Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Family traditions

The tree, the Nativity scene, the gifts piled up to the ceiling ...

Aren't these the first Christmas traditions that come to mind?

Then there's the MacIsaac household. It wasn't all that different from any Canadian home at Yuletide.

Obnoxious Santas, elves, angels, the Three Wise Men ... all the wonderful confusion of childhood fantasy and Catholic conscience.

And hockey on the TV.


Yep, that's right. Back when Eric Lindros was Jesus, not Sidney Crosby. Remember?

We would huddle around the floor-model tube TV, the same set which still sits in our living room and casts a greenish hue, and watch the World Junior Hockey Championship.

There wouldn't be much said, there never was. Dad didn't like chatter while he watched the game.

Nonetheless, it was a tradition.

All four of us faithfully carry it on each Christmas, I believe. We're all big hockey fans.

It's indelibly stamped on my life since I became immersed in the major junior world during my seven years on the WHL beat in Kamloops.

This year, however, I'm going to miss most of it.

The tourney kicks off Boxing Day with the match that's always one of the best of the round-robin, Canada vs. Russia.

That one, I'll catch.

But the next day, I leave the country for seven days.

Oh sure, for a few days, I'll still be in WHL country, hanging out in the land of the Spokane Chiefs.

I don't yet know, though, if it's broadcast on TV the same way TSN smothers us with WJHC coverage.

And hockey isn't exactly the first thing you see on the TVs when you walk in the bar.

Plus, I've already promised myself I won't be connected during my vacation ... no laptop, no Twitter, no Facebook, no RSS feeds ...

I'll be north of the 49th again on January 3, probably too late for either of the semifinal games but you can be damn sure I'll be planted somewhere serving cold Molson beer for the Wednesday medal games.

Just like tradition dictates.

Go Canada.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Into the darkness

I participate in the odd survey.

There's always one question that makes me chortle just a wee little bit.

How often do you use the internet?

I always scroll right to whichever answer indicates 'heavy user.'

Look, folks, I've been addicted to the internet since 1994. My colleagues in Newfoundland and I were huddled around a little Mac Classic, watching as we downloaded a picture from the Oklahoma City bombing.

On the same freaking day as the tragic event.

Line by line, we watched in awe as this picture come across the tubes. It took almost two hours to download.

Sixteen years later, I use the internet to make a living. Writing the content for the new Shaw web collateral puts Kraft Dinner in my cupboards (and Naughty Monkeys on my feet).

On the side, my amazing friend, Chelsea, subcontracts me to write for her web design business (more shoes!) and I use Twitter to its fullest extent.

Trouble is, some Twitter folks take a lot of liberties. They think they know me better than they do, they cross boundaries with their words that I would not accept from my friends.

It's my fault. I know that.

I put a lot of information out there. I also put a lot of misinformation out there ... just to throw you all off the scent every once in a while.

Tonight, one older fella took it upon himself to send me a DM ... er, direct message for my Luddite friends ... cussing me out for a rather benign Tweet in which I said the Blackhawks-Avalanche game would probably be better hockey to watch than the Flames-Blue Jackets.

Seriously.

(And for what it's worth, I was right. This Flames game is terrible hockey.)

So, I'm issuing myself a new challenge.

I'm going dark.

I'll be out of the country from Dec. 27 to Jan. 3, spending some of the holidays with my Spokane friends. I want to be technology-free, leaving my laptop at home ... and along with it, all of you.

I won't be able to do this on my own. I'll need my friends' assistance ... I'm hoping they keep a close eye on me and take my phone away from me if they see me slipping.

It'll be good for all of us, I swear.

And I'll let you know how it goes when I get back.

Or, maybe not.

Good spot

Why your dog deserves every second of love you can give him:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lost that lovin' feeling

One hundred days ago, I signed on for a personal challenge.

A Shaw colleague had been Tweeting his progress on 750words, a site which challenges individuals to write 750 words every day. I signed up for the first monthly challenge.

By a couple of weeks, I was a bit addicted, using the site to formulate blog posts. I was blogging like a mad woman, churning out copy for three or four different sites.

It wasn't long before I declared myself willing to participate in the 100-day challenge.

Seemed easy enough, right? I can pound out 750 words in 12 minutes, if I put my mind to it.

I would get messages on Twitter from people bowing at my greatness.

"750? I struggle to find 300 words to write some days."

Look, I love writing.

I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. I wrote some of the worst pre-teen poetry you could possibly read.

I wrote a senior thesis in one weekend.

I turned it into a career. I get paid to write.

It's a hoot. I love it.

I write. I'm a writer.

I fucking hate this project.

When I get past this 750 words today, when I meet my 100-day challenge that ultimately means nothing in the grand scheme of things ... zero, zilch, nada ... I will be taking a break.

A good couple of days at least ... barring blog posts that come into my head, that is.

I forced myself to write for four days while I was on a mini-vacation in the States, a break very desperately needed from my web writing job here.

I learned I couldn't use the site to formulate blog posts after a while. I need to think through some ideas or do research when I'm writing on the Flames or shoes or whatever. But the site has an algorithm that counts points ... and some points you receive for being speedy and not taking any breaks or distractions for longer than three minutes.

Knowing there are points? My competitive spirit kicked in. The need to get the words out quickly translated into WIN.

I never got to the top of the points column, though. And yeah, that pisses me off. Even for points that ultimately mean nothing.

But I also gave up using the site to write blog posts.

Instead, I turned random streams of consciousness, just barfing words onto the screen in front of me in a hopeless addiction to reach the 750 words.

Oh, and I tried using the shortest words possible. I tried straying away from contractions. I took to spelling out numbers ... seven hundred fifty, instead of 750 ... going against every grain of my Canadian Press-taught soul.

In fact, I'm trying desperately to come up with 750 words right now just to get to my daily minimum ... I'm forcing it, not allowing this blog post to have a natural flow or denouement.

So I am tired of writing.

No, that's not true. I am tired of this site. I see its blessings, encouraging other individuals who want to write but maybe need a little nudge here and there to get going.

Thank you, 750words, for taking me to this challenge. I have a new one for which I'll be aiming over the Christmas holidays, but I'll let you all know what that is closer to the time. (And it's gonna blow your minds.)

So, dear 750words, it's been an interesting project for me, but if it's all right with you, I won't be back.

Because I love to write and I don't want you to suck that passion out of me.

I write. I'm a writer.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rebel body

I hate my body right now.

It's not for any reason you're accustomed to hearing from most women, like 'my ass is too big' or 'I have a muffin top.'

This has absolutely nothing to do with body image because, frankly, I have a great butt.

I hate my body right now because it forces me to say one of the two phrases I loathe the most in the world.

"I can't."

(The other is 'I don't know' and that's a whole other story of a different kind.)

My body is rebelling against me, in ways I can't control.

I've gone on — ad nauseum, I'm sure — about my injured shoulder. I've told you how I'm relegated to lower-body training at least until I get my MRI on Feb. 4 and the smarter people figure out what's going on in there.

So, I see myself losing definition in my shoulders. And that's hard to accept.

But now my hips are getting in on the action.

Last week, I told you about my new massage therapist, the odd noise he admitted and his statement 'yeah, you are really twisted up down there.'

Meaning my lower back.

Corey referred me to the owner of his clinic, Dr. Ryan Hoover, chiropractor, skilled in Active Release Technique and friend of a friend who recommended him highly.

Yep, Ryan says, your legs are kind of screwed up ...  not in so many words. He was a tad more technical than that.

My left leg is stuck in extension and my right leg is stuck in flexion. Or, vice versa, I can't really remember which.

It causes pain in my lower back. And my left hip flexor, which Ryan says is a result of 'adhesions' caused by the imbalance.

Some things make sense. Like why I have more explosion through my left leg when I'm doing stationary lunges. Or why I feel more load through my right side when I'm doing heavy squats. Or, why I get shin splints on the treadmill.

So, Ryan moved me around with A.R.T., gave me a little crack or two in the lower back and sent me home with instructions to:

A. Sleep with a body pillow so I don't roll onto my stomach and cock up my legs
B. Do a series of stretching exercises
C. Lay on the floor with blocks under my hip and opposing thigh to restore balance

But I haven't been to the gym in a week, due to the ache in my hip flexor.

You know how I love my time at the gym. It's my stress release, my 'me' time, my chance to set hard, realistic goals and achieve them in short time ... things I need more than anything else at this time of year.

Yet, I feel like I can't.

I don't want to exacerbate the problem by falling into bad form to compensate for the imbalances or pain.

I don't want to cause more pain.

I don't want to feel the disappointment of falling short of my numbers, even though I know the longer I stay away, the worse it will get.

Most of all, I don't want to say 'I can't.'

And yet my body is forcing me to say it, reminding me of all the love, blood and sweat I've given to sports in the last 35 years and how little love they've given me back.

I ain't no reindeer

Shep isn't a big fan of Christmas either.

Why not?

Because I do this to him:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sending out an SOS

Sometimes I need help.

Whoooo ... I can't believe I just said that.

It is always one of the hardest things for me to admit.

I need help.

Yep, I certainly do.

My mother raised me from a young age to be independent and self-reliant. She told me to be a career girl, to not get married.

She got her wish.

But here I sit trying to figure out how to get some things done when life just won't stop getting in the way.

So, I have a big project on the go at work. I put in 30-plus hours of overtime in one two-week pay period.

Certain things didn't get done.

Not really my laundry basket
And being a single girl, there isn't anyone else to do them.

If I could just train Shep to carry a load of clothes to the washing machine, drop a glob of detergent in and go back to his regularly scheduled napping, some things would be tickety-boo.

Instead, I have to figure out when to squeeze in the six loads of laundry that accumulate very quickly ... sometimes, I swear that damn basket is bottomless.

Funny thing is, many of those things with which I need help? They're the most menial of tasks ... and because they're mindless and monotonous, I actually enjoy doing them.

They're so monotonous that they require no thinking whatsoever ... just the kind of thing I need after putting in 11- and 12-hour days of writing.

Now that doesn't include walking my dog, reading and going to the gym.

Those are two of the activities I enjoy the most of all and I have to make time to do them.

But where's the time to get the clothes washed, the dog hair swept off the floor, the dishes cleaned, the garbage taken out, the groceries bought, the dinners made ...

Oh Mother Hubbard, my cupboards are bare and I've been eating takeout since Tuesday.

Things should start settling down in about a month, once we get our project completed and move on to the next task.

But in the meantime, I need help.

I can put a spare key in the mailbox in case any of you are interested.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gettin' girlie

I'm a sucker for chick flicks.

I don't strike you as the type? Then you don't know me so well.

Behind this crusty, cynical, misanthropic exterior lies a mushy, soft-hearted romantic.

I just got back from Best Buy. I picked up a handful of movies, scoring only one of the three I had gone to get.

I missed out on Elf and Slap Shot but ordered them off eBay as soon as I got home.

Clutched in my chubby little fingers was a copy of The Holiday, starring Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz and Jude (Rawr) Law.



It didn't reach critical acclaim. It wasn't a box-office smash hit. It will never replace Love Actually as my all-time favourite movie. And I've watched it on TV three times in the last three weeks.

But it is a cute, little holiday flick that warms the heart ... and makes me bawl my friggin' eyes out.

Essentially, it's about two women on opposite sides of the world — Los Angeles and London, England — who are career-driven and broken-hearted. They step outside their respective boxes, travel to each others homes in a holiday swap and spent Christmas on their own.

At least as long as it takes to fall madly in love with the men of their dreams, of course.

As independent, carefree and uncommitted as I am, there's still a tiny part of me that keeps the romantic fires burning.

So there The Holiday will sit, nestled next to 13 Going on 30, Clueless, The Break-Up and Rumor Has It.

Yeah, big Jennifer Aniston fan, too.

Argh ... just don't tell anyone. Let's keep it our little secret, OK?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ghost of Christmas past

It's Nov. 29.

That means tomorrow is Nov. 30.

And there's only 25 more days after that until Christmas.

The corporate holiday party was last week. I didn't go. I never do. The girl with no date always sticks out like a sore thumb.

Plus, partying is often the last thing I want to do in the runup to Christmas Day.

For many, the holidays are festive and bright. For others, it isn't quite so easy.

Me and Dad
It's been 15 years since my entire family celebrated Christmas together and that last Christmas wasn't exactly brimming over with holiday cheer.

My father, you see, was on his last legs. The doctors had sent him home to die. The cancerous tumour on his neck had grown so large it was cutting off circulation to his arm and he was unable to eat, sustaining his life with Ensure energy drinks.

We all knew in our hearts that he didn't have much longer. It was the elephant in the room and yet no one would talk about it. I spent the long nights on vacation from my job in Newfoundland crying as hard as I am right now.

We all pretended it didn't exist ... for the sake of making Christmas worse than it already was.

I left the next day or the day after Boxing Day. I can't quite recall. I know it was some time after the entire house erupted because Kevin leaned across Mom's oak dining room table to kiss his fiancee-now-wife, Diane, and broke it.

As I stood in the doorway with my bags packed, I told my father not to get up. That I would come say goodbye while he sat in his chair.

In all his stubbornness, he pushed his frail body up and shuffled his way over to me, enveloping me in his arms. I was afraid to hug too hard. I thought I might break him.

He died some two weeks later.

It's my ghost of Christmas past. Did I leave too soon? Should I have spent more time with him that Christmas? Should I have talked to him more, let him know it was OK to go? That I knew it was coming ...

And so for many years, I avoided Christmas. I still went home to Nova Scotia as often as I could, playing the role of dutiful daughter for my mother.

I wonder sometimes whether my brothers have it any better. They're all married and two of them have two beautiful daughters each.

I wonder if it's any easier to wake up on Christmas morning, knowing they get to sit around their trees and pass around gifts to smiles and laughter.

Me? I fight through it many days, punching against the dark shroud that can cover me like a black wool blanket.

I decorated the apartment last year, the first time I'd done that since my roommate Rosetta and I adorned our duplex in Gander back in 1995.

And I'm trying to start my own tradition of making Christmas my own, the single girl in a world of families and festivities. Last year, I left Calgary and drove to Seattle to spend it with friends. Altogether, it was a great time but there was something missing.

I still don't know what that is.

This year, I have 10 days off, skilfully arranged around the statutory holidays that fall on the weekend, the days off in lieu and only two days of holiday time burned.

I know I'll wake up Christmas Day to my most loyal friend, Shep. But there won't be any gifts under our tree. Everything will already have been opened by then.

I'm invited to a friend's house for Christmas dinner and Shep and I are scheduled to spend New Year's Eve in Idaho with our American friends.

Still, that's all three weeks and more from now.

In the meantime, I'll be doing my best to put on my holiday face, make merry, drink lots of eggnog and join in the Yuletide fun ... never forgetting the spirit that Dad and Mom brought to Christmas when we were kids.

But know that sometimes I'm forcing it and it isn't exactly easy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shopping socially

An interesting phenomenon is sweeping across Calgary.

I suppose some might call it social shopping. The trouble is, some people aren't being very social about it.

A number of cost-savings opportunities are cropping up, from Living Social to Groupon and the Canadian-operated Steal the Deal. Others exist, I just can't remember their names.

I've partaken in several of these deals since they started, mostly massages and facials. A day at the spa isn't something I'm normally inclined to spend $200 on, but if it's knocked down to 49 bucks ... sure, what the hell?

You can pick up on hot deals on ski passes, candle shops, hair cuts, food and more. Some of the offers are pretty basic ... get 20 bucks worth of whatever for $5. Some are more high-end, like the aforementioned spa trip which I have yet to book.

I call these 'social' shopping because they employ the internet as their main vehicle of advertising. They use Twitter, Facebook and email -- all the hot tools for social networking.

Along my journey on the social shopping trail, I ask how the whole dealio is working out for the business in question.

I have learned that a lot of you are cheap sunsabitches.

You don't tip. You're rude. You're there to get the biggest bang for your buck and you really don't care much for the trail of distaste you leave in your wake.

Folks, we have to remember that even though we're getting a discount on a service, we still have to act like civilized, social beings ... no matter how much we're saving.

Sure, these deals might expose some of us to experiences we might not otherwise be able to afford.

And we aren't the only ones investing in these deals. Sometimes, these deals can attract hundreds of shoppers.

So don't be surprised when you call to book your appointment and you can't get in for a few weeks.

And for heaven's sakes, tip.

Trust me, your facialist will understand if you say 'I'm sorry, I would give you more but this is all I have right now' and promise to spread the word about the good service you received.

But when you need to pay the GST on the service, it amounts to $1.75, you flip a twoonie onto the counter and demand your quarter back ... well ...

I've only been disappointed once using one of these services. I sat through a three-and-a-half-hour cut-and-colour at a salon. Three and a half hours. For a cut and colour. The guy kept bouncing around and doing other stuff at the salon.

They had my email address and a couple months later, I received a notice saying the salon was shutting down.

Colour me surprised. And that colour didn't take twice as long as it should.

At the same time, let's remember that these businesses are putting these deals out to get new traffic through the door.

They want your business. They want to serve you and they want to serve you well.

And they want you to come back.

Thus far, I have found myself a new massage therapist and a new esthetician.

I encourage you to take advantage of the deals you can get from Groupon or Living Social or whatever.

But don't take advantage of the people serving you.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Got me a rubdown

Never doubt the importance of a good massage therapist.

I've been to a handful of massage clinics around the city and, sure, it all felt good. There was the chiropractor in the south end, too, but the way he was pushing me all around, trying to get stuff to crack ... well ... just ...

Ew.

It's one thing for me to stretch and make things pop but getting all twisted up that way and forcing it?

No. That's just not my bag.

Today, I capitalized on a Living Social deal, getting an hour-long massage at Back and Body Health for half the regular price.

I wasn't expecting much really, nothing much different than the usual treatment ... rub this, move that, dig your elbow in there ...

In fact, I tried to talk to my last massage therapist about the issues with my shoulder but all I got from her was a couple of uh-huhs and the same old routine.

Corey Batt, however, listened intently. He asked me about the injury, when I thought it happened, how it happened, what kind of therapy I've been doing and so on. I told him about the pain localized in my anterior deltoid, the compensatory stiffness on the left side of my neck and even the lower back stickiness I usually experience after some heavy deadlifts.

He started on my right shoulder blade, worked around on it for a little while and then announced, 'yeah, you're really muscle guarding on this side.'

Muscle guarding?

It's a protective response in a muscle group that results from pain or fear of movement.

So my right shoulder girdle is all bunched up.

Then he runs his hands down my back, moving the muscles around my lower spine.

I'm not sure whether he emitted a sound of shock, fear or surprise but it sounded kind of like a 'phphphooph.'

And he said 'yeah, you are really twisted up down here.'

Fact is, I don't do anything unless I go all out. Play hard or stay home, right?

Trust me, this is one time I'd rather give up that talent.

In any case, Corey did things to my back, shoulder, arms and pecs that I've never had done before.

That was 10 hours ago.

My shoulder hasn't clicked when I move it since I left the clinic on Burbank Cres.

The cinch in my neck is gone.

Granted, this is a temporary measure. The ultimate solution won't be known until after my MRI in February and a permanent course of action is determined by my doctor.

But if Corey can provide some relief in the meantime, who am I to argue?

Oh, and he also recommended I see the Back and Body Health owner, Dr. Ryan J. Hoover. He has extensive experience with sports injuries and Corey says he isn't the type to go popping and cracking bones.

So I'm willing to give that a try, too ... even consider some Active Release Techniques as recommended by another friend.

Stay tuned.

But if you'd like to try Corey out for yourself, give him a call at 403-209-2225.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Musical memories

It may have been each one of us was out to shock our mother just a little bit more than the older child.

Our musical choices were indeed edgy, particularly for the type of town in which we lived.

Small.

Pious.

Sheltered.

Our hometown's nickname is, in fact, The Little Vatican. The university, the community newspaper, the radio station ... everything in that town while we were growing up was run by the local diocese of the Catholic Church.

The Bishop lived in a regal, stately Victorian-style home on Main Street. One man ... huge house that's now a bed and breakfast.

The Scottish-Catholic mafia ... or something like that ... ruled the town.


We grew up on whatever sounds were emitted by CJFX, a radio station with an AM signal so powerful it drowned out all other stations within reach, and the few musical shows Dad let us watch on our two channels. Yep, The Grand Ole Opry and The Tommy Hunter Show.

Our musical exposure on CJFX amounted to fiddles — OK, not so bad now that some of us have discovered a bit of our cultural identity — and a skosh of adult contemporary, played after 8 p.m.

And Elvis Presley. Lots of Elvis Presley. Mom loved him.

I vaguely remember the four kids huddled into the 1970 Cutlass Supreme. Oddly, I Was Made for Loving You by KISS came on the radio. My mother slammed the off button and made some crack about men in makeup and noise.

Boy, did she ever not know what was coming.

Then music videos came on stream. We'd get three every Sunday on Switchback, hosted by Stan the Man. Then CTV started showing Video Hits.

We were amazed. I was enraptured by the Eurythmics, Rick Springfield, the Thompson Twins and more.

God bless the '80s.

It's Shane's fault, I suppose, for the spiral into darker music. He started collecting Led Zeppelin and Rush.

Men with long hair. Dark sunglasses. Mystical messages.

What was next?

Kevin and KISS. Twisted Sister even.

Me and Motley Crue. And Bon Jovi, Poison and Cinderella.


Jason and Iron Maiden.

The walls of our respective bedrooms were papered with men in makeup. They sang of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

The wave wars began. Shane, the eldest, would storm out of the house, looking for a peaceful respite of Whole Lotta Lovin' and Black Dog.

Mom would yell from the kitchen.

We'd twist the volume buttons on our ghettoblasters even louder.

Then Dad would come home.

Turn that shit off.

Yes, Dad.

On went the headphones. How any of us survived our teen years with our hearing intact baffles me some days (so, kids, crank up your iPods ... don't listen to your parents, you'll be fine, trust me).

Ultimately, Jason won the shock contest.

The youngest. The baby. The favourite!

Long gone were the days that Jason would croon along with Charlie Pride or go solo with Crystal Chandelier for anyone who would visit.

No, those days were in the past for the Burner Runner, so nicknamed for his speed on the track and the fire-red hair that blazed around with him.

No, Iron Maiden wasn't quite bad enough to bring into the little bungalow on Church Street, where the crucifix still hangs in its spot on the living-room wall.

The little house where an 11x14 of Jason in a polyester leisure suit, giving the Fonzie thumb-up, still hangs.

Into the little red house, Jason brought a musical group named 2 Live Crew.

He slipped this cassette into the tape deck and they started yelling 'Fuck Martinez, fuck-fuck Martinez.'

And I thought, 'ooooooooooooh, shit, we're all in trouble now.'

I don't remember too many more wave wars after that.

I don't remember any of us playing anything too loudly after that.

No more sex, no Jack Daniels, no more audible headbanging.

Walkmans and headphones were the answer to any weird looks or 'turn that shit off.'

It may have been it was time for us all to move on and get jobs, keeping us away from home for longer hours than just school would allow.

But it's a pretty funny memory.

Just as long as no one ever tells you I actually owned a Vanilla Ice or Technotronic CD.

It never really happened.

I swear.
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ridin' solo

Aside from my stupid shoulder issues, I just can't do group fitness.

I tried. Lord knows, I tried.

And my shoulder ended up being a pretty good escape clause.

My new and beautiful friend, Cara Fullerton, is learning how to teach a Get Ripped class, designed by Fitness Plus guru Jari Love. It appears to be an immensely popular class with the floor covered with bodies this morning.

I would love to take one of the classes to show my support and say, 'hey, Cara, you rock!'

But I ... uh ... ooh, ow ... my shoulder.

Yeah, that's it.

Seriously, I hate group fitness.

I have this intense competitive streak, you see. It means that when I'm in a group fitness situation I have to be looking and seeing what she's doing, lifting more than he is and bending further than she is.

It isn't something I can control, dammit! I have a burning, innate desire to be at the top of the class and no amount of inner voice saying 'Angela, just slow down and do this for you' isn't going to stop me.

Yes, yes, I can hear my mother now: 'wouldn't it have been lovely if she had applied herself so well in school.'

Shush, Mom. I know kids who would have killed for my 84.6 average.

In one part of my brain, I know I should be doing whatever class for the benefit of functional strength and variety in my workout program.

But in order to suppress that competitive spirit, I have to engage it in another way ... competing with myself.

That's the big reason I'm constantly adding more weight, setting higher goals and pushing bigger numbers when I'm in the squat rack.

That's why when I racked 255 yesterday and pushed out one rep, I did a little dance in the Olympic room to reward myself.

And I didn't care if anyone was watching.

Because unlike one friend who told me she needs to be told what to do, nobody is better at pushing me, at driving me, at telling me what to do ... absolutely nobody ...

Than me.

Spinach-stuffed Chicken Breasts

Pulled from the Kraft Canada website, these are delicious. I would have paired a breast with a spinach salad or something but I ploughed through half a big bag of Twizzlers before they were out of the oven.

Don't judge.


Ingredients 
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp Kraft Roasted Red Pepper with Parmesan Dressing, divided
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
2/3 cup dry Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Chicken
1 tbsp coarsely chopped roasted red peppers
2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts (1/2 lb./225 g), pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

Instructions
1. Heat oven to 350 F.
2. Bring water and 1 tbsp dressing to boil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Stir in spinach, stuffing mix and peppers. Remove from heat. Let stand five minutes.
3. Place chicken, top sides down, on cutting board; spread with stuffing mixture. Starting at one short end, tightly roll up each breast. Place, seam sides down, in 8-inch square baking dish. Brush with remaining dressing.
4. Bake 35 min. or until chicken is done. Sprinkle with cheese; bake five minutes or until melted.

Nutritional information per chicken breast
Calories, 280, total fat, 7 g; saturated fat, 3.5 g; cholesterol, 75 mg; sodium, 680 mg; carbohydrates, 19 g; dietary fibre, 2 g; sugars, 4 g; protein, 32 g

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Me and my iron

I work out.

And when I work out, I go all out.

I suppose it comes from my 'play hard or go home' philosophy in sports.

I wonder if anyone has ever done a study correlating that thought process to incidents of injury ... huh.

But I digress.

The reasons why I love to work out are few.

Primarily, my trips to the gym are a method of stress relief. If it wasn't for tiring my muscles out on iron, I'd be in jail for randomly punching people just for being stupid.

I'm obsessed with my strength and putting up numbers, especially on the squat bar. Why? We all need goals. And as I reach a weight number on the bar, I get to set a new one and work hard to reach that goal.

It's a real sense of accomplishment to get there.

So you know how much of a bummer it is to not be able to work my upper body.

But with the strength, I also get wicked-looking legs, a nice, round butt that used to be flat and stronger bones, a must when my grandmother's body deteriorated with osteoporosis in final years.

And it means I get to eat.

No, I don't get to eat whatever I want. I'd be 200-and-some pounds if I just flagrantly started shovelling anything into my mouth.

But I'm not obsessed with food. I tried LA Weight Loss last spring, remember? But the regimen of writing every little morsel down in a diary drove me friggin' nuts.

I can't spend my time counting points or calories or pounds.

I can't do it. I can't pick and peck at plain old chicken breasts and munch on carrots.

I gotta live. I gotta have my beer, my occasional Coca-Cola, pizza, ice cream and donairs.

For the most part, I try to eat as cleanly and healthfully as possible but I don't beat myself up if I pick up a bag of Twizzlers and polish it off before dinner.

It's about the freedom to enjoy my life and still be healthy, strong and wise.

Even if I am a little 'fluffy' in some spots.

It just means there's something to hold onto.

That said, here's a recipe out of Clean Eating. Because it's been a while.

Chicken Piccata

Ingredients
Chickpea puree
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Chicken Piccata
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour, divided (I used spelt for the gluten-free extra goodness)
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
4 4-oz skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4-in thick
3 tsp olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced (I ... uh ... love garlic, so I used four)
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp capers or olives, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Instructions
1. Prepare chickpea puree. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and chickpeas and cook, stirring frequently, for six to eight minutes or until onions are light-golden brown and tender. Remove from heat and pour into a food processor. Add stock and puree until smooth, adding a bit of water or additional stock if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Cover, set aside and keep warm until ready to serve.
2. While chickpea mixture is cooking in skillet, prepare chicken. Reserve 1 tbsp flour for later use. In a shallow dish or plate, combine remaining flour with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour mixture to coat completely and shake off excess.
3. Heat 1 tsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan and cook for two to three minutes per side, or until golden brown. Remove chicken from pan and transfer to a plate.
4. Using the same pan over medium-high heat (do not wash, the brown bits will add flavour), add remaining 2 tsp oil, garlic and reserved 1 tbsp flour. Heat mixture, stirring constantly for about one minute, scraping up any brown bits from the pan. Add stock, lemon juice and capers. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium-high and simmer for about three minutes, until sauce thickens. Add chicken back to pan and continue to simmer for an additional two minutes. Remove from heat, stir parsley into sauce and season with salt and pepper.
5. To serve, scoop 1/2 cup of puree onto plate, top with chicken piccata and spoon 2-3 tbsp sauce over top.

Nutrients per serving (4 oz. chicken piccata, 1/2 cup puree, 2-3 tbsp sauce)
Calories, 390; total fat, 13 g; saturated fat, 2.5 g; carbs, 24 g; fibre, 5 g; sugars, 5 g; protein, 44 g; sodium, 670 mg; cholesterol, 100 mg

Monday, November 15, 2010

Keep trying

This is not a failure, folks.

It isn't even a setback.

It's merely a pit stop on the road to hell and I just caught air on the speed bump.

Yes, I got some downer news this morning. I checked my email and there was a quick note from my recruiter at Amazon.

Yes, that Amazon.

The department manager has decided to pursue other candidates for the position for which I had applied.

I was sad.

Oh hell, I got up from my desk at Shaw, went to the washroom and wept quietly for about five minutes.

Then I dried my tears, updated my Facebook status, sent out a handful of other crucial emails for those who aren't on the old FB and went about my day with a little bit of weight on my heart.

I received a lot 'aw' and 'sorry' responses.

Even a handful of #sadface.

But as the day went on, the weight lifted, my heart lightened and there was no #sadface.

Let's look at the bright side: I have a great job, writing web copy for Shaw Communications.

I was just aiming higher and looking for a little change of location.

Calgary, you see, has grown a little weary on me. I celebrated seven years of life in the YYC back in May. In fact, my mother emailed me on the 13th to let me know she still had a PostIt note on the fridge, saying 'Angela driving to Calgary today.'

I've been laid off, dumped three times, broken a hand, torn my rotator cuff, torn my labrum and been concussed a handful of times.

OK, they've all been my own damn fault ... with the exception of getting laid off. I hold that miserable PKP prick in Montreal mostly responsible for that.

Don't get me wrong. These seven years have been filled with a lot of wonderful memories and people.

But my vagabondish nature is starting to kick in again. It gets this way every once in a while and in the last few years, I've been able to subdue it with a trip to the mountains or little road trips to the smaller towns outside Calgary.

My thirst for adventure, however, has taken me to magical places. In the last year, I've traveled through Montana, Idaho and Washington State.

And every time I'm in Washington State, I want to stay a little bit longer.

Manito Park, Spokane

If I didn't have to come home on my last trip there, I wouldn't have.

'The States?!?!? Well, now we know she's gone off her rocker. We'll find a good temporary home for Shep and sent her off to Ponoka for a nice padded vacation.'

Oh, trust me. I never would have thought the States would be a destination of my liking ... Ottawa, Toronto ... maybe ... but the home of G-Dub and Sarah Palin?

Aye criminy! How the hell would me and my Maple Leaf tattoo fit in?

But I do.

The more time I spend in the PNW, the more I laugh at Canadian misconceptions of Americans ... and, by comparison, the remarkable self-loathing of Americans.

'You didn't want to have to deal with us asshole Americans anyway,' wrote one friend, although I know he was joking.

Well, half joking probably.

And we Canadians think we have patent or copyright or some weird ownership over politeness and being nice.

We don't.

Take for example a morning I spent at Manito Park in Spokane last month. Shep and I couldn't walk more than five or 10 minutes without being stopped by someone who wanted to talk.

Sometimes, it was to chat about the weather; sometimes, it was to talk about how beautiful my dog is; sometimes, it was to talk about my camera; and sometimes, it was to just say hello.

Yes, it happens in Calgary but more on the odd occasion than a regular occurrence.

My weekend in Spokane reminded me of home and Halifax or Newfoundland more than I can recall any night at the Trap & Gill.

And on the I-5 going into Seattle?

Well, when you put on your dinker-dinker (my dad's name for the signal light), the other drivers actually make room for you to merge lanes.

No, really, it's true.

I know you could never believe it unless you actually saw it. I damn near went into shock.

Just don't expect it to suddenly happen on the Deerfoot when you get back.

Calgary, I suppose, has grown too big and metropolisy for this smalltown girl who always wanted to live in a big city.

It's busy.

It's jammed.

And we're acting towards each other with far less consideration, respect and politeness than I ever thought possible.

Maybe a change of pace is necessary and with it, another career move.

This one 'no' won't deter me. Neither will the next one.

After all, I've already found another opening that suits my resume just fine.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Strong and determined

I've been hanging onto this picture for almost 10 years.


I found it one night while I was surfing the internet, looking for a replacement claddagh ring, since I thought I'd lost mine.

Scouring online Irish jewelry stores — yes, I've been shopping on the net almost since you were able to — I came across this blue heron, all tied up in a mystic knot.

No documentation exists on why the Celts were so bent on tying everything up but we know these knots rarely have a beginning and an end, possibly signifying infinity and the timeless nature of our spirit.

Yes, I'm part Irish, part Scottish ... even part redhead, doncha know? Yes, if my hair catches the right light, you can see the red glowing as brightly as it does on any one of the brother's heads on a 24/7 basis.

And my temper? Well, that's all Irish ... believe it.

I hold my Scottish/Irish heritage close to my heart.

The Gaelic language in my family died on my maternal grandmother's tongue in the early 2000s.


Aye but she was a proud Irish lass, adorning her wee Greenwold Village apartment with shamrocks every March, teaching us about forach (a dessert of oats, whipping cream and sugar), baking us biscuits so hard you know they could break a window, and reveling in the jigs and reels of the local fiddlers.

She was a symbol of strength, independence and determination to me.

I've long wanted to have those qualities and to ink myself as a testament to that discovery.

(Yes, tattoo. I already have two. Both are hockey related. One has to be covered up by something else ... I'm not sure what.)

Maybe that's why I saved this picture that so-long-ago day. Maybe that's why I felt compelled to find out what the blue heron symbolized.

The blue heron is a beautiful, graceful bird, known for its longevity. It is credited as a messenger of the gods and, coincidentally, my first name is Greek for angel, messenger from God.

The blue heron is noted for its intelligence and solitude. In Celtic symbolism, it represents patience, independence and solitude.

North American native tradition holds up the blue heron as a messenger that teaches about self-determination and self-reliance. It represents an ability to progress and evolve.

You might start to see where I'm going with this.

I've been on my own for a long time, learning to be self-reliant, independent and determined. I've faced change and endured obstacles and challenges, been forced to reinvent myself after a career change, and made bad decisions with life and love but always came out the stronger for it.

I love my time alone — well, spent mostly with my faithful boo, Shep, at my side. I've learned to appreciate the quiet, regenerative space around me when no one is there.

Patience ... well, that's a work in progress and I think it always will be. It probably goes along with the aforementioned Irish temper and redheadedness.

Grace ... eh. If you could have seen me on figure skates 25 years ago, you'd be wondering what the hell happened ...

I kept losing this picture — with each fried hard drive or broken laptop — and I suppose that represents the setbacks I've encountered in my overall character development.

Nobody's perfect. We all make mistakes. Like that one tattoo I wish no one would ever see.

This knotted blue heron, though, will sit on my wrist and be visible, where the other two are not.

Once I get it done, maybe this month or next, you'll be able to see the testament to the strong, independent woman I've become, the great blue heron wrapped in his mystic knot.

And I hope Gram is looking down and nodding in agreement, all the while knitting awesome slippers and mittens for Grampy and Dad.

We just won't tell her I'm not much of a biscuit baker, OK?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stroke of luck

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day



Stars have been falling all over the place for me lately and I'm not entirely sure why.

Maybe I've built up some good karma points.

Or maybe everything is just starting to fall into its rightful place and good things are happening. 

Now please, please ... don't give me that bullshit about having put it out to the universe and asked for it. 

I did not.

And I don't buy into that Secret bunk anyway.

Maybe, just maybe, I'm in a more positive place with who I am, what I do and why I do it. I'm in love with my life and my freedom and I live every day for what it brings me, ensuring I express my gratitude for the good things and try to figure out how to make the bad things never happen again.

Every day is a learning experience, right?

Some of it, of course, is just dumb luck. 

Like winning $700 boots from Stuart Weitzman.

Or, a $100 gift card from the CORE Shopping Centre.

Or, great tickets to a Flames game.

But how much of it is caused by my willingness to put myself out there and go for the things I want?

There are a handful of other things I want right now. And as time passes and life continues to develop, I may be able to share those things with you. But right now, I have to hold my cards close and keep a few secrets.

I've seen these things in the past and let them slip, knowing I didn't have the full confidence in myself to go after them. 

Instead, I settled for second best and ended up more miserable than I ever was before.

And that's how life works, folks. It isn't about wishing to the universe, it isn't about putting a picture of what you want on the wall and hoping and praying it somehow lands in your lap.

It's about going out and doing the hard work it takes to make sure those things happen.

So, that's what I'm doing.

I'm making things happen.

But since a little dumb luck can help the cause along sometimes, you're more than welcome to keep your fingers (and toes) crossed for me.

I'll thank you when it happens.

Not if.

When.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bummed out

Welcome to the pity party.

I'm bummed out with a bum shoulder.

I had a doctor's appointment last Monday, finally finding a general practitioner who was taking patients.

We talked about the usual things ... my general health, my level of activity, etc and so on.

Then I dropped the bomb. Look, there's something wrong with my shoulder. It probably happened some time in August when I was splitting time between shortstop and second base, depending on whether I was playing women's or co-ed ball.

What kind of wrong with your shoulder, she asked.

The pain is localized in the anterior delt, not like the last time I tore my rotator cuff when the pain was more lateral and posterior delt. That was my supraspinatus ... a little time, a little physio, a little rest and it went away.

Not this time. No rest, no working the shoulder with functional movements on the band, nothing is making the pain go away.

What do you think it is, she asked.

I think it's a SLAP tear of the labrum, I said.



She put me through the usual run of movements, asked me lift my arm this way, hold it that way and place my hand on the centre of my back, palm facing out.

Oh Jesus no, I said. That ain't happening. Just taking my bra off at night hurts like a mofo, I said ... OK, maybe not in so many words. I'm way more polite in certain social situations. Believe it.

I think you're right, she said. I think it's a SLAP tear.

But we have to send you for an MRI to be sure.

In the meantime, no movements over your head, no rotational movements.

Well, what the hell else is left, I wondered. That takes out shoulder press, lat raises, bentover flyes, lat pulldowns, rows ... pretty much all my upper-body lifts.

By Thursday, I had a phone call from her receptionist. I'm scheduled for my MRI, she told me happily ... in February.

In fucking February. Goddamn February.

Four fucking months from now.

I get that I live with universal health care and that means I have to wait my turn. I get that I'm still functional even though I'm not pain-free.

But four months?

Fine. So I call in a favour and enlist the assistance of my friend and favourite local trainer, Terri Champagne. You'll remember I tried doing her boot camp a few months ago but had to bail because of my stupid shoulder.

She doesn't want me doing any upper-body lifts at all, given the amount of pain I am experiencing. Hell's bells, washing my hair in the shower is a bitch some days.

Instead, I'm to work on my legs and core. I can do yoga but take care with inverted poses, like downward dog. And no shataranga for me.

Flippin' fantastic.

She suggested pilates, so I went to Best Buy and picked up a DVD to go along with my yoga ones.

I'm setting a goal to make this a positive thing, to hit a three-plate squat — even if it's just for one rep — by the time I go for my MRI. And to have as strong a core as I did a few years ago when the Soldiers of Fitness guys called me Cadet Abs.

That doesn't mean it will be smooth sailing after the MRI, of course. It's only then we'll know whether I'll be scheduled for surgery or be put into physio or whatever.

But, hey, there's nothing wrong with having the most powerful legs I've ever had, is there?

IN THE KITCHEN

I haven't done a recipe in a good long while. I suppose I haven't done a whole lot of cooking either. Life has been under the gun, on the run.

But here's a good one out of a long-ago Clean Eating. It probably would have been better for me if I hadn't been eating salt-and-vinegar chips with herb and spice dip all through the food prep.

And hey, did you know oats are a soluble fibre which helps lower total and low density lipoprotein (LDL), or 'bad' cholesterol?

Spicy Thai Chicken

Ingredients
1 cup natural quick-cooking oatmeal
5 tsp lime zest, divided
2 tsp ginger, finely chopped, divided (oh, I just used the powdered stuff, chopping ginger is a pain in the you-know-where)
1 tbsp unsweetened coconut, shredded
1 tbsp roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 egg white
16 oz boneless, skinless chicken, sliced into four 4-oz pieces and pounded thinw ith a mallet
Olive oil cooking spray
1 mango
2 navel oranges, peeled and sectioned
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup Thai or regular basil, shredded
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Put oatmeal, 2 tsp zest, 1 tsp ginger, coconut, peanuts, cayenne, oil and garlic in a food processor. Pulse five or six times until finely mixed.
2. In a large wide bowl, beat egg white with 1 tbsp water. Pat chicken dry with paper towel, dip in egg white then dredge in oatmeal mixture. Place chicken on cookie sheet misted with cooking spray. Then lightly spray chicken breasts with cooking spray and bake for seven minutes. Turn down oven to 375 F and continue cooking for 10 to 12 minutes.
3. While chicken is cooking, peel and slice mango into 1/2-inch pieces. In large bowl, place mango, oranges, remaining lime zest, remaining ginger, lime juice, red pepper, basil, salt and black pepper. Toss well.
4. Serve one chicken breast with 3/4 cup of mango salsa.

Nutrients per serving
Calories, 360; total fat, 10 g; saturated fat, 2.5 g; carbs, 27 g; fibre, 5 g; sugars, 15 g; protein, 39 g; sodium, 105 mg; cholesterol, 95 mg.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The weight of the world

I have a love-hate relationship with my shoulders.

They've carried the weight of the world, they've been cried on and they rarely droop in resignation.

When I'm at the gym and I'm all pumped up, I love the way they look.

My traps jump up and my lateral deltoids form this unbelievable cap.

They make me look strong, muscular, fit ... like I can handle anything.

(Sidebar: Of course, that's barring any injury I may have suffered in the last while. Yes, I'm a little concerned I may have a SLAP tear on my labrum, which is a lot more serious than just a torn supraspinatus like last time. So yes, I'll be trying to get in to see a doctor at some point but since I don't really have one, it might be difficult.)

I keep my reps high and my weight low, always, for shoulders. They're smaller muscles and they don't require a lot of weight like quads and hams to get a decent workout.

At least that's what I was told by a long-ago trainer.

In any case, I always think they look good in my racer back tank top.

Then I go shopping.

I pick up a cute halter top or something with spaghetti straps and I stand in the change room thinking, 'ugh, I have huge, ugly man shoulders and I can't wear this.'

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if my boobs weren't quite this big ... and believe me, if I could find a doctor who would send me for a second breast reduction, I'd be all over it like a dog on a pork chop.

Or maybe I should just suck it up and go with a cap-sleeved top, covering up those beautiful-when-I'm-feeling-strong, ugly-when-I'm-feeling-dressy shoulders.

Argh ... what a predicament.

In any case, I've been back at the gym hard this week, since returning from my fantastic weekend away in Spokane.

It was a 4x6 week so I got to up the weights some. I get to register a little disappointment because my 4x6 squat -- albeit a solid 4x6 with good form -- was only at 185 pounds.

That's 30 pounds down from where it was in June.

I try to remember that it's all a process and I will get back up to the numbers I had before ball season kicked into high gear.

So long as I stick with it and don't give up.

Tomorrow is deadlift day and since my squat numbers are low, I'm going to try to get my deadlifts even with squats so my hamstrings are as strong as my quads.

Here's been the last week ... with nothing interesting to report out of the kitchen, by the way. I've been doing a lot of heat-and-eats and salads. I didn't exactly keep a good budget for food while I was shopping. Don't judge!

Oh yeah and there's been no reading. I've been too busy daydreaming.

AT THE GYM 

Wednesday
Legs
Squats, 4x6, 185 lb
Straight-leg deadlifts, 4x6, 95 lb
Single-leg press, 3x10, 135 lb SS side lunges on BOSU, 3x10

Thursday
Chest
DB chest press, 4x6, 30 lb
Cable crossover, 4x6, 40 lb
Incline DB press, 4x6, 27.5 lb
Overhead tricep rope press, 2x12, 45 lb
MB ab series, 3x15

Friday
Rest day

Saturday
Shoulders
Single-arm full clean, 3x10, 25 lb
Lat raises, 3x10, 12.5 lb SS bentover flyes, 3x10, 12.5 lb
Incline single-arm raises, 3x10, 7.5 lb
MB thrusters and fitball crunches, 3x15

Tomorrow
Back, projected weights
Deadlifts, 4x6, 185 lb
Lat pulldowns, 4x6, 90 lb
Low-pulley rope row, 4x6, 90 lb
Rope hammer curl, 2x12, 35 lb
Rope woodchoppers, 3x15, 35 lb SS cable curl, 3x15, 85 lb

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wanderlust

You know what really bugs me?

When I read a horoscope and it tells me exactly how I'm feeling.

Yes, I read horoscopes. Yes, I'm a smart girl and I know -- mostly -- that they're bunk.

But look at what I found when I loaded my iGoogle this morning:

Leo
Leo
You may be feeling wanderlust, even if you are rooted to your current situation. The fiery Aries Full Moon lights up your 9th House of Adventure, reminding you that there are still many journeys ahead. Whether or not you are able to pack your bags and jump on a plane, nothing can prevent you from going somewhere far away in your mind. Remember, there is plenty of time to turn your fantasies into reality.



Wanderlust.

Yup. You got it.

There are many journeys ahead. Is there going to be a big journey on a permanent basis or lots of little journeys?

I'm always going somewhere far away in my mind and that means I'm not content where I am. Happy? Yes. Content? Not really.

But how do I turn those fantasies into reality?

Then there's the big question: Where?

And if one person says 'ask the universe,' I'll have to go kick a kitten.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

You like what where?

It's really the most ridiculous thing.

One year ago, women were falling all over themselves on Facebook to post what colour their bras were. And it was a big secret what the colour statuses were about ... let's not tell the boys ... tee hee hee.

Today, we're faced with the same stupid meme, although this time we're supposed to tell the boys where we like to put our purses, but only referring to the items as 'it,' inferring that we like 'it' in the bathroom or we like 'it' in the kitchen.

'It' being my purse but intending where I like 'it.'

Believe me, I was tempted to post Angela likes 'it' in the ass, just to see what everyone would say. I still may.

The clincher? This is supposed to raise awareness about breast cancer.

Let's be clear about one thing first. I'm not all that big on donating to any cancer foundation except the Canadian Cancer Society, which is working to eliminate ALL cancer. I don't see any one type of cancer as being more important or more tragic or more deserving of attention than any other kind of cancer.

My father died of throat cancer in 1996. His father died of stomach cancer in 1988. His mother died of lung cancer — I think — in 1969.

At least one of us, I suspect, in my family will carry on this brutal tradition.

So I prefer to ensure that all cancers are treated with the same weight. But I 'get' how breast cancer is an attention draw.

It's about boobs. And, as I wrote for Fashionwest earlier this week, breasts are quite often at the root of our identification as women, as feminine beings, as sexual beings.

What I don't get are the Facebook memes.

Where you put your purse ... what colour your bra is ... where you like to have sex.

Oh but, you protest, it gets women talking about breast cancer.

No, it doesn't. It gets women giggling and being deceitful. It gets men rolling their eyes at us and thinking 'here they go again.'

See? This guy, a link I got through my friend, Michelle Butterfield, doesn't get it either. He doesn't find it clever and he doesn't find amusing.

"Women, if you want our partnership with something all you have to do is request it," he writes. "What you need to understand is that men (most of them anyway) really love women and want to do whatever we can to make you happy, help you, take care of you, shelter you from harm, etc., etc., etc.

"If you want us to give our money to a particular organization in order to advance cancer research, or fund breast exams, we will, just tell us which organization and how much to give. Men are that simple. All it takes is (drum roll) COMMUNICATION!"

Robyn Urback of the National Post got on board the meme today, too.

It's unfortunate, she writes, because what these women think is raising awareness for breast cancer is really just trivializing the whole issue.

"The movement sexualizes a disease that is, as many can attest, not in the least bit sexy," Urback writes. "Campaigns such as 'Save the Ta-Tas,' which emerged in 2004 with svelte, good-looking models sporting skin-tights tees, have been similarly criticized for cheapening a very serious issue, but its mission, at least, centred around awareness and fundraising. The innuendo-laced 'I like it' Facebook trend simply sexualizes an unsexy issue, to no favourable end."

We've fought so hard as women for acceptance as equals in every level of our lives. We've fought so hard for sexual harassment rules, so hard for proper treatment in the workplace, so hard to keep our male superiors hands off our asses ...

Yet it's so easy for us to tear it all down and say 'hee hee, look at me, I'm really talking about my purse but you think I'm being all sexy, hee hee.'

And at the very core, we completely distract from the real point: women need to self-examine on a monthly basis starting yesterday and get annual mammograms after the age of 50.

How do we properly promote breast health awareness among ourselves? We encourage our mothers, sisters and friends to self-examine or get mammograms, we post links to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation or Canadian Cancer Society, we attend events that really help raise funds and awareness (like For the Love of Shoes at the Okotoks Art Gallery) and we pull out our pocketbooks — you know, the ones where you like it — and we donate real, hard cash to research.

That way, we're not alienating half the population from joining us in our quest to cure cancer.

That way, we're not taking hundreds of steps backwards with our status as equals.

That way, we're doing real work in raising awareness and funds to cure cancer.

But it's fun, you'll whine.

Hey, I had a great time going out to the Okotoks Art Gallery last weekend and learning about the artists and the women who donated the shoes.

Whether I enjoyed myself or not, I intended to make a donation to the exhibit but because it was wonderful, I put twice as much in the box as I initially intended.

So I challenge you to find ways to make raising awareness and money fun, interesting and clever.

But not in ways that distract from the real issue.

Do something real. Donate here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Change is good, so is Shep

In case you were wondering, Shep is back to normal but for the wound healing on his hind leg.


It's a pretty nasty gash, all the way through the layers of the skin to the thin layers of muscle on his leg.

He's been getting treatments of antibiotic Ozonol. He's still pretty fussy when I touch it ... you would, too, if someone was rubbing ointment into a deep open cut.

Dana checked him out, said he probably could have stood a stitch or two but he'll get away without needing any.

He's been such a good boy through the whole ordeal that I'm hoping to treat him in some way this weekend.

Maybe we'll head out to the woods ... nowhere near any cattleguards, that is.

Or, it's been time to head out to the Red Deer River valley and hang out at Dorothy.

I somehow find that little spot a very centring area and that's really what I need right now, to find my centre.

Everything has been off-kilter lately.

Some things I can't really change about my life, so I'm changing the things I can ... like my hair colour, like the way my evenings go, like what I do on the weekends.

Yeah, news flash. I completely changed the colour of my hair today. OK, I didn't ... my hairdresser Tisha did. And from all accounts — from face first to Facebook — people like it.

I'm a brunette now, not a blond. I don't know if it will last forever because I do rather enjoy being a toehead.

But it's a signal to me that it's time to start taking care of myself again instead of just being.

I almost feel like I've just been going through the motions for the last little while.

Changing things up ... that all goes part and parcel with the challenge.

And the two new pairs of shoes that should be arriving in the next two weeks. They really are quite darling, I swear.

You know new shoes always make me feel better.

So here's how the day went down:

IN THE KITCHEN
Breakie: Scottish oats with Hamish Knox blueberry jam and a scoop of vanilla protein powder
Early lunch: Ground turkey sauteed in taco seasoning on 1 1/2 cups of lettuce and 1/2 cup of chunked green pepper
Snack: Protein bar
Snack: 1/4 cup soy energy blend (it's a Costco jar of soy nuts, dried cranberries, almonds and seeds)
Dinner: Pho ... yeah, Vietnamese noodles, lettuce, bean sprouts, cukes, spring rolls and satay chicken ... on paper, it sounds healthy but I think there's a load of sugar in the fish sauce and I probably gulled too many of the noodles

Not probably. Did. I still feel them sitting right there at the top of my stomach.

ON THE MOVE
It's an off day from the gym, so I started by waking up and hitting the yoga mat. I did 20 minutes of Yoga Zone with Al. When I got home from work, I jumped into my sneakers and took Shep for a 30-minute stroll. It wasn't super intensive walking, since I'm still treating him a little gingerly. And then I just finished another 30 minutes of yoga with element and Elena Brower.

ON THE BRAIN
It was a tense day at the office ... the whole four hours that I was there. Interpersonal bullshit, so I'm trying to ease my mind about that stuff. I'm still plugging through In Her Shoes. The movie didn't steer remarkably away from the novel, although we're meeting the grandmother a lot sooner than the silver-screen version.

It may be unfortunate that I've already seen the movie, because I'm not really investing my brain in it yet. I'm just reading the words, not absorbing them.

That's the one thing I really enjoyed about the first Jennifer Weiner novel I read ... and then there's the Emily Giffin books. Her chick lit books drew me in and made me identify with the lead characters.

And oh hell, I had to do a search to remember her name and now I see they're making a movie out of Something Borrowed, starring Kate Hudson. I like Hudson ... I loved the book.

We'll see.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The fright of my life

I had a hell of a fright yesterday.

Shep and I bundled up in the truck to head west in search of beautiful fall colours, especially a sunrise which is typically so striking in Calgary at this time of year.

We were a little late getting going, though, and missed the sunrise but for a few bursts of colour at Edworthy Park at the northwest end of the city.


I had wanted to get all the way out to the Cochrane turnoff and capture the sun rising over some prairie fields. Ah, maybe next weekend we'll try again.

As long as Shep is in decent enough shape, that is.

Yes ... I have myself an injured pup.

We went onto Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, just north of Cochrane. It's really quite a stunning little place. The lower end of the hill is littered with miniature water falls, brooks and creeks, bridges and falling leaves.

You can hear the rush of the water the second you step out of your vehicle in the parking lot.


We had some time to kill before our company arrived. We were meeting Dana and Tundra, who'd never been out to the area before ... even though Dana grew up in Calgary.

You might recognize Dana's name. She works for our veterinarian, Dr. Bill, at Westmount Animal Clinic in Kensington.

She's also been a teammate, a landlady, a shoulder, a drinking buddy and a very close friend.


Shep and I went for a quick jaunt back up the road. I wanted to see if I could get some lively cow pictures, better than the ones I captured from my truck while they blocked the road upon our entry.

And that's where our day turned scary.

Shep typically will leap over a cattle guard, as he did south of Vulcan this past spring. Whether it's his age catching up to him or the fact he still had his leash on, he tried walking across the cattle guard.

He was hesitant at first and I should have told him to just stay there while I went a little ahead to talk to the cows.

He insisted on trying to walk across the cattle guard.

I heard a whimper behind me and saw my beloved dog with his hind legs fallen and stuck. I could see the panic in his eyes.

I dropped my camera to the ground, lifted his bum up and helped him out.

But then he wouldn't put any weight on right hind leg. I screamed. He yelped.

OK, calm down, I thought. You freaking out isn't going to help matters any at all.

I felt his leg, searching for any hint of a break ... waiting for him to snap at me if it hurt too much.

Nothing.

OK, he still wasn't putting any weight down. He was in the middle of the road and my truck was about 100 metres back that way.

Adrenalin is a funny thing, though. I scooped up my 110-pound dog and carried him to the side of the road.

I laid him down and with a speed unknown to any of my ball teammates in the past, I sprinted to my truck.

I jumped in and drove back to the spot where he lay, then leaped out of my truck, hoping that I would be able to lift him into it and speed back to the city.

My feet hit the ground and you know what? The fucker came running toward me.

My head went from 'oh my God, I could kill you right now' to 'thank Christ, you're OK' in about two seconds.'

He had no problem jumping into the truck, while my head went back and forth between anger and relief.

Mostly relief ... I swear.

The anger started to turn inwards, knowing I repeatedly promise to keep that dog safe from danger for every day I humanly can.

And I didn't.

He recovered quickly and his spirits soared when he saw Dana's truck pull into the parking lot and out jumped his best buddy Tundra.


We walked and took pictures for a good long while, but we didn't do any hills or anything overly strenuous ... hell, Dana and I both getting up there, too!

It's been more than a day since the fright and Shep is still pretty stiff from his trauma. He's taking aspirin, ground up and mixed into an egg (spoiled, I know!).

Plus, I noticed a tremendous gash on the inside of his right hind that will require some nursing over the next few days.

A cone? That won't stay on.

A Tensor bandage is doing for now.

But Shep is a fairly determined dog and when he wants to lick at something, he'll get to it.

And thus, my task for the next few days is just keeping him away from that area.

I owe him as much.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stuck in a rut

Let's talk about this rut I'm in.

It's deep.

And it's muddy down here.

I suggest to you I've been in this mess for about a month ... since I got back from the World Hockey Summit in Toronto.

You see, I've always known I missed sports writing and I waffle in between closure and non-closure, as I've proven on these very pages so many times.

For you to revel in my pain, you sadistic bastards.

All four of you.

The Summit was a brief glimpse into the life that would have ... could have ... should have ... I dunno ... but it was a been of some sort.

And then there's the weather. My God, could it be any more miserable?

Yes, I totally invoked my inner Chandler on that question.

Whatever the reason ...

I'm tired and yet I get enough sleep.

I'm crusty and yet there's little in my life worth being upset over.

I'm lazy but for getting my dog out for a walk and the occasional hour of yoga in my living room.

I'm not eating well, despite a personal challenge to give up alcohol, ice cream and Starbucks for the month. Hey, guess what ... there are still Twizzlers and Hot Pockets.

It takes effort to gfigure out what to eat, write all the ingredients down and make sure they're in the kitchen.

It takes effort to to the gym, from changing into gym clothes to getting there and hopping on the elliptical.

And I'm just not willing to put in the effort lately.

So what do I do to fix it?

How do I give myself the proverbial kick in the ass and get back to being active, healthy, alert me?

Step 1. Challenge myself to get to the gym and do some kind of movement every day ... in addition to walking the dog.
Step 2. Challenge myself to eat better. Convince myself that Twizzlers suck (they really really don't) and beer is the devil (it really really isn't).
Step 3. Write about and make sure I'm being accountable to myself.
Step 4. Go see that naturopath my brother Shane said I should go see. Maybe it's a food thing. Maybe I just need more Vitamin D.
Step 5. Step away from my laptop and read more ... books and magazines, not RSS feeds and blogs.

One of the first things I learned when I was doing a personal-trainer certification program some 10 years ago was that a person's brain and system need six to eight weeks to get addicted a health regimen.

So that's what I'll do ... starting Sunday (hey look, I'm going to the Flames game tomorrow night, cut me a break).

Challenge myself to move every day for eight weeks.

Get addicted again.

Because once those endorphins start kicking and I remember how it feels to feel great, I'll stop being so damn owly.

Oh don't fret. I'll still be caustic.

I'll just deliver my rapier wit with a smile.

Now to prove that I'm still making somewhat of an effort at eating well, here's what I made last night.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Ingredients 
1/3 c. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp raw honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into one-inch pieces
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into one-inch chunks
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into one-inch chunks
1 small yellow onion, chopped (I used a leek)
1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into one-inch cubes (about 1 3/4 cups)
12 sprigs fresh cilantro (about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice, optional (I used quinoa)

Instructions

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger and pepper flakes. Place chicken in a large shallow dish. Pour soy sauce mixture over chicken, tossing gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to eight hours.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and marinade and sauté for five minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Add bell peppers and onions and cook for five minutes or until vegetables are slightly tender. Add pineapple and cook for two more minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately over rice for a complete meal, if desired.

Nutrients per serving
(1 1/4 cups mixture, not including rice)
Calories, 161; total fat, 1.5 g; saturated fat, 0.25 g; monounsaturated fat, 0.25 g; polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 g; carbs, 17 g; fibre, 2 g; sugars, 13 g; protein, 21 g; sodium, 404 g; cholesterol, 48 mg