Monday, January 31, 2011

The Joys of Cooking

According to the Joy of Cooking, one must never, EVER, try a new dish out on guests.  A respectable cook will make the dish several times to ensure that they are able to achieve the desired outcome (flavour, appearance).  Then, and only then, should they attempt the dish at a dinner party.

I sure hope this evening's dinner guest has not read the Joy of Cooking.

She's arriving armed with a bottle of white wine and some naan bread.  And tonight's completely untested recipe?  African-style chicken curry with squash from the LCBO's Food and Drink magazine.

As a lapsed (or recovering depending on your point of view) vegetarian of 18 years, I missed some key learning opportunities growing up.  An important one being how to prepare meat of any kind. When I went back to eating meat a few years ago - I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. During the learning process, I have burned several t-bone steaks, unknowingly served half cooked salmon (mine was fine!) and had to ask for assistance to figure out how to eat a chicken. I'm getting better but have still never attempted a roast of any kind, prepared meat on a barbecue or figured out the subtleties of meat preparation.

Last night's dinner was clam chowder and biscuits.  Neither Doug nor I had ever made clam chowder but the recipe looked pretty yummy.  Biscuits were recommended so we figured we might as well learn how to make those too.  The soup was a hit with the only hitch being that we both read '1 baked potato' instead of '1 baking potato'.  That unecessary step added an extra 40 minutes to the prep time and, once we realized, all we could do was laugh. I also learned that less is more when kneading biscuit dough so the final product tasted right but was a wee bit more puck-like than I would have liked.  Lesson learned. 

As I type this blog, there are 10 skin on, bone in, chicken thighs in the fridge. Rule one of Joy of Cooking will soon be broken as I discover on the fly how to prepare them. My friend will most likely be sitting at the counter sipping wine and laughing at my questions. 

Sharing food with friends and loved ones is one of life's great pleasures. So the hell with not serving an untried dish to friends.  We're making chicken curry with squash tonight and, if it's delicious, we'll have a new recipe to add to the repertoire.  If it's a bomb, we'll order sushi from down the street and laugh.  Either way, it's going to be a lovely evening.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Easy Weeks

It was supposed to be an easy week for running.  40 minutes runs on Tuesday and Thursday, 10k on Saturday.  Rest and heal those muscles in preparation of the next three weeks of hard running.

Easy week indeed.  Between the craziness at work, and fighting a battle with the cold gods, I had not run one step in 8 days.  This morning, despite my body whining that it was still 'so tired', I pulled on my well rested running shoes and headed out.  The only goal was to move.  I hoped for an hour, I dreamed about 10k, but really, I just didn't want to have to hail a cab.

It's amazing how a week off doesn't really help the legs much.  An easy week is great because those easy runs feel - well easy.  Not running at all just gives the legs time to forget that they ever knew how to run.  They fought back, I pushed on, we argued...a lot.  I agreed to two quick stretch breaks if they agreed to run for 45 minutes.  A compromise was reached and together we ran 7k.

Today was less about exercise and was more of an exercise in psychology.  Tuesday's run is supposed to be 13k and I knew that, if I didn't run before then, I would not be able to pull it off.  Reminding my body that it has work to do, and how to do it, means that Tuesday's run should be fine.  And, if not, today's run gave me a chance to practice my negotiation skills for the next time my legs put up a fuss.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thinking backwards

I woke up this morning thinking backwards.

Normally I'll wake up thinking about all the things planned for that day or that weekend.  Not this morning - and I blame it on a certain fireside chat.

Yesterday, to wrap up our first staff training week, our executive director came in to speak with everyone.  He called it his fireside chat and he had a crackling fire on his laptop, a rocking chair, side table, blanket, hot cocoa and popcorn.  He likes doing this because, in our frantically busy world, it's an opportunity to pause, to think backwards and to celebrate the past year.

I woke up this morning thinking backwards.

This time two years ago - I was waiting for my new insulin pump to arrive.  I was making the transition from multiple daily injections to the pump and was excited and extremely nauseated at the thought.  

This time last year I had short hair - now it's down to my shoulders for the first time in years.  Anyone who has gone through that process knows how much fun that is...and how important it is to hide the scissors.

This time last year, I had met a man and was falling in love.

Last April, I met his sister, nieces and their families.  I was welcomed with open arms and get excited every time I get to see them.

Last May, I got my first iPhone.  I promptly dropped it in a glass of water but managed to save the thing. We're now good friends.  I also ran the 1/2 marathon in Cleveland and discovered how exciting and scary it is to stand at the marathon finish line waiting for the person you love to cross.

Last June, I moved.  I also did my first duathlon and signed up with Brock University to be a subject in their diabetes research.  Fun times.

Last July, I learned how to build a deck.

Last August, I supported a team of 8 crazy runners as they attempted, and succeeded, in running a 240 kilometre relay.  I also did my second duathlon and was responsible for killing a squirrel.

Last September, I ran the Grapes 1/2 marathon for the third time - this time with my sister and partner  along on their bikes.  I photographed my first wedding.

Last October, I met my partner's two children and we tentatively started getting to know each other.  By Christmas, I had received genuine hugs from both of them.  Yay!  I also photographed my second wedding.  

Last November, I tried curling and loved it.  I also played hostess to Doug's family as we celebrated his daughter's PhD.   

Last December, I said yes to everything and ended up running 16k on Boxing Day, going to my first Buffalo Sabres hockey game, going to several parties, getting snow tires for the first time, introducing Doug to the joys of walking my parents' dog, having lunch with a friend I haven't seen in over ten years and going to an apartment in Guelph to continue rebuilding a friendship that I broke. 

So far this year, I've started blogging, have met up with another friend I haven't seen in a long time and have gotten back into yoga again.  

My life looks very different now than I did this time last year.  The number of changes that have occurred vastly outnumber the things that have stayed the same.  It was a good year and I'm quite proud of the fact that I kept a fairly firm grip on my sanity throughout.  

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shades of grey

Why is it that I give some people a wee bit more slack than others?

People that I care deeply for are given a get out of jail free card which gives them permission to have a bad day, say completely unintelligible things, argue with me, be crankypants, be late for dinner or disagree with me about pretty much anything.  I'm able to see the difference between this person is having a bad moment and this is a bad person.  I see these folks for who they are rather than what they do and unconditional love flows freely and easily.

People with whom I have little vested interest in have a one strike you're out policy.  It's not quite that dramatic but I am definitely less able (or willing?) to chalk up bad behaviour to simply having a bad day.  Instead, I judge them and my respect for them can fall quickly and dramatically.

Am I too easy on those I love?

or too hard on those I don't?

I think what it comes down to is that I have a pretty strong sense of right and wrong.  I'm also fairly capable of seeing the shades of grey that fall in between the two extremes.  Knowing someone well means that I'm better able to see their shades of grey and therefore understand where they're coming from.  People I don't know well fall more quickly into the 'right' and 'wrong' buckets because I can't see their shades of grey as readily.  Those are often the folks that drive me completely batty.

I guess what I need to try remember is that everyone has a greater depth and breadth than is evident from daily interactions.  Doesn't mean that some of them aren't legitimately slimy, cruel or just really annoying - it just means I probably need to give them a few more rounds at bat before I throw them off the team.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Whew!  I have finished my part in this week's marathon of staff training.  I spent seven hours yesterday talking to staff about rights, respect and responsibility.  Specifically, how to teach these rather abstract concepts to adults with a developmental disability and how to recognize when we, as an agency, may be restricting someone's rights. Pretty intense stuff.  Today, we talked for 4 hours about person-centred thinking and the best way to get to know someone so that we can help them create a vision for their own future.  Again, not easy.

As per usual, in an effort to teach people things, I end up learning just as much.

Over the past two days, I learned how very important it is to listen.  Not talk, just listen.

We work hard and our job can be physically and emotionally draining.  People are full of ideas and frustrations but, in the business of our days, there are not many opportunities to talk about them.  So, after a few minutes of me talking, I tried another tactic.  I asked: how's it going?  What's working?  What's not working?  How can we make things better?

I sat at the front and took pages of notes as people vented, sympathized and tossed out ideas.  It completed messed up my presentation and we didn't get through half of my slides but, at the end, most people came up to me to tell me how great the morning was.

I hardly did anything.

Maybe that's the point.

One of the most interesting moments of the day, in my mind at least, was when we were talking about the importance of really getting to know someone so that we can help them do the things that are most meaningful for them. Staff were talking about how hard it is to really get to know someone using our services.  Some staff work with people in their homes.  Others work with them in the community.  Others teach classes that people attend once per week.  How can we possibly figure out what makes someone tick when we only see parts of them?

I thought for a second and then answered: everyone in the room knows me.  Some know my personal life, some have helped me on photoshoots, some run with me, some work directly with me, some have met my partner, some talk to me about Dexter and others borrow my books.  Nobody in that room really knows me.  But put everyone together and they would be able to draw a pretty accurate picture of who I am.

We can learn a lot about people if we just listen.  

I learned a lot today.

Hopefully the people I was supposed to be teaching did too.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Life life balance

Work life balance is a concept that I have always found compelling and one that comes fairly naturally to me.  I pride myself on the fact that I work to live, I don't live to work.  Don't misunderstand: I love what I do and I feel that my job is meaningful and important and I believe that I contribute positively to many peoples' lives. 

But it's my job.  

I get to work at 8:29am and leave at 4:30pm.  I hop in my car and, most days, promptly forget where I work until the next morning.  

My personal life is chock full of activities that I want to do, books that I want to read, people that I want to spend time with.  

Work life balance I have in spades.  

It's the life life balance that I'm struggling with.  

Years ago, I decided that I wanted to be a renaissance woman.  Someone who knew a lot about a lot of things and who participated in a wide variety of activities.  Someone who could just as easily fix your car as whip up a gourmet supper all without breaking a sweat.  I am not a renaissance woman quite yet but I'm working on it.  I know where the oil goes in the car now, have helped build a deck and make a mean hot and sour soup.  

Maintaining a life life balance is proving to be a bit of a challenge because there are so many things that I love to do.  These days, I run, cycle and curl with a bit of yoga thrown in.  My body is most certainly being challenged.  My mind - well not so much.  I have not been taking as many pictures, have not read as many books and have not taken a course in a while.  

I feel sluggish when I don't exercise.  My mind gets to be the same way.  

So, I've started blogging as a way of exercising my writing muscles.  I have a pile of new books by the bed to kick start my imagination and get me thinking.  Next step - dust off the camera. 

After I get my run in of course!  

Monday, January 24, 2011

A long, long time ago

This weekend was chock full of activities: curling Friday night, running Saturday morning, friends over for drinks followed by a fabulous Runners' Edge dinner at Toi on Saturday night, cycling and a new yoga class on Sunday morning and my parents came over for dinner on Sunday night.  Toss in a couple loads of laundry and a couple hours of work and there wasn't a moment to spare.

Our life is busy, fast-paced and full of activities.  Most of these activities are things that we choose to do because they keep us healthy, happy and motivated.  We surround ourselves with people that we care about because life is too short to do otherwise.

Sitting at Toi, we were three tables of runners and their significant others, many of whom are also runners.  The wine and conversation flowed and I was just happy to be part of it all. Chris leaned over to me at one point and asked me to think about what my life looked like ten years ago. 

Quite a different picture.

Ten years ago: I was married. I did not have diabetes. I did not own a camera. My big workout was going to the Y on Saturday mornings to do a step class. I was vegetarian.  I was terrified of speaking in public. I had few friends outside of work.

Today: I am divorced.  I am in a wonderful relationship with an amazing man. I have diabetes.  I am a photographer. I ran for two hours, cycled hard for one, did yoga and curled - all within a 48 hour period and I can live to tell the tale.  I love a good chipotle steak. During the next two weeks, I will be spending about 20 hours speaking in front of groups of people and I'm ok with that. Most importantly, my life is rich and full of wonderful people who really care about me and about whom I really care about.

The journey to get here has not been an easy one but it is the path that I chose and continue to choose. The journey is not over yet, and with a bit of luck, it will not be over for a long long time. I have no idea what my life might look like ten years from now but, if it looks anything like it does today, I will be one very lucky lady.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

With a little help from my friends

It was really cold at 8am.  Not cold enough to stop the crazy runners but we were definitely bundled with a few more layers.  18k was the magical distance of the day.  Two hours was my goal.

I have no idea if I met my goal because my Garmin battery died before kilometer 5.  It's been doing that lately so it's time to do some googling to find out how one gets a replacement Garmin 205 battery.  

Anyway, my watch was dead so I couldn't check my pace and distance every 15 seconds.  It's a very different kind of run when all you do is run. I enjoyed the scenery.  I watched the faster runners go by and noted what they were wearing.  Where does one buy leg warmers these days?  I looked at the dark sky and the sleeping vineyards and was reminded how wonderful it is to live in Niagara. 

Every few kilometres, I met up with our support vehicle and two of my favourite people in the world.  I met Chris during my first summer of running as he patiently rode his bike beside the slowest runner (me).  We talked a lot and became great friends.  John is a soulmate and a medical miracle - we run together and talk about scars, hospital adventures and life.  Today, as they refilled water bottles, handed out tissues and checked on runners, they kept an extra keen eye out for me.  

Some weeks, my blood sugar cooperates and I sail by with a wave and a smile.  Other times, it acts up, making the run a challenge.  Today was a roller coaster ride with low blood sugar, high blood sugar, and a frozen glucometer to boot.   

I am fiercely independent, proud and stubborn.  It takes a certain knack to support me without making me feel vulnerable.  With Chris and John, I can say "I'm having trouble" and not feel embarrassed.  I let them watch as I test my sugar because I'm ok with them seeing the results.  And I love the fact that they ask me questions, trying to understand the mysteries of diabetes.  

On the way back, I ran by Benny, our coach.  He was waiting a few kilometers from the end, with his wonderful dog Wookie, and asked if my blood sugar had levelled out a bit. 

I finished my run, all 18k of it...with a little help from my friends. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet

Ever wonder what would have happened if Romeo and Juliet didn't die tragically?  That they survived long enough to actually get to know each other.  Think they would have really gotten married?  Or realized after a few days that maybe, just maybe, they were not meant to be star crossed lovers?

Ann Marie MacDonald's fabulous play Good Night Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet tackles that very question in a hilarious (and very thought-provoking) way. 

I'm waist deep in a new book (well a trilogy actually) called Kristin Lavransdatter.  It begs the same question.  Two people (Kristin and Erlend) see each other, fall madly, passionately in love and are willing to do anything to marry.  She is already betrothed (with gives you an idea of the time the book is set in) and he's got a questionable history but Krisin is willing to disgrace her family, end her engagement, sacrifice her maidenhood and leave her home to marry a man she hardly knows.

As you might imagine, once they can actually be together for more than five minutes, they both realize that the other person is not so shiny and perfect.  In fact, they can be downright annoying and sometimes quite boorish.  But they're already married and have given up everything to be together so now what??

Nobody is shiny and perfect.  Sometimes that is quite evident within seconds of meeting a person.  Other times, it's not.  But we are all different (thank heavens) and therefore think differently, behave differently, respond, communicate, clean the house and make the dinner differently.   

Why are stories like Romeo and Juliet so compelling?  It's basically two people who fall in love at first sight which means it's most likely based purely on physical attractiveness and sex appeal rather than on their ability to handle complex emotions, communicate effectively or play Scrabble.  They "love" each other so much that they are quite willing to kill themselves rather than be apart. 


What about the kind of love where two people love each other despite of, and because of, their differences? The kind where they accept the other person just as they are and they don't base everything on whether or not the person makes them swoon with passion from across the room?  Certainly not as exciting and definitely not the material needed for a blockbuster movie - but it works for me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rights = choices

My head is spinning today – chock full of thoughts about rights and responsibilities.  Specifically, the rights and responsibilities of people with disabilities. 

The rights of people with disabilities are the same as everyone else’s. 


But theory and practice butt heads a lot and the latter often wins. Vulnerable populations, people whose voices aren’t as loud, or as eloquent, often find their rights restricted. And often, they are restricted by the very people who are there to support them.

It happens innocently enough – someone is told by their doctor that they shouldn’t smoke as much. So staff, being supportive and wanting to take care of the person, limit their cigarettes. 

People without disabilities have the right to smoke as much as they want, no matter what their doctor has to say about it.  So what gives us the right to restrict someone’s cigarettes just because they have a disability?  They have the right to make their own unhealthy choices just like everyone else does.   

I’m working on developing a rights/responsibilities presentation for staff.  And it has me thinking about some of the agonizing struggles we face every day as we try to find the balance between supporting someone and encouraging them to take responsibility for their own choices and their own lives.    

What do you do when someone is making frightening choices about their sexual activities? Spending all of their money before paying for rent and food? Abusing drugs? Choosing to remain in an abusive relationship?  Living on chips and pop?

The best we can do is teach people about their rights, about making responsible choices, recognizing abuse and standing up for themselves.  It’s not ideal, and it’s pretty scary sometimes, but it’s better than the alternative - restricting people’s right to make their own choices in a misguided attempt to keep them ‘safe’. 

We all the have the right to make our own choices – good or bad.

We have to accept responsibility for those choices.

And we have to respect others enough to let them do the same.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Best Laid Plans...

Last night's weather called for rain, ice pellets, and snow.  Last night's running schedule called for 13k.

My options were:
A. stay home under a blanket
B. run right after work to get the run done as soon as possible
C. run at 6:15 with the running club and get home around 8:30pm.

I chose option B.

So, at 5:15pm I was dressed for all weathers, armed with motivational tunes and ready to run for an hour and twenty minutes on my own.

I told D the route I was going to take, said that I would be home in plenty of time to stretch, shower and be ready to eat by 7:15, and headed out into the rain.

Thirty seconds into the run, I realized I would NOT be setting a speed record.  In the quick run to the corner, I had to contend with slushy, icy sidewalks that were covered in rain.  Curling ice is less slippery I thought and sent a quick prayer to the gods asking for no broken bones or brain injuries during this run. 

I slowed my pace, found my groove and reassured myself that I would still make it home on time for dinner.

I have many running routes of various distances.  The problem is when I don't run a distance for a while, I forget which route I take.  So I did some quick calculations in my head and reassured myself that I indeed remembered the 13k route. 

I did not.

I remembered the 15k route. 

Runners with diabetes need to plan how long they are going to run for to be able to adjust their insulin and avoid having high or low blood sugar. I had planned for a 13k run that would take 1 hour and 20 minutes.  I did not plan for a 15k run that would take 1 hour and 45 minutes.  So my blood sugar went too low and I had to walk for a while as I had a quick snack and waited for my blood sugar to rise back to the safe zone again. 

Did I mention it was raining??

I showed up, sopping wet, about 8 minutes before dinner was supposed to be ready.  I opened the door to find a kitchen in pause mode and was greeted with a big grin and a comment about looking a tad waterlogged. I was sent off to shower as he finished the dinner and we sat down to a lovely meal only thirty minutes later than planned. 

Got my run in.

Love my life.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

People First

The words we choose can really hurt, even when we don't mean them to.  Sometimes they might hurt just a little but words paint pictures and they can easily paint the wrong ones. 

I work with people who have a developmental disability.  I'm very careful to put it that way because they are people first.  Just like I am a person with diabetes rather than a diabetic.  It's a little thing but it's a big thing.

Anyway, that's what I do.  I am well aware of how the words I choose can make a difference.  An email discussion started yesterday between a co-worker and I.  I really respect her because she makes me think and constantly challenges me.  So she opened a can of worms and got me thinking about the language we use at work.

She mentioned the term 'front line'.  People who work directly with a person with a developmental disability are often called a front line staff.  I hate that term and so does she.  She told me of an exercise she does sometimes to challenge people.  She asks them to google 'front line' and see if the pictures that come up accurately represent the work that we do.  I think not. 

The problem is that we've developed a way of talking when we are at work and we would never talk that way in our personal lives.  When I get up in the morning, I shower, brush my teeth and get ready for work.  I would never say that I complete my hygiene routine and then go to my paid employment placement. 

I go out with my friends, I don't go on outings with my peer group. 

I get angry and upset, I don't exhibit behaviours or become verbally aggressive.

And, trust me, when I feel angry and upset, I don't need to be de-escalated. 

Language is all about respect.  Yet too often, we have a language for people who are like us and a language for people who are different.  All that does is highlight the differences. 

We are people first.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Black Swan

I saw Black Swan this weekend.  It's impressive and worth seeing, despite having to sit in a theatre full of young girls looking for a movie about pretty ballerinas.

It's not a movie about pretty ballerinas. 

There are pretty ballerinas in it but that's not the same thing.

It's a movie about lost opportunities, stolen spotlights, unreasonable expectations put on by others and ourselves, the quest for perfection and a good dose of mental health issues thrown in.

I learned a lot about Swan Lake.  I learned a lot about ballet. I learned a lot about what makes me really uncomfortable about human behaviour. 

When someone pours every ounce of themselves into one thing - ballet, ski jumping, whatever -  it makes me uncomfortable.  An athlete whose only focus is that Olympic gold medal - what if they don't get it?  What if they do? Either way, when the event is over, they have to walk away and figure out who they are when they're not ski jumping.

People who pressure their children to follow a career or life path because they did, or perhaps because they tried and failed, make me really really uncomfortable. People need to be who they are, and they need the space and freedom to figure out who that is.

Careers that are based as much on beauty and youth as on real talent - uncomfortable again.  It's hard enough to excel at something.  Having the added pressure of  hearing the clock ticking away in the background, knowing that time is limited - must be awful.   

So yes, I enjoyed Black Swan and highly recommend it.  But you're not going to leave the theatre with a warm fuzzy glow.  You're going to be thinking about it for days.  And that's a good thing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Patience of Job...Sometimes

I really like cooking.  Sometimes, I'm really good at it.  Sometimes, I spend an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen and manage to produce something utterly tasteless.  But I have learned something about myself.  When I'm feeling relaxed and creative - I cook.  Those are the times when I experiment and it works - when I feel somehow connected with the food that I'm preparing.

When I'm feeling frustrated or am looking for something to do - I don't cook.  Those are the times when I can work very hard and produce nothing of consequence.

These ups and downs in kitchen don't stop me from devouring cookbooks and planning my next masterpiece. I just know what days to don my apron and what days to reheat leftovers.

I'm discovering the same thing with my latest interest: curling.  When I'm just happy to be on the ice - things feel right.  When I'm distracted or tired - I can't find my footing, my balance or my aim.  Funny thing is that I don't get frustrated on the not so good days.  I just recognize that I'm 'off' and keep playing.  

Same goes for running - good days, bad days - I get the run done.  I am grateful for the good runs but don't get cocky about them and I never let a bad run dictate the next one.

So why are some things easy to accept as they come and others, well, not so much.

I've tried golf.  I approached it with the same attitude I approach all new things - have fun and no pressure. Five minutes in and I just knew this was NOT for me. It took an incredible amount of effort not to hurl the clubs, dynamite the ball or throw myself into the water hazard just to get away from it all.  I will end up on heavy medication if I take up golf.

I don't understand why.  But I understand myself enough to know that I shouldn't spend too much time wondering.  Because it's not rational - it's visceral.

So I will run, curl and cook.  But if you see me on the golf course - back away very slowly

Friday, January 14, 2011

Into the Abyss

Last night, we ran hills. 

Hills are a strange beast.  First of all, we have to run to the hill in order to train on it.  So we headed out from the store and ran 2.5k through the snow before we even started the hill training.  Meaning of course that, after the hills, we had to run 2.5k back to the store again.

Keep in mind that, in order to run up a hill, you have to first get to the bottom.  That long, lonely run down the hill can be frightening. This was a new hill for me, and for lots of other runners last night.  I got to the top and looked down

and down

and down. 

I couldn't even see the bottom.


A thought struck me as I took the first step into the abyss: it takes a lot of confidence to be a runner, even if we don't recognize it as that.  We need a certain amount of faith in our own abilities in order to tie up our shoes and head out.

Blindly, we all headed down the hill, not having any idea how long or how steep it was.  But we knew that we would somehow find the strength needed to complete the hill workout and then climb back up to the top so that we could head home again.

Saturdays are another great example of having faith in oneself.  Saturdays are the days when we add distance to our runs - 2 to 3 kilometers per week.  Sometimes this distance makes us nervous, sometimes it hurts, but we do the run and never doubt that we will finish. 

We could all take a lesson from running and apply it to our every day lives.  Break things down into small manageable chunks and don't be afraid to head into the abyss.  It's never that scary once you take the first step.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let people be

I tried to teach someone a lesson yesterday and ended up learning a lot about myself. 

I work with people who have a developmental disability.  I was speaking to one of my coworkers who was helping someone with their cooking skills.  My coworker mentioned that this person can already cook but is very set in their ways.  They have routines that they follow when preparing their food.  My coworker said that there are easier ways to prepare the food and it was frustrating to see the person do things in ways that seemed inefficient.

My message was: who cares?  The person is independent.  They are cooking for themselves. Who cares if it takes twice as long to make dinner?

Then I went home to help make my own dinner.  Being one half of a couple who enjoys cooking together is wonderful.  We spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Last night, we weren't in the kitchen two minutes when I felt the need to make a suggestion for how to do something differently.  I caught myself just in time.  It wasn't about doing it better - it was just about doing it my way.  So I said nothing.

By the time dinner was in the oven, I had stopped myself from making suggestions at least 10 times.  Each time, I recognized that the suggestion would not have made things better - they just would have made things done my way. 


How much time and energy do we waste trying to get people to change how they do things, how they behave, how they think?  Are we really helping them or making their lives better or easier?  Or do we just want to people to do what we want them to do?

So I'm going to try very hard NOT to make helpful suggestions.  I'm going to let people be who they are and love them for that very reason.  And, who knows, maybe I'll learn a few new tricks.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter running

It's officially a winter wonderland outside.  A huge dump of snow last night has transformed the world and turned my 3 minute commute into an adventure.  But I'm not writing about today, I'm still thinking about last night. 

6pm.  It was dark and cold and the snow had just started.  Thanks to a gusty wind, the snow was flying horizontally across the parking lot as I walked towards the running store.  Who the hell is crazy enough to run in this?  Apparently a lot of people are.  There must have been 50 runners out and ready to go.  Some were completely covered in layers to the point that they were unrecognizable.  Others had bare hands and thin layers on.  Some, like me, still had their short summer socks on, leaving ankles exposed to the howling wind.

Doesn't matter what we wore - we were out there.

It's usually only the first few minutes of winter running that are nasty.  My body quickly warms up and I start peeling layers off.  Then comes the wonderful feeling of being part of something bigger than myself.  I'm no longer trying to survive the run, it feels like I've become part of the landscape.  Running down side streets, it's quiet and peaceful and so very beautiful.  Running along major roads, I see the looks on the faces of drivers freezing in their cars and can't help but grin. 

Running in Canada is an adventure.  And I feel so lucky to be able to experience, really experience, all of our seasons.  Running has taught me to recognize and appreciate the subtleties of nature - I can tell when the temperature goes up or down a few degrees, I spot the first buds on the trees and I know the difference between a gentle wind that signals a lovely winter day and a gentle wind that carries the promise of spring.

The snow is still falling outside and the drive home tonight is going to be another adventure.  Maybe I should have run to work today.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Comfortable routines

I'm a creature of habit who also likes adventures.  Makes for an awkward combination some days. 

I take comfort in my morning shower, my predictable breakfasts, my pre-work routine.  Morning rituals prepare me for the rest of the day because the minute I step out the door, predictability goes out the window.  So I take it where I can.

This morning, I did not have my cream of wheat with a grapefruit on the side, my bowl of healthy cereal with grapefruit on the side or my oatmeal with grapefruit on the side.  I had quinoa with flax seeds, maple syrup and blueberries (with grapefruit on the side). 

Holy bananas!

I found the recipe in my new quinoa cookbook and it sounded delicious.  It was pretty tasty actually and my tummy feels happily full, if slightly confused.

We'll see how my blood sugar does.  Cookbooks that do not provide nutritional information make it a little more challenging when preparing a new dish.  Yes, I can always pull out my trusty carb counting book and do the math but it's just so much easier when it's provided.  So I made my educated guess and we'll find out soon enough how close I was.  As a creature of habit, I could use the knowledge I gained from my blood glucose levels today to make an even better guess tomorrow.  But I'm all set to try the raisin quinoa rice pudding breakfast tomorrow so whatever I learn today will do me absolutely no good.

The price of being wild and crazy I suppose.

Monday, January 10, 2011

That little voice

As part of our training for Around the Bay our running coach has graciously agreed to open his running store at 8am on Sunday mornings so that we can drag in our road bikes and trainers for an hour of 'spinning'.  Yesterday was our first day. A small but dedicated group of runners came out and we had fun and a great workout. 

It has been a few months since I've been on my bike and almost a year since I cycled indoors on my trainer.  As a type 1 diabetic, any change in activity necessitates a change in insulin rates.  I've mastered, as much as that's even possible, what I need to do when running.  I lower my basal rate to 60% an hour and a half before I run.  I adjust my bolus if I'm eating before I go and the amount I adjust it by is almost intuitive now based on how I'm feeling, how far I"m running, what the weather is etc etc etc.

Cycling is another passion of mine but one that is done with much less regularity. So the insulin rate learning curve continues.  I did what I used to do in the summer and was fairly conservative with my breakfast bolus.  My guess was pretty close but not quite good enough.  I finished the session with a blood glucose level that was too low.  So I treated it and went on with my day but ended up chasing lows for the rest of the day *sigh*. 

Some days, it's no big deal.  Other days, it is.  I've been feeling a little overwhelmed at the training that lays ahead. Add to it the fact that diabetes control is an imperfect science and the little voice in my head asked me why I bother.  It's the same voice that tries to convince me to stop running the minute things feel hard.  I worked hard at taming that voice this fall and am much better at ignoring it during long hard runs.  So last night, I told the voice to go to hell, poured myself a glass of wine and picked up my book. 

This morning, all is back to normal and I'm already looking forward to a nice yoga session tonight to prepare my legs for the week ahead.  And next Sunday, I'll get back on that bike.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I started reading a new book last night: Annabel (by Kathleen Winter).  It was one of the finalists for the 2010 Giller Prize which is what got me on to it in the first place.  I'm not very far yet but I'm far enough to know that this is going to be a very good book.

Basic story: a baby is born in a small, secluded town in Labrador.  The baby is born with both male and female genitalia.

Uh oh.

The parents agonize over what to do and then mom ends up at the big city hospital with her baby.  The doctor pulls out his ruler to measure the length of the baby's penis.  If it's a certain length, they will 'make' the baby a boy.  If it's not, it will be a girl.

No mention about what kind of person this baby may grow up to be if left to its own devices.  No mention about the fact that this little person may like to have a say in the matter.

The penis was long enough so the baby was christened Wayne and life got back to normal for everyone.

But I have a feeling that Wayne may not feel quite right in his skin as she grows up and am intrigued as to how she and the author are going to deal with it.

It's interesting.  I can imagine that being born with both sets of genitalia would be pretty devastating in many ways.  But it would also be a bit closer to reality in a lot of ways.  I see gender as one big ruler.  Extreme masculinity on one end, extreme femininity on the other.  Most people fall somewhere between the two extremes yet we all get assigned a gender and are asked to dress appropriately.

People don't fit neatly into boxes and the thought that a simple measuring stick can be used to determine someone's gender is pretty horrifying.  I hope Wayne finds some degree of comfort in his body but I'm guessing by the title of the book that she might not.  In which case, I hope he has the courage to be who she is.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sharing the spotlight

I have a lot of great friends. Two of them, John and Michelle, are married.  They each bought the other tickets to Sarah McLachlan for Christmas.  Once everyone stopped laughing about it, I found myself invited along for the adventure. 

I saw Sarah McLachlan a few years ago at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo.  It was a spectacular production, lights, smoke, huge screens...and lots of Sarah. 

This time, the concert was in a theatre and she shared the stage with two amazing singers (Melissa McClelland and Butterfly Boucher).  They didn't open for Sarah, they played with her.  Sarah sang her songs, they sang theirs.  And when they sang, Sarah did back up vocals or accompanied on the piano or guitar. 

What a difference a few years can make. 

The first time I saw her, I loved the concert but didn't connect to the person.  This time, I was just as impressed with the person as with her angelic voice.  Not everyone is able to share the spotlight but she did it easily and elegantly.  Thanks Sarah - for the music and the lesson.  The world is a much better place when we're all given a chance to shine.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

We own this

Canada lost to Russia last night.  As a proud Canadian, I dutifully sat down at my television to witness our victory.  With three goals by the third period, we only had to wait another 20 minutes before an entire nation could leap to its feet.  So what the hell happened?

Apparently Russia can play hockey too.  Perhaps we don't actually own the game.  I'm sorry that we lost - it's always more fun when our team wins.  But Russia deserved the gold after that third period performance. They were losing big time but pulled it together and beat all the odds. Good on 'em.

Funny how sports mirror life.  We can train, prepare and plan but it does not guarantee we're going to get what we want.  I've trained for races and did everything exactly the way I was supposed to.  On race day, I couldn't pull it off.  I've also signed up for races with very little training and just figured I'd run for fun. My fastest half marathon was one I ran with the least amount of training. Go figure.

The Canadian team was ready for the gold - they could taste it.  Our entire country could taste it.  They played well, scored three goals...and then hit the wall.  Silver is probably the hardest medal to swallow.  To win gold or bronze, you gotta win your last game. To win silver, you have to play your heart out all tournament and then lose the last game.  That sucks.

Well, let's lick our wounds and move on.  There's always next year.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What's in a name?

My ever vigilant sister sent me a link yesterday to an article in the Globe and Mail about Type 1 diabetes.  Most specificially, the article was about the name of this (my) chronic disease.  Apparently, there are some of us out there who don't like being lumped in with the Type 2s.

I get it. 

When I tell someone that I have diabetes I always add the Type 1 part because I don't want anyone to think that having diabetes might in any way be my fault.  How awful is that? There are plenty of Type 2s out there who have diabetes through no fault of their own but, as a group, the stereotype is: people who eat badly and don't exercise get Type 2.  I exercise, I eat well and I try really hard to stay healthy.  So I add the Type 1 part to my disease so that everyone knows that.  I think I need to stop doing that.

(Check out the Type 1 Diabetes article if you're interested.)

I wrote back to my sister and told her my proposed new name for this disease of mine:  Black Faerie Plague.  I think it sums up how I feel about it, with a touch of whimsy thrown in for good measure. 

I should probably back up a step and introduce myself. 

My name is Celine (with the accent aigu but it's giving me trouble so please imagine it's there until I can figure it out)
I have diabetes and wear an insulin pump
I'm a runner.  I love running.  I just started a new training program to be able to run the fabled Around the Bay Road Race at the end of March.  Yes folks, I will run 30k in 12 weeks.  I've run 22k before (well once) but have run 21.1 several times and have 6 finishers medals to prove it.

I've never blogged before and, in fact, have never read blogs before this week.  I just discovered a wonderful one and thought it might be fun to try.  Exercise, health, cooking adventures and books are probably what this blog is going to end up being about.