One of the things I have wanted to do since coming back to the land of English is volunteer with a hospice organization. Hospice, in case you don’t know, is caregiving for people who have a terminal illness. When there is nothing that can be medically done to turn a disease around, when there are no more treatments left, then patients and their families are eligible for hospice care. A hospice team – in a facility or in your home – makes sure that you are comfortable, as free from pain as possible, and supports your family as you make the transition out of this world.

Volunteers are a part of this team, doing nonmedical stuff like listening, bringing water or coffee or tea or warm blankets, wheeling patients outside for fresh air, and generally trying to be helpful while at the same time not making things worse than they already are. I just completed a 26-hour training program for hospice volunteers. My first shift at the hospice on the UBC campus is tomorrow afternoon.

The reason I wanted to do this? My dad.

Continue reading

The Saga of Smokey the Cat

smokey1It has been a very long, dry spell here on Gydle. My apologies. But like I’ve said before, I’m not going to waste your time and mine by putting up meaningless drivel.

I decided to break the fast with a cat story.

I know it’s taboo to write about your cat on your blog, but it’s also taboo to have a blog and not post anything for four months, so while I’m breaking the rules I figured I might as well go all the way.

But you said you weren’t going to put up meaningless drivel! you say. Good point. But just because it’s a cat story doesn’t mean it’s meaningless. Whether or not it’s drivel, well, you’ll have to make that call. Continue reading


IMG_0915Happy Thanksgiving, Gydle people! One of my favorite blogs, Gone Floatabout, written by friends with a serious sailing affliction and unparalleled wizardry with a camera, mentioned that some of the blogs they followed are posting the 50 things they’re most thankful for this year. Seems like a good idea. After all, it has been scientifically shown that being grateful is good for your health.

One of the most popular TED talks of all time is by a super-smiley guy named Shawn Achor. He says that if you spend just a few minutes a day thinking of just three things you’re grateful for, you’ll be much happier. Imagine how you’d feel after listing fifty!  Continue reading

I am …

We were having dinner with a group of people, one of Marc’s work things, introductions were being made, and someone said to me, “How about you, Mary? What’s your career?”

It caught me by surprise, and I burst out laughing. I knew it wasn’t very elegant of me, but I couldn’t help it. “That’s a very good question,” I said. “I wish I knew.” Continue reading

It’s not about you

A while ago a Major Thing happened in the life of a person very close to me. I only found out about it a week or so after it happened — when I called to verify plans we had made, and I learned everything was off due to the Major Thing – which, by the way, was a good thing, not a crisis. I was stunned and, yes, a bit hurt.

When I mentioned it to another friend, she said “Oh, I’m sure it’s not about you.”

I have no idea why I was left out of the loop. It could very well have nothing to do with me. But the more I contemplated that phrase, “It’s not about you,” the more it bothered me. Continue reading

The dragonboat adventure

"Dragon boat budapest 2010" by Lajos.Rozsa - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dragon_boat_budapest_2010.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Dragon_boat_budapest_2010.jpg

In the depths of the winter, after a kundalini class, a friendly fellow yogini named Francie asked me if I’d be interested in trying out dragonboating. Keep in mind I was riding the high that you can only get when your dormant kundalini serpent has been awakened from its lethargy by a series of repeated squats, twists, full-body dancing and gut-wrenching planks. I was feeling pretty damn invincible. And keep in mind that Francie is very cheerful and bubbly and convincing. “The name of the team is the Saggin’ Dragons! We have so much fun!”

In retrospect, I should have noted the fact that, unlike me, Francie does the three-legged planks without collapsing in the middle of the set.

Dragonboating! I thought. What a great idea! We’re living right next to the ocean, I should do something on the water! I know how to kayak. How hard can it be?

“Sure,” I said. “Why not?” Continue reading

Eat sh*t and … thrive!

IMG_1040It has been a while since I’ve used this space to educate you about the incredibleness of the microbiome and the looming bacterial takeover of the planet. But the mainstream media is fully on board with this, so there has been plenty out there for you to chew on.

Everyone is talking about the microbiome these days. If you’re not taking probiotics, you’re probably eating sauerkraut and swilling kombucha. I know I am. In fact, I have a huge vat of kombucha brewing on my kitchen counter at this very moment.  Did you know the slimy opaque thing growing on top of your kombucha is called a SCOBY, which is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast? Since when does a little non-word like “of” get its very own letter in an acronym? But I digress. Continue reading

The 5 best reasons to go out for a run

… 0r a walk, this applies to both.

In order of importance:

  1. Because you can. You have two legs and springy Achilles tendons for a reason: humans are built for running. If you don’t believe me, go read Born to Run by Christopher MacDougall. Seriously, a fully functional cardiovascular/respiratory/skeletal system is a friggin’ miracle and you should get off your ass and go celebrate that ASAP. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, why are you reading this post? BTW, we are not built for triathlons, or our genitals wouldn’t be where they are and we’d have webbed feet and hands. Just saying.
  2. Because it gets you outdoors. Notice that my title says “go out and run.” Treadmills are for hamsters. Scared of a little rain? Heat? Lightning? Dark? Come on. It’s not that bad. Too many people live indoor lives — bed-table-car-desk-car-table-couch-bed. Get out there and breathe some real oxygen. Run on a trail or in a park if you can. Connecting with nature is scientifically proven to be good for your mental health. If you have to stay inside, then by all means do yoga.
  3. Because it gets things moving. By this I mean your digestive system. And nothing is better than a well-oiled digestive system, amirite? For this reason you should always scout out toilets and well-concealed bushes on your route. Put a wad of TP in your pocket for emergencies. (Just remember to take it out before you wash them.) There’s nothing quite like the feeling after you’ve relieved yourself mid-run. Okay, TMI.
  4. Because it’s good for creativity. Stuck on a particularly nasty partial differential equation? Can’t find the solution to the twin prime conjecture? Suffering from writer’s block? If you go out for a run and just forget about it, chances are you’ll have a flash of inspiration somewhere around mile three. (Works best if you don’t also listen to music). This is also why running is good for stress relief. Like meditation, it gives you a break from your monkey brain.
  5. Because it makes you feel good. When you engage in high-intensity aerobic exercise your body produces its very own mind-altering substances: endocannibinoids and endorphins.  This is a healthier high than the plant variety and won’t cost you a penny. Unfortunately this doesn’t happen walking, but that’s okay because walking makes you feel good in a different way. It’s more zen.

Honorable mention: Because you’ll sleep better. Why is sleep important? Read this.

Notice that I did not mention weight loss and/or an amazing body. This might pan out for you, and it might not. If what you really care about in life are six-pack abs and a single-digit body fat percentage, you’re probably better off doing HIIT and getting super obsessive about your diet. Good luck having fun with that.

Life is short. Get out and run while you can.  If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, I’m really sorry. Why did you read this whole post again? Maybe you could become a wheelchair athlete. They’re amazing.

Why so fast?

IMG_0762Yesterday as I was powering down Sasamat to meet a friend for a walk in the forest, I overtook a man and a small dog. The dog was setting the pace, waddling along and stopping frequently. As I passed them, I joked, “You guys are moving along at mach speed today!”

The man smiled. “It’s senior speed,” he replied. His love for this little fireplug of a dog was palpable in the air as I passed.

Later, in the park, my friend and I were surprised by a huge guy wearing earbuds who flung himself off a wooden walkway at top speed, nearly mowing us down. He pounded into the distance, leaving us gasping in his wake. Continue reading

The underpinnings

inspirationI’ve been doing some mindfulness meditation lately. It’s about the simplest “activity” you can imagine – you just sit on the floor, on a cushion, close your eyes, and breathe.  And I’m not just doing this because I’ve moved to Vancouver and gone all yoga. Okay, it’s partly that. But it’s also been scientifically proven to build you a better brain.

Studies have shown that you can improve blood pressure and anxiety levels, increase cognitive capacity, and stave off aging just by sitting and doing nothing at all. A Harvard prof has done research that shows that it only takes 8 weeks of a meditation practice to rewire your brain. The brains of the meditators actually got thicker in areas involved in attention and sensory processing. It’s like doing pushups for your brain! (And here I thought it was a bad thing to have a thick head…) Continue reading