Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wine and Impersonation

No running today. We were engaged in meetings from 7AM to the late afternoon. I was so exhausted that I opted for a snooze instead of a run which turned out to be a smart decision because we had a very violent storm about the time I planned to be out running. The storm knocked down a few trees and threw some of the patio furniture at the BMO Learning Centre around but in the end produced a beautiful raindow. 

The pictures above are of the presentation that my colleagues Denise and Vicky gave on the cultural safety project. The first picture is of Michael Kirby, Chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The remainder of the pictures are of our poster session. Bill, Vicky, myself and Paul; Bill, Susan, myself and Paul.

The final picture is of Susan pouring a bottle of wine that was a gift to me from Normand. The wine represents a final ending to a very funny story (well at least to us) that began in Calgary earlier this year. After a long day of meetings our committee members had dinner at a very nice Calgarian restaurant. We decided to order wine and left it to Normand to choose the wine for us. Now here is where the story gets a bit mirky. According to Normand he picked two bottles of wine that generated an intimidating look of displeasure from the waiter to which Normand responded by ordering two different bottles of wine. 

This particular restaurant serves absolutely wonderful "little" food, with the mini burgers being especially cute and yummy. Jennifer and I decided to share some little food, the mini burgers and mini chicken tacos. The food arrived and everything was perfectly yummy, however it was really the wine that made the meal extra special. It was sooooooo smooth, sooooo delightful, sooooo expensive!!!!  The waiter kindly split the cost between the five of us who shared the two bottles of wine. Jennifer and I simultaneously did a double take as we looked at our $80.00 dinner bill. Jennifer gestured to me the international sign for "tiny" as she whispered, "but we only had the little food!" I then picked up my glass of unfinished wine, a new appreciation for just how "good" it really was, and gulped it down. I then turned to Jennifer and encouraged her to "drink up because it would be crazy to leave one drop of the precious red." 

Now Normand tells the rest of the story this way. He said at this point of the dinner he looked across the table to see Jennifer and I  huddled behind Jennifer's enormous calculator, "Tick, Tick, Tick..."

as we tried to figure out just how much the wine really cost...per glass...per drop!!!

Feeling terribly bad about the wine fiasco (and again this is Normand's version of events), Normand went early the next morning to the automative teller to grab a bag full of cash to reimburse each of us for his expensive taste (did anyone see this bag?:). However, still feeling a heavy burden of guilt months later, Normand shopped in the finest wine stores in Quebec and arrived at our Toronto meeting, with exquisite wine for all! In a festive mood of forgiveness we popped the corks and enjoyed sharing a glass of lovely red wine once more; wine nowhere near as good as the wine we had in Calgary!  

Now you maybe wondering who Jennifer is. Jennifer White is a University Professor at the University of Victoria and sits of the FNIM Advisory Committee to the Mental Health Commission of Canada. She is an absolutely wonderful person.  I met Jennifer for the first time at the inaugural meeting of the MHCC in January 2008. Similar to myself, Jennifer is thin, 40ish with blonde hair. 

At this meeting I recognized a Psychiatrist from McGill University that I had sat beside on an airplane a couple years earlier. We discussed our work over the two hour plane ride, so when I saw him at the MHCC meeting I thought I would say hello and make the connection again. I stopped him in the cafeteria, said hello and reminded him that we had met on a plane two years earlier. He responded with a big broad smile, saying, "Jennifer, it is so nice to see you again...blah, blah, blah......(for about two minutes)....I kept trying to politely interrupt and tell him that I was not Jennifer but he kept talking, animated by his ongoing conversation with Jennifer. I don't know exactly when it happened but at some point I decided it would be easier just to be Jennifer than to explain that I was really someone else who most likely was less appealing to talk to than Jennifer. After about 10 minutes I was finally able to remove myself from the conversation and head to my committee meeting. 

So how do you tell a new colleague that you've just been impersonating them? In the end we had a big belly laugh, one for our history book, however the story does not end here.  This year Jennifer was unable to attend the MHCC annual meeting. On my way yesterday to get a quick run in before dinner, I passed the same psychiatrist in the hotel hallway. He obviously recognized me but I knew that if I stopped to talk to him I would not have enough time for my run. I quickly decided to put my head down and scoot past him without exchanging pleasantries (after all I really don't know him). Focused on my need for a run, I rationalized the innocuous snub by thinking, "well he thinks I'm Jennifer anyway!"   So how do you tell a favorite colleague that you snubbed the colleague who thinks that I'm her???? 

Friday, May 29, 2009

Some of my favorite people!

I ran 3 miles today (448) in Toronto. It was late afternoon, nice and sunny but a little too warm and humid for my liking. I also felt tired from traveling and a long day of meetings. I'm in Toronto this weekend for the Mental Health Commission of Canada annual meeting. I am a member of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis Advisory Committee to the MHCC. I am very lucky to be on a committee made up of absolutely wonderful people who are so incredibly smart, kind, and creative. The pictures are of us hanging out after the first day of meetings (which finished at 9:30PM). They are a really fun group and we never have a shortage of laughter between us all.

The annual MHCC meeting is a very intense and productive meeting which brings together members of the different advisory committees and the Board of Directors of the Commission. Our committee is working on two projects, the ethical framework project that I am the lead on and an innovative project on cultural safety. I feel that we are undertaking very important work not only generated from our committee but also from the MHCC in general.

Mental illness and addictions are prevalent in our society but remain stigmatized health problems that prohibit many who suffer from them from seeking the care they need. I am optimistic that the MHCC will mobilize change in our country to improve patient centered care, reduce stigma and create systemic changes that will center around the experience and needs of individuals living with a mental illness or addiction.  The members of the commission, (governing body, staff and advisory committees) are people who are incredibly passionate and committed to improving the lives of those individuals and families living with a mental illness. I hope the journey that we are taking over the next decade will leave a legacy that transforms understandings of what it is like to live with a mental illness, and determines what we need to do within our society to better support individuals living with a mental illness, including de-stigmatizing mental illness and addiction. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Polite Runner

I ran 4 miles today (445 miles). After running the half marathon I was excited to get back on the trail to start training again. A few minutes into the run my enthusiasm declined as I struggled to keep my pace. When I set out I felt great but once on the trail I could feel the effects of Sunday's run. I can only describe today's run as being similar to meeting an old friend that I forgot was really annoying! I tried to run 5 miles but between my fatigue and the wind almost blowing me into the river I settled on 4 miles and a promise to try again tomorrow. I took some photos along the run to show how the river landscape is changing as summer arrives. The other photos are of Skender in his early days of learning how to skateboard.  Isn't he a cutie!

Participating in Sunday's run helped me get over some of my anxiety about passing people during a run. I have never liked passing people on the running trail and at the duathlon in April I found myself feeling even more anxious when in the position to pass other participants, particularly the women from my Just Tri-It group.  Not knowing if there is some special runner's etiquette for passing people, maybe a secret code like a nod of the head or a key phase, I opted just to say "sorry" every time I passed someone. I thought that if there was any ill feelings towards me, the other runner would know that I was taking no personal pleasure in leaving them behind.  

Being a researcher I decided to ask other runners how they felt about passing people. The responses were wonderful and some very funny. A number of runners told me that they give words of encouragement as they pass someone, such as "I'm sure you'll pass me later" or "keep going, you're doing great."   Others told me that because it is "a race," passing everyone else is the central goal so they don't think about passing people, they just do it! Among this group was a number of competitors who explained with great enthusiasm how much they enjoy passing other runners. Specifically those individuals in their 40s and 50s described how much they love passing runners who are younger than them.  "Eat my dust!" is the most common descriptive phrase used by this group of race demons :)  

On Sunday's run it was impossible for me not to pass people and I probably passed well over two or three hundred people throughout the run. I was also passed by an equal number of runners. In a field of 2,000 with 13 miles to run, I quickly shed my politeness, put on my competitive wings and tried my hardest to make it across the finish line ahead of as many other runners as I could! My shyness and politeness left at the start line, I did not utter "sorry" once on Sunday's run, but some might have thought they heard, "Beep! Beep!" as I left them in my dust :)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My first official time

441 miles and my first official running time. I ran the half marathon (13.1 miles/21 kilometers) in 2 hours and 9 minutes. It was a very enjoyable run and I felt great when I finished. Adil and Charlotte were so wonderful to take photos all along the way so I have pictures that document the run. The photos above are of the marathon winner, Brian Michasiw who ran the full marathon in 2 hours and 42 minutes (which means he was running almost twice the speed that I was running for twice the distance), the female winner of the marathon, Lindsay Byers (behind the big cookie) and Patti Wilson, an elderly woman (I don't know if elderly applies to someone who can complete a marathon in 3hrs 42min) who was one of the full marathon runners who completed early.

The event had around two thousand participants who ran either 10km, 21.1km or 42.2km. I knew a few people who were running which made it fun. Picture above is of Sue ending the half marathon and of Jonathan and myself just after I finished the run. The group photo is of Bryan Swystun (from Prince Albert, he works with my brother Kevin), myself, Sue and Jonathan. Bryan is gesturing "500 miles" because I am close to reaching the half way mark of my 1000 miles.

My experience of running my first half marathon was nothing but positive. The energy generated by the large group of runners at the start of the race made the first few kilometers easy and pleasurable. As the race continued those running the 10 km broke off early to return to the finish line, while the rest of us continued as one group. At the finish line those running the full marathon had to make a turn (this being the half way point) and run another 13.1 kilometers along the river up to White Swan Drive turning around at Lenore Dr. It was great getting to see the front runners along the way as they headed into their second half. They are beautiful to watch as they make running look so easy. 

I struggled mostly on hills and tried to take take as much advantage of downhills as I could. My hand became swollen around the 16km mark and I ended up with a couple blisters on my feet. These are signs that I need to learn more about running long distances so that I don't end up with feet or hand problems. Other than that I had a few aches and pains along the way but in general I felt great. Running past our house on Spadina was fun. My brother Darren, his daughters Ashley and Danielle and Skender were outside cheering as I went by and my neighbor Rosemary was ringing a cowbell. Their cheering gave me extra energy and put a big smile on my face. I probably could have pushed myself harder but my first goal was to complete and I almost made my 2hr goal, so I'm pretty jazzed with the experience.   

On a serious note, I dedicated my run to Monique, Charlotte's sister who is in the Royal University Hospital and very sick. I am hoping that anyone who reads this will say a special prayer for Monique's recovery. She is a very kind and wonderful person who has newborn at home waiting for his mommy to return. I hope that if we all send our prayers to Monique that God will hear us and return this very special women to her family. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What a day!

I ran 6 miles today (428 miles) and every moment of the run was incredibly beautiful. I took the photos as I ran along the sea wall from English Bay to the Lion's Gates Bridge. It is probably the most picturesque run that I have had this year. I had a short time line of about thirty to forty minutes to run because I had to start a meeting at 9AM. However once on the trail I kept running to the next point because it was so beautiful. After the bridge I had to turn around and head back to meet Shannon who had joined me to come and see English Bay. Before my run I took Shannon for a quick tour through the Sylvia Hotel which is my favorite hotel in Vancouver. It is the coolest place to stay because it still operates as a small hotel. There is a great view of English Bay from the restaurant and bar. The first two pictures are of the outside of the Sylvia Hotel. 

The other pictures are taken in early evening after our meeting ended. I went sailing with an old friend of mine, Alan Keil. Alan and I knew each other in the early 1990s right at the time I started university.  Alan was living in Prince Albert working as an instructor at the northern dental college. When he moved from Prince Albert to Vancouver I went along with him as far as Calgary (I think it was in the fall sometime). We were in his Volkswagon Rabbit which had plywood on the roof attached to a ski rack. On the plywood we had a pup tent bolted down. With the pull of a cord the tent went up ready to be used. We drove to Banff, arriving late at night when all the other campers were asleep. I remember waking up the next morning to the cool mountain air and upon popping my head out of the tent receiving a number of strange looks from the other campers at nearby campsites. I guess seeing people emerging out of a tent perched on a VW Rabbit must have looked rather crazy. 

After parting in Calgary I returned to Saskatoon and Alan made his way to Vancouver where he made his home for the next twenty years. Friday was the first time we had seen each other since my wedding (which was strange given that I am now divorced). Alan now lives most of the year in Germany with his family, returning a few weeks out of the year to work at his Vancouver dental practice. 

Friday night we took Alan's sailboat out but because there was no wind we didn't sail. Instead we took the boat over to Bowen Island and had a nice dinner. The photo of Alan holding the trophy was taken because a few years earlier he had won this trophy i a sailing race. Being out in the ocean was such a treat and the scenery was breath taking. We drank some wine and spent the evening talking about old and new times. By the time I reached my hotel I was very tired and still in disbelief about the wonderful day that I had had. The early morning run was spectacular, the meeting was interesting and productive, and the day ended on the ocean with a fun evening with an old friend.