Sunday, September 27, 2009

Raving in Amsterdam

Overall, I act my age, or at least one close to mine. Sometimes I step beyond the norm and act a completely different age. Thankfully Waking Up In Amsterdam provides just the right venue to blog about it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

They can never take that away

On my last trip home to Canada I came across the wicker basket that adorned the front of my Mother's bicycle. I remembered the basket for one reason only, a single day's bike ride.

It's a distant memory. One of my most distant. Shortly after I learned how to ride a bike, my Mom and I went for a ride out in the country. We rode along Lakeshore Road, over the canal, and into the farms and orchards of Niagara to get fresh strawberries.

The most memorable part was that the basket ended up overfilled with strawberries, and the jiggling of the basket as we rode meant our prize was liquifying itself as we went. So we had no choice but to (1) stop and enjoy the fresh strawberries along the roadside, and (2) make jam, once home. A great life lesson, it defined a perfect summer day. And it stained the bottom of the basket red.

That old bike is long gone. Mom's gone too. But the basket and stain remained. Until recently.

I had no choice. I couldn't sell this early-childhood memory at our yard sale. I took it home and mounted it on my "granny bike". My God it was useful! So convenient. And like taking a little part of Mom everywhere too.

I couldn't sell it. But I knew such a basket couldn't last on the bike either. It was only a matter of time. Only a matter of months.

Now there's a single zip-tie remaining around my handbar. It reminds me of where the basket used to be. Now I shall forever see the basket that used to be there. It's absence is a constant reminder. A reminder of a beautiful summer day, and the pure joy of cycling, and strawberries, and Mom. The basket is gone, but they can never take away the sweet memory.


In case you don't know, the international media has a lot to say about the healthcare debate in the United States, and it sounds a lot like," Racism... race... racists... black... racism... racists."

I was confused for 8 years as to how and why the U.S. population failed to protest the actions of their government. Now suddenly, change has come to America, and they're standing up and protesting "healthcare".

Why does media like BBC World News have to report that President Obama doesn't think healthcare protests are racially motivated? Honestly? It's because healthcare protests are racially motivated.

I could believe otherwise, if healthcare wasn't so screwed up in the U.S.

A quick check of UN figures shows that life expectancy in the United States doesn't measure up well against the rest of the western world. Thirty-sixth place for women? For men's life expectancy it's twenty-seventh place.

But healthcare in the U.S. does hold one top place. It's the most expensive place in the world to be treated. And not by a little, but by a lot.

To quote Wikipedia," Universal health care is implemented in all industrialized countries, with the exception of the United States. It is also provided in many developing countries."

What it all adds up to, is, it doesn't all add up. Fear of change is one thing, but fear of catching up to the rest of the world? Perhaps it's pressure from big-business, afraid of government control. Perhaps it's partisan and entirely political. But what it looks like... well the way it is being shown, it looks pretty damn bad.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thank you honey

Ambrosia artemisiifolia aka ragweed has been a bane in my life, for nearly my whole life. When I first moved to Europe my seasonal hayfever (specifically my allergy to ragweed) got much better. But it's been more than 8 years. Now, the species of ragweed in Amsterdam (and along my favourite biking routes) are ones I'm horribly allergic to.

And thus for the last three days I've been sick. It may as well be a head cold or mild flu. My chest hurts from the hundreds of coughing fits. Sneezing leaves me dizzy. And the thought of "doing something"? Well that's right out of the question.

But I have hopes.

For the past year or so I've added raw (organic) honey to my diet. I believe honey helps boost immune response and improve sugar reactions within the body. And today I read that honey is also thought to keep ragweed allergies at bay.

I ran out of honey four days ago.

Is it coincidence that I stopped eating honey and immediately got hit by ragweed? Probably. But today I braved wind and rain and my own ill health and road my bike to the Nature Store. I've got 3 months of honey now.

Honestly I have no idea whether honey will help or not. Ragweed's pollenation season lasts for 6-8 weeks of September and October. Or until the first frost. But honey can't hurt. And while I'm sitting here with nothing else to do, it makes my coffee so much more delicious.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Today is the day I will go to the gym

I can talk about fitness or bikes or karate for hours. Similarly minded friends and I can discuss subtle differences in the 4-5 different ways we know to do squat exercises. And when it comes to sharing what I've read, I can usually tell you the two or three "schools of thought" on a subject and which I found worked best for myself. But there's one bit of advice I've never figured out how to share. How do you help motivate another person to start a fitness program?

My final motivation was a nightmare level of stress. A close friend spent months trying to encourage me to go to the gym. I agreed that I needed to exercise. I was fat and always tired. I wanted a change. But day after day I just never went to the gym. It finally took trouble at work. One moring I got to work and within an hour I ended up turning around and going home. I took a few days off. But instead of sitting at home I went to the YMCA; five times that first week, six times the next week.

Is it like that for everyone? Does it take a trip to the bottom, a scare from above, or some other 'near miss' to get us going?

Once started, exercise brings its own rewards. Endoprhines are there immediately. Increased energy comes in just days. A feeling of pride at the results on the scale are there in just weeks. Even just that first night's sleep, post-exercise, can be reason enough to go back to the gym.

Once underway, exercise programs get more complex. That's where knowing about different exercises, nutrition plans and such can be useful. But before that first trip to the gym, all the details can only serve to confuse. Or maybe they can work as seeds? Seeds that spring to goals and then grow into accomplishments.

Are you tired of being tired? Do you know you should be exercising, but don't? Do you have things you look forward to but always feel your body is holding you back? If so then here is my advice... don't think of reps and sets, don't think of lifestyle choices, nutrition changes or any of it. Just think," Today is the day I will go to the gym."

The journey is long. But it begins with a single step. Just go to the gym.

Friday, September 04, 2009

It's Yellow!

Yellow can mean cowardly. Or snow that shouldn't be played in. But today yellow is a source of pride, as I sit here, staring at my new karate belt.

Eleven months of training and practice have brought me to a point where I can now begin my karate training. Anyone can get a white belt for just showing up. Yellow means you've been preparing and are ready to learn.

Heck, my first lesson hurt for two weeks. The sports injuries I received in my first few classes took most of the year to heal. Some remain. But I have no doubt I'm stronger and fitter than I was. I've discovered flexibility I thought hips couldn't provide and while I'm sure it will leave a bruise, I can block a punch with force.

And now? Am I ready? Well, not according to my own experience, nor the tennants of karate. But at this rate, in just seven to ten more years, I'm going to be good at this.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Summer flying by

I was walking down the street and suddenly heard a "Whoosh". Something was moving; something big, moving quickly. It was summer.

And it's flying by so fast that autumn is being sucked into it's wake and dragged along.

I was really starting to enjoy the park this year. I've carried my towel across the road a couple of times to stretch out in the sun. And the more of that I enjoyed, the more I wanted. But the weather hasn't been playing along. Cold, cloud, grey winds and dark temperatures. Not sunbathing weather.

It's been a week. A week since the last warm sunny day. Since then Mother Nature has been painting with a different pallet. And then there's the whooshing sound, which is her vacuuming the last bits of summer up.