May 31, 2015

The Thing About Race Bling: May 31, 2015

Today we ran in a road race that raised money for Juvenile Diabetes research.  My running partner and I did the grueling 8 mile hills, my hubby, eldest son, nephew, and sisters did the 5k.  Our two smallest kiddos ran the 2.4k kids’ run.

What was great about this?  Well, for one thing, the money went to an excellent cause and it was gorgeously scenic.  Next year, you should go, too.  The 8 mile run goes up Gaspereau Avenue and then down, down, down into the Gaspereau Valley, and then up, up, up again.  It was filled with apple blossoms, bursting-with-aroma lilacs, fresh shining leaves and gloriously happy cows and horses.  It was almost distracting enough to make aching muscles take second place.

This is us as we're about to cross the finish line.  We are severely suffering from no t-shirts and medals!

This is us as we’re about to cross the finish line. We are severely suffering from no t-shirts and medals!

But why does a scenic run have a place here on 5Down?  I’m glad you asked!  Instead of spending $ on t-shirts and medals, the organizers made the smart decision to funnel that money toward a cause (and prize money, to attract some extra hardcore runners).  It was not an expensive run, but it was great to know that we could get all the fun without collecting any of the clutter!

Don’t get me wrong, I love getting medals and I love (many of) my run shirts…but once you run a few races, you get an extensive collection. I will never need to run without a shirt. Ever.  What really shocked me was hearing that more than one participant asked for his or her money back because there were no shirts or medals!  Imagine – someone would ask to have a donation refunded because of the lack of geegaws to go with it?  Mind-boggling.

I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that more race organizers would do a lot better to give out things like hats, or buffs, or … nothing … but the photo-ops, the chip time results, and the personal satisfaction that comes from meeting and beating a challenge.  The real benefit comes when the run, well, benefits someone.  And by “someone” I mean someone who needs it more than you, the person who is lucky enough to be strong and healthy enough to actually run (or walk) any distance at all.  Someone who isn’t waiting for the results of research that could make all the difference in how the next few years (or many, many years) of their life turn out.  Wouldn’t that be a greater result than another medal to hang on the wall or shove in a box?

Day 212 scorecard: 1060 down, 765 to go

May 30, 2015

Divestments: May 30th, 2015

We had dinner guests (and other out-of-town guests!) here today.  Before their arrival, my kids had found some 5Down items. Because one “man’s” trash is another “man’s” treasure, my dinner guest Ashton* had stars in his eyes when he spotted the slap bracelet Clara had divested herself of earlier. She felt terribly magnanimous when he asked if he could have it and she was able to agree with gusto.  She’d already said goodbye to it so parting was much sweeter sorrow when she got to feel generous in the letting go.

It’s all about spreading the joy, here.

Today was a little melancholy, though, as one family of friends popped in to see us who had moved 2.5 hours away about 8 years ago.  And the dinner-guest friends are about to move far farther away (Labrador).  5Downing friends is not really a favourite hobby around these parts, particularly when they’re top-quality folk with lovely kiddos.

Day 211 scorecard: 1055 down, 770 to go

* I was granted his permission to use his real name here.

May 29, 2015

Are You Sure, or Are You MAN Sure? May 29th, 2015

No doubt this will come as a shock to you, dear reader, but I am knee deep in yet another book.  Before I tell you what it is about, however, I want to point out that sometimes (maybe even usually) hanging around with people who are different from you is a great way to encourage you to try new things.  See, before I met Mike, I was entirely devoted to fiction.  Mike, on the other hand, did not really see the point in reading anything that wouldn’t provide him with information or knowledge (although we’ve definitely had *that* debate about how truly educational fiction can be).  Mike now reads some fiction, and I read some non-fiction.

When I was looking to get my next titles for book club, I faced that modern dilemma of the book-buying public: my order was just over $20, but just under $25, so either I needed to choose another book, or pay for shipping.

As if that is even a choice.

I decided to grab a non-fiction book entitled “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance–What Women Should Know.” It’s written by two women (Katty Kay and Claire Shipman) which can lend it a bit of an odd feel.  For instance, upon entering a building and spotting a crazy glass sculpture:

…”Extremely Dr. Seuss, we remarked.”

I suddenly had an image of the two authors whipping around and saying to each other “JINX!  You owe me a SODA!”  That, or some weird kind of mind meld.

In any case, it’s a breezy but interesting read about the difference between knowing something and having the guts to rely on your belief that you know something.  Interestingly, it reflects perfectly a concept I thought I had invented.  Several years ago, I noticed that there are two kinds of “certainty.”  There is the certainty that comes of bravado, and there is the certainty that comes of being abso-freakin’-lutely sure that you fully and entirely understand what you are saying.  The first, I’ve dubbed “man sure.”

I would like to point out that this particular turn-of-phrase entered my lexicon far before “mansplain” became a thing.  If you’re not familiar with the term (even though I suspect what you’re thinking is likely correct), here is a great definition, courtesy of the Urban Dictionary.  Lest I be run through with the righteous sword of man-nism, I should explain that this is a question of tendencies, much like men tend to be taller and stronger than women.  It’s not to say that Serena Williams couldn’t take down Peewee Herman with the lightest of taps from her mighty tennis racquet, but I think you’ll agree that in general women tend to need to rely on their superior intellect to combat the brute force approach of the average male.  Okay, again with the generalizations…

Getting back to “man sure,” though, thus far this book has informed me that this is actually a measurable thing.  That men overestimate their own ability to do something and women underestimate.  The fascinating part comes when their beliefs are artificially manipulated.  If women are told they are good at something and then asked to do it, they’ll do far better than they would have without this confidence booster.  Men do this automatically. Crucially, the overall differences in how well men and women accomplish tests, their rates of success, almost entirely even out when their beliefs about their abilities are eliminated.

Isn’t that mind-boggling?

It occurs to me that I would not believe this without some back-up, but I have spent a lot of time doing research this week, so I’ll direct you to the book for their research, or let you do your own googling.

I guess you could look at this as a question of: do women need to add something to their approach to life, or do we need to remove something? Because I’m all about de-cluttering here, and getting rid of things I don’t need, I’m going to say that we need to cast off notions about our own limitations.  Kay and Shipman make the analogy of treating oneself the way one would treat a friend.  If a friend says “do you think I can do X?” and you have even a bit of confidence that s/he can, you enthusiastically support them and encourage them to go for broke.  Why not do this for ourselves?

What a great concept.  I am going to go out on a limb here, too, and suggest that men who lack confidence could also benefit from taking this approach.

And I would like to suggest that when your darling husband tells you he is “sure” that the concert starts at 7:30, or he is “sure” that the ticket was paid in time, or that he is “sure” he remembered to lock the door…it really doesn’t hurt to inquire as to whether he is “sure” or just “man sure.”*

Day 210 scorecard: 1050 down, 775 to go.

* this has saved us time, money, and frustration.  I assure you.


May 28, 2015

Running Commentary: May 28, 2015

Sometimes I forget whether I have actually written about a particular topic here or if I just thought about writing about a particular topic here.  I’m feeling quite confident that I did not write about my most exciting Frenchy’s find here, so I will rectify that today.

Last week, I found a copy of Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.”  This title, of course, is an homage to the inimitable Raymond Carver (What We Talk About When We Talk About Love). It became all the more delightful when I came to the bit where he explains that he received permission from the late Carver’s wife to make this lovely allusion.

The sheer delight of having one of my favourite writers write about something that takes up an inordinate amount of my life and thoughts was just too much, almost, to handle.

But then a friend who is a far better and more serious runner than I am, and a fan of Murakami AND a literature lover did not give this book a resounding thumbs up.

I think, then, that my over-enthused initial reaction, combined with my friend’s under-enthused reaction, left me with a neutral starting point.

To clarify, as well, I have been aware that this book exists for quite some time.  However, I do genuinely attempt not to buy new books, so I had resisted purchasing it until now.  I also feel that I need to combine this review with a review of another book about running I had picked up (used, of course) the week before.  That book is one that everyone raves about and it is called Born to Run.*

I’ll start with Born to Run.  I read about 5 pages of Born to Run and I thought, “gosh, this reads exactly like a men’s magazine.”**

I then read the author’s bio in which I learned that he is a men’s magazine writer.  I read about 5 more pages, sighed heavily, and dropped it onto the floor (and picked up Miriam Toews’ The Flying Troutmans, which I am revelling in).

But back to Murakami’s book.  It’s not about running.  Or, rather, it’s not about revelations about training, or how to overcome/accomplish/plan/develop anything about running.  It’s about living inside Murakami’s head while he writes about what he thinks about when he’s running (and a bit of triatheloning – which is a word I just made up).

Some of it is about accepting the gradual, but inevitable, decline that comes with ageing.  Some of it is about the effect weather has on the running body.  Some of it is about how much more effort he puts into his running than into his writing, even as he reflects on how much work went into crafting such a small book.

I guess what I loved so much about this book, and I did love it (although I think Murakami could write a grocery list and I’d love it) was that it really fit squarely with how much running can just chip away at all of the bodily experience one has in the world until all that is left is a mind, floating along.  It’s such an odd sensation, to be running for a long time, and he captures (for me at least) what that entire thought process is like.

Yes, I guess you could argue that this is only very peripherally connected to the concept of de-cluttering, but I would argue back that it’s also all about how sometimes being relentless and stubborn is the most direct line to clarity and focus.

Plus, it’s Haruki Murakami!!!!!***

Day 209 scorecard: 1045 down, 780 to go

* from what little I read, I am also suspicious that this book might end up as the next Three Cups of Tea

** this is not exactly a resounding endorsement in my world.

*** aka: the only Japanese guy whose name I spell correctly without a second thought.


Bike Joy: May 26, 2015

You will all be happy to know that because it is late and I am very tired, when I realized I’d written IN CHALK the date as May 26th, and I realized my mistake after I uploaded the picture, and I volunteered Mike to go downstairs and fix it and photograph it, he said “okay.”

And he went.

I am overcome with joy.

I am also very tired because I rode my new bike to work for the first time this year.  Well, I’m tired because then in the evening we ran in the first truly hot day of the year.

Sometimes two forces collide (I’m getting to the new bike, trust me) and leave me spinning.  What do you do when you start biking to work for good 5Down reasons, but then your bike keeps breaking, but it seems crazy to save money on driving only to spend money on a new bike… ? You put off the decision for a stupid long time, of course.

The snow has been gone for at least 2 weeks now.  I could have biked to work most of those 2 weeks.  Instead, we put off getting something new.  Trying not to be a consumer is hard!  And sometimes a problem of a different sort.

I think the lesson we’ve all learned here is that there is a direct relationship between how pretty your new bike is and how much you had to suffer for it.

Day 208 scorecard: 1040 down, 785 to go


May 26, 2015

Post-Packing Party: May 26, 2015

I’m sure it has been more than 3 weeks, but I’m too lazy to search back to figure it out.  This evening, we made the big decision for Max to empty his remaining boxes (the clothes ones we dealt with last week) and for Solomon to start packing up his room.

“Wait,” said Max, “I think I’ll clean my room first before I bring stuff back in.”

Well, okay.

Max says that about 3/4 of his boxes were filled with books and the rest was just “little things.”  So he only found 2 things to dispose of (in addition to things he’s fished out on other days to 5Down).  He decided to keep all of his decorations except this one:

Lounge lizard? Alien on dance floor? Old man with green body paint? In any case, he is slowly crumbling.

Lounge lizard? Alien on a dance floor? Old man with green body paint? In any case, he is slowly crumbling.*

He also came to the realization that it really wasn’t necessary to hang onto Mike’s expired passport.

Max learned lots of stuff from this close examination of stuff.  Like, that his stuff is stuff and his room looks “cool” without all his stuff.  And his stuff is interesting.

I’m too tired to compel him to be articulate tonight.

I found it interesting that this project made him confront why he kept things.  He is big on shoving stuff into corners, and this project prevented him from copping out.

He also said that he enjoyed the unpacking part and being able to redecorate his room.

Day 207 scorecard: 1035 down, 790 to go

* News flash.  I had this conversation with Max after I’d captioned the photo above:

Me: “Hey Max, what is this guy supposed to be?”

Max: “Alien on a dance floor.”

He is my son…


May 25, 2015

Jargon: May 25, 2015

My favourite turn of phrase, in the legal profession, is to turn one’s mind to (something).  Usually, I’m a big fan of dispensing with 5 words when one would do.  I love to make things simple and keep them as straightforward as possible.  I’m always on guard for idioms.  I’ve spent too much time explaining idioms to people who speak English as a second language to have much use for sayings and the like.   But I love “turning my mind” to something.

Usually, it’s said in the negative.  For example “have you considered just telling your client to find a new lawyer?”  “Why, no, I had not turned my mind to that possibility.”

I always imagine something like a giant machine that is nearly stationary, but that must move on occasion, and those occasions are monumental.  I imagine screeching gears and frantic activity as the formerly immobile-seeming machine slowly, painfully, grinds itself into a new position.  Of course, once it comes to a stop there would be pops, whistles, and a final long wheeze before it finally crackles and fizzes into position.

It’s far more serious that just saying “I had not considered that” or “dunno, I’ll get back to you later.”

I shouldn’t even be telling you this, but I actually got to use the phrase in court today, when I told the judge that I HAD, indeed, turned my mind to a particular bit of evidence (and then why I had not gone there).  She nodded, sagely (as judges do).  I’m quite sure if I’d just said “yeah, I thought of that, but no” it would not have gone down nearly so well.

And all of that is to tell you that I HAD turned my mind to a fantastic idea for today’s post, but it’s really late and I’m exhausted, so you’ll have to wait for tomorrow.  I will tell you that it definitely involves massive changes, difficult processes, and minds.

And it’s not about law.

Day 206 scorecard: 1030 down, 795 to go

ps: here is something the kids 5Downed today:

Max positively adored this when he was about 3.  I am quite sure G.G. let him have it because he loved it so much.  Now it will belong to Clara, whom I am sure will love it just as much...

Max positively adored this when he was about 3. I am quite sure G.G. let him have it because he loved it so much. Now it will belong to Clara, whom I am sure will love it just as much…