It is November, and green blades stand defiantly in a sea of crunched brown grass on the Canadian prairies. Green at this time of year is usually claimed solely by the mighty evergreens that represent our northern climate. This year, El Niño has graced our autumn with unseasonably warm weather, and while scraping frost from my windshield in minus 15-degree Celsius mornings isn’t particularly missed, my life seems to be overflowing with unseasonables. This has left me craving familiarity.

Maple, the new puppy, enjoys the grassy backyard.

Pictured facing the camera is a small black, white, and tan coloured puppy with a gold bell on its collar. There is dry grass, and parts of a play structure pictured in the yard behind the puppy. A larger black, white, and tan dog and a young girl are in the distance.

What are these unseasonables, these unwelcomed and unexpected endurances? My volunteering is uncharacteristically stressful. Our extended family is experiencing surprising and heartbreaking tensions. Our immediate family is drowning in unseasonable busyness from both extracurriculars and work. The puppy we were expecting to get in the springtime arrived here at the brink of winter instead.

With these changes, the comforts of what was to be expected during this time of year are missing.

The beginning of fall had held all the hopes of being a predictable and, thus, successful season. I had fitness goals. I had familial, relational, occupational, and spiritual goals. The mildness of the weather teases me with the prospect that all my chaos can find resolution and I can go back to achieving my goals. El Niño makes me think that perhaps time has stood still. The snow has not fallen. The cold has not arrived to entrap us indoors. Winter is still far away. My goals and resolutions can still be attained before it comes—or can they? Do they need to be?

There is a newness that I must adapt to that looks different from how this season was initially laid out. This challenges me the most. With all the change, I feel as though I’m in a labyrinth, unable to find the way towards success or resolution for any of the situations I find myself in.

The reality is that this season may not be one for resolution. There may not be an answer found or a project checked off from the to-do list. Time given by the mild weather is a facade. The mild weather does not mean that time has stood still. Winter is no farther away than it would be if snow was on the ground. If the weather were its normal minus 10-20 degrees, the chaos would not be any closer to resolution, nor would it be in any more danger of never finding resolution.

To move forward toward the end of the labyrinth, I need to accept that my goals and resolutions do not need to run along the timeline of the weather. Any sense of urgency I feel from the changing seasons or upcoming holidays does not mean that my expectations of myself need to change.

The grass can grow green in my yard, and I can enjoy it from the view of my window as I stand beside my Christmas tree. I can relish in the blessing that warmer weather allows me to train my puppy more effectively. At the same time, I can also lament that I must endure El Niño’s humidity that sticks to my skin and sinks into my bones. The warm weather does not mean that I need to take up running around the neighbourhood, but it can mean that I have the opportunity to go on another bike ride. With each day that snow stays off the ground, my walk up to my daughter’s school is effortless, and I can rest in that. I do not have to remain lost in the unexpected.

So, what happens to my goals? I may be surprised to find them being fulfilled as I navigate the maze of chaos that is my season of life right now. You never know what lessons will be revealed when you endure trials. But if I don’t meet my goals in the labyrinth, I can accept the unexpected and allow the goals to float on to the next season. They’ll be there waiting on the other side of winter—on the other side of the labyrinth—on the other side of victory over the chaos.

Stephanie Morris is a transcriptionist and writer based in Alberta, Canada. She is a wife, a mom of two, and a newcomer to the career-writing world. As a fancier of history and literature, she aspires to blend the two in fiction and nonfiction pieces. To follow Stephanie’s writing adventures, find her at @words.and.smores on Instagram.
fitness · top ten

Top ten posts in November 2023, #ICYMI

The most read post this month was our group review of Nyad on Netflix. It was a sickly weekend but a lovely one with Sarah and me visiting Catherine in Boston. We recommend the movie and we also recommend catching up with old friends over Middle Eastern food, throat lozenges, walks around Walden Pond, and meeting new babies for the first time…New England autumn is awfully lovely.

Alison Conway ran the NYC marathon and then blogged about it for us. Her post which touched on running, but also on the subway and community and connections, was the second most read post in November. Did you miss it? You should go read it!

Awhile back (in 2020) I got annoyed at the appearance of my Zwift avatar and blogged about the absence of representation of large muscular women’s bodies in general. That post was the third most read this month.

Sam’s relatively skinny Zwift avatar in Team TFC kit in yellow and black, riding a bright pink neon Tron bike

Tracy’s 2013 (!) post The Shape of an Athlete is also on the theme of the diversity of athletic bodies and it’s still rocking along, this month as our fourth most read post.

I think Christine’s post on finishing 2023 soft struck a note with many of us around the blog. I loved it. I needed. Thanks Christine. It’s a great message. And it was the fifth most read post in November.

Search for “soft” on the image library website Scopio and this is one of your choices. Three grey kittens curled together on a pink carpet. Photo by Elsa Sadiez on Scopio

The sixth most read post in November was Cate’s classic, I’m 53 and a half and I’m still menstruating: is this a good thing?

Another classic, Yoga poses I simply can’t do, and what I do instead by Catherine, was our seventh most read post.

Cate’s Grief in Three Movements was eighth.

Is Enough Abundance? by Mina was ninth.

Guest blogger Cheryl wrote our tenth most read post, Racing at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona.

Cheryl Out on the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway, biking.


5 years of sleeping with a CPAP

Recommended listening: Sleeping Sickness by City and Colour

I’ve written a few times about getting diagnosed with sleep apnea and starting CPAP therapy. You can read my posts in reverse order starting here

My Facebook memories prompted me this week that five years ago I was getting my first sleep assessment.

The Past

Back then it was hard for me to accept my snoring was so serious I needed to wear this contraption. Spoilers, whenever I nap spontaneously I always wake myself up with my snoring. So. It’s a thing.

I took a long time to get used to donning and keeping on the mask. I credit my friends who shared lots of wisdom with why I stuck with it.

Neutral is a good word

I honestly feel neutral about the CPAP and slip it on quickly before bed. It’s done wonders for my sleep hygiene as I can’t do anything else but go to sleep once it’s on. I’m also wearing my handy dandy night guard 2.0. It’s bigger, it’s on the top instead of the bottom and meant to not let me indulge in grinding.

I do not get fussy about the maintenance. I wash it when it looks like it needs it. The prescribed maintenance of rinsing everyday is way way too much for me to keep with. And. I’ve had no problems from being slack with the washing.

The Gross Stuff

The one downside is when I get a cold. Apologies for the gross analogy but it basically becomes the mucas equivalent of a cotton candy ( aka candy floss) machine. The pressure wrecks havoc as I cough and gag on my own bodily fluids, you know, because I have a flappy throat.

Is five years of compliance remarkable?

I was curious how many people stay using their CPAP on the regular. Most information I found said one third to half of people stop using it after one year. So. Here I am committed to doing this thing every night.

The Wins

I am more rested. I no longer have chronic black circles under my eyes. No, I did not magically lose a bunch of weight and “get my life back” like the prescribing doctor claimed I would. My hair is really thick and shiny, more than it’s been in decades. I feel generally rested and good. I sleep like a champ. It is worth it.

Natalie takes a selfie wearing glasses and a shit eating grin. Her beloved and two grown ass adult children are behind her looking equally happy around a black table covered in art supplies.

And of course, the real win is reducing my risks of heart attack and stroke, turns out having enough oxygen is way important!

fashion · fitness

Leggings are out, but who cares?

Sam in her #ootd at work. Leggings with NZ made McKinlays boots and flowery Montreal tunic

The New York Post reports that Gen Z has canceled leggings.

First, it was skinny jeans and side parts, and now leggings been declared unfashionable. The news was all over my social media newsfeeds yesterday.

But do you know what, who cares? I mean the Post is just sharing various “hot girls do this and that” videos from Tik Tok and drawing conclusions. If the hot girls have chosen to abandon leggings in favour of wide legged and flared pants, more power to them. Enjoy!

I declared leggings are for life back in the day when I had to wear a knee brace all the time. Nat also declared she was living the leggings life. I’ve also defended leggings against those who say they’re inappropriate attire on campus.

And as I come up on 60 I have to say it matters less and less what either Christian moms (see the suggested campus ban) or youth fashion influencers (see the New York Post piece) have to say.

These days, I’m wearing leggings lots as something I can wear under work clothes and go straight to the gym or to physio. They’re also excellent for bike commuting.

And for what it’s worth, my hair only parts on the side.

meditation · rest · self care

Week 1 of Finishing Soft

Last week, I wrote about my conscious decision to finish 2023 soft but as we all know, there’s a big difference between wanting things to be soft and actually making them that way.

Here’s how it’s going so far:


Even though my intention to finish soft is just the first step in the process, it is an important one.

Knowing that I want to steer toward a particular feeling, to aim for more rest and relaxation, takes a lot of pressure off and helps me avoid that vague, looming sense that I *should* be working harder.


I had to make some tough decisions about what I could actually get done, what could wait, and what I could delegate. And I had to make sure that I didn’t wear myself down with the process of decision-making.

My solution was pick the things that loomed the largest and make those decisions first. I decided to schedule some of the other decisions for this week. And others will wait until the relevant situations arise.

Active Rest

I know all about active rest as part of a fitness routine but I only recently thought to apply it to regular old resting. I’m not claiming this as a brand new idea or anything but it has been a useful framework this past week so bear with me.

I’ve written before about how just ‘doing nothing’ is not very restful for me and I knew that I would have to make some clear choices about what rest and relaxation were going to look like for me.

I also knew that really resting, actually letting my nervous system relax, was going to involve more than dialing back my activities. Instead I would have to consciously choose active rest – activities that would quiet my mind, slow my heart rate, let me shed some of the ambient stress of this year.

Yoga and meditation are obvious choices here and I have been choosing videos and audio practices that emphasize the feelings I’m looking for. My search fields are now autogenerating words like ‘reset’, ‘soothing’, and ‘restful.’

Drawing – especially repetitive patterns – can also fall into the active rest category and I have been doing a fair bit of that.

And I have been doing a bit more reading (mystery stories!) and listening to cello music both of which bring a lovely sense of overall calm.

And I think that doing jigsaw puzzles will help, too, but I haven’t gotten around to those. I’ll let you know how that goes.


Obviously, I can’t say that I’m soft yet, it’s only been a week.

I think, though, that I am softening, at least a little.

And that feels pretty good.


Sam’s year of reading for pleasure in review

Usually, I make my annual reading goal just by squeaking in under the wire, but this year, I passed my goal with a month to go. The goal? This year, it was 25 books. In years past it was 20 but audiobooks have helped get more fiction in my life. I keep track of what I’m reading on Goodreads and you can follow me there.

Now 25 books may not seem a lot but it doesn’t include work reading and because of my eye issues reading in the evening is tricky. Mostly at night I need large print and bright setting on the Kindle or an audio book. Often I switch to watching things. Anyway, no shame. Reading helps with my overall well-being and mood. It’s one of the ways I combat fall and winter sadness.

I was going to do a year in review book post but then I thought that wouldn’t be so helpful for holiday shopping. I doubt I’ll read anything worthwhile in December. For me, it’s not that kind of month. So here are my reading recommendations from 2023 (excluding December.)


Some things I read this year were shockingly good. Thanks, Victoria, for the recommendations. I will read everything Claire Keegan has ever written. What a beautiful writer. More character and emotion captured in startlingly few words. Both Foster and Demon Copperhead were heartbreaking stories of childhood though written in very different styles. I will read both again, I’m sure. I’ve mentioned both books on the blog before.


I listen to a lot of audiobooks while doing chores around the house and while dog walking. I usually opt for gripping and thrilling books, sci fi and mysteries mostly. But my favourite audiobook of the year was Tom Lake, read (sorry, “performed”) by Meryl Streep. The blog’s Cate recommended it. If you are a parent of adult children who moved back home in the pandemic, you’ll love the story. It’s a story about the life stories we tell our children and about the life stories we don’t share.

A second runner up in the audiobook category is a book that got Sarah and me through several long road trips. Thanks Rob for the gift of Hench. Hard to describe but it’s sort of superhero underlings meet the gig economy. We’re all anxiously awaiting a sequel.


I read and reviewed a wonderful blog related book called Coffee First, Then the World: One Woman’s Record-Breaking Pedal Around the Planet by Jenny Graham.


I know it’s not a usual fiction category but I taught a large course on philosophy and death for a few years and it’s still a topic that interests me. They’re very different books. Under the Whispering Door is a queer love story in the genre of cozy fantasy, described by one reviewer as A Man Called Ove meets The Good Place. If Cats Disappeared from the World is translated from Japanese and it’s a story of love and loss and the meaning of life.


When We Lost Our Heads by Heather O’Neill

Ducks by Kate Beaton

The Fake by Zoe Whitall

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

How about you? What did you read in 2023? Anything you’d recommend? And if it’s on theme for the blog, that’s even better!

cycling · fitness · movies · racing

GCN+ Mini Binge!

GCN+–the Global Cycling Network– is about to expire. It’s all over on December 19, 2023.

You can read about it closing in this article, The rise & fall of GCN+ – is the livestream party over for cycling fans?

The closure isn’t good news for those of us in Canada.

“At the moment none of us really know, and depending on where you happen to live in the world the scenario will play out very differently in terms of whether you will still be able to access the live coverage via other associated platforms or apps. Most readers will still be able to access all the same cycling content as before via Warner Bros. Discovery platforms, with the same roster of presenters and commentators – however, it could be far more complicated for those living outside of Europe and in the US, who have come to rely on GCN+ after many years of virtually no live coverage or even online highlights being available elsewhere in some regions.”

It’s been a great way to watch bike racing as well as documentaries about the sport of cycling. Sarah is nervous. She’s been a big fan of the coverage of women’s bike racing offered by GCN+. She signed up during the pandemic and has enjoyed following the races.

So this weekend, both still feeling a bit worse for wear, we decided to check out some of GCN+’s documentaries while we still have access to the streaming service.


“Every year, 300 of the world’s wildest triathletes descend on the fjords of Norway to take part in the toughest race of their lives. The Norseman Xtreme Triathlon includes a 3.8km swim in icy waters, a 180km bike ride with 5000 metres of climbing, and finally a marathon up a mountain. We follow 3 competitors as they make their way through this epic challenge. Alan Hovda, a 3-time race winner who is chasing his 4th victory; GTN’s own Mark Threlfall, an ex-professional who has always had his eyes on this event, but who has never before competed in an iron man distance event, and Ole Peder Moe who despite challenging family circumstances puts in the race of his life with some emotional consequences.”

While this falls into the category of things you couldn’t possibly imagine ever doing (for me at least), it’s shocking how many people want to give it a go. There’s a lottery–232 spots and more than 8000 applications.

Even the start of this race is terrifying. Swimmers take a ferry in the dark into a beautiful fjord and then (this is the worst bit) jump off the back of the ferry from what looks like a great height and bob about in freezing water until the start gun after 15 minutes or so. Brrrr.

It’s all stunningly beautiful in that harsh Norwegian way. I really want to visit there and ride bikes.

The bike is a lot of climbing, and then the run ends by racing up a mountain. The documentary follows three participants, including a GCN commentator, who got to forgo the lottery because of the documentary but who had never done an iron distance triathlon of any sort before.

We enjoyed the documentary, though we wished they’d shown some of the women competitors. Even though only 15% of the participants are women, it would have been nice to hear from them in the documentary.

Then after a short break, we watched BREAKING THROUGH: THE RISE OF AFRICAN CYCLING

“In a new GCN+ documentary, the story of African cycling is brought into focus with a look at the Tour of Rwanda, the young riders that are inspired by the Black African trail blazers in Europe and what riders like Girmay can mean for the future of African competition. In the documentary, GCN speaks with so many different voices, including Girmay, Doug Ryder and Chris Froome, involved with bringing African cycling to global prominence, while showing the vivacity of the racing in the continent at the Tour of Rwanda.

Furthermore, with the continent having a higher percentage of unpaved roads than paved, the documentary highlights the work of the well funded Team Amani and the Migration Race. Team Amani goes even outside of cycling with its work with African riders on nutrition and academic education.”

We enjoyed the documentary but again, not shocking, I wish they’d paid more attention to the women riders. I loved the section on Diane Ingabire the best.

Diane Ingabire

You can watch a trailer for the documentary here.

223 in 2023 · fitness

223 workouts in 2023: Catherine has 15 to go

Hi readers– while this headline may seem like not-really-news-at-all to you, it’s in fact unprecedented for me. I’ve been doing this challenge since 2018, and each year I slide or skulk or scream over the finish line just in time. I’m talking December 30 or 31. I even documented it for the blog here and here and here.

Yes, it’s November 26, so I anticipate hitting the magic 223 by say, December 20 or so. But this year is decidedly different for me in a few ways:

  • I’m not worried about making my goal this year (unlike the frantic feeling in previous years)
  • a lot of my workouts have been fun activity with friends and family: on outings, vacations, visits
  • There’s been a fair amount of dog walking (with a fair number of dogs!) in the mix this year, which I really enjoy
  • Yes, there’s been cycling and swimming and yoga, but more as group activity

I think the month of December will include more of the above. I’m off to Baltimore next weekend for a big post-wedding party and will exploring the city with friends. Then I go to NYC for a 60th birthday party and some city and dog-walking (a great twofer!). Today I meet at friend at yoga for an in-studio yoga nidra with one of our favorite teachers. For the holidays, I’ll be in South Carolina visiting family and exploring both the neighborhoods and local nature with them (and more dogs, of course).

Looking back on this year, it’s been a time of increased connection with friends and family. And it’s shown in my workouts– they’ve been easier, more fun, gentle when I needed it, and quite varied in location and type. The cadence has been steady, and is continuing through to the end of the year.

I’ll post when I hit 223, but I don’t think (fingers crossed) it’ll be a breathless December 31 finish. That’s a relief and a pleasant surprise. How often do we get one of those? Feel free to enjoy it with me…

Readers, are you doing any challenges this year that you’re finishing up, not finishing up, that you long ago finished up? How’s it going? I’d love to hear from you.


Spa Day for Women: an alternate to Golf?

I’m writing this after returning from a trip to the city for a corporate holiday event, and I’m in a mood to muse. Having recently left post secondary education and returned to a career I had left behind, and it has been fascinating to see what has changed and what hasn’t, in the 20 years since I last was a businesswoman.

Selfie of woman smiling in surprise at camera. she has pink and grey hair and is wearing a striped sweater.  she is seated on a train
On the train – my caption on social media was “I’m doing something a little crazy right now”

For one thing, it looks like I may be able to avoid learning to golf! I used to say that if I wanted to prioritize career advancement, I may need to take golf lessons. Indeed, golfing for career goals is a thing.

So in my 8 months back in business, I am pleased to have had a few pleasant social opportunities – lunches, dinners, holiday parties… but awhile back I was invited to a afternoon at a spa, sponsored by a vendor. It was specifically framed as a women’s event, which caught my eye.

I don’t really know how I ended up on the list of invitees, but I wasn’t going to turn it down. And I’m so glad I didn’t. In truth, I’d never been to a spa. I’d never heard of them, outside of some stereotype of eastern European mud-baths… I didn’t come from a wealthy family, nor from a family who was going to spend a lot of money indulgently. Plus I grew up in a small logging town. There were no spas. Once I started being a city gal, I had no idea what they were. Eventually I did clue in, but I still never considered going.

image reads "dear guest: please up us preserve a tranquil environment by using a 'spa voice' and turning off cell phones and other electronic devices while in the spa'
Spa voice – it’s a real thing (evidently)

So, I went. And it was pretty lovely. Yes we walked around in robes and ‘slippers’ (flip-flops). We had water with citrus and were encouraged to speak with a “spa voice” (clearly a topic for a linguistic blog!). I LOVED the “water therapies” – a citrus-scented steam room, a cool pool and a whirlpool. I had my first massage in years and it was great. After our ‘services,’ we got dressed and headed to restaurant as a group of about 15 for a very enjoyable dinner.

Beyond the getting pampered, I was struck by the chance to be with a bunch of women colleagues. The event was sponsored by some female professionals who tend to work for companies in my industry. We are their clients. It was pretty cool to see so many powerful women in one place, and I made some important connections for myself.

photo of dining table in restaurant with glass window looking out onto the CN Tower

So spas and exercise… they kind of go together, maybe? For me, the power of solidarity, and an alternate opportunity to connect was meaningful.


My Nature Dose is Dropping

Welcome to almost winter. A few months ago I wrote about how I use various health and fitness tracking apps. One of them is Nature Dose. At the time, I was easily hitting 800-900 minutes per week; the goal was 90.

Now, I’m averaging 100-200 minutes, and one week I only managed 50 (I had a huge cooking project and didn’t make it out of the house for three days in a row).

Some of that might because I’m leaving work after dark. Or maybe my phone doesn’t pick up the light while tucked in a pocket under multiple layers of clothing. It’s definitely because I’m not spending hours in the garden or camping or swimming outdoors.

My Nature Dose eexceeds the minimum, but it doesn’t feel like enough to me. The fresh air and natural light (even on a grey rainy day) make me feel more energetic yet calm. My brain slows down to enjoy the scenery and I arrive at my destination refreshed.

I’m almost looking forward to colder weather and snow so I can do a bit of cross country skiing or skating, instead of just biking everywhere – even though that is still tons of fun.

Six people of various ages ride their bikes down a snowy groomed path in Edmonton. Photo: WinterCity