Sunday, 31 August 2014

Phyllis Cora Langley Feb 9, 1922 - August 31, 2014

My grandmother died today.  That sounds a little dramatic, when it was actually quite anticlimactic - - she had a massive thrombotic stroke on August 26 and although it is likely that whatever consciousness it was that made her her disappeared then, it took her body a few days to follow suit.  I fervently hope that she did not suffer and that she had no awareness of these last few days. 

This all happened a continent away, in Victoria.  I am not certain what arrangements will be made, or if any formal celebration will take place.  The plan as I understand it right now is to cremate her remains and put her urn in the same niche as my grandfather, who died in 2007.  When and how that will happen, I do not know.

July 2007

My grandmother was 92 years old when she died, which is very old for anyone, and especially old for my family.  She had a life full of hardship and joys, frustration and love.  I think she was proud of me, but we had a complicated relationship exacerbated by distance and time.  Looking back I see many of her qualities reflected in me - - her strength, her capacity for taking joy in the little things, and her perseverance in adversity, and I delight in this.

My grandmother fancied herself an author and made several little books, one a genealogy, one a book of her mother's recipes (including the infamous family pie crust recipe of legend), and one a book of stories and musings about her life.

To my shame I never really did more than skim these when my grandmother gave them to me, but I spent the afternoon today reading them all from cover to cover.   My father is doing the same with his copies, likely for the same reason. 

My grandmother was a complicated woman, and reading her history some of her personality makes more sense to me now.  She had a somewhat hardscrabble youth, coming of age through the tough times of the Depression and World War II, and those leave their marks on a person.  I learned a lot about her feelings about her family (conflicted), her favourite colour (red), and her thoughts about her patients when she was a nurse (both protective and judgmental).  I learned that she loved each of her grandchildren of whom I was the first, but that she saw much more of my cousins, and consequently had a much stronger bond with each of them (this much I knew already).

I knew from conversations with her that when my grandparents first married they initially lived in a small trailer - she once even got her photo in the Winnipeg paper preparing dinner in the minuscule trailer kitchenette.  What I did not know was that my grandfather had been a patient in the hospital where she worked, and that they met in the hospital.

My fondest memories of my grandmother are of going on nature walks with her at my grandparents' farm when I was 5-9 years old.  My grandmother introduced me to their local beaver pond and to cattails and Indian Paintbrushes and to frogs.  I only today learned that she didn't like snakes because one once went over her foot when she walked barefoot as a child.  That explains why the local garter snakes never featured in our walks, I suppose (me, I like snakes, so I did not inherit everything from my grandmother).


I also have a vivid memory of how practical my grandmother was when she killed a chicken for dinner one day, smacking the chicken onto an old stump and chopping its head off with a hatchet with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of her mouth, red with her usual bright lipstick.  When my grandmother kissed you with that lipstick you stayed kissed - - it took a lot of scrubbing to get the lip marks off your face. 

I never saw how she coped when all her hard purchased supplies were stolen right before a long rainy weekend with my four cousins, but cope she did and they had a wonderful time without ever seeing the struggle she had to feed them all until the roads opened up. 

Apparently those memories were fond ones for my grandmother as well, because she wrote about one of our nature walks in her book of stories.  I don't remember the specific instance that she was writing about, but it was evocative of so many of our discovery walks around the farm.  I cherished and continue to cherish those memories, especially once I became an adult and moved out east and we drifted apart.

The farm will likely be sold, and it isn't the same anyways since the oil company began pumping oil on the place years ago and it hasn't been a productive farm for decades as a result.  No, the farm will have to live on only in photographs and my memories, and in my grandmother's book of stories.  Perhaps that is the best, as those do not fade and collapse the way the real structures likely have.

So this is a eulogy of sorts for my grandmother, Phyllis Cora, that daughter of homesteaders and migrants, who loved art and family.  Sleep well, grandma, you deserve the rest.  I love you.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

New party dress

Yesterday the family went out for dinner at a fancy local restaurant and I finally got the chance to break out a party dress that I had bought months ago in an overabundance of enthusiasm.

Why do I say that I was overly enthusiastic?  Well, the dress is a non-stretchy size 12 for one thing (a tailored satin fabric), and my badonkadonk is only grudgingly contained in that size - - I comfortably wear a size 12 for tops, a 14 for jackets (big shoulders, natch) and a 14 on the bottom for skirts and pants.  I am perfectly happy with this situation, but I fell in love with this dress and it was only available in size 12, alas. 

So I bought the dress anyways (!) and it was relegated to my closet with the "maybe it will fit one day" clothes.  I know we all have these sections in our closets - - the "aspirational" outfits, or the clothes that used to fit that no longer fit, or the hand-me downs...  Done wrong this section can be a depressing memorial to pounds not lost.  I didn't even take the tag off, that's how certain I was that I would never really wear the dress.

Until last night, that is. 

It was the Matriarch's birthday celebration and all my other dresses were various combinations of black*.  I wanted to bust out some colour for a change and thought I would give the dress a chance.  It went on and even zipped up relatively easily**.  I could move and walk and sit down in it.  It did not explode when I attempted any of these manoeveurs, so I brought it upstairs for the big test ... the Nerd.  His reaction would determine whether I wore the Festive Delft Dress.

His reaction was ... extremely gratifying.  That's all I'm going to say about that, other than to note that I wore the dress to dinner last night.  Aside from trying to keep exquisite posture all evening, I was completely comfortable and felt great.

Here is the Festive Delft Dress in all its glory for your viewing pleasure:

I was glad to have had the opportunity to wear the dress out to dinner last night.  The Nerd also dressed up and we both looked rather sharp, if I do say so myself.  A good time was had by all. 

* I completely forgot about the Sparkle Party Dress from last November's Festive Non-Denominational Holiday Party, but as it is a midnight navy that is easily mistaken for black, this dress falls into the same category as the black dresses

** In that it required no additional tools or a team of experts

Saturday, 16 August 2014

This is what 12.5 miles looks like...

This morning was our last "official" long training walk for the upcoming Weekend to End Women's Cancers charity walk, in that all the training walks from now until September 6 will be shorter than 12.5 miles.  Today was 12.5 miles and tomorrow will be 8.5 miles - - together they amount to pretty much what we will be walking in one day at the event.  Next week are a couple of 6 milers on the weekend, and then it's down to 1.5 mile walks and 3 mile walks as we taper down.  It will be back to the elliptical for sure. 

This morning we left at our customary ungodly hour (we were on the road before 5 am), and we headed east along Queen Street, but instead of following Queen until the Neville Park Loop and coming back by way of the waterfront trail like we did last weekend, we went up Kingston Road to Victoria Park avenue (the old border between Toronto/East York and Scarborough), and then headed up Victoria Park to the Danforth, which we took all the way back to our stomping ground. 

I must confess that I struggled more with this walk than I did with the walk last weekend, mainly because I was trying to push the pace more this week.  And it worked - - we shaved a whole 15 minutes off our walk time for the distance, going down from 3 hr 40 min to 3 hr 25 min this morning over the same distance.  That's a full 15 minutes we did not need to walk compared to last week, which is great.

But the pace was probably an issue, because I was much more tired and sore at the tail end of this walk than I was last week, and I am sure the fact that we were pushing the pace even on the long uphill stretch up Kingston Road had something to do with it.

Nevertheless, we were able to finish the 12.5 miles in much better form than the first time we tried that distance to be sure, and I am feeling pretty good about our chances on the day of the walk. 

All these steps are doing wonders for my Fitbit rankings.  Month to date August I am ranked #60 among 1,100 Redditors who Fitbit, which puts me in the top 5-10% of that group.  Yay!

And did I mention that all this walking is good for weight loss?  Even with rehydrating throughout the walk I was down another pound this morning, for a total of 15.6 pounds lost since I started the new job and recommitted myself to my workout and eating plan.  Sweet. 

I am still above my lowest previous weight, of course, but every additional pound lost puts some distance between me and the dreaded 200 pound mark.  I now have 33 pounds to go until my goal weight, which sounds like a much more reasonable number than it feels like some mornings. 

Today the Nerd and I are going to bake some "proof of concept" Share a Coke (R) gingerbread cookies for the charity bakesale my company is having on Tuesday.  After the cookies, perhaps a much deserved nap.  I love weekends since starting my new job.

Friday, 15 August 2014

The downside of losing weight

Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled with the progress I have made since recommitting myself to my workout and healthy eating plan.  But there's definitely a downside.  My workouts burn fewer calories.  And my body requires fewer calories to function.  It's like a metabolism double whammy!

With this week's loss I am down to a base of 1,500 calories per day on a rest day.  It's no 1,200 calories, to be sure, but it's a tough target to crack when a meal can easily run 600-700 calories. 

Although it is a little depressing to see my workout burns steadily decreasing and my baseline calories falling, I know it's because my metabolism is changing, which is all to the good (at least I keep telling myself that it's good!).

It just makes it tough on a rest day like today - - I have to be super vigilant and cannot snack even the slightest bit, what with my lavish 5 calorie buffer on the books today. 

It also makes it almost impossible to eat out on a rest day, what with some restaurant meals starting at 1,500 + calories - - not to mention all the sodium.

If I keep making progress and losing weight as I have been, though, I will not complain (too much).  The results are worth it.  I loved how my jeans and blazer fit today.  So what if it's challenging to keep under the 1,500 calorie target - - I need to get used to it sometime, since this will eventually be the "new normal". 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Walking works...134.8 pounds down

It has been a while since I have posted, mostly because my routine has been quite uneventful, mostly.  The Nerd and I have continued on our training plan for the Weekend to End Women's Cancers charity walk coming up in 23 days, and I have been trying (and for the most part, succeeding) to eat well and avoid snacking. 

The net of all this activity is that I am down another 2.5 pounds since my last weigh-in, for a total of 134.8 pounds down.  This brings me back down below 200 pounds once again to 199.1 pounds.  Yay, me!  Since I have started my new job I am down 14.5 pounds, which tells you something about the health benefits of working for a major beverage manufacturer.

I am really really really trying to be patient and sensible with my program and to not get too hung up on the scale or the calendar.  Lifestyle change is supposed to cover the rest of one's life, after all, so there's no real rush to lose weight. 

For all that zen-like attitude, however, it's still very gratifying and reassuring to see that when I do the things that have worked in the past - like strong workouts and consistently eating fewer calories than I burn (including not eating back all my workout calories) - I eventually lose weight.  I am trying to be more patient with this and let my body take off the weight on its own schedule (rather than my own mental timetable), but it can be frustrating. Patience is not my strong suit.  Neither is impulse control, so you can see what I am up against here.

All in all, though, my walking workouts have been doing the trick.  On non-walking days I do weights and the elliptical, and that seems to be keeping the weight headed in the right direction.  That, and the cutting back on snacking, of course. 

Speaking of walking, the Nerd and I hit our first "official" 12.5 mile (20 km) walk last weekend.  As you might remember, the first time I tried to walk 12.5 miles (after accidentally working the training plan backwards (!)), I was in agony for the last 4.5 miles.  The following weekend when I walked 12.5 miles I was only very sore for the last mile and a half, and in agony for the last half mile - - a big improvement.  You can imagine my trepidation, though, at trying that distance against last weekend.  Would it be like the first time, or would it be more like our recent walks, tiring but manageable?

And the answer is: tiring but manageable!  What a win! 

Sunrise in the Beach, August 2014
We were walking back to those tall buildings way off in the distance...
... and actually almost pleasant.  Note that I said "almost".  It was still 3 hours and 40 minutes of walking to hit 12.5 miles, but by keeping the pace to a relatively sedate 3.5 mph I was able to get through the walk with energy to spare.  Not only that, I was able to go out shopping with my mom shortly after getting home, and had no problems wandering around the Market. 

I felt very tired after this walk, but not as tired as I expected, and aside from a little chaffing in the bra area, I made it through the walk without any physical discomfort. 

Here's all of the walks we have done so far in August:

The big red line heading out to the right is our 12.5 mile walk along Queen Street until the Neville Park streetcar turnaround, then back along the waterfront trail to the Market neighborhood.  We've also got a few of our favourite walks up and down Church Street and around the Bloor/Broadview loop overlooking the Don Valley (very pretty, if one ignores the highway, prison, and defunct strip club). 

Don't tell anyone, but I am actually quite enjoying our walking training and will miss it when we are not doing so many walks once the event is over.  Perhaps I will even keep going on walks after the charity walk, provided that I can trick the Nerd into joining me.  I probably won't do any more 12.5 mile walks, though. 

Today we had a fire drill at the office, and I had fun walking up and down 4 flights of stairs with my knapsack full of purse debris and my computer bag.  Actually, I did have fun - - it was a nice break from routine, and I had no problem going down the stairs or even back up, despite all my gear.  It's at times like this that I am reminded of how far I have come, and I cherish my increasing levels of fitness even more. 

Tomorrow is another weight + elliptical day, since we are done our walks until another 12.5 miler on Saturday.  Better rest up the old feet while I can!

Monday, 4 August 2014

132.3 pounds down - and another size

It's the beginning of a new month and you know what that means - - summary time!

As you know I have been working out and trying to eat better for about the last two months or so (coincidentally right around the time that I started my fabulous new job).  At the end of June I saw some positive results, but July was really the first full month back on the program.  The program is a bit different than before - - with the training we have been doing for the Weekend to End Women's Cancers 32 km charity walk on September 6, my workouts have shifted from mostly elliptical workouts with some weights to mostly walking outside, with weights and elliptical thrown in on non-walking days. 

I could tell I was doing a lot of walking, because I finished the month at #65 on the total list of steps taken for the Redditors who Fitbit group, out of more than 1,000 people.  That's right, yours truly was in the top 10% of all Redditors who Fitbit according to my steps taken.  Go me!  If you want to friend me on Fitbit I am user #22LQKV.

I was very curious to see the results of all that walking, and the results are now in. 

As for my weight, I lost 12 pounds in July, for a total of 132.3 pounds lost overall.  I am still chipping away at the weight that I had gained as a result of my uncontrolled emotional binge eating during my job search and job change, but I am very happy with my progress now that I have gotten back into my healthy routine.

Put simply, all of the emotional eating and slacking off put me behind by about a full year in that I was around my current weight about this time last year.  And you know what?  That's OK.  I am not in a time-limited contest to beat anyone to a healthy weight, and as long as I am making progress in either my eating habits or my workouts I am not going to beat myself up for past poor decisions.

It's not that the past is past, it's that belabouring past errors doesn't accomplish anything and it only serves to frustrate me in the here and now.  Instead of focusing on that big leap from 185 pounds to 213+ pounds and how fast I can get back down to 185, I am focusing on the steady whittling down from 213+ pounds to where I am now, at 201.6 pounds.   I am not as focused this year about how quickly I can lose the weight since I have found that for me, that leads to unhealthy obsessiveness and general discontent about how slowly the weight comes off.  Rather, I try and make better decisions each day and look to see the weight come off in its own time.  Very zen of me, I know.  I am more and less successful at this kind of laissez-faire attitude depending on the day, but overall I am better at being patient than I was last year, so I will take this as a win.

This time around I try and celebrate the wins more and don't obsess over the minor gains if I am generally sticking to my plan.  As a result, my attitude is much more positive overall, and I feel better about myself and am generally very content with my renewed progress to date.

The measurements show the progress I have made since my May-June reboot (all measurements in inches):

I am not as focused on hitting a particular size as I am to see the positive changes in my body, however going down a size or two, as I have, is still very motivating.  Everything is coming down with the walks, except my calves.  Sheesh - - my Little Lulu cankles are destined to stay with me forever, alas. 

I am pleased to see the measurements come down to a proper size 14, which is well within the zone of being able to shop anywhere I want.  I suspect that my body is actually built to be a natural 14, even though according to my measurements I have gone down to a 12 or even a 10 in some styles (last year, before eating my way back to a 16-18).  Right now I am not going to fuss too much about the sizes and just pay attention to my body and try and wear things that are comfortable regardless of their size.  I tend to favour slightly larger size shorts, jeans and skirts, given that I have a decent badonkadonk, while I can wear smaller sweaters now that the girls are smaller.  Yes, I understand that the previous sentence is full of colourful metaphors for various parts of my anatomy - - deal with it. 

The Nerd and I went down to Columbus Ohio this weekend to visit his parents in their new home.  I spent a lot of time trying to be sensible in the face of all the delicious food - - his family has a delightful tradition of pre-dinner cocktails (complete with snacks) and it is all too easy to eat 300-400 calories just in rye and crackers and cheese and hummus and veggies before the meal even starts.  Yum!  I also tried to make a point of drinking lots of water, since I find that generally American food is higher in sodium than the Nerd and I are used to consuming in the average day.

On a side note, I discovered that I am a rye snob, because our "well" rye at home is Crown Royal, while our "nice" rye is s special edition Crown Royal.  Apparently normal people consider Crown Royal to be their upmarket rye, so it turns out that I have been very spoiled in the Canadian Whiskey department. 

Although the Nerd's mom does engage in short post-meal walks, they are nothing like the multi-mile marches that the Nerd and I have been doing as part of training for our big walk.  But at least it was some physical activity while we were visiting, which is better than sitting on my butt for the entire time.  I remember when I couldn't keep up with the Nerd's parents on their walks, and now I find them to be more of a stroll than a proper walk - - how times have changed!  All in all, it was a wonderful visit and I can't wait to go back.

Speaking of training walks, here is a map of where we have been walking so far, with the coloured lines indicating our walks:

A few points of note regarding the above map.  First, the big triangle is not where the Nerd and I discovered the power of flight, but it is where the GPS extrapolated the subway ride we took from Lawrence West subway station back downtown to finish off one of our walks. 

We also did one walk in which we drove out to the Leslie and Lawrence East area to walk through one of Toronto's many park systems.  You can see this 3.75 mile loop (for 7.5 miles total) all by itself in the top right hand side of the map.  Interestingly, we did another 5.5 mile walk up the Don Valley trail (for an 11 mile round trip) last weekend, and we almost met up with the southern end of our previous park walk.  Perhaps next weekend we will close the loop, as we have a 12.5 mile walk on the schedule for Saturday morning. 

On an personal note, I felt absolutely fine after our 11 mile walk - - a little tired, but in no obvious discomfort.  This is a big improvement over our last 12.5 mile walks and shows the benefit of doing the training plan the right way around. (!)

Finally, I am not sure if I have officially debuted my haircut, which I got just before the third interview for my current job.  I decided that growing out curly hair is just too frustrating, so I went short, as can be seen in this photo of me and my sister from her birthday in June:

I'm the one on the right

When telling each other about the dresses we were wearing we initially thought we had brought the same dress for dinner out, but we were both simply au courant with the current black and white trend.   

August has more of the same on tap - - the Nerd and I will continue our training walks, and expect to walk around 26 miles a week for the next couple of weeks, in preparation for the big charity walk at the beginning of September.  I will try and keep integrating free weights into my workouts 2-3 times a week, keeping the recent additions of reverse crunches and standing calf raises.  And of course, there's the old standby of the elliptical for those days when walks are not planned.