Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Canada Day!

To celebrate Canada Day this year, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of sleeping in, I'm going to get up super early and run 5K. Seems like a sensible thing to do to celebrate the birth of our great nation, right?

As I won't be up early enough to post before I go to my run, and I'll be too busy dying from it after:


Monday, June 28, 2010

Consistent in my inconsistency

If there's one thing I'm learning about myself (well, already knew but have really confirmed) in this whole process, it's that I'm inconsistent. I'm really good (hee hee, I just typed god. Ego much?) at sticking to something for a week and then I let it slip a bit, then I start doing it again and a week later I'm back to not doing it. Healthy eating, going to the gym, walking to work (well, I'm usually really good with that one this time of year, that's more a weather dependent-halting to the habit), drinking enough water, the list is pretty much endless. The good news that I do always end up giving it another go, but wouldn't my life just be easier if I didn't stop in the first place?

As a result of this realisation, my big green lists are back from last year, but this time I'm using them to track my progress. I spent much of my free time this weekend making the various check lists and various calendars all of various sizes and sticking them around my apartment in various locations. Every day that I plan my eating gets a check mark. Every day that I stick to that plan? Another check mark. Every time I go to the gym three times in a week? That's right, check mark. Despite causing my apartment to look a wee bit like a spare set from A Beautiful Mind, I'm hoping that the big charts will help keep me on track.

It's not quite this bad... yet.

Well, it's great that I'm planning on doing this for a month, but shouldn't there be a consequence if I don't do it or a reward if I do? Yes, there should be. Unfortunately, I spent so much of my weekend either being social or making my lists that I didn't get that far in my planning. That will be tonight's job.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Happy Twentieth Anniversary, FAI!

Head's up: This post has absolutely nothing to do with anything health related. I am taking a stroll down memory lane and I invite you to join me if you want. Also, it's really just a stream of consciousness. You have been warned!
Twenty years ago, my life, and the life of Irish people the world over, changed forever. Today, twenty years ago, was the day that Ireland beat Romania 5-4 in penalty kicks in Italia '90. It was the day that all of Ireland stopped, waited with baited breath, and roared in unison at the end. I may have been 8 time zones away, but you better believe I roared too.

Italia '90 is the first World Cup I really remember watching. I have vague memories of a World Cup party prior to that, but I couldn't tell you who was playing or what the score was. Italia '90 was so burned in my memory partly because I was 10 and finally able to actually follow sports and partly because it was Ireland's first time at the World Cup. As I have mentioned before, my dad is an Irish immigrant. As much as I love Canada, when it comes to soccer (and rugby), Ireland is my team. Italia '90 made sure of that.

The years leading up to Ireland finally appearing in the World Cup were filled with highs (beating England in Euro '88... another game I remember with fond memories) and lows (the squabbles in the media between Eamon Dunphy, former player and Jackie Charlton, coach) but all that was forgotten when Ireland made it past the Round Robin stage. They were slated to play against Romania, at that time a dominant force in the soccer world (not so much now) and the general agreement was that 'the boys in green' had had a good run but it would be coming to an end. Still, it didn't stop everyone I know with the smallest sliver of Irish blood in them from crowding around their TV set in the hope that a miracle would happen.

My dad had invited a few friends around to watch and to follow it up with a BBQ. I can't remember exactly who was there, but I do remember there weren't enough seats and so I spent the entire game trying to get comfortable on the floor. It was a tense game, Romania attacking aggressively and Ireland building a defensive wall which rivaled the Berlin wall. Despite Romania's best efforts, not a single shot made it into the net and the teams were forced into extra time. You could see the frustration in the faces of the Romanian players. As much as I love Ireland, I remember Romania being the better team that day and deserving to win, but 'better team' doesn't always mean much when it comes to the final score. After extra time did nothing to change the result, a penalty shoot-out was inevitable.

I have never in my life heard my dad so quiet. Ever. Even when he sleeps he snores loud enough to wake the whole house, but he was silent during those penalty kicks. Romania was up first and they netted an easy one. Then Ireland, then Romania. Back and forth it went for the first four goals. The players would walk from the centre circle were they had to stay between kicks, place the ball where they wanted, and then score. Each time, the stadium erupted with cheers from that team's section. The score stood at 4-4 as Packie Bonner, Ireland's goalie, took his place on the goal line. He dropped his head and said a prayer (I know because he crossed himself when he was done) as Daniel Timofte strode up to the ball and got ready.

The problem with penalty kicks is that the goalie can not move until the player has made contact with the ball. In all honesty, a goalie will have already chosen which side they're going to dive to before the player has even touched the ball. You have a 50-50 chance of being right, and if you wait until the player has touched the ball, you have a 100% chance of being too late to stop the ball. Odds are better if you guess at a side and just go with it. Well, Packie guessed right on that last ball and he stopped it. My dad let out a loud yelp of joy as he jumped out of his seat. I remember being on my knees, not fully believing what I was seeing. I was waiting for the referee to call back the penalty shot for some unknown reason, to give Daniel Timofte another crack at it. Thankfully, my imagined doom was just that, imagined.

As David O'Leary walked up the field towards the goal, I got to my feet never once taking my eyes off the screen. This was it. This was our moment. Ireland would either do this, or we would all die of heart attacks before this game was over. I remember that O'Leary seemed to take forever to get the ball just right. I hated him for it in that moment, for prolonging my agony, but later I would think him the wisest man to have ever taken a penalty kicked. He ran on the ball and kicked it straight into the back of the net. A cheer erupted from our living room, and in the moment of celebration, my dad took his full glass of red wine and threw it at our freshly-painted white wall. There was jumping, screaming, hugging, singing, dancing, yelling, laughing, and a couple of toasts. Ireland had done the impossible. They were going to the quarter-finals.

We had barely caught our collective breath when our phone began to ring. Lorcan, Hugh, Mary, Eileen, Kevin, every single one of my dad's four brothers and five sisters (one aunt had passed away, my dad is one out of 11) phoned us that day. I remember yelling into the phone a lot and singing along with voices an entire continent and ocean away from me. I longed to be with them, to jump, scream, hug, sing, dance, yell, and laugh with them. I don't think I have ever missed my Irish family or longed so much to be in Ireland as I did that day. When we all settled down hours later, my voice was gone. I like to think that I gave it to Ireland that day.

June 25, 1990 was the day I became a soccer fan. I had played soccer and I enjoyed soccer, but I had never loved soccer like I did that day and have since. I watched Ireland lose the next game to the host team, Italy. I watched in USA '94 as Ireland lost to Holland in the Round of 16 and as Roberto Baggio (Italy) placed a penalty kick so high above the cross bar I wondered if he needed glasses. I watched the final of France '98 while having lunch with my mom when France beat Brazil. Ireland had failed to qualify so I was cheering for the host country (this, of course, was prior to the Handball Henry debacle which will now ensure I hate France for the rest of my natural life). I watched Manchester United win the Treble on the world's tiniest TV while befriending the front door staff at a hostel in Paris. I watched Thun almost hold Arsenal to a tie in a pub in Thun. I hosted a pancake breakfast for the final game of Germany '06 and felt my jaw drop as Zinedine Zidane did the unthinkable to Marco Materazzi. All these memories in my life, all these important moments, tied into the beautiful game all because Ireland beat Romania in penalty kicks. What would have happened if they had lost?

My dad had taped the game, and we would watch it over and over again. I eventually started repeating the announcers as I walked around the house to make my family laugh. My dad even taped it and sent it to Ireland; when I was there in 1996, my uncle played it for me. My cousin, Frank, recently related his story of watching the game at home with his family and my cousin, Cormac (and I'm assuming all of Cormac's family but that never came up in the story) and when the game ended, they ran outside to re-enact the penalty shoot out on the green over and over again. Their memories of Italia '90 were as strong as mine, and it made me happy to know that despite growing up so far from my family, we had common moments in our lives that we would all remember.

I have come to believe that there will never be a sport moment in my life as sweet as Ireland's win over Romania. Soccer, hockey, rugby, there will be no game, no matter how important, that will stay with me the way that game did. Twenty years later, I watch a video about it and I tear up with pride at that moment. I talk about Italia '90 the way older Canadians talk about the '72 series. I reference that game like it was somehow pinnacle to the entire game of soccer and not just the island nation of Ireland. My children will know how important that game was, and likely my grandchild will too, because it really was that important.

Many thanks to Cormac for the video link.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

All My Loves Combined

I feel like I have been ignoring my blog because, well, I have. Since coming home from the wedding, I've been spending all my extra time working on this:

What you see here is the rough draft of my very first .pdf creation. The final product looks a little different (but I can't upload .pdf files) but I was very happy with the whole process. I should note that this was sent to all the dance schools and is not the actual product we will be using for advertisement, that's why it's a little vague on the details. I felt awkward spamming all the schools with the same email, but the responses I've gotten back have all been very positive. As much work as all this volunteering has been, I'm loving it. It feels really good to be doing something I feel so passionate about.

I've also been spending a great deal of my time checking out the World Cup. Those of you who know me know that soccer actually comes before hockey in my sports world (gasp, and she calls herself Canadian!) so this is a big deal. Granted, my beloved Ireland did not make it in thanks to Handball Henry so most of my support has gone towards Switzerland (long shot), Côte d'Ivoire (long shot), Ghana (long shot), and anyone playing against France. As if shamed by the knowledge that they shouldn't be at the World Cup, France have done me proud and have failed miserably in all their games. They finished last in their Group and so they will be getting on a plane and returning home to drown their sorrows in a few bottles of wine and some crunchy frog legs. (What wine goes with frog legs? Red? White? Just googled it, dry white wine is apparently best.) Am I bitter? Perhaps.

THR and I moved up in our running time and so we've decided (foolishly?) to sign up for a 5K which starts at 8:00am... on Canada Day... in Sidney. Now, neither of us drives which means catching a bus from downtown at Supid O'clock in the morning. I'll be lucky if I can stay awake to watch the fireworks after that; we must be mad! However, if anyone knows a nice breakfast spot out in Sidney, please let us know. The only place I know that's open for breakfast in Sidney is White Spot, but there must be more! I am tempted to make THR wait with me until Bistro Suisse opens for lunch, but I fear she will eat my arm if we have to wait that long.

Weight Watchers is still going. I was within 'strip off the jeans' of the 5lbs goal but then the weekend of the wedding coincided with a missed Wednesday run so I went up a little bit. I knew I hadn't it the 5 lbs, but I was just really, really hoping I'd break even. Well, I honestly got what I deserved but I'll do better this week. Thankfully, no one can vote you out of WW like they can on the Biggest Loser!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ja-oui-da-yes-si-ndio-ahan Learn to say 'yes'

I had a post all written in my head, but I have to take a moment to rant. I hate roofing tar. It is the only thing in this world that gives me a headache akin to a migraine. I am lucky that I don't actually get migraines so I'm making an assumption based on what people who do get migraines tell me they feel like. I was all stoked for my run today because I was properly prepared for it. Unlike Monday's run where I wasn't properly hydrated and made a not-unhealthy-but-not-great-food-choice for lunch and felt it for the entire run, today I was well hydrated and had planned every last bite I was going to take that day and so this run was going to be awesome. But alas, roofing tar, the Moriarty to my Holmes, made an appearance and instead I've spent the evening lying on my couch with a cold compress on my forehead, offering my first born to which ever deity may be listening. I hate you, roofing tar. Hate. You.

I spent a fabulous weekend in Cedar (the farmland/forested area south of Nanaimo) visiting my stepmom and cheering on a friend to the alter. I had great plans to do some runs while I was up there, but then it ended up being a bit hillier than I'm used to and I was stopping every two minutes to take pictures (such as this one on the right)... well, the thought was there. At least I didn't use the wedding as an excuse to do nothing! I spent a few hours at my new favourite pub, The Crow and Gate. It's the first "English" pub I've been to in Canada where I honestly thought 'yup, they've got it right." Leaving it, you honestly do feel like you should see a small Cotswold village extending from the pub door, or perhaps you'll even spy DCI Barnaby strolling around collecting evidence and eye witness accounts (yes, I'm a dork). The wedding was fabulous with a short ceremony which reflected the happy couple 100% and a great, relaxed, outdoor reception afterwards. I had brought my bottle of wine (people were camping all weekend so it was BYOB) which is worth 12 WW points and planned my weekend accordingly. Not surprisingly, however, I befriended two fellow wine drinkers and before I knew it, we had bogarted two more bottles. Sunday, also not surprisingly, was very, very painful. Oh well, live and learn :)

Back in Victoria, I have spent some time examining where life (or, more to the point, my choices) has taken me and it's strange how things can turn out. A year ago, I went to a Ghanaian fundraiser with a work colleague I didn't know too well. There were supposed to be four of us but the other two backed out and suddenly I was stuck with a social evening with someone I had never said more than three sentences to. Luckily, we hit it off and ate fabulous food while watching Keyke Fare perform. A few months later and I'm taking dance lessons from Keyke Fare's school, Moondance Arts. A few months after that and I have volunteered to help with the organisation of a tour of BC for Ballet Saamato from Conakry, Guinea. The German studying has been put on hold while I brush up on my rusty, rusty French and for the first time in my life, I actually enjoy learning French because I can't wait to learn everything I can about dance from these people. A year ago, I hesitated about going out that night because I was tired and I didn't know the coworker. Today, I'm so glad I made myself go.

I need to say 'yes' to things more often.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I'm Not Dead Yet!

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, I'm just in Cedar for the weekend. Same thing, you say? Yes, it possibly is.

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I meant to update before I left for the weekend of wedding festivities but that didn't happen. I'm back to civilization this evening.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Let This Be a Lesson to You All

Last Saturday night was the bachelorette party of one of my best friends. She's originally from the island and is back to get married, so we headed out for a night on the town together for the first time in four years. I wasn't planning on doing anything too crazy, a drink (maybe two if someone else was buying) and a lot of dancing. We ended up at her favourite bar and were immediately hit on by two drunk navy men who were in Victoria to head out on their first basic training on the ship (as opposed to the basic basic training which all military personnel do on land). They were friendly enough, good conversationalists, and we had a few laughs before they realised our table of six wasn't looking to expand that evening. I got chatting with one of the guys about various sports and I was really enjoying myself except he couldn't stop coughing.

Sunday morning, I didn't feel too great but I chalked it up to lack of sleep. The day passed in a haze of sleepiness. The weather was less than great (it was raining... again) so I was fine with curling up on my couch and feeling *meh*. By Monday morning, I was pretty much ready to call it a day within 10 mins of waking up. The only reason I actually got out of bed was because I had to train a new employee that day... why not make them sick as well? I cancelled my evening run with THR, watched an extra episode of Battlestar Galactica (I'm limiting myself to one episode a day so as not to rush through the awesomeness that is BSG), and crawled into bed at an hour I haven't gone to bed at since I was eight.

I feel better today, but still a little groggy and coughing a lot. At this point, I'm planning on doing my run tomorrow, but I fear I may have to pull it back to shorter intervals until this cough goes away. So let this be a lesson to you all: Navy guys can still get you sick even if you don't sleep with them!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

How About a Star for Being Awesome?

I am 1.2lbs away from my first 5lb sticker and I'm more excited by that then I thought I would be. The amazing thing is that I haven't had to make any huge changes to my eating habits yet, it's mostly been watching the portion sizes and cutting out that extra coffee run during the day. (A personal decision to stop going to Starbucks after four different instances of shoddy service in three weeks and two different locations has helped because it makes it easier to say 'no' when my coworkers head over there. I don't even really like their coffee either, so it's not like it was a hard choice for me to make.) This success without a complete overhaul to my current eating habits is leading me to think I'll continue going as I'm going. I know where I could improve on my diet but I'm not going over my points so I will keep those improvements for my ace-in-the-hole when I either have to lose a point as my weight drops or I hit a plateau. I fear the plateaus, they can be very discouraging, so it's nice to know that I have wriggle room to help me get through them.

I celebrated my 2.8lbs loss this week by buying a package of Reese Peanut Butter Cups and eating one of them. The other two are currently sitting in my tea cupboard, patiently waiting for my next reward. I really am becoming that crazy person who can turn down sweets. I am both shocked and proud of myself. Adding to the pride is the fact that I'm at that time of the month when all I want is chocolate (hence the purchase of the Peanut Butter Cups in the first place) but I'm okay with not eating them. I'm happy, in fact.

I realised I missed a lesson from last week, so here it is: I can now do a hamstring stretch without contorting my body in strange ways. For years, I have only been able to do a hamstring stretch by throwing my leg up and grabbing the back of my sneaker; the hand-across-the-laces was a dream from yesteryear. When you start doing shoeless West African dancing, this stretch becomes the least graceful move you will perform during the hour long class. I was warming up before our year end review last Sunday and while talking with another dancer, I popped up my right leg without even having to brace myself for balance. I was halfway through my left before I realised what I had done. It might seem like a small victory, but it's a step in the right direction and I'll take all of those that I can get.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"You live and learn. At any rate, you live." Douglas Adams

This past week and a bit has been a big learning week for me. I mean, every week I learn something (don't eat even slightly pink chicken!), but there were a lot of lessons and 'a-ha!' moments this week. (I hope everyone is now singing "Take On Me" like I am).

First lesson: celebrating Towel Day doesn't mean much when you're at home where no one sees you or at the gym where everyone is walking around with a towel. So much for educating the masses, I'll just have to stick with singing "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish" while standing at the photocopier at work.

Second: When you plan properly (and use a few of your weekly extra points) you can be really bad on the weekend. Case in point: I celebrated a friend's birthday with three drinks and cheese on Saturday night. Only used 8 extra points. Yay planning! It gives me hope for the next two weekends where I have a bachelorette party and a wedding to attend. I can do this!

Third: Along the same food idea, I have learned that I can have chocolate at my desk and not eat it. See, the weekend I ran the 10K I discovered Côte d'Or Passion Fruit Chocolate and it was pretty much love at first sight. I love Passion Fruit; it's a love I picked up in Tanzania and, unfortunately, I don't get to indulge in very often now that I'm home. I bought one of these and pretty much devoured in within 30 minutes of cracking it open. While trying to make healthier food choices these past few weeks, I decided to needed to work out a reward system and why not make it something I really love? Something I would feel very guilty about if I was to over indulge in my reward? One of these chocolate bars has sat on my desk since last Wednesday. Every day, around my afternoon coffee break, I break of one square and enjoy every last bite of it. I'm amazed for two reasons: 1) When you limit yourself to such a small quantity, you learn to savour it so much more 2) I am still slightly shocked that I haven't just torn into and eaten the whole thing (it's sooooo good). Maybe I can do this whole healthy eating thing...

Fourth: I really love West African Dance and I love the people I've met through it. I participated in our Annual Student Gala on the weekend and it was quite possibly the highlight of the past few months. I threw myself into my dances (I did two) and came out the other side sore and out of breath but so, so happy. I hit all my moves, I jumped as I as I could, and I got lots of compliments from other dancers (and who doesn't like that?) Through MoonDance, I have found a community where my love of song and dance is cherished and my less-than-perfect-physique is loved. Having danced for many years in my childhood, I know how precious that can be. Every person I have talked to has been so friendly, so kind, and so encouraging it's hard to express in words how great that can make a person feel except to say that I look forward to those dances classes in ways I've never looked forward to other group activities. I have chosen not to do the four week summer class (too many other things to concentrate on at the moment) but I will definitely be back in September to rejoin my extended (dance) family.

Fifth: You always hear people talk about losing friends when they decided to do something to better themselves. I think I have found mine. Negative comments and under the breath remarks have made me re-examine why I considered this person a friend. I'm not totally ready to rule her out (I honestly don't think she's aware of the negativity she's causing), but it's been a good reminder that there are those out there who like to see people fail at something they try. Perhaps my failure would just be further proof for her that she doesn't need to do something about her unhealthy choices but she'll just end up where she is now. I'll just use that to spur me on, to show that success is possible.

Sixth: No sixth lesson learned, I just didn't want to end with the downer so I'm going to make up a learned lesson: a towel is the most useful thing a hitchhiker can carry and don't panic.