PoohThis is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Between my car accident in October and my mother’s passing in January, I’ve been having a lot more of those “how many bad things can happen” contests in my head.

You know what I’m talking about — where you’re driving through a perfectly calm intersection and, all of a sudden, you picture scrap metal and carnage everywhere. Or you want to go for a run but somehow know that this is the time you will turn your ankle at the farthest distance from home, be forced to move into a hollowed out tree, and subsist on berries and ground water until someone realizes you’re missing. My sister-in-law had one last night on the way to Rocky Point where she visualized her toddler falling off the pier into an angry and deadly ocean.

I realized that I was having more of these over a month ago and have spent some time doing hypnosis-based reframing exercises to help them move along. Out of my head. To go somewhere else.

Then I was watching a TED Vancouver talk from astronaut Chris Hadfield the other day when I was reminded of something I used to know well: there is a big difference between danger and fear.

Chris Hadfield starts the talk with the question, “What is the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?” He then tells the audience that NASA is famous for knowing exactly how dangerous everything is: the chances of the rocket taking off properly; the chances of running out of oxygen; the chances that re-entry will be successful. Chris Hadfield knew exactly how dangerous everything he did at NASA was.

What NASA also does is train seemingly well-adjusted, intelligent people to sit on an enormous piece of dynamite and be hurled into an environment where humans can’t breathe on their own and unprotected eyes get sucked out of heads. How do they do that? Especially after they articulate for these people every single thing that can go wrong in aching statistical detail?

Well, according to Chris Hadfield, they practice. A lot.

They practice each thing they might need to do in space at optimum conditions. And then they practice at every environment in between all the way down to doing tasks in the worst possible scenario. It is through this consistent and repetitive practice that astronauts not only learn to distinguish danger from fear, but how to move past the fear to do what is necessary to survive even the worst case scenario. They learn to recognize the body’s response to something out of the ordinary — fear — and to know in their core that that feeling does not indicate the actual level of danger.

This is an important thing for all of us to know. It’s an important skill for everyone to have. Yes, it will help when those bad things really do happen, but it’s more than that. A big part of a fulfilling life is having different experiences. Some of those will have very little danger involved, sure, but even those less dangerous experiences can have a lot of fear attached.

For instance, someone never walking down a forest path in the spring as the green floor is coming to life and the leaves are returning to the trees due to their fear of bears. With a bit of bear aware information, these walks can be not only eye opening but truly soul nourishing. It would be a shame for someone to never experience one because of a fear attached to a much smaller danger (and one that can be mitigated).

Does this mean that I’m cured? No, but it does remind me of a coping mechanism that I used unconsciously for a large portion of my life. A mechanism that will be reintroduced post haste.

And, thanks, Chris Hadfield. I really appreciate the reminder.

mcdonalsIt makes me crazy that McDonald’s is the international Restaurant Sponsor for the Olympics. Every two years, I see that logo connected with what is supposed to be the ultimate test of athletic ability and I cringe.

I did, however, decide to investigate my high-and-mighty stance during Sochi’s run. As I was sitting there in my stupor brought on by a nasty cold virus, I wondered what other company would be up to the challenge? Which other restaurant is known internationally, has a foothold in every community it inhabits, and would be able to show an organizational benefit to the, undoubtedly, extraordinary expense?

Like it or not, it costs a ridiculous amount of money to host the Olympics. As lovely as the thought is to attract the best of the best to one competition and to let them slug it out for world supremacy, the cold hard fact is that someone is footing this bill. Someone is building the venues, someone is housing all these athletes, and someone needs to find ways to offset the costs. Even without taking into account the legacy cost of these venues (apparently, Greece built 22 venues for their Olympics in 2004 and, according to the CBC, only 1 is still in use. Twenty one of these venues have been abandoned), the immediate costs for the roughly 4 weeks — including the Paralympics — is staggering, even for the most economically stable city and country.

So, first of all, who is going to look at McDonald’s and say, no thanks — we don’t want your money? And second of all, who else will jump into the spot? Burger King? KFC? They’re really the only two other companies who have even a fraction of the international appeal of McDonald’s and how are they better? They’re still offering calorie- and fat-rich foods that no world-class athlete could possibly eat more than a few times a year.

What have I learned from my navel-gazing session? Well, that as much as I really don’t like that logo attached to the Olympics, the truth is that without McDonald’s, the games probably wouldn’t be possible in the format we’ve come to expect. I’ve also discovered that it says more about us than about the Olympics that our most internally entrenched and financially successful restaurant is one that offers nourishment that is the polar opposite to that needed for optimal performance, whether in a physical competition or even just in our daily lives. And, lastly — because clearly I’m on a roll — just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean that there’s a better solution.

I’ve tried, I really did, sitting here in my pajamas with copious amounts of tea cups and tissues surrounding me. I didn’t come up with a different answer. But I hope someone else does. Because, truthfully, it  makes me crazy to see that logo attached to the Olympics.

iStock_000005464787XLargeWow. The last few months have been an absolute whirlwind. As I settled in for the holidays, I was — like everyone else — enjoying time with the family, taking a break from the world, and optimistically planning what 2014 was going to be.

I was looking to make creative New Years Resolutions and was pumped for the new start a new year seems to provide. I had completed my two month off season for my triathlon training and was thrilled that I hadn’t seemed to gain more than a few holiday pounds. No problem there. I was excited to get back at it. My first training workout was scheduled for January 6th.

I did work out that week. I did a few runs to get my legs used to those again (ugh) and I tried to start my writing schedule that I had so carefully designed in my calendar. No excuses. This was going to be a great year.

But the reality was that my computers (all of them — tablets, table tops, smartphones) were conspiring against me. Updates, reboots, slow internet connections. Gaaa! For all the time I spent at my desk determined to write that week, I composed nothing. Nothing.

It wasn’t starting out to be the year I had planned at all.

And then the other shoe dropped. My mother passed away on January 13th. She had been diagnosed with cancer 5 1/2 years earlier and had been quite ill for the previous year. It wasn’t something I talked about. I had only revealed her condition to my most regular clients and coaches in August, when it became clear that 2013 would likely be her last year. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust others with the information, but rather I considered it to be an intensely personal circumstance and one that, I felt, might be diluted if it were shared with too many others. Even writing the words here now, feels a little like over sharing.

Needless to say, everything stopped. Not just stopped, but became irrelevant. Life drew into sharp perspective. The family’s important job of supporting each other was priority. So was letting go of the “shoulds” — not because I was being immature or running away, but because the previous year had been full of responsibilities and it was finally time to release. So, I spent time going to movies with friends, meeting up fun people for a meal, and taking long, lazy walks with the dog. I didn’t have the energy for training. I was exhausted. My clients were amazing — so patient with me.

And so, now — the week of February 17th — it feels that my 2014 is actually beginning. And truly, that’s just fine. If 2014 is having a languorous start, so be it. Even with the extra layer of “cheese” that has attached itself to my butt and thighs with the extended off time, I’m still optimistic. As frustrated as I get from time to time (like with the nasty, nasty cold I survived last week), this is a time to be gentle with myself. It’s not always easy, but hey miracles do happen…this is the first day I’ve actually written since last year. My schedule is, apparently, up and running.

FeastiveFor the first time in a number of years, I’m feeling quite feastive. I’m actually looking forward to the holidays and to the New Year. I’m even thinking about what I might set as my New Year’s Resolutions.

That got me thinking: resolutions are usually a list of things you promise yourself you’ll start avoiding or stop doing. Smoking, eating, spending too much, sitting on the couch. They usually involve taking a shame inventory and then making a list of what’s wrong. You get the picture. Instead of focus on what’s broken, I’ve decided to choose three or four things that I want to introduce into my life. New things or revisited things.

I have even set a few rules around it — just so I don’t slip in a negative dressed up in positive sequins.

  1. Fun is Key: I’m tired of forcing myself to do responsible, boring, or rote things. I’m adding fun things from now on. Life is short and I’m looking to have an interesting, joyful time.
  2. Revisiting is Fine as Long as It’s a Blast: For instance, I am mulling over adding “playing the piano” to the list. I played for 13 years as a child and stopped because it just felt miserable. I don’t mean I stopped lessons, I mean that I stopped touching the piano. It now just holds photos of my niece (which is a fine occupation, by the way). As long as playing is fun and without stress or expectations, I’m in. If it converts to something else, I’m done. Simple.
  3. Be Adventuresome: I love to learn but I’m appalled at how often that happens sitting in a chair or at my computer. It’s time to get some experiential learning in. Stat.

I’m really excited to come up with my list. It’s just starting to form — I’ve had a few ideas make application — but no so-called invitations have been sent yet. But, I’ll let you know when the final list is ready. **Smile**

Take a look. I’ve left a few comments below the video.

 

I found this through Jessica Levenson’s post on the Upworthy blog. She really related to the part about women being taught to physically shrink while men are encouraged to expand.

The part that hits me in the gut is, “I asked five questions in genetics the other day. They all started with “Sorry”.” It still smarts a little. I was that girl — in genetics class, no less. I never contributed my shyness with being a girl. Rather, just to being shy.

I was brought up to be a strong woman, no doubt there. I’ve always been very independent. But was I taught to be vocal, bold, and willing to take up my own space? I thought so but there I was — sorry. Apologizing for being there. Apologizing for not knowing. Sorry for taking up the instructor’s time and attention.

I don’t have the answer to this one. It’s going to take some mulling over. But I do think it’s worth the effort. In a world where we think we’re encouraging strong women, what is going wrong? Why do we still feel small?

I just don’t know. Sorry.

I realize that you’re probably noticing that I haven’t posted in over a month. Not to worry. I’ve been writing like crazy that whole time.

No, my draft list isn’t full — I write them in my head.

I’m not kidding. I see things that I need to comment on all the time. I even get several sentences written and tuck it away for later. What has not been happening, however, is actually typing it out. Or writing it down. Or scribbling it down even.

All those topics. All those comments. Gone.

Gone.

Sigh. So, I’m now trying to find a solution that works longer term than the next day or so. If you have something that works for you, please let me know. My blog depends on it — heehee.

IMGP1429The other day, I was telling my brother the story of my books — how I love them, how I need to whittle their numbers down to a manageable size, and how I cannot seem to toss even one of them in the “donate” pile.

I know this seems like no big deal. Some books. Peashaw. Get over it.

You don’t understand — I have books piled up in my office and in office drawers that should be holding business documents. They’re taking up a significant portion of one of my bedroom closets, all three drawers of my (large) night stand, and inhabiting over half of my dining room server. As a result, my office looks like a paper bomb went off in it, my wine glasses are taking up precious kitchen cupboard space, my grandmother’s silverware is mixed in with sewing items (they are very similar, after all (!!)), and my remote controls, magazines, and tissues now live on top of my nightstand.

My brother listened to all my woes — he’s known me for his entire life after all and knows intimately my issues with books — and calmly replied, “You know, a little organization goes a long way. Why don’t you buy some bookshelves?”

Now, there are lots of reasons why I don’t own bookshelves. The first of which is that I’d have to cop up to owning more books than Carrie Bradshaw has shoes. The other is that while I love books themselves, I don’t really enjoy looking at them. I love smelling them, I love leafing through them, I love that they’re close by. I don’t need to see them — thus the reason they were invading every inch of storage I have.

His suggestion, however, had real merit. After all, everything else in my house was living out in the open because their storage space had been commandeered by books. So, why not just get some bookshelves and let the books hang out in the house for a while?

The result? I now have bookshelves in my entrance hall with a good number of my books on them. I actually really like how they look and I know have space to reorganize my world. I’ll let you know how that project goes.

Big LeagueHave you ever been driving along, singing a song at the top of your lungs and then realize it’s really not a song you should be belting out? I’m not talking about the entire Best of Backstreet Boys compilation (I have no idea to what you’re referring). I’m talking about a song that’s been in your collection forever and you’ve either just realized or constantly forget that its theme is rather somber.

This happened to me today — as you can imagine since I’m now blogging about it.

I was happily driving up Coast Meridian, singing away. The song? Big League by Tom Cochrane. Now, I know I’m probably dating myself by admitting I know this song but, in my defense, it became well-entrenched in my brain when I was young enough to not really listen to the words.

And so, whenever I hear it now, I get about half way through the first chorus — gleefully (GLEEFULLY) singing as though no one can hear me — and I realize that it’s about his son never making it to the big league. So, there I am, joyfully singing about this man’s son’s death. Sigh.

Talk about a buzz kill.

Instant guilt.

Pumped Up KicksThe other song that this happens with is Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People. It’s a catchy one. Jaunty, really. It’s about a school shooting. Again, there I was, car dancing to a song about people dying. Now, whenever this song comes on the radio, I quickly switch the station and it has been “unchecked” from my iTunes playlist. Sorry — I just can’t dance around to death marches.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that there are going to be songs about sad things. Tragic things. I get it; I understand. What I don’t get is why these songs are so peppy. So belt-able. So dance-able. It’s confusing.

Sigh.

Yellowstone Fishing

I admit that this feeling was probably heightened by my being stuck at home with a cold for some of the weekend, but I have a hankering for some adventure. Those of you who are super close to me have a good idea why this feeling is creeping in too (more on this for public consumption in the coming months) but there I was this weekend — me, Maddie (unconscious), and Netflix.

What I found was a pleasant surprise. I’ve browsed the documentary section before but one in particular caught my eye this time through: Where the Yellowstone Goes. Are you asleep yet?

No?

Good.

Documenting a 30-day journey north along the Yellowstone River — the only undammed river in the US — the filmmaker, Hunter Weeks, tells a touching, funny, and, in some parts, sad story of four people and a dog’s remarkable trip. Along the way, they meet the people who live along the river’s banks and experience firsthand the trauma a recent oil spill has wreaked on it. Whether the travellers are at a local watering hole, watching a sheep drive, or camping on a welcoming local’s front lawn, they take the time and make the effort to really learn all they can about the communities along the river.

I really enjoyed sitting back with my cup of tea and taking part in their adventure. The Yellowstone flows north from almost the bottom of Montana up to just beyond the North Dakota border. I’ve wanted to visit Montana for several years now (I’m a sucker for their tourism commercials) and this was my ticket (temporarily — I do actually plan to go). The movie does a really good job of showing the tranquility of 30 days on the water as well as the activity and fun. There are even some dramatic moments as they say goodbye to one of their crew and, at one point, have to go hunting in the dark for a boat that has gone missing.

So, if you’re at home one rainy evening or stuck inside nursing an illness (ugh — sorry to hear you’re sick!) and yearning for some adventure, take a look at Where the Yellowstone Goes. It’s a bit of the outdoors when you yourself cannot partake.

Note: I also watched Hunter Week’s other documentary on Netflix, Ride the Divide. More on that later.

All images are from the Where the Yellowstone Goes trailer (above).

Baked Oatmeal
I know oatmeal is good for me but I had a really challenging time finding a recipe that I liked. They were usually too bland or too sugary. I came across the cousin of what has become my go-to oatmeal recipe while leafing through a vegetarian cookbook. I liked that it was baked. I liked that they referred to it as creamy.

What came out was a creamy, fluffy oatmeal that was too sweet but, happily, filled with delicious treats. I decided to start with their basic premise — baked in the oven — but to make it my own by reducing the sugar and using almond milk instead of dairy. I also tested a version that fed two (or, rather, something I only had to eat for two mornings); this is the version I’ve included here. It works really well multiplied.

What I love most is that I can make Irish or Traditional oats without standing over the stove for over half an hour and, potentially, losing the whole batch to burning at the end. I just do the stove top bit (takes about 10 minutes), pop it in the oven and either work in my office on a weekday or snuggle in with a movie on the weekend until it’s done.

Here you go —

Baked Oatmeal with Fruit and Spices

Serves 2

1 3/4c. almond milk
1/2c. Irish or Traditional oats
3/4 tsp. pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (freshly ground if you have it)
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 to 3/4c. peeled and diced pears or apples
1/3c. raisins
1/4 tsp. salt

optional: sprinkling of almonds, walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Add milk to a saucepan; place oats, nutmeg, cinnamon, pears or apples in a bowl; measure out raisins and add salt to the measure. Get the maple syrup and your measuring spoon ready.

Heat the milk on medium heat until it’s very hot but not boiling. Stir occasionally to avoid burning/scalding. Stir in the bowl of oats, spices and pears. Add in the maple syrup. Place back on the heat and bring the mixture back to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the raisins and salt.

Place this mixture in an oven safe dish and cover. Bake this for about 30 minutes.

Once it’s ready, stir it well and add in the nuts, if desired. Eat it hot.

To re-heat the oatmeal, add a little almond milk to the bowl and place it in the microwave for 30-60 seconds. Stir and enjoy.