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Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Explaining Monsters

December 20, 2012 2 comments

I’ve been explaining monsters out of our house for years. To emphasize they’re not there, I get a flashlight and shine it underneath their beds, and always, always, close their closet doors. Tight. After the monsters come the questions about robbers and murderers. How, they ask, do we know we will be safe? Oh babe, we live in a VERY safe community, we have an alarm system, and I wake up when a pin drops.

Don’t worry; you’re safe. It’s my job to keep you safe. Sleep tight.

Ella

When I heard the breaking news about a gunman in Connecticut in an elementary school, I did what most people did. I turned off the news, and have been careful not to listen to it since in the company of my children.

Because some monsters can’t be explained, and some crimes are so heinous they can’t be considered.

I know I can’t shelter them forever, someday they will learn about this unfathomable tragedy, but every day that goes by that they are naive to these monsters is another day of innocence, another day of childhood the way it should be, wherein I just need to explain the monsters underneath the bed, and not the ones that walk into elementary schools with semi-automatic weapons.

Meanwhile, I’m piecing together my response for the day they hear of this tragedy, the response that is supposed to alleviate both their fears and mine. The one wherein I explain our country’s laws against handguns, and the resulting lower murder rates, and the distance we are from Connecticut, and so on. The response where I emphasize that this will never happen to them.

Or so I hope.

Because of course it could.

So as I sat in my daughter’s Christmas concert yesterday, the one where she dressed up as a penguin who encounters Santa Clause after his sleigh has crash landed, the only thing I could think about was how lucky I was. The only thing she worried about before going to sleep the previous night was forgetting her lines.

Another day of innocence.

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Second time’s a charm – A better marathon experience

November 24, 2010 2 comments

No pain, no gain!

My first marathon was no triumph, as you will glean from my last post, My First Marathon (warning: NOT a success story).

It left me with a bad taste in my mouth and an ache in my knee just thinking about it.  So in the years immediately following it, I erased it from my memory, and kicked my running habit to the curb.  We moved to London, England, smack dab in the middle of the city.  Aside from a few magical predawn runs down Pall Mall, I found it generally too busy and smoggy to run, so I didn’t;  I even had an opportunity to train with an amazingly multicultural, international running group, including some incredibly fit Kenyans, but I politely declined.  A stupid mistake in retrospect, but at the time I had no interest.  My running days were done, I thought.

Missing the sweet combination of ocean and mountains that we are spoiled by in Vancouver, we moved back and started a family.  I was in various stage of pregnancy and post pregnancy for the next six years, so running took on new meaning: it was invaluable self time.  I got to listen to music, think, and feel like the person I used to be before having tiny dependents affixed to my legs for the better part of most days (and nights).  It was a welcome respite.  I rekindled my romance with my former favorite pastime.

We took it slowly, flirting in the beginning with short, half hour runs, often with the baby jogger along as a third wheel.  As our attraction mounted, we started dating Sunday mornings for longer runs.  I found a 10 km training schedule in Impact magazine that coincided perfectly for the upcoming Vancouver Sun Run, and we were officially an item.  I was back in love with running.

I was particularly pleased with a half marathon time I eventually posted, and the thought of training for another marathon crept into my mind.  When I got home I immediately plugged my finishing time into one of those handy (yet for the most part useless) marathon calculators to see if I could possibly qualify for  the Boston Marathon – if I was going to to do this again, I wanted to take it to the next level, and in my books running Boston was shooting for the stars.  According to this very unscientific predictor, I would qualify easily.  Ignoring the fact that I could not have run another step after that half, let alone another thirteen miles, I decided to give it a whirl.

I found a free training program online.  It was boldly entitled “The Boston Qualifier Program”.  That should work, I thought, and printed it off.  It had one main problem:  it wasn’t tailored for any particular age group, and used time instead of miles, so instead of calling for a six mile run, it said to run for an hour.  But the qualifying time for a twenty year old man is drastically different from that of a fifty year old female, for instance, so the fact that we were all running the same amount of time for long runs puzzled me.  However, it had promised success in the title, so I stuck with it.

I faithfully followed this program.  Save for tweaking it in a few places to substitute spinning classes for those throw away runs – easy days to pad your mileage – I somewhat blindly did what it told me to do, hoping its creator knew what they were doing, and had not published it as a hoax.

There had been a few improvements registered in the running world since I had turned my nose up at it.  The proliferation of GPS watches was a big one: I had a much better handle on my pacing and mileage thanks to this Christmas present.  Gels and power bars were very much on the scene, and helped to sustain me better on long runs, as did water enhanced with electrolytes.  And it was much easier to find physiotherapists and chiropractors with running expertise who could treat injuries.  A new day had dawned since my first marathon, thirteen years earlier.

With technology on my side and scientifically improved nutrition, and the “Boston Qualifier” program in my back pocket, I felt ready to do battle with the marathon again.  The Victoria Marathon – flat and beautiful – would be my testing ground.

Tight IT bands had been causing me knee pain in the run up to the race.  My main worry was this would pose a problem for me, as it usually did after mile sixteen.  The night before the race, as I restlessly paged through old Runner’s World magazines, I came across an article about preparing for your marathon.  The tip that most resonated with me was to decide beforehand what type of pain would stop you in your tracks, and what pain you would run through.  I’d been told by more than one medical professional that my IT bands would not snap if I continued to run even though pain was present.  I decided to ignore any pain my knee might throw at me, and only stop if I felt discomfort that was alarmingly different.

My other worry about the race was that it would rain, but race day dawned sunny and beautiful, and a temperate 12 degrees Celsius – ideal running conditions.  I drank a glass of water – instead of the two liters I had consumed before my last marathon – and headed to the starting line.

Things went swimmingly and according to plan up until the halfway mark when my right knee started hurting, four miles too early by my calculation.  I tried to shake it out mid stride, the people around me throwing me strange looks, but I ignored them because it seemed to relieve it.  I tried to change my stride a little, putting my right foot down gingerly, or kicking up my back heel more than usual.  Just when I thought it was subsiding it would seize up again, and I would go through the motions to try to loosen it.

Otherwise I felt great.  I was inspired when the out and back course afforded a view of the leaders, and they effortlessly strode past us.  I repeatedly saw some spectators that held up a sign reading “My Grandma thinks you’re hot!” which cracked me up every time.  I was well under my projected time by mile sixteen, and thought if I could run four miles with the pain, I could probably finish, and plugged on.  The knee pain slowed me down a tad, but I tried to focus on the beautiful scenery and my fellow runners.  I stubbornly ignored the pain as it came and went, and by mile twenty I decided there was no stopping me.

The last three miles are always a question mark – most of us don’t run that far for our long runs, so you wonder how you will possibly get through them.  I didn’t feel great – my legs were shouting “enough!” – but I was still determined to finish this and meet the qualifying standard for Boston.  The miles ticked down, one by one, until finally there was only one to go.  There weren’t many spectators at this point, many choosing instead to line up on the final stretch, but someone had stuck posters to telephone poles that read “You’ve made it this far – you can’t quit now!” Quite right.

I savored the final stretch.  People were cheering so loudly they managed to drown out the searing pain in my knee, and although it may have looked like I was hobbling, in my mind’s eye I was flying.  This was the more like the ending I had been hoping for, thirteen years ago.

Better late than never.

Home Exchange.com – Let the Games Begin

November 20, 2010 2 comments
The Eiffel Tower.

Image via Wikipedia

We want to bring some unique travel experiences to our childrens lives, expose them to new languages and countries rich in history, show them there is more to the world than our small enclave, preferably while eating good food and watching people who are much more fashionable than us.

In other words, we want to go to Europe.

Up until now, I have felt they were too young to travel long distances.  I thought they would get more out of a camping trip an hour from our house then dragging them to another continent.  But now they are eleven, nine and six; the older two in particular eager for new adventures.  Our youngest will go along with whatever her sisters want, so she is a moot point.

If we are schlepping them so far, it stands to reason we want to be there for a while, preferably a month.  The accommodation price tag alone of housing a family of five would quickly bankrupt us.  So yesterday, I joined HomeExchange.com.

Friends of ours have used this successfully to travel to France and Australia, meeting great families in the process.  We thought we would throw our ring into the hat, and see if we can pull out a rabbit.  Or a castle.

The other day, as sunlight filtered in through our windows – a rare sight in November – I was inspired to photograph our digs.  I ran around, stashing piles of crap in drawers, stuffing clothing underneath beds, and turning lights on even though it was daytime, and cursed myself once again for not taking a photography course.

I miraculously found my USB cord and loaded them onto my computer.  This must be a sign that good things, and surely castles, are coming my way.  Next, I cleverly searched the internet for a coupon for HomeExchange.com; and the first one I found actually worked.  A definite sign.  Call me Princess.  Am I actually becoming internet savvy or have they just dumbed it down?

I filled out the required information about our home, trying hard to not sound like a used car salesman, yet clever enough for our listing to scream “castles only need apply!” in a very discreet way, of course.  I finished the writing part, but then had to search their directory to figure out how to load photos.  It was the first Frequently Asked Question, so again I patted my internet-savvy self on the back, since I clearly was not the first person to inquire about this.

There were four places to list where you would like to travel, so along with France and Italy for this summer, I also added Maui and Naramata, for March break and August, respectively.  You can’t win if you don’t play.  How cool would it be if we could get a sweet place in Hawaii or the Okanagan on a lark?

Presto.  After two hours of work, and a grand total of $85 (the cost for a yearly membership, after my crafty coupon) chez nous is open for business.  Fingers crossed that this experience doesn’t resemble National Lampoon’s European Vacation.

Om – Podcasts

November 17, 2010 11 comments
Yoga Class at a Gym

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been a devotee of yoga for seven years now.  It’s a required pastime for West Coasters, a stamp you need on your passport should you decide to live here.  You need to know the difference between Ashtanga and Hatha, know whether you like Bikram’s or not, and have a favorite studio, as baseline requirements.

But there are drawbacks.  It can be expensive – $2o a class equals my entire coffee budget for the week; time consuming – getting to my favorite studio is a 30 minute journey, making an hour long class takes a minimum of two hours, and I worry about the strain on the environment since I need to drive there.

Once there, it is a crap shoot whether I have a plum spot by a window, or am wedged into a corner next to smelly guy who clearly does not believe in deodorant, or bathing, making the entire experience unpleasant no matter how fantastic the instructor.

Yet the benefits are huge – unless I happened to be wedged in the corner next to smelly guy, I inevitably float out of class, my whole being feeling relaxed yet stronger then when I entered the room, my mind quieted (I don’t reach a meditative state necessarily, but as close as I can come, definitely a stiller state).  My posture has improved immeasurably, now when I am mad or stressed I feel my shoulders creep up next to my ears, so I breathe and bring them down – tiny yoga postures used in everyday life.  Opening my hips has drastically reduced my running injuries. Even the mantras take their toll eventually, although that took a long time for me: take the best pose you can for this day, recognizing that each day is different.

Hands down, I would prefer to do a yoga class than receive a massage, so that’s saying something.

But pressed for time and money, as we all are, it’s hard to justify doing as much yoga as I would like.   So I’ve taken to unfurling my mat at home and doing free yoga podcasts on iTunes.  I get the benefits of a fantastic class in a fraction of the time and at a greatly reduced cost (free is the right price for me).

I’ve found an instructor I love – Elsie Escobar – she is quirky yet incredibly knowledgeable.  I tend to gravitate towards people who don’t take themselves too seriously, and Elsie is exactly that.  She often has a great life message in the beginning, but if I’m really in a hurry I fast forward to the beginning of the practice.  And (sorry Yogi’s, you may not want to read my next sentence) if in a really big rush, I don’t do savasana.  There is nothing worse than lying in savasana and making lists of all the things you could be doing if you could just get off this mat.

There are hundreds of podcasts listed, so you can easily do a different one each time, although I certainly have my favorites that I return to on a regular basis.

And best of all: no smelly guy to worry about.  Long live yoga podcasts.