Two Steps Back; Fifty-Six Weeks In

My older son gets terrible hay fever – May is the worst month for him – and although I’m hopeful that his outdoor-mask-wearing habit will help, I am fully stocked up on the allergy medications that, over the years, we have found to work for him: daily doses of Reactine, plus the Walmart store brand allergy sinus pills when needed.

Until last week, I had set foot in Walmart exactly once during the pandemic, and that was back in August to purchase school supplies. I did manage to get the last bottle of the pills in question:

My husband asked me to pick him up a bottle of nighttime Advil while I was there and, well.

So we are in the “third wave” of the pandemic, and it’s hard not to feel despairing about it. We were doing so well! And now we aren’t. We are back into mini-lockdown mode, and for those of us who have been stringently Following The Rules throughout, and then some, it is Very Frustrating.

I have created my own Coping Mechanisms, apart from the all-important one of severely limiting my time on my phone, looking at news and social media; I can tell when I’ve been scrolling too much, I get fidgety and anxious and snappy and have difficulty focusing on anything. Other than putting my phone away, I have found that for my mental health, I have been doing a lot of the following: reading, playing piano, and exercise. I already tell you what I read every week, there’s not much to say about playing piano except that I like it, and so today I am going to talk about exercise.

I realize that the subject, at the best of times, can be fraught; if you are a person for whom this is true, or if you just think the subject is unbearably dull, skip ahead to this week’s outfit – new bum warmer! – or to the reading list, as there are a couple of good titles this week.

I think the key to maintaining a regular exercise program is threefold: choose things you actually enjoy, a time of day that works, and then make it a habit. I find that once I establish a habit it feels wrong to miss, and also according to my watch I am on a 371-day streak, so I can’t break it now. I am, and always have been, a Very Early Morning Person, and so I finish my yoga practice and cardio workouts before 8:00 am every day, later on weekends.

We are all so different, and that is wonderful! I have friends who love to swim, and to do bootcamp or HIIT workouts, and play racquet sports, and practice barre and Pilates, none of which are things I personally want to do. Sure, barre and Pilates intrigue me in a I should really try them kind of way, but let’s face it: my Peloton app has those classes, some are as little as ten minutes long, and I have never once tried one, which is an answer in itself. My daily movement involves yoga, cardio, and walking.


I have been practicing yoga since 2007, and it is really more of a mental health boost than a physical one. Don’t get me wrong; yoga is great for strengthening and stretching those muscles and keeping the joints healthy, but the mental benefits cannot be discounted. My daily practice has changed a lot over the years; it’s Ashtanga-based but gentler, it’s slow and stretchy and meditative. On weekends my practice is more yin-based, and a few times a week I sit in meditation for as long as I can, time permitting. With the pandemic, I now have coffee and read a poem or two before I start. I also have been reading a fabulous book that I recommend to everyone called Wake Up To The Joy In You. It is a book of weekly meditations, and when my mind wanders during my yoga practice I bring it back to my breathing and the focus of the meditation for the week.

Welcome to my studio!

Early morning yoga has been my “me-time” since the kids were very small, and it’s still my favourite time, even now. I love practicing in my dark, quiet house before anyone even thinks of waking up. Although, with teens, and me in perimenopause, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before they are going to bed when I’m getting up.


Where yoga is more for mental health, cardio is definitely more physical; I think it’s so important for heart and lung health. Hopefully I won’t end up like Jim Fix. I LOVE a good sweaty cardio workout – I love that Dripping With Sweat feeling, and also that My Lungs May Explode feeling – and I am fortunate to have a home gym at my disposal.

I feel pretty!

I do cardio six days a week, varying in length and activity to keep things interesting. Now that it’s not a skating rink outside, I am running as well as spinning on my Peloton or using my elliptical trainer. The variety in activity keeps me engaged, and I have some excellent motivational playlists that I use for running or elliptical training – I am a person who is very motivated by music. I find nothing pushes me up a hill like a good blast of Eye of the Tiger or Crazy Train. I am also a person who gets a “runner’s high” after any kind of heart-pumping cardio; you should probably send thoughts and prayers to my family who are subjected to my rapid-fire chatter after cardio at 7:30 in the morning.


A few years ago, when I injured my hip, one of my seniors said to me “RUNNING? Why would you RUN? What’s wrong with walking quickly? You get to the same place, it just takes a little longer.” I love running but he is absolutely correct. Walking is, in my opinion, a very underrated exercise. Where yoga is more for my mental health and cardio for physical, I think walking is the perfect mix of both. I love being outside, even when the weather is terrible, which, let’s face it, it’s Calgary, the weather is terrible most of the time. Most of my walks are Shmoopy Walks, with my husband, but when he’s not available I put on my headphones and groove to the Hamilton soundtrack, or walk with a friend. The occasional physically distanced walk is my only social life these days, so I treasure them. Plus, there are always lovely places to go, regardless of the season.

Until the pandemic, my walks consisted of short Barkley walks, and so one thing I am grateful for this past year is rediscovering of my love of walking, and not the kind of walking where I stop every twenty feet for Barkley to sniff a shrub for two minutes, and where I have to be on High Alert so he doesn’t eat discarded tissues on the ground.

On that note, what is with all the discarded tissues? My friend Sue in Fredericton (HI SUE) has been picking up discarded disposable masks on her daily walks – more than 600 in a single week – and while I see the occasional mask, it’s not to that extent. However, I see DISCARDED TISSUES everywhere, and I have to be fully alert or Barkley will snap them up and eat them. I will do pretty much anything for my dog but I will not remove someone else’s used tissue from his mouth, be better, people.

Anyway. All of this is to say is that I have rediscovered my love of walking, sans Barkley. (He gets walked too, don’t worry, it’s just not something I include as exercise, due to the slow-boat-to-nowhere pace.)

Outfit of the Week

Speaking of terrible weather! Spring in Calgary is so weird and variable; one day might (MIGHT) be quite pleasant, and the next day snow and gusting wind. I have not been buying clothes this year; it’s not a rule or anything, just a resolution to appreciate my wardrobe, and also, it’s not like I have a bustling life outside of my home. However, I made an exception to buy just one more bum warmer from My Cozy Buns, the local woman who repurposes thrifted sweaters. Look how cute!

It goes with almost everything in my wardrobe! Black! Grey! White! I’ve paired it with yoga tank and leggings – naturally – plus a long sleeve tee. I later put on a sweater because, Calgary In Spring, and I need layers.

Pandemic Reading

What an incredible writer, what a compelling read. This is one of my favourite types of books: related short stories. All these stories are conversations, between women, in different times and places. It was a thought-provoking, unsettling, at times very disturbing read. I liked it but you might not. Themes of rape, power, being a woman are throughout.

In the past few years I’ve become interested in the role of trauma and how it affects our physical bodies. My friend Monique (HI MONIQUE) recommended this to me, about racialized trauma. It is a book intended for healing trauma, using somatics and mindfulness, not just in people with black bodies, but those with white ones and people in law enforcement. It is written with great compassion and wisdom. As a white bodied woman, at times this was a very difficult and uncomfortable read, which makes it all the more important. It promotes healing and understanding for the one and only race – the human race. A vitally important book for all of us.

If you don’t live with wrestling fans, or you are not one yourself, you may not know that this weekend was The Event of the Year, Wrestle Mania. (Me: I thought the Royal Rumble was the Event of the Year. Boys: No, Mom, that is the SECOND biggest Event of the Year. This is the biggest.) This weekend has been looked forward to with great anticipation for MONTHS.

(Thanks to Marion (HI MARION) for sending this, I really feel it.)

What I’m trying to say is that if you have a house full of very loud chaos – not to MENTION the Masters’ and all the golf updates – then this is a good book for you. It’s fine. It’s a time travel book that has some fun pop culture tidbits from the 80s to today. It’s a book you don’t want to overthink and it isn’t challenging in any way, so good to read while people are yelling “USO! USO! USO!” or “HE’S GOING TO USE THE SWING!” or “Look, Mom, it’s Edge!” You don’t need to concentrate, it’s not a bad book, it’s a light weekend read, and also, the one guy I kind of like in the WWE lost.

Life in the Boyhouse, am I right? Also, this is the reason I am rarely sad when celebrities die; I often think they are already dead. Like Hulk Hogan!

Have a beautiful week, my friends, and it is only 363 days until the NEXT Wrestle Mania, Jesus take the wheel. xo


  1. Out of Order sounds interesting. The pond and path in the woods photos show you are really right about having lovely places to go when you walk. That’s certainly a boon.

  2. Beautiful walking paths! And I love your new bum warmer. Walking is my favorite type of exercise, but I have somehow fallen out of the habit. I think because I have in my head that if I’m walking for less than an hour it’s not worth it somehow? Which is STUPID. And yet.

  3. Your photos are still not coming through when I land on your blog. I’ll assume they’re wonderful. I sympathize with your son about hay fever. April and August are my dreaded months, although the docs around here refer to April allergies as rose fever and August ones as hay fever. Doesn’t matter you call it, it’s annoying.

    • I don’t know if this will be useful for solving the problem, but I can add to this that if I try to read the blog in a feed reader, almost all the photos are unavailable and marked with a message that is something like “STOP! This photo has been hotlinked!,” which is not a message I understand, but looks like it has something to do with how the photos are added to the post. If I click through to the blog, I can see some of the photos, but usually some are still replaced by the hotlinked error message.

      • Swistle, same thing here. The hotlinked message comes through in both cases you mention. I don’t know why, it’s a first for me. You, Nicole, are special!

        • Swistle & Ally – have you tried using a different browser? Generally, when I open Blogger and see that Nicole has posted in my reading list, the picture next to the title is the “Stop! This photo has been hotlinked” (or whatever). But when I click on the link to read the post ALL the pictures are there.

          • No I’ve never tried that, Gigi. Thanks for the idea.

            An aside, but to get this comment here I had to return to this page because the WP system refused to take my comment unless I’m here. That’s unusual, too.

          • I feel like a special snowflake! Hmmm. I will look into this a bit more and thanks Gigi and Swistle for the help! I am confused!

    • I shall continue to investigate this. Most of the photos you will have seen on instagram, but the first two show almost completely empty shelves at Walmart. Whomp whomp.

  4. Sounds like we need to swap dogs! Benny wants to run around (and sniff everything, but at high speed) and jump on and off logs, and I am walking like I’m in rehearsal for being the chief mourner at an old-time funeral procession. Happily there’s a handy bench on one of our favourite walks where three paths converge, and if I sit there long enough, most of Benny’s friends come by and he can play with them while I vegetate.

  5. I do believe Hay fever is THE WORST. It still irks me that I ended up waiting until I was in my late 40s to get allergy shots. My folks made it seem as if there was no fix. So wrong. I barely notice the spring or summer allergies these days.

    Love the bum warmer. What a great wardrobe piece.

    My guys are not into wrestling, praise God, but I did beg Coach and Reg to STOP screaming at the TV last night as the Masters wound down. It’s golf, people. There is no action and no defense. Stop screaming. I do believe wrestling would be worse. Isn’t it all fake anyway? Maybe don’t tell them I asked that.

    I just drafted a post about exercise. I started running again. Coach will not let me run daily. I did once knowing that I couldn’t run the next day, and it wasn’t like he tackled me or anything. I just made the run a little shorter. I’m curious how far do you run? I used to have a little ipod that was loaded with good music to run to. I need to get another playlist because I do remember how great music helped me push through. I don’t even own headphones at the moment.

    I’m interested in the My Grandmother’s Hands book. Have you read The 7 1/2 deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle? I’m reading it now for book club. I’m curious what you thought of it, if you read it. I assume there are not many books that you haven’t read. 😉

    • I haven’t read that but just put it on my list.

      I don’t run daily – when I injured my hip in 2019 it was entirely due to overtraining, and I will never put myself through that again. So now, weather depending, I run twice a week and it varies as to distance: somewhere between 6km and 10km (so, just under 4 miles and 6.2 miles). The rest of the days I do elliptical or spin bike.

  6. I wish I could distance-walk with you. Dang you, ginormous Canada!!

  7. Your wrestling/Master’s watching reminds me of the NFL games that my two used to watch (The Husband still watches but not as much since his football loving son doesn’t live here anymore) – they made me crazy! I was always to happy to have the season end.

    That bum warmer is SO cute!!

  8. Wrestlemainia. *Sigh* I’m happy to miss out on that.
    I can’t believe you guys are in another lockdown AND the shelves are practically empty. What a pity!
    I’m a fan of walking as running actually hurts me; from my feet to my lungs.
    LOVE your outfit. Cute bun warmer.

Leave a Reply