hiking · Sat with Nat

Hiking Bob LeBoeuf in Edmundston NB

I would like to acknowledge that Edmundston is situated along the Madawaska and Saint John rivers, the traditional territory of the Wolastoqiyik First Nation (sometimes called the Maliseet First Nation by settlers).

My partner has regaled me with his trips as a kid on the mountain on the edge of Edmundston, New Brunswick, Canada searching for Bob LeBoeuf’s gold mine. So when we had a chance to go see “La mine d’or” (the gold mine) I felt I had to say “oui” to the hike. 

We grabbed a tourist map and he sighed “it looks like they’ve tamed the mountain.”

Later he made a more accurate map:

It was a beautiful day but the first part of the trail “des cascades” was a steep climb right up the mountain. That’s where “Nat questions life choices.”

We then toodled along to the branch for the gold mine path. 

That section was rated difficult and I ended up doing a crab walk/scuttle down the shale and a few bum scoots on the descent. 

Bob’s gold mine was a scam, he had to give investors’ money back, the scamp. It is a story retold many times since my father-in-law was a young lad. 

Bob never struck gold but he did get a beer named after him. It’s a tasty treat from Les Brasseurs du Petit Sault. 

The mine is really a fissure where a spring weeps out of the shale. At one point there was a hole but it is long gone. 
The view of the Madawaska Valley was worth it. 

The climb back up to the main path was a scramble and I was on all fours a few times and often pulled myself up with trees. 

Apparently other people stop and take breaks on the benches. 

It was a great trail and we had the mountain to ourselves on a glorious Saturday in August. 

The path is clear yet wild and just perfect. Thank you Michel for taking me through part of your personal mythology. 



Update: France’s highest court overturns local burkini bans because they violate” fundamental liberties”

Aheda Zanetti's Burqini swim suits.
Aheda Zanetti’s Burqini swim suits.

This just in: France’s highest court has overturned the burkini ban. CBC news reports that:

France’s top administrative court has overturned a town burkini ban amid shock and anger worldwide after some Muslim women were ordered to remove body-concealing garments on French Riviera beaches.

The ruling by the Council of State Friday specifically concerns a ban in the Riviera town of Villeneuve-Loubet, but the binding decision is expected to set a legal precedent for all the 30 or so French resort municipalities that have issued similar decrees.

I posted about this just yesterday, expressing the view that the ban is a racist, Islamophobic restriction on women’s choice.

So it’s gratifying to see that the mayors of the municipalities where the ban was in effect did, indeed, overstep their bounds. The ordinances banning the burkini are a violation of fundamental liberties, says Patrice Spinosi, a lawyer representing the Human Rights League.

accessibility · disability · family · fitness

Shopping is my cardio (no, really!)



My mom, Linda, has lived primarily in a wheelchair since the spring of 2014; she suffers from an illness called Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. Before her diagnosis, the disease caused her already-developing dementia to become rapidly worse; on one horribly memorable night in February 2014, while I was over from England visiting my parents, she literally forgot how to walk. (NPH causes both dementia and mobility problems.) It was nightmarish to watch.

That visit was the last time I would see her not living in a wheelchair.

Since then, mom has been through the health-care wringer: she has a neurologist, a neurosurgeon (who performed the life-changing surgery that allowed her to learn to walk again – he never doubted her), a community care access coordinator, an occupational therapist, a regular caregiver paid for by the Ontario government… the list goes on. We live in a small university town in a wealthy province, and we benefit from three major teaching hospitals and a dedicated geriatric facility all within a few minutes’ drive. So mom was set up to bounce back from the worst NPH could throw at her, and she did.

Still, she spends most of her days in her wheelchair, even now. The time it took to reach the NPH diagnosis, meet the neurosurgeon, decide on a care approach, have the surgery, and then go through rehabilitation was long, and in that time she lost a large amount of muscle strength in her legs and hips. Her long-term back condition also got much worse. These days, she walks regularly with her walker in the house as a rehab exercise, but she isn’t comfortable using the walker too frequently. She fears falling – very understandably. And she won’t walk with it outside (not yet).

This poses a challenge for her, and for my dad (her primarily caregiver), from a wellness point of view. Not walking = not walking! Not moving from the waist down, not observing the wide world around, missing out on stimulation both physical and mental. This is the primary health issue we deal with these days: how to help mom exercise, within her comfort zone, both her body and her brain.

Needless to say, we’re working on a variety of approaches. One of her favourite, though, is going shopping.

Carrie Bradshaw: she said a lot of crap, but this ain’t a bit of it.

Back in the day, my mom was a massively active woman. When I was too lazy to get out of bed at 6am (hey! I was, like, thirteen!), she took over my paper route. She walked the dog three times a day, every day, around our neighbourhood in North Edmonton. She walked long distances without the dog, just for fun. She gardened constantly, skipping and hopping and singing her way through her chores. She was not just active, but lively.

She also liked to shop. Like, a lot. Out at the mall or the big-box grocery stores, she’d walk miles while browsing the aisles. I hope that doesn’t sound condescending, because it shouldn’t – it’s not. Shopping includes walking, bending, lifting, the bodily contortions required to change in and out of potential outfits in badly designed, teeny-tiny change rooms, and so on. There is actually a huge amount of physical labour involved in “going shopping” – among other forms of labour, too.


The women in the image above have tongues in cheeks, but make no mistake: our culture mocks the idea of shopping as anything more than frivolity in part in order to mock the women whose primary job it is, and has always been, to shop for their families (or for the families of those for whom they work). Our culture trivialises those women’s labour and pretends that labour isn’t integral to the workings of free-market capitalism. In fact, women as consumers have always formed the backbone of Western capitalism. And shopping has always been great physical and mental exertion. In the early days of the department store and what we might now call shopping-as-usual, the freedom to browse and buy gave women the attendant freedom to be out alone, or in small groups, on city streets without being accused of being sex workers. Really. In other words, shopping, at the beginning of the modern period (roughly circa 1900), literally gave women the freedom to walk, unmolested, in public near their homes.

(Curious to learn more? My friend Marlis Schweitzer has written a terrific book that takes up this issue, and more. Check it out here.)

All this to say: shopping is now a regular workout for mom, with me as personal trainer, and I’m thrilled about it. She gets a challenge when we get into and out of the car: this is a transfer she completes herself with the help of a portable handle that can be inserted into the side of any car door frame. She gets another challenge anytime we try on clothes, which I insist we do (even if she claims to know her size in every single outfit we pick! Every personal trainer knows that trick…). Last week, she stood up, sat down, and otherwise shimmied and manoeuvred into three different pairs of trousers while we shopped for the right fit – after climbing out of her chair and into the totally wheelchair-inaccessible change room. (Thanks, Hudson’s Bay Company. Sort of.) That was quite a bit of ab and leg work for someone who largely sits all day.

Sometimes, too, we bring her walker with us, park ourselves in a small shop or section of a department store, and she lifts herself out of her chair and browses a bit using the walker as her aid. If she becomes exhausted and cannot continue, she either sits on her walker’s built-in seat for a moment, or I simply bring the chair to where she is and she takes a break.

As important as this physical work is for mom, the mental stimulation of shopping is even more valuable. Her memory’s decline was slowed by her surgery, but it continues; she is living with dementia, which means she needs to find basic ways to be challenged, mentally, every single day. At the shops all the neat stuff for sale offers plenty of useful stimulation, as does thinking about prices and whether or not something is worth the splurge. (She’s an elderly woman in a wheelchair who worked hard all her life! I always say the splurge is worth it. Sometimes she agrees with me.) Last week we encountered a really helpful sales assistant at the perfume counter, and she gave mom a host of samples to investigate. That olfactory stimulation, too, was mental exercise.

In my first regular post on FFI a month ago I wrote about the “We’re the Superhumans” campaign for Team GB’s paralympians. Mom isn’t about to pole vault, swim, or cycle her way into any record books, but who cares? Like many of the ordinary people in that campaign’s trailer, she is carrying on with her life as she lives it now, seeking gymnastics where she can find them and hoping to enjoy herself along the way. For her, exercise has become about living as well as she can, in her body as she finds it each day, making opportunities happen when she can, and taking pleasure in the ride as much as possible (especially when I’m driving).

In fact, that’s probably what exercise should be about for all of us.

My mom, Linda Solga, rocking her new autumn outfit. (Photo by Dieter Solga)

Until next month!






The Burkini: Is it even complicated? Kind of, but not really

This week a few burkini-related items came across my newsfeed because of the municipal ban on burkinis at some French beaches, including Nice.

The idea of women being forced to change out of their clothing of choice at the beach is pretty shocking. There is literal policing of women’s clothing choices going on. See this article.

French police ticket a woman at a beach. Photo credit: Vantagenews.com

The municipalities in France that have banned the burkini say they’ve done it because “religious” clothing incites violence. France banned the burqa some time ago. But according to French law, not all religions are equal. Christianity and Judaism are excluded from the ban — you will never see a nun getting a ticket at the beach.

Is it okay to ban these forms of dress? I’m going to say that it’s not. In the vast majority of cases, the violence that Muslim women’s clothing incites is against the women who are wearing it. If anything, they need police protection, not police scrutiny.

But, some say, it’s not only about inciting violence. The niqab, hijab, and burqa, and therefore by extension the burkini, are — it is argued — oppressive. Therefore (those claiming this view say), banning this clothing is a win for the women who “are forced” to wear it. So the argument goes.

The debate about “the veil” is one area where Western feminists ventured in with uninformed opinions about how they “in the West” need to “rescue” oppressed Muslim women. I think non-Muslim feminists are rightly cautious about weighing in on this debate these days, flinging around their opinions about oppression in an oft-misunderstood and misrepresented religion. Julie Bindel represents the (what I now think of as) old-school feminist view that Westerners should be alarmed and speak out against the birqa and veil. But even she doesn’t think it should be outlawed.

This issue remains a live debate within Muslim religion and culture. Yasmin Adhai-Brown writes in The Guardian that “As a Muslim woman, I see the veil as a rejection of progressive values.”

Naaz Modan, posting at the website Muslim Girl, attributes the ban to a history of Islamophobia in France. She contests the mayor of Cannes’ idea that the burkini is a symbol of “extremist Islamism, not the Muslim religion.” Modan writes:

However, it seems that the ban has more to do with underlying Islamophobia than it does with public safety. Not only is the burkini unaffiliated with Islamic extremism, but the ordinance also states, “Access to beaches and for swimming is banned to anyone who does not have [bathing apparel] which respects good customs and secularism,” suggesting that Lisnard and his supporters believe wearing the a modest headscarf instead of a pseudo underwear and bra is disrespectful to the country’s moral and secular foundation.

My own view is this: the French legislation is not helping, and it’s not up to French politicians to legislate women’s clothing choices, especially when very similar clothing is not contested:

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 5.15.14 PMThe woman who invented the burkini, Aheda Zinetti, says “I created the burkini to give women freedom, not take it away.” Without it, women who choose this form of covering would not be able to go swimming or spend time on the beach.

It’s also not lost on me that there is a whole history of sexism surrounding the bikini as well–the original pin-up girls all wore bikinis. The most controversial issue of Sports Illustrated, hotly anticipated every year, has always been the swimsuit issue full of non-athlete models striking sexy poses in bikinis.

Not that the bikini should be banned either. I have a whole drawer full of bikinis myself. And I’ll wear them when I wish, thank you very much.

But the idea of fixating on one type of beach wear as if its more acceptable alternative (I get that there are other types of suits available on the continuum of bikini to burkini) has no troubled history of its own just screams out “racist double standard.”

And it’s not okay. And surely French law makers and enforcers have better things to do than shrinking the opportunities and choices of some Muslim women.

The issue of what the Muslim choice to cover oneself represents, whether it is indeed a choice, is complicated. But the issue of whether governments at any level should be able to create laws that restrict clothing choices on the basis of religion is not. The answer is “no.”

Update: France’s highest court overturns the burkini bans.


I hate people cheering me on up hills and here’s some thoughts about why

hills4Lots of people think I’m really nice. And I know I seem nice most of the time. I work very hard at “nice.” But my thoughts aren’t always nice and sometimes they spill out in sporting contexts. I guess I’m tired then, and sometimes–hot, and hungry–I can kind of snap at people. What’s that word again? Right, “hangry.” I can be that way.

I did that on the first day of the bike rally when people cheered me on up a hill. I’m sorry. I really am. But I thought I’d sort out here some of my thoughts about what got me.

It was on the last hill, a substantial one, though really–and this depends on where you ride and what your perspective is–there aren’t any hills on the bike rally. Gentle inclines, yes. Actual hills, no.

We’d been sweeping all afternoon, that is, riding behind the slowest rider so that bike rally support vehicles can identify the back of the pack. We wore broom bristles attached to our helmets so the people in the van could spot us. It’s an important support role on the ride and team leaders took shifts, each pair sweeping a half day on the ride. We chose the first day to get it over with. Here we are with our broom helmets!



It was hot. And we waited at lunch a very long time after the last rider left to give the slow people a good start. We knew things were going to be tough when we met the slowest rider just 5 km out of town. It felt liked we’d waited for hours. How on earth could it be that we caught them at 5 km from lunch? But caught up with them, we had.

It was a long afternoon but finally after waiting a lot and riding slowly a lot we were just 7 km from camp. We’d started riding at 9 am and it was now nearly 530 pm. Road safety had asked us to stop and wait because between us and camp were more than a dozen riders slowly climbing the last hills before camp.

So when we hit those last hills we were hungry and tired. But it mattered to me a lot that people knew that we were that slow because we were sweeping. My heart rate for the day barely left zone 1. This had been an exercise in patience. Riding slowly is super hard.

So when the bike rally volunteers started cheering, “You can do it!” on that last hill, I needed everyone to know that of course I could do it. Of course I could ride up those hills. I could ride up them, down them, and up again.

It’s ego, isn’t it?

Yes, I’m big. But there’s no question of me making it up the hills. I didn’t need cheering on. I was riding up them slowly for a reason, because I was sweeping. Grrrr!

I’m laughing now but I was grumpy that afternoon, hungry, hot and tired too. I don’t think of myself as having a lot of pride and ego invested in hills. Hills aren’t my friend, traditionally. But on that day, I saw that in some circumstances I didn’t want encouragement. I wanted acknowledgement. It had been a long day. “Thank for you sweeping,” was what I needed to hear.

I’ll think about that when a “you can do it!” is about to cross my lips. Because sometimes, of course you can do it. It’s just a hill after all.







Fitbit, my sleep friend (Guest post)


Guest blogger Michelle Lynne Goodfellow, who has written about her breast cancer and her love of aikido, is now in search of a better night’s sleep. 

I got a Fitbit Flex several weeks ago, mostly to track my daily steps, because I was concerned that I was sitting too much during the day. On the whole, I’ve been really happy with the basic model that I purchased – it does what I need it to do, which is track my steps.

But the nice thing about the Fitbit fitness tracker is that it can also track your sleeping patterns, spitting out reports like this one below. (As an aside, notice the time at the top of the screen shot. Yes, I started writing this blog post about insomnia…  while I had insomnia…)

The red areas indicate when you’re awake, and the light blue areas indicate when you’re restless. The device accurately plots both, and subtracts them from your total time in bed (as indicated by the time ranges beside each date).

I’m a bit of a numbers geek, so I’m fascinated by data like this. Over time, it helps explain a lot – like why I’m so exhausted, essentially.


There are a few downsides to using Fitbit to track your sleep, though.

  • I’ve found it doesn’t do a super accurate job of knowing exactly when you’re awake. Some nights I when I know I’ve been awake for a while, it’s only registered that I’ve been restless (or conversely, it assumes I’m sleeping when I’m just motionless – like the nights when I used to watch movies on my phone!).
  • On the nights when I charge the Fitbit battery in the middle of the night, they only show up as nights when I’ve gotten a few hours of sleep (because I often put the charged device back on if I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night). On the Tuesday night above, for example, I wasn’t wearing the device through the night, but put it back on to get one final bit of sleep before I got out of bed for the day.

On the whole, though, I love using the Fitbit to track my sleeping habits. I’m not sure I would be disciplined enough to keep such accurate records without the device automatically synching with my smartphone.

And as you can see from the report above, I still have a real sleep problem (although I’m convinced I’m finally on the right track with my current sleep program, which I’ll talk about in a couple of weeks). Most nights I’m getting between 6 – 6 1/2 hours of sleep, but some nights (like Thursday, above), I’m getting far less.

(Although you may also notice that I’m napping for 1 hour in the afternoon whenever I can – that’s actually an accepted part of my new sleep regime.)

This is the sixth in a series of posts about changing unhealthy sleep habits. Future posts will include:

  • White-knuckling the early morning hours without sleep aids
  • The sleep plan that finally worked


Michelle Lynne Goodfellow works in nonprofit and small business communications by day, and also enjoys writing, taking photographs, making art and doing aikido. You can find more of her work at michellelynnegoodfellow.com. Michelle has also written about her breast cancer journey on her blog, Kitchen Sink Wisdom.


Bike dancing, or you know you’re happy to have reached the top of that hill when….

I’m not a big fan of hills, especially hills on very hot days. But I do like getting to the top and discovering the bike rally support van is there with dance music and cold water. Members of Team Switchin’ Gears made it to the top and then we might have even done some celebratory dancing.

This is me showing off dancing with my bike over my head. It’s not showing much though since it’s a super light carbon bike.

I challenged my teammate Joh to dance with her steel framed bike. No way, she said. So I had to show off and dance with the heavy bike too.

Oh summer and bike dancing, I miss you already!