Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Long Run, A Little Dog, and A Shawl That Looks Like a Slug

Great people do things before they're ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you're afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that's what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that's really special and if you're not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself. -- Amy Poehler
It's taken me all week to recover from my first half marathon. It's also taken me all week to decide how I felt about it all. There was a lot to think about.

But I'm getting ahead of myself: Last Sunday, I ran a big, long run in Vancouver on the morning of the second day of a heat wave.

The hubby drove me to the drop off area, and I cried a little because I was scared. It was hot for 7:30am. Heck, it would have been hot for 12:00 noon, and it was only going to get hotter. I made sure I drank a lot before I got to the site, made sure I used the porta-potty when I got there, then drank some more. I stood in my corral, and hugged a lady who told me she was terrified. I was terrified, too.

The pack started moving forward, and soon, our feet touched the starting line, our timing chips fired, and we started running. It was hot... humid hot. I could tell that my sweat was going to come, and that it might not evaporate the way I needed it to.

The first 10 kilometres were pretty good. When you enter these races by yourself, you find yourself just looking around and listening to the people around you. Some people chatted away to their running partners, and some were like me... just running along, breathing in and out, listening.

And then the hills came, and it became a moment to moment kind of experience. But I didn't panic, and I didn't crash. It was slow and steady. I drank fluids as often as possible, fuelled myself with chews and with my energy drinks like I planned to, ran through sprinklers when I could, and poured water over my head at each aid station after the halfway mark.  Somehow, I ended up running next to a guy dressed up as Elvis for the second half of the race (unless I was really hallucinating, but I can't say for sure). The hardest part was crossing the heated concrete of the Burrard Street Bridge. The city closed half the lanes to accommodate us, so it was full of cars with very ticked off people. I remember the heat shimmering off the concrete, up into my face, drying my sweat at the same time it was produced.

Eventually, I got to the point where I was searching for the finish line. I wanted to be finished. My eyes strained over the bobbing heads in front of me, and when I saw it, I started to pick up speed. When I watched the video at the end, I found out that was actually sprinting. I didn't know I could do that.

And when I got to the end, someone put a medal around my neck. Someone handed me cups of water, which I drank greedily. I walked through the crowds over to the tents, and found the tent for The Kidney Foundation of BC and the Yukon. I'd never met them before, but they knew I was coming. People I never met before took one look at me, read the name on my bib, and put their arms around me to hug me.

Through the generosity of my friends and coworkers, I raised $3,761.17 to help them support other families, just like they supported me.

I met a woman who had run the 5k that was running parallel to my race. I was admiring her running shoes, and she told me that they were a gift from her son, who was in the hospital waiting for her and her husband. "He's doing dialysis right now. I wanted to give him my kidney, and we were a match, but the anatomy of my kidney is too complicated for him to accept."

And I told her that everything would work out... that everything would be fine. And I thought about all that time I spent running that morning... about how he was in the hospital waiting for his mom and dad the whole time.

The run was hard... but the tough part for me was over.

My final time was slower than I wanted to be, but I had to make a decision near the beginning of the run: run to the program and risk being seriously ill afterwards, or run it as smart as I could and see what happened. And what happened was I finished it with no pain, and without getting heatstroke.

I found the hubby, and I got into the car with my sweaty clothes, and we drove towards the ferry terminal. We found a leisure centre, where the woman behind the desk watched me stagger in with my race bib still pinned to my front, and let me in for free to let me take a shower.

We went into the port. We were too early for our boat, so we went and relaxed at the Starbucks. A woman left her dog with us while she went off to run errands. He was a cute little surprise.

On the boat, I took out my crochet project, and finished all the yarn. The second half the pattern was confusing, and it didn't match the first half: the decreases weren't working out properly. But I decided that it was just like my race: not quite how I imagined it, but still a pretty good result...

... even though it kind of looks like a striped slug.

The stitches are quite striking.

It took me all week to feel normal enough to actually block it, and it's so hot right now that I only managed to throw it over my shoulders for a couple of bathroom selfies before it was too uncomfortable to wear. I think I might use it to fend against the A/C chill of the office this week.

So, how do I feel about all this?

I wish I was faster. I wish I had felt more prepared. I wish I felt lighter, that I felt more like a real runner.

I wish I knew how hard the week after was going to be. I've woken up each night feeling hungry and sore, with aching muscles and swollen feet, feeling lonely and depressed and disappointed that I wasn't faster.

But... I'm glad I did it. I learned a lot about myself: about what happens when I am faced with a long stretch of road that I'm supposed to run on. And I'm proud that I took it on. And no, I won't do it again. It's not my distance... too long for me. And maybe that's was the point. I needed to learn that I can't plan every single thing to my advantage. I can't calculate everything into submission. It was a race that didn't quite to according to plan.

But it's a freakin' cool medal.

I bought new running shoes the other day, and I signed up for another race: a 10k in November. And you know... now that I think of it, I'm proud that 10k is an easy race now. I know how to do that.

And I'm glad I can go back to my yarn and spend a bit more time with it. I spent some time last night, day dreaming about what I was going to make next. I feel like I've come home and found and old friend waiting for me.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Climb

Me in Jasper in 2006

I didn't know I liked any Miley Cyrus songs. I haven't followed the charts since I was a teenager. I usually turn on the radio and listen to whatever comes on, and if I don't like it, I turn it off. My commute hasn't been longer than 10 minutes for nearly ten years, so really, music artists only get 20 minutes out of my day (on a good day) to get my attention.

So, last night, driving home after a long day, I hear this song come on. I've heard it before, just background noise on my drive to or from work... but the first time, I listen to it. And it puts tears in my eyes, because I'm supposed to be running 21km  (13.1 miles) on Sunday: the longest I've ever run. And I thought about how I used to weigh over 300 pounds, how it used to be hard to go up and down stairs, how it all started with just spending 30 minutes less on the couch each day... and how changing my habits meant I could give my mom a kidney without any repercussions to my own health.

And all this training: It's probably the second hardest thing I've ever done (after giving someone a kidney). It has been a lot of work. It's taken a lot of focus, and a lot of commitment to make sure I eat properly, sleep enough, stretch enough, relax enough. It's forced me to stay right in the moment at all times, because when you're running for over two hours, if you start panicking in the first 20 minutes, you're screwed. And I've dealt with pain: pain while running, and the pain of admitting that I was injured and had to stop for a couple of weeks. And then the fear of failing: I've sat in tears some mornings, trying to convince myself that I can do this, and that I can't let all these people who have supported me down by giving up.

I've learned that I can't rely on anyone else to keep me going but me. And this is not the only difficult thing I will ever have to do in life. And yeah, maybe it's not important to anyone else in the grand scheme of things, but it's made me a different person in a short period of time. Maybe I know how to do these hard things just a little bit better now.

So, before she started swinging on wrecking balls, Miley said a few things that actually mean something to me. Heh. Who knew?
There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waitin' on the other side
It's the climb...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Inheriting the Making Gene

It's Father's Day today, and I'm thinking about how I inherited my love of making stuff from both my parents. Dad is always working on something, even in retirement. He's got a vegetable garden on the go that I'm betting will have some really tasty tomatoes pretty soon. I think that it's his need to make things that keeps him active and healthy... and I'm grateful I got some of that from him.

Yesterday was bright, dry and sunny, but with a nice cool breeze. We went to the pool for a swim, then I had a massage after lunch. I booked it for pure therapy: my body has been feeling pretty beaten up with all the training. I must have really needed it, because, even though the masseuse was working through some pretty serious knots, I was almost asleep near the end. Sigh, I need more of those.

When I got home, I took advantage of the cool day to get some baking done. I know it sounds kind of "Little House on the Prairie" to say that I NEED to bake, but really: when the weather is as warm as it has been, I take advantage of any opportunity I can get to make my daily snacks. It's a consequence of being too cheap to buy granola bars.

On the left, my regular Banana Oat Snack Cakes, with half the sugar and with avocado instead of butter. I usually have one every day - good source of potassium and iron. On the right, chocolate cupcakes, made with bananas and applesauce and 3/4 of the sugar in the original recipe. And yes, they're both delicious... and I eat one of each every day!

A sunny day that is cool enough for baking = pretty awesome day.

Later on, I made a batch of Silken Tofu Chocolate Pudding, which I served in one of the vintage glass dessert dishes I was lucky enough to snag at an antique store. Before I took the photo, I grabbed a few blueberries off one of the bushes in the garden, as well as a couple of mint leaves from the plant bed. Photogenic, and so good:

Tonight, I made chicken and dumplings - one of the hubby's favourite dinners. I also made a bunch of Southern Fried Tofu for lunch this week. And tonight, I'll keep working on my Draco Shawl, which I making pretty good progress on.

In truth, a lot of this making stuff is distracting my brain from the fact that my half marathon is officially one week away now, and I'm trying not to panic. I'm working through a nagging injury that is scary, but seems to be manageable if I'm smart about it. I did a 13km (8 mi) run this morning with only slight discomfort in places. Lots of rest and massage and stretching and more resting is on the table for this week. It hasn't been easy, and if there's one thing I've learned, it's that you have to be careful who you tell your fears to when the going gets tough. And, at the end of the day, you can't quit just because something is difficult.

That's another thing I learned from my Dad. Happy Father's Day!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Eyes Open, Brain On

It's been a long week... and a short week... or so I think. Jet lag does this. You are so tired, but you just can't stay asleep. And you're hungry at all the wrong times. And you can't remember if you said something aloud, or if you just dreamed it. Jet lag: it sucks.

We arrived back at our home on Sunday, about mid-afternoon. I've done the trans-Atlantic voyage lots of times, but it's always harder coming back this way. And it's not the longest haul I've ever done, but maybe it's just harder when you get older. Bleh.

The longest of the flights wasn't too bad. The seat next to me was empty, which meant I could dump some of my stuff onto it rather than jamming it into the seat pocket in front of me to get smooshed by my knees every few minutes. I passed the time by doing quite of lot of work on my shawl... and by "work," I mean ripping out a ton of stitches and re-doing them after I realized how far off my stitch count was. It was pretty ok: I watched a couple of movies and snoozed a bit, but I never get any true rest on a plane. Nine and half hours is a long time to try to find the bright side of sitting uncomfortably. Near the end of the flight, I discovered the kids' music channel. A couple of minutes listening to the Disney album brightened things up considerably. It turns out that I will sing along aloud to "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast pretty much anywhere, even if I'm surrounded by rows and rows of very tired people.

I went back to work on Tuesday. By Friday, I had finally caught up again with the sun. I sleep when it's dark, and I'm awake when it's light, which is a real accomplishment. I mostly eat when I'm supposed to, but a bake sale at work sort of threw a wrench into those plans. Peanut butter marshmallow squares are a terrible kryptonite, as were the four chocolate cupcakes in the background. Yeah, I bought them. I didn't have any change. I wanted to support the bake sale. And it was a tiring week, ok?

I'm glad to be back in my own surroundings, even though my weariness has meant that my projects being worked on much. I was glad to make it to the weekend, when I could down for a couple of hours and work on my shawl. It's Katherine Mills' Draco Shawl, which is a clever pattern that makes use of decreases and increases to give a swirly, spiky look. My version should be interesting, since I'm using a very skinny yarn, a much smaller hook, and a heck of a lot more yarn. The instructions for the decreasing section are strange, so I ditched them and basically did the reverse of the increase section. So far, I'm liking the simplicity and the texture of the stitch pattern (which I altered to sc, ch2, sc to make the spaces between each stitch larger). I'm curious to see how it blocks - I'd like it to be as swoopy as the original one:

Today, I finally got around to taking photos of my shrug, which has been sitting complete for nearly a month now... I honestly can't remember when I finished it. One of the pictures is a bit blurry, but it took me a long time to lever myself off the couch to fix my hair and take photos of it (I ran 19km/12 miles this morning, and I got stuck on the couch). It's about the best I can come up with today. I'm quite happy with it, given that there was a lot of improvising to make the sleeves a little wider and a little longer. I think I'll get some use of it this summer:

And while sitting here writing this post, I did pick up the camera and take a shot of the arm, which shows the colours of the yarn more accurately. It's like honeydew and cantaloupe together, no? 

In all, I'm glad to be back in the swing of things. My half marathon is in two weeks, and honestly, I can't wait for it to be all over. Maybe it's all the upheaval of the past few months that has made it even more difficult than I imagined, but the training wasn't at all as steady as I'd hoped for. After the event is over, I plan to celebrate with a summer full of good ol' sittin' on the couch.

I think I'll get started on that right now! Have a good week!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Black and White Keys

Life is like a piano; the white keys represent happiness and the black show sadness. But as you go through life's journey, remember that the black keys also create music. -- Ehssan
All of a sudden, I'm on the other side of the world. Life is interesting, if sometimes uncomfortable... and sometimes undesirable. It's true what they say: Anything is possible.

We're in Belfast right now. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon, local time. We didn't plan to be here, but ironically, the decision to be here came on the day we were planning to visit. In short: the hubby's father passed on last Friday. We got the news literally hours after we had booked our tickets for a visit this September. The next morning, we booked another set.

And here we are.

When your family is far away, you always have a stash of money for exactly this reason. I've had a stash ever since I first left Canada to live in the United Kingdom after I graduated from university. I still have it now that I'm back in Canada. There will never be any question as to whether or not we will come home, where that is.

We've been tidying, planning, visiting, making phone calls, and doing chores. And we've been resting whenever we can. We've had some help with the resting part... or at least, someone is good at showing us how to do that:

When I was looking at the forecast to decide what to pack, I decided to bring these socks along, both for warmth against the late spring showers, and for the lovely comfort of hand knit socks. No, I did not knit them: they're the ones my friend Linette made for me as a gift when she came for her visit a few weeks ago (Was it only a few weeks ago? It seems like a lifetime!). They've been perfect comfort socks, and they've already been washed a dried a couple of times. Superwash wool for socks is a lovely thing:

And, of course, I brought a project to keep my hands busy. I pulled out two more balls of mercerized cotton, another colourway of the same yarn I used to make my Artful Infinity Cowl. I packed the same crochet hook, but had no real plans for what I was going to make. After a sleepless flight, two days of jet lag, and a lot of ripping out and starting over, I think I've got something on the go now. I'm liking it so far:

The last few months have really forced me to face one of the things I fear the most: The loss of someone close to you. And you know, there is no getting used to it - no way, no how, at least, not for me. But it would be very, very easy to slip into that "one thing after another" pattern of thought. Can't I just have a break? Why can't life just be easy for a change?

But I don't think that's a road I want to go down. I'm choosing to sit here in life... to face it in stillness and contemplation and curiosity, rather than to drown it out with distractions or food or commiserating. I don't think I would have chosen that a couple of years ago. I don't know what's changed. Perhaps it's the realization of the inevitable... and the choice to value each moment while I can.

I'm still training for my half marathon while I'm out here. I've been fitting it in when I get a few hours to myself. And each time I hit the wall and each step starts to get more difficult than the one before, this thought comes to me:
The time will pass, no matter what. It's what happens during that time that matters. And why not choose to do this as the time passes? I could be doing worse.
I'm glad you chose to come here and read these words as well. Thanks for using your time for this. It means a great deal to me.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tired vs. Hungry

There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep. -- Homer

Time seems to have warped on me. All that extra time I talked about in a previous blog post? It didn't last long. It ended up being taken up with one thing:

Being tired.

Training for a half marathon doesn't necessarily make you faster, nor will it necessarily make you thinner. It won't necessarily make you look younger, either.

But it will make you tired.

It's the kind of tired where you are sitting in front of your dinner in the evening, and suddenly realize that you could join those tired kids you keep seeing on the internet who have face-planted right into their mashed potatoes.

It's the kind of tired where you keep finding your pyjama pants on the kitchen floor, and you don't know how they got there, nor do you care.

It's the kind of tired where you force yourself to get up at 5:00am, even on the weekends, because you know that it's going to be a heck of a lot of work to get back into the habit if you don't.

So, the few minutes I might have spent knitting during the week have dissolved into a blur. I get home, make and eat dinner, then get down on the yoga mat to do some exercises and stretches before I go upstairs and go to bed. I dare not knit. I've said it time and time again: friends don't let tired friends knit.

It's a long weekend here this weekend. Not surprisingly, having a long weekend has been great for me... but I haven't been knitting as much as I'd hoped. On Saturday, I made some banana oat cakes to have for snacks this week at work. I've started making them with avocado instead of butter. I also use muffin liners for a quicker baking time and so that I wouldn't have to fuss about trying to cut them into squares:

After that, we went out for lunch and then went kayaking in and around the harbour. We saw sea lions and lots of little fish swimming beneath us. I don't have any photos, though: I'm too paranoid about dropping my electronics into the salt water, even if they are in a "water tight" pouch. Suffice to say that it was a beautiful way to get some fresh air, sun, and exercise. I wanted to come home and knit afterwards, but I think I got a bit too much sun and ended up sleeping for an hour on the couch and was groggy for the rest of the evening. Heh.

Yesterday morning, I woke up early and had some pre-run fuel (peanut butter on toast and a banana), and then did a few little chores while I waited for it to digest. I decided to soak the military bag I wrote about in my last post in some diluted vinegar, because it seems to have a developed a mouldy, musty smell. Then, I went out ran 17 kilometres (10.5 miles). I came home, sat down on my yoga mat to stretch out my hips, and to eat my post-run porridge (which is so yummy, it's worth eating whether you run or not). And, as much as running makes you tired, it makes you hungry ALL THE TIME, which means I eat a snack every 30 minutes for the next two or three hours. By noon, I was so sleepy that I decided to eat a larger lunch so that I could take a long nap without being woken up by a growling stomach. It's not easy to be in the middle of a war between your weariness and your hunger.

Admittedly, the weariness is possibly another excuse to procrastinate. I mean, I could be knitting right now, but I chose to write this blogpost. And in the middle of writing this blogpost, I went looking for the link for the porridge recipe above on my Pinterest, during which I decided to reorganize my Pinterest boards (because alphabetizing things is important).

And I won't tell you how many YouTube videos I've watched this week while lying on the couch after work. I've seen more singing dog videos than I care to admit.

I will add, however, that this weariness I'm feeling is nothing compared to what you feel when you are struggling with chronic or terminal illness... which is why I am training for this half marathon in the first place. More info on that here.

Luckily, the hubby had the great idea of downloading Season 5 of Downtown Abbey the other day, so last night, I FINALLY sat my butt down, put my feet up, and actually did some knitting. My bolero is getting closed to being finished. If I give myself a couple of hours today, I might actually finish it. I'll sit out on the deck next to my military bag as it dries in the sunshine and get a few rounds in.

But I might need a nap this afternoon first... after I eat some cream cheese and blueberries on a homemade roll with my cinnamon latte. I might actually be able to stay awake long enough to eat it all. And the hubby made the rolls this time, because I was too tired (and grumpy) to make them myself:

41 days until my half marathon. Wake me up when it's time.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Walking the Same Way

Someone told me once that sometimes, when you're walking though life, you meet people who are walking the same way. And these people you walk with... they usually have their eyes on the same things that you do.

My friend, Linette, came for a visit a little over a week ago. The funny thing is that Linette and I haven't even really known each other all that long: we're friends of friends who meet once a year for a coffee at Christmas time and talk yarn. On the surface, it seems strange to open your home to someone you've only really spent a few hours with...

...but we're walking the same way with our eyes on the same things.

It's always nice to have visitors who have similar interests to your own. Having Linette over meant that I could indulge in exploring antique shops, markets, and of course, yarn stores, without having to rush and with someone to muse over our respective discoveries. I joked that I might have bought more souvenirs than she did, and what of it? How often does one have a "staycation" anyway?

I hadn't had anyone stay over as a guest since we moved here nearly two years ago, and so my brain was full of things we could do. The planner in me made an itinerary, complete with rest stops and necessary cafes. The dreamer in me just said, "Whatever. There's so much to see and do. Let's just see what happens."

The first day, we went to Coombs, and wandered through the mishmash of stores along the road by the market. I brought home a lovely vintage military shoulder bag, something I've been covering for a while. It'll be a good bag for hiking this summer, perfect for a water bottle and a sandwich:

It's where we found City Style Barbie.  Imagine Barbie in Canada in the 1980's, power shopping at The Bay, and then giving her hair a quick tease and hairspray spritz before she meets up with Ken for a drinks and dinner.

The box is unopened and priced at just over $150. She's In there, waiting in her Chanel suit. We wondered how many little girls had one... and the disappointment they felt the first time they tried to run a brush through that hair. What a world.

I managed to bring home slightly more useful treasures (even though Barbie would have made a great conversation piece). I found this cute ceramic egg separator, which I appreciate as much for its looks as for its function. It'll be a good excuse to make some custards and angel food cakes. It's a great world when you are given excuses to make cakes, eh?

We visited a lot of antique stores while she was here, and we played a lot of, "what do you think this is?" I learned that this is a cast iron pan for ebelskivers, which are Danish-style donuts. You can buy new ones at Williams-Sonoma, but I think this one is cooler... even if it's so heavy that you need to bend your knees to lift it.

Linette is also a foodie like me, an therefore supported me fully when I decided to buy a 10 pound box of red peppers (it was $10, how could I turn it down?) Our collective cooking skills allows us to get through about a dozen during her visit before we admitted defeat and froze the rest:

And, as foodies, we appreciated the cute little fox in the lemon poppy seed muffin she got at one of the many cafes we visited:

We went somewhere new for me, which made it a true staycation. Damali Lavender & Winery was a site I cycled past last summer during my bike challenge, but never had a chance to visit. It was well worth the wait:

That house is the b&b you can stay at, and all those shrubs are lavender bushes getting ready to bloom. Even without the flowers, the place smelled peaceful and lovely, and made us talk with airy voices until we drove away. I brought home a bottle of dessert wine, flavoured with berries and lavender, and a vial of lavender oil. I've been putting drops of it on cotton balls to put in a dish next to me while I do my evening yoga:

And I might have bought a little yarn. I mean, what sort of knitting friend would I be if we didn't visit a few yarn stores along the way? And what kind of knitting friend would I be if I didn't pave the way to the till? This skein of 100% laceweight silk from Handmaiden crept into my hands and stayed there. The colourway is called Raven, and it is a perfect name: the blacks and blues on the shimmery silk are exactly like the raven's wing:

And a bargain buy of discontinued Marvel for $3.00 a ball. I'm picturing a swingy little cardi to keep me warm from the dreaded air conditioning of the summer. Gah, I hate air conditioning:

And, of course, we sat about an knitted and talked about our families, our jobs, and our dreams. I've made lots of progress on my shrug, and she made a lot of progress on her shawl.

As I sit here, I realize that I have yet to photograph the pair of socks she made for me as a gift. Socks! For me! Without even knowing my shoe size! And, and and... they fit perfectly! I must make sure I get a good photo of it in daylight to show them off. What a lovely gift.

And yeah, that's what it means when you are walking the same way: you appreciate the same things, and you feel grateful for any time you get to spend with someone who is striding along with you. What a great little holiday for the both of us.

And I even get to walk a bit of the way in my own handmade socks. Woohoo!