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I am an expert fangirl.

I love bands, music, theatre, actors in teen dramas, the colour purple, food trends, occasionally politicians, but sports, oh sports takes the cake.

Never give you heart to a sports team.

I’ve have never felt more fear, or anxiety or absolute pleasure, and pain; let alone all of the above in the span of nine (or more) excruciating innings. And never have I felt hatred or bile so completely and immediately than I have for opposing teams (and players there within), particularly every other damn team in the AL East.

I’ve spent the week repeating to myself that I will be fine, my life will remain in tact, if the Blue Jays don’t in fact make it to the play offs this year. And while adult logic tells me that this is probably true, I don’t believe it.

Because there’s no such thing as a perfect season, or a game that’s in the bag. Statistics and potential be damned, neither skills, nor heart are ever really a guarantee of a winning. And as well as a team has done, as great as they can be, they can lose and break your poor Blue Jays loving heart.

I want to yell at an umpire, or break a bat in half or throw a helmet into the dugout in frustration. That last road trip was bad. Just BAD. Just the worst. I cannot stare for nine innings as player after player, nay, great-Blue-Jays-batter, after great-Blue-Jays-batter just watches strikes zoom past them. While the other team just runs round the bases high five-ing each other like a bunch of jerks.

I know, I’m a noob, maybe even a bandwagoner. I’ve been a fan for less than a season and I have no right to claim this team for my own when so many fans have come before me. But the pain is so real. The worry, and angst is so genuine, I don’t know how you long-time fans have stood it for so long. They are GOOD this year. They’ve been WORSE for far longer. I don’t know if I could handle that pain.

I suppose there’s not much I can do to sway the outcome. Sit on my couch and continue to have faith and mutter encouragements under my breath to players who cannot hear me. And when I actually have the chance to see the game from the Skydome, just cheer my face off.

I suppose this is a long winded way of saying I really hope the Jays keep winning. I don’t know how much more losing my newly sports-loving heart can handle.

And I think I’m going to go dig up my copy of Fever Pitch.

Woman. Writing.

I’ve been feeling this overwhelming urge to write.

I’ve just finished reading this book called “Spinster”. It’s an autobiography of sorts by writer/journalist Kate  Bolick. It chronicles  her “awakeners,” female writers who have inspired her in one way or another and have all (sort of) met the definition definition of “spinster.” and lived beautiful, free lives because of it. It’s inspired me to be more free. Okay it’s inspired me to want to be more free.

So i’ve decided a couple of things:

1. For the rest of this year, I’m only going to read books written by women. When I decided, this (more like thought it, really) the idea really excited me. I probably haven’t read enough influential women in my lifetime. I JUST finished “Pride and Prejudice” earlier this year (I’ve tried a few times but couldn’t get past the first few chapters. Now that I’ve finished it, I don’t know what took me so long. It’s clearly, amazing.) And I’ve been so inspired by “Spinster” that it feels like the right time to take on something like this. And I don’t feel like it will be a hindrance to my literary cravings. I’d like to try reading a mix  of women-written literature, fiction, non-fiction, really heavy, meaningful stories, chick lit, and I think it will be a fun challenge.

2. I want to write more, and discover what kind of writer I want to be. When I was younger I fancied myself a poet, later perhaps a novelist. Now, after being a journalist for so long I think I might be interested in looking at creative non-fiction. But to do that, I need to start writing about myself.

One of the most spot-on things anyone has ever said to me was when a friend told me that I was afraid of people seeing me. After she said it, she asked, “Does that feel right?” And it did. It felt true, not only about who I am right now, but about me for as long as I can remember. I recall being in grade 10 and having a piece I’d written read out loud in English class. I  felt like I wanted to disappear under my desk. It was a musing about “star-crossed lovers” based on our reading of Romeo and Juliet, one of my favourite pieces of literature of all time. My teacher read it slowly, and purposefully because I think she genuinely loved it  and I responded to her praise by putting my head on my desk and burying it in my arms, and physically trying to hide myself from what I had just written, so openly, just moments before.

Two decades later and that fear remains. I don’t know how I will handle feeling so exposed; which stands in complete contrast to the ideas that I want to write about. The things I think I could write about well.

In a writing class once, the instructor suggested that you should write your first draft like you’re the only one that’s ever going to read it, because if you start to think about all of the people that might, you will edit, unconsciously, what you are thinking. Writing is best when you are open and honest. This is 100% true. The reason I’ve never written about anyone I know is I’m afraid that one day, they will read it. Even if I write it with love I know it will rub someone the wrong way. It’s not always pleasant to see yourself through someone else’s eyes.

Anyway, I’m working on it.

This is step one I suppose.

Fitness Goals

Yesterday, I went to the gym.

I hate the gym.

But I suck at all-things fitness related and I love food, this combined with my lack of a job or, quite frankly, anywhere else to be every day has made me a lazy, lazy human. So I figured a gym would be a productive use of time.

So I strolled into a local gym and was immediately stopped by a smiley, fit personal trainer lady who somehow tricked me into a “personal consultation”. For those of you who haven’t been coerced into one of these sessions, let me walk you through how it went for me; first she asked me a bunch of health related and, can I add, very personal, questions (Do you ever feel chest pains when you try to exercise? Do you have a family history of diabetes? heart disease? depression?) And questions about your potential to become a gym addicted health nut: (Will you family support you in your quest to be more fit? How committed are you to reaching your fitness goals, on a scale of 1 to 10?) Then, as if to prove how great she is at getting you to exercise, she somehow convinced me to do more squats, lunges and push-ups than I’ve ever attempted in my life. She watched me attentively all the while as if taking mental notes on exactly when I started breathing more heavily, when my eyes begun to bug out of my head, and exactly which push-up I was on when my arms gave way completely.

Exhausted and mildly dehydrated she pulled me back into her office with a pleased expression (see that wasn’t so hard, she seemed to say) and asked me about my fitness goals. She read out an array of options from her questionnaire and seemed mildly annoyed when I had trouble answering her:

Personal Trainer Lady: “Is one of your goals to lose weight?”

Me: Yes?

PTL: Increase endurance?

Me: I mean I guess so.

PTL: Increase strength?

Me: Ok.

PTL: Get toned

Me: Toned? Uhh sure.

Based on my enthusiastic responses she put together a plan for me that would cost almost as much as tuition for my first year of university. And after some polite attempts to evade her pushing me to put a down payment on a year’s worth of her counting how many squats I could do, she left me alone at a treadmill to think it over.

Unexpectedly beat and a little overwhelmed I left the gym feeling like she didn’t quite understand what I was looking for. I’m already self-conscious about exercising so having someone stand over me, count how many reps I’ve accomplished and then judge how well I’ve done, as I lie in a sweaty pile trying to catch my breath, is pretty much my worst nightmare.

And part of the idea of joining that particular gym were the classes they offered. And once you’ve gotten past the fact that they’re all named something so cryptic that you have no idea what the actual class entails (Isn’t “Sh’Bam” a Ricky Martin song? and doesn’t “BodyJam” sound like some kind of kinky fruit preserve?), they sound more appealing to me than running like a mouse on a treadmill. At least you can dance around or jump up and down somewhere in a back corner so no one notices you.

But I think that the biggest disconnect has to do with the “fitness goals”. Of course I want to lose X number of pounds in X amount of time or firm whatever area of my body is jiggly, but how realistic is that really? And even if I end up enjoying whatever inappropriately named class I take, or make a friend that will chat at the treadmill with me I’m never REALLY going to love the gym. But as an adult, I understand the importance of not sitting on my ass all day, so my “fitness goals” are a little softer perhaps, but maybe more realistic.

They sound a little more like this:

ROCK MY RED COAT – A few years back I bought this red coat. As a Canadian, who understands that weather in this country can change drastically from day to day I have many coats to match the many forecasts that can get thrown at me at any given time. This coat is wool and bright red and is perfect for that late fall/early winter when it’s chilly but not hella cold yet, and it’s a little dressy so it works for fancy downtown dinners but isn’t too fancy that I can’t wear it to a work or to a concert. I bought it a little too tight (because the next size bigger was a little too big) promising to lose a little weight so it would fit better. Hasn’t happened yet.

FIT TO HAVE AN ADVENTURE – I don’t travel much, it’s a regret I have and one I hope to remedy. But occasionally when I talk about adventures I hope to have, something comes up; climbing a tower, hiking a trail or just spending an entire day on my feet exploring some foreign city, that feels intimidatingly exhausting. I just want to be confident that if a far off adventure gets flung my way I won’t chicken out because I feel like I will get too tired.

NOT FEEL GUILTY EATING A DONUT – I mean we can replace donut with burger, cupcake whatever … I love food. I obsess about what restaurants I eat at, where I buy my groceries, what I use to make my coffee, I take pictures of my food for pete’s sake. I understand that I need to eat more healthily, but really, a life without at least some chocolate and ice cream isn’t a life I want.

I could go on. But the point is, none of these aspirations are going to show up on a predetermined list of fitness goals that any gym is going to come up with. And no guilt-inducing, perky trainer is going to con me into telling him or her my fitness hopes and fears.

I understand at some point that setting goals and making commitments is important if I’m serious about getting fit. But I don’t want to be a body builder or a fashion model, I just want to be more comfortable in my own skin. Is there some kind of fitness app or step counter that can tell me when I’ve reached the point of less physical discomfort? Decreased exhaustion? Increased confidence? Can someone please work on it? If you can figure that out, you can be my fitness guru. As long as you don’t try to tell me to skip desert.

About a week and a half ago I finally put something into the ground.

I based my decisions of what to grow solely on what I could picture myself eating copious amounts of come the fall (that’s how everyone chooses right?). For crops (can I call them “crops” when I only have one?) that had longer growing seasons I purchased the plants already-grown from stands at the local farmer’s market and others I started from seed. Image

On day-one the seeds are the least gratifying part of the garden because, of course, they look like patches of wet dirt and you just have to know that there’s something growing in there.

The plants, even though they’re not standing tall quite yet, look much more impressive. (On a side note, I’d like to point out that I put those cages over the tomatoes because a) everyone else was doing it and b) there were only a limited number of them by the garden shed and I wanted to make sure I got some. I have no idea if, or why they’re necessary.)

I was back in the garden this evening.

It’s been raining quite a bit over the last few days so I haven’t been out to the garden very often. And because the most common reason to go and visit is to water the garden, the rain has also made visiting pretty unnecessary.

Today was a busy one at work and with the sun finally peeking out from behind the clouds I thought it would be a good evening to go spend some time in the dirt and get some peace and quiet.

The plants have only grown a little, but it looks less like an expanse of wet dirt, so I feel slightly more accomplished. I did some weeding, which is difficult when you’re a first time gardener and you’re not totally familiar with what all the plants look like quite yet. When they’re just little green leaves poking out of the ground how can you tell if it’s the beginning of a carrot top or a weed? The most pronounced plants are the beans. The carrots are going to take some time and the spinach is just tiny clusters of leaves at this point but the bean plants, are poking their way out of the dirt in evenly spaced rows and are actually starting to look like … something!

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After poking at the plants in my garden bed for a few minutes I spent another hour or so digging around in the dirt, clearing the pathway around my plot and digging dandelions. There’s something oddly satisfying about spearing the dirt with a metal object and pulling out an entire dandelion plant all the way to its long, twisted root.

I got the peace but not as much quiet as I suspected this evening. As I busied myself in the dirt an elderly lady with white hair and bright pink lipstick wandered over and asked if I knew of a place that she could put some bird food she’d purchased to attract some feathered friends into the neighbourhood. I didn’t recognize her as a member of the garden so I shrugged and said that maybe if she came back over the weekend, gardeners with some more authority than me might be able to answer her question. She smiled and said that might be a good idea but rather than walk away she peered into my plot and began asking questions about what was growing. As her inquiries dried up I could tell that for whatever reason, she wasn’t ready to go quite yet, so I prodded her.

Have you lived in Edmonton long? I asked.

My whole life. She replied.

My question must’ve sounded like enough of an invitation to her, so she leaned against the neighbouring bed an relayed some slow, quiet tales about her friend who’d just moved to Ontario, and her old neighbourhood, and how much nicer things were back in the day,

There’s so much crime in Edmonton now, she said shaking her head.

She continued like this, occasionally asking me a question but mostly content to softly chatter as I dug around in the dirt. She told me her name, as she finally walked away and admittedly I’ve forgotten it.

But I imagine it won’t be the last time we chat.

Some fellow gardeners joined me eventually and we pointed at each other’s plots and complimented what was growing well (or in my case, complimented everything because I have no idea what’s growing well).

As I walked home a littler achier than when I’d left the house, the layer of sunscreen I’d so liberally applied was acting as the perfect adhesive to a layer of dirt and tiny leaves covering my skin.

I think I’m finally getting this gardening thing.

My Thumbs Are Not Green

Last year, good friends of mine joined an urban garden called Urban Eden. A section of land in the middle of downtown Edmonton where people who don’t have backyards can go to get their hands dirty. Being their close neighbour I dropped by on occasion to water the plot while they were away or help them pull weeds on the weekend and get some fresh air. After a few evenings of pleasant conversation, between pruning and planting I somehow got it into my head that it would be a good idea for me to do my own gardening. Sure enough this year I’ve got my own square of dirt to play in.

Here’s the problem: Aside from a couple of house plants, this is the most gardening I’ve ever done.

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These herbs sat by the big sunny window of my apartment and grew only slightly more than that. When I moved out, they had mostly withered and I’d never bothered to trying to plant anything new. (And of those house plants I mentioned, only one has survived).

So why an entire garden?

I like the idea of local food; I chose my living location, amongst other reasons, because it’s walking distance from my favourite farmer’s market. Taking the food out of the ground myself, seems to be the next logical step. 

Garden veggies always taste better.

It’s a community garden. Who knows, I might meet people that I like.

I spend too much time in front of electronic boxes, even in the summer when I’d much rather have the sun warming my face, I always seem to find myself basking in the glow of sitcom or a video game instead. Maybe if I have something living to attend to, I’ll feel motivated enough to get my ass off of my couch.

So I’m beginning to explore the possibilities. I’ve borrowed a couple of gardening books from a friend, and while they’re a helpful guide I’ve found I’m learning most from word of mouth. Who knew so many people had gardens?

In a couple of weeks my fellow gardeners and I will prep the space for us to begin growing things. We’ll get an orientation and do some repairs, and then I have a couple of weeks to decide what I want to put in the ground.

Then we’ll have to wait and see what grows.