lethbridge dragon boat festival

This race wasn't our finest performance, but I think you'll agree that it's not exactly a poor performance either. My team in Wahine Kei Waka (lane 2). We photo finished in 4th place. That means it was so close between 3rd and 4th place that the winner was determined by photo. No medal for Wahine.

This race was in Lethbridge Alberta a few weekends ago.

This past weekend, we raced in Leduc Alberta. We raced seven times over Saturday and Sunday and one of those races was a 2-kilometer race. (I 'bout died.)

So, what do you think?

slowly getting fitter

Runners "Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." ~~ Mother Teresa

Another snippet of wisdom from Mother Teresa: When asked how many people she had helped on the streets of Calcutta she guessed 30,000. She deflected the reporter's praise with, "I could never have carried the 30,000th if I hadn't carried the first."

Another common phrase: Don't despise small beginnings.

I've said before that my mantra has become "Baby steps, baby steps." (Anyone who has seen What About Bob gets the picture of a paranoid, obsessive compulsive man chanting "Baby steps. Baby steps." I love that movie.)

Three years ago I was a sedentary person. I hated that about myself. I wanted to be like the women I saw who were active. I envied the women I'd pass who were jogging. (I have enormous respect for the women who jog with their babies in strollers.) I envied the active families who did things together; hiking, bicycling, sports, etc. I was embarrassed by my lack of energy, stamina, and breath. I also saw myself as a poor testimony to God's ability to change lives. Granted, he had changed a huge part of my life, but not my losing battle with physical activity.

Two years ago I began making ever-so-small changes in the way I ate. I quit buying cocoa because my biggest weakness was no-bake cookies. I started buying more fruit and vegetables and incorporating them into every meal. I went from 2% milk to 1%. In a nutshell, I started taking baby steps toward better foods. With nothing but painless "baby steps," things began to change. I think I lost 15 pounds that year. It's true that 15 pounds isn't much, and by dieting I could have lost that in a couple months, but I never dieted. I just took baby steps in the right direction. Those 15 pounds lost were painless and the weight is still coming down, slowly but painlessly.

My girls have always been active. Super active. Not necessarily in organized sports, but active nonetheless. As preschoolers, they hit the outdoors at 7:30 each morning and played hard till bedtime, breaking only to eat. A few years ago I decided I had to get active because I saw my girls, Rachael particularly who'd once been an incredibly active child, starting to mirror my lethargy. That was my wake-up call. Fortunately, I had the success of my baby steps in the eating department to draw from and decided to start taking baby steps in the physical activity department. And baby steps they were. My first set of baby steps was vowing to park far from entrance doors. It didn't matter if there were 20 empty spaces next to the door, I'd park near the end of the lot. Sometimes I'd take the stairs instead of the elevators. I parked in the lot next to our church parking lot. I still do all these things and it's been a few years. But I've added things along the way too, lots of things. I could never have done those things without the baby steps, the initial little things.

Years before I made any of the above changes I was aware of how my body was not glorifying God. I believed that God changes lives, that he gives us abundant life. I experienced those changes and that abundant life in many areas. But I always fought and lost in my eating habits and weight. For years I prayed, "God change me. Change my desires. Help me get victory over these things."

I'm on my way! God is giving me victory and I know it's his doing not mine. Yes, I'm the one who actually has to go to the gym and do the work. Nothing sounded less appealing to me than the gym four or five years ago. (Now even my van is trained, I don't even think about the gym. The van just seems to take me there after work. :)) Every day after my workout, I thank God for the strength and energy and especially for the desire to be active. The desire came from him, that part I'm sure of.

Last week I read Psalm 28:7, "The Lord is my strength, my shield. He helps me and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving." I immediately thought of the changes he's made in me. I have grown to love physical activity and I don't for a second take credit for that. I KNOW he's changed me. I would still abhor it had I been on my own. He has changed me. He has given me significant victories and is continuing to. And the really cool thing is I'm not measuring my success by my weight. Yeah, it'll be really great when I weigh what I weighed in high school :-), but if that never comes, my life is so much better than it was before these changes started happening.

I know some of my readers struggle with the same things I've struggled with. It's not everyday that you'll see me giving advice, but today I'm going to. Here is my advice:

1) Pray fervently that God will change your desires (give you a desire for better foods and an active life).

2) Start taking baby steps. (Maybe introduce a new veggie or fruit into your life every week; have one fruit a day; park far away from entrances.)

And when you get discouraged remember this: Every baby step in the right direction is just that -- a step in the right direction.

2008 reflections


"Every day that you do the right thing is one day closer to the results you want." Jeff on My Super Charged Life

I love this time of year. I love reflecting on the past year and the new year. I love assessing personal progress and ascertaining weaknesses, (as if those aren't easy to see). In 2007 I discovered that growth is made by taking baby steps -- that every step in the right direction is indeed a step in the right direction. This was a revelation to me. I thought to be successful I had to be totally successful. I never saw moving in the right direction as valuable if I didn't fully reach the goal. That's all changed. If I've made progress I'm happy. The more progress the happier. But even a little progress is enough to be thankful.

Here were my goals for 2008 and my progress:

- De-clutter more. I've recently realized that I have more seasonal decorations than I need. I can part with some fall and Christmas decorations and with other things in closets in the basement. ** I seriously rocked in this department. I have to say I'm well on my way to being a minimalist. And I love it!

- Get a job. I really don't want to work retail, but retail has always worked with my scheduling needs. I'm going to try to find a job that isn't retail. Something new and improved. ** This turned out even better than I ever could have dreamed. I got a great job with great hours and it's close to home too. I'm so so thankful. Bonus! I got a Tuesday evening job too and it's my spending money. It too is a great job.

- Spend an hour a week with my friend Colleen. ** This became impossible with my new jobs. I didn't have that kind of time any more.

- Take the dogs to the off leash park on Thursday mornings with my friend Elaine. ** This too became impractical once I got the job.

- Take the dogs to the off leash park on Saturdays with Hannah and Deborah. (These off leash dates serve several purposes; strengthening relationships with the girls, getting the dogs out where they can run like the wind, getting me into nature, getting me physical.) ** I did this pretty often until the price of gasoline sky-rocketed. When gas prices came down we had moved even farther from the park by then.

- Use Rosary Beads regularly for focusing me in prayer. (I'm not Catholic but I've found Rosary Beads beneficial in keeping me focused in prayer.) ** Yes, I do this. Many a morning I find my beads in bed with me. That means I fell asleep while praying. That's a good way to fall asleep.

- Join a dragon boat racing team. ** Woohoo. I didn't just join a team, I joined a competitive team that rocks.

- Get Rachael into drawing or cartooning lessons. ** Accomplished. She really enjoyed it.

- Go for a walk in the river valley with Rachael once a week. ** Didn't do.

- Give up sugar for Lent. ** Accomplished.

- Mall walk once a week. Once the snow melts, move this walk outside. ** I didn't mall walk once, unless I was shopping, which happened very infrequently. But I did walk frequently outside after the melt.

- Reduce portion sizes at meal time. ** I didn't do great, but I didn't do horribly either.

- Finish New Testament reading. ** Accomplished. :-)

- Lay with each girl at bedtime once a week. ** I do this fairly regularly, but not once a week. It's more like I lay with a child once a week but not every child once a week. I improved, but I didn't accomplish my goal.

More recaps of the 2008: The single best thing from my year was my visit from Stephanie and Christopher. I don't see my American kids nearly enough so I cherish every moment.

Boot Camp! Good gravy, what was I thinking? But I did it and I'm so proud of myself. I didn't die and I'm seriously grateful for that. There were plenty of times when I was thinking, I wonder if this is what it feels like right before the killer stroke. Boot Camp was a huge accomplishment for me.

Using just a few words to describe 2008, I'd say challenging, invigorating, satisfying. Not a bad set of words, eh? A few days ago I was reading from Deuteronomy 1 when God said to Moses, "You've stayed on this mountain long enough. It's time to break camp and move on." As I read that I thought how it was sort of like when God convicted me of inactivity. I knew I'd been on the lethargic mountain long enough and that God was saying it was time to break out and carve a new way. I'm so glad he did. But the most beautiful thing is that he didn't just convict me, he gave me the desire and the strength to carry through. I'm so so thankful for that. He's been strong in my weakness.

Shortly after reading the verse about the mountain I was thinking about Moses on that mountain and wondered the time frame. I went back to Deuteronomy 1 and read, "But forty years after the Israelites left Mount Sinai, on a day in midwinter..." Guess how old I was and what time of year it was when I was convicted of my inactivity? It was a cold winter morning when I was 40 years old. How cool is that? Me and Moses, we're buds.

Through the encouragement of one of the blogs I read, Simple Mom, I created a phrase to describe my 2008. "Much ventured, much gained." Hallelujah.



thanksgiving 11 - 13


I’m in the third week of boot camp, counting the days till it’s over and till I can be just a regular girl going to a regular gym at a regular time of day. This 5:00 a.m. business is really hard. I’m quite tired these days. God is good to me and I have many many things that I’m thankful for and that give me joy day in and day out.

11. I’m very thankful for my job. I couldn’t have found a better job had I tried. The hours are superb for me, the location is superb, my office is superb, what I do is ok. Sometimes I think my employer can’t justify my position and fear the position will be terminated. I hope not but I don’t take it for granted.

12. Boot camp is almost over -- I count the mornings every day. Hang on till next Friday, Val. Hang on. My friend Elaine is doing this with me and I’m thankful for that too. It makes it easier knowing she’s expecting me to pick her up at 5:15. I’m tired, but it’s a good kind of tired. The desire to do this is a God thing and I know it. For several years I’ve prayed that God would change me from the inside out; that He’d change my desires and make me want to exercise. I’m incredibly grateful that He has answered that prayer.

13. I’m very thankful for the quiet time that is built into my day every work day. After dropping the girls off at school, I have one hour before I start work. I go to a park down the road from Debs’ school and that is my prayer and Bible reading time. It works perfectly for me. That part of my day is another reason I love my job as different work hours wouldn’t work so well for this element of my day.


boot camp, round 2


This morning at 5:00 I started month 2 of physical-fitness boot camp. Although I'm the only one in this class that's a second-timer, I'm still the most overweight and out-of-shape. Sigh. (I get the distinct impression boot camp is not a favored past time for fat folks).

My friend Elaine is boot camping with me this month. Right off the bat this morning she pulled something in her leg and from that moment on she was the class grunter. I was happy to surrender the title.

Someone said, I think it was Anais Nin, that we see the world as we are, not as the world is. As I was driving home this morning I thought about my first day of boot camp last month. It was so hard for me; I thought I might die -- literally. It was hard this morning too, but not once did I think I was closing in on death.

When I got home, Gordon greeted me by sweetly (and proudly, he's proud of me for all this effort) asking, "How are you doing?" I was pleased to be able to reply, "I'm a whole lot better than I was this time last month."

After a shower I fell back into bed and slept another 45 minutes. The first day last month, I nearly slept the whole day.

My point? I realized this morning that last month I went on and on about how hard boot camp was. Experiencing it freshly again this morning, I realized with clarity that the problem isn't how hard boot camp is, rather how out of shape I am. I spent the month seeing the world (boot camp) as I am, not how it (boot camp) is. I can't say I'll enjoy it, but again, I know I'll be a better and more fit person having done it.

Again, my goal is to finish the month without missing any sessions.


lessons from boot camp


I am extremely happy to report that I finished a month-long boot camp this morning. My last exercise was carrying a 20 pound bag of sand while I ran and then pulling a truck tire from one end of the field and back. As I briefly recuperated afterward, several congratulated me on finishing the month. Everyone knew it had been hard for me. I was the sound effects for the group. "Uuuugghhh," was my common anguished cry.

This morning my mates told me they couldn't believe I came back for the second day. "I knew on that first day I'd never see you again," one said. Well I surprised them and never missed a day. They said I had grit.

There is more than the finishing boot camp thing that I'm proud of. It's big to me that I never missed a day. Every morning was a spiritual exercise to make myself go. Early in dragon boat season, I had an epiphany about how it was ingrained in me to quit hard things. I have a history of quitting things if I was no good, it was too hard, I was too embarrassed to be bad at it, it was too inconvenient, . . . When I had that realization early in the dragon boat season (you may recall how hard I thought it was), I knew it was a spiritual problem and I committed to finish the season if it killed me. Thankfully I learned to love it.

The same thing happened with boot camp. It was brutal, but I knew I'd be an internally stronger and better person if I finished. I committed to not miss a day and I didn't.

I learned that no matter how I hate the front end of it, (getting up at 4:55 a.m. isn't my cup of tea), or how I think "I can't take another step" during the middle of it, I always felt happy that I'd done it afterward. I was always thankful that I got out of bed and that I kept going even when I thought I literally couldn't do one more step.

I learned that striving toward getting fit is a boost in and of itself. I can't tell I look one iota different than I did when I started, but I feel better about myself. I lost a whopping 2.5 pounds. Having lost 2.5 pounds doesn't sound grand, but  I'm a better person, a more disciplined person, a more fit person from the inside out, and I'm not talking just physically.

I learned that sticking with something that is hard and that you'd rather not stick to has far reaching effects. Gordon and I were asked to do a skit at church. Let me assure you that I am no drama queen. I have a history of freezing up in front of people. I have always been content to leave theatrics to my sister, Stacie. I wished I could "act" but knew I never would.

When I was asked to be the bag lady in a skit, the first shock was that I said OK. Never in a million years would I have thought I'd willingly participate in a skit, and my part was a significant one. I said yes, and as soon as I gave it some thought, I knew that the willingness to try was directly related to dragon boating and boot camp. From both dragon boating and boot camp I had learned and was continuing to learn that the experience is worth something even if I'm a total wash up at it.

The day we did our skit, I wasn't too terribly nervous. You have to know me to know how big that is. Once I got going, I wasn't nervous at all. I was able to tap into acting skills I didn't know I had. Quite simply, I was a great bag lady. Everyone thought I was a born actress (or a born bag lady). They had no idea how far out of my comfort zone I was. I can't explain it, but I know it's related to both dragon boating and boot camp.

Another lesson from boot camp; I learned that I actually like the active life. I like physical activity. I was humiliated quite terribly in sports as a youth and have lived all my life knowing I couldn't do a blasted thing in the sports and physical fitness areas. Well, it was all a lie and I learned it at 42 years of age. I am not the best, but I can do it and have fun.

I've enrolled in another boot camp. I'm dreading it. It starts Monday and it's a repeat of what I've just completed. 

I've learned a lot this month. It was long, terrible, hard and I'm glad it was long, terrible, and hard and that I can say "I did it!".


boot camp


Friday I finished my first week of boot camp. It was hard. I am much much worse than the other women. They are younger, thinner, and fitter. Being the worst is a humbling position to be in -- definitely not my preferred spot in the food chain. I'm always last to finish every exercise. My teammates can't stop their drill until I've completed mine. No one is ever allowed down time, everyone is constantly working.

We had a drill on Friday where we ran to the first pylon then back to the starting line, did ten push ups then ran to the second pylon, ran back to the starting line, did ten push ups, then ran back to the third pylon. . . Since I was last and everyone was far ahead of me, they had to keep doing push ups as I dragged up the rear. It's humiliating enough just being last. The pressure is steep to hurry. I was on my eighth push up in my last set and thought I couldn't do another one. They were yelling at me, not angry yells, more like begging and encouraging mixed. Evidently someone in the group slacked off because I heard the instructor bark, "You can't stop until Valerie has finished her set."

Being the worst is hard (and embarrassing) but being them is equally hard.

I was basking in finishing my first week at the end of class on Friday. In this context, "basking" resembles laying on my back looking like very big road-kill but on the inside there's a smile. Instructor quickly ruined my revelry by saying that Monday will be a hard day, our hardest yet. That wasn't how I wanted to end the week. 

As I was running on Friday the sweat was dripping off me as if it was pouring rain. Rivulets ran down my face and my clothes were soaking. I can't imagine it getting harder. 


boot camp day 2


It only hurts when I breathe. If I lie like a corpse everything feels fine.

I've been reading 1 Peter and meditating on 5:12, "The grace of God is with you no matter what happens."

This morning as I ran around the field at 5:30, thinking I might be leaving this world at any moment to receive my eternal reward, I kept chanting this verse (in my head of course, God knows I hadn't the breath to really speak it). Maybe I'm about to die, but the grace of God is with me no matter what happens.

The grace of God carried me through. It was harder today. We doubled the running time and we did all the same exercises as Monday, except we added three more sets of each and got to hold weights as we did them.

You should check out a boot camp. Fun, fun, fun. 


about boot camp


Let me tell you about Boot Camp. First let me say I have marbles for brains. The words "boot camp" conjure up ideas of pain, yelling, exhaustion, and other equally charming words. (Insert, "Valerie, what were you thinking?")

There is this torturous boot camp called Soldiers of Fitness (SOF). I wanted to do it because I thought that would really be impressive. I have a very, very fit girlfriend who was training for a marathon in the river valley. As she trained, Soldiers of Fitness ran past her and they were carrying logs. Refreshing, totally refreshing. I guess it was my pride talking that made me want to do SOF. After all, how often do you see people running in the river valley carrying logs. I thought being able to do this would prove that I was fit and people would oohh and awhh and say, "That Valerie, is she ever amazing?" Yes, it was pride.

Darling Gordon looked at the brochure and knew intuitively that I was NOT in good enough shape for SOF. (That really wasn't rocket science, he was just a step ahead of me.) Anyway, once hearing that I probably wasn't fit enough for SOF, (I heard it from several sources) I started checking out other boot camps.

At 5:00 this morning I hauled myself out of bed and went to an empty field in the cold black night. I was the least fit person there, by a long shot. And the instructor punished the whole group for one person's (read: MY) mess-ups. For example, during the plank, I let my stomach touch the ground and the instructor yelled, "We're starting over. I saw a stomach touch the ground." This is all for the building of team-work. "It's all about team-work. We don't leave anybody behind," she barked as though we were in the Vietnam jungle trying to get to the helicopter.

I was pathetic. Totally, pitifully, pathetic. I honestly think some of my badness can be attributed to the early hour. I was nauseous from the first "10-minute run to get the heart rate up." There were no breaks, just three or four 10-second drink breaks, which I thought was a commendably virtuous act of generosity. By the same token I was afraid to drink because I was pretty sure I was going to throw up. I never did, but I wanted to because I put on quite a show when I throw up. I know I would have gotten a break had I started the vomiting business. Alas, it stayed down.

I can't stress enough just how poorly I did. As daylight broke and class ended, I wanted to stay lying in the field. My team mates were very nice to me telling me they couldn't do it the first time either. That's where I learned there was some repeat campers. They encouraged me with, "it gets easier."

I sure hope so. It's going to be a LOOOOOOONG month if it doesn't. I came home and crawled back in bed and have pretty much been there all day, just getting up occasionally to take more Advil.

woman rachael

My little Rachael is a woman now. She and I are going out to the Cheesecake Cafe in a while in celebration of womanhood. She's so excited. Womanhood, cheesecake, a little bit of shopping, what's not to love about this new season?

She's a gem. When we talk about names and what they mean, Rachael hears that she is worthy of being worked for for 14 years just like Rachel in the Bible. We talk about Laban's deceit, poor ugly Leah, Jacob's sad predicament. But the bottom line for Jacob was that Rachel was worth working for her deceitful, lying, conniving father for 14 years.

My Rachael will be just as worthy.

I'm about to call Gordon and ask him to bring home something for supper. Since Rachael and I are eating out, the mood to cook for the other three just hasn't materialized. I'm thinking of pulling old grandmother lines. Something like, my hips hurt, my fingers hurt, I can't remember where I put my glasses. Since I am a grandma now, I wonder how far this will get me. Every season has its benefits.

lifestyle change update

I just had my third visit with my nutritionist since I started my lifestyle change. I've lost six pounds since December 9. Doesn't sound too terribly impressive, does it?

It's not much, (especially since my goal is a bajillion pounds), but I do feel lighter -- those six pounds have made a difference. I did very well on my lifestyle change this week, yet I only lost one pound. At first I was disappointed, but now I'm reminding myself that one pound a week equals 52 pounds in a year. I could live with that.

I'm a few pounds shy of feeling confident enough to pose nude for a photo shoot, but I'm figuring with my continued success, I'll be ready for that in the spring of 2009.

eating habits and spiritual growth

God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. - John Piper.

Romans 12:2 "Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." This is my prayer in my "lifestyle change" pursuit. I'm asking God to transform me into a new person by changing the way I think with respect to food and physical activity.

I have an ongoing conviction, that generally speaking, I squash and repress trying desperately to ignore. Despite my grand efforts, it still pricks me. It's overeating and being overweight. Overeating and being overweight reveals a great deal about me.

1) I don't believe (or at least I don't live like I believe) that Jesus is enough. When I'm lonely, bored, depressed, or anxious, I don't go to God for comfort and peace. I go to food.

2) I'm not all that "green" after all. All my thoughts on materialism, consumerism, and consumption are really worthless since I don't practice them in something as rudimentary as my eating habits.

3) My concern for the hungry and poor is not as sincere as I like to think it is. I keep overeating, never mind that 15,000 starve to death every day.

Once again I tell God I'm sorry. I'm sorry for not caring for the hungry; for not caring about the earth enough to slow down my own consumption; for the messages I send my kids. But mostly, I'm sorry for living in a way that says He isn't enough to meet the needs of my frail emotions and physical cravings. I'm sorry for going to food when I ought to got to God.

My prayer today is that God would transform me by changing the way I think. I need him to help me deny myself the lesser good (food) for the greater good (intimacy with Him).

My food addiction is Satan's tool to distance me from God. He accomplishes this by seducing me to food to meet my needs rather than God. God offers to really sate my longings. Food is a counterfeit.

As sure as food addiction is Satan's tool, God can use it as a purifier. As I go to God when I'm weak and craving cookies, He will strengthen my weak resolve, satisfying me with something much grander than five minutes of chocolate ecstasy. He will use my weakness to show Himself strong.

This food addiction could actually be the means which God purifies my faith and draws me into deeper, more intimate relationship with Him.

Having thought about it, I think it's true. I always "preach" that trials are opportunities for spiritual growth. This is my invitation for growth and deeper communion with God.

2 Corinthians 1:9, "We learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God." If there's one thing I know, it's that I will fail in my own strength. Temptation will come and I'll bake a cake. But God!!! I will go to God.

John Piper writes that God's desire for us is "more contentment in God and less satisfaction in self and the world." I want that contentment that He gives and I want to quit going to food for contentment and satisfaction.

God help me.

lifestyle change

(Me in my less fluffy days, 1982)
044_44Well something good is cooking. Hummm. Poor analogy, at least in this context. I'm going to lose weight. Yes, simple as that, I've started a "lifestyle change." Diets are so out of style. Lifestyle change is where it's happening.

I've been on a waiting list to get into a program called Weight Wise. My first appointment was last Friday and it was amazing. I left full of hope and inspiration. The good vibes are still there. My appointment was 1 1/2 hours long and I met with an RN and a dietitian. They were very helpful. Now I keep going back, they'll talk sweet to me, and presto, I'm thin.

Seriously, I was so encouraged and I've not been encouraged in this department in years. The first thing I had to do is buy a pedometer to measure my activity. I'm supposed to walk 10,000 steps a day. Today I put on 15,000 steps and am so pleased with myself. You may do that every day of the week, but it's part of my new "lifestyle."

Secondly I eat "right" and write it all down so they can brag on my "lifestyle changes." I thrive on affirmation and since they are paid to affirm me (and offer me gentle assistance when needed) this should be a piece of cake. Oops, another bad analogy.

On a side note, yet still connected, a friend who happens to be overweight herself, asked me if I really planned to tell the truth when I wrote down what I've eaten. I told her, that yes of course I planned to play by the rules. She belied her own weakness by asking, "What if you eat three candy bars?"
She told me she'd not admit all the overeating she does. She said she would tell them she had a "boiled egg and half a grapefruit for breakfast. Mid morning two baby carrots. For lunch a tossed salad with romaine lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds. No dressing of course. And finally, for supper, broiled cod, four Brussels spouts, a small serving of cauliflower, and a fresh pineapple ring for desert." I laughed.

All that reminds me of a story from years ago. Somewhere, for some reason that I cannot recall, my brother-in-law Herbie was asked to tell what he had for breakfast. He casually recounted the picture on the side of a cereal box, listing them all: Special K, half a grapefruit, a slice of toast, and a glass of orange juice.

My mom was amazed that he had that kind of a breakfasts. "You really had that for breakfast?" she asked.

He answered her more honestly than he'd answered the other person. "Why no," he said, "I had a Ding Dong and a Pepsi."