Learning Something New

You know that saying, “You learn something new everyday” that people throw around when they learn something new? Well, I’m not sure if I do actively learn something new everyday, but today I did.

This morning I was having breakfast with my paternal grandma and two aunts, and my mom, who are all over the age of fifty (sorry ladies, it’s pertinent to the story!). We were talking about my having to work instead of going to the craft sale that they were going to. I said something about how there wouldn’t be many people out on a cold Sunday afternoon. My one aunt responded with, “Is it cold here? It was warm at home.” They drove an hour and a half from PA (and area) to Saskatoon. She explained that she had looked at the thermometer at my grandma’s place and it had said it was “10 degrees.” I looked at her slightly confused and said, “1o degrees ABOVE zero?’ She said that it was, indeed, what she meant. I contemplated it for a few seconds and said, “Well, it’s at least -15 here.”

This spurred on a conversation about weather and the Celcius vs. Fahrenheit “debate” after my grandma talked about Trudeau changing everything from Fahrenheit to Celsius. I tried to debate with her about how “it makes more sense that the freezing point be zero than 32 degrees.” All of these women argued that it made sense to them that freezing was 32 degrees.

Somehow we got to talking about how when grandma says it’s 10 above or 10 below that she is referring to 32 degrees. This blew my mind because in my mind of minds, I thought she was referring to 10 degrees below ZERO! Apparently, all of this time that I had been saying, “It’s forty below,” or something like that, anyone over a certain age thought that I was referring to Fahrenheit when in my mind I was referring to Celsius! Conversely, when someone said that same thing, they were probably referring to Farenheit.

The thing that I learned today was that you don’t say “10 below” when you are referring to “-10 degrees Celsius” because it actually means Fahrenheit. Apparently these two things just are not the same. So when my grandma says that it’s “10 below,” I really have no idea what that means. I think I liked it better when I thought she meant -10 degrees Celsius.

Each Day

This post is actually about winter biking, so bare with me as I get to that.

Eight years ago tomorrow was a day that changed my life. It was a day when I thought that I was going to die. I don’t think I’ve thought that I was going to die as much as I did that day. The events of that day are etched in my mind and I curse that it falls on the same day that my brother was born. It creates conflict within myself as I am happy that my brother was born and upset about the whole “I almost died” thing.

Since then I have been thankful for every day that I’ve lived. I’m not thankful EVERY day because I don’t think about it everyday, but most days I think about how grateful I am to be alive for one more day (yeah, I have issues with death… I know, I know). I have had almost 3000 extra days so far and I expect to have many more extra days. In the extra days thus far, I am grateful as much as possible for the many amazing friends I have that remind me all the time that I am loved, for my family, and for all of the simple things that I take for granted: a roof over my head, food on my table, clothes to keep me warm, and clean water to drink.

On Thursdays I coach a winter cycling class (it is 16 weeks until spring). Last week it became “winter” here in Saskatoon, even though it officially doesn’t become winter for another month. We have a lot of snow and the temperature has dropped to -30 a few times already. It has been a quick transition for us from fall to winter, but that’s not unusual in these parts.

Over the past few days I have slowly been getting my winter gear out of its hiding places from their various locations in my house:

I found my neck warmer that has a place for my nose and a mesh part where I breathe out of my mouth. My several pairs of long underwear are out of my “Winter clothes” box and in my drawers. I wear at least one pair everyday (they are key to winter survival in Saskatchewan). When I bike, I like to have an extra layer on my thighs so when I’m biking (and if I’m not going anywhere for a long period of time), I wear my tri shorts or bike shorts. The shammy is nice for my butt and the extra layer is nice for my thighs.

I have brought out my winter biking mitts that I absolutely love. They keep my hands toasty warm. For my jacket, I usually wear a t-shirt and a sweater or bunnyhug* under my cycling jacket that I use all year long.

I have yet to figure out a way to keep my toes from getting cold, but I blame that partially on the winter that I delivered newspapers at 5am and froze my feet many many times – it was truly brutal. Hot shots have been recommended to me, but I haven’t tried them yet. Big bulky boots are another option, but I don’t like that one as much because it is not handy for traveling to places. Usually I bike to commute so I prefer to find methods that are convenient for this. I have also heard about a trick where you wear a plastic bag on your feet and use an elastic band around the ankle. Maybe I’ll try that one.

Anyway, I was biking to the coaching session tonight and the snow was coming down around me and I was just reveling in the beauty of life. Winter and falling snow often does that to me – it brings my thoughts to ones of life. The cold reminds me that I am not invincible and that Mother Nature affects us all, whether we like it or not.

The ice that forms on my eye lashes makes me aware of blinking and each breath is punctuated by the cold air. I become aware of each part of my body as it warms up or becomes cold, of which both happens. If my ears are sticking out of my toque even a little bit, they become very cold. I don’t make that mistake much anymore. Even though it is -25 outside, I sweat inside my jacket and even my hands become sweaty inside my super thick mitts (gloves suck, mitts are the way to go). As my toes become colder and colder, I scrunch up and relax my toes over and over again to try to keep the blood flowing to prevent them from freezing.

Winter reminds me that I’m alive. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for each day.

* Bunnyhug: This is a Saskatchewan-specific term for what people in other places call “hoodies.” I love this about us Saskatchewanites.

Nanowrimo 2010

For the past few years I have tried, and miserably failed, to participate in Nanowrimo. Last year I took a break from it and everything else to focus on other things. However, a friend of mine sent out a FB note asking people about Nanowrimo. So I signed up.

The idea of writing a novel in one month seems ridiculous, even to me. Some people think doing Ironman is ridiculous; in my mind it makes more sense than nanowrimo. However, since September I have been thinking of plots, characters, ideas, and strategies to actually do this.

My first strategy is the word “no.” Right now I’m training for Ironman, working, and getting ready for nanowrimo. I have had to say No to many commitments that have been asked of me. This is no easy feat for me. I learned from my dad that “yes” is a great word and that we need to step up to make things happen. However, I have learned in the past few years that if I say Yes to everything, I will be left with no time or energy to do the things that I really want to do. It has taken some time to learn to be selfish like this, but it’s really coming along.

My second strategy is to learn about all the fun things that happen around Nanowrimo in November. I learned about these chat rooms where people do “sprints,” which means that everyone sits and writes continuously for 5, 10, 20, etc. minutes at a time. Then they take a break for the same length of time to chat, go to the bathroom, or just think about the story. Then they do it again. I actually did a sprint recently and really liked it. It was like an interval in training and I really like intervals. I’m going to intersperse my writing with sprints.

My third strategy is to make clear goals every day. In order to write 50,000 words in one month, I must write around 1,667 words everyday. Last night I watched a cool video about nanowrimo and the strategies and it suggested making a calendar. So I did. In my day-planner, I wrote in the amount of words for each day. By the 30th, I will have 50,010 words… in an ideal world.

My fourth strategy is to create characters now. I am trusting that details and ideas will come as I write, but I want to have a loose plot and characters, places, and names in place before the 1st.

My last strategy is to surround myself by nanowrimos. On the 1st, I’m going to a nanowrimo launch and then there is my friend that somehow convinced me to do this in the first place. We have a small group of people that we’re hoping will get together every 7 to 10 days during November. I’m mostly looking for online support, though, because there are going to be times when it seems impossible. I hope that the online groups will provide the inspiration I need to keep going.

Here is my day-planner with the pretty pink goals:

Nanowrimo Word Count

Jeremy is a good friend of mine

My friend Jeremy has the curliest hair I have ever seen on a white person. We met in 2001 on a cross-Canada cycling trip of several crazy environmentalists who thought that being sleep-deprived for an entire summer would be a good idea. It was lots of fun, but kind of silly. Anyway, back to Jeremy…. He is also the funniest friend that I have… no offense to all you other funny people in my life. When Jeremy is around, most people can’t help but laugh, except for people who do not appreciate his kind of humour because those people don’t really like Jeremy as much. Our visits are often too short because Saskatoon is not usually where he is traveling to or from, but a stop along the way. Nonetheless, every couple of years (or more) there are adventures had with this super duper awesome friend. It was great to have him in Saskatoon last week for even the short amount of time that he was here. I told him that I would blog about him and he promised to read it. So here I am blogging by force. Now, here are some funny pictures of Jeremy and my adventures:

Jeremy and I created this costume together for the Fast Back bike. ~2004

I have no idea how we got this Santa to agree to let Jeremy do this. It was awesome! December 2001

It was a chilly February day when Jeremy and Aftab came to visit for less than 24 hours, but we did manage to skyrocket 7-11 shares that day. Jan or Feb 2007?

Blog for Choice: Trust Women

Just a few days ago, I attended my last doula class of the 10-week course through a local doula business called Birth Rhythms here in Saskatoon. It has been in this course that I have learned so much about women and pregnancy. It has never been so clear to me that women have lost trust in themselves to make decisions for them and their bodies.

In the choice to have or not continue with a pregnancy, a woman must go through a process no matter what the circumstances. If a woman decides not to continue with her pregnancy, she and society needs to trust that she is doing the right thing for her. If the pregnancy is continued, the trust is even more compromised. It seems as though the medical system does not trust women’s bodies and it compromises women’s abilities to trust their bodies as well.

As a doula and a woman, I trust women to make the right choice for her no matter what the circumstance.

I am 363 months old

I was thinking today about how when we are babies, we measure our age in months… sometimes in weeks! Even after 1-year-old, children are measured in months. Of course this is because each month is a significant time of development.

I was thinking, though, about how it would be if we celebrated our monthly birthday. Of course, it would make annual birthdays a little less special, but I wonder if it would make us feel more special and significant to be on this earth. Maybe it would make people understand how our individual and collective impacts on the world are significant. Perhaps it would change how we view the world, our relationships, our families, our friends, and our interactions with each other.

Right now I am 30 years and (almost) 3 months old. Sometimes I do think that each month I develop in some significant way. Of course, not every 30 + 3 month-old person develops this way… we all develop differently. However, it is a potential that some people choose to develop at the age they are and others are in that same place. I don’t even know if this makes sense right now to others, but it has really made me stop and think about it.

I can’t help but wonder what I will learn by my 30 + 6 month birthday.

Poetry…

Sometimes a good poem at the right time can just make one’s day. This made my day today:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
– Wendell Berry

The Clutter Project – Where do I put this Junk?

As I started to declutter the spaces that I use the most, a funny thing happened; I have little piles of junk everywhere! While my garbage bag is also filling up and my recycling bin is getting a good fill-up, I have these items that I won’t throw in the trash. These include things that I want to donate to second-hand stores or that I want to sell at a garage sale or on the internet.

Now that I know that I need to gather this stuff so that I can make just a few trips to the local second-hand shop, my preference is the Mennonite Central Committee, I must gather this stuff and take it to the appropriate drop-off spot. My thoughts of having a garage sale are definitely with me, but garage sales are a lot of work for a triathlete whose busiest time of year is the spring and summer. My mom is a garage-sale-aholic and might be interested in helping me out. She loves this stuff! No matter what, though, I need a place to put this junk.

The next step in this project is to get disposable boxes and label them with “Give away” or “Throw away.” As a detail-person, I get stuck on the little things like “I don’t have any boxes.” I actually have to converse with myself to say “Uhh… well, go out and get some!” I have a lot of stuff that I do want to sell, though. This will be done through the internet and will happen as soon as my desk becomes completely clutter-free. It should only take a few days.

Also, it has come to my attention that my obsession/discussing this clutter business has inspired a couple of my friends to look at their own clutter. For all of you out there trying to declutter: “Keep going! It feels so good to get rid of junk!”

The Clutter Project – Where to Start

Last night I felt overwhelmed with the daunting task of “decluttering* my life.” Honestly, I felt sick to my stomach even thinking about the big project ahead of me. It wasn’t the thought of decluttering the “stuff” from my life, but the actual reasons behind my clutter. My clutter has defined me for a long time and I have never explored my reasons for clutter.

To be fair to myself, I’m not THAT bad. In the book “Clear your Clutter with Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston that I talked about in my previous post, she talks about really bad cases where people have ridiculous collections of telephone books and basically live in squalor. When I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was decluttering my house, she remarked that she didn’t think it was cluttered. I appreciated that, but it made me wonder how much of this clutter is in my own head. Probably lots.

Last night I cleared up some clutter in my personal life and dealt with a relationship that needed dealing with.  I guess that’s where it needed to start – it was a good beginning. This morning I went through some stuff in my bathroom and threw out things like an old watch, hotel bathroom soap, and a bazillion contact lens cases. It felt good. I’m just going to keep going and getting rid of this stuff that I no longer need and, more importantly, never use.

* I am aware that decluttering is not a word, but I think it should be!

The Clutter Project – Introduction

I was born a pack-rat. Even from a young age, my mother fought with me to throw out items that I squirreled away into the corners of my closet, dresser, and even under my mattress. Some of my mom’s favourite stories of me include throwing away coloured colouring books, which to me was a showcase of my hard work and I loved seeing the completeness of the books. My mom, of course, saw them as unnecessary clutter. I would scream and cry and sometimes even dig through the trash bags hoping to salvage some of these important items that seemed to define my existence.

After the de-cluttering, though, my mom could see a change in my mood. I was a happier child with more lightness and positive energy. As an adult I know that my “moodiness” throughout my life can be attributed, in part, to my mood disorder entitled “Bipolar II Disorder.” If we had known back then what I know now, we would have done a lot more than just throw out my precious things. We would have dealt with the problem in the first place. The problem being the accumulation of the stuff and the representation of my inner self. A big part of it was the fact that I did not adjust well to change and ended up not being a very well-adjusted child or adult. While I have become better at it, I work on it every day and try very hard to change the way my brain processes the changes and obstacles and are inherent in life.

The other day I went in to a used bookstore, a place where one who has clutter and is a collector of collecting things should never go. I have had some specific books that I wanted to look at and thought that I would see if the sought out titles were there. They were not, but I found other books that I wanted. I decided on two of the three, deciding that I already had too many vegan cookbooks and put that one back. One was a knitting book so that I could start my next knitting project – I have been quite successful in finishing knitting projects. The other was an ironic choice entitled, “Clear your Clutter with Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston – this one really spoke to me and I instantly felt a connection with the author in the first page that I read.

I have struggled with clutter my whole life, but never have I struggled with it as much as I have since moving into my new house last June. I bought my house and moved all of the stuff I had in my 1.5-storey house into my current house with about 75% the living space as my other one, but about double the storage space. This has proved to be extremely dangerous for me. I have succeeded in packing every single corner of my living and storage space with stuff. Since I have moved into this house, I have felt unsettled, ungrounded, and disorganized. This has done nothing to help with my struggle to manage my bipolar and it seems that every time I get one step closer to organization, two more things come into my house and my life to mess it up again.

Upon reading the Feng Shui book and being in some places lately that have had such positive energy, I have made a commitment to uncluttering my house and my life. I need this in order to keep my sanity and take back my life. Even within the first few chapters, I feel understood: “Probably, like most messies, you maintain that there is order in your chaos and, what’s more, that you need to keep things in the open to remind you of important things you have to do. But if someone actually puts you to the test and asks you where some thing is, at best you only know the general direction in which it lies and rarely its precise location.” This paragraph resonated in me and I knew that this was a project that I must embark on ASAP, ie. NOW.

I am externally motivated and often need goals, sub-goals, lists, and deadlines for a project. While I have not come up with those yet, I have committed to this project. I have taken pictures and am hoping to document this process. I know that in order for me to do something, I must do it quickly or I won’t do it. I hope in the next few days to get this project off the ground and to have it completed by the end of November. Let’s see how this pans out.

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