Archive for October, 2010


I can’t remember a time when I was happier that it is Friday…oh wait, it was last Friday morning. It’s going to be a busy weekend, and even better I’ll be spending most of it with Penelope, yeah!

Halloween is a big event in my neighborhood; last year I went to a doggie Halloween party. It was fantastic, there were like 40 dogs, all in costume, in the party room of one of the condo buildings. It was great. Not only was it super fun, we also raised almost $200 for the Toronto Humane Society–this was before the allegations of abuse surfaced in November and December of 2009.

This year, however, we can’t get the party room, so the dog owners are meeting this evening for a drink in one of the local bars. It should be fun, but I will need to make sure that I get Cadie out for run before I go out for drink.

Getting Cadie to run has been a bit of an uphill battle, for a couple of reasons:

1) she wants to stop constantly to sniff the grass–this is getting better with every run, and I think it will just take patience on my part to work through this.

2) she doesn’t really understand what we’re doing: are we playing, are we walking, what’s the dealio?

3) she hates her harness–I can’t help this, I refuse to take her out for a run in a flat collar, so she’ll just have to get used to it.

Cadie walks really well on her flat collar, so I use the harness only for running. I did a lot of research before I started running last fall, and it said that it was best to use the harness to avoid putting any strain on the dog’s neck. I’d like to show you how Cadie’s harness works, however, as Cadie and her harness are both black, I “borrowed” one of my friends’ dogs. Please welcome Tess, a loveable, and accomodating West Highland Terrier.


Adjust the harness to the settings that you think will work. Then check and make other adjustments to ensure that the harness is comfortable.

top side

bottom side, around the leg

The general rule of thumb is that you should be able to get two fingers comfortable under the harness. If you can do that then the harness is perfect. If you can get more than 2 fingers, the harness is too loose, and will require extra adjustment; if you struggle getting two fingers in then it is too tight, and should be adjusted as well. Once the adjustments are right you attach the leash to the front and you are good to go.

As you can see, you attach the leash in front, and now if Cadie stops suddenly I won’t strangle her, even if I accidentally keep going. This also means that if I give her a little pull to get her going again I’m pulling from her chest, not her neck, which is much better.

In spite of the fact that our dog Halloween party has been canceled I did splurge and get Cadie a costume. Have a look, I think these are easily the funniest Halloween pictures I’ve ever seen.

This is the same face she makes when the harness comes out of the closet

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Homer Simpson in the Cerne Abbas

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I remember that there was once a time when I cared so much about maintaining my weight that I was able to politely decline treats, and, even more amazing, I was able to enjoy them in moderation. I can’t figure out where that person has gone. It’s funny how 3 years of poor lifestyle can so quickly undo nearly 20 years of restraint and training. I mean not funny like Simpson’s funny, but funny like…weird funny.

I joined a gym last week. I joined for a couple of reasons:

1) I’m not getting anywhere on my own, and I used to do very well at the gym.

2) Since it’s just the dog and I most evenings I’m starting to feel like the walls are coming in on me.

3) Losing weight is a much bigger undertaking than I had imagined and I really needed to feel like I had made a positive step, since my weight loss goal is pretty aggressive.

The gym, though, is only part of the equation; the biggest battle I will have to fight is in the kitchen. Apparently I am not drinking enough water, which was news to me, since tea is full of water. I am eating too many sweets, and worst of all, I eat too many meals that have a nutrition facts table, which means that I’m not getting enough fresh vegetables, fruit, or meats.

To make matters worse, it’s that time of the month again: the time when I run out of groceries. With payday coming at the end of the month, I’m spending these last few days trying to scrape together meals out of food I have at home. But as always at this time of the month, I am dreaming about all the food I will eat once my cupboards are restocked.

The problem is that I’ve tried nothing, and I’m all out of ideas. The other problem is that I’m sick of everything I’ve been eating. So now I am craving change. Searching out new recipes and wanting to experiment in the kitchen a lot more than I have been doing. So now it’s time to shake the flies off and find some super stellar recipes that involve a lot of vegetables. Maybe a stew? Or a chili…and that’s where I get stuck. There’s got to be more to life than stew and chili.

I will ponder this problem a little longer (while I try to find a solution that isn’t a salad, even though I have a couple of lovely avocados waiting for me at home) while I tell you more about the gym. But it’s a long story so bear with me. I don’t read my horoscope daily, mostly because I forget, but I do make an effort to find my annual horoscope on my birthday, you know the one that lays out the plan for the upcoming year. Last year’s predictions were all about new opportunity, new jobs, and they have all come true, which has only strengthened my belief in the accuracy of “science.”

This year my horoscope told me that I would start a relationship with a man at work. All of my coworkers are either married or soon to be so, and even if they are single, I don’t date coworkers as a general rule, it’s too messy. So I had written it off as a sloppy prediction by a sloppy practitioner. Until last night, I was walking around the gym, looking for something, when I saw one of my neighbors. I run into him a lot while I’m out walking the dog. I don’t know much about him at all, but now I’m starting to wonder if the horoscope was right, but what it meant was that I would start a relationship with a man I work out with. Possibility? Anyhow, I was on the verge of waving when he turned his head, and I decided that I didn’t really want to run into him at the gym anyhow. So much for that theory, what do you think?

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Just the Way I'm Feeling

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I’ve been doing very well with the running; I’ve only missed 1 night, and that was because I was over at Penelope’s doing yard work. So on the whole I’ve been feeling pretty confident.

The problem is that I’m not feeling good. I struggle my way through each run (sometimes Cadie comes with me, sometimes she stays home), but each time I head out, it’s the same thing. I do really well until I get to the first stop light (one block from where I start my run) and from that point on it’s a fight to get one foot in front of the other. I was sort of ready for that, I mean, as ready as any lazy couch potato can be.

I remember running fondly. It used to be the best hour of my day, and now I feel like each run is torture. Does it get better? Should I keep going, or should I fall back to my usual excuse-making? How much longer before running becomes an escape again?

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Second round of the French presidential electi...

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It is election day here, and I am heading to the polls after work to elect new councilpersons and a new mayor. What I still don’t know is, for whom I will vote. We have 3 serious candidates for mayor, and although I have a favourite, voting for him isn’t very strategic, as he will likely finish 3rd. The real race is between 2 other men, one I could tolerate as mayor, and another I find loathsome, to say the least.

So the source of my confusion is this age-old question: Do I vote according to my conscience and select candidate number 1, or do I use my vote strategically, selecting candidate number 2, in an attempt to try to keep the third candidate (Mr. Loathsome) out of office. This is a very difficult decision. Mr.  Loathsome is in the lead, as of the last poll, with candidate number 2 only a few percentage points behind (less than 5% separate 2 and 3) and candidate number 1 is far, far behind.

On the one hand I have a strong civic sense and I believe you should vote according to your conscience, but on the other hand, I think Mr. Loathsome would ruin this city. Although I like candidate number 1 best, I don’t think candidate number 2 would ruin the city, and therefore, is not a terrible choice, just not the best choice.

What a conundrum! This has never happened to me before; usually I wake up on election day certain of my vote, even if I feel that it will not impact the final outcome. I am going to have a lot of research and soul-searching to do at lunch I’m afraid.

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Anne of Green Gables: The Animated Series

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Wednesday was a wonderful day for me. It was day 91 in my new job, and that means that I am now eligible for vacation, and I made the most of it, believe you me. I had 4 hours out with the puppy (2 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, enjoying a wonderfully sunny fall day), I had lunch at Swiss Chalet and dinner at Red Lobster, and capped off the evening with the musical Wicked. It was a wicked day.

Though, somewhere in the middle I found time to have a much-needed phone visit with my friend, Beth. We talked about a lot of things: food, religion, her health (she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis almost 15 years ago), and life as a newlywed (Beth has now been married almost a year). And of course we rehashed my decision to end my engagement and discussed the rightness of this move, with Beth telling me emphatically that yes, I made the right choice (not that I doubt it, though sometimes when I feel that life is hard I have to be reminded). We also discussed her biggest breakup, and the rightness of that.

Beth dated a tyrant of a man (though I think she would prefer I put the word “man” in quotation marks) for 9 years. She gave him everything; she put all her trust in him, and was unmovable in her commitment to this relationship. After 8 years of ring shopping (never with any intention of buying) this relationship ended and Beth was devastated.

It was a lengthy and messy breakup. Her ex would call every couple of months, or leave cryptic messages for her with people at her church (this makes me want to punch him), and Beth’s healing period was tortured. In the midst of all of this emotional turmoil Beth joined the gym, and worked hard. She had 20 lbs. to lose and she wasn’t going to let this physical reminder of their relationship hold her back.

Six, almost 7 years later, life is very different for Beth. She met and had a wonderful “courtship” (I know it’s very Anne of Green Gables, but ladies it’s important, don’t sell it short) with a wonderful man who is now her husband. Beth has also lost the weight and is doing really well with the MS.

This is a very long story, I know, but there’s something to be learned from all of this. Whenever we feel that life is hard, and that no one understands what we’re going through (I admit to having a highly developed victim’s complex) it’s important to take a step back and reconsider your history and the history of those people closest to you; chances are they’ve gone through something that you don’t even know about, or that you’ve forgotten about. Everyone has a story, and when I’m trying to bring perspective back to my view of the world I remind myself that “worse things have happened to nicer people.” Sometimes (often) life’s not fair, but that shouldn’t stop us from making the most of it, as Beth did.

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In their unconscious state, those with NSRED a...

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I hate throwing food away. I was raised with hearing about the starving children who would love to eat the food I was leaving behind, and also, about how there was “a time when this family couldn’t scrape together enough for a meal, so you’d better eat and enjoy it.” (This was said to me by my paternal grandmother, who was referring to her upbringing on the prairies during the depression.) And so I make sure that I clean my plate, take only as much as I think I will eat, blah, blah blah. (All good axioms, but we’ve all heard them before right?)

Now, though, I have a dilemma. I still have a fridge full of food from last weekend’s festivities, and it is quickly spoiling. I have been trying to eat it all quickly; I have even brought some into the office. But even still I can’t eat it or give it away fast enough, and now I am going to have to do the unthinkable…throw it away (along with my forgotten leftover turkey, such a waste).

You might think I’m being flip, but I’m not, I have been trying very hard not to throw this food away (all except the turkey, which I genuinely forgot was in the fridge), but I just can’t eat anymore. I feel more than a little sick, and I’ve gained weight this week too, so the food is just going to have to go. Which doesn’t stop me from feeling badly about the situation, but I don’t imagine it does anyone any good for me to keep spoiled food in my fridge (now I’m just trying to convince myself).

At any rate, I’ve decided that I will throw the food away, and to alleviate my guilt I’m going to make a donation to either one of our food banks or to the Yonge Street Mission, which serves hot meals to the homeless. That’s a better solution I think.

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tunnel 10 second run

Image by Adam Foster | Codefor via Flickr

I try to tell myself that the first run is the hardest, that once I get out there, then I’m out there. But in telling myself that I forget that there is a second and third run, and actually, it’s the second run that I think is the hardest.

Not only do you need to push through sore muscles, but you also have to try to get over your own self-congratulatory sense that getting out for the first run makes you a runner. Additionally, I have to fight against the dog’s curiosity, which leads her to stop constantly to sniff the grass and the piles of coloured leaves.

But I did it; I made it through the second run. Cadie did stop 3 times, though I can’t say I minded too much. But I like running with my dog. Cadie and I are good running partners; I start out strong, but I struggle to get back home again. That’s where Cadie shines, she’s so focused on getting home that she runs like the wind, dragging me behind her, which is good, as it keeps me from stopping and walking the rest of the way home.

Surprisingly, the cool air hasn’t had an effect on my asthma, so two runs down and at this point, I’m just taking it one run at a time.

In other news, I’m halfway through my no more sugary coffee challenge, and even though I’m off on vacation today, I have resisted the calling of the French vanilla cappuccino.

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If you’ve been reading theclothnapkin you know that I had a party this weekend, and that the prep was pretty intense. All that hard work was worth it. It was the best party I ever hosted, and I have Penelope to thank for it. She helped me clean, and wash, and she spread the word, and then she came and was the life of the party. But still with all the help I had I went to bed feeling achy. I don’t know when it happened, but hosting has suddenly become an aerobic exercise.

Cadie and I spent the day in bed, trying to stretch out and rest up. When we finally got up at about 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon we suited up and headed out for the first run of the season. It was such a beautiful day. Bright sun, cool breeze, and I’m glad that we got out to enjoy it.

I had to remind myself that I shouldn’t push myself, that the first couple of runs are always the hardest. But we still made it down to the next major intersection (a little more than 2.5 KM, and a little less than 2 miles), which is a pretty good first run. Cadie hates her harness, but she seems to like a good run.

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Winter in Toronto, Canada.

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Living well takes a lot of hard work; I find myself constantly writing down my food consumption, mentally calculating energy expenditure, and sometimes I feel tortured by it all, especially when my best laid plans end up being all for naught. I mean, I think it’s a cruel joke that every rainy day for the last month has been at its worst from 4-6 (prime dog walking/exercising hour). The same is true of taking environmental action. It’s hard work, and things often don’t work out, but just like implementing a healthy lifestyle it doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth the effort, or that there aren’t small things we can do.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the environment, which should come as no surprise, living in a city governed by weather. Most recently we have been at the mercy of the rain, and I hate rain. I won’t list the value of rain; I think we all know it. We know the role it plays in the circle of life, and in the future of all ecosystems. Instead I’d like to take this opportunity to expound on the virtues of snow.

I know the dirty S word is one that no one likes to hear (whether you have to live with it or not) but snow is beautiful and refreshing, snow plays a vital role in the management of ecosystems, and snow is terribly misunderstood.

Cadie hates the cold, but loves snow, and so on warmer winter days she’ll spend hours digging, running, and rolling, while I stand close by, stomping my feet occasionally to try to keep them warm. The trend in Toronto is to run from early spring through to late fall, minimizing or avoiding being out in the snow, but this is not what I do. I start in late fall and go through until early spring.

I love to run during the winter; I especially love to run in a blizzard. I find the temperature so relaxing. I also feel that a good run is a nice alternative to spending hours at the park on those days when exposed skin freezes in less than 10 minutes. I’ll hook Cadie into her special running harness and head out for a brisk 20 minute run, followed by a lovely 20 minute snooze on the couch. During blizzards I leave Cadie home, but I still head out and run down the street, sliding into snow banks, feeling the small pricks on my face and my burning ears. The world is crystallized and dreamy, and I feel that I must have evolved from wolves and not primates.

I think the problem comes from confusing snow and slush. While snow is a delicate white powder that sticks to tree branches and transforms the world into a sort of dreamland, slush is the freezing brown water with small chunks of ice sitting by the side of the road that you have to step over or wade through to get wherever you’re going. Toronto has a lot of slush, and we all hurry through the slush as quickly as possible, often not stopping to see the bounty or the beauty of this snowy world. We take for granted the gift of water, because it inconveniences us, derails our afternoon walks and ruins our shoes, but having an excess of water is a privileged problem, I think we can lose track of that.

As I’m running alone down a busy city street, through the snow flakes, I breathe deeply and take in the beauty of my city. Forcing myself out into the snow is something that requires effort, and I try to bargain and negotiate my way out of it, but in the end, it costs me very little effort. I just have to remember that I can make a big impact on my environment in much the same way. One of my favourite blogs, Elena’s blog (found on our blogroll), gives some tips for ways that we can all reduce our carbon footprint through smarter purchases, and better laundry habits, I hope you’ll check it out, and that it will get you thinking of other ways you can cut down on water waste and help the environment.

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Once I made an effort to get up and exercise with Jillian Michael, once I felt really good about myself, but those times (that time) are (is) past. I have not been pushing myself to exercise, and you might ask why; you might point out that without pushing yourself you have no hope of seeing results.

But here’s the catch. I’m still new at my job, and I can’t access my benefits until Tuesday of next week. That’s not just an excuse for sleeping in. It’s getting colder here, and I just haven’t felt quite right. I was worried about having to take time off without pay (which I cannot afford) and so I decided not to push myself until I had the resources to push myself with minimal risk.

That’s not to say that I haven’t been feeling guilty about it, because I have. My clothes are getting tighter again, my throat is feeling tight and scratchy, and frankly I was unsure about which of these problems was worse (though, I finally decided that since I have asthma, I need to try to avoid getting sick). The other problem I have is a distinct lack of  “Get-Up-and-Go” so I’ve been sleeping in.

Today was a regularly scheduled workout day, but I went to bed last night with every intention of sleeping in. However, I woke up this morning when I heard the rain falling onto the window AC unit (this always wakes me up as I always think that someone is trying to break in). No one was trying to break in. I thought drowsily, as I turned to the bedside table to look at the clock, that if it was 5:00 am I’d get up. I suspected that it was something like 4:30, but it was 4:59. I had to get up. Still I fought it, I just don’t have the motivation or the energy to take on Jillian’s DVD, and it was raining pretty hard so I knew I wouldn’t be going out to run.

But then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I could run in the living room, and watch one of my DVDs. I usually like the Simpson’s, but today I decided on Corner Gas, just a little entertainment to pass the time, and keep me going, because I know that when the credits roll I’m done.

On the whole I would say that this was very successful, it was the right length and intensity of exercise for me, and now I can start the day without feeling guilty.

Also, I am currently drinking a wonderfully earthy cup of licorice root. It’s not a tea in the proper sense, it’s a tisane, but it’s yummy and keeping me on track.

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