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,

Written on the Body

In one fell swoop I let it go. The driving sense that my body should be different than it is.

I also let go of any notion of “fitness”. I don’t even know what that word means. There’s a fitness narrative out there that doesn’t make sense to me. I got really caught up in it for a while: the food rules, the workout “programs”, the results. Like it’s a thing. It’s not a real thing. It’s a construct. If you’re not careful, it can leave you perpetually feeling like you should do more. Be more. Or be less. It took me a while to see it, but I was chasing myself in circles.

So in a breath, not so long ago, I stepped out of it. I thanked it for the experience. I took a few good lessons and bits of information. And I quietly moved on.

Here’s what I know.

I love to move and sweat. Each day, I don’t feel quite right unless I make it happen. Perhaps in another life I was a Spartan runner. Or a tribal warrior tasked with running through the night to get food. Dunno. But the act of moving and sweating creates a state of being which allows me to come home. It forces me to the present. In creating the physical sensation of work in my body, I create a meditative space to feel and be. It is an end in itself.

It also creates an enormous opening for gratitude.

My God, look at my body. Look at yours.

Look at me walking, and running, and lifting things. Moving the pedals. Breathing. Stretching. Waving my arms about. Walking up stairs. Lifting myself out of bed every morning. Touching people’s shoulders and backs. Wrapping my arms around my family.

This body has been serving this soul for 45 years. As I get older – and my knees crackle and pop a little more and I get twangs of this and that – I stand in amazement of it all. I declare the whole thing a miracle.

The fair, Irish skin, reminding me of my windswept ancestry.

The lines settling in around my eyes and mouth, born of a thousand careful-or-I-might-pee-my-pants laughs and my fair share of tears. The shadows that tell stories of the restless and relentless work of parenting. And many late nights working at my craft.

The hips, which allowed me to carry and fairly easily birth our two little miracles six and nine years ago.

The scars that are the marks of life…of childhood falls, adolescent growth spirts, and surgical incisions of adulthood and that one particular harrowing night.

And never mind the inside stuff. The bits and pieces that magically keep working. Like the remaining ovary that gave us the possibility of Sophie. The lungs that push air in and out. The blood that keeps circulating, circulating, circulating. The brain that keeps directing traffic. And the heart. Oh, my alive and beating heart.

The idea of it all is staggering. It’s all written on the body. Our experiences. How we move. What we eat. The stories, choices, ancestry, work, and the love. My body is my warrior canvas. As is yours for you. It’s a goddamn miracle.

So I move, sweat, and jump and run because I’m wired to. It’s my archetype. I now relax into it and let it show up on the body. No other reason is required.

This is the narrative where my sports and movement live.

The other stuff is gone.

City of Stories

New York City was as I remembered it.

Pulsing, packed, fast, colourful, alive. I love popping up to street level from the subway into such an intense stream of life.

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I find that when I step away from the architecture of my life for a minute, I can see myself more clearly. Is that weird? It happens often when I travel, but the pace at which stuff falls away is quickened in the big cities.  The minutiae of daily life drop instantly in the flashing and honking intensity of the dominating urban environment. And on this particular trip, this included the intensity of the effort required within the first hour to haul my massive suitcase up and down the steps of several subway stations. While secretly cursing my choice to wear high-heeled boots for the journey because they seemed more…well… New York. What I would discover that first evening, as the rain turned snow and the winter storm bared down, was that I really needed my Sorels. And my parka. That’s what the New Yorkers were wearing. Ridiculous Canadian tourist wearing her high heels.

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In my 20s and early 30s I used to fantasize about living in New York. As if life would be better there – more opportunity, more excitement, more…something. But now, in middle age, I recognize it would be no better or worse. It’d just be different. And now I think I’d miss the green, the expansive sky and quiet places to ride my bike. I remember when I moved back to Canada after living in London in the late-90s thinking: My God, look at the sky.

This trip I found myself thinking not about the city itself – or about the stuff it offers - but about its people. People who really live there. Who are these people?

The media-corrupted part of my brain was expecting (i.e., hoping) to see Sarah Jessica Parker while we had high tea at the Plaza. Or pass Hugh Jackman while running on that glorious, crisp, blue-skied morning in Central Park. Or perhaps that I’d slide up on a barstool in the little neighbourhood bar my friend Sandy and I claimed as our own to notice Kevin Spacey nursing a whiskey beside me.

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But mostly we saw just plain old you-and-me-people. A mass of humanity getting food, staring at their iPhones, dashing through traffic, carrying packages. Sometimes singing out loud, or applying mascara with laser precision, on the subway. Just doing their regular people things.

What are their stories?

There was the front-toothless – but perfectly manicured, lip-sticked, and blushed - 50-something Eric that we met on the first night. We laughed uproariously together with at the bar after dinner, as we explained the odd way in which the city kept delivering us “free stuff”. He gave us tips on how to get more free stuff, including a fake address and zip code in case we needed one to sign up for free stuff. And when we discussed our planned free spin class, he noted distaste for all the spin studios popping up all over the city. “We’re New Yorkers,” he said. “We walk. We don’t spin.”

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And then the next night we slid up at the same neighbourhood bar, not next to Kevin Spacey, but rather next to Jorge - a charming Latino man who works for a helicopter company – drinking Cosmopolitans waiting for his friend to get off work. His friend (Chris) finally arrived, all made up and glittered and ready to party. We learned – as Chris spun us through his iPhone camera roll -  about his love of baking in his stilettos. And sunbathing in his stilettos, as it turned out.  Holy man, we laughed with these two lovely gentlemen as we drank warm red wine.

This laughter continued as we joined Jorge and Chris an after-hours unmarked art gallery-slash-nightclub for an art-showing with a bunch of very artistic-looking New Yorkers. Now who are these people? And why are so many of them wearing fur coats, fedoras and wool neck scarves indoors? (it’s like a hundred degrees in here). The guy with the most outrageous first coat turned out to be an ex-mountain avalanche rescuer. Could they all tell my friend and I are - amongst other things – moms, wives and professionals from Calgary? Calgary, which Chris opined, seemed like “the place where Jesus was killed”.

There was also the young homeless boy shivering without a hat or gloves on a street corner, his cardboard sign reading “I’m trying to get home…”. And the clean, well-dressed girl, out-of-her-mind-on-heroin on the packed Brooklyn subway, who kept calling out for help. Something tells me she’s trying to find her way home too.

New York is a city of people and stories – crammed on a soundstage of magnificent architecture and twinkling lights. Living, breathing stories. Just as any place is.

And who are these people? It’s impossible to tell. And perhaps it doesn’t matter. Yet it’s all that matters… the people we meet, the stories we glimpse.

This is what I’m learning to see now.


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Sweet smell of spring

I shouldn’t be saying this. But I can smell spring.

Yes, I know it’s March, and I live in Calgary. This typically means there will be several more major snow storms to endure before actual spring starts on about the 12th of August.

But it’s seriously beautiful here. Like be outside in shorts and a t-shirt beautiful.

These sorts of days make me crave outdoor sports, rather than the conceptual pursuit of fitness. These are the days I want to get out of the basement or the gym. I want to run outside. I want to grab my bike and head for the highway. Swim across a lake. Or just take my functioning, healthy body outside for a long, cobweb-clearing hike.

These kinds of days make me think about summer sports goals. Will I do some races, for fun and good measure? A triathlon? A 10k or two? A mud run? Things that will get me outside, with hordes of other crazies doing their own version of their best self? That’s always my favourite part about races, the throngs of people of all sizes and ages doing their thing. Plus all the free bananas.

I bet like many kids around here today, my daughter wanted to ride her bike after school. In the balmy afternoon sun, I hustled her purple bike down from the storage shelf in the garage so she and her little buddy could cruise around the cul-de-sac for a while. I saw my own bike hanging there. How long will it be, I wondered, until I bring her down? Is one whiff of spring enough? I know, people more dedicated than me have theirs down already. They have them down all year. But me, I always wait until it feels like winter has truly passed. Until it feels like there’s a good stretch of road-time ahead. Only then, it feels like “time”.

And given what I know about Calgary, I think my bike will stay up for a while. But after months and months of indoor workouts, I did run outside today. I have started to think about possible races. I will explore some spin classes at GoodLife to find my biking legs. Perhaps, crazy speak, I will even find my way to a pool.

So I tip my hat to these oddly and joyfully warm days of winter and thank mother nature for the reminder of the good things to come.

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

“Integrated Fitness”

I’m not entirely sure what I mean by the title of this post: Integrated fitness.

But bear with me. Let’s see where it goes.

A few months back, I did fitness assessment at my local Goodlife Fitness. I wrote about it here.

The message that I took from that day is the importance of more than just physical fitness. This is nothing new. It’s the idea that real, fulsome fitness practices go beyond the physical workout, and even beyond nutrition. It’s about the big ball of everything that contributes to one feeling “well”…movement, food, nutrients, stress management, sleep, connection, stretching, mind set, staying present.  All at once.

But, man, working on all the stuff all at the same time is hard.

It’s been a busy few weeks for me at work. I’m finally seeing the finish line this weekend. I know…whatever. Big whoop. We’re all busy and running around like crazy people half the time.

The the last time I had a work stretch like this, I slept little, ate poorly, and didn’t work out. I worked 19 hours a day over a period of about 2 weeks. Within days I got a cold. I was a hacking, agitated, exhausted train wreck by the time project was done.

This time I swore I would do it differently. And in some respects, I did.

Over the last two weeks, I didn’t miss a workout. Even if it was just 30 minutes, I got a blast of adrenalin and good old sweat each day. That helped me feel sane.

I slept. Though I had a few mornings of bolting awake (and getting up for the day) at 3:30 a.m., with the to-do list bombarding my mind, more nights than not I got some decent shut-eye.

I ate ok. Though I had my moments of carbohydrate-related stress-relief. For example, my body is suggesting I could have done without the large volumes of pizza and cookies yesterday.

I made time to take my kids to school and pick them up, and take them to swimming and dancing and such. My husband and I said more than “hey, how’s it going?” to one another on occasion.

So all in all, I’ve emerged out of this period relatively unscathed.

Yet I feel slightly off.

So this is what I know…

“Integrated fitness” is hard. You can do a lot of things right, yet still feel slightly off. “Slightly off” I believe is a part of the human experience. No need to panic. I think it just means that the next choice, the next decision will be driven by the next immediate need. Like for me, that means…for the love of God…I won’t eat pizza and cookies today. I will eat vegetables and fruit. And drink a lot of water. Then I will get some exercise. And I will hug my kids. And hold hands with my husband. And I won’t work (much).

Then I’ll get some fresh air.

And I’ll notice how the fresh blanket of snow that fell last night glints in the sun.

And I will count my blessings.

Yeah, you know…I will integrate.

Deep wellness, in the end, is more than the sum of its parts.

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



I’m Right Here

There is a natural ebb and flow to parenting.

The flow? That’s the strong desire to be near your kids, to protect them from everything, hold them tight forever.

The ebb? Well, that is the equally strong desire to be nowhere near them. The desire to lock oneself in bathroom so you don’t have to deal with the non-stop sh*t-show that is most weekdays between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m.

As my kids get older, I find myself caught between the ebb and the flow more often.

Sophie (aged just-turned-six) started swimming lessons last Saturday. Off she and I trundled for the 9:00 a.m. start at our local recreation centre. In lessons past, both girls are typically with me. So there’s the management and prep of the active child in tandem with the management and entertainment of the non-active child. Or, on certain super-lucky occasions, the co-management, co-prep and co-entertainment of both children with lessons at the same place at staggered times.

But this time, no. Given the Saturday situation, Isabelle stayed at home with her dad. And I – finally – was about to become one of those parents with 30 minutes to myself during the lesson.

When my kids were really little, I used to look enviously and curiously at the parents sitting in the deck chairs on the side of the pool, when I was into my 45th minute of charging up and down the water slide and sitting in the kids’ hot tub trying hard not to think about how much pee I seriously must be sitting in. When does that happen, I’d wonder? When do I sit quietly with my magazine and my coffee and my flip-flops? Because that looks like heaven right now.

Last Saturday, let the record show, I arrived at the deck chair phase.

I was ready. I smuggled my coffee out on the pool deck, choosing to ignore the many no food or beverages signs. I brought my iPhone and some reading material. I assumed the position behind the little wall on a deck chair, in my flip-flops and rolled up jeans. The cloud of damp heat and smell of chlorine enveloped me like a relaxing hug, as Sophie waded enthusiastically into the pool with her instructor and four other kids.

Her happy wade-in made me happy. Sophie, in her little life, has had the tendency to get huge anxiety and shut down at certain “performance-based” events. Like concerts, recitals or sporting situations.  This happened at the start of her last swimming lessons. I had to peel her off my leg. I watched her from the other side of the glass, as she stood in refusal – arms crossed tightly across her chest and lip curled - on the pool deck for the entire 30 minutes.  Both of us, devastated.

But last Saturday – once I saw that she was going to be ok - I settled into the perfection of the remaining 28 minutes.

But for all my coffee, reading material, iTunes podcasts, and do-what-I-want-ness… perfection presented itself differently.

I just watched Sophie.

I watched Sophie jumping off the wall. Doing her star-floats. Doing her flutter board kicks, all without a trace of hesitation or anxiety. Occasionally her voice echoed loudly above the many others in the pool. She was probably proudly telling her classmates about all the places she has done star-floats and promoting her new orange polka-dot bathing suit. The little show-off. I watched Sophie being Sophie, and not needing me, this incredible creature that I made but that is not mine.

What do her arms wrapped around my leg feel like again? Her tired head burrowed in my neck?

But, every few minutes, she’d look over at me from across the pool and wave.

Still looking for me. For now.

I’m right here, kiddo.

I’m right here.


Why Would You Do That?

Maybe because it’s been minus a hundred around here a lot lately, but I’m fantasizing about running outside. And thinking about motivation.

I remember talking to one of my neighbours a couple of years ago out on our street after my husband and I returned from a 25-km trail run. It was a late spring afternoon. We’d taken the afternoon off work to go to the mountains to run, getting back just in time to pick the girls up from school. It was the last long training run before the Sinister 7 relay, and we’d pushed ourselves hard before the taper.

We pulled into our driveway and piled out of the van onto our cul-de-sac, finding other neighbourhood kids and parents out enjoying the sunshine. We wandered into the street to join the conversation, as we often do. I love that about our cul-de-sac…that it becomes a playground/meeting ground on warm, sunny evenings.

I was sweaty, dirty and walking a little gingerly.

My neighbor asked me if I was alright.

I laughed and mentioned what we’d just done.

A look of concern/confusion flashed across her face.

“Why would you do that?” she asked, in all seriousness and without a trace of malice.

I couldn’t answer the question. I couldn’t explain it.

But I loved the question. I still love the question.

Why does anybody do anything, when it comes to fitness or sports?

Right now, all I know this…

To move is to feel alive.

That still doesn’t explain why one runs 25-km rather than 5-km. Or why someone runs 50-km rather than 25-km. Why someone climbs ice walls. Or takes Zumba. Or does Insanity. Or lifts bar bells. Or swims the English Channel. Or does yoga. Or whatever.

I’m pretty sure though it’s not all about weight-loss or making your jeans fit — as the women’s fitness magazines might have you believe. Though on some days, in some moments, it can be (I have those moments too).  But those aesthetic things simply aren’t meaningful enough to last.  The desire to move is about how it makes you feel, not how you look. How you feel in your bones. In your own skin. In your bloodstream. Deep in the hormonal recess of your brain. You know, how you feel feel.

I think we need a whole new narrative behind “why”.

So this is what I currently think.

You run, or jump, or swim or dance because you can.

Because you were born to move. And to play.

Because of the chain reaction of chemicals in your brain that gets addicting.

Because it forces you to the present and to feel.

And in some respects to suffer. Perhaps life isn’t meant to be a glazed pursuit of comfort, labour-saving devices, and temperature controlled space. Maybe we are wired to seek a more varied experience. To  hang in that balance – that ever-moving teeter-totter – between pleasure and pain, rest and work. We want to feel protected, rested, quiet, at leisure…for a while. But then, we get antsy (because we haven’t been required to go out and chop fire wood or gather plants for dinner), we seek moments of…well…pow!

I heard a friend say once that he doesn’t have to go off to war, so he puts on his waffle-soled, high-comfort running shoes and goes out and runs marathons. Same instinct.

In planning for their next 24-hour bike race, one of my husband’s teammates said – when they were contemplating going as  a 5 person-team, rather than a 4 person team: “But will we suffer enough?” Same instinct.

So why would I, why would you, do that? Bring on a new narrative.  But I leave you with the words of the great explorer George Mallory:

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To resolve, or not to resolve: that is the question

I haven’t written in a while. But – as usual - I am always drawn back to the page. Because writers write. Sometimes the writing turns out to be interesting and engaging to others. Many times, it’s not. Many times, it is simply about showing up at the page and seeing what is there.

So here I am on January 1, 2015…showing up at the page.

The house is quiet. The girls slept over at Grandma’s last night, so we could go out to a small get together at a friend’s house. But we left before midnight anyway. Some of us (read: me) were dozing off during lulls in the conversation. Because we are old. And exhausted.  And parents.

And that’s how the old and exhausted roll.  Yo.

So the quiet house this morning gives me space and silence to think.

I typically feel all sorts of desire to set new year’s resolutions this time of year. Let`s sit down at a blank page and bang some out, I figured. It`s January 1. Fresh plate. New year. Endless possibilities. Work? Parenting? Family? Fitness? What will be on my list?

And you know what?

Turns out…nothing.

Not because I don’t like change. In fact, I love the idea of setting sights on new horizons and chasing them down. I love pushing my understanding of myself…and seeing what lies just beyond. And beneath.

But all I know this morning is that if I try to think of something specific I’ll do differently this year…I can think of nothing.

And I`m taking that as a good sign.

I am taking that as I sign that there is no gaping, obvious chasm between who I am and who I hope to be. I also see it as a sign that I am learning to see the gloriousness of what simply is…right here, right now. I am learning that nothing will be better or worse if I do XX or YY. It will just be different.

I also think this means that I don`t want to pre-determine the “best” way to arrive at new places. I want to stay open to opportunities. I want to let that pathways that I can`t currently anticipate reveal themselves. When I look back on my life so far, some of the most meaningful turns came not when I controlled for the outcome, but when I noticed what felt right and simply followed the feeling.

So I’m running with it. I have no resolutions. But – at the same time – I am alive with possibility about change, growth and personal evolution. It feels exciting. Invigorating. It feels free.

So that`s me.

Showing up at the page on January 1, 2015.

With nothing.






The Gift of Experience

The feeling starts showing up in early November.

It’s triggered during the first post-Halloween trip to Starbucks. You know the one…where the stacks of red cups and Boney-M and Michael Buble CDs have appeared overnight, as if by magic. The feeling is a soupy mix of comfort, connection…accompanied by a weird desire for egg nog. Then peppered with a light dose dread.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the holiday season as much as the next guy. But with that first red-cupped Americano and storefront glimpse of tinsel, the to-do/to-buy list starts percolating in my head.

Ah yes, the dreaded list of “stuff”.

Admittedly for our family, the holiday season “stuff” is weighted differently.

You see, both our kids have late December birthdays, 10 days apart bookended on either side of Christmas.  So in addition to standard year-end fare — school Christmas parties, piano recitals, school concerts, work deadlines, family visits and trips, and actual Christmas — we have birthday parties to contend with. Four birthday parties to be exact (the party each daughter has with her friends typically sometime before school ends, followed by the family get-togethers on their actual birthdays).

This late-December pursuit of birthday cakes, presents and goodie bags at times leaves me wondering why we didn’t just tell the girls their birthdays were in late-January.

Like they ever would have known.

In the last few years I’ve felt a bit done. Not done with the celebrations and rituals…or the birthdays. But done with all the stuff I feel inclined to buy to honour the spirit of Christmas. I want to peel away everything in the search of a different, more authentic, holiday spirit.

In the past, my husband and I have talked about it. Let’s pare it down, we’ve said. Let’s ask our extended families to pare it down. We don’t need more Polly Pockets, flannel pyjamas, or – for the love of God – small kitchen appliances. But when push comes to shove, the traditions we are embedded seem to win. And we let it wash over us, because in our hearts we know it comes from a place of love.

We worry, however, that our girls are getting lost in it.

They don’t understand our privilege. We see them getting overwhelmed by “wants” and the thrill of tantalizing presents stacked under the tree and the first rips of paper. What is given to them seems quickly forgotten and not fully appreciated, through no fault of their own. What I am learning is this: our family rituals are not set up to create space to teach our daughters about the gifts of gratitude, giving, and the simple joy of togetherness.  While these are clearly first world problems, it is time for a shift.

This year we are determined to try a different approach.

Within our immediate family, we will give one gift and one gift only. Inspired by friends who have done the same thing, we will give ourselves two nights together in the mountains. We we will skate, toboggan, sleigh ride – steeped in the white winter fray between cold and coziness.  In essence, we will give ourselves the gift of memories. We’ll also adopt-a–family. This will shift the flow of abundance toward those who really need it and create room for different discussions with our girls. Discussions about giving and supporting and seeing the world beyond themselves.

How will it play out? Will our family Christmas traditions and narratives begin to shift? Can we take steps away from having and towards doing? We shall see. We shall see.

But I hope that in exploring the gifts of experience we can connect in a deeper way as a family. And feel the joy that comes from offering and togetherness. And the blessed, almighty relief of no more stuff.  This, I want my girls to know, is where the truest spirit of the holidays lies.



Uncomfortable Around Dogs

I’m not an animal person.

But being a parent is challenging me in that area. As being a parent does in so many areas.

We had some pets when I was growing up. I have a vague memory of a set of guinea pigs. Then as a family we went through some cat years. The cat years ended when our last one simply wandered off one day and never returned. The theory was that he settled into a moving truck that had been down our street, and went on to live a good life in Thunder Bay. So I sort of get cats. They’re mostly all cool, just lying around. Except the time our cat Pogo got caught in the upper part of our neighbour’s garage door when I was about 12. There was a lot of hysterical cat screaming (and human screaming) that day during the highly technical operation to free her.

But I never got comfortable around dogs. There was always too much jumping up, drooling, and crotch sniffing for my liking. And freestyle poo-ing. Even today, I always feel kind of bad for dog owners walking along with their little bags of poo.

So I’m out of my comfort zone with my 8-year old daughter’s intense love of animals. All animals.

I totally respect this love of animals, and I know a lot of people feel the same way. But I’m sort of on the edges of it all with her, trying to find ways to be with her in this love without actually feeling the love myself.

We have zoo memberships. And we go to the pet store a lot. Isabelle could spend hours in the pet store picking up the hamsters and mice. I’ve never touched one yet.  But I’m always quick to “get the guy” who will help us.

Isabelle went to a day camp at the Humane Society this summer, after which she declared her allegiance to vegetarianism. So I’ve been sitting in that space with her as her ideas around vegetarianism morph and change. Unfortunately, she doesn’t care for my home-cooked walnut balls.

There was also the two straight days I spent with her in a one-room Bug Zoo during a Bug-Zoo-specific-destination-mom-and-daughter weekend in Victoria last summer. During which – let the record show – I held a tarantula.

Then was horse camp.

“Are you sure you want to do that?” an acqaintance asked me this summer when I mentioned that Isabelle was starting horse camp the next day. “Let me put it this way,” he said. “My daughter went to horse camp once. I now live in the country and own three horses.”

The horse thing is intense right now. It’s almost two months since horse camp ended. Isabelle is still writing daily about her memories from camp (she is on day 3).

So we have been doing ‘animal things’ together and facilitating her participation in animal things. But there are also the conversations about if we can get a cat. Or a dog. Or a hamster. Or move to a farm. Or become a family of horse trainers.

The answer is always “we’ll see”.

The closest we’ve got so far is this.

A couple of weeks ago, counting up her saved allowance, Isabelle realized she has enough money for an electronic toy dog she’d been eyeing in the toy store. She bought the dog.  It actually walks, sits, barks….all that jazz. Isabelle quickly became very connected to GoGo the electronic dog.

The other day, Isabelle invited me to take the electronic dog for a walk after dinner. We meandered down our local pathway, with the electronic dog on his leash beside us. Isabelle was thrilled, stopping every few minutes to get GoGo to sit or lie down. But as other “real dog” walkers approached, I felt a little weird.

The real dog would slow down to look and sniff at us and the electronic dog.  As the pleasantries were exchanged with the owner, I imagined the subtext.

Yep, that’s my kid playing with her fake dog.

Lady, get the kid a real dog.

It was the first time – though it was a quick instant – my discomfort with the idea of having a pet was outshone by my love for my child. I could actually feel the reasons why it might be good.

Oh man. But I’m just not there yet. I’m just not there.