Run The Other Way

Out on the sidewalk, fresh out of bed, I made a split-second decision to run the other way. I decided to run west, away from the promise of the rising sun.

I hadn’t run west yet on that road. I’d driven it over the course of our short tenure in the rental house. I knew up over the hill, as the residential street ended, there was a 4-way stop. If I turned right I’d go down a similar residential street, past the ball diamonds, and hit the village. But if I went straight through, I’d slip into wheat-coloured farmland, pass the fairground and the high school, and from there I wasn’t sure. Ultimately, I suppose, I’d run right into the inlet.

So I wondered if I could run to the sea. It didn’t seem that far.

I started out along the damp sidewalk. The air was cool but edged with warm, as if choosing moment to moment which way to go on an early September morning. I hopped over fir branches scattered on the sidewalk. Had it been windy last night?

Through the 4-way stop, I passed the lentil and wheat farm, with the old-fashioned combine on display out front. And the house that sells brightly-coloured flowers in bunches at the end of the driveway. Somewhere in the distance a rooster crowed. A V of birds passed over head, against the slate sky. I passed an open field, edged with a white fence intertwined with blackberry bushes. Mist hung low just above the grass. Just in the field. Weird.

Eventually the sun emerged behind me. The backs of my bare legs felt its warmth. My shadow cast on the sidewalk ahead of me. Everything was illuminated. Everything glistened. Everything was framed in light.

I stopped for a minute. Breath heavy, hands on hips, taking in the sun-touched rural picture.

I didn’t need to see the sun to know it was there.

We Live Here Now

I woke to a silent, dark and unfamiliar house. I couldn’t find an alarm clock the night before, so I lay there for a while trying the feel the time. Eventually, I rummaged across the top of the bedside table and found my iPhone. 5:38 a.m. As good a time as any to start the day.

Out of the cocoon of warm sheets, the air in the house felt cool. I grabbed a sweater and tip-toed out into the hallway. Three steps in, a floor-board creaked loudly. In the kitchen I flipped on the pot lights above the sink, grateful for a touch of light. The tile was cold on my bare feet. Boxes sat everywhere. Alarm clock be damned, but I’d been sure to find the coffee-maker and some mugs the night before. The Keurig screeched and gurgled into action after months of sitting in a storage container. Well done Keurig.

I found and adjusted the thermostat and curled up on a couch-with-only-one-cushion-and-no-legs that had been plunked in the kitchen. Cradling the hot coffee mug, I looked out the window into the black dark. I couldn’t make out the tree tops that I know are there. A few stars twinkled. A light blinked from land on the other side of channel.

I started my lap top. No internet to distract me, I started working on something that had to go out on Monday. It required focus that I hadn’t mustered in the busy-ness of the last few days. As it turned out, focus came quickly at 5:45 on a Saturday morning sitting in the dark with no wi-fi. That is, until I started writing this.

6:39. The subtle orange glow of morning started to bleed into the edges of the horizon, pushing the rest of the night sky deep indigo, as if in wave. The tops of the fir trees were now etched black against a narrow peach canvas. The mountains further east emerged in a gray rolling line.

A bird started chirping. The refrigerator clicked and then started humming. The porcelain of the coffee mug now felt cold.

Twenty minutes later, the sky turned a palate of cloudless slate blue. In the weak promise of daylight, details of the trees emerged. Raindrops – or dewdrops perhaps – hung from the big flat leaves immediately outside the window. They caught the light, glistening. A flock of birds flew through my viewscape, as if skimming the tops of the distant hills.

It’s October 2015. We live here now.

The Return to the Sea

We arrived in early August, on a blustery ferry from the mainland.

We drove down the island highway to the sunny rural village where we’d be staying for the first few months. Pulling up at the rental house half an hour earlier than predicted, we ran right into the owner. He was trimming the bushes and mowing the lawn and such before we arrived. Bless him.

We’d rented the house sight-unseen from the internet; it was the only one we could find that was the right size, looked nice and was available short-term during these late summer months when the island still pulsed with tourists. Stepping into it, the house  felt immediately welcoming and comfortable – with a faint scent of sea….the kind that gets trapped in the floorboards after decades of children bringing it back on sandy feet and wet towels after an afternoon of beach romping. It had original wood cupboards and floors in the kitchen, along with a plastic wrap around bench and Formica table – reminiscent of a 50’s diner. There were wood-paneled walls and a vinyl-side wet bar in the basement rec room. The white leather couches in the main-level living room looked comfortable and well-kept.

While it was uncluttered, there were signs of life. Coffee tables and various room corners displayed wooden African-looking artifacts. There was a grandchild’s toy box and a shelf of board games. A framed picture above the kitchen sink read “So This Isn’t Home Sweet Home. Adjust”.  Signs of whole, deep life. Plus the house had its own fully equipped home gym, with a treadmill, bike and free weights, benches…like no 1970s rental house ever has. Perfect for me, knowing I’ll be on my own with the girls at times, and sneaking out of the house for early morning runs won’t be an option.

While nothing about living here would be ours, I knew immediately this house was where we’re supposed to be. This is where we start our transition and dip our toes into the adventure ahead.

We trundled around that day. We unpacked the few boxes of essentials we’d kept out of storage and crammed into the van. We claimed our bedrooms and flopped on beds. We turned on faucets and poked around in cupboards and drawers. We had lunch at a local diner. I stocked up at the village grocery store. After dinner, we took a walk around residential streets and the farmer’s fields intertwined with them, noticing types of trees we’d never seen before and wild blackberry bushes.

And in the back yard, we picked up and examined apples. Like real, live, edible apples. All these years living in a more northern, hostile climate, I’d forgotten to remember that apples grow on trees. And that an apple tree can exist in my back yard. I remember one of our houses as a child when we lived in England having “27 apple trees”. So my blueprint remembers the feeling of knowing that apples grow on trees in people’s gardens. But my brain had filed that away in the archives, like a set of back taxes. But one bite from one apple in the new yard brought back to life my knowing that food grows from the ground. That it doesn’t emerge, as if by magic, in 3-pound bagged bundles in the produce aisle in Safeway.

I made room for that sense of knowing and let it settle in.

We Live(d) Here

Our house never looked like this before. Like ever.

All the clutter was put away, save a few items.

Like the small artist’s sketch of Heart Mountain, where we got engaged, done in rough strokes of blues and browns.

The bronzey mirrored-glass vase that reflects the afternoon sun into shafts of light on the vaulted ceiling. Twinkling like stars.

I wondered why we don’t live this way all the time. Pared down. Simple. Uncluttered. Yeah, we’ll live like this next time. Next time, for sure.

The house will look great in the pictures, I thought. Weeks of work for 10 minutes of realtor pictures. Pictures of space and light. Just enough to give someone a  sense of whether their life could slip in here.  Someone will love this house. For all the reasons we have. It will be the perfect container for someone else’s gloriously perfect mess.

I sat in the silence and looked around the living room.

I noticed the Sand Fossil paint on the walls. It had been the perfect colour after all. We were right to insist it be re-painted after the painters got the shade slightly off 10 years ago. I didn’t think it would matter (isn’t tan tan?). But in a never-to-be-repeated flash of design prowess I thought it was too “hints of celery” when we wanted “warm sand”.

I saw the crisp white edging of the window trim and baseboards, that my husband installed himself.

And through the big picture window, the leaves of the tall aspen trees in the neighbour’s yard on the other side of the green belt danced in the breeze. It’s a perfect window. Utterly perfect.

I walked around main floor.

I touched the narrow wall leading into the kitchen. Nine years of kids’ heights written in smudged pencil, now painted over.

I scanned the smattering of little dents in the kitchen cherry hardwood. Especially the area where the high-chair used to sit. Messy, imperfect, plate-dropping life is in those dents. Beautiful little dents.

I wandered upstairs into the girls’ rooms. They were weirdly clean, the dirty laundry and stuffed animals hidden in their closets. I stared at those walls too. All the  stickers and scribbling now scrubbed off and touched up.

I recalled the endless hours in the middle of many nights sitting in these rooms staring at these walls, with a nursing or sleeping baby on my lap. That was way before any scribbles or stickers. I would sit in the big brown Lazy-Boy in the glow of the night light, hour upon hour…night after night. Noticing the window trim. The popcorn texture on the ceiling. The way the curtains hang just so. The edging of a photo frame.  The curl of her wee fingers and the curve of her cheek. Listening to her gentle breathing. And the click-click-whirr of the furnace going on and off.

On and off.

On and off.

God, I’ve loved this house.

I love this house.

We lived here.

We really lived here.

heart mtn

Our Greater Work

I don’t workout when I first wake-up anymore. Not necessarily, at least.

Instead, I do something creative or productive. I read or write. Meditate. Do one or two work tasks. I find focus and clarity of mind in the quiet morning hours, when the rest of the house slumbers. The air and energy illuminate.

The workout now often come later, as a welcome break when my mind and focus start to tire. I don’t need motivation or accountability or willpower. I don’t need to get it out of the way. A time always comes when I’ll want – be compelled – to move.

Focus on the detail of the workout has also faded. The how much of this and how fast of that simply doesn’t matter. Spending mental energy on that stuff doesn’t help my life. That immeasurably-valuable, but limited, vault of personal energy and focus is needed elsewhere. It simply matters that I move.

I am not a fitness professional. Or a competitive athlete. My greater work is elsewhere. I suspect most of us fall in that category. We are the people who workout because it fuels and energizes and supports our work in other areas. We move our bodies…then we get on with business. We clean windows, fly airplanes, care for children, do heart surgery, write newsletters, invent stuff, run committees, run companies, run for office.

It’s a paradox. Fitness is important and essential to our health. It can also be a joyous hobby. A source of community and passion and mental release. But there is a point of diminishing returns if we overly identify with it and non-health related outcomes.

The most important things I can get from a state of fitness are energy, longevity, clarity of mind, and body functionality. Nothing comes from running a certain time. Or lifting a certain weight. From looking a certain way. Or covering a certain distance. Such outcomes are – at best – neutral byproducts. They are like the footnotes in small text at the bottom that no-one ever reads.

I workout and move because it prepares me for my greater work.



When Running Isn’t About Running

Recently, I went for a Saturday run while Isabelle was at her swimming lesson. With limited time, the plan was to run out and back from the pool along the city trails. I was making time for fitness on a busy Saturday morning; I felt organized and in control.

It was a cool and grey April morning. The pathways were busy. People were walking, running, pushing strollers. There were kids on colourful bikes, dinging their bells.

I’d been running about 20 minutes when I found myself on a narrow stretch of path that was bordered by tall, dense, green bush. It created a sense of containment and quiet. This stretch was empty except for two people running ahead of me.

At some point, I noticed the two runners ahead of me had stopped. They were standing in the middle of the path, facing each other.

At next glance, I saw they were hugging. Maybe a quick, friendly, goodbye hug before they went their separate ways. But they continued to stand – unmoving – in the middle of the trail, in a full embrace. It felt like something else.

I kept running toward them.

I could feel myself getting closer to their zone. I sensed I was getting closer to something deeply personal, not meant for any witness.  I instinctively slowed down. I wanted to create more time for them.

About 10 feet away from them, I noticed more detail. I could see his arms gently moving over her bright pink running jacket, over her lower back and shoulder blades.  She was on her tip-toes, her white cap lowered over her eyes and arms gripped around his neck. Each of their faces was buried in the other’s shoulder. Silent. Hanging on.

Eventually I jogged by them, squeezing myself as quietly and respectfully as possible around the edges of their moment.

As I passed, I stole one last glance. They were still embracing. Still silent. Still hanging on. I’m sorry. I love you. It’s over. Never let me go.

Once past them, I picked up my pace. The emotional density of the air was somehow cleared. It was back to trail, bushes, random thoughts…and distant sounds of the city.

But the moment I witnessed between those two runners created a moment for me.

They reminded me that life is bigger than the run. Or the work-out. Or the Project. Or our various acts of busy-ness. The big life moments pop up in unexpected places. When the energy and air pressure is just right, they arrive.  Sometimes we are stopped in our tracks.

And maybe, just maybe, the running…the movement of the body…helps create a little more space for certain moments. In the physical shake up of the body, things fall away. And other things settle in. Layers are removed, and insights pop and stir. Then one day, little cracks open up. And what you need – and perhaps didn’t know you needed – has just enough room to step in.

So keep running. Keep moving. Have your goals and competitions and lists, if that’s your thing. But sometimes, just run and let things shake out. And watch what happens.

See what moments and insights arrive.

Because when they do, our job is to recognize them. And stop.

To turn toward them.

Embrace them.

And hang on.


Parenting Amateur Hour

So, we’re 2-for-4 with Sophie and the Tooth Fairy over here.

Tooth #1

Sophie’s (age 6) first tooth came out in her sleep about a year ago.

We assumed she swallowed it. I even did the rubber gloves in the toilet with a few bowel movements to see if I could find it. But to no avail.

(Don’t judge me. Parents do a lot of weird stuff. That was right up there).

That evening, she wrote a gorgeous note to the Tooth Fairy explaining the whole I-swallowed-my-tooth-but-please-leave-money-anyways situation.

tooth fairy note

It worked like a charm. The Tooth Fairy showed up as planned with a crisp $20 bill. It’s hard to forget the excitement of the first tooth.

(The Tooth Fairy also made a mental note to keep smaller bills on hand next time.)

Tooth #2

Tooth number two came out in regular fashion.

That evening, it was placed carefully in the little tooth-holder-pillow-contraption. Sophie went off to sleep. We went about our evening.

When Sophie came down the next morning, I was sitting at the kitchen table at my computer. She looked glum.

“The Tooth Fairy didn’t come,” she said, tears glistening in her little eyes. She was holding the little pillow and the tooth in her hands.

My heart skipped a beat. THE TOOTH FAIRY DIDN’T COME.

“Are you sure?” I asked, standing up and breaking into a light sweat. My mind scanned the inside of my wallet. Please God let there be a bill of some sort in there.

I listened to Sophie’s heart-breaking summation of what she didn’t find in her room. Full tears were flowing.

“Did you check on the floor?” I asked, pacing around. “Maybe it fell. You go and check under the blankets. I’ll be right up…”

A few minutes later, we magically…magically, I say…found a $20 bill wedged between the mattress and the headboard. It must have slipped out of the pillow, we figured.

Squeals of delight and laughter ensued.  Joy and belief was restored.

Tooth #3

A few months later, the next tooth dropped.

I went to bed early that night, leaving my husband in full responsibility of the Tooth-Fairy-pay-out-situation. Sophie had been very specific in her note to the Tooth Fairy that this time she would like a Toonie. We’re not clear on why the Toonie, but hey it worked for us.

I awoke early the next morning, as the house still slept. Before heading downstairs, I crept into Sophie’s room to double check the tooth pillow. It was on her nightstand. In the dark, I felt inside it.

The tooth was still there. I couldn’t detect any money. I slipped my hand as best I could under her pillow, beneath her sleeping head. Nothing.

Listen, I adore my husband, but COME ON, MAN.

So I went to my wallet and once again, only a $20. I crept upstairs and back into Sophie’s room and tucked the $20 bill in the pillow.

The kids awoke before my husband. Sophie presented herself in the living room, lip curled and tears twinkling in her eyes.

“Did the Tooth Fairy come??!!” I chirped. Why is her lip curled like that?

“Yes, but she didn’t bring me a Toonie,” Sophie whimpered.

“Oh. What did she bring you?” The weird fake-happy-are-you-kidding-me-sing-song tone I get sometimes rose in my voice.

“Twenty dollars,” Sophie cried. “But I wanted a Toonie!!” Once again, full tears were flowing.

We went and double checked the pillow, all the blankets, and around the mattress. Nothing. So we sat together in her raging river of disappointment.

My husband came down a short time later, awoken no doubt by the inconsolable crying. As he also tried to console Sophie, a wordless conversation was mouthed between us.

I put the Toonie there last night??!!

There’s no Toonie in the pillow.

I swear to God, I put it there.

It’s not there.



He and Sophie went up and searched the room again. A short-time later they emerged with the Toonie. They found it under the bed. We don’t have a theory how it got there.

Sophie soon was squealing with laughter and delight, through the tears. The Toonie, the Toonie!

(Uh, can I get my $20 back?).

Tooth #4

The fourth tooth dropped recently, her second front one. It had been hanging there like Nanny McPhee for weeks.

That evening, we [barely] remembered. And what was the smallest bill we had on hand at 11:00 p.m.? Right, a $20 bill. It was either that or a handful of pennies and nickels. Or a cheque.

Way to learn and be prepared.


All in all, the tooth fairy situation has been one big parenting amateur hour over here. We’re, like, nine years into this parenting gig and still flailing around half the time.

But I guess with parenting it’s always amateur hour. It’s a labour of love. You don’t get paid. You have no clue what you’re doing. Things rarely go as planned.

Plus, there are hecklers.

Changing Narratives

I’m deeply honoured that a version of this blog post (Written on the Bodywas published a few days ago in elephant journal. I love elephant journal. I especially love its tagline: dedicated to the mindful life.

This article (click here to read) is the beginnings of a new fitness narrative for me. And for anyone who wants one.

elephant journal article 2

What if we “exercised” and “trained” without attachment to outcomes or results?  What if we did it with no expectation of anything outward changing? What if we did it not to get faster? Or better? Or higher? Or bigger? Or smaller?

What if we moved, ran, climbed, lifted, rode, or  jumped for…say…joy?

For clarity of mind?

For longevity?

For the sense of being more alive?

To find new parts of ourselves?

Or to return ourselves to a place of gratitude?

What would the magazines write about? What would the advertisers come up with? The trainers and coaches prescribe? The doctors say? How would the athletes perform?

What would show up on our bodies? And present in our bodies? And in our hearts and minds?

What would show up in the world?

What would that be like?

What if instead of working out, we worked in?

We won’t know until we try.


Diary of a Detox

Amongst other things, I am a food-explorer.

What this means is that I’m super-interested in food and love food, but I don’t follow any particular dietary camp or dogma.  And that sometimes I find myself “exploring” a box of Girl Guide cookies. 

I’ve tried a lot of different food approaches, and what I’ve come to realize is this: there’s no right way. What’s right looks and feels different for everyone. These days, I tend to regularly eat veggies, fruit, whole grains, fish, eggs, chicken, dark chocolate (blah, blah, blah….whatever.) Sometimes I eat cheese and bread and cake (congratulations). I eat whatever strikes my fancy when out with family and friends and when on vacation (so what). Mostly I eat for energy, health, nutrition, stamina, longevity, joy, balance and social connection. Occasionally I eat for comfort and stress relief (see: Girl Guide cookies).  

Here’s a piece wrote about year ago, about going on a cleanse. I wouldn’t have written this today. The idea of needing a cleanse to “right some wrongs” resonates less for me. Because there is no “wrong”. There’s just life. And doing your best in each moment. And it’s just food. And we’ve all got other work to do. And frankly it’s all up in the goddamn air.


Recently, I did a cleanse. While this was part of my on-going process of investigative nutrition, let’s be frank, this was also about righting some wrongs after an all-inclusive Mexican vacation. I chose the Wild-Rose Herbal D-Tox, a 12-day protocol of herbal supplementation and foods to balance system acidity/alkalinity. It meant cutting out dairy, sugar/sweeteners, flour products, alcohol and tropical fruits. What’s left? Food was 80% from a prescribed list of vegetables, nuts, fruits, and select grains; and 20% protein sources. I jumped in with abandon, hoping the result would be a good old internal scrub down.  I was also hoping it would silence the part of my brain accustomed to eating churros twice a day.

Day T-1. Wildly excited about the cleanse. Feeling proud for having boiled vats of brown rice, baked chicken breasts, and for strategically removing (i.e., eating) hidden stashes of chocolate in advance. Very confident I’ll stick this out. Mostly because this cleanse involve eating lots. I can handle firm restrictions of food types, as long I don’t have to go hungry. I’m confident this won’t be like the last cleanse my husband and I tried. The one that required us to consume only diluted apple juice and celery water for the first several days. The one where my husband called me at 10:30 a.m. on the first day from the Wendy’s drive-thru with the slightly frantic declaration “I’m out”.

Day 1 – Seven minutes in, first major obstacle: the scourge that is black coffee. Mercifully, we had coconut milk. Coconuts are nuts, right? (Or fruit?).  Not on approved list; don’t care. Coconut milk happened. Other than that, day ticked along. Took batch of mysterious supplements twice daily. Low energy mid-afternoon. A few weird rumbles in the stomach, but nothing dramatic.

Day 2 – Worried about dinner at our friends’ house. Had cleanse-approved snack and supplements beforehand. Practiced ‘not for me, thanks’ mantra. But victory! Pretty much everything at dinner was cleanse-approved: chicken, broccolini, potatoes, kale salad.  Said no to ice cream and pie and stuck with strawberries. Am cleansing superstar! Home just in time for first cleanse-induced shuddering of the bowels in glorious privacy of own home.

Day 4 – Eating lots of lots of greens, brown rice, fish, yams, and almonds. Turns out eating apples, yams, and almond butter make me happy. Who knew?

Day 6 – Love affair with yams is deepening. Took 20 minute break during day specifically to “bake squash and yams” so readily available in fridge. I’m not even craving sweets or bread. Likely due to massive consumption of yams.

Day 7 – Date night. Menu navigation required. Had grilled salmon, vegetables and a baked potato with butter (cleanse allows butter!). I haven’t had a baked potato with butter in years. Why is this not harder?

Day 8 – I miss vinegar. And salsa.

Day 10 – New love affair happening: rice cakes with almond butter, raspberries and cinnamon.  Cannot get over that this is what I’m craving. Thought this was going to be brutal, but it’s not. I feel fantastic.

Day 12 –Wondering if I should carry on?

At the end of 12 days, my system felt calibrated, my body lighter, and my taste buds tuned. Just maybe, the body is meant to thrive on whole, simple food.  Go figure. I now see this style of eating as a tool kit for times when nutritional course-correction is required. I eased some things back in though. Like salsa on my eggs, vinegar in my dressings, dairy on occasion. But I’m still putting coconut milk in my coffee. And churros? Not yet, but we’ll see*.


*April 2015. Just back from Mexico again. Churros….check.

Upward, Toward the Light

I went out for a run last Saturday morning. It’s officially spring, but the air was hovering below zero. The sun, mercifully, was dazzling. The cold air caught my breath as I stepped onto my front porch and put on my shades.

I was going to run to GoodLife, do some weights, then run home. But I changed my mind. I needed to just run. Stay outdoors.  Don’t worry about destination, time, pace, heart rate. Run until it feels right.

So I started down my street. I found a good pace, as the creaks and twangs in my ankles and knees settled in and dissipated. I had no route in mind. I have been known to pre-plan even the simplest run. Like 12 minutes warm up, then 6 sets of stairs (resting for 2 minutes in between), then 12 minutes easy run home. This time, no. Just move the legs, girl. Open up your body and mind to the experience.

So I ran across the soccer fields, and up past the construction site. Then on from there. Mostly I ran towards the sunny patches.

At times I felt the cold of the air stinging my freshly-washed teeth. It felt better than mouthwash. As I ran across the school field, I fell into the direct path of a sunbeam. The sun glistened off the frost on the grass, like a carpet of glitter. Like what I glimpse on daughters’ cheeks and hands after they’ve been playing dress-up or doing crafts. Sparkles of indigo, gold, white.

From the school field, it was down the path, through the trees and into the shade. I cooled off quickly and picked up the pace. Get back to the light. So I rounded the corner and went up the wooden stairs behind the library. I kept going upwards. In absence of any other plan, this seemed like a good rule of thumb. Go upward, upward toward the light.

Makes sense for running. Makes sense for life.

At the top of the stairs, on the hillside ridge, it was breath-taking. The mountains were etched white on the blue morning sky. It was the perfect destination… for now.

Without knowing, I had brought myself to the right place.

I stood scanning the western horizon, catching my breath. Drinking it in.

I stayed until it felt right.

Then I turned for home.


This post was written as part of the GoodLife Fitness Blogger Ambassador Program, however all opinions expressed are my own,