It IS all about me

I have lost track of the number of times I’ve recycled this post, but it somehow just doesn’t feel like Christmas until I’ve shared it again. Besides, with a new job and a new circle of friends, there’s a whole new audience to edumacate about this most important Christmas factoid. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the annual reindeer rant, because especially at Christmas, traditions matter. Also? Because Donder.

Reindeer Games: Team Donder

“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen;
Comet and Cupid and DONDER and Blitzen…”

You did know that Santa’s reindeer is actually Donder and not Donner, right?

Here’s a little history lesson for you. The poem “A Visit From St Nicholas”, commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas”, was written back in 1823 and is generally attributed to American poet Clement Clarke Moore (although there have been recent arguments that the poem was in fact written by his contemporary Henry Livingston Jr.) The original poem reads, in part:

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.
“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on Dunder and Blixem!

As explained on the Donder Home Page (no relation):

In the original publication of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” in 1823 in the Troy Sentinel, “Dunder and Blixem” are listed as the last two reindeer. These are very close to the Dutch words for thunder and lightning, “Donder and Bliksem”. Blixem is an alternative spelling for Bliksem, but Dunder is not an alternative spelling for Donder. It is likely that the word “Dunder” was a misprint. Blitzen’s true name, then, might actually have been “Bliksem”.

In 1994, the Washington Post delved into the matter by sending a reporter to the Library of Congress to reference the source material. (In past years, I’d been able to link to a Geocities site with the full text, but sadly, Geocities is no more.)

We were successful. In fact, Library of Congress reference librarian David Kresh described Donner/Donder as “a fairly open-and-shut case.” As we marshaled the evidence near Alcove 7 in the Library’s Main Reading Room a few days ago, it quickly became clear that Clement Clarke Moore, author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” wanted to call him (or her?) “Donder.” Never mind that editors didn’t always cooperate. […] Further confirmation came quickly. In “The Annotated Night Before Christmas,” which discusses the poem in an elegantly illustrated modern presentation, editor Martin Gardner notes that the “Troy Sentinel” used “Dunder”, but dismisses this as a typo. Gardner cites the 1844 spelling as definitive, but also found that Moore wrote “Donder” in a longhand rendering of the poem penned the year before he died: “That pretty well sews it up,” concluded Kresh.

So there you have it. This Christmas season, make sure you give proper credit to Santa’s seventh reindeer. On DONDER and Blitzen. It’s a matter of family pride.

Photo of three boys and a reindeer


You may have heard there was an earth-shaking transition in the Canadian government this week. Oh no, not the whole Justin Trudeau thing – although that’s been pretty damn cool, too! No, the transition I’m talking about is that on Monday I started my new job as senior communications advisor on social media for Agriculture Canada. Exciting, right? It was very hard to leave my friends at CRA, and the CRA has been amazing to me in the last four years as I led their social media team. However, I am beyond stoked to be making the jump to a science department, especially in the midst of all the changes happening in the government writ large.

While I will be doing more or less the same thing I’ve been doing at CRA, I’ve learned in the last two days that the job will still be very different. I’ll be doing a lot of preaching and teaching on the use of social media in a professional capacity, for employees ranging from scientists to agricultural trade commissioners. Squee!

The learning curve is steep. In my first two days, I learned about seed potatoes, the TPP, confused flour beetles and geoducks, among other things. Go ahead, do a google image search on geoducks. Are you as surprised as I was to learn that there are no feathers on those ducks? But the people at Agriculture have been kind and welcoming, and our new Minister is from PEI. If that’s not synergy, I don’t know what is. And I love the idea of working with a department that has a stake in farming, and local food, and nutrition, and environmental issues. It’s easy to be passionate about your work when the subject matter is something you care deeply about.

Mooooove along, strange lady with the iPhone!

When I was thinking about writing this post, I thought it was an interesting illustration of how the blog has changed over the years. Back in the day, I blogged every thought and whimsy that trickled through my mind, and you knew in (way too much) detail the minutiae of my daily life. You would have seen every angsty moment of the process, from the out-of-the-blue phone call about the vacancy, to me finding out I got the job (during that epic seventh inning Blue Jays game with the Jose Bautista bat flip, no less!) to the nostalgic departure from CRA. Now the whole thing gets a couple of measly paragraphs in a throw-away post.

I’m occasionally nostalgic for the bloggy intimacy of days gone by, and then I’m occasionally validated in my newly-minted taciturnity. Especially, for example, when a child casually mentions eight words at the dinner table that send me mentally scrambling over the last six months of blog posts: “we looked at your blog in school today.” On the smartboard, in class, no less. I guess the teacher had asked if any of the students followed any blogs, and boy child said, “I’m in one, does that count?” His classmates have since complimented me on my photography skills. In that moment, I was very, very glad that I had not yet completed or hit “publish” on the intimate, meandering post I’d been writing during the Blue Jays playoff run, recollecting how my first marriage disintegrated during the 1993 World Series. Procrastination FTW!

So that’s what’s new and exciting with me. How about you, bloggy peeps? What’s new?

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The idea that I’m forty-six years old still sort of freaks me out. In my head, my mom is still 46, and I stopped aging somewhere in my early 30s. Neither one of those compute from a biological let alone mathematical standpoint, but I suppose it’s better to be feeling a decade younger than I am than a decade older, right?

The good great news is that I’m in better physical shape than I’ve been in decades, if ever. Thanks to weekly hot power yoga, 10,000 steps most days and learning to cook and eat whole instead of processed foods, I reached my goal weight in early summer and am still here in early fall. It’s only when I see myself in the mirror at yoga class that I think I could maybe lose another five or ten pounds, but in general I’m stronger and healthier now than I was in my 30s.

The signs of aging are present, though. When I had my most recent annual (sort of, more like triennial) physical, I had a laundry list of irritants. Since then, I’ve had physio for my knees, cortisone injections into the tattoo that continues to react to the red ink a year later (not so much age as pure bad luck to choose a colour to which I am allergic, I suppose), frozen nitrogen sprayed on the bridge of my nose to arrest a per-cancerous spot developing (oh freckles and endless summer sunburns), and follow up to my mammogram five years ago.

Ear trumpetThe last on my litany of system checks was a hearing test. I’ve suspected for years that my hearing is sub-par, and that’s only gotten worse in the last year or so. Any sort of foreground noise, like a running faucet or the microwave makes it nearly impossible for me to hear something further away. In places like crowded restaurants, I can only make out the conversations of the people sitting on either side of me or people talking directly to me. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve bellowed to someone elsewhere in the house “if I can’t see your face, I can’t hear you.” Beloved seemed convinced for years that it was selective hearing, but it has come to the point that I am constantly asking him to interpret: “What did Lucas just call from his bedroom about the pineapple and the escalator?” And I’ve passed through yelling at the TV for mumbling and just resigned myself to hearing only about 2/3 of most TV shows.

My inner hypochondriac was both validated and alarmed to find out that in fact I do have some hearing loss in both ears, mostly around the higher frequencies of the human vocal range. It’s not significant, and I have no difficulty understanding conversations in a normal setting. Add in any background noise, though, or face away from me, or drop to sotto voce and I’ll probably start to lose you.

I learned a lot of interesting factoids as we discussed the results of my test. Vowel sounds are made in the voice box, deep in the throat, and are therefore generally of a lower frequency than consonants, which are generally made at the teeth, lips and with the tip of the tongue, and are therefore higher in frequency. I tend to have trouble distinguishing those rather than difficulty hearing outright, so while it may seem to me like someone is mumbling or failing to enunciate, it’s really a perception problem on my end. (Except with my teenager. He definitely grunts instead of elucidating actual syllables.)

There’s apparently not much that I can do to accommodate my hearing loss, either, which makes a diagnosis both validating and rather pointless. I’m not “yet” (sigh) at a place where a hearing aid would be beneficial, and the audiologist said that they are often more trouble than people anticipate. I remember a relative with a new hearing aid mentioning that suddenly being able to hear background noise that was previously filtered out was more of a trial than something to celebrate. We do have a baseline for future tests, at least, and it was suggested that I go back in two years or sooner if I notice a significant decline. The rather constant buzz of tinnitus is also apparently part and parcel with the hearing loss – he said something about the brain striving to fill in the noise it thinks should be there but can’t detect, which causes the faint ringing. Bodies are weird, yo.

The only part of the exam and diagnosis that really took me aback was when the doctor referred to reduced hearing as a “hidden disability.” A what now? I mean, I guess it’s no worse than needing glasses and not happening to have them on your face – my blur is around my hearing and not my eyesight – but I was still sort of alarmed to have it contextualized that way. My hearing is less than ideal and won’t ever improve. Hmmm. I’ll have to stew on that one for a bit.

Speaking of eyeballs – at least they haven’t let me down. While I’m needing to hold things further and further away to get my eyes to focus properly, I haven’t yet run out of arm. I have, though, suffered the great indignity of handing a medicine bottle off to a nearby youngster recently with the rather cross demand that they read the label for me.

How are you aging, my bloggy peeps? There’s a cohort of us that are in this together. Now that we’re approaching the end of our extended warranty period, how are your internal and external systems holding up?


10 tips to walk 10k steps a day

by DaniGirl on July 1, 2015 · 2 comments

in Me, only better

Did you hear that bellow of “GOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLL” on Sunday morning? No, that wasn’t an overenthusiastic fan at the FIFA Women’s world cup – that was me, reaching my weight goal after more than a year of (admittedly on-and-off) trying. Yay me!

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 7.55.02 AM

Even better than meeting my weight goal, though, has been that I’m meeting my movement goals. Even though I’ve had my FitBit for more than two years now, it’s only since this spring that I’ve been consistently meeting my goal of 10.000 steps each day. A goal of 10K steps per day is sort of arbitrary, I’ll admit, but I’ve read a lot of studies that say it’s an ideal point to maintain fitness and lower your risk of things like heart disease and diabetes. And the best part? It’s a genuinely achievable goal, even for a sedentary girl like me.

So, from lazy me to you, here’s 10 things you can do to step up and meet that 10,000 steps per day goal.

1. Wear comfortable shoes. I picked up a second pair of running shoes and keep them in my office. It’s surprising what a difference this makes!

2. Step-load the early part of the day. This may work for me because I’m also naturally a morning person, but I try to get in as many steps as I can as early in the day as I can. When you’re at the end of the day, you’re much more likely to make an effort to take a quick walk around the block to overcome a 1,200 step deficit than plan a hike to make up 4,000 steps.

3. Set a task reminder to move. I must have seen this tip recommended a hundred times, but have only taken it to heart recently. I have a task reminder set up at work to go off every 90 minutes, and when it goes off I have to stop what I’m doing, walk down the four flights of stairs to the main floor, walk the length of the building, and walk back up again. It’s the best part of 1,000 steps, and it’s really quite amazing how much it clears your head.

4. Leave your car in a central area and walk your errands.
With a parking lot in front of each big-box store, it’s tempting to move your car from lot to lot as you go from store to store. Resist the urge, or park a bit further away if you’re just going to one spot.

5. Think of walking as a me-time indulgence rather than an obligation. This was a huge one for me. Once I stopped thinking of getting my steps in as a drudge and started thinking of the time as an indulgence, I found myself working harder to make time for it. And walking is a gift to yourself – mentally and physically. You deserve it!

6. Find a buddy. Tristan comes with me when I walk the dog every night, and he sets a brisk pace that’s natural for his coltish teenage legs but a challenge for me to keep up. It’s also a wonderful quiet interlude to suss out things that may be weighing on his mind, or for us to catch up on our busy days. At the office, my friend Annie and I have taken invigorating lunch-time walks that breezed by in the depths of conversations. I find that keeping up with my FitBit friends online also serves as a motivator when I feel like slacking. I am the opposite of competitive in most things, but I hate to fall out of the leaderboard on FitBit!

7. Make it part of your routine. After a while, finding small ways to pad your day with extra steps becomes second nature. I’ve started circling my office building to use a different entrance each time I come or go, adding a couple of hundred steps each time. I also figured out that I had just enough time to park my car in the driveway after work and hop on my bike to get to the boys’ school in time to walk them back home again. I am really missing the extra kilometer of steps from the after-school routine this week!

8. Make it fun! Listen to a podcast, or your favourite music while you walk. If you’re particularly dexterous and can’t stand the idea of missing the latest activity on your social networks, walk while surfing your smartphone. Or, choose a beautiful place to explore on your walk – drive to a neighbourhood you don’t often visit, or find a trail to walk.

9. Bring or borrow a pet. Sometimes, the idea that the dog is counting on me is the only thing that motivates me to get out in poor weather, or after a particularly long day. She doesn’t mind walking in the rain or snow, and inspires me not to mind so much either. We haven’t melted yet!

10. Be kind to yourself – each day is a clean slate. While I now make my step goal six or seven days each week (as opposed to making it two or three days each week this time last year), I don’t beat myself up if I don’t make it every single day. I have consistently made my weekly goal of 70,000 steps each week since Easter, though. Turns out when you aim for 10K steps a day, you often land somewhere closer to 12,000 or 14,000 steps a day!

And now, a bonus tip for FitBit Zip users!

I got my first Zip back in January of 2013, and upgraded to a Flex about a year ago. I still use my Zip as a backup when the flex is charging, though. I used to hate the idea of “losing” the steps between first waking up in the morning and when I’d get dressed for the day and tuck my Zip into my pocket or clip it to my bra, so I’d carry it around in my PJ pocket – and then inevitably forget to move it when I got dressed. All that to say, I wish I’d had the brainstorm two years ago that I had last month when I discovered the Best! FitBit Zip! Accessory! Ever!! Are you ready for it?

Photo 2015-05-20, 11 15 22 AM

A hairband! Seriously, why did I not think of this before? So when I want to record my steps before I get dressed (or, ahem, after I put on my jammies!) I just do this:

Photo 2015-05-20, 11 14 53 AM

I’ve also been known to actually attach the Zip to my ponytail in the pool or while doing yoga.

You know that old expression, “Look after the pennies and the dollars will look after themselves”? It’s like that with steps, too. Find a dozen times to add 100 steps to your day, and you’re there!

What do you think of the goal to walk 10,000 steps a day? Do you do it? Any other tips to share?


Two months ago, on Easter Sunday, I pulled my FitBit back out of the drawer, where it had been taking a brief break from my wrist. I’ve missed my 10,000 steps per day goal only seven out of the 61 days since then. I’m pretty pleased with that!

FitBit steps graphic

I’ve really been working on overcoming my naturally sedentary nature. I try not to go more than 90 minutes sitting at my desk without getting up and moving around. My favourite work break is to get up, walk down to the main floor, across the length of the building, and back up the stairs to my fourth floor office. It’s surprising how clear your head gets after breaking away from a task and doing eight flights of stairs! I’m also working on getting a stand-up desk, and have jerry-rigged my current office set-up with stacks of dictionaries under the keyboard tray in the meanwhile. Not exactly ergonomic, but it will do for now.

I’ve also been pretty good at getting home from work in enough time to leave the car in the driveway and walk the kilometer or so over to the boys’ school to pick them up and then walk them home, or on days when time is short, hopping on my bike and cruising over to the school, then walking my bike home with the boys. One of my fellow moms at the school gate commented on how I’m always smiling and happy-looking as I walk up and I realized that it’s one of my favourite times of day – a peaceful transition from the work day to the rest of the day wrapped in an invigorating 15 minute walk. (And heh, the more late I am, the more invigorating the walk can be!)

I’ve also discovered hot power yoga, and have been doing that once a week faithfully for about three months. I seriously love it, and it’s become a sacred part of my week. My family has been great about accepting the twice-weekly gym visits and now weekly yoga classes, and Tristan is an excellent walking companion. (And my excellent, I mean long-legged setter of unforgiving paces that sometimes leave me struggling to keep up with him!)

My focus has really been on moving my sedentary arse, so while I’ve been conscious of my food choices, I haven’t exactly been dieting. There has been poutine and chips, and a healthy share of Beloved’s amazing cookies. (Oh the irony: as I have been busy teaching myself how to cook real, whole foods, he has been teaching himself how to bake like his grandmother did. I keep asking him to bake the cookies I like least, just to ameliorate the temptation. The cinnamon oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from Chef Michael Smith’s Family Meals cookbook are more than my feeble willpower can withstand!)

All that to say, while I have been making good choices, I haven’t really been depriving myself, and I have been seeing some pretty solid progress: I’m down 10 lbs over two months, and am at my lowest weight in a couple of years.

Screen Shot weight progress

You can see there has been a lot of two-steps-forward one-step-back, but that’s okay. I can feel the difference in how my clothes fit and even see the difference in the mirror – especially in yoga class, where I first flinched at my reflection months ago. I’ve got 2 lbs to go to my original goal, but if I go another 10 lbs I’ll be at my 10-year low, where I was circa 2009. That would be awesome, but what’s even more awesome is that I feel strong and healthy and proud of myself. And I had cookies along the way!

I’m doing anecdotal research about stand-up desks while I wait to see if the bureaucracy can cough one up for me. Are you using one? Any recommendations?


You may have noticed that I have a bit of an obsessive personality. *snort* Not for me “I should write a blog” but “I should write a blog for ten years and turn it into a career” and not just “I should take a few pictures” but “I should take a picture every day for years and become a photographer.” Why dip your toe in the puddle when you can fling yourself in the ocean?

I decided back in early April that it was time to get my overweight arse back on the health bandwagon, but this time my focus was less on what I was eating and more on what I was doing with my body. I kept reading articles about how a sedentary lifestyle was a huge health risk, and so I decided that while I would start counting calories again, my real focus would be getting my body moving more often.

On Easter weekend, I fished my FitBit back out of the drawer (we were on a break, but we’ve since made up) and I made my goal of 10,000 steps per day every day for EIGHTEEN DAYS IN A ROW. I’ve been using a FitBit since January 2013 and the longest stretch I’ve previously gone was only four or five days, so the streak was a huge accomplishment for me. That’s almost 8 km of walking every day, through the spring sunshine and the rain and that raw wind that just won’t quit.

For the best part of a month, I lived a wonderfully active life. I set up a reminder to move on my computer at work, and every 60 or 90 minutes I’d get up, walk the four flights of steps to the main floor, across the length of our building and back up again. I’d walk five blocks out of the way to get my coffee or park at the parking lot down the road from where I was heading to get in a few extra steps. I spent an hour-long conference call from home pacing the 16 steps from my bedside table through the ensuite bathroom and back again and logged over a thousand steps for it (not to mention a serious case of vertigo.) For one solid week I drove home as quickly as I could so I could have time to park the car at home and walk over to the boys’ school so we could walk home together – good for me AND good for them, win-win!

Look at me! I’m active! I’m in control. I’m happy!

Well, not so much. It’s hella work and time consuming to do all that walking, and I was so busy trying to get my steps in that other things started falling by the wayside. Blog posts? Can’t. Walking. Errands at lunch? Only those that include lots of steps. And god forbid the day started to wind down and I was nowhere near my step goal – the stress started to get to me. I can’t tell you how much of a relief it was to finally break the streak when I didn’t make my step goal this Friday.

I had been making myself crazy to get that line on the chart to turn green each day, going to ridiculous lengths to make sure my FitBit gave it’s little victory buzz to let me know I’ve reached 10K steps for the day. (Aside – after almost a year of wearing the FitBit Flex, you’d think I’d begin to be less startled when the thing goes off to mark 10K steps, but no. I have variously jumped, yelped, flinched, flung a wooden spoon into a pot I was stirring and nearly wet my pants when it buzzed unexpectedly. I think the worst is when I’m anticipating it – somehow it manages to wait for the split second my attention is diverted before it goes off and I’m always the most harshly startled on those days. More than once I’ve thought I had an angry bee in my sleeve – rather unlikely in the deep dark heart of January, but still.)

So there’s a finite amount of time here and I’m going to have to figure out a way to be productive (when everything I produce involves me sitting in front of a monitor) AND be active AND do all the other tasks required to be the chief operating officer of our busy household. And don’t even bother recommending one of those treadmill-desk things. I did consider it, for about eleven seconds, but I have a hard enough time overcoming gravity and my own clumsiness when I’m focused on what my body is doing – I’d cause myself grievous bodily harm on one of those contraptions.

The other thing I noticed is that I did not feel any mentally better while I was on my 10k/day streak. In fact, I felt emotionally ragged and raw for a good portion of that time. It’s entirely possible that it was a coincidence, but the day I broke the streak of green “I did it” lines was the most contented I’ve felt in weeks. Hmmm.

So, the moral of today’s story is don’t exercise I need to find a way to integrate moving my body into my daily routine that is sustainable without being slave to the green line of achievement. And maybe I need to learn to do some things without quite so much, um, enthusiasm. 😉


Guess who will be emcee for BOLO 2015 next week? Hint: me!

24 April 2015 It IS all about me

Since 2009, give or take a year, Lynn Jatania’s labour of love Blog Out Loud Ottawa (BOLO) has been forcing otherwise reticent bloggers out of their comfort zone and on to the stage to share their favourite blog posts of the preceding year. It’s always been one of the highlights of the year for me, […]

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In which she revisits her fitness goals (alternate title: Sisyphus redux)

8 April 2015 Me, only better

Alright, I give up. I charged my FitBit and I started tracking calories again. I guess I’m back on the wagon. It was just shy of a year ago that I capitulated to counting calories with My Fitness Pal, and it did work for me. From a high of 183 lbs, I worked my way […]

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Photo of the day: Lizard on a Rock

26 March 2015 Me, only better

Isn’t it funny when the random bits of your life come together in a cohesive way? Toward the end of February, my friend Yvonne mentioned she was doing something called Hot Power Yoga Basics, and I was intrigued. I’d done yoga classes at the local community centre on and off way back in the day, […]

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Flashback faves: Is this my life?

20 January 2015 Flashback faves

In honour of the blog’s tenth birthday this month, I’m revisiting a handful of favourites from my archives. I think this post from 2005, which I refer to as “my epic wail,” was a seminal moment for me in a lot of ways. Years later, people still mention it to me, and it brought a […]

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