Last fall

Two weeks ago

So it’s been almost five months since I had my gastric bypass. Everything went swimmingly well – no complications, out of the hospital in 36 hours, very little pain, lots of walking right away, etc. I had some issues with protein supplements after the surgery – they caused some pretty nasty gastro upset. I learned how to eat again one teaspoon at a time, first with applesauce, then eggs, then mashed potatoes, then yogurt. I was pretty excited to go back to work again after four weeks.

Man, that was such a mistake. I should have taken another week off. When I went back, I was only eating 330 calories a day. I needed to nap behind my desk twice a day to survive. Luckily, I have an awesome boss, and she let me leave early twice so that I could nap in a bed instead of on a floor. I walked a lot, drank a lot, and the Ottawa nutritionist asked me to start eating peanut butter so I could get my calories up. Instant increase to 500+ calories a day. Slow increases in food density and more snacks got me up to 1200 calories a day about 3 months after my surgery, where I stay today.

Has it been easy? No. Last week I actually cried a little over salted caramel macarons. I bought two while in NYC and was so excited about them. And yet, I took one bite and hated it. Same with pineapple, once one of my favourite foods. There are foods that I used to love that I now despise, like crunchy peanut butter, or peanut butter cups. Regular peanut butter is awesome. Other peanutty goods? No.

Why did I cry? Because over 39 years I developed an emotional relationship with food. Food never let me down, and now it does. I craved a skor blizzard from Dairy Queen all summer. It has been the only food since my surgery to make me vomit. Ask me how upsetting that was! (I was devastated.) On the other hand, regular popsicles have been awesome to me this summer, and that’s something I never thought I’d say.

When I went for my three month checkup, I was right on target for “perfect” weight loss. What does that even mean? They gave me a chart at my one month checkup that said that after three months, they think I should have lost 53 pounds. At 2 months and 2 weeks, I was not there. I was freaking out. I was losing my marbles. I mean, I was close, but not close enough. My Ottawa doc kept trying to get me to think differently. The weight’s going to come off, he said. Let it come off slower and keep it off!

But you know, my body does what it does. On the day of my three month checkup, I had lost 55 pounds. And then, I relaxed. You see, studies demonstrate that long term, my weight will be 70 pounds less than when I had surgery. The surgeon’s office predicts that my end weight will be 76 pounds less than when I had surgery, and that I will get there sometime in April next year. I would like it to be 85 pounds less than when I had surgery and get there around the same time. But, my body is going to do what it does.

Today, I have lost 71 pounds. I have gone from a size 20 clothing to a size 10/12. (For those of you who have never done this, that’s a lot of clothing sizes – 20W, 18W, 16W, 16, 14, 12, 10 – there’s a duplicate size in there when you move from plus to straight sizes.) In fact, I’m wearing the same clothing size (accounting for vanity sizing) that I did when I graduated from “pretty plus” girls clothing at the age of 12. Except now I’m 4 inches taller, which helps.

People tell me that I look great. They say I look younger and taller. I say that’s all optical illusion – I’m less wide, so I look taller. And you can see my eyes better, so you can see my youthful sparkle. Apparently it will take up to two years for me to actually see myself differently, as other people see me now. I’m very lucky – because I didn’t have so much weight to lose, I don’t have a lot of loose skin – some around my neck, a little on my thighs, some on my upper arms. But definitely not enough to be removed, and not enough to cause any kind of health problem.

Some things I’ve learned the hard way: medication doesn’t work like it used to. Controlled release meds don’t work over a long time period because they’re in and out of your stomach right away. My birth control pill doesn’t work anymore (which might be the most irritating thing about this experience, since I really got used to only having a period when it was convenient). My anti-depressant only comes in a controlled release format – if my depression gets worse, I’m going to have to find another one.

Something that frustrates me a lot: it’s absolutely no easier to workout today than it was when I was heavier. I thought I would fly up my first hill when I went hiking. You know what? That didn’t happen. Holy crap, did it ever not happen. I sweated like a beast! And swimming? Also still wicked hard. Lifting weights? Hard. The only thing I do that’s easier? Squash. Oh man, I am a MUCH better squash player. Turns out that running in 3-5 second intervals when you’re 70 pounds lighter is awesome.

I’m pretty active now – it took a few months to get back into it. I walk between 7000 and 10000 steps a day. Saturdays I play squash, Sunday I try to hike, Friday nights I swim (I am truly a weekend warrior), one other night I try to play squash, and starting in two weeks, I have a soccer clinic on Thursdays. I have a hiking trip in Utah planned for late May, and another one in the Canadian Rockies for early August. (I bought hiking pants last week. It was very exciting.)

The most important thing is that I’m happy. In fact, I have never been happier in my life. Last fall, my friend Danielle took the first photo you see on this page. I hated it. It’s a great photo, technically, but I hated who I was in it. I was sad and upset and uncomfortable in my skin. I was bored and uneasy. I wasn’t sure where I fit in the world. (And let’s remember, this was after I had officially climbed out of a terrible bout of depression.)

Two weeks ago, Danielle took the second photo. I’ve lost half my hair, I have no idea how to hold my new body, and I am actually pretty stressed about my dad’s upcoming heart surgery. I’ve got a new job with a great boss and team, and I understand where I fit in my organization. I have a wonderful little dog named Charlie who has become my fur-kid. I fully believe that I have a great life. Look at that photo – I am happy.

Having a gastric bypass isn’t easy. It isn’t fun. You need to be committed to the opportunity to relearn your relationship with food. You need to be okay with intense pain when something you eat doesn’t go down the way you think it should. You need to be ready to grieve your lost food loves and be ready to embrace new ones.

I’m really glad I had this surgery. I’m really glad I got a new job. I’m really glad I got a dog. I’m really glad I’m happy.


So, I’m 38 years old. I’m going to be 39 in a couple of months, and you know what that means? I’m just about 40 years old. For the past 20 years, I’ve been beset by weird ailments: massive hives in university; random seizures; depression; more depression; ulcerative colitis; osteoarthritis; and the list continues. I’ve taken so many prescription medications that I’m the local pharmacy consult for my friends and family.

I’ve had a fairly great life, marred by periods of bad health luck. And I am determined to turn 40 healthier than I turned 20, 21, 22, 25 (actually, I was very very healthy that year – the side effect of having no medical benefits!).

So, last August I started the process that will help me get to my goal of health. In four months, I’m having a gastric bypass, with the hope that I will lose between 70 and 90 pounds around the time I turn 40. The impact of losing that amount of weight should be as follows:

  • Reduced impact on my joints 
  • Increased ability to play higher impact sports with less pain
  • Reduced inflammation
  • A large amount of excess skin. 

Why surgery? Because I was born screaming for food, and I have basically never stopped. And because a gastric bypass shuts off the hormone that causes you to feel hungry. And for about a year, your brain believes it. (Apparently the brain is a tricky bastard and finds a way to make you feel hungry again, after time.)

You know what a year gives me? Time to figure out what real hunger is versus emotional hunger. It’s hard for me right now to tell the difference. It also gets me to reset what my idea of normal food portions is. And to re-establish some really positive habits. Also, to see what I look like when I’m “normal” sized. I transitioned to adult clothing as a size 12, and I giggle when I look back at those pictures because I thought I was so fat. I was so not fat.

Anyway, there are things you need to do to get ready for gastric bypass surgery. Weird things. Things I never thought about. For instance, did you know that you can’t drink when you eat after surgery? You need to stop drinking 30 minutes before you eat and 60 minutes after you eat you can start drinking again.  Apparently the fluid can flush the food through your new stomach too quickly for you to feel full. Which causes you to eat more than you should and then you regain weight. 

You know what else you can’t do? Drink carbonated beverages. The acid that makes the drink fizzy can cause your new stomach to, well, the way they described it at the info session was a little gross, but basically it can eat through the tissue that’s attaching your new stomach to your small intestines. And then, only once a day. Caffeine is also bad – most people can’t have coffee for six months or so after their surgery. Same with alcohol. 

So, I’m in the process of saying goodbye to my beloved diet coke. I’m experimenting to find out what I need to eat in order not to choke on my food if I can’t eat and drink together. And I’m trying to set myself up for success by buying smaller food storage containers and lots of pretty water bottles. And smaller plates and bowls. Because one cup of food doesn’t look like enough on a regular plate, you know? 

I’m looking forward – mostly to not feeling hungry for what will be the first time in my life. But I’m looking forward to feeling less pain from shlepping around this body when I play squash or hike or do a triathlon. I’d like to play soccer. I’d like to go on a trip and have small clothes that fold up into small packages.  I’m looking forward to having  a healthier second half of my life than the first half. 

Yes, surgery is a dramatic option. But I’ve gained and lost the same 40 pounds five times. I’ve never weighed within 40 pounds of the high end of the normal BMI for my height. With this surgery, I could legitimately see my normal BMI. (More likely, I’ll still be 10-15 pounds heavier, but close.) 

And if that means I have to give up diet coke, I will. 

This spring, I was searching for people to do outdoor activities with. I don’t have a lot of what you would call “outdoorsy” friends. But I was very pleased when my friend Julie asked me to do a two day whitewater canoe course with her. Julie and her husband are going to the Northwest Territories to canoe a river and she wanted some solid experience in how to handle the whitewater which she’s going to encounter.

I was pretty thrilled until I realized that meant she’d want to replicate the experience of canoeing with her husband, who canoes at the back of the boat. I have canoed at the back of the boat precisely once, the first time I was ever in a canoe, and I basically took us in pretty giant arcs for however (interminably long) I was in that boat. I did warn Julie that perhaps this might be a shitshow of an event, but we decided to go anyway and booked the trip a couple of weeks ago.

Julie is not really a planner. I picked Julie up to drive to NYC for a week one October and she forgot to pack a jacket. She almost forgot her wallet. In short, she’s pretty much the opposite of me. But I was totally amazed when Julie and I emailed each other the week before going to do some planning and then she even did a blog post on what she was packing to wear for our trip! Seriously? Who is this woman? I couldn’t even find my camping gear! I knew I might be in trouble…

I picked her up at 6:30 and we motored off to the Madawaska River down in Eastern Ontario about two hours from Ottawa. Julie had the tent, a giant canoeing backpack including some camp gear for me. I had the backpack I used for the Camino and a pair of crocs. I even forgot my water bottle, people.

When we arrived at the canoe put in, our fearless leader Ray (from Pure Life Adventures, the company Dad and I did our one day canoe trip with two years ago) unloaded the canoes and distributed the first load of gear into the canoe that Julie and I were going to get into. Julie got into the canoe (from shallow water, and I looked at the canoe and said to myself “huh, what is that in the bottom of the canoe?” Knee harnesses. Because in whitewater, you kneel. And because I am a majorly clumsy person, I got in that canoe, loaded with common gear and the gear of Sheri, the other guest, started shifting so I could kneel down, and tipped the boat. The good news is that Julie and I both float. The bad news is that the gear didn’t, and the shallows were very mucky and slimy. Meh.

After breaking the seal, so to speak, we managed to get to the island campsite in the most painful series of arcs known to man. It turns out I don’t actually know how to keep a canoe straight and can only steer in one direction. Heh. After we finally got to the camp, Ray decided we should probably be ballsy and do some flatwater “refresher” training (aka you were supposed to know how to paddle the flats before dying in the rapids). After about 2 hot, sweaty hours, Julie and I made our way back to camp for lunch, in a moderately straighter line.

Canoeing 2

We looked pretty good after lunch, didn’t we? We made it through the first rapid and immediately hit a rock, then motored over to the second rapid where we were supposed to do something called a “ferry”, where you angle your boat towards the current and cross over the current by paddling forward and steering and praying that you don’t get spun around. Well, we got spun around and rocked a bit and freaked out and dumped the boat in the middle of a fast moving current. You know what’s interesting? Swimming in shoes and a life jacket down one current and across another one so you can get to the shallows. We got back in the boat and soldier on.

I’m pretty hard on myself, generally. I have some perfectionism issues and I couldn’t understand what Ray was saying. And I couldn’t understand how to do what he wanted us to do. And I couldn’t figure out how to communicate with Julie. Normally, I cut myself a massive amount of slack when it comes to physical activities because I am uncoordinated and not that graceful, but for some reason I  couldn’t get it through my head why I couldn’t GET this. It’s a paddle. It’s physics. Seriously. (Seriously, I dropped physics twice…. why would i think I would get that?)

Anyway, after we dumped the boat again and ended up practicing our mid-river rescues, Ray decided to split up Julie and I and I went in a canoe with him and Julie paddled with Sheri. It went better after that, but I still had a hard time figuring out exactly what i was supposed to be doing in the ferry. The good news is that the other moves we learned were the “peal out” and the “eddy out” which are fast little maneuvers run from the front of the boat and turn you very quickly.

Ray covered the mechanics again at the campfire Saturday night. I had some bad ferry dreams that night, got a bajillion mosquito bites, and woke up in a lot of discomfort. Apparently my knees do not enjoy it when I kneel for six hours, even on pads and in a harness. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that on my first run down the rapid with Ray Sunday morning, I tipped the boat.


Canoeing 1


See how zen I am in the water? That’s cause it was already about 28C. I don’t think Ray was all that upset either, and it gave Julie the chance to practice “cracking the boat”, lifting it up over the middle of the canoe, flipping it, and laying it back down in the water. I, however, knew I was going to have to belly myself up over the boat again. Ugh.


Canoeing 4

In order to get into a canoe in the middle of the river, your partner boat tips it towards you and holds it steady out of the water while you pull your upper body up into the boat. As soon as you clear the bottom of your life jacket, you sort of tip forward, head first into the boat. You know what happened to me each time I did a mid-river entry? I got my head stuck under one of those pieces of wood that goes across the boat. So I had to unwedge my head (which is face down), flip over, get my feet under me, stand up, and get to my seat all without tipping the boat again. On this go around, Ray tipped the boat a little too far to the side getting in and we took on a lot of water. I told him we were going to the shallows, cause it is HARD to get back in the boat.

By the end of the day, I got Ray down the rapid and across the current in a good ferry. Then I tried it with Sheri in the front of the boat and it worked AGAIN. We had to go around once to get the right angle to ferry the boat, but it worked awesomely well.

Canoeing 3

See? I’m totally steering that sucker. From the back of the boat! Of course, shortly after this photo I fell out of the boat and hit a rock so hard I got road rash, which is totally when I decided that I was done for the day.

We packed it in an hour early and were home by 6pm, dirty as all get out and itchy from the bites. All in all, I’m very glad I went. I can greatly appreciate the awesomeness of my dad and his ability to keep us going in a straight line when we canoed for six hours while he had a broken hand. I can see how, with a lot of practice, I COULD be a good canoeist. I can see how I can get a boat through a small rapid as long as I’m in charge of the boat and able to clearly communicate instructions to my partner. I can see how I’m too hard on myself and how sometimes the journey is more important than the straight line.

All good lessons. And I’m glad I learned them.

I love movies. Did you know that? I love them, love them, love them. They’re a key escape for me. I’ll go and see those truly awful movies that get released in February so that I don’t have to interact with other humans. I go to see movies that are funny, and ones where shit blows up.

The Parks And Rec star showed off his new body he's been building for his new role in Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy movie.

This post is brought to you by Chris Pratt, who is seriously jacked right now after six months of training to be in some movie called Guardians of the Galaxy. Whatever. I loved him in both Moneyball and Zero Dark Thirty. Small roles, where I gather this one is going to be a bigger one, which I’m very much looking forward to.

But, I digress. This post is actually about my first movie date with two little boys. Remember my plan to get three little boys to come to the house for an overnight so that I can give my best friends a break? Operation: Two at a Time happened today. I did some pre-scoping with the boys who asked to go to a movie, with a snack and stuff. I decided we should go to Monsters University and scoped out a plan with their mum earlier in the week. Okay, not that early. Friday morning. I’d pick them up at 1:10, take their car for the car seats, take them to the movie, and bring them home around 4.

On my way out, I idly though “huh, your phone isn’t in your pocket. Should you go back in and get it?” No… nothing could possibly happen on an outing that short, could it? Apparently, I’m a fucking idiot.

I got to the boys’ house a bit early so I could explain the rules. I’m not a parent, and I don’t have those parenting mojo skills that allow me to be aware of where the kids are at all times. So the rules were as follows:

  1. Hold my hand when we’re in the parking lot.
  2. Make sure I can see you at all times when we’re in the movie theatre
  3. If one person has to pee, we all have to go together, no moaning and complaining.

Infraction of any of these rules meant we’d be going home immediately. The boys agreed to the rules, repeated them back to me, and off we went.

Got to the theatre, get to the automatic ticket machine, and there’s no movie at 1:40. No, it’s at 2:40. Bought the tickets anyway, bundled the kids back in the van and took them to the bookstore. It started to rain, and the gas tank warning light came on. Now, I’ve never owned a car that dropped below 1/4 of a tank of gas. Ever. But it’s not my car and my theoretical understanding of the situation is that you can drive 40-60km with the warning light on. Right?

The kids were awesome at the bookstore. We looked at the lego, played with some toys, I borrowed their phone to tell my BFF that we were going to be an hour late, I read them a book, and off we went back to the cinema. They lined up perfectly for their snacks, we got our seats, and the movie started.

Leo was so transfixed that it took him 48 minutes before he even ate a single kernel of popcorn. At minute 49, Max had to pee. Poor Leo had to let go of his snack (and let me tell you, he had a sweaty death grip on his tube of mini M&Ms) and go downstairs while trying to look at the screen and even Max tried to dilly dally to keep staring. It was pretty awesome.

Side note: there’s some interesting logistics involved in taking two young kids to the bathroom when you also have to pee. I think they may cover that in  parenting school. Leo tried to pick up some spilled M&Ms (from someone else’s tube) that were on the bathroom floor so that he could eat them himself. I almost had a heart attack. There was a lot of telling him how dirty they would be. I may have used the phrase “poop germs” once or twice. Regardless, we got through this particular test and went back to the cinema.

The movie was over shortly after the pee break. Off we went down to the car in the pouring rain and lo and behold, I can’t get the damn thing to start. Can’t even turn the key in the ignition. And did I mention I don’t have my phone with me? And that it’s pouring rain?

If I wasn’t panicking, I would have checked the car for the manual. As it was, I turned the steering wheel to the left and then I turned it to the right and I prayed and swore under my breath and steamed up the windows with my holy crap fest. Back into the movie theatre I went, looking for a pay phone. Called the BFF, but the man of the house (and the primary driver) had gone to Bluesfest. He had the family cell phone, but Holly’s mum was there so she used her mum’s phone to call John while I was on the payphone so that he could come and meet me to turn on his damned car.

Back to the van. Pulled out the manual. Seven minutes of cursing the stupid manual and its terrible index and I found out that you have to “jiggle the steering wheel from right to left”. Not try to move it one way, then the other. Jiggle it. Just a little bit. (there’s a groove!) Kill me now.

Pulled out of the parking lot to head for the BFFs so that Holly could recall John. Passed him getting into the turn lane for the movie theatre as I was pulling out. Kill me. Kill me now.

So, there was some drama, but I made it through. The boys had a good time and they were perfectly well behaved. I had a good time and exercised my aunty skills. All in all, we’ll be doing this again, but next time, I’m bringing my damn phone.

This is definitely my year of the mini break. In hindsight, it would have been a lot cheaper if I’d just picked one place and gone to it for a longer time, but instead I chose to do a lot of little trips.

The first little trip was this past weekend, when my mum and I went to Washington DC so that we could indulge our inner history nerds. Okay, it’s possible that my inner history nerd isn’t so inner, particularly if you know about my fascination with history audiobooks.

Anyway, Mum and I endured a really crappy couple of flights through the type of turbulence that leaves drinks on the ceiling of the plane and people crying and puking. Regardless, we eventually got downtown and settled into our hotel (The Embassy Row Hotel in Dupont Circle). It was great – clean, air con that worked, and great breakfasts included in the room fee.

After a quick dinner out, a trip to my favourite store (CVS), and an early night, we shlepped down to pick up the world’s cheapest rental car ($44 for two days!) so that we could go down to Charlottesville to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate. We picked up the car at 8, it took til 8:15 to figure out how to use the GPS, and then we hit the road. According to Google and the GPS, it should take a hair over two hours to get to Monticello. It took us 3 hours and 45 minutes, a 3 hour stretch of stop and stop traffic broken only by a pee break and my hysteria at being unable to turn the car back on.

Side note: who came up with this idea of keyless ignitions? And who decided they should take the damn manuals out of rental cars? Let’s just say that I sweated and gnashed my teeth and cursed the people who came up with this shit before I stopped panicking enough to notice that there’s a little picture of a foot on a pedal when you hit the “on” button. Um. Apparently you need to press the brake for the gas to go on. Somewhat counterintuitive if you ask me, but whatev.

Monticello was lovely. There wasn’t enough “stuff” for mum to look at, though our tour of the garden was great, and the docent who walked us through the house was lovely. We started with an ill advised “slavery tour” of 100 or so white people and one person a wee bit less white than I am, but quickly left the group when it turned out there was nothing for us to see – it was more of a roving lecture with 100 or so sweaty people.

We stopped at the outlet mall on the way back to DC, because we have priorities.

Sunday morning we bopped out to see Mount Vernon, which is quite lovely and which has been worked on A LOT since I last went there in 2000. Interestingly, the last time I was there I went with my friend Howard, and on Sunday we hung out there together again! I’ve always enjoyed Howard – he’s an international political relations nerd with esoteric interests and lots of opinions. Fun fact: the first time I got completely and totally drunk out of my mind, it was Howard who made sure I got to bed, put the puke bucket next to it, and checked to make sure I wasn’t dead periodically. That was 20 years ago. Anyway, we caught up, and I met his lovely wife and very cute, very smart daughter. It was awesome.

On the way back to DC, we went to a mall. Because you know, we have priorities.

Monday, Mum wanted to hit the war memorials and the Canadian Embassy (because it was Canada Day) and I wanted to go to the American History Museum. Conversation between Mum and I:

K: There doesn’t seem to be any direct subway route down to the memorials. How about we take a bus tour? (Note: I thought Mum would remember the hop on hop off tour we did 13 years ago and that it goes to the memorials and the museums.)

M: How far away is it?

K: The bus is a minute away. The memorials are about a 30 minute walk.

M: Let’s walk!

Repeat that conversation for the next five stops. In the 34C heat with 100% humidity and scattered rain that provided absolutely no relief from the heat.

K: I need to sit. (Please god, put me in a taxi and take me somewhere air conditioned and shoot me)

M: Let’s walk!

I was too tired to be responsible for dinner, so I sent my mother off to find us a restaurant. My dad, when apprised of this situation, fully turned around in the car to give me the stink eye. Mum and I went to Paris once and I needed a nap so she went off to the Centre Pompidou and despite my drawing her a line on a map back to our apartment, she got lost and stopped in at every starbucks on her way home to get english directions. What was I thinking, letting her wander the streets of DC? Was I crazy? No, I reassured him, she was only a block from the hotel.

While Mum scoped out a resto, I cranked up the air conditioning and took off my pants and lay down in front of the vent, trying to cool off as much of me as possible before showering. You’d be surprised how long that took. My only saving grace was that Mum was just as red and sweaty as I was.

Yesterday, we bopped home, turbulence free. It was a lovely weekend, a great getaway, and a fun time.

Mum asked an interesting question: if you were going to do an away weekend, would you do it in Chicago or DC? Great question. I think I’d like to alternate. I have friends in DC and I know where I’m going. In Chicago the food is amazing and there’s tons of things to do that I’ve never done before. They’re both great options, I think, and I’m definitely going to plan trips to both places again in the next couple of years.

How about you? Where would you go for a long weekend?

Interesting month. Quick catch up: no cancer, not deaf but have lost hearing in one ear due to repeated ear infections this winter, finally got my appointment with a psychiatrist. (Another post to follow on that one.)

But, since this is nominally still a health and fitness blog, this post is about my six weeks of paddling. Now, you may know that I’m pretty comfy in a canoe, thanks to my years as a Rover, the oldest level of Scouts. Last year, I joined the BMI dragon boat team, which was pretty entertaining (four practices, one tourney day, and you know I frankly prefer the practices). This year, when given the chance, I joined the BMI team again.

Except this year, we were lighter than last year (I know… sort of the point of BMI, right?), so we didn’t have to use the nice, stable, big wood boat. Nooooo, this year we used a competition boat which is much lower in the water and you know what? I sucked. I kept catching the paddle in the water and splashing the crap out of the person in front of me. In the end, they stuck me in the back row where I could do no damage. Kind of embarrassing, but whatever.

We competed in the Dragon Boat Festival last weekend, and we were 40 seconds faster than last year, probably entirely due to the fact that we had a much lighter actual boat. And it rained pretty much all day. So, not like last year’s experience at all, but still a good fitness and fun experience and that’s where it’s at, right?

Tonight, my BFF and I participated in an intro to SUP (Stand Up Paddelboard).

Totally not a picture of Holly and I (we fricking wish), but it’s illustrative (credit: of the activity. Let’s recap a bit: You carry the board to the water. You kneel on the dock, put one hand on the board, move your water side knee onto the centre of the board, shift your weight and move your dock side knee onto the board. Then you push off, paddle for a while in a kneeling position, and once you have momentum you put your paddle down in front of you, plant your hands, bring one foot up flat on the board and then the other, and push up into a standing position.

The class is 90 minutes. The first 15 are covering the anatomy of the board, how to get on it, and how to paddle. There seems to be no way to paddle straight, by the way, requiring you to change sides frequently.

Did I ever mention that I took ski lessons for the first four years that I lived in Canada? And that I’m a terrible skier because I’m afraid to fall? And that I took a private lesson once just to make me less afraid to fall (consisting of making me fall and get up over and over again for two hours, which is sick, if you ask me) and that it didn’t work? And that the same thing happened to me on skates, and rollerblades (with more padding than exposed skin) and skateboards? Basically the only thing I’m not afraid to fall off is a bike.

I was really hoping that I wouldn’t be afraid to fall off a paddleboard because I am a great swimmer. I can safely tell you that I am terrified to fall off a paddleboard. Holly, not so much. She fell off that sucker once and it was like everything went better after that. I clung to it like cling wrap, shaking like a leaf trying to use my quads and core to keep me attached and upright. I was so scared that it took me a good 20 minutes to figure out how to stand up on the board, and when my legs wouldn’t stop shaking (shades of the tippiest bosu ball ever) I gave up and kneeled again.

I fear sweated the sunblock right off my face. Within the first 15 minutes. (Yeah, that’s gonna feel awesome tomorrow.) I have fear sweat smell on my head. I had fear sweat rolling down my back. And I had ass cramps (from kneeling high and leaning forward) and foot cramps (from kneeling back on my heels). I understand that some people do yoga on paddleboards.

First, assholes. Second, wtf. Who can do those poses on land, let alone on a tippy motherfucking piece of fibreglass? Third, I successfully did cat/cow positions on the board. And a modified child’s pose. Not intentional, but it helped with the cramping. (credit:

So, there was no camera for Holly and I (thank god). But there will be in two weeks, when my friend Julie and I take a whitewater canoe course together. We’re going back to Pure Life Adventures, where dad and I did a day trip together two years ago. That would be the trip where I kept whipping out my camera and taking a picture of him to make sure he was actually paddling.


Julie won a fancy trip to canoe in the Northwest Territories, but her husband is a rock star canoeist and Julie wanted to brush up on her paddle skills and she knew I like to paddle, so we’re heading off to camp together, wear funny helmets, and try not to die.

(credit: I’ll be at the back of the boat. We may go nowhere all weekend long as a result. It’ll be my first time steering us – I know the concepts, but yanno, delivering for two straight days while in white water is gonna be interesting.  I’ll be sure to post some pictures of bug bitten and sunburned Julie and I when we get back. No doubt she’ll be whipping out her phone (in a baggie, Julie!) periodically to see if I’m doing ANYTHING back there. Cause that’s how you roll in the front of the boat, yanno?

All this to say, I started the summer looking for paddle adventures, and I’m going to hit the halfway mark having spent 6 weeks paddling. I think this is a great thing, don’t you?

How’s your summer going so far? Mine will be packed with adventures: Washington this weekend, canoe trip in two weekends, Jay-Z/Justin Timberlake concert the next week, Osheaga music festival two weeks later, and two weeks hiking in southern Utah this fall. It’s going to be a summer of cultural and fitness experiences. I’m kind of loving it.

So, last Monday I was full of piss and vinegar. I bopped off to BMI and had a good chat with Dr F and did a very painful class with Kelly and had a chat with her about finding some kind of rec sport that I might join this fall.

Tuesday I was so sore I had a hard time lifting my left (weaker) arm. Thanks, Kelly.

Wednesday I went to work, realized I had no meetings and a doctor’s appointment and decided to bring my laptop with me and work from home afterwards. And that’s about when my week feel apart.

“You’re taking this really well. Are you sure you’re okay?” I should note that my doctor has been my family phsyician for 12 years, and she’s only a few years older than I am and we get along quite well. She’s seen me through difficult bouts of mental illness and countless silly little sinus infections and sports injuries. I’m sure this is why she was a little less careful with her words as I was on my way out of the appointment.

I guess when your doctor tells you all gingerly-like that you have a bump that’s actually a mass and she’s not going to wait for the test results to refer you to a specialist, you’re supposed to realize that it’s serious. A little more serious than “hey, you had a weird test result on your pap and we’re going to send you for more investigation”. More like “I’m not waiting the month to get the result, but I’m sending you as soon as they can fit you in”.

When she says “I guess it could be a polyp”, and you go home and look up cervical polyps and see that 99% of them are benign you think “why didn’t she think it was a polyp? Why didn’t she just tell me I probably had a polyp? Is it because it doesn’t look like a polyp? I’d really like it to be a polyp”.

Did I mention that fact that 99% of polyps are benign? Man, I want this thing to be a polyp. But I don’t know what it is, and I won’t until I after I see a speciailist. I just spoke with that office and they don’t want to schedule anything until they get the test results, and I want them to schedule something now and assume that the results will be there by the time my appointment comes up.

So, I’m in a waiting game. It’s a mental game. Try not to think about it. When you think about it, think of it as a corn (also referred to as a mass). Reassure yourself that it could just be a polyp. Trust in the health care system. Book lots of activities and events because you’re sure it’s just a polyp. Tell your best friends and your parents and let them find ways to love and distract you. Get your garden landscaped because you want there to be beauty in your life and not horrendous weeds, and also because what if you need to have surgery and can’t maintain the yard? And go about your regular life.

So I spent Saturday running around like a chicken, buying perennials and shrubs and helping a gardener denude my yard of all grass. Yesterday I cooked and cooked and cooked some more and hosted my family for Mother’s Day. Today I’m at work, looking forward to seeing my new yard and going to the gym to see Kelly and being wicked sore tomorrow.

It’s not denial. I know something is in my body which shouldn’t be. It’s an acknowledgement that I don’t know anything and I can’t do anything about it until I get more tests and labs report back on them and doctors take out whatever it is and it all gets evaluated. So I’m going about my business. Doing my thing. Reassuring myself that I’m young and fit and it’s probably a polyp and I’ll be totally fine. Trying to forget that last Wednesday ever happened. 

(Except it did.)

So, today I’m at the gym. I didn’t want to go, but I skipped out yesterday so I told myself that I’d go and put on my gym clothes and if I had to screw the pooch by strolling on the treadmill for 20 minutes, well at least I would have done something.

So, I’m there. My tshirt is a bit snug, and I’m not super okay with that, but whatev. I decide to lift some weights because my legs have finally recovered from Saturday’s workout and Sunday’s hike.

I do a super set of squats and chest press – no biggie. I could lift heavier on the squats but I’m using dumbbells and I can find two 25 pound weights, but I’m having a hard time finding the second 27.5 pound weight and the jump to 30 pounds is a bit much for my grip strength right now. I could probably lift heavier on the chest press (I’m doing a 35 pound bar) but I’ve got a bit of a wonky noise that my left shoulder makes when I lower the bar back to my chest.

Next on my workout list is step ups and bicep curls. Now, I should be clear: I hate step ups. In case you don’t know what a step up is, you step up onto a box with your right foot, bring your left foot up to the box, step down with your right foot, bring your left foot down, and repeat. Ideally you’re using a box that’s about the height of your knee (18-20″ or so).

My old gym had a built in 16″ box in the women’s section, covered in grippy carpet so you didn’t slip off. The coed section saw people using regular plank style steps with those risers that you add to at either end. They’re shockingly stable, as I saw one day when I was watching a guy jump repeatedly from the ground to a step that was about the height of my boobs. At the Y here in Ottawa, they have actual plyo boxes with adjustable heights and they’re BIG. Nice, wide platforms to jump onto. No risk of ever jumping off or over it.

At my new gym, they have the Reebok Step. I don’t really understand this step. There’s some configuration options with the base to make it higher, and when you stack them one on top of the other, they’re not that stable looking. They’re pretty stable when you’re actually on them, but they look unstable.

Anyway, I’m doing my step ups on my right foot. I’m supposed to do 15-20. Fifteen if I’m feeling cranky about them, 20 if I’m feeling tough. I’m at 12 step ups when the damned step broke. The support in the base that raised up the upper step sort of smooshed inwards and the whole top step slipped down to the left.

Logically, I can understand that the step was probably broken before I ever set foot on it. (Supported by the fact that I put it back together and it promptly came apart again.) Logically, I can say that the configuration I used was not stable. Logically, I can say that I miss the steps from my old gym, and boy do I wish the women’s section had a plyo box. (Note to self: check the co-ed section, which is sadly up a loooooong flight of stairs which seemed insurmountable considering I didn’t even want to workout today.) Logically I can tell you that really way heavier people than me can use a regular step without breaking it.

The emotional realm is not logical, however, so my inner fat kid died a total, humiliated death when that step broke. My “is that chair strong enough for me?” fears all came rushing back. My mad desire to eat anything and everything to make myself feel better came surging to the fore. My embarrassed “oh god, please don’t let me blush or break out into tears” furtive look around the gym was unstoppable.

I moved the step that I couldn’t put back together to the side, got another step, put it on top of my base step, and finished my set. Then I did my bicep curls. Then I did another set of step ups and another set of curls. And then I walked the fuck out of that gym with my head held high.

Sure, it was 4 different exercises and 10 sets before I was supposed to leave, but for a day when I didn’t want to work out and this happened, I will celebrate the fact that I accomplished this much.

Tomorrow, I’m asking a staff member about plyo boxes and how to set the steps up properly. This. This is never happening again.

Holly and I have known each other for just under 17 years. She’s going to be 37 this year and I was at her 20th birthday party. It’s been a long time. My favourite part about hanging out with Holly is how she laughs at my jokes. All of them. But, I digress.

Holly has three adorable children.


And an amazing husband (who laughs at fewer of my jokes, but whose own jokes are way superior to my own).


Holly and I started talking about taking a trip together, just the two of us, when she got pregnant with her third child. When he was a year old, we booked flights to go to Chicago together for a girls weekend. A LONG girls weekend. Like, five days/four nights kind of long. Did I mention that John’s an amazing husband? And that those kids are 5, 3 and one year old?

About 10 days before we were scheduled to go away, Holly had to have emergency surgery. Before the surgery we talked about cancelling the trip, or my going alone, or her husband maybe coming with me instead. Holly is a pretty determined woman, though, and she grilled her doctor about the trip and if it was possible and lo and behold, we went.

Because I’m super, um, “organized”, I had an itinerary. But because I’m flexible, I can move the things around the itinerary for weather or other reasons. Holly had a couple of restaurants she wanted to eat at, and we melded the two things together into a truly awesome trip.

We went to a Cubs game in the rain. There were some pretty nasty floods after three weeks of rain in Illinois, so not that many people went to the game. In fact, most of Chicago was shut down when we got there on Thursday.

We shopped. Side note: we both bought bras. My Canadian peeps can weep at the following info: four bras, $90. Yeah, I was pretty giddy, too. Holly actually had a tear in her eye when the first Macy’s we went to only had two that she loved in her size, but we found another Macy’s and she bought more.

We did the Art Institute. Sweet Jesus, that place is big. You’d need a few visits to actually see and absorb the whole thing, I think. We spent three hours there and barely scratched the surface.

We went to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio in Oak Park, which was a truly lovely L ride from downtown. Now, I live in an urban neighbourhood where a 2000 square foot house is considered to be huge. The houses in Oak Park are ENORMOUS. Like, their front porches are bigger than the first house I owned.

We did a tour of outdoor public art, and we went up to the Skydeck of the Willis (former Sears) tower.

We ate. My god, we ate. We went to great chain restaurants and celebrity chef places (recommend: Little Goat) and this place for brunch where we ate for 90 straight minutes and couldn’t figure out how they make any money at all. I had two of my top 10 meals ever in Chicago.

The people were lovely. The food was yummy. The sights were great. The shopping was good. (Side note: Best shopping experience ever at Nordstrom. Can’t wait til they come to Ottawa.) It was so cold we needed to buy emergency sweaters. Even the pigeons were hanging out next to an eternal flame.











Back on the wagon…

Back on track…

Blah, blah, blah. There’s a thousand ways to say it, and no easy way to do it.

I love Kelly from BMI. I do, I love her. She’s the most amazing combination of sweet and tough, and I needed that today. I emailed her yesterday to see if we could have a phone chat (as much as I love BMI, it’s totally nowhere near my office and not that close to my house). She called me today and I told her everything.

She knew I’d hurt my back and that I’d had a run of bad, stupid, trivial but irritating illnesses. Today, I told her everything. I told her that I haven’t journalled in months. I go to the gym and then get sick and don’t go for another 7-10 days. I haven’t run since the end of January. I haven’t swum in over a month. I go to the gym and I walk on the treadmill or bike or do a half-ass attempt at weights. I joined a fancy new gym and my per-visit cost is currently at about $10 (I like it to be more like $4). I regularly check to see what the value of my house is and calculate how long I could live off the proceeds of sale if I got laid off from my job. I eat for no reason. I go to the grocery store (frankly, mostly for medications) and I buy crap to soothe myself because I feel sick and sluggish and tired and can’t physically relieve my stress because I’m sick but I’m gaining weight and I had to buy a new pair of dress pants. I didn’t get them hemmed yet, but everything’s tight and touching my belly and I hate it.

I hate it.

I hate my body.

I hate the way I perceive myself because I gained weight (again). I hate the way I stand there and look at crappy food choices and stay “tomorrow”, or “whatever, you’re already fat” and buy it anyway, even though I know the f’ing impact of eating that food on my body. I hate that I can’t just eat one. I hate that I have to take so many stupid anti-depressants in a day and I wish I could get off them but that way lies dark and twisty and terrible roads.

I don’t really like myself that much right now, which is probably why I’m feeding myself what I know is crap, and which I know causes cholesterol issues and liver issues and heart issues. I’m treating myself the way I feel about myself, which is to say that I really don’t matter.

That triathlon is the living embodiment of what I hate about myself right now. I had plans. I was going to do better this year than last time. I was going to train for that bike and run so that I could do them quicker. But I’m going into the triathlon probably 20 pounds heavier than last time (thank you, depression and lack of impulse control). I had two months of muscle issues or infections/viruses which have lowered my physical fitness level below what I’m comfortable with. I have no motivation to do anything. I paid for a lot of group training that I haven’t participated in, which has not helped with the 20 extra pounds.

Kelly told me that the question is not whether or not I can do the triathlon. I could do it. I could come in last but still finish with no training at all because even my current level of fitness is still pretty strong. But that’s not how I wanted to do it. I wanted to do better. And yes, there will be other triathlons, but where is there a guarantee of that? Where is there a sign saying that I’m going to lose that weight again and my infections will go away and I’ll be able and willing and enthusiastic about training?

I am a perfectionist, and this to me feels like failure. I’ve had to deal with failure a lot over the past few years. Failed relationships. Failed career plans. Failure to manage to get things to go my way. Failed fertility. Failed vacations. It gets harder to remember the things that aren’t failures when you keep chalking up the crap.

I know that this is a symptom of my mental health issues. I do. I can list off the cool shit I’ve done over the past four years: I went through the northwest passage on an icebreaker, I went to India (also a failure, since I hated it), I lived in NYC for a month, I went to Coachella, I’m going to Chicago on Thursday, a Jay-Z concert in July, and a giant music festival in August. I have wonderful friends and great colleagues and lovely employees (though I sincerely wish I never had to have another conversation with any of them ever about job cuts, cause I’m getting a little too good at it).

I need to find my motivation. I need to find a reason to care about me enough to treat my body with more respect. I’m not asking for your ideas because if you tell me to look at a picture of myself that I hate, I’m going to have to hurt you. And I like you too much for that.

I’m going into BMI on Tuesday to see Dr Freedhoff and Mark the Nutritionist and Kelly who told me today to not beat myself up, but to just go to the gym for 20 or 30 minutes every day. No need to get sweaty. Just go into the building and absorb the atmosphere. Sit in the sauna. Hang out in the hot tub. Lift if I want to, walk if that’s what works, but to go.

For Kelly, because she’s so awesome, I’ll go tomorrow. And I’ll walk a lot in Chicago. And hopefully I’ll find some motivation. Motivation that doesn’t revolve around my clothes not fitting, but gives me a reason to do something, to journal what I eat, to make better food choices. A reason.

Older posts