Archive for ‘Community’

August 8, 2011

Pucker Up

Here We Are Again

The expression goes “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but what if you don’t like lemonade?    I am still riding high from the fact that I have a much needed personal trainer and today I received word that he could no longer make himself available for personal reasons. I get it, I have been there. People have to take care of themselves and their families first and he is no different. I applaud him for putting his own health first.

While I am happy for Ian, the bottom line is that I am back to square one. A big giant crate of the best lemons money can buy, and I don’t want more lemonade! In the past, this is exactly the type of thing that would have started me on a pity party. Why does stuff like this always happen to me? Why can’t things just work out? Well because shit happens that’s why. If I back down every time that life presents a challenge, I will never really grow as a person. I see how lucky I am to have the opportunities that I do have and I see examples daily of people who have so much more to overcome than I do.

If They Can, I Certainly Can

I could go on and on with examples of people, even close friends and family even that have much greater health challenges to deal with than I.  In each of their cases it is perseverance and acceptance that allows them to maintain some sort or normalcy in their lives.  It would be almost disrespectful of me to throw my hands in the air and say; “well I guess this was just not meant to be;” and resign myself to the fact that I am overweight and unhealthy.

I have the ability to do something about a good portion of the health issues that I have. No, I cannot re-grow cartilage in my knee, and there is not a lot I can do to reverse the arthritis that is starting to settle into my joints from overuse and carrying a huge load around for many years. I can however, take a considerable about of weight off my body, reduce my pain considerably in the process and be less of a burden on the health system in the long run.

So what am I going to do about it? Make lemonade of course! I have many options available to me at this point. I learned some new stuff in the process of working with my trainer for the last couple of weeks, and I remain very motivated. I can continue to work out on my own and hope to gain the results I am looking for that way. I can connect with some of the other offers that I received previously, and determine if they are still willing to work with me or, I can reach out to some new trainers and see what’s still out there for me.

Half Full It Is

As a recovering optimist, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and that there is a lesson I need to learn in this situation. What might it be? Will I ever know? That’s not something that I can answer right now. Hindsight has a funny way of showing us what we can draw from any given situation when we are ready to see it. It might be as simple as proving to me that I am a changed man and that I am not going to back down. That I can fall into some adversity, deal with it in a mature way, and try again until I get the desired result.

So to that end, I have contacted a few new trainers, I met with one already tonight who was fantastic, and I will meet with another tomorrow. I just need to have a little faith. To overuse another cliché, one door has closed but if I am paying attention, I am sure to see another open.

Peace,

Leslie

July 19, 2011

Gifts, They Are Plenty

BBC World Service Radio Interview

Another interesting stop along the winding road of life; lately there have been many. A recent interview that I did with Sian Griffiths at BBC World Service Radio was broadcast yesterday and brings with it a new level of accountability and motivation. You can hear the interview by clicking on the icon to the right.

Two things really stick out for me as the day comes and goes, and perhaps ironically, neither of them really has to do with swimming, or pools but both of them have a lot to do with my MEfurbishment.   During the interview Ms. Griffiths talks to the entire Campbell-Wynn family and something that 15 year old Keven said could not be more spot-on.

“You can go about living your life, living how many years you can live or you can go and measure it by how many people you reach out to, how many people you touch and how many people you get to help.”

Every MEbucket is impacted positively by having this type of outlook on life. When you start to live your life in this way, it fills you up in ways that material things just cannot manage, and it is contagious. The universe has a way of reminding us what’s important, why we are all here, but we need to slow down long enough to notice. This is really what MEfurbish is all about.  Thanks for the reminder Keven!

The other thing I took out of the day yesterday was a reminder of my level of gratitude for everything I have in my life. From my family and friends, to the country I live in. Monica C Chongo reminded me of this on the Outlook, BBC World Service Facebook page where she comments:

“I wish I could do this in Zambia. As it is, some neighbourhoods do not even have clean drinking water, let alone water to swim in. Good for you Leslie”

Here, here MS. Chongo. I try not to take things in my life for granted. Our society really conditions us in a lot of ways to have expectations. Things should be easy, more is better, and me first! When we take time to think about what is really important, things like the basic human rights and requirements of food, shelter, safety, and clean drinking water, it helps bring into perspective how fortunate we are in Canada.

The many gifts I receive from my original simple request to swim continue to astound me.  As I have shared over and over again, no bucket goes untouched in this process. Thanks to each and every one of you for sharing in my journey.

July 18, 2011

Just Get There

Monday Morning Blah’s

Monday mornings have never been great for me. I have never let them hold me back but I certainly need to give myself an extra kick in the butt to get going. This morning was worse than I have seen in some time in that respect. I just did not want to drag my sorry behind out of bed this morning. Fortunately there were two things that helped get me up and make it happen.

The first was a commitment I had made to take my daughter out to the house I swim at to go horseback riding. The remarkable family there has been making an effort to get my daughter on the horses to learn how to ride and take care of them.  Their 15 year old daughter had offered to give her a lesson this AM and there was no way that I or she was going to let me miss that opportunity. So that would have at least got me to the house.

2-4-6-8 Who Do we Appreciate!

Knowing that it was possible that I would get to there and choose not to swim, I had to take some specific action to ensure I got my much needed exercise. I reached out to get some support, something that I have been poor at in the past. With an attitude of “I can do it myself” or “I don’t need anyone’s help”, I have often seen my good intentions and will power fade, along with my exercise regimen.  As I am convinced that this time will be different, I needed to take some different action.

I texted a friend and was honest with her about my lack of motivation to do my laps.  Wisely she suggested that I not worry about the laps and just commit to getting to the pool and into the water, that’s it.  She also gave me a little bit of cheerleading! In the end, this was the little nudge I needed to get myself out there and into the pool. A little bit of accountability goes a long way too as I knew she was going to ask me how it went.

I got there, and I got myself into the water to warm up, still not certain that I would begin my laps. I told myself just to do two warm-up laps and see how I felt. As soon as the cool water started to move around me and I started to breathe deeply, I was hooked. It really is such an enjoyable experience to be in the water. By the time 60 minutes came around on my timer, I had to make myself stop I was enjoying it so much.

Short Memory

As I sit here five hours later, I am totally free from pain and completely energized. Why is it so hard to remember that the next day when it’s time to get myself back there? If I could take a picture of how I feel right now, I would never need help getting my butt to the pool, sadly I can’t so I will have to continue to take all the help I can get!

July 6, 2011

Circuital

On Tour Now! Playing in at the Ottawa Bluesfest on July 13th

I go through waves with music and right now I am at the crest of a wave, I just can’t get enough. It’s always playing, I sleep with it, I write with it, and I turn it up past what most people find comfortable for conversation. I have been playing the latest CD by My Morning Jacket called Circuital and it has been on over and over for the past few days.

I found it very hard to pick a song or even two for you to sample because I absolutely love every song. It ranges from fun to pensive ballad and back again. So I will just grab a couple for you to check out and run with it.  On the little widget below you can hear “You Wanna Freak Out” and below that is a live video of “Holdin On To Black Metal”As always you can check it out on the MEmusic tab above!

I highly recommend you pick up the CD itself and enjoy it from first to last.

Enjoy!

Peace,

Leslie

June 29, 2011

Me You and the World

Get Out There!

The coolest things that have come my way as a result of my effort to swim are the changes that I see in some of my current relationships as well as the gift of some new relationships. Putting myself “out there” has fostered a real sense of community in me. I have talked to absolute strangers who have seen my picture on the CBC website and are excited for me and just want to show their support.

I have now had two interviews with Hallie Cotnam and she is not just a great broadcaster and journalist but a really cool person that I have met and feel like I have a connection with. Spending time discussing my story, both the challenges and rewards, makes me feel a bit more understood, a lot more heard, and certainly more connected to the community at large.

Getting emails, blog comments, voice messages, text messages, status update feedback and messages of support and encouragement from across the nation has further connected me to the world around me in a way that is indescribable.  There is a level of honestly and sincerity present that is not typical with people I find. I have opened up, and put information about me out there that I had previously kept mostly to myself; the result is that many people have related to that, and to what I am going through. With the exception of a few jokesters out there, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

I have noticed that some of my most important relationships have shifted slightly as well. This experience has opened up lines of dialogue with friends and family that haven’t been open in a while due to my depression. Let me be clear, these are lines that I myself closed off, in many ways out of necessity, but slowly I can see them opening nonetheless.

The most important relationship I have, the one with my twelve year old daughter, is perhaps the one that I am most excited about. On the surface there haven’t been a lot of differences, but there is a level of confidence and pride on my part that has been eluding me as of late. I am proud of what I am doing. I feel like I am a good example to her in all of this. I am hopeful that she sees that she can ask for help when she needs it too. One journalist I was recently speaking with used the expression “grabbing the bull by the horns” to describe my effort to put my health first. As a proud vegan, I would never grab a bull that didn’t grab me first, but I get her point!  This is something else that I hope my daughter can glean from this situation.

As is the case with the physical changes I have witnessed, it is a miracle to me to be able to observe the depth of change that has taken place in such a short period of time. Tomorrow I will look at some of the more subtle changes that are taking place in my life, those in the area of my mental health. Until then, I will just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

PS. Today was a significant milestone in my swimming. I swam for a total of 60 minutes!  This is a good 12 minutes longer than any other time I have swam but it is also important because it is the goal I set for myself when I first got into the water, and the amount of time I will settle at moving forward. This week I have let go of counting laps, and will just focus on the 60 minutes. Moving forward, my goal will be to maximize the number of laps I can do in an hour, pushing myself to better my lap time gradually. Wish me luck!

Peace,

Leslie

June 28, 2011

30 Days Later – Part 1

How We Doin’

As a former business owner and manager it comes instinctively to me to stop frequently through any project and at various milestones to determine what’s working and what’s not working. It’s a perfect time to remove any roadblocks that might hinder continued success.

It has been one month since I first jumped into the pool to start the MElaps portion of my MEfurbishment. I thought it would be as good a time as any to have my first look back to assess how far I’ve come in the first 30 days.

The first thing I did was contemplate the different areas that have been impacted by my starting to swim. There is of course the obvious one, health but upon reflecting on the situation I can see that it goes beyond that. I have seen changes in my physical health as well as my mental health. There are positive things to look at around community, friendships and parenting as well.

Over the next few days I will look at each of these and think about where I have come from and where I am going. Today we will start with the one that most people are most interested in when I bump into them or receive emails, physical health. Here is a quick snapshot of what’s changed in the month.

Physical Health

Improvements

The most obvious change has been in my physical health. It is amazing to me what one month can do for changing your health. I have dropped 11 pounds so far but I know that I have lost more than that in fat. My clothes are fitting much differently and I am reminded each day when I buckle up my pants that there is more going on here than weight loss. I have already moved over four notch holes on the belt in just 30 days! I notice a considerable difference in the muscle mass in my arms, shoulders.

When walking, my steps have started to even out and my limp has reduced slightly. This tells me that my left leg, the one with worst knee is beginning to strengthen as well.  Something as simple as pushing off the wall of the pool at the end of each lap feels different as a result of this exercise too. There is, without a doubt, a much more evenly balanced power in my legs.  It would be great to be able to test my cardio in some way because I can feel a substantial difference in my breathing. The Wii Active 2 does have a fitness test that measures heart rate and recovery, but the test is hard on my knees. With a little more strength in my leg, I may be able to consider doing this test again to be able to measure my cardio improvement.

I know you are wondering how this has impacted things in the bedroom. Well, I haven’t had one leg cramp at night since starting to swim, a common problem before. In addition, my sleeps have been much better when I have slept. Get your mind out of the gutter!

Roadblocks

Swimsuit

Looking back there have been two things that have hindered my improvement this month. My notes from each day show the most consistent hindrance was my bathing suit. Yes, I said my bathing suit, sorry for the visual. While I don’t want to go to the extreme of using a brief style Speedo bathing suit, my current suit is now way too big and actually restricts my movement considerably in the water. Big size bathing suits aren’t cheap so I might try to hem and take in the current one if possible to allow for a little more freedom of movement and allow me to get through the next couple of months before buying a new one.

Counting

My obsession for knowing how many laps I have completed has actually slowed me down in the pool. For the first week or two, I was stopping after each lap to hit the lap timer on my cell phone, I progressed to using a waterproof watch but still found this a distraction. In weeks three and four I stopped timing each lap and just timed my entire swim and counted my laps out loud while swimming. This was definitely an improvement but I still find it to be a disruption. I find my time in the pool doing laps to be quite meditative and I really want to be able to let go of counting and timing altogether but still hold myself accountable.  I decided that this week I will move up to swimming for 60 minutes and just start a countdown timer so I can let go of time altogether. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to be able to come up with a better system for mindlessly counting my laps so I can let go of that too. I even thought of jimmying up a piece of string with close-pins or something that I can just slide at the end of each lap. My inner MacGyver is up to the challenge.

All in all I must say that I am thrilled about how things have gone. I have managed to keep myself from trying to add on 20 laps per day in an attempt to improve beyond what is reasonable and healthy. This is a big step for me, someone who is always looking for instantaneous gratification and results.

In the next post I will look at how my relationships and sense of community have changed since hitting the water. The changes here are perhaps the most rewarding of all and certainly the biggest surprise. Stop by tomorrow and have a read.

Peace,

Leslie

June 22, 2011

To Be or Not To Be

What Is The Question?

Hamlet the pig was even excited about the buzz from yesterday with my second interview on CBC Radio One; even he was cheering me on today when I swam 80 laps!

Once again, I am truly overwhelmed with the response I am receiving to my interview and story with CBC’s Hallie Cotnam. The comments on the CBC follow-up article have been overwhelmingly positive. I have received numerous emails, friend requests, and continue to even get replies to my original article.

I am keeping today’s post brief because sometimes less is more.

Thank you to all of you for your continued support.

Peace,

Leslie

June 21, 2011

Gratitude Attitude

In One Ear

We’ve all heard it before, how important it is to have an attitude of gratitude. It’s one of many slogans and quotations that tend to resonate with us for the moment, and then dissipate quickly.  For me this has a lot to do with practicality. When we hear things like this they usually make us feel a certain way but they do not necessarily produce action of any kind.

How can we take a concept like this that we want to embrace and take steps to incorporate the ideals into our daily reality? There is no easy answer to this question except to say that with each, we need to stop for a moment or two of reflection and determine a practical course of action.  Being grateful for what I have in my life has been something that has eluded me in the past. Not because I am not grateful for these things but because I tend to put more focus, more effort and more resources into what I don’t have.

Gratitude List

The idea here is to just give the things that we have to be grateful for room to sit with us, an equal share of real estate in our brains or in our day. To that end, a tool that I try to use as frequently as possible is to create a gratitude list. While this may seem trivial or silly, those of us who have subscribed to the idea can say without a doubt that it makes a considerable difference in our happiness and ability to live in the moment.

This morning as I was listening to a follow-up interview that I did with Hallie Cotnam on CBC Radio One I was overcome with gratitude for the situation that I find myself in. I needed help, I asked for it, I received it in overwhelming quantity and I am now reaping the rewards of putting myself out there. So it goes without saying that when I was writing gratitude list this morning, all those who continue to offer love and support we featured prominently including Amy and Erik, the down to earth couple who have opened their home and their pool to me.

Thank you Amy and Erik!

If you would like to hear the follow-up interview, you can click on the play button below. The original post and initial full interview can be found in my recent post called The Universe Came Through.

Take a few minutes before bed tonight or when you rise in the morning to think about how much you have to be grateful for. I am sure you will surprise yourself, no matter how bad you think things are in your daily grind, as you write you may even notice a little smile or a lower heart rate. Its well worth the five minutes that it takes, trust me.

Peace,

Leslie

June 6, 2011

Weekend For The Soul

What a great weekend!

Friday was a PD day for the school kids in Ottawa so that meant a day off and in essence, a long weekend spent with my daughter. Awesome! The owner of the home where I swim suggested my 12 year old was welcome to join me at the house swimming and even cooler, invited us to come out later in the weekend to show her the horses as well. I gladly took her up on both of these offers.

Play Like A Kid

After some much needed rest and a lazy morning sleeping in, we headed out to the pool and hit the water. I had explained to my daughter that I needed to do my laps first and then we could frolic about after that. While it was a slight distraction to have someone in the pool while I was doing my laps it paled in comparison to the fun that we had when I had finished the “exercise” portion of the swim. Once I was done we grabbed a foam football and started to toss it back and forth to each other making dramatic dives for the catch. We invented our own little game had a best 2 out of 3 series. What a blast! I thoroughly enjoyed myself. We laughed hard and made fools of ourselves for about an hour, but it felt like only minutes has passed. The focus was not on the exercise but we were getting some nonetheless. It was a great start to the weekend.

Just Say I Do

Friday evening I had the pleasure of witnessing some dear friends of mine “tie the knot.” It was a great wedding and the entire evening was filled with more laughter, moments of intimacy, and a real sense of what is important in life. Family, friends and time spent connecting and celebrating with those that are important to us. While the numbers fell as the evening progressed there were several of us who kept the party going. We were further rewarded when we were able to be a part of some even more special moments during the after party at a local pub, and the late-late night or early-early morning breakfast at a local diner. Highlights included the father of the bride showing up at the pub unannounced to fanfare, and who will ever forget the spontaneous applause in the jam packed diner when the bride arrived in her stunning dress. Unforgettable!

Horse-Play

Sunday brought moments of joy that any parent can relate too. As my daughter and I drove out to the ranch to meet the horses and the awesome family who lives there, I could sense her anxiety. Understandably, meeting new people at the best of times is can be awkward and stressful. Throw in the circumstances by which our two families have met (my swimming pool ad), and finally the apprehension about perhaps sitting on or riding a horse for the first time and you have a potpourri of emotions tugging in all directions.

Our hostess did a fantastic job of easing my daughter into the process. She started with introducing the horse, explaining a little bit of his history, then moved into the grooming of “Spider”. Together they cleaned the coat, the hooves, and saddled the horse with a focus on safety, both for the horse and the rider. Next, sitting on the horse, feeling Spider’s movements and tendencies, being lead on the horse with myself and another on either side of the horse, and then finally actually riding, steering, starting stopping and instructing the horse on her own. I was completely amazed in the transition. What I witnessed was a microcosm of how gaining confidence works. Her demeanour from beginning to end was truly night and day to see as an outsider. By the time she was done, she was beaming, sitting tall with confidence and looking each of us in the eye just a little bit more.

Leave it to a twelve year old to reiterate to me what continues to need being reiterated. When we come upon a challenge in life we have two choices, the safe easy way or the challenging, sometimes stressful path that is inevitably more rewarding. She reminded me that I have been doing that myself! When I say to her “you must be so proud of yourself for putting yourself out there,” it reminds me that I too should be proud. I am proud. I can only hope that along the way I will try to continue to take the next step in putting myself out there. With that, there will continue to be substantial rewards and endless learning.

Last night our weekend wound down surrounded by family and extended family enjoying a meal together. A fitting end to a weekend for the soul. A glass of wine, a cold beer, some great conversation and the sound of kids giggling in the background.

It really doesn’t get much better as far as weekends go. I need to remember that it didn’t take a flight, a reservation, or a new gadget to bring the contented feeling that this weekend brought. There is no reason why I can’t do it again next weekend.

Actually, there is no reason that I can’t find a way to do it today, right now.

Peace,

Leslie

May 21, 2011

Someday Soon

My Motivators

It’s a beautiful day in sunny Ottawa today, the kind of day that just screams, use me! Occasionally on days like this I think of the many things I could be doing, if I had other parts of my life in order. These are things that I can’t do due to physical or financial limitations.  I decided that I am missing an opportunity to use these things as motivators to push forward in my MEfurbishment.

To that end I thought I would use a little bit of time this morning to make a list of some goals, things I would like to be able to try at some point in the future. This will help me with my MEbucket’s as well. When looking for things that will foster and develop a certain bucket, it is helpful to have a master list to draw from. This is also a great tool for looking back to see progress. A year from now, when I look back over the year and see some items crossed off my list I can feel a sense of accomplishment and gratitude.

Below is a list of things that I would like to bring into my life at some point in my journey. I would love to hear from you about some of the things that are on your list. Things that you have been putting off, preparing for or just haven’t got to yet.

Someday soon I will…..

Peace,

Leslie