28 days

It’s been 27 days, 12 hours and 49 minutes since I last laced up my running shoes.

Even though it was a foggy Maritime morning, I remember it clearly. (Mainly because its digital memory remains logged in my GPS watch, mocking me with the strength of a thousand satellites.) It was 6am on the day before we left PEI for Nova Scotia and then the airport, and I ran my near personal best. It was humid, smelly (I ran alongside a dairy farm) and wholly satisfying. Even the cows were impressed.

A quick jog in Nova Scotia

And I haven’t run since.

At first, I considered my break a well-deserved hiatus. I’m certainly not fitness-obsessed, so a week or so without running didn’t bug me a bit. It was hardly a thought in my brain. But then another week went by, and it started to nag. Now another has come and gone, and it’s not only a thought in my brain, it’s a twitch in my legs. A fly in my soup. A bee in my bonnet. In other words, it’s starting to really, really bug me.

Now, if the fact that I haven’t gone running lately bugs me, a human adult of my own volition, then why don’t I, aforementioned adult, go running? Good question.

The truth is, I don’t know. Mustering myself up for a run can be the effort equivalent of convincing my kids to floss. Sometimes, it’s just not worth it. (I kid, I kid, they floss…) I’m not very good at reward-based systems when the reward comes afterwards. (Are there many systems where you reap the rewards upfront? Those, I like.)

Sure, maybe there’s an intense sense of accomplishment and boost of adrenaline after I run, and it’s possible that my body feels stronger and my clothes fit better and my life is extended by regular, moderate exercise but what can you do for me now?

The nag of not running has almost completely invaded my headspace. It has escalated into a thing, this question of “Should I run today?” and my mind is just a murmur of opposing thoughts of will she / won’t she and it’s all become very awkward in there.

I’ll probably go for a run. Maybe not this month (certainly not tonight) but soon enough, I’ll go for a run.

So for now, it’s 27 days, 12 hours, 49 minutes and counting…

Let me take a selfie

You know what they say about the best-laid plans. Even the most meticulous planning can eventually make a mockery of you. Add an attempt at a little impromptu sightseeing and a bundle of tired kids? It will quickly go off the rails.

The other day I was driving with my three daughters, who were strapped in the cab of my father-in-law’s truck. We had 30 minutes to kill before supper, so I decided to drive down the local coastal highway to an impressive tourist look-off. The drive spans a sprawling ocean horizon. I watched in the rear view as my daughters’ tired eyes widened with amazement as they processed the view.

My husband and I are terrible at remembering to take photos, so I decided with great determination that I would snap a vacation selfie of our smiling faces when we arrived at this look-off. With the ocean in the background, it would be beautiful. Breathtaking. I could already count the Instagram likes.

When we arrived, however, things started to fall apart. Before we even unbuckled, my girls broke down. We’ve had long days with little rest, so I should have known that just one or two more bumps in the road would lead us straight to meltdown town. There were tears, skinned knees and a very uncomfortable experience in a port-a-potty before we even left the parking lot. We (myself included) were a total, complete and utter mess.

I knew I had to fix things, but I also knew I needed a minute or two to compose myself before putting the pieces of our scenic excursion back together. We sat slumped in silence on a picnic table with our backs towards the Atlantic. It was hardly picture-worthy.

But despite the occasional breakdowns, itchy bug bites and bouts of bad weather, our time in Nova Scotia was absolutely amazing. (I could do without the humidity, however, especially since my four-year-old asked me why my hair, which I had just spent 30 minutes drying, looked like worms.)

We may be exhausted, but we’re totally uplifted by all the love and delight showered upon us in our beautiful home province. It’s the last week of our vacation and we’re now in Prince Edward Island, a place with just as much magic, a little less rain in the forecast and, as always with our family of five, a lot of love.

I didn’t get a picture of our smiling faces (we did eventually smile) at the look-off that day, or many other vacation photos for that matter. But we did create many, many memories that will last us forever. Or at least until our trip ‘home’ again next summer. Or this Christmas. Or a really good seat sale around Thanksgiving. (Does WestJet accept unused go-kart tickets?)

Good morning, Nova Scotia

We survived the plane ride. We forgot only one, maybe three essential things (which is an improvement). But I did remember my running shoes. My husband and I have snuck in a couple of runs since arriving, and I can think of no better way to start our day than with this view around mile one:

Nova Scotia

Yesterday I ran my personal best, and this morning I beat it. It could have something to do with running at sea level (I consider my tougher runs in Calgary as altitude training). But it’s also because we’re so damn happy to be here, it’s impossible not to have a skip in our step.

Our vacation will be a whirlwind. We plan to squeeze enjoyment out of every humid, happy second we spend on the East Coast. But when you’re in a place this beautiful, it’s impossible not to stop and enjoy the view.

On a jet plane

Our bags are not quite packed and we’re far from ready, but either way we’re leaving tomorrow for our three-week vacation to the East Coast. I’m not even panicked. Not because I’m completely confident that all will be well, but because I’ve entered into a state of hurried stillness. (Like when you watch in slow motion as your child’s Frozen cake fall out of your hands just as your party guests hit the high notes in “Happy Birthday.”)

At this point, I’ve shifted focus from what we will bring to Nova Scotia to how we’ll fare on the long flight from here to there. Flying with little ones is challenging, and I’m not one to never back down from a challenge. But the reward (arriving in Nova Scotia! To the land of sea, salty air and babysitters grandparents!) makes it totally worth it.

We haven’t had any terrible experiences while traveling with kids. We’ve typically fared pretty well. Probably because we keep three simple things in mind:

  1. Be prepared. (Preparation and a few strategic travel toys go a long way.)
  2. Be patient. (Take deep breaths, even if it is stale, circulated air.)
  3. Be thankful. (I’m always grateful for a friendly flight attendant or an understanding seat buddy. I’m grateful for the chance to travel. And, more importantly, for a smooth, safe landing.)

And if all else fails, which it usually does, I’m not above bargaining, bribing and begging. Desperate times (otherwise known as days of the week, when you’re a parent) call for desperate measures.

On that note, I’m signing off. Maybe for a while. But I’ll think of you when I dip my toes in the frosty, frenzied waters of the Atlantic ocean.

Let’s do this!

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. (But also the destination)

I should start by saying that at one point, I really did believe I could achieve it. At least, I wanted badly to believe I could achieve it. A year ago, I set my goal: I will run five miles by July 2015.

I’ve wanted to run in the annual 5 Mile Road Race in my rural hometown for years, but this was the summer when the timing, training and intention would all line up. With months to prepare, I could finally get myself into the sort of shape that would carry my 30-something-year-old post-baby body across the finish line (which is traditionally and cruelly half-way up a hill on Main Street). I’ve attended the race before, as part of the small cheering crowd, but this will be the summer that I race. I will run 5 miles.

Wellllll, that’s probably not going to happen. At least not in time for the race, which is just two weeks away.

I started ‘running’ last summer. Before then it had been a very long time since I ran, for exercise, on a regular basis. I had fallen out of favor with ‘health’ and ‘exercise’ and physical ‘well-being’ during my grad school and baby birthing years. I had sporadic bursts of aerobic activity, but overwhelmingly my time was spent wishing I could improve my lifestyle instead of actually doing it. Then, about a year ago, my husband and I fell (pushed ourselves) into a routine of eating food that made us feel better and doing activities that made us feel stronger. Running fit neatly into that lifestyle change, and we’ve been pounding the pavement ever since.

My first big milestone was running 5K. I started running for three minutes, walking for two, for about a half an hour. I adjusted to running four minutes, walking for one just in time for my first 5K race in October of last year. This was huge for me. Even though I had already been running a distance of 5K on some of my training runs, crossing the finish line that day meant the world to me. I ran my next 5K race bedside my husband in May of this year.

My second major milestone was running 5K without stopping to walk. While at dinner with my very dear friend, I was lamenting about my sluggish runs. My friend, who was training for her first full marathon, told me that my barriers were more mental than physical. Just try it, she said. So I did, and that week I ran 5K without stopping. I was pumped. (A side note, she ran 42.2K at a quicker pace than I ran 5K, not just because I’m very slow, but because she’s amazing.)

The natural progression would be to then increase the distance of my runs, which would conveniently coincide with training for, say, a certain 5 Mile Road Race that has been on my radar for years? Yes, some people might think this, but for some reason I’ve chickened out. I let my training slide and allowed the little voice inside my head who said, You can’t, drown out all the other voices who said, Maybe? I dunno. Five miles is kinda far. (I need new voices.)

It’s now two weeks away and I won’t bore you with the list of reasons I’ve cultivated as to why I’m not going to race. (My most altruistic being that I wouldn’t want to pull precious rural resources away from those who truly need it when I require medical attention at about mile three.)

I’m disappointed that my goal won’t be realized this summer, but I can’t be discouraged. The truth is, every time I wanted to stop, collapse and heave violently into a bush during my many runs around our Calgary suburb, I pictured myself crossing that finish line on Main Street in my small hometown. And it kept me going. So I may not be racing this summer, but in some ways I feel like I’ve already won.*

*Ok, ok, I have not technically won. But there’s always next year.

The final countdown

It’s one week until we leave for our three-week vacation, and I have about a month’s worth of things to do.

I love to plan, and I love to execute those carefully laid plans, but I never seem to do any of it in a reasonable measure of time. I’d like to think I thrive under pressure, even though my husband might refute this, but either way it’s how I roll. Panic is my greatest motivator. It’s not that I don’t want to prepare, pack, or suspend our paper delivery. I’m excited to do all those things, because it means our vacation is right around the corner. I’m just not that motivated to do those things until we’re rounding the corner at full speed and our vacation smacks me in the face.

Say you have six major tasks on your list of things to do, and each task will eat up about half of your day. Would you leave all six tasks until the last possible minute? Yes? Ok, great, we can be friends.

The satisfaction of having everything done in an orderly fashion with time to spare just isn’t enough for me. I like the thrill of being spurred. Others may refer to this as procrastination, but I prefer to call it thrill-seeking. (Oh dear. If doing twelve loads of laundry in a day is my adrenaline equivalent of BASE jumping, maybe I do need to reexamine things.)

I wasn’t always like this. I remember packing for short weekend getaways weeks in advance. Our hospital bag was ready to go before I even felt my first baby kick. I’m not sure why it happened or when it did, but somewhere between baby one and baby three, my pre-meditation motivation waned. There’s just no point in cleaning our house the day before a guest arrives. Unless I tidy ten minutes before we have a visitor, our house will be a disaster. There’s no point in dressing our kids for a Christmas concert an hour before curtain call. When it’s go-time, we line our girls up at the door and yank their dresses down over their heads, like a frill factory assembly line.

Our vacation will be the same. The last 48 hours leading up to our departure will involve a lot of laundry, a lot of packing, a lot of cleaning and a lot of stomping. (Stomping is how I get around when I’m in full panic mode.) I plan to spend the next five days thinking about how much I will have to do in those last two days before we leave. I’m almost looking forward to it.

We always make it. I’m reminded of a quote by Lorne Michaels, often attributed to him by his Saturday Night Live alum. Lorne says, “We don’t go on because we’re ready. We go on because it’s 11:30.”

We’re going to get the kids in the car. We’re going to board that plane. Whether our bags are carefully packed or our empty house is left dustless and gleaming, we’re going on vacation. The only thing that really matters is how lucky we are to have this time off, and how lucky we are to spend it together.

And my daugther’s blankie. Dear God, we cannot forget blankie.

Try, try again

Gosh darn it.

My daughter’s 4th birthday is just around the bend, so yesterday I walked to the mailbox in the sweltering Calgary heat to see if any goodies had arrived from the east coast. I hadn’t picked up the mail in a while and wasn’t surprised to see that the box was stuffed to the brim.

I flipped through the pink birthday cards, glossy flyers and utility statements until I came across an envelope with a familiar logo and return address. It was a thin, clinical-looking letter addressed to moi, from a publisher who must have just received my manuscript two weeks ago. I didn’t have to open it to know what it said inside. (But of course I did open it there on the sidewalk, in the suffocating heat, while my heart, hopes and dreams melted out of my body and onto the simmering concrete below.)

I absolutely knew that the chances of my children’s poetry collection being picked up by a publisher was teeny, tiny, don’t-get-your-hopes-up small. The publisher I sent it to produces just a few (wonderful) picture books a year, most of which are solicited and not from the slush pile. I knew that practically nobody gets lucky on his or her first try. I knew that practically no publisher is looking for a children’s poetry collection. I knew this. But I didn’t know the sting of rejection would come so soon. I thought I had six weeks, at minimum, to live in my fantasy world of what if? And the truth is, there was a part of me that really, really believed this might happen. I knew it was unlikely, but reading, “Unfortunately, I have decided to decline your submission…” in the glaring mid-day sun was deeply, deeply disappointing.

My husband, bless him, felt immediately called into action. He asked, so what’s our game plan? I said I didn’t have a game plan, aside from eating this entire can of Pringles while I wallow in the closet. My old game plan was to be one in a million and triumph against all odds with little to no effort or rejection, but it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that I have to shift my tactics.

Since submitting that first manuscript, I started focusing on another project. I was working on it all week while taking a writing boot camp from a group of literary agents. For kicks, I asked one of the agents if there was a market for children’s poetry collections. Her response was the polite version of ummmmm… no. That doesn’t mean you give up, but as I learn more about this elusive industry, I begin to understand that writing well isn’t always enough. You need to know the market but be ahead of the trends, you need to fit the bill but still stand out, and you need to keep trying, trying, trying. Plus you have to write well.

Talent is common, but tenacity is what sets success apart. This is the message you get over and over again in the pursuit of something big. I’m not sure if I have tenacity. Mainly because I’m too lazy to go look up its definition. (Is it like elasticity? Like, after three pregnancies my abs have lost all tenacity? Although this would imply they had some tenacity in the first place.)

Of course I know what it is, and of course I’m willing to work hard. In fact, I’m eager to work hard. I know this writing gig is a long road. And I know for sure that it’s the road for me, in some form or another.

My letter of rejection is now pinned to the cork board above my desk next to some pictures of my kids and a very loaded July calendar. The letter was neatly typed and spaced. In the corner, the editor included a short hand-written note. She invited me to try again with something that better fits their publishing bill.

Well, I guess now my game plan is to do just that.