Five Things

April 21, 2008

Well, the HH and I just returned yesterday from a quick weekend jaunt to Montreal to visit with family and friends (more on that next time), which means I haven’t had time to cook over the past few days.  A food post will have to wait, and so. . .  

Since I was tagged recently by the lovely A-K of Swell Vegan to tell 5 things about myself, I thought I’d share those those today instead.  Spending 6 hours in the car yesterday did afford some time to think of new things to include (which seems to be getting harder and harder, as the blog itself more or less broadcasts such info daily!).  Here goes:

1) Even though I was born and raised in Montreal, I am one of those few ex-Montrealers who prefers Toronto to my native city.  I moved here in 1983 and feel as if Toronto is where I really grew up and developed an adult identity.  I love that Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world; that it’s number three in the world (only after New York and London) for live theater; that it hosts the “premier[e] film festival in North America” as well as North America’s largest literary festival; that it’s the original home of comedic greats like Mike Myers, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Martin Short and Jim Carrey; that is has fantastic, world-class restaurants, as well as personal favorites like this and this and this. So come on, visit!  I’d be happy to show you around when you’re here. 🙂 (And no, I don’t work for the tourist bureau!)

2) I am a real sucker for sappy movies and even some television commercials: like every female character in Sleepless in Seattle who was confronted with that scene in An Affair to Remember, I turn on the waterworks if I watch anything sentimental (and especially anything with sad puppies. . .*sigh*).  When my sisters and I were kids, we’d tease my mother mercilessly about her “soft” streak.  For years, I was mortified to have inherited her mushiness; more recently, however, I’ve just come to accept it.  So, I’m a sap; what the heck.  (The first time the HH observed this trait in me, he had glanced over as we sat beside each other in a darkened movie theater; there I was, silently watching the film, my cheeks streaming with tears. At first, he found this odd behaviour a bit alarming; nowadays, he just rolls his eyes and hands me a tissue).

3) Some people are ocean people; some are woodsy-forest people.  I’m in the latter group (it’s one of my “dog-like qualities,” the HH tells me).  One of my friends was literally so drawn to the ocean that she quit her job and moved across the country to live near it.  My own dream home would be situated smack in the middle of a huge forested lot, surrounded by meadows and trees of every kind and trails along which The Girls could gambol to their hearts’ content. I love the smells of the forest–pine trees, damp mossy patches after a rainfall, maple sap, fresh grass and even the scent of dandelions.  And since walking is my favorite form of exercise, I love a good walk through the woods (though am not a huge fan of the creepy creatures who inhabit it–viz, bugs, snakes, spiders, etc.) This isn’t to say that I don’t wish to remain close to civilization, of course–just that I want enough space around my home to see trees and green in every direction. 

[“Love to gambol, Mum! Yes, please, go ahead and get that property!”]

4) I wrote my PhD thesis on a little-known American short-story writer named Katherine Anne Porter.  I read her novella, Pale Horse, Pale Rider, as an undergrad, and felt such a strong connection to it that I immediately went out and devoured the rest of her works; I decided then and there that I’d have to write about her.  While researching my thesis, I discovered that I was even more entranced by her astonishing life–much stranger than fiction–than her writing.  To learn more about her, you can go here.

5) Even though I studied English literature and psychology in university, in a game of Trivial Pursuit, I’d excel most at the category, “popular culture.”  I thoroughly enjoy most movies, television, and trashy magazines.  I am addicted to a soap opera  (thankfully, only one)–something else I inherited from my mother–and I watch faithfully while plodding along on my treadmill.  If I ever won one of those contests to have a cameo role on my soap, I’d be in New York City before you could say “Procter and Gamble.”  In fact, I once created a course at the college where I teach, called “Serialized Fictions,” which dealt with Victorian serial novels, radio serial dramas, serialized comic books, and, yup–soap operas.

Well, for this one, I think I won’t tag anyone specific, but will open up the fun anyone who’d like to play along.  Consider yourself tagged!

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TV and the Treadmill

December 29, 2007

I’ve never been much interested in team sports (but even if I were, being perennially chosen as the “anchor” in tug of war, being last–always–to be picked for any team in grade school, and having to wear those navy blue bloomers in gym class, beat every last trace of desire out of me).  Instead, when it comes to exercise, I tend to prefer solitary pursuits, both cerebral and physical. 

So when I decided to try to get back in shape, I knew that the best possible piece of exercise equipment I could buy would be a treadmill.  Years ago, I joined a workout club in order to lift weights whenever I can (Hey there, Elderly Gentleman Who Always Wears Black Knee Socks!  How ya doin’, Septuagenarian Couple With the Matching T-Shirts! Nice to see you, Teenaged Girl with Spiky Blue Hair!), but really, for me, “exercise” means walking.  And in winter months, when I can’t be taking my Girls for any serious length of time outdoors, it means walking on a treadmill.

Ever since we moved to this new house last month, the treadmill has been stationed in the TV room.  Yes, this does make for a somewhat “eclectic” set of furniture (because the room is relatively small, all we can fit in it is the TV, 2 chairs, and the treadmill), but I love it nonetheless. We’re not the kind of people who watch TV when friends are over, and, in fact, I watch very little TV at all. With one glaring exception:  my soap opera. 

I am addicted to watching my soap opera every weekday.  Yes, I know, a soap opera. Now, this fact would have been a carefully concealed, disgraceful little secret back in my days as a PhD student when all my academic cohorts held forth in the T.A. lounge and our classrooms, eagerly discussing Foucault, Bloom or Barthes, or the esoteric implications of various (the)rapist(s) with great bombast and flourish. It took me a long time to realize that, fundamentally, they were pretty much full of crap, and even though they tossed around a lot of big words, they didn’t actually understand any more about those theories than I did. (On a completely unrelated tangent, that reminds me of a list of self-referential grammar and language rules that circulated while I was a teaching assistant, especially this one: “Never use a big word when a diminutive one will do”). 

After surviving the trauma of being an underconfident PhD student, I am now unabashedly declaring my affection–nay, my complete adoration and undying fidelity to–soaps.  Well, actually, just one soap:  As The World Turns.

Shortly after we moved in here, I realized that I’d been avoiding my treadmill for months, despite rather enjoying the meditative whirring of the belt as it rolled beneath my feet, my mind barely awake and flitting aimlessy from fuzzy topic to fuzzy topic as I tried to gain focus for the day. 

In the previous house, the treadmill was in the (unfinished) basement,   so it meant trekking downstairs and walking by myself within the dismal grey concrete surroundings. I found I couldn’t muster up the energy to do it most mornings.  Then, my brilliant idea:  why not place the machine in the TV room, and watch my soap while I walked?  After all, I watch my soap every day, anyway; why not combine it with something good for my health? In fact, it’s turned out to be quite the incentive for me.

Often, I won’t have time to watch in the evening (what with posting to Holidailies and everything), so I’ll save the tape (not technically a tape any more, as my HH keeps reminding me) for the following morning, and walk as I catch up with Lily, Holden, Carly, Jack, et al. There, at 6:30 AM as the gears spin and my feet flit over the woven belt, I fix my eyes to the screen and tread, tread, tread.  Before I know it, the 44 minutes are up (perfect interval, I think, for a morning walk) and I’ve burned about 200 calories.  Brilliant!

In fact, I’m going to propose this as my next healthy-lifestyle strategy:  combine exercise with something else you enjoy.

chasertreadmill.jpg

I guess that for many of us, that combination would naturally entail walking our dogs. (“Very punny, Mum.  We are naturally entailed, too, and we love to wag them when we go for a walk!”)  For me, dog-walking hasn’t worked as an extra boost of exercise, mostly because I’ve been doing it regularly for so many years now so that my body has acclimatized and it doesn’t seem to make a difference, either to my weight or my general shape. 

Are there any hobbies out there that require lifting heavy objects?  (Sumo wrestling for fun and profit, anyone?). If so, I’d love to know.  I’m sure many other weight-conscious blogs have covered this one, and will have suggestions. For me, it’s a fairly narrow range of choices: treadmill, or weight lifting (which I bizarrely happen to enjoy just on its own), or dancing to Motown or disco tunes (music of my adolescence) in my living room.

What do you all do? 

(“Squirrels, Mum.  Chasing squirrels is always a good one.”)