Sunday, December 30, 2018

Running Home

I never thought I'd be interested in a sport. I guess running isn't a sport, per se. Anyway, I have a drawer full of running gear, I have three different pairs of running shoes, I now read running articles and magazines, and I would rather be on a nice long run than just about anything else.
So what happened?
It's just wonderful to feel yourself strong and in your body. It's fun to run like you used to when you were a kid. There's no team work involved, so you don't have to relate to anyone except yourself. It's fun to sweat, and it's fun to achieve something in a half hour that you didn't think you could do. It's even fun to come home after a not-so-great run and feel a sense of satisfaction that at least you went out and did it.

Another weirder thing, for me. When I'm out running it's the only time I feel normal. I rarely feel at home in my skin. From being a white colonial baby in Africa cared for by my Ayah, to suddenly moving to oil country (Alberta) when a toddler, and being the only weirdo in school... and becoming a wanderer... whatever, I felt like an outsider much of my life and sometimes that is even outside myself. Which yes is also weird.

But when I'm running? I'm here and now! I'm free again - running in the Rockies, or anywhere. Just running for the hell of it. Ya, so get shoes, clothing, gloves whatever a hat if its cold, and just step out... and run...

Of course there are problems, life is suffering after all. Don't go out alone on a rural road if you're a woman. Don't run after dark in an isolated area if you're a woman. And all that. Even today, some asshole yelled after me ... actually he yelled AT me while I ran past. I turned back around and came up to face him again... he looked down at the ground. Didn't want to deal with a mean-ass bad-ass 62 year old like yours truly.

I'll have run 1000 kilometres in 2018. I'm hoping to crunch a half marathon in February and a full in May.
So grateful that I can.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

I Love Housework!!

It's true. Although you probably couldn't guess it looking at the state of my home right now. Cobwebs everywhere. But I love housework!

When I first started doing housework, I lived in a bungalow in Calgary with my parents and my two younger sisters. My mother had a part-time job teaching math at the university and she was an artist. My father was an entomologist who played the piano. A very bohemian household, where the odd cobweb, crumbs behind the African baskets on the kitchen counter, full ashtrays didn't matter much in the bigger scheme of things. But they mattered to me. I cleaned and organized and read books and played the clarinet. Until I discovered rock music and opening the doors of perception, that is.

When I was travelling, I didn't really bother cleaning. Although when I was sleeping in a small makeshift tent in the desert with my husband-to-be, I did try to sweep the sand out in the morning. As a young woman, I lived in many communal houses and did dishes when things got rough.

I've had a home of my own for many years. I've raised five children and kept myself going all these weeks and months, and I've come to value the smell of a well-cleaned, dusted, polished and loved home.

But there's another kind of housework that I do, and that kind is more difficult. It's  the housework we have to do to ourselves. Our inner homes, the ones that we inhabit in our heads and our hearts. This year has been hard, since the fall. I've fallen out with a good friend, consciously. I decided that I could no longer continue with a friendship that I felt was not good for me. Or for her.
I noticed myself falling back into old habits. I had to work around those cobwebs and try to sweep them out. I polished my love, my compassion and my gratitude, so that the light could come through my windows and keep me going on those days when Life is Suffering doesn't seem to make a difference. I moved my inner furniture around, and covered up the scratch on the wall that I kept looking at too often and for too long.

I got rid of some activities that were making me unhappy. I shut some doors, those ones at the back of my inner house that led to resentment, sadness and grief. I opened some other doors, ones that led through a pretty narrow hallway to a sunny room. Armed with natural cleaning products, emotional feather dusters, a large vacuum cleaner and a ton of elbow grease, I cleaned up.

Saturday, December 15, 2018


When I think about blessings, I think about what I've done for so much of my life. I've spent many years of my time on the planet providing birth services (love, care and knowledge) for free. So when I think about it I get sad (because I haven't done enough), and then I get mad (because for a lot of people, it's all about the dollar), then I get happy. Because when we do our work out of love for the other, we are literally changing the world. Love can change the world! Giving love, sacrificing your stuff for another, rains down blessings.

I'd love to change the world...but I don't know what to do.

There's a movement growing: the movement of regulation, of expertise, professionals. If y'all don't conform and waste your time doing paperwork and following the man's rules, then you will get smashed. Smash the patriarchy? Good luck! The patriarchy is busy smashing you, by telling you what to think and believe.

So here's a message to the young doulas and would-be midwives out there: don't get sucked in by the bullshit message that you are a professional. You're not. You are a companion, with hands, heart and kindness, and maybe a smattering of knowledge. You are there to provide comfort, love, warmth, you're there to provide a safe space. Yes, people with money should pay you. But if we let simple companionship become a luxury that's only available for the rich, then we are, quite simply, fucked.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

My 10 Favourite Running Books (and 3 extras)

I love to read. My night table is piled with books and my house is a testament to my love of reading. Bookshelves are packed, sometimes sideways, and I have a hard time deciding which ones to give away if they get too crowded. My cafe is a reader's haven, and the main library in downtown Montreal is one of my favourite places. And along with the regular social media platforms that everyone lives on, one of my favourites is Goodreads (check out my 10 favourite running books!).

So, of course, I love to read about my other favourite activity: running. Although I would never want to mix them. I am not that person who runs on a treadmill with a book in front of her. No, my idea of reading involves sitting or lying down, preferably with a hot beverage or tasty carb.

Here are my ten favourite running books. Scroll or read down to find out what my all-time favourite is!

Number Ten

Runner's World Run Less, Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Run-a-Week Training ProgramI am not a mathematician! And I don't organize my life too far ahead. Ok, I did a 26 week marathon training plan. But it was an easy one, and it was 26 weeks long precisely because it had space for life to happen. This book is well written, and very informative. It contains the "every running book" chapters on nutrition, injury, and has some strength training exercises and flexibility stretches included.

The running schedules are detailed and specific and include programs for beginners to advanced for halfs, marathons and BQs. But the complicated equations are just too much trouble for me to figure out. For example, I'm supposed to do this on the first run of week nine: "2x(6x400) (90sec RI); (2 min 30 sec RI between sets)". By week nine I am already juggling work, home and family and I can't be bothered to 1. figure out what it means and 2. spend fifteen minutes setting my watch. So, this book is great for running geeks but not for people with busy lives.

Number Nine

  The Illegal

The Illegal, by Lawrence Hill (of The Book of Negroes fame), is not a running manual and has no clever tips for runners. It is a novel, set in a futuristic African country, about a runner who has to make life-and-death decisions that revolve around his running talents and how they are used. Tired after your long run? Laid up with an injury? Read this!

Number Eight

Image result for footnotes how running makes us human

This entertaining book follows the author around the world as he explores what makes us run. He is a professor of English literature so the book is literate and fun. Slightly uppity at times, almost making you feel evilly happy when his marathon time ends up being five hours (he made a comment about middle-aged women runners at some point in the book). But a fun ride and worth reading if you get a chance.

Number Seven

Running And Philosophy : A Marathon For The Mind By Michael W. Austin

This is a little gem of a book is a collection of essays by philosophers who run or runners who philosophize. "Long-Distance Running and the Will to Power" is the first essay. There are essays on pain; running and the existential conundrum; running and freedom; passion and marathons (and how a zombie could not run a marathon); and a philosopher's argument for running to music. If you think, run, and read then this book is for you!

Number Six


I picked this up in a little second hand bookstore, along with George Orwell's Brave New World. I was six weeks away from my first marathon and I was reading everything I could. This book is for the regular person who wants to run a marathon, and it's good: friendly, down-to-earth, and packed with some great tips. I found the training plans a little too cerebral (heart rate, intensity rate, percentages ... can't do 'em ... but someone less impatient than me would enjoy them!). It's a fun book to have around.

Number Five

Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind 

I had read about this book and I really wanted to read it. So one day I was at our lovely huge library downtown, and I decided I would get it. The catalogue said it was available. It was winter; I was wearing my winter coat and boots and carrying a heavy backpack. I ran up the three flights of stairs to the stacks and looked for my book. I went and asked the librarian, who said it should be there. Went back and searched. She looked it up, came and searched. By now I was in a full-blown winter gear sweat and feeling stressed. Haha, no mindfulness there! A few days later, a customer brought a copy in to my cafe for me to read. Patience is a virtue! The book is a great read, and tells the author's story while speaking of Buddhist meditation, western business, and running marathons with a mindful approach.

Number Four

Runner's World Complete Book of Women's Running: The Best Advice to Get Started, Stay Motivated, Lose Weight, Run Injury-Free, Be  Safe, and Train for Any Distance

Runner's World published this book about ten years ago, but it is still relevant and super informative for us women runners. It has chapters on your regular runner's issues: training, FAQs, moving forward from a beginners to an intermediate runner, and racing. But the beauty of the book is its specific tips and insights into running as a woman: safety, balancing our busy lives, running during the childbearing year, the older woman, running and adolescence, body image, nutrition are all topics that we as women runners are interested in, and we can find answers in this great book. Every woman runner wants a running buddy like this one!

Number Three

The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down and Rise to the Occasion

I wanted this book. I wanted something that would light a fire under my lazy runner's block soul and get me out there again. I was feeling bad after my first marathon. Very bad. I was a grand total of 61 years old, I'd been running seriously for about five years, and I did my first marathon in 5:34 and I felt so disappointed in myself! BooHoo!! So I wanted to straighten myself out and I thought this book could help.

Yes, I can swear with the rest of them, in a couple of different languages even. But I don't like unnecessary cursing. They just put F*UCK on the cover to get people's attention, and I think that's stupid. So, I covered my copy with a pretty race bib:

Simon Marshall is a physician and professor of sports and exercise psychology. He is married to endurance athlete Lesley Paterson, and between the two of them they have produced an excellent book. Marshall explains how the athlete's brain works, during training, during racing and afterwards. He has filled the book with interactive exercises, tips, suggestions and hard-ass advice for us all, whether you are a runner with Imposter Syndrome, or a triathlon athlete who wants to get better at their game.

Did it light my fire? Yes! I am back on track. Most importantly, it helped me understand why I was feeling so down and what to do about it next time.

Number Two

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

An amazing story that traces our ability to run, and explores what makes humans different from all other animals: we are born to run! Read the book and find out how and why.

Number One

Everyone should read this book! It's written by a champion, but she doesn't talk down to us lowly back-of-the-packers. Her story, and her struggles, and her triumphs come alive on the page. Her attitude and her focus teach everyone about the advantages of keeping a positive attitude. This book can change your life!

Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory

So much more to read! Suggestions?