Are elaborate skincare regimens feminist?

I spend a lot of time reading feminist websites and listening to podcasts, especially the ones made by women and trans* people in their 20s.  It’s one of the ways I stave off curmudgeon territory (and why I found myself using the word “woke” non-ironically a couple of weeks ago).  In the past few months, I keep tripping over huge discussions about women — especially millennial women — and the growing trend for elaborate, expensive skincare routines.  What is happening with this?

Last week, there was a piece on slate debating the merits of using intricate spreadsheets or apps to track your inventory of skincare products and the impact of different routines. There was a recent piece on The Cut about why “everyone is obsessed with skincare“.  The New Yorker, Jezebel, the Guardian, the NY Times and others have all written about millennials and skincare, and skin care as “a religious routine.”  The 12 step “asian” routine — especially Korean (K-beauty) — is seen as the grail.  (Even the sitcom Kim’s Convenience had a recent storyline about capitalizing on smuggled Korean beauty products).

Skincare is no longer a private routine, but very public.  There are multiple online forums where people talk about products and routines (reddit is the hugest), and much of it is swirled up with selfie culture — a quick instagram search for #facemask turned up more than 1.5 million hits.

What the heck is this all about?  Is skincare a “coping mechanism,” as the New Yorker described it?  Two of my favourite feminist podcasts — Stuff Mom Never Told You (SMNTY) and Slate’s DoubleX Gabfest — recently had focused episodes on whether this obsession with skincare was a feminist act of self-care.

The argument seems to go like this:  a complex skincare routine is a kind of self-help, something women can can do to soothe themselves in a chaotic world.  (One of the most common hashtags accompanying #skincare is #selfcare). In the world of Trump, women feel like things are out of their control, and expensive, complicated regimens — and tracking them in apps or spreadsheets — give the illusion of control. (One of the young women on SMNTY joked that when she was unemployed, skincare was her “full time job).

Where skincare used to be an attempt to stave off aging, in this uncertain world, a young woman using retin-A is an affirmative act that she will outlive this time in history, that there is a promising future — a “basic dream in which the future exists.” There is much made of the fact that the aspirational goal of all of this skincare is to be “glowy” — i.e, natural and healthy, enhanced by organic and natural ingredients, not botox or surgery or makeup.  Some argue that millennials are being “smart” by preventing age damage rather than trying to repair it after it happens.

There is an accompanying feminist critique embedded in this narrative, of course, questioning whether conditioning about anxiety about the undesirability of wrinkles is taking hold for 27 year olds, and underlining that, as always, industry is capitalizing and cashing in on women’s desire for self-care.  And the most important question, of course, is whether caring for one’s own skin in expensive, time-consuming, self-centred ways and public ways (“hashtag it up,” as one woman put it), is a distraction and a diversion from mobilizing for true change.  As one blogger put it:  When the world is chaos, it makes sense for society to take an introspective turn. But the skincare craze isn’t introspective per se: it’s looking into yourself but stopping at the literal outermost layer.

For me, the thought of a 12 step skincare routine is exhausting. I already don’t do the bedtime routines I feel like I should do, including meditating and turning off the screens early enough.  I enjoyed having a soothing facial as one of my treatments on my recent holiday where a massage or suchlike every day was included in the package — but I balked at the $180 price tag on the emollient they tried to sell me at the end.

I have a sort of skincare plan:  I spend maybe $250 dollars a year on moisturizer, toner and cleanser, all one brand, which I’ve been using for years, from the Bay — the brand that gives you cute little bags of free stuff when you go in on the right day.  My routine barely deserves the name:  I wash my face with the cleanser in the shower in the morning, then slather a moisturizer with SPF on my super dry skin before I start my day.  I add drugstore sunscreen in the summer.  Sometimes, if I’ve had makeup on or been really sweaty, I remember to wash my face and MAYBE use toner and moisturizer before bed.  That’s it.

I’m not going to judge where anyone else spends their time or money.  This seems to be one of those prime areas for “you do you.”  If rubbing nice smelling stuff into your skin gives you pleasure and calms you down so you sleep better, go for it.  But I will admit that the notion of this much money, energy and time going into something so oriented toward what feels like yet another unrealistic beauty ideal — and where there is no evidence that any of this stuff makes any real difference — makes me uneasy.  What about you?

IMG_2978Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, a 53 year old with wrinkles, dry skin, a history of minor skin cancer and an aversion to routine. 


“You are soft on your feet”

Two weeks ago, I sweated and panted my way through the last hundred metres of climbing up Gros Piton in St. Lucia.  It’s a strenuous, steep hike, about 2000 ft of swift ascent. It was hot and the sun was out, but the trail was broken, slippery rock, and I scrambled far more than I walked.  I finally broke through from the rainforest to the summit, and the island and the sea sprang forth in front of me.


There was a young male/female couple and their guide at the top, and my local guide Quentin and I offered to take their photo.  We faffed about a bit, then I sat down to eat my cheese and cucumber sandwich, eyeing the darkening clouds.

A few minutes later, my resort guide, Marlon, came bursting up the trail, sweating and out of breath.  “I could not catch you!” he laughed.

IMG_3440Marlon had driven me from the hotel, and connected me with the Piton park guide who was required for the hike.  I was supposed to hike with them both, but Marlon took longer doing the paperwork at the trailhead, and said he’d catch up.  He never did.

They’d told me to expect the climb to be about three hours, and we’d done it in an hour and twenty.  I wasn’t racing — I was just focused.  While walking, Quentin (who was from the small community at the base of the mountain, and was about 18), said “you are fit, and you are not worried.”  He kept telling me we were making great time, but I was just … going.

Later, Marlon told me repeatedly that he hadn’t climbed that quickly with any guest in a while, not since he had the trail-running guest who was trying to race it.  Even when I stumbled a few times going down, he said “you are soft on your feet — most people would fall like that.”

Here’s the thing:  they had no reason to flatter me.  I’d started out the morning quite cranky, as I wrote about last week, because the hotel had mis-booked my trek with Marlon, and I wasn’t about to get up at 6 am twice in a row on my holiday.  (Much like the time the hospital never notified me of a change in date for my colonoscopy and I insisted I have it that day because I wasn’t going to do the awful prep twice).  The drive from the hotel was more than an hour, and Marlon and I had had a good chat, and I knew that he fancied himself as a would-be endurance athlete, and had participated in an 88 mile walk around the island last year.  (He made it something like 40, which was amazing with these hills).

I was preening inwardly in a weird way at the matter of fact way they acknowledged my fitness.  When I reflected on that preening, I found some unexamined baggage about measuring up.

Flashback:  hiking around a national park on the Bruce Peninsula in my 20s with a guided group and my then-partner, when I struggled to get up a particularly large boulder.  (I’m very short and I was heavier than I am now).  A snotty comment from another hiker, calculated so I’d hear the scorn:  “they really should make sure people who do these hikes are capable.”

Flashback:  climbing in the hills of Skye with a different partner in my early 40s.  Those mountains were a lure from the first moments of our connection, when he said “come stand with me on the mountains that scare me.”  We approached the dangerous, hard to find summit on Sgurr nan Gillian, one of the hardest peaks in the Cuillin, and he freaked out suddenly.  “We have to go back! We have to go back!”  Later, he sat across from me at dinner, thin-lipped, refusing to talk about it, his vulnerability our failure.  A year later, he remembered that trip as his having summited hills that I had hung back on, despite a photo on his desk of us both on a peak.

Flashback: riding for a week in Vietnam, alone with a young male guide, who continually told me stories of the exalted fitness of other people (older men, mostly) he’d guided, while continually refusing to let me ride up the passes I wanted to ride because he didn’t want to ride them.  When we finally rode the long hard Spring Pass, he left me behind to manage a dropped chain on my own.  (He was a shitty guide).  A year later, riding in Laos, having to get off my bike and order my guide to stop shadowing me 10 metres behind in the van because he didn’t want me to ride in the fog.

On top of Gros Piton, I still felt that 25 year old sting of the fellow hiker who dismissed me as a chunky irrelevance.  I felt the bruising of those holidays in the hills of Skye, where my then-partner’s self-image continually erased my accomplishments.  The frustration of cycling guides who see my age and bodyshape, not my capability, strength and desire to push myself.

IMG_3446Quentin and Marlon have no idea what they did, just matter of factly accepting my fitness.  No false praise, just factual enjoyment.  On the way back, we talked about Black Panther and the history or St Lucia, and Marlon laughed about how I beat him, said he had to train harder.  He then asked if I wanted to go for coffee at a local place.  “I don’t always offer this,” he said, “but I think you’ll like it.”

I did.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who blogs here the second Friday and third Saturday of every month, as well as other times when the mood strikes.  She lives and works in Toronto, where she works in the space of creating socially accountable strategic change in healthcare and education.

fitness · holiday fitness · holidays

Cate tries to relax


I just got back from a 5-night holiday in St. Lucia. I travel a LOT, but this was my first time at an all-inclusive — it’s usually very Not Me to go to gated places that are structured specifically for tourists. But two of my friends had separately been to this place on their own and raved about the focus on wellness, the yoga classes, the food, and most of all, the fact that you get a massage or similar treatment every day as part of the package. So in the middle of a cranky cold winter, I dove in. This was my experience.

Day 1: Arrival

Apparently I’m all about the Pampering for this holiday, so I use e-upgrade points to fly business class on Air Canada Rouge. It’s a 5 hour + flight and we’re delayed an hour, but it’s pretty painless. I share my gummi bears with the man in the seat beside me and nap.

When we land in St. Lucia I see connecting signs for St. Vincent, Martinique, Mustique, and remember that Mustique was where Princess Margaret hedonistically whiled away her final years (you can rent her villa now! it comes with 6 staff!). Channeling my own inner royal, I booked a helicopter ride to the resort. Nothing so plebian as getting carsick on a winding mountainy road for me!

Princessey-ness makes me impatient. We have to wait for two people for the helicopter and I mentally roll my eyes and harumph “this isn’t so much faster than driving would be!

The flight is actually an absolute joy. I thought I might feel motion sick, but it’s like floating, totally peaceful. It’s stopped raining and there are rainbows punctuating the rainforest all around us. The pilot tours us up the coast and sets us down gently. The other couple with me and I can’t stop raving about how magical it is.

Then there’s traffic between the local airport and the resort and we’re back to the ground.

Day 2: (Saturday)

IMG_3421The one major thing I wanted to do this week is climb the Gros Piton, the big pointy “volcanic plug” that’s in all the iconic images of the island. I booked the off-resort trek for my first day, thinking that I would get the 6 am start time out of the way and then sleep in the rest of the week.

Six a.m. (5 in my inner clock) is a cranky start, and ignoring the whole tropical paradise-scape unfolding in front of me, I locate the early set up for coffee and banana bread.  Then it’s a bit of a clusterfuck — the resort forgot to book the guide/driver. I remember that this is why I don’t like fancy hotels: I get five times as cross and impatient when things go wrong. The internal “if I’m paying this much I expect better…” track that serves no one starts to roll in my head. They wake someone up who shows up 45 minutes late and I manage to reset my crankiness and we have a glorious time climbing a strenuous 2000 feet of very scrambly ascent in 90 minutes. (More about this later).

Later, I lie in the hammock, have my first wellness treatment (lime and coconut scrub), and eat at the fancy restaurant. I upgrade my food choice from the inclusive menu to the seafood platter. I asked to be seated alone, not at the communal table, because I want to just read and eat by myself. Then I realize I recklessly wrote “birthday” on the registration form when they asked if there was a special occasion (this was a birthday present to myself, but my actual birthday was in early February), and I endure the serving staff singing happy birthday to me and bringing me a decorated plate, while the other patrons look somewhat pityingly at this poor woman celebrating her birthday alone.

I blow out the candle and smile.

Day 3: (Sunday)

I look at the list of classes I can do today, and get a bit paralysed. So many options. I go to 9:15 body stretch (I need it after the Piton hike), and then miss my opportunity for Caribbean Dance Fit because I faff about. I see the real threat of FOMO (fear of missing out) starting to emerge here. I spend a moment pouting that the resident Yogi is off for the day, then I set off for an off-resort walk/run.

It’s hilly and hot but perfect until I feel my arms crinkle in the sun and start to worry about burning them. I spot another pale guy changing a tire under a vehicle by the side of the road and ask him if he happens to have any sunblock. Weirdly enough, he’s too distracted by keeping his vehicle from falling on him to search for toiletries for me. I toil back home and then jump straight into the ocean.

Later, I take out a paddleboard for a while then do my first ever aqua fit class. Most of the older women in the pool haven’t exercised in years and are tentative even getting into the water. The instructor knows how to jolly them along with encouragement and Wham. I’m taken by a young blonde woman having a blast. We both punch the water hard.

Later, I upgrade my daily treatment to something with hot oily rocks, watch a really beautiful sunset, and then go for my fancy chef’s dinner. I upgrade the wine pairings.

I sleep for 10 hours that night.

Day 4 (Monday):


It’s overcast and we’re having a weird climate-changey infestation of seaweed. All of the watersport guys and a bunch of random local people are on the beach picking up and bagging this stuff that is apparently swimming over from Africa. There are bulldozers and much consternation. The seaweed is being tossed up by giant breakers that would make going in the water impossible even it if wasn’t covered in a gross skim of weeds.

I toy with the idea of Doing Nothing but my FOMO kicks in. I can’t seem to lie around and read for more than half an hour without feeling like I’m missing my only opportunity ever to learn how to do Krav Maga or Merengue.  I look at a map to figure out the routes for the organized morning walks I never go on and take myself for a two hour walk, punctuated with running some short humid hill repeats.

I listen to a fantastic podcast interview about a pioneering woman ocean explorer and conservationist, who says something like the fact that sentient life exists at all is a miracle and that we should savour every moment. I’m savouring these hills and the view across the sea to Martinique, and the wild ponies who just show up beside the road.  The FOMO finally recedes.

My third treatment takes place outside in a weird massage chair, focusing on my head and back. It feels good but exposed. While I’m being petted, I’m FOMO-ing that maybe I should have upgraded to the thai/shiatsu massage.

I try to finish the day with a peaceful yoga class, but halfway into the class the Zen Treehouse Deck is suddenly assaulted with huge puffs of mosquito fog. The yoga teacher is distraught, saying that they were supposed to wait until we were done. I roll up my mat and take my asthmatic self to the gym for an upper body workout, which is just like any other gym anywhere, people sweating and lifting things in a climate controlled environment. Unlike at home, though, when I’m done, I drink a gin and tonic and watch the sunset in my gym clothes.

I upgrade my dinner again, and then feel like I shouldn’t have.

Day 5: Tuesday

The seaweed has vanished overnight, and it’s all tropical semi-paradise again. I do all the things: a hoppy core vinyasa class, a good hot run, and a full body massage from my first massage therapist ever who is fully visually impaired. As I lie there and she feels her way around my privileged tissue, I wonder what it took for her to go to school in a country that’s not very well set up for people with disabilities.

I finish with a sunset yoga class that isn’t overcome with poison fog, keep my eyes open in Shivasana so I can look at the leaves and sky.  I eat dinner without upgrades.

Day 6: (Wednesday)

I cram everything I can into my final half day, starting with a 7 am spin class, a facial, and an hour of bobbing in the waves. Today is perfect weather and the perfect sea, and I don’t want to let it go. I finally found a rhythm of balance between movement and stillness.

I pay the bill for my upgrades and am picked up for my helicopter return journey. As always happens when you try to recreate magic, this pilot is kind of a jerk. He takes us straight across the island into the wind, wiggling and dropping the machine on purpose to make us scream. I’m about five minutes away from vomiting on him when we land.


Despite that, I note how chill and relaxed I am at the airport. My business partner laughs at me when I text him and asks how long it will last.

I couldn’t arrange an upgrade for the flight back, and it’s cramped and long. The man next to me has brought literally nothing to do. I want to inform him that farting and jiggling your leg for five hours shouldn’t be a way for an adult man to amuse himself.

Home, I am grateful for the shape of this opportunity, for the money and time and other privileges I have that gave me this window of relaxation. I realize how much I struggle with savouring what is there, with the very real sense that there are so many other things one could be doing at any given time. For me, as always, the lesson is to find peacefulness with where I am right at any given moment. Having a whole resort where the point is to move your body and to have the aches of your body taken care of is a pretty good space to do that in. Just leave the FOMO at home.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who blogs here on the 2nd Friday and 3rd Saturday of the month as well as other random times.


#lovethegymagain (part 2): personal training

I wrote last week about falling in love with the gym again, and about being grateful to be in such an accessible, welcoming space full of people moving their bodies in the ways that work for them.  But there’s another reason I’m loving the gym right now:  I have a much greater focus than I’ve had in a long time because I worked with a personal trainer for just one session to develop an upper body workout plan that I can do on my own.

IMG_0127Personal training has never been a thing for me, except for a brief stint 23 years ago when I had the chance to work with a new pilates instructor one-on-one before she opened her now veteran studio.  That was a long time ago, but my time with her helped me develop a deep understanding of core work as foundational to everything else I do, and I still incorporate some of the moves we did together into my regular routine.  Despite that, I never felt a need to work with another personal trainer.

Mostly over the past two decades I’ve been a runner and a cyclist who looks at the gym to stay a wee bit in shape during the times it’s too horrible out to move outside.  (I admit I’m a winter running wimp, and I put away the bike at the end of October). Last fall, though, I became sort of self-consciously aware that while I was doing plenty of running and riding/spinning, and occasional yoga classes, I really wasn’t doing anything focused for my upper body.  I would go to the weights/conditioning section of my gym and sort of half-assedly move weights around, using various phone apps for suggestions on how to lift things well.  Then I had a brainstorm.

The 218 in 2018 group Sam and I have written about a lot is organized by Jason, a pal of Sam’s who runs a personal training and coaching business. I liked the way Jason-the-trainer answered questions on our facebook group, and I happened to be going to Saskatoon for work, where Jason lives.  So I booked a personal training session with him, and asked him to help me develop an upper body freeweight workout.

IMG_7846It was deep winter when I arrived in Saskatoon, and my flight was late, so I went straight from the airport to Jason’s gym.  The world immediately went from frozen to warm, both in actual temperature (Saskatoon is COLD in early February!) and in the way Jason and his colleagues welcomed me.  Because of the FB group, I felt like I already knew him, and we dived right in.

Before we met, Jason asked me a bunch of questions about how much I worked out, the mix of things I do, and why I wanted to focus on my upper body.  He told me he’d come up with a plan and teach it to me in our in-person session.


When I got there, he was all set up with a white board with three different sets of five exercises he’d designed for me.  The intention was for me to start with the first one for about a month, then when I got comfortable, move onto number 2, then number 3.  The first routine was more basic and included exercises I’m familiar with — but rarely do.  By the time we got to the third set, it was mostly new-to-me things.  This made me happy.

In our in-person session, Jason and I had a great time working out together.  He taught me about the three different planes of the body and how it’s important to build fitness in all of them.  (I can’t name them, but I can show you with hand gestures).  We joked that he and I have the same body type — not too tall, quick to build muscle and strength, not too flexible and quick to build softness and roundness.  Because of that I felt far more comfortable working out with him than the tall, super-muscley, 10% body fat guys who lead the bootcamp classes at my Y.  He also subtly made me feel strong, observing my form in planks and pushups, noting that I have good control over my body, gently making adjustments and suggestions to correct my habits of relying on certain muscle groups.

Within our 45 minute workout, I immediately recognized that I always ignore my triceps and that I have more discipline than I have been drawing on.  Even though we were working mostly with dumbbells and elastic straps, the big scary machines were demystified for me, and I had a new felt sense of the right level of weights for different moves.

I returned home and to my Y with an actual sense of fun and excitement about incorporating a 30 minute weight workout to my existing time at the gym once or twice a week.  It’s been four weeks, and I feel like I’ve “mastered” the form on the first set of exercises and gone up one weight set in each of them.  I’ve discovered I actually like to watch myself lift small weights into upright rows in the mirror — it makes me feel strong and reinforces my desire to work harder.

I don’t think it’s an accident that I’ve already done 50 workouts so far this year — it feels good to feel like I know what I’m doing, and to have a sense of my growing strength.  And it feels good to feel competent around the guys in the weight area who are a foot taller than I am.


Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works in Toronto when she’s not flying all over the world.  She is a regular contributor to the blog.









#lovethegymagain (part 1): communal spaces

There’s a fancy gym on the way to my not-fancy gym that has the hashtag #lovethegymagain in the window. I was stopped in front of there on the streetcar the other day and I thought, You know what? I DO love the gym again.


I’ve written a lot in the past year about the different things that help me get energized about working out, ranging from my weird joy in counting things and acquiring FitBit badges to the motivation of the 218 in 2018 workout group. And right now, I’m enjoying my actual GYM more than I have in a very long time. I’ve belonged to my local YMCA for about 18 months and I found myself striding around the equipment a couple of weeks ago looking around at the incredible variety of people working out and just beaming at being part of this communal enactment of fitness.

When I was in my early 30s and was starting to become a long-distance runner, I loved working out at the U of T athletic centre. The seriousness of sharing a track with elite runners made me train harder and it helped me actually think of myself as an actual athlete for the first time. Now, as I explore the whole notion of fitness as part of aging well, I find I love working out in an environment filled with people across the entire spectrum of mobility and fitness.


This Y was built as part of the 2015 Pan Am games, and it’s actually the legacy building of those kinds of games that communities always hope for. It’s a shiny, clean, well-designed and open space. It was built as a family-oriented and accessible space, and while there are certainly serious and pumped guys in the weights area, and super-fit runners on the track, they are threaded through with kids and people doing every manner of things to move their bodies.

The first clue to the diversity is the pile of wet boots you trip over when you  go into the women’s change room. Toronto, January. But the thing is? Half these boots belong to kids. Many of those kids are here for the excellent pool, or for the kid-specific programs like indoor soccer. But while I’m toiling away on the treadmill, there are also kids running around the track with their parents.


A couple of weeks ago, on one of those “you have to be kidding me” weather days, there was one kid running around the track wearing a superman cape, his dad carefully shepherding him into the slow lane. On the mats outside the studios, there were two dads with three little kids doing planks and downward dogs. The two older kids worked hard to do the planks properly while the littlest one crawled underneath his brother. When I was feeling like a Super Serious Runner, all of these kids might have made me anxious that they were going to Get in my Way. Now, I find it absolutely delightful. Even when one of the parents walking around the track with her kid is a woman I went on one not-great date with a few years ago ;-).

In this gym, mostly I use the treadmill, the track, the elliptical and the weights. There are a ton of classes but I rarely take them — I just like the gym. I like the natural light and the way the machines overlook the gymnasium and the pool, and the fact that the weights/conditioning area is in the middle of everything else so never takes on the weird boys-only exclusionary tinge those areas often do at the gym. I like the way there are stacks of mats and small dumbbells in different places so you can use every inch of the space but it never feels crowded. And I like that it all feels so inviting.


As I’m toiling away, I am grateful for my body, and I’m grateful that I’m part of creating a space that is accessible and welcoming to people using wheelchairs, women breastfeeding, people of all body sizes and fitness capacities, women wearing hijabs, and parents who either want their kids looked after while they work out or who want to work out with their kids. On the 218 in 2018 group, we often end up talking about how parents can make time to work out and we usually end up talking about how to get time away from kids — this gym challenges that paradigm.

While I was doing my upper body workout last week, there was a yoga class going on in the bigger studio. There was a young girl — about 10 — next to the window, doing the class with her mom or another adult person. She was super intent on doing the postures well. I paused for a moment and watched this little girl doing a powerful warrior pose. My heart swelled. It was everything I ever hoped for from a fitness space.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives, works and works out in Toronto. She is a regular contributor to this blog.



My 218 Workouts — Guest post from Leslie Zborovski

Leslie spinningWhen an active and inspiring friend and colleague invited me to join the 218 Workouts in 2018 group, I eagerly joined.  I started my fitness journey three years ago, and went from being pretty inactive to regularly getting in 6 workouts per week.  I was excited to tally my efforts.

I was enjoying a lazy day and hadn’t planned to do a workout on January 1st, but when I logged into Facebook late in the day and saw tons of “218 in 2018” posts all over my newsfeed, I decided then and there to stand up and do something active.  Just 15 minutes of lower body stuff (squats, lunges) and some yoga poses and stretching all while watching TV.  I counted it.  Workout #1.  It was purposeful movement.  The posts from the group members made me do it.  I didn’t want to fall behind.

Most of my workouts are typically more intense.  I take two 55 minute spin classes each week and get in three 90 minute strength sessions plus a yoga or movement class.  But, on a day last week that I just couldn’t bear to go out through the snow to go to the gym, I still managed a 30 minute yoga video that I found on Youtube and did in my living room.  It counted.  Workout #33.  Purposeful movement counts in my books.

In addition to being motivated by contributing and being a part of the Facebook group, I also decided to track my minutes per workout and totals in my spreadsheet.  In the first 6 weeks of the year, I have spent over 2500 active minutes in the gym! That’s incredibly motivating to know, and I feel proud, empowered and strong!

I relished adding two entries today having done spin and then a movement class. I have discovered I am a bit competitive (or maybe very competitive!?) even if it’s just with myself to keep up my pace.

Leslie chooses to be active to focus on overall health and wellbeing and to set a good example for her family. As pictured in the photo, Leslie spins in the SPIN To Conquer Cancer fundraising event in support of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, raising research dollars in memory of her friend Ellen who passed way from Multiple Myeloma in March 2015. 



And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Late Fragment, Raymond Carver


It’s my birthday today (Thursday). At 53, I’m reflecting on what it means to feel beloved on the earth. I’m feeling beloved on the earth.


One of the best things about social media is the way that pretty much everyone you’ve ever met is reminded that it’s your birthday, and people come out of every nook and cranny to say nice things to you. Suddenly, threads of the full network of your life are visible and shimmering, intertwined connections and memories and a sense of being beloved, being embedded in a bigger world, memories shooting you off in every direction you’ve ever been.

Today, my mesh was large, but the ones that caught me between the knees were from several of the young women in the project in Uganda I’ve been a volunteer Director of for more than 10 years. One read “To the most amazing powerful woman in my life, Aunt Cate, i bless God for you.thank you for the selfless heart and big love for us. Enjoy this beautiful day ,may the coming years be more fruitful. I love u dear.”

The first time I went to Uganda, in 2008, these girls had shaved heads and no clothing but thin school uniforms and whispered to me in very halting English, eating from plates of posho and beans on a dirty porch. That they would become shining, beautiful, confident adults in university, posting on Facebook, was an impossibility.


I took the day off today on my birthday, and started at the gym, running 53 minutes (to match my age on the treadmill). That’s a long time on the treadmill, and I haven’t run that far since last August. I ran more slowly than 43 year old Cate would have imagined possible. But I felt strong. An impossibility.


What am I grateful for? I’ve blogged a lot in the past couple of years about engaging with the experience of aging, and what gratitude feels like at mid-life. I have a long list of gratitudes that I’m in touch with most of the time. First, a healthy body, even if it’s getting a bit tattered and achy and unpredictable and a lot slower. I have deeply engaging and meaningful work. And I have enough money and privilege and time and energy to ride my bike and walk and run all over the planet.

But more, I have all the people who reflect back the me I most want to be.


Birthdays bring reflection about legacy. What am I making that will endure beyond me? The version of me that is Auntie Cate is making something profound, the 52 kids who have been part of our learning project in Uganda. My relationships with my nieces and nephews, blood and chosen. The tucked-in closeness of sisters and cousins as mid-life has brought new griefs and the need to be the adults when all the uncles started dying. Deep connection with people who have been so many different things to and with me. People who are stronger leaders because of my ability to give them some insight. Words that connect.


At 53, I’m more in touch with the magic of impossibility than I was 10 or 20 or 30 years ago. After I turned the corner of 50, I found my own grounding, my own confidence. I’ve been single, more or less, for nearly three years, and for the first time in my life, being single hasn’t been pot-holed with yearning. The kind of yearning that leads to Bad Decisions. For the moment, I feel like I’ve been able to let go of what the Buddhists describe as “grasping,” always being more present to what you don’t have than what you do. I know who I am and what I have, and that brings a profound calm.


Some of my web of people donated money to our Uganda project today. Trust in what we are doing. Trust in impossibilities. Here’s the link if you are so moved. It will be well used. Amazing how that trust weaves more of a sense of being beloved.


Me on my 50th birthday, at the Pacific ocean. Not as grounded as today.

What do I know I that I didn’t know 10 years ago? I went back and looked at my first post for this blog, from 2.5 years ago. It was partly about turning 50. 50 was so much more unsettled for me than 53. Now I feel in my cells a deep comfort with running slowly, knowing that moving is more important than competing. Knowing that looking forward is as much about thinking about how to sustain joy, health, connection, mobility as it is about exploring, discovering. That intimacy comes in so many powerful forms. That inhabiting space with cats is grounding and joyful. That I can hold hard boundaries in a loving way. That most things that beset other people are not my circus, not my monkeys, and I can be here to be an ear without getting drawn in. That there is a great, encircling peace in being alone on a mountain, on a canyon trail, on a bike, on a lazy stretch of a Sunday afternoon.



What do I want from the next 10 years? For the first time in my life, simple more of what I have now. Breakfasts with one of my favourite humans in my new favourite neighbourhood place. Feeling like I’m in sync with what my body can do, and knowing it’s as strong and powerful as it can be. Connections. Working at my best with people who value what I bring. People who know me. Exploring all the spaces on this planet. I dreamed last night that I discovered a new glorious icy, oceanic country between Estonia and Iceland that had a local design store where everything I picked up made me look good. I want to keep looking for the places in the world that make me feel this way.


A couple of years ago, the New York Times made a splash with the “36 questions that will make you fall in love” with someone. During my birthday massage, I realized that you can ask the questions that make you fall in love with your own life.

Naked faced Cate at 53, with post-massage messy hair

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who was born at 11:45 pm February 8, 1965.