Saturday, December 26, 2015

SOTC 184/365*

Smile Behind the Snow

* Officially over the half way point!

Monday, November 30, 2015

SOTC 183/365

Over the years I've become more and more convinced that I'm a city girl with a prairie heart.

Farmer's Last Light III (SOTC 183/365)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Saturday, October 31, 2015

SOTC 181/365

Working with some still life this afternoon...

Straw Swirl IV (SOTC 181/365)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

SOTC 176/365

At the Fountains (SOTC 176/365)

SOTC 175/365

Glimpse of Yellow (SOTC 175/365)

Overwhelmed (SOTC 174/365)


THIS, after the flocks of birds swirling south, the rolling hills of hay bales, the fall-colours in the coulees, and the deer crossing in the sunset.

I had to ask God to dial it back at this point; I was feeling a bit overhwelmed.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Timey Wimey (SOTC 173/365)

If you build it, they will come.

A guy in Edmonton built a TARDIS, and Whovians all over the city gathered to take pictures of and with the iconic time machine. While I would not consider myself a Whovian, I've enjoyed enough of the series that even my curiosity was piqued. I also know a good photo opp when I see one.

Key to the TARDIS III (SOTC 173/365)

"Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

Monday, August 24, 2015

SOTC 170/365

Red Hot (SOTC 170/365) 

"Sunset is still my favourite colour."
- Mattie Stepanek

Sunday, August 23, 2015

SOTC 169/365

Towards a Fiery Sunset (SOTC 169/365)

SOTC 168/365

The sky was pasty with clouds; I did not think a nice sunset was bound to happen, and had focused my camera towards other things. When I paused to stretch and turned around...

Pink Ribbons (SOTC 168/365)

SOTC 167/365

Leaves and Moss (SOTC 167/365)It smells fresh and earthy, as if I am somewhere on the West Coast; only the faint sound of traffic behind me gives my beautiful city away.

Monday, August 10, 2015

SOTC 166/365

Where Brick Meets Brick (SOTC 166/365)

Next Steps... All 10,000 of Them.

I don't think I can claim baseline anymore.

I've been using my Fitbit--and the app that goes with it--for nearly three months. This has given me plenty of data to start looking at my health habits and what may or may not need to change.

Of course, the simple act of tracking my steps, and logging my food and activities, means I've been making small changes from the get-go, just based on the day-to-day info the FitBit gave me. Never a true baseline when you're analyzing yourself. ;)

Here are some things that Fitbit has brought to light:

My step-count is still up and down depending on the day, but I've noticed that over time, the degree of fluctuation has become smaller, and this summer I've been able to hit 10,000 or close to it more often.

Taking care of my niece and her dog was the easiest way to ensure 10,000 steps. When I was taking care of P, we'd often go for a walk in the morning and in the evening. The other aunty and I found this held much benefit for all four of us.* Admittedly, it's taken some concerted effort to get to 10,000 steps outside of those two weeks. More on that in a bit.

In terms of food, I've learned that I eat most of my calories at lunch.
I've learned that Timbits have less calories than I thought.
I've learned that cookies have more.

I've also learned that in general, my calorie intake is about half-and-half; half the time I go over what Fitbit deems to be my ideal daily intake, and half the time I'm under or "in the zone." I don't have big ambitions to lose weight; I'm at a healthy weight as it is--I would just like to keep it there. When I'm over the recommended intake for the day, it's generally only by about 100-150 calories. Which is kinda reassuring, if mildly aggravating. But by the time I'd be logging my bedtime snack at 11pm, I'd be in no position to go for a 20-min walk around the neighbourhood; I was ready for bed.

In terms of what I'm actually consuming...
  • I am right on par with the recommended consumption of sodium (I actually thought I'd be way over).
  • My average potassium intake is significantly below the maximum (I only consume about 1/4 of the max).
  • My calcium intake is about half of what it should be. Hmm...
  • My sugar intake is about 4x what it should be (not good, but still better than I thought it would be, believe it or not; I have a wicked sweet tooth).
  • I'm somewhat short on fibre.
  • My cholesterol is really good.*
So, overall, not a bad 'report card.' But it's got me thinking about improving and maintaining, especially with autumn coming--back to sitting at a desk, and eventually, the cold, dark days of winter.

I've stopped tracking my meals, because the overall quantity I'm consuming seems to be okay, and it's actually quite the time-consuming commitment to log everything I put into my mouth. I need to consider my sugar and fibre intake, but I'm going to look at that more in terms of what I'm eating, not how much.

What I want to focus on first is my step count. Like I said, it's been... challenging to get to 10,000 steps each day without a child, a dog, or trips to big-box stores.

I've conquered embedding small amounts of extra steps here and there. I park further away from buildings. I choose walk-in over drive-through banking. I pace the house while I brush my teeth.

I notice the benefits of walking more, but it hasn't become routine. I still compare. Would I like to take a half-hour walk, or spend a half-hour in my hammock with a good book? Or put in a half-hour of overtime that I can flex later to travel? Or take a half-hour nap because I'm not a morning person and this morning kicked me in the butt? ...The walk doesn't always win. And I even like walking! I think--in part--I'm stuck in a mindset of needing a more tangible purpose in my walking--catching up with a friend, taking books back to the library, an organized photo walk. I need to start reframing the activity so that I view increased health and wellness as the tangible purpose that it actually is. And so begins my challenge.

What do you do to increase your steps? Perhaps I'll try those ideas

* we may have parodied Charlotte Diamond's Four Hugs a Day with, "two walks a day, that's the minimum..." as we strolled down the trail!
** My doctor once told me once that my cholesterol levels were "enviable." Apparently, they still are.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

SOTC 165/365

Flecks on the Water (SOTC 165/365)

In the Calm of an Urban Morning (SOTC 164/365)

In the Calm of an Urban Morning

Train School (SOTC 163/365)

My photography club had a meet-up at the Alberta Railway Museum last weekend. I hadn't even known this place existed until the event was planned. I am not one of those people who loves trains, but after spending a couple hours at the museum, I could start to get a sense of why there are some who are those people.

In my brain, I generally envision four kinds of train cars: engines, cabooses, passenger cars, and freight cars. It doesn't even cross my mind that of course there must be other types of cars to hold the people that keep a train running. At the museum, I moved in and out of all sorts of train cars that I'd never thought about or known existed: kitchen cars, bunker cars for train workers, cars for animals, office-type cars, and the medic/first aid car.

But this.

Train School I (SOTC 163/365)

I stepped in the back entry, and before I even came to the full realization of what I was looking at, I loved this car.

It's the instructional car.

Teaching happens here.

True, not the teaching of K-12 students. Workers would receive their training in this car. Which makes sense. Those of us who work in offices have board rooms, or attend conferences in hotels, to receive training. But if you're working on the Canadian National Railway, ever-moving across the country, where else would you go!?

I think part of the reason I love this car so much is that it's evidence of learning. I realized, in discovering this car, that I held some negative connotations towards the working environment of train employees--probably because of the way some of those who were employed to build railways were historically treated. I viewed working on the rails like working in mines--dirty, dangerous, underpaid, with uneducated employees.

Clearly that is not the case--at least here.

I stood in a space where learning happened, and my heart smiled.

SOTC 162/365

Baby wheat ;)

Wheat at Ellerslie (SOTC 162/365)

SOTC 161/365

I don't know what this flower is called, but it sure pops out against the canola (which pops out against the sky).

A Splash of Violet (SOTC 162/365)

SOTC 160/365

Mid-Day Nap (SOTC 160/365)

SOTC 159/365

He and I share the same favourite fruit, I guess...

Is He Going to Eat the Whole Thing? (SOTC 159/365)

SOTC 158/365

Inside the Willow I (SOTC 158/365)

Afternoon Nap (SOTC 157/365)

An Afternoon Nap (SOTC 157/365)
The pace of her summer has been reflective of the pace of mine:


Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Multi-Coloured Thoughts in My Head

Between recent local pride parades and the US decision to legalize gay marriage country-wide, there's been a lot of colour in my Facebook feed. Because of my social circles, I get the pro-posts and the anti-posts.

...Am I the only one who feels like she sits in the middle?

This has always been one topic where I can't pinpoint exactly what I believe. I live in the tension of not fully knowing.

My Christian faith drives my values. I know what I've been taught--what the New Testament says: that homosexual practices are a 'no.'* And since I use Scripture as one tool to guide my faith practices, I'm inclined to settle on, "well, okay, then--I can't support homosexual practices as something godly." That is, lean into the idea that the lifestyle falls into that swamp of behaviours called sin.

Seems simple, but what does that look like in the day-to-day? ...I feel like church doesn't help me here (and by church, I don't mean my personal congregation, I mean the global institution). And it's likely, in part, because the church struggles with its response too. But I feel like the church often mixes up how it treats the LGBTQ person and the LGBTQ lifestyle.

From what I can tell, the Bible admonishes the practice, not the person.
(It admonishes a lot of practices, but never the person.)

I've never actually had much trouble with that concept.

Because did you know you can disagree with someone and still love and accept them?

I'm pretty sure Jesus' command was to love others. Full stop.
(I know the kind of people He hung out with.)

A meme flew through my news feed ages ago that read along the lines of, "getting angry at someone because what they do is against your religion is like being angry at someone for eating a doughnut because you're on a diet."

It's not a perfect analogy, but do you get the point? If I have chosen to adhere to a certain value system with certain beliefs, then fine--but that doesn't give me the right to go around admonishing people who aren't in line with that value system.

I wish that hypocritical, Pharisitical** Christians would stop giving the rest of us a bad name.

There is a place for LGBTQ individuals in our pews.
There's a place for them on our worship teams.
There's even a place for them to--gasp--teach your children in Sunday School.

Scripture spends a good chunk of time talking about the body of Christ. And the fact that all believers are part of that.

And some believers don't fit traditional gender roles and sexual orientations.

Do you think God didn't know they'd be LGBTQ before He created them?

Maybe He IS saddened by those who fall into non-traditional genders. I don't know.
Humans are a broken creation, right down to the cellular level.
And maybe He didn't create His children to be anything other than just male and female, but He has obviously let a continuum of gender unfold.

And I know two things.

God doesn't make mistakes.
God can use our brokenness for His glory.

So step up, church. LGBTQ individuals have a right to be included in the body.***

Colouring Between the Lines
On that note, I do wish that members of the LGBTQ community would quit hassling churches that choose not to perform non-traditional marriages. Yes, it's illegal and unjust to discriminate against a person by not allowing them into the congregation to be a part of the church community, but I don't think it's discrimination to not offer a service they don't believe in as a body. That's not discrimination; that's just a congregational preference.

You could compare it to dress codes. It's legal to wear pretty much whatever you want, but it's likely against policy to wear flip-flops if you work in a corporate office downtown. That's not discrimination; that's a preference for a certain professional standard that the business has set.

Or compare it to living on campus. My university was a dry campus. Drinking alcohol is legal for anyone over 18, and students were allowed to drink, but not on campus. That's not discrimination; that's an institutional preference.

And one last example, because I need to drive this home: smoking. It's legal to smoke, but I don't allow smoking in my home. I have no issues interacting with, caring about, and having smokers over, but I'm simply not going to allow them to smoke in my house. That's not discrimination; I just value clean air--a personal preference.

So while I believe that the church needs to step up in its acceptance of the LGBTQ community as people worthy of worshiping in the same space, I believe the LGBTQ community needs to step down and respect an individual church body's decision not to provide marriage services outside of the traditional.

But considering all of that, I still don't know where that leaves me in what practices I support (or don't) as an individual.

I work for an organization that advocates for inclusion of people with disabilities. I realized not too long ago that if I'm advocating for inclusion, that means inclusion for ALL. I can't push for the rights of people with disabilities and not the rights of other minorities.

Which is why I'm confident in saying, "hey, church, step up your game and actually be inclusive."

But if--as a Christian--I'm not supposed to not support LGBTQ practices.... what happens if one day I know and care about someone who is LGBTQ and they invite me to their wedding? Could I go, because I love and care about that person, or would I have to make a faith statement and decline the invitation? I don't like thinking about that.

Because I know too much biology and psychology to believe that homosexuality could be a choice.

Sexual orientation and gender are not a choice, any more than eye colour is a choice. And how ridiculous would it be to say to a person, "I love you and care about you, but I can't come to your wedding or honour you and your partner's relationship because your eyes are blue."

And how unjust it feels to say to a person, "I know you can't control how you were born, but you will need to inhibit the desires of how it's made you want to live your life."

It's not like it's a disorder or some psychopathology where their practices and behaviours could hurt themselves and others and do need to change (but where you would still love, accept, and include that person as part of a community, let me be clear). I don't see how loving someone of the same gender, or identifying with the opposite gender is hurtful. I think it's more hurtful to deny who you are.****

I recognize that I speak from a place of 'straight privilege.' Outside of my own cognitive dissonance, this is not my struggle. I would wager that an LGBTQ Christian might read this, shake their head at me, and think, "you can't even possibly know."

But I want to. 

* 1 Cor. 6:9
** Is that a word? It is, now.
*** This guy's been resonating with me a bit lately.
**** But what about STDs and AIDS, Gina? you ask. Well, I'm pretty sure that afflicts a lot of straight people too. I think that has less to do with what gender you lean towards and more about promiscuity, which I do firmly believe is not a good idea, regardless of your sexual orientation.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

SOTC 156/365

Sometimes, an early Saturday morning is totally worth it.

SOTC 155/365

Sunday, June 7, 2015

She's Getting Old

Oh, my girl. As I type, she is rubbing her chin along the corner of the screen. A habit she's had since she was six months old.

She is now fourteen.

In terms of felines, she's an old girl. You can feel it in the way her bones are noticeable under her fur when you pet her. You can hear it in her scratchy chirping voice. You can see it in the way she more gingerly jumps on and off of furniture. 

She is not the kitten she once was. 

She spends much more time curled up next to me at night than she does prowling the house. She has been given permission from the vet to "eat more soft food," as she is having a harder time with the dry. She is slowing down.

Oh, my girl.

She's technically not my first cat. But the ginger gentleman I owned in high school had to be put down prematurely--we only shared a couple years together, mostly over homework and television.

Princess I have seen each other through the long haul.*

In her fourteen years, she's moved ten times. From apartment to apartment, from house to house. Helping me settle into adulthood, and following diligently along through its many transitions. I haven't always been the best owner; we are good at driving each other a little crazy some days. But we've stuck together.

She's been the consistency.

She's there on the couch, snoozing in a sunbeam.
She's there on my bed, curled like a letter J.
She's there at my feet, chirping away while I put on mascara.
She's there on my lap, keeping my legs warm as I read a book.
She's there in the grass--we share the same fresh summer breeze.

We kinda go together.

I'll admit, she's not one of those intuitive cats you read sappy stories about--the cat who just knows when their owner is in need of some sort of emotional support. The cat who's super in tune with their owner's feelings.

That's never how we've worked.

Still, we have our own rhythms and routines.

She generally knows not to prance around my bed before the alarm goes off.
We get ready for work together each morning.
She often eats breakfast while I do.
She leaves me cat toys on the bath mat--her "hunting" spoils.
She comes when I whistle.
She eats bugs on command.

Oh, my girl. When she and I were both much younger, I sometimes contemplated on how I'd be "well into my 30's" by the time I'd have to prepare myself to let her go. It seemed like a crazy notion, being a well-established adult with this cat.

And here we are.

A few more years--her time is soon approaching. I am not reflecting this to be morbid; I am appreciating the journey. Because I do believe that we have shared something of a journey together. And I think she must recognize that she is in these last few miles of this journey, because she interacts with me in a different way lately. She sticks closer; she loves fiercer; she communicates more. Or maybe that's just what happens when you spend so many years with a pet--the rhythm and intuition just take over. Or maybe I'm just imagining the whole thing.

Regardless, I will respond in kind; there are only a few precious years left in this journey, and I want to savour them all.

So I stick closer.
I love fiercer.
I communicate more.

Oh, my girl.

* I want to make clear that I am not undermining the journey I have shared with Akira, my other feline. But today, it is not her story I'm telling.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fit. ...A bit.

I bought a Fitbit.

I'm not sure I ever saw myself as being one of those people, but I guess I'm one of those people.

Over ten years ago, I owned a pedometer for a short amount of time. It was an Avon model--I was selling Avon at the time, so the price was right, and they had just become trendy; why not?

The pedometer was only that--a battery-operated device to count your steps. If you listened carefully, you could hear the ball bearing rock back and forth with each step, and if you weren't careful enough, you could lose the darn thing when it wasn't clipped in the right spot.

Working directly with children, I found it quite easy to hit the recommended 10,000 steps a day; I didn't even have to try. And perhaps because of this, when I got home one day and noticed the pedometer was gone, I was not all that inspired to replace it. I had the knowledge I needed, and the knowledge told me I was a walking rock-star.

Flash forward to present day. Several thoughts have formed together in my mind over the past several months: 1. I call myself moderately 'active,' but 2. I've noticed that I now gain a bit of weight during the winter (losing it again during the summer, but still). 3. I also recognize that I work at a desk far more than I used to and that 4. I've pretty much never counted a calorie a day in my life. Which all leaves me wondering sometimes, am I active enough? To add to my general curiosity, 5. I have always had a somewhat sensitive digestive system, with a general idea of what makes it happy or unhappy, but in some ways it's still a mystery to me, and I find myself wondering is there something I'm missing? 

Enter Fitbit.

Boy, have pedometers have changed in the last ten years.

The device tracks your steps, sure, but also the intensity of your movement--thus estimating calories burned as you walk, as well as how much of your movement qualifies as 'active' (i.e. a 25-min walk to the library as opposed to the 8 steps it takes to get to the photocopier). Also, I can pretty much guarantee this thing will not get lost while I wear it. I'd like to know how many calories I burn just trying to pry the clip open enough to attach it to my pocket.

The device, of course, interacts with the FitBit app, where you can log your meals, your additional physical activity (gardening counts!), and how much water you've had. ...The more expensive models even track your sleeping patterns (I did not invest. That being said, mine appears to still be able to estimate the number of calories burned per hour while sleeping.)

Needless to say, I have opened up doors to a ton of new information about my daily habits.

I've only been in this process for just over a week. As they say in research, I'm still establishing a baseline. My steps vary anywhere from around 4,000 to 15,000, depending on the day. Some days my calorie count is over, some days under, some days "right on target" (all based on the user's weight loss/maintenance/gain goal).

So far I've learned that if my entire day is spent sitting at my desk or in meetings, I'd better not make pasta for supper. On the flip side, apparently the secret to eating KFC at lunch and a Nutella doughnut after supper in the same day and getting away with it lies in nothing more than a morning at the playground and a shopping excursion at Rona.

I've also learned that I'm more active on the weekends than during the week--which makes sense, I guess, since I spend my weekends gardening, cleaning, and generally puttering around; whereas at work, there's a lot of sitting. Still, I've always viewed the weekend as my 'down time,' my chance to 'relax.' Work is where I'm 'busy' and deal with any 'stress' and am 'on the go.' Clearly, I have been categorizing these activities based on how they impact my brain, not how they impact my body. That was a bit of an 'aha' moment.

I'm looking forward to what kinds of patterns I will notice after a month. What kind of impact the information will have on the health decisions I make. What other 'aha' moments lie ahead. So far, I'm parking my car further away from wherever I'm going, but that's about it.

I guess that's a start.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Standing Firm

She stands on the wall
by the doors;
the entrance to 
   where she learns
   where she plays
   where she belongs
With the innocent confidence of one who is five:
"This is my kindergarten; my school."
Looking forward
standing tall
"I'm here, I'm ready;
I Stand on the Walllet's go."

And the trees grow tall
And the heart grows up
And her life moves on
and away.

In another city
at another time

she stands at the walls
that are blocking opportunities
for kids
   to learn
   to play
   to belong
With the unashamed confidence of one who is older:
"This is their kindergarten; their school."
Forward thinking
Rising to the call for equity
and kicking at the wall until it crumbles;

let's go.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Of My Top Ten Places to Be... (SOTC 148/365)

...this is one.

SOTC 147/365

SOTC 146/365

How long...
How wide...
How high...
How deep...

SOTC 145/365

Arizona, or Southern Alberta?!

SOTC 144/365

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thursday, March 5, 2015

SOTC 141/365

The air is crisp;
a blue curtain of sky rises up behind
the sun-drenched skyline.
There is a quiet hum of traffic over the bridge,
and somewhere down in the valley,
a woodpecker hammers out his morning song.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

SOTC 137/365

Snowy Clusters, a photo on Flickr by Gina Blank.

SOTC 136/365

The sign said the stairs were closed.
I said no.