNT experiences once again (it helps keeps me honest!) so I hope you'll take a moment to check out the new blog, It Ain't About the Tiffany Necklace, where I'll be posting weekly updates on my training and reflections on my experiences. There, you can sign up to follow the blog and/or receive posts my email.

The next five months promise to be challenging and exciting. Training to run a marathon is never easy - especially when you're also working full-time and fundraising - so whatever encouragement and support you can offer on my journey will be greatly appreciated.

Running Lessons: It's all about the journey

I did my long run on Saturday this week, rather than the usual Sunday, because I wanted to volunteer for the Bluenose Marathon yesterday. I'm glad I did - even though it meant running through some pretty miserable weather for the last hour or so.

Being out on the course yesterday cheering for the thousands of full and half marathoners was good for my soul and reminded me that long distance running (for mere mortals like me at least) is really all about the journey. On race day, things may go well or badly - but, when the months leading up to it have fed our souls and strengthened our bodies - then all the training is worth it. And I could see it in the faces of those running yesterday - the pain, the pride, the determination and the joyful exhilaration of being "a marathoner" - however awkward and slow.

The journey teaches us to motivate ourselves to do things we never thought we'd do - like run a half marathon in February or, as I did yesterday, choose a challenging hilly course for my last long training run before my next marathon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friendships lost and found

I had a strange dream last night. I was in conversation via teleconference with an old friend and a young person I didn't recognize. The three of us were in different locations discussing some deeply technological and philosophical book. The dream made me sad because my friend and I had a falling out some time ago and I doubt we'll talk together like that anytime soon - although I suppose one never knows for sure. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Running Adventures in Ottawa

I used to live in Ottawa where I trained for numerous races and got to know all the trails near my home well. I was in Ottawa again this past weekend so planned a long run route that took me back to some of my favourite haunts.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What's your favourite gadget?

I have a number of favourite running-related gadgets.  My Garmin forerunner measures and records my pace, mileage and heart rate to help keep my training on track. My smart phone is useful for planning routes and taking photos of the places I run. A fuel belt lets me carry everything I need when I'm "running long" - gatorade, snacks, phone, kleenex, keys, etc. And my purple lululemon headband keeps my "big" hair back and out of my face on the wet, windy days that are so common in this part of the world.

But I have a few non-running gadgets I love too. Two of my favourites (pictured above) were gifts from my best friend - a parmesan cheese grater that has fostered what will likely turn out to be a life-long addiction to freshly grated parmesan, and a small battery-operated whisk that foams hot milk perfectly for my weekend caffe latte.

In general, I'm not a gadget girl. I prefer cooking the old-fashioned way - using simple, fresh ingredients and good quality pots and pans. I keep the number of electronic devices in other areas of my life to a bare minimum as well. That said, I love a really good gadget - one that I'm inspired to use often because it noticeably improves the quality of my life

What's your favourite running or non-running gadget and how does it improve your quality of life?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Running Adventures on the South Shore

If you’ve been following this blog, then you know my last couple of long runs haven’t been great. For whatever reason, my head and body haven’t really felt up to the challenges of  “running long”.  For that reason, I decided it was time for another running adventure – a long run that would be interesting enough to get me excited about hitting the road.

The route I chose was one I’d been wanting to explore for awhile – that is, running down the LaHave River on the east side, catching the LaHave Ferry, and returning on the west side.  I googled the route and estimated that it would be a 34km run (not counting the distance I’d cover on the ferry) – a little longer than I wanted to run, but still do-able.

And what a great choice it turned out to be. Given the length of the run, I gave myself permission to slow my pace a bit and stop to take pictures often.  There was lots to photograph as the east side of the LaHave is lined with older properties with lovely gardens and brightly painted houses.

And when I wasn’t looking at houses, I was enjoying views of the river.  In fact, the road hugged the river for almost the whole route, so I had plenty of time to savour it during the almost 4 hours I was running.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Running lessons: Remembering other times and places

Running in familiar places is comforting at this stage of my life. I like knowing what to look for just around the next bend - a favourite wooded grove, an well-designed garden, or the friendly face of a dog-walking neighbour. There are times, however, when the memories that go with running in such places are also unsettling.

My long run last weekend was a case in point. Most of my 24km route was along the trails that line the LaHave River. Though my family has been in the community for more than 30 years, I "lived away" much of that time so the trails are relatively new to me and I'm just getting acquainted with them now that my husband and I have a home nearby.

The last 4 to 5kms of my run were a different story. I turned away from the river and headed into town, runnning by landmarks that reminded me of the many times I stayed with the family between college semesters or during summer and Christmas vacations.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Election Night in Canada

Another election night. I'm not one of those people who doesn't care about politics. To the contrary, I've been glued to the radio or TV for every federal and provincial election since before I was old enough to vote - except for the one that took place while my husband and I were living in Papua New Guinea. In fact, I worked my first campaign when I was just 10 years old and my mom sent me out leafletting on behalf of her candidate.

Some of my happiest memories are of being curled up in bed with Mum watching federal leadership contests. She was a loyal Liberal but we watched Conservative and NDP leadership races too. In those days, there was drama and lots of it since voting often dragged out over three or four ballots that took days to be cast and counted.

Tonight, as I watched the election results come in, I wondered what happened to my country - the one with national leaders who had ideas and principles and cared about people, communities and good public policy.

It's said we get the government we deserve. Assuming that's true, the results of this election are a tragic comment on the state of our democracy. Apparently, we have come to deserve a government that lies and bullies and shows nothing but contempt for Parliament, our cherished national institutions, and the majority of voters. Oh, my Canada...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Springing on a grey and gloomy day!

I love my Garmin. It keeps me honest about my pace and distance and makes tracking my weekly mileages a piece of cake. Lately, though, my favourite gadget on my long runs has been my smart phone - both because it ensures I have a way to call for help when I need it and because it has a built-in camera that lets me take photos of the places I run.

I was especially useful during my long slow run yesterday. The day was grey and drizzly so it was hard to enjoy being out the way I usually do.  None of the scenery I've been savouring in recent months looked as pretty in the low light. Nevertheless, out of force of habit, I spent much of the run looking for potential photographs and began to notice something wonderful - many of the buds that were barely promises the week before had suddenly burst into bloom. Hot pink azalea, soft pink and white magnolia, and yellow daffodils and forsythia added bright splashes of colour to an otherwise gloomy day.

It wasn't possible for me to get really good pictures of any of them given the subdued light filtering through the rain and clouds, but the effort to do so inspired me to pay more attention to the beauty around me, instead of the discomfort in my legs near the end of my 26km long run - which was a good thing in and of itself.  And I did get one shot I liked as I ran through an old rail cut on a completed section of the Centennial Trail. The clouds lifted just enough to let soft sunlight reach the mosses and plants that seemed to grow straight out of the rocks - wonderful examples of mother nature's resilience.

More on the places my run and thoughts took me this weekend when I get back to my home computer tonight!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sky painting

Ominous skies over Petite Riviere

A painter friend once explained that you really can't make a mistake painting the sky because clouds come in an infinite variety of sizes, shapes and colours. Whatever you paint, he said, will look like the sky somewhere sometime - even if it doesn't turn out quite the way you intended.

Maybe - but I still wish I had the skill to paint the sky exactly as it looked yesterday afternoon when I took this photo. As lovely as the image is, it doesn't come close to capturing the intensity of the light as it poured through the clouds to the glowing sandbar beneath.

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.