I’ve been in Baltimore this weekend for a post-wedding party; a dear friend’s daughter got married this summer in Europe in a small family ceremony, and they’re celebrating with a big group of friends and family back home where they live.
One of my favorite outings of the weekend was a visit to one of the local farmers markets. I love farmers markets– they give you a great view of the artisanal food culture, and of course there’s wonderful people-watching! This market didn’t disappoint on any fronts: there were loads of folks, live music (a very good jazz trumpeter), a brightly colored school bus with an ample supple of hippie clothing and accessories, and vendors selling locally sourced and produced comestibles.
Which gets me to the lure and fantasy part of my visit.
I’m never more entranced by brussels sprouts and microgreens and king oyster mushrooms than when I’m out of town, visiting friends, and very far away from my own kitchen. Yes, I do cook at home– with vegetables even– but I tend to stick to a narrower range of foods. My work and home and social and family life feel extra-busy these days. I just don’t have the mental space to conjure up a romanesco dish for dinner.
But, when I’m on vacation, my inner supertaster and chef come out to play in my imagination. Sure, I could use some more flavored oils and vinegars. Mangoes? Yes please. Oh, what a salad I could fashion from lovely microgreens, those cute watermelon radishes and tricolored carrots. And of course I’ll take a bag of apples!
It has happened from time to time that my fantasy took over reality while visiting some far-from-home farmers market and I loaded up on fruits and veggies, intending to haul them home on a plane or train. Generally, things didn’t end well: there was lots of bruising of fruit, complaining by me about extra bags, and even resentment of the extra cooking work I took on once I got back to my regular life. No, my fantasy meals cooked up in my imagination should not be acted upon. At least not while out of town.
But why can’t I indulge my gastronomic fantasies closer to home? Can I pick a seasonal food I want to experiment with and go to one of the many markets near my house? You know, I could. It would require intention and setting aside time from cleaning/grading/laundry/social activity/everything else. But, it’s doable. Hmmm, something to think about. I’ll report back on the results of this idea, along with documentation of any creative and gustatory output.
Readers, do you love out-of-town farmers markets? How do you keep from loading up on berries and fresh bread? I’d love to hear from you.
We’ve been choosing words of the year for a few years here at Fit is a Feminist Issue. Here’s our post announcing our words last year. In this post, we reflect on how well our words have served us. We ask ourselves if we made the right choice given the way our lives turned out.
My word was “explore.” I appreciate how January Elan gave me permission to try things without judgement, but I now reflect on how realistic that was for me. Because you can only explore something for so long. And knowing my insecurities, it is difficult for me to withhold self-judgment, especially when, in groups, I am called upon to perform. So, as I face a busy fall with a new hobby that challenges me enormously, I think I would change—or perhaps pair—my word “explore” with the word “commit.” December Elan is going to commit to see through what she’s been exploring.
My word was Accept. The shoulder issues that plagued me for much of the year forced more acceptance of my physical frailties than I had planned. I did exceed my own expectations on some cycling goals and I’m happy to be well in my way to qualifying as a swim instructor. Over the year I have moved from accepting my impending retirement to being eager for the next stage in life.
My word has been Allow. Turns out, allowing is hard, especially regarding myself. Allowing myself to do less, to be what and where and who I am at the moment, requires courage. The times I’ve done this– said and done and shown what I needed and what I needed not– have been mostly positive. I’ve discovered that my friends and family already know who and what I am, and they’re happy to support me and let me be me. Not that I don’t get reminders and gentle nudges to do and be what I need to be in the world. For the most part, I appreciate that.. 🙂 So yes, Allowing is something I recommend for anyone shopping for a 2024 word.
My word of the year was “grow.” And I still love and embrace it. I may even reprise it! I’ve used it in the sense of growing in areas that are already my own–growth as deepening and strengthening–as well as in the sense of trying new things–growth as expanding and widening my horizons. In my very good moments I have a real sense of “watch out world, here I come” and “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” As I approach 60, I’m excited about the decade ahead. Zoom, zoom!
My WOTY for 2023 was Purpose. I said that I didn’t want it to be “purpose with pressure”. More about “purposely looking for fulfilling opportunities, whether at work or at the gym.
I feel I’ve been successful, in that way, in my career. I was looking for a new job in 2023 and landed on one in April that suits me quite well. It fits the bill in terms of the type of “purpose” I am looking for in my career.
At the gym, I continued with my regular routine, which I continue to find purposeful. My workout routine keeps me physically strong and mentally content.
I am purposely thinking of what my word will be for 2024.
I also want to mention that my word for 2023 was Blossom and then became Envision. That word “Envision” is still impactful in my life. I think of it in my regular mantras and when I am feeling I need an inner push to “envision” myself doing things that scare me or that I worry I am not “up to” or “good enough” for. So, I think WOTY can carry over, from year to year, in meaningful ways.
My “consolidate” materialized in a strong twice a week weight lifting workout. It meant saying “yes” to doing new things with friends and family that deepened our connection. I took a drawing class with my beloved in the spring and a pottery class with a friend from work.
I settled into my new home and after a year living here it truly feels like home. It felt good to think about solidifying and appreciating rather than stretching and striving.
I have absolutely loved my word of the year: THRIFT. As I said in my original post, it’s not “thrift” as in thrift shopping. It’s “thrift” as in being thrifty or frugal overall. It has mostly kept me on point with my “no-buy challenge,” in which I have bought almost no clothing, jewelry, accessories, shoes or photography equipment since December 2022. I say “almost” because I bought one new pair of running shoes (which were essential for taking care of my feet) and one new work bag (which had to be done since my old one was tattered and looking really unprofessional). I also had two photography equipment lapses: a new, smaller camera bag (which was my only buyer’s remorse situation of 2023) and a new 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, which was my only splurge of the year, purchased for myself as a birthday present–no buyer’s remorse. I loved the freedom (yes, freedom!) of knowing that shopping for things I would normally be shopping for were just off the table, and things that I was shopping (such as things in categories outside of the no-buy parameters and the new lens) had to be properly sourced, price-compared, and thought through. I feel as if using “thrift” as my guide this year has re-oriented my spending in a more mindful direction that has created a lasting shift.
My word of the year was create. I go through phases where I might not even be able to name my word in week or month chunks, but I kept coming back to this particular one and trying to sit with it, especially when I was frazzled. Making things (knitting and sewing, primarily) and creating ideas (mostly professional-minded) has kept me sane through a year with some curveballs. I’ve had to be very protective of my creative energy and remember that “No” is a complete sentence so I am not drained of my creative spark.
Okay–my word was “welcome” and whoa this has been a year. First, my 28-year marriage dissolved definitively, and with that I lost my home and financial security. Welcome. Then my beloved 17-year-old cat died in my arms. Welcome. Then I got tired and more tired and even more tired. Until I ended up in the hospital, where they saved my heart from stopping. After which ensued months of mystery around what was wrong with me and why my potassium level was dangerously high. Now solved by daily medication. Welcome. Me and my WOTY have not always been on the best of terms this year. In fact, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the word has not even stuck in my brain. When we did a mid year reflection, I’d forgotten my word. And I had to look it up again today for this reflection. Welcome. And yet, in the last couple of months, as my health has returned, I have noticed more welcome in my world. And I welcome the end of this year and the feeling the new year gives of new possibility, as random and arbitrary as January 1 is.
The other day I read an interview with the slow-running, glasses-wearing TikTok sensation Erin Azar, aka Mrs Space Cadet. She is an offbeat, self-made athlete, but one thing she does share with other more conventional runners is that she has a running coach.
Her experience got me thinking about my experience with coaches. For most of my early life I’ve had a vague and unexamined sense that coaches were a luxury item for those who could afford more than group fitness classes (not me). Or, coaches were only for top performance athletes, like those training for the Olympics (also not me). Aside from being on community softball teams with supportive parents, I have never really had a dedicated (volunteer or paid) coach for motivation, safety, or performance in a physical activity.
Now, as I engage more in recreational fitness activities during mid-life, I am more curious to know what I might have been missing.
What I do have (and have always had) is an interest in hearing the perspectives of passionate, knowledgeable people. Maybe that’s why I’ve enjoyed posting interviews on FIFI. Michael Collins, who coaches and trains first-time weightlifters, helped me to understand how coaching can make a sport more approachable and accessible. Longtime curlers Dale Sinclair and Joanne Tarvit taught me about the enduring role that curling plays in bringing family and community together. Coach, player, and referee Kayla Marcoux got me thinking about how officiants can support the safety of players in different soccer leagues.
Over the past few years I’ve come to realize that these folks (and others) have all been, in some way, my coaches. They’ve helped me to learn about my new-ish fitness activities or unlearn some of my prior assumptions and fears. When I take the time to ask players I admire for their input or advice, I benefit in so many ways. And most times I don’t think they mind me asking!
So, while I have never had A coach, I know I have the humility and confidence to seek learning and feedback opportunities from different people. What I lack in early life sports and fitness training I make up for now in mid-life with being coachable.
What is your experience with coaches (past or present)? How coachable are you?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 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.
SOME OTHERS I’D RECOMMEND
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!
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 road.cc 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.
First, we watched NORSEMAN: THE WORLD’S TOUGHEST TRIATHLON.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So spas and exercise… they kind of go together, maybe? For me, the power of solidarity, and an alternate opportunity to connect was meaningful.