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.

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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

First Day of Spring

After what has seemed like the longest winter EVER, it is finally the first day of spring! While it was +1C outside today, it seemed extremely dreary. Saskatoon is generally a very sunny place to live. So when dreary days like this happen, it seems to affect people’s moods a lot. I called a friend saying that I was “bored” for lack of a more descriptive word. In reality, I felt lethargic and unmotivated. Granted, I had biked for 3 hours in the morning, had a 2-hour nap, did my taxes and the dishes. So maybe I was just out of energy and didn’t want to do anymore. Or maybe it was just the grey clouded sky that put a damper on my spirits.

The signs of spring to me are not so much a date, but a smell and a feeling. It has started to smell like spring for sure, but it won’t be until the trees start to bud and the snow melts to make water flow in the streets. Being from the farm, I remember spring being a wonderfully fun time. Water would fill the ditches and us kids couldn’t help but play in the water wearing rubber boots and making rafts. We would find frog eggs in the water and watch as the eggs turned into tadpoles and then into frogs. It just seemed so natural that these little clusters of jelly would turn into hopping frogs. Now there is less water in the ditches and the frogs have all but disappeared. And now, as I have become an urbanite, the signs of spring are not nearly as much fun: dirty streets and wet pants and shoes. However, I have to admit that I will be over-joyed in a couple of weeks when I can get out onto the highway for my first road bike ride of the season!

Happy First Day of Spring!

Adventures of Fall and its Time of Changing

While thinking about all of the changes in my life this fall and every fall before it, I wondered if there have been any scientific studies on this seeming phenomenon.* It makes sense to me that as our environment makes a drastic change from lush green to shades of yellow and brown that people would change as well. The birds take off for the south, insects start to disappear into the crooks and crannies of our houses, the sun doesn’t fly so high in the sky, and the days begin to get shorter. It is also, a time of harvesting the fruits of the growing season and mentally preparing for, or avoiding thinking about, winter. In addition to this, for many years of our lives we spend this time of year starting a new school year. Whether it be nature, nurture, or a bit of both, fall is a time of change.

While going through my personal break-up, it seems that loneliness likes company and whether it be subconsciously on purpose or by accident, it seems that there are many people in my life faced with this heart-wrenching life change. I like to take note of things like themes in life. This fall seems to have two themes for me in terms of changes: one being said break-ups, the other being babies.

Break-ups are a very difficult life change, as I am so incredibly aware of right now, and one often goes through the commonly believed five stages of grief, as if someone had died: disbelief, yearning/bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. These don’t necessarily occur in a linear or even logical order. I almost consider myself an “expert” on breaking up, but I know one thing for sure: I will get over it and so will all of the people I know going through this particular life change. Rencently, a friend of mine brought my attention to a word/movement/book/website called Quirkyalone:

Quirkyalone noun/adj. A person who enjoys being single (but is not opposed to being in a relationship) and generally prefers to be alone rather than dating for the sake of being in a couple.

A Digression:
I thought this was a fitting concept and I even took the quiz, which I scored very high on. This brings up an interesting dichotomy, though, about people being Quirkyalone or not Quirkyalone. Of course, Quirkyalone people can turn into “Quirkytogether” people, who are in a relationship. For the past few days, I have been mentally thinking about where people that I know fit and what makes someone not be Quirkyalone. Personally, I somewhat dislike and question dichotomies, even though it can make life seem so much easier and boring if things were just black and white, due to one particular Women and Gender Studies class I took in university. That being said, there must be some people in the middle that waiver between Quirkyalone and not Quirkyalone (can you tell that I just watched the Sex and the City about freaks where Carrie goes on a non-date?). Honestly, to put someone into a category of Quirkyalone or not Quirkyalone would be very judgmental of me and I am practicing the art of not judging others by what I see or know as a truth. In that case, Quirkyalone is a concept to make one feel better who is alone and perhaps feeling a bit “older” in order to justify his/her relationship status.

Back on Track:
What does this have to do with people surrounding my life having babies? Well, nothing I suppose other than the fact that it seems to be coming up a lot. I know several people who have recently given birth to precious beings and have discovered the pregnancy of just as many. I do realize that I am at an age where more and more people are having babies. So maybe that is the base of it, but I do wonder if there isn’t some sort of seasonal change impact on people starting to cuddle up on a cool, romantic fall evening. The stars seem to shine brighter in the fall than the summer. Perhaps it’s cosmic! Or extraterrestrial!

Maybe all of this is just one big coincidence, but it sure does make me wonder how everyone will settle into these changes and a long winter ahead.

* I could not find any studies on this topic, but will continue to look into it.

Adventures in Gas Prices

Being an environmentalist is hard work and trying to avoid hypocrisy is almost as hard. However, I do my best at biking to work and reducing my footprint on the earth. The fact of the matter is, however, that I have increased my footprint since getting a “real” job and acquiring “stuff” that accompanies the lifestyle of being a middle-class person.

Tonight I drove to my Thai yoga massage because I had to run home after I discovered that I had forgotten my yoga pants and wanted to be comfortable during my massage (no, the massage does not count into being middle class – I got massages even when I was a dumpster diving activist). As I was driving to my appointment, which was disappointing in itself, I saw that my gas tank was almost empty. I knew that gas prices were going up, but I thought that the one near my work wouldn’t have already gone up. After my massage I went there to check… $1.45/Litre. Ouch. So I decided to drive by the gas station near my house, nope, $1.47. In theory, I support the rise in gas prices. In practicality, I hate it. This causes a bit of inner turmoil to me.

As an environmentalist, I’m glad that people are starting to think twice before hopping in their car to go just down the street. However, as someone who drives pretty much only for work and “emergencies,” it is super annoying. I’ve made a budget of how much money I’m supposed to spend on gas and it is going to be eaten up in one fill if I fill it up right now.

Apparently gas prices are so high because of the hurricane near Texas. Hurricane Ike is its name. I have some friends in Texas who are under curfew because of the storm. Sometimes I’m glad to live in Saskatchewan, where we get somewhat scary lightening storms, occasionally hail, and rarely small tornadoes. It was like everything became connected for me: storms in areas rich in oil will make gas prices increase a lot. How predictable! Haven’t scientists been warning people of this storm for at least a day now? It’s just so interesting to me that we would not have been told that our gas prices were going to increase by at least $0.10/L. However, in some places, it’s increased more than that. Incredible. I love how the world all works – we are all connected! To me, it seems amazing that a storm that is thousands of miles away could affect me in my everyday living.

So did I get gas? No, I did not. I have decided not to buy gas until I absolutely have to, which is Tuesday because I have a meeting >200km away that I need to go to for work. This weekend, I will be completely car-free. Sometimes life’s little inconveniences just help make avoiding hypocritical behavior so much easier.

For the record, here is a map of the gas prices in Canada:

Canadian Gas Prices

Canadian Gas Prices