Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Reads: The Path of Minor Planets by Andrew Sean Greer

Last year, I read a couple of Andrew Sean Greer's books (here and here) and adored them.  Somehow I just never carried on to read more of them and realized a couple of weeks ago that it was time to change that streak :)

This book begins on a small island with a group of scientists and grad students out to celebrate the return of Comet Swift - a comet discovered by a Californian professor.   The celebration is suddenly daarkened by a terrible accident as a young boy falls to his death on the rocks below.  The rest of the book bounces around this group and the effect this accident has had on their perception of the world over the next 25 years.  Through love and loss, trysts and trials.  These scientists grow their careers (or fail to) and characters come and go.  Then, all too late, they realize mistakes that were made.

I liked the book, but I felt like it was lacking in something.  Like it missed the mark somehow.  

It was so easy to get lost in the words of this book that I was well over halfway through it before I realized that I had no idea who the main characters were.  It was as though everyone was given equal billing but no one was given prominence.  Andrew Sean Greer has an amazing way of writing there incredibly eloquent and beautiful worlds.  He is amongst my favourite authors for that reason.  In this book, however, I feel like I missed something.  Like it was buried within that beautiful world and I missed the meaning.  Or maybe that was the point. That we are all minor players in this world and each have our own story to tell as long as someone is willing to listen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Workout Wednesday: The Journey

Once upon a time, I used to get asked for my story a fair bit...about how I lost 50lbs and ran a marathon (3-4 years ago).  And then I gained back 40lbs and people stopped asking.  For the past year, I have struggled - not only with that unhealing fracture, but also with my weight.  Last winter alone, I gained almost 20 of those pounds and the time has come to actually do something about it all.

Funny thing is that I knew what I was doing.  That I was enjoying the junk food I was shoveling into my mouth. I was enjoying taking seconds at dinner.  I liked sitting on the couch and nibbling my way through a bag of chips...or candies.  I REALLY liked my pilgrimages to the cafe at work for that XL latte everyday.  I'm not an idiot - I KNOW how I got here.  I'm not looking back saying "It was just yesterday I was skinny!"  I just figured when I recommitted, I knew what to do to make it budge.

That's the magic word right there "WHEN".  I pretended to start a few times.  I thought I could use my injury as time to refocus my energies in this way.  I didn't count on the depression and exasperation that would follow that injury and thwart my efforts.  I just count myself lucky that I kept the gain in check for those six months while I healed.   But muscle loss isn't a maintenance strategy.

This week, I took a pretty daunting step for me.   I don't like to ask for help.  I like to be the one who figures it all out.  The one who benchmarks her own success.   I don't like to NEED anything.

But I DO need help.  So, I signed up for Weight Watchers online.   Three months to kickstart some successes. I chose the online program because my life is NOT conducive to meetings and public weigh ins.  But it is enough to hold me a bit more accountable.  At $85 for 3 months, I actually thought it was a fairly reasonable price to pay.  If I don't feel it's working, and I've given it my best, then I won't continue with it. But for now, I plan to get my money's worth.

I'm on day two and am feeling pretty strong.   I'm also using the opportunity to clean up my family meals and introduce some new veggies to my kids.  Thus far, they aren't fact I believe they loved their reintroduction to roasted sweet potatoes last least that's what the lack of leftovers for my lunch today told me.

I am also using this as a chance to break away from daily weigh ins.  Somehow when I bought my fitbit scale, I became addicted to the instant charts.  So I would weigh in every day to chart my fluctuations and the only benefit that came of that was that I got to watch the graph line climb.   Not much of a benefit...

But September is a fresh slate.  I am feeling better, both about myself and my mental state.  I get to start running again.  I am cleaning up my eating. I'm planning for success. My journey is continuing.   I just need concentrate on one step...on one a time...and it won't take long.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Realities of Starting Over

In just under two weeks I get my second chance.  A chance to start over with running and do it right this time.   Ok - arguably, I did a few things right the first time but I wouldn't have ended up broken for 6 months if I'd done a few things differently.

Yes - six months.  No running for nearly six months.  Broken for nearly seven.  Has it truly been that long?

Needless to say - I really am starting over.  September first doesn't mark the beginning of my picking up where I left off.  Six months off has left me with no base.  The fact that I haven't been able to do anything lower body means that I have muscle loss and my cumulative inactivity have left me with seriously reduced endurance.  I go in knowing this.

I am starting from scratch...and I am actually okay with that.

In some respects, I'm lucky.  I have somehow managed to not gain more than a couple of pounds in that 6 months off.  In reality, I know that this is because as I lost muscle, I've gained fat.  Not good.

This starting over is also going to be starting over with my diet.  My willpower is already protesting, but it is going to be really important going forward because every extra pound I carry is an extra pound reverberating through my bones with each step.  Truth.

The plan:
  • Start Couch to 5k on Sept 1: Dr. Dale told me I can run for 5 mins that day.  Couch to 5k is around that for run time so will work well for easing me back in.  I have a lady in my office who is interested in learning to run too, so we're going to do it together.  At what point should I warn her that I'm a blogger? :P
  • Spend some more time figuring out what my new shoes will be.  Thanks to a friend, I have a shiny new pair of Mizunos waiting to be road tested.  My specialist recommended these so I have high hopes.
  • Strength train and cross train this time: Building different endurance and strength is going to be much more of a priority this time around.
  • Start tracking my food again: I need to bring awareness back to my diet.
and what does all of this mean for my next race?

Well, I am certainly not missing out on Rock N' Roll Vancouver in October.  No way, Jose.  I will be there.   I have, however, officially scaled back to the 10k.  The is no way I would have time to start over with running AND train properly for a half marathon.  I am also preparing myself mentally for this to be WALKED.  and I am okay with that too.  I really just want to be there.  I don't even care if I do it fast.  Slow might actually be better because then I can enjoy the bands ;)

I am surprisingly calm about where I am at right now.  I was really worried that the time off would leave me really anxious about it but it isn't.  I think my time in the cast helped me see that healing was the ONLY thing that mattered...everything else can come later.   As long as I can keep this in mind as I go, I can hopefully build myself back to the runner I was a year ago.

Monday, August 18, 2014

MOMday: A Few Momma Indulgences

I know I have been an absolutely dismal blogger lately.  My life has been overwhelmingly full of weddings and travel and a far too overwhelming work schedule for months.  That is not to even mention the crushingly difficult time I have had healing from the fracture that just won't quit.  Ok - I have to stop calling it is pretty much healed now.  But I digress.

I thought it might be fun to share a couple of things I am loving right now.  Some momma-indulgences that have made me very happy.  As a side note - NO, no one is paying me to say nice things about these products.  I bought them myself and I happily share my thoughts with you all.

1) My Henkaa Convertible dresses

Anyone who follows me on twitter or Instagram has probably seen me raving about these.  But this little Canadian company has truly impressed me and I am all too happy to support them.   The idea behind the company is simple - do more with less.   They started with one style of dress that could be worn a hundred (yes, a HUNDRED) different ways and now they have several different styles based on the same philosophy.

I bought my first one (the Sakura Midi) to wear as a bridesmaid dress for my best friends wedding last week.  Unfortunately, I bought it back in December so I had 8 months of torture where I could play with it and learn it, but didn't want to wear it until the big day!  I eded up wearing with a crinoline that day and had so much fun dancing in that full circle skirt.

Then, I realized I was going to need another dress for my brother in law's wedding the weekend before the bridesmaid wedding...and I leapt onto the Henkaa site to buy one of their newer offerings - the Iris dress.  This one was quite different than the Sakura in that it has SLEEVES!  You'd think it might limit the possibilities but it really doesn't.  I wore it a couple of different ways for that wedding and I can see myself wearing it for work a fair bit.

This week, I got my third Henkaa - the Ivy.  This one is a bit more casual and I got it in black to maximize its potential.  It is supposed to arrive today or tomorrow so I may edit later with a pic.

These dresses are so flattering and a real steal, considering all of the possibilities.  I own a few convertible/infinity dresses and I do have to say that the fabric that Henkaa uses is so soft and luxurious.  Most importantly is that they are a quality item that is built to last.  With these three dresses - I may not need to buy anything more for a very long time.


2) M by Staples Arc discbound notebook system

As I quickly approach the "mom of kindergarteners" stage of my life - I have been having this overwhelming feeling of needing to get organized.  I use Cozi as an online family calendar, but lately have been finding that some things haven't been saving and that it isn't as convenient as it once was.   On a lark, I stumbled into Staples to take a look at the Filofaxes...and grabbed a lovely little binder from that aisle...only to turn a corner and have my curiosity piqued.

If you've never heard of a discbound notebook before - like I hadn't - these are a really neat concept.  Instead of binder rings that you snap open and closed (and, like me, inevitably end up with them sprung and leaking) a discbound notebook contains discs that the papers clip onto.  This means you can easily move pages around by just tugging out a page and moving it to where you want it.   There are several different systems out there but most are interchangable.

The thing I love best, though, is that the sizing was full letter sized and junior - which is half of a letter sized sheet - making it easy to find printables online.   I bought a junior sized book with a leather cover and have been having a ball customizing my little notebook.  Also - if you find it getting a bit too big for its britches - you can just buy a larger set of discs and move the pages over.

There are tons of printables available online, but I found a coil bound academic planner to start with and took the coils off and repunched it to fit the discbound system.  Inexpensive and workable for my needs.

I see this system evolving for me, but I already love how I can print off an activity calendar from my school or dayhome, fold it in half, punch it and pop it into my book.   Now maybe my kids will be where they should be WHEN they should be.


3) Sally Hansen Home Gel Nail Kit

I'll be completely honest here - I don't think it matters what brand of kit you get.  There are a trillion different systems.  I happened to get this one for a good price and ran with it, but I am not married to the Sally Hansen product line.  I have been using it with an assortment of brands.

If you have never had a gel manicure, you might wonder what all the fuss is about.  I know I did.   Then, I did a little research and it seriously sounded like the answer to my prayers.  Or at least to the problem of my constantly breaking nails!

You see, I love nail polish.  But I hate the fuss.  I hate painting everything up and then messing up one nail as they are drying.  I hate the layers.  Most of all - I hate the chips.

With gel - the polish cures under the LED light and is dry and ready to go as soon as you're done.   No more dry-time smudges.  And the polish last chip-free for at least a week and even then - the chips aren't devastating and can usually be lived with for two.  I did have the polish on one nail start to peel a few days in, but I smoothed it down and did another top coat layer on it and after it cured - I got another week on the manicure.

The home kit lets me have some fun with my nails and not have it end up wasted time.  In the end -  think it probably takes the same amount of time for the actual polishing but with no final dry time - it feels like I am done significantly quicker.

Removal is a bit trickier, since you have to soak the polish off in 100% acetone remover, but I bought a great little remover kit at Walmart for around $8 that had these foil wraps in it and the polish just lifts right off in about 5-10 mins.  Easy peasy.  I do find I need to give my nails a break between manicures, but a couple of days of moisturizing helps keep my nails from drying too bad from the removal process.  Those days suck, though, because I am back to my thin weak nails until I can polish again.

I've had my kit about a month and am loving having indestructible nails most of the time.


4) Frixion erasable pens by Pilot

I literally stumbled onto these pens in an art supply store a few months ago and didn't even realize what I had.  I just wanted a pen!

Then, I forgot about it and pulled it out again just recently when I found it in the bottom of my purse!   WHAT?  Erasable?  and without an actual eraser on them?!?!?

Having lived through the paper-mate not-quite-erasable pens of the nineties, I was blown away by these.  They are gel pens and instead of an eraser, they have a little nylon nub on the end that erases the marks like magic. The ink is thermo-sensitive so the heat of the friction is what does the erasing.  You don't even need to press very hard and, when erased, there is hardly a ghost that writing was ever there!

Even better - they not only make pens but also highlighters and markers!

I paid far too much for the first pen in this line, but they carry them at Walmart for a more reasonable price.


So there's a few of the non-running things I've been indulging myself with lately. I expect I'll be spending the rest of my money outfitting my kids for school but it was nice to have some treats to play with over the summer.  

What treats have you bought for yourself lately?  Share in the comments :) Please note that this post contains affiliate links. By purchasing through these links, I will receive a small promotional payment

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Reads: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Full title: The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

A major theme to my best friends wedding last weekend was "The Princess Bride" - so much so that I even started the hashtag #twoowuv to help people posting their photos.   In that spirit, I decided the time had come to re-read Goldman's book.  It had been years since I first read it.

From the back cover:
William Goldman''s modern fantasy classic is a simple, exceptional story about quests-for riches, revenge, power, and, of course, true love-that''s thrilling and timeless.

Anyone who lived through the 1980s may find it impossible-inconceivable, even-to equate The Princess Bride with anything other than the sweet, celluloid romance of Westley and Buttercup, but the film is only a fraction of the ingenious storytelling you''ll find in these pages. Rich in character and satire, the novel is set in 1941 and framed cleverly as an "abridged" retelling of a centuries-old tale set in the fabled country of Florin that''s home to "Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions."

I'm not going to put in my own synopsis to the book. The content of the book is familiar to anyone who has seen the movie.  Goldman did, after all, pen the movie script...but what makes the book even funnier than the movie is that it is written as an "abridgement" to an original fictional book penned by S. Morgenstern.  Throughout the book, Goldman interrupts his "abridging" to add a chastising note about the "original".  "I cut out this next part because all you are going to miss is 64 pages of preparations for a royal party" and the like.  
The Preface(s) are just as entertaining as the story itself. This version of the book (30th anniversary edition) finished  with the first chapter of the sequel "Buttercup's Baby", which Goldman is not going to be able to write...but to know that reason, you will actually need to read his preface to the chapter.  I refuse to give spoilers ;)

All in all, this is a quick and fun read that is well worth reading if you loved the movie.  Unlike Ende's Neverending Story - that movie could never even come close to TOUCHING the book - this one holds up as pop culture support material.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Three Things Thursday - The Vancouverover

Phewf!  The past two weeks have been COMPLETELY NUTS for me! Amazing how little a vacation can feel like one.

1) This was definitely the year of the wedding for us.   The long weekend in August was hubby's step brother's wedding up in Leduc and we took the whole fam up for the occasion.  Wow - whatta wedding!   It was so great to spend time with family we never get to see.

Then, we dropped off the kids at my parents house and headed west for a wonderful vacation to Vancouver.

That is when the craziness began!  Last minute wedding prep galore!  Constructing centrepieces, trips to the flower wholesaler, making our bouquets, bachelorette party, rehearsal - it was one thing after the other all week.   Super fun times with a group of girls I feel like I have known forever, but so exhausting!

In the end, it was such a great honour to get to stand up front with my best friend as she said her "I dos"   I'm sure I have never cried so much at any wedding before...such joy.

And, at the very end of the ceremony, a jazz quintet appeared and we had a traditional New Orleans Second Line parade through the park.   Very fun!  It was awesome to have all of the little kids in the park running alongside our parade.  I'm sure there videos of it on YouTube somewhere since many people had their phones out as we passed.

(On a side note - the dresses I wore to both weddings were Henkaa, a Canadian company.  I am so in love with their stuff right now.  So fun and versatile!  I may or may not have just ordered my third dress!)


2) While I was there, I was also able to have a couple of get togethers with a few of my YVR runner buddies - I met up with Brandi for the first time ever.  We had dinner and did some shopping and talked like we'd known each other for years instead of merely minutes!

Then, later in the week, Nikki, Solana and I had a super fun evening of sushi and gelato.  It was my first time meeting Solana but we've chatted online so much you would never have known it.

And there may have been some modelling happening on the waterfront that night :P

So fun!


3) I truly cannot wait until October when I head back out there.  Vancouver is my second home and I wish I could be there much more often than I am. I think hubby had a real chance to fall in love with it out there this trip as well - so I think we'll find ourselves heading out that way much more regularly.

In the meantime, I am nursing a HUGE Vancouverover that I believe the only cure for is another trip out west!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

FREEDOM!!!!! (a fracture update)

Notice anything different?

I'll give you a hint...what is not a BIG GIANT AIR CAST BOOT ON MY FOOT!!!!!


Yep - as of 8 am this morning, I am free!

Ok - now let's rewind this a couple of weeks...since I haven't had time to post a fracture update in a while!

On July 29, I had an appointment with Dr. Dale.  He did his usual graston torturing and then he handed me an x-ray requisition.

I immediately headed next door to get that done.

and they gave me a disk with the images on it to obsess over until my next appointment.

I scoured those images and on the front view of the bone - couldn't see anything.  On the side view - it took me a while to see the tiny line...but it looked just like what Dr. dale had described - a thin line of healed bone.

Not sure if you can see it in this pic, but I circled it...

I wouldn't have the xray report until after I got back from Vancouver, but I had my orders...

  • Be a very good girl with the boot
  • The boot stays on as much as possible during my time away.  
  • I did not need to wear it while we drove since I wouldn't be weight bearing
  • Wear it for the first wedding and for the week in Vancouver. 
  • As long as it is feeling okay - I can take it off for the wedding I was bridesmaid in
  • BUT - if it is feeling tender after the ceremony and photos are over - the boot goes back on.
I stuck to those rules as much as possible.

I felt like I should have recorded my fracture tale to play over and over again at that first wedding.

I hobbled through crafting and wedding errands.

The only times I didn't wear it were for the things in the park and for the big flower arranging day.  I didn't want to risk having pine needles and thorns trapped in the boot lining.  I also skipped the boot around pedicure time.

And, as a reward - I got to wear both of my shiny gold shoes on wedding day...and, wonder of all wonders, I completely failed to get a photo of the momentous occasion!  I did, however, end up with a twig jamming itself through my peeptoe shoes - an impalement that would not have happened had I been wearing the cast! Doh!

By mid-reception - I was feeling tired and my shin was tender - so I popped the cast back on.   Lemme tellya - if you want to play a fun trick, have a room of now-drunk people who didn't know about the cast previously.  The reactions are priceless.

In the end, the addition of the cast didn't take away from the fun.  And I danced just as hard as I would have without it.

and then I came back to home and reality...

I had an appointment with Dr. Dale this morning.   The idea was that we could review my xray report and talk transition plan to get me out of the boot.

And, for the first time, The light at the end of the tunnel blinded me.

YES - It is nearly healed!

YES - I no longer have to wear the boot unless it is feeling really tender.  he wants me out of it as much as possible now.

YES - I don't appear to have any bone loss from my time in the boot!

YES - I can start running again.  September 1!!!!  Just 5 mins to start and then gradually build back up.   I will meet with him again after the first couple of runs to see how it is going.

Happiest news ever.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Reads; Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Wow.  Just WOW!

I bought this one a while back and then it sort of got pushed to the middle of my reading list.  Then hubby hopped in the car after work one day a couple of weeks ago, lugging a hardcover version.  I told him "We have the ebook, y'know"  and then I watched my normally-not-much-of-a-reader hubby devour the book in less than 24 hours!  I knew it had just moved up the to-read list a whole bunch of to right as soon as I finished Book of Life.

Ok - here's the premise.  It's 30 years in the future.  The earth has kinda gone to hell in a handbasket so everyone is checking out of real life and into OASIS, an immersive virtual reality world.  People work there, attend school there, build planets, play games etc etc etc.

One day, the creator of the OASIS - an eccentric mega-billionaire named Halliday - passes away and, because he has no family or close friends, a video is released telling people that the company and all of the money and power that go with it are up for grabs...for the first person to find an easter egg he hid in the OASIS.  But there's a catch - it's not going to be easy.  To find the egg, you have to find three keys - bronze, jade and crystal - and complete the associated challenges.   Only completing these in sequence will lead you to the easter egg.

Wade Watts is a high school student who has been obsessed with the challenge since it was announced.  Five long years of studying everything he can about James Halliday and his obsessions - namely popular culture of the 1980s...the time when Halliday was a child.   Watts (aka Parzival, as far as the OASIS knows) is a poor kid who pretty much has to stay on the planet he attends school on.  When suddenly he has a flash of inspiration and becomes the first person to obtain one of the keys - the entire OASIS goes nuts!

Before you know it, there are offers of employment, death threats and unlikely friendships coming out of the woodwork.  Wade's life just became a much different place...and there is still A LOT more of the challenge to play out to see who will win the big prize.

Ok - not giving any more away.  This book is a delightfully geeky romp.  One of my favourite books on this planet is Fire in the Valley and this felt a lot like that book (though fictional, of course).  It also had elements of the Hunger Games in that this match happens within a contained arena.  And then there is all the delicious pop culture stuff that I just gobbled up since it was a lovely nostalgic walk through my childhood memories.

This book is brilliant.  It has it all - LITERALLY - geekiness, pop culture, romance, violence, friendship, mystery - and it is all wrapped up in this intelligent little package.  So original.

While the book keeps you reading at a pretty fast clip - there does come a point where you really don't want to put it down as it barrels through the last quarter of the book.

I'm going to admit this probably isn't for everyone.   It will really appeal to geeks around my age - anyone who remembers the games they used to play on their old Vic20s (Radar Rat Race anyone? - I WAS sad this one never made it into the book).  I LOVED the way that the OASIS was portrayed.  It was just like this immersive Internet where you could lose yourself and unplug from a yucky real life.  Kind of an agoraphobics dream, really.

Such. a. great. read.