Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Boot Camp – a few last words

So I finished Survivor Boot Camp last Friday. It's taken me a few days to mull it over and get my thoughts together about the whole experience.

First of all, I didn't miss a single session. Twenty days. No mean feat for someone who likes to go to bed late and truly hates getting up early. At the beginning, I didn't know if I'd make it. The by-product is that I now consider getting up at 7 a.m. sleeping in.

I'm stronger, leaner, and fitter than I've been in years. By the final Fit Test day, I improved in all areas and even managed to lose a few pounds and several inches from my jigglier parts. My snug pants aren't as snug and, by gum, I think I even look taller!

I'm still not the svelte thing I was in my thirties, but that's okay. I'm impressed with the fact that I kept up to the thirty-somethings – well, all except for the running – and in the strength areas, surpassed some of them.

At times, it was painful – especially those first two weeks – as my body adapted to the increased physical activity. At times, it was a struggle just to get up and out of bed. Yet, the pain and struggle isn't what I remember most.

I remember having a great time. I remember the other participants and the sense of camaraderie. In particular, I remember Gail, a 67 year-old who was in her fourth boot camp and could run at the front of the pack with the young'uns. She was upbeat, fun; never, ever complained; and was my inspiration and role model. She's not going back for a 5th boot camp – but only because she wants to take Flamenco Dance class instead. She kept telling me that it would get easier. And it did.

I'm glad I made the commitment and saw it through. It was the jumpstart I needed to renew a more active lifestyle – something I'd let slide with too many hours in front of a computer and the TV.

I made such good progress in four weeks, that I signed up for another four week session just to see how much further I can progress. This time, there are enough registrants for a 50+ group. The over-fifty group is only three days a week, so I'm attending a regular group the other two days. I'm looking forward to seeing what it's like to be in a group with people my own age. The trainers for both these groups are different from last time, so that will be another new experience.

I'm pretty sure that's as many sessions as I'll attend. But you never know. I think it becomes a little addictive.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Guest blogging

When I first ventured into the blogosphere, almost two years ago, one of the first blogs that really captured my attention was Ronni Bennett's, Time Goes By. I've been an avid reader ever since.

Recently, she invited me (along with others) to write a guest blog while she was on vacation, I was thrilled and very flattered.

My contribution is on her blog today and you can find it here.

If you're not familiar with Ronni's site, please take a look around and have a good read. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Let It Go 101

One of the benefits of maturing is learning how to handle disagreements without getting fuming mad. It's not that I don't get annoyed or angry; it's that I can let it go much easier.

There were times, not so long ago, that if I disagreed with someone and knew in my heart of hearts that they were wrong, I was convinced it was my duty; nay, my moral obligation to show them the error of their ways. In retrospect, I don't think it had much to do with proving them wrong. It was more about proving that I was right.

I still remember a discussion - slash – argument with a good friend in college. It was about – are you ready for this? – how winds are named (e.g. westerly, southerly, etc.). My friend said winds were named for the direction in which they blew. In other words, she said a wind blowing from the east towards the west would be called a Westerly.

I knew she was wrong because I distinctly remembered my Geography 12 teacher drilling it into us that winds are named by the direction "from" which they blew. Hence, a Westerly was blowing from the west. I could not convince my friend that she was wrong. It drove me nuts!

We both got upset about it (silly, I know) and stomped off, never to mention it again. How I wish we had laptops and Google back then. For years, I wondered if she ever got it straight and said to herself, "Aha, Ell was right all along!" I doubt it.

It wasn't so much that I wanted to prove her wrong, but for her to bow down to my superior knowledge and admit that I was right. It was about ego. It was about showing, proof positive, that I was smart and, by golly, smarter than her. I needed to get over myself.

As it happens, if you're even moderately honest with yourself and live long enough, you realize that you're not as smart as you originally thought in those heady days of youth. I won't go into details, but I'm sure some of you can relate; I was brought down a notch or two in my life.

Life lesson: There's always someone else smarter than you.

So, having gotten over myself, I learned to let things be.

Once I figured out that it's wasn't necessary to win every argument and have everyone agree with me, life got a lot easier and less aggravating.

I will still argue my point as logically, persuasively and passionately as possible, but once it's out there, I've either convinced the other person; or not. If they want to carry on a civilized discussion, fine. If it's just devolving into an argument for argument's sake, then it's pointless.

One day I'm going to ask my college friend if she remembers our conversation about wind directions. She'll probably look at me as if I've lost my mind.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Are you a good cook?

Every so often I like to play around with Blogthings. I came across this one about cooking.

I love food and come from a family of very good cooks. I learned most of what I know through osmosis - hanging around watching and helping my grandmother and aunts cook.

We (the womenfolk) had great cooking marathons for special occasions. My aunts and female cousins, led by my grandmother, would cram into the kitchen and cook from morning 'til night to make pastries, dumplings and other goodies for Christmas, New Years (twice, because we celebrated both western and Chinese), Easter, important birthdays - really any time the extended family expected to gather.

It was for socializing as much as it was for cooking. I miss those days. Now, most of the aunts have died, grandma is gone, and the cousins are scattered all over. The closest thing to this type of gathering is when I do Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and my family gathers around the kitchen while I cook. It's not the same.

When it comes to everyday cooking, I'm sometimes inspired, quite often lazy. I seldom follow recipes exactly and my idea of planning a meal is sticking my head in the fridge to see what's available, then winging it. I was curious to see what Blogthings would say.

My Blogthings result:

You Are an Excellent Cook

You're a top cook, but you weren't born that way. It's taken a lot of practice, a lot of experimenting, and a lot of learning.
It's likely that you have what it takes to be a top chef, should you have the desire...

I don't think I agree with the chef thing. I'd much rather dine at a fine restaurant than cook in one.

If you'd like to try this Blogthing, click on the "Are You A Good Cook? line above.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Boot Camp - Wk 3

It's hard to believe there's only one week left.

The past week has seen things ratcheted up another notch of intensity.

Instead of doing two sets of twenty reps, we're doing two or three sets of thirty reps; instead of two minutes at each station for circuit training, we're doing three minutes at each station. It may not seem like much, but let me tell you, that extra minute of push-ups, squats, and lunges make your muscles scream, "Please, STOP!".

I've found that I can handle most of the endurance and strength things pretty well. That's probably because I'm a stubborn ol' bird and refuse to give in.

The jumping, running and impact activities are another matter. My knees really don't like all the jarring, so I've modified some of the exercises and have resigned myself to being slow and steady. I have no intention trying to keep up with the young'uns. They have resilient bodies that recover in half the time that mine does. We have a few in the group who are still in that age and stage where they brag/complain about partying and drinking the night before and having "such a hangover". Yet they still look bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to me. The one thing I keep telling myself is that they may be faster, but I doubt they're as determined.

I was talking to our trainer one morning and she told me she noticed a big difference in the attitude and commitment between the older and younger participants. She noted that older members just get on with it and tend not to complain, whereas the young ones whine and complain almost the entire time. The younger participants are also more prone to "cheat" by shortcutting the number of warm-up laps (I noticed this myself), stopping because they're too tired, etc. Whereas the older participants do everything they're asked to the best of their ability. She asked me why I thought it was so.

The only answer I could think of was that, by my age, there wasn't any point in complaining. I was there of my own free will, so I may as well get the most out of it while I was there. Besides, I think my generation was indoctrinated with the "if you cheat, you're only cheating yourself" philosophy. I don't even know if they say that anymore.

To summarize: Despite aches and pains again this week, my legs feel much stronger and it's not quite as much of a struggle during my runs. I haven't lost any weight, but various body parts, though still jiggly, are definitely firmer.

I'm even - dare I say it - contemplating signing up for another session.

Impervious - Another Lydia story

I'm resurrecting another Lydia story (with a few minor tweaks) that was originally posted on First Drafts in February 2006. That site is no longer active, so I decided it might be a good idea to keep my posted writing in one place. I've previously explained how bad I am at keeping my computer files in any semblance of order. I'm hoping Blogger, with its label system, will help.

This piece is from the prompt, "Impervious".

Lydia was sitting at her computer. Nothing. She’d done a couple of writing exercises to warm up, but couldn’t produce anything else. At least nothing she wanted to keep.

She kept gazing out the window. The clear blue sky was inviting. She checked the weather channel - minus two Celsius – not bad. Better to be outside getting some much-needed exercise than staring blankly at the computer monitor. It was still early, not yet noon. There was time to take a short drive up the mountain and hike one of the short trails off Mt Seymour Parkway and be back well before Dr. Phil.

She put on her boots and ski jacket, looped a scarf around her neck and stuffed a pair of gloves in her pocket. She probably didn’t need the scarf, but you never know. Better safe than sorry, her grandmother always said.

In fifteen minutes, she was pulling over to park at one of the mid-mountain lots. It was a glorious day. She stepped over the roadside cement barrier to enter the trailhead. The snow was well-trampled with occasional dirt patches breaking through the most travelled parts of the trail.

Lydia knew exactly where she wanted to go. She headed for a jagged ridge just beyond the second bend in the trail. Following the ridge about thirty metres to the left, she came to a slight outcropping of rock that overlooked the water below and gave a panoramic view of the city across the inlet - the perfect spot for meditation and inspiration. She found her usual spot on a broad, flat boulder. - It had made her laugh the first time she saw it. The indentations on the surface mimicked the curves of her butt, literally begging her to sit. It had become her special seat. She eased herself onto the rock, bracing for the momentary icy-cold dampness through the fabric of her jeans.

This is exactly what I need, she thought, a chance to get away and clear my mind. Fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes later – she wasn’t quite sure – she heard a rustling below her. Strange. It’s usually silent in the winter. It’s too early for animals and there isn’t a trail down there, so it couldn’t be people. She heard it again. Curiosity got the better of her and she just had to look. Standing at the edge of the ridge, she peered over and thought she saw movement - something round and dark. Could somebody have gotten lost and fallen off the trail?

“Halloo! Is somebody down there?” No answer. But there was the rustling again. She eased her left foot over the edge to get a better angle. Yes, she was sure there was something moving. Grabbing hold of a branch from a nearby bush with her right hand, she slid her left foot a little further down the slope. - That’s when the branch snapped. - The sudden movement dislodged the loosely packed snow from under her boot and she found herself with legs splayed, half-straddling the lip of the snow-covered ridge and slipping downhill.

“Great.” She leaned towards her uphill leg, grabbing handfuls of snow and dirt, hoping to get a solid grip. It didn’t help. Instead, she felt herself sliding further downhill in a split-legged position until her right heel finally let go of the remaining lip of the ridge and she rolled, bumped and skidded down the slope, eventually coming to a thaawhumping stop and blackness.

By the time she woke, Lydia was too numb to feel anything. She was impervious to the cold. Lying in a snow bank will do that to you. How did she get here? Right, the rustling sound. She looked up to get her bearings.

Movement caught the corner of her eye. She turned her now stiffening neck and saw a dark green garbage bag. It was snagged on a bush and ballooning out with trapped air, bobbing back and forth against the loose branches of a bush.

At least, she thought, now I have something to write about.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Another Violation

Joared's blog, Violation, brought back vivid memories of our own house break-in. I recall almost every detail.

Our sons were still in elementary school and the family had been away for a few days of skiing before Christmas. We came home in the evening and noticed the blinds in our bedroom were slightly pulled back. Hadn't we closed them? We entered the house and noticed the kitchen window was ajar. This should have sent us straight to the telephone to call the police. But for some reason -- perhaps denial -- we stupidly proceeded upstairs to the bedrooms. All the bedrooms had been ransacked, the drawers opened and the contents dumped onto the floor. All the boys' CDs and videos had been taken as well as their sports and movie collectibles.

We eventually called the police and, as in Joared's case, they figured the culprits were probably pretty young and inexperienced (they had found my jewellery, but took the cheap costume pieces - presumably because they were more glittery - and left a much more expensive pearl necklace and plain bracelet).

The worst part was that the thieves had taken all the family Christmas presents from under the tree. A few of the gifts had been painstakingly wrapped and decorated by my youngest. The look on his face when he realized his presents to me and his father were gone was heart-wrenching. That was probably the hardest to take. We kept telling him it was okay, that it didn't matter if he didn't have something for us. But we could tell, he wasn't buying it. It was too late to replace anything. Luckily, there were still a few presents from Santa, hidden in the back of my closet, that they hadn't found. We made the best of it, but it was a hard lesson for my heretofore sheltered sons that there are nasty people in the world who don't give a darn about others.

I think the incredible violation you feel after a break-in is only understood by those who have gone through the same thing. The thought that strangers have been in your home, touched your personal belongs, including your underwear is both creepy and unnerving. This feeling of violation is followed by a sense of outrage. How dare anyone take things that aren't theirs! How dare anyone ruin a child's Christmas! How dare they . . . !

I wondered what kind of kids these thieves were; wondered how they'd been raised; wondered about their parents; wondered if they were kids from the same community.

Most of all, I wanted them caught. I wanted them to know that what they did affect real people. I wanted them to know that their actions had consequences. I wanted someone to shake some sense of decency and moral obligation into them. And in the end, I held the notion that they could be changed into decent human beings who would care about fellow human beings.

I still think that way. Some people say it's naïve. I call it hopeful. That's me - a glass half full kind of gal.

Nowadays, I often think about young people I've met and passed along the way, particularly those who had difficult lives; were abused; were abusive; had unwanted pregnancies; got in trouble with the law; or had severe psychiatric problems. I wonder if they've been able to find the strength and support to make something more of their lives. I hope so.

Monday, August 06, 2007

It's Monday and B.C. Day

Today is B.C. Day, a statutory holiday in British Columbia, so it feels like a Sunday to me; the only difference being that I started the day with Boot Camp. Once I got that out of the way, I fell into my usual Sunday morning routine of surfing through old and new blogs.

I found a goldmine of new and interesting blogs through Imagine What I'm Leaving Out and kenju's post about her Creative Bloggers Award.

From that one post, I found:

Kay's Thinking Cap

which led me to:

Joy of Six

The View From Where I Sit

and Along the Way

which led me to

Golden Lucy's Spiral Journal

I've bookmarked them all and will be returning for more.

Then it was back to my own blog to read a comment left by Junebugg of Wasted Days Wasted Nights whom I added to my blogroll a couple of weeks ago.

And now, here I am to pass along my finds - though I suspect many of you have already discovered the above blogs because I see lots of familiar names amongst the various blogrolls. It reinforces my view that blogs really do encourage a sense of community.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Besides boot camp . . .

I'm doing other things besides boot camp. Really, I am.

Number One Son and his girlfriend are moving into a new apartment and they've co-opted me into helping them paint it this week. I'm the resident interior paint expert, having painted just about every room in every place (5) we've lived in over the past thirty-odd years.

The apartment is quite spacious for an older one-bedroom – about 760 square feet - with lots of windows and hardwood floors. The previous tenant, however, was a bit of a slob and left things in a pretty grungy state. I told NOS I'd help paint, but THEY had to deal with the cleaning! And they did, too.

The first job was the bedroom which had been painted a deep dark BLOOD RED (if I knew how to make "blood red" appear to be dripping, I would). I'm not sure what state of mind the previous renter was in when he painted it this colour, but I probably don't want to know. It was like entering a dark and dismal gothic cave.

After priming and two coats of paint, it's now a light and airy green called "Yellow Pear". We can't believe the difference. It makes the room look much larger.

The rest of the apartment had been painted in a patchwork of different colours: olive green, dark brown and taupe. It's now being painted a nice unifying light colour called Cuban Sand.

As of today, only the dining area, hallway and kitchen are left to be painted.

It's been rather fun. I got to be a fly on the wall watching the dynamics of NOS's relationship with his significant other in a way I don't normally see in regular social situations. It made me smile.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Boot Camp - Wk 2

Yee Ha! Another week down. It hasn't been exactly easier, but seems more doable.

The warm-up runs are still a challenge (I hate running) and I still finish at the back of the pack. I try to counteract this by starting my run early, so there won't be such a huge gap between me and the others. I can do the three laps non-stop now and finally did a 25-minute run (basically twice the distance) non-stop.

It's not that I didn't want to stop at least a dozen times. I just talked myself into continuing. I'd think, okay, you can start walking at the next driveway. The next driveway would come and I'd think; you can make it to the next tree; then the next corner, etc. until I finished. It's really a mind-game.

And I've figured out why people like to run with earplugs and music -- So they don't have to listen to themselves huffing and puffing with each step! When you're running alone, you can hear every single wheezing inhale, exhale and pounding step. Did I mention I hate running?

We work out at a public park adjacent to a high school track and it's in a very green, woodsy residential area. Lots of trees, grass, flowers and MOSQUITOES!

Now, I've always been a mosquito magnet. Given twenty people in the same room and one mosquito, it will zero in on ME. This week has been terrible. I'm being eaten alive by them. On Wednesday, I came home with over a dozen bites. Something had to be done. So heat or no heat, I've started wearing long sleeves and full-length workout pants.

This week, we were challenged to keep a diary of everything we eat and drink during the day. The purpose is to expose when and what we eat; and perhaps guilt us out of eating junk food (and ordering those side of fries) if we know it has to go on the diary. It actually works.

I love the way S puts things. She never tells us we "must" do anything. It's always stated as a challenge; to accomplish or not, as we see fit. As in, "Here's a challenge: don't drink anything but water the entire weekend. No juice, no pop, no alcohol." I think the biggest groans were about the no alcohol. I'm going to take her up on this one.

The rest has been much like the first week – hard, but not so hard that I want to quit. Muscles still get sore, but seem to feel better faster. Besides, I'm half-way done and it's all downhill from here, right? Right?

As a by-product of this experience, there has been one negative. I'm too tired at night to do any reading. I usually like to read an hour or so in bed before I sleep. These past two weeks, I haven't been able to keep my eyes open past the first page. But, I am sleeping better.

The good, the bad and the ugly of week 2:
- The Good: Finished a 25-minute run non-stop
- The Bad: Mosquitoes
- The Ugly: Mosquito bites the colour and size of cherry tomatoes.