Just keep swimming…

For the first time since I hurt my back in November, I did a FULL HOUR of cardio today! I have been very frustrated in the past couple of weeks as a result of trying to do a proper workout and having to call it quits 15-20 minutes in because my back has been hurting too much to continue. Well this morning I did an entire hour of steady, continuous cardio! I finally gave up on trying to force running (the impact really was not doing much to help heal my herniated and torn discs…) and decided to hit the pool. I was a bit concerned that the twisting motion of a front crawl might hurt, but surprisingly, it didn’t at all. Breaststroke, however, did not go so well. I got two lengths into it and had to abandon that idea as the slight back extension during a breath was causing pinching and some shooting pain down my left leg. Back to the crawl and I swam for a WHOLE HOUR! I’m so ridiculously happy! The real test will be how I feel later tonight and if I’m able to get myself back into the pool again tomorrow. I’m hopeful that swimming might be my next recovery breakthrough!

 

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Moment

Life is all about moments. And every moment we make little choices without even realizing it. And most of the time, things work out ok. So if we trust our instincts, and remember that we’ve only got one shot at this crazy thing called life, the moments all add up into something pretty remarkable. Whether we know what we’re doing or not.

My Old Stomping Grounds

This past weekend I made the long drive east to Ottawa. A trip that should have taken me 7-8 hours ended up taking two full days after the CRAZIEST white-out snowstorm I have EVER driven in (and that’s saying a lot coming from a girl who lives in Bruce County…) left me storm-stayed in Belleville for a night. While I was disappointed to have to miss dinner plans with my friends Nicole, Rob and their son Max, I decided to make the best of it and  think of it as yet another travel adventure and story. Turns out every hotel in town was sold out of rooms and full of stranded travelers! Some beers and stories in the hotel lobby with fellow strandees and I could do nothing but laugh at being stuck somewhere en route to a destination AGAIN!

Over night the snow stopped and the highways were cleared and I headed back out on the road in sparkling sunshine to finish the last stretch of the drive. As soon as I hit Hwy 417, a huge smile spread across my face; I absolutely LOVE Ottawa and have the best memories of my time living there. It is a place of firsts for me; my first time living on my own and by my own rules, my first apartment, my first roommates, my first serious relationship, my first grown-up job, my first deep hurt…It is also where I lived the glorious life of a student, spent far too much time (and money) partying and had some of the most hilarious and story-worthy encounters and adventures. Ottawa is a beautiful city and will always hold a special place in my heart.

The Capitol also happens to be where some of my favourite people reside but because it’s so far away, I don’t make it back nearly often enough. Needless to say, I had a full schedule to see everyone I wanted to see while there but managed some great time with all my important Ottawa people. Noah (my NZ travel buddy) recently moved back so I used his apartment as my home-base. Friday at noon I met a work colleague (fabulous lady who knows just the right things to say to get me motivated!) at Heart and Crown for lunch and followed lunch up with wandering around the market reminiscing! Friday night we went to an old church in the Byward Market that is no longer an active place of worship and has been converted into an event space (although converted might be the wrong word…it really hasn’t been changed in anyway and the pews and everything are still set up) for a dance party.

For possibly the first time in my life, I felt old. There is a good chance I was about a decade older than a lot of the people there. Regardless, it was kind of hilarious and we had a pretty good time dancing and ended the night at Shawarma King, which is never a bad thing. When I lived in Ottawa, I assumed shawarma was standard fare in all major cities but O-town is truly the only place I have been where you can find it on almost every corner.

Saturday morning was breakfast with Nicole and Rob (delicious eggs benedict on home-made english muffins!) and cuddles with their adorable son Max. It was so great catching up with Nicole! She and I spent years traveling all over the country together competing in biathlon and I am so happy we have remained such good friends throughout the years. She is also one of the most interesting people I have ever met – the girl has traveled all over the world on her own and has some pretty remarkable stories (you should read her blog to get a glimpse of some of the remarkable adventures she has been on – www.mommaandmax.com).

Drinks Saturday night at The Lieutenant’s Pump followed by a trip to Elgin Street Diner, an Ottawa late-night institution where the line-up and wait is well worth it to grab one of their multiple flavoured, cheese-curd filled, gravy-drenched poutines. I wondered if the four-cheese variety was as good as I remembered it from my university days and it was although I wasn’t able to shovel back a full order on my own the way I used to be able to! (You’re almost guaranteed to run into someone you know at ESD and this trip proved that theory true once again as I ran into a friend from highschool that I used to work beachstaff with).

Sunday brought a morning coffee date with Tasha at Bridgehead (BEST coffee in Ottawa and it’s all fair-trade, organic and shade-grown from small growers) where I got to hear all about the plans for her upcoming nuptials! An afternoon coffee date with a long-time family friend (who incidentally I used to babysit and who’s recent engagement announcement, that she told me about when I ran into her Friday night, contributed to making me feel so old…) at Sun Cafe (a cute place that combines coffee shop and flower shop) and my caffeine levels were perfect for the day. Dinner and laughs with Norah, one of my best friends from highschool, at Clocktower Brew Pub (they brew their own beer – Wishart’s Bitter is my favourite) brought a perfect close to my weekend.

Monday I hit the road heading back west and broke the trip up perfectly with an over-night stop in Kinsale to visit my sister and brother-in-law and get some always needed snuggles in with my gorgeous niece Paige. Tuesday was a stop in Grand Valley to visit my sister-in-law (the sister-in-law who was my university roommate in Ottawa so it completed the circle perfectly!) and grab some snuggles with my handsome nephew, Callum before I finally arrived back home!

It was a perfect long weekend full of people I love and I cannot wait to plan my next foray back to Ottawa sometime very soon!

A Fairytale Wedding

This past weekend one of my very best friends married a really amazing guy. I was so honoured to be in their wedding party and to be so involved with their special day. The weekend was absolute perfection and we spent it surrounded by such an amazing group of people. The wedding itself was beyond beautiful (not to mention the stunning bride who Bridal Barbie should be modeled after – an absolute princess for her big day) and truly belongs in a magazine – it was unlike anything I have ever seen! I don’t know that any picture can do it justice but I will post some as soon as I get my hands on some (I can’t believe I didn’t take any myself!).

Meg and Steve make such a great team and I know that they will have many years of happiness, adventure and love ahead of them. They are two of the most remarkably kind and generous people I have ever met and are an absolute perfect match.

Much love to the newlyweds – xo

Heartbroken but proud

Tonight’s semi-finals at the World Juniors was a re-match of last year’s gold medal game, and Canada suffered a second defeat at the hands of an aggressive Russian squad.

Russia started the scoring and at the end of the first period were up 2-0. Early in the second, Connolly scored for Canada only to see Russia respond with another three goals before the period came to a close with a score of 5-1. Russia scored first again in the third making it 6-1 and it appeared as though the results of the game were already written. The Canuck kids fought hard with a never-say-die attitude, and in a performance reminiscent of their Russian counterparts from last year’s gold medal game, they scored four unanswered goals in less than a five-minute span. With the entire nation on the edge of their seats, Canada played hard – desperate to net the equalizer. Alas, that final goal eluded them and as the buzzer sounded, you could see the heartbreak written all over the young players faces.

A win for Canada tonight would have cemented an epic comeback, but regardless of it being incomplete, the game was one for the books in the long history of Canada – Russia hockey. The Canadian boys fought with everything they had and made their country proud.

This will be the first time since 2001 that Canada has not played for the gold medal. Instead, the home squad will lace up to face Finland for the bronze medal while Russia moves on to face Sweden for the gold.

So here I sit, heartbroken but still proud of the young guys who played hard and have represented Canada well. I’ll cheer them on as they play for the bronze, confident in their ability to bring home a medal.

For Auld Lang Syne

“And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere,
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.”

2011 has certainly been one for the books.

I witnessed some really great couples say “I do” and was thrilled to hear others announce their engagements. Amongst the “I do’s” was a beautiful sunny spring day in Muskoka where the consummate party kid married the love of his life, in the form of a policewoman. We all chuckled at the irony as we happily celebrated the two of them. And the biggest moment in wedding bliss for me was as I watched my kid brother mature into a very kind man and I cried with unbridled joy as he married a really special lady.

I was so happy to see my best ski-buddy welcome her son Max into the world and have enthusiastically watched as motherhood has put a spotlight on her quiet confidence and has allowed her to shine even more brightly. I got to live just down the street from another very good friend and so enjoyed being that close as she evolved from my high school buddy to a stunning pregnant woman, to a really fantastic and loving mother to Carson, without slowing down her unrelenting pace of exploring, creating and traveling for even a second. Her energy and creativity is a daily inspiration.

I felt my heart swell and realized, yet again, that love truly does grow exponentially, as I held my nephew Callum and my niece Paige in my arms within the first hours of both of their births. I have felt so much joy and pride for both my sister and brother, and their respective spouses, as they have adjusted to parenthood and become so wonderful within their new roles.

I have watched with awe and amazement at each milestone, as my nephews, Nathan and Jack, have grown into active, happy and handsome little boys. I have been so proud of what intelligent, thoughtful, hilarious and beautiful young women my nieces Chelsey, Kathleen, Hailey and Alannah are growing up to be.

Every day I have been thankful for what a spectacular, if not slightly insane, family I am a part of.  They love me for who I am, support me in my choices, cheer on my successes, help me overcome my obstacles, pick me up when I stumble, laugh with me at this wonderful life we are all living and help me drink away my sorrows 😀 The Clark clan is a special group of people and with each passing year, I become more consciously aware of how great they all are.

In 2011, I was thrilled to spend more time with some old friends who are very important to me (although there are a few to whom a visit is long over due). 2012 marks ten years since I graduated from high school and I LOVE that despite us all living in different locations hours and hours apart, I still count amongst my best friends the girls I shared those years with. I had a lot of laughs (and some fantastic adventures) with new friends, and I have been reminded on a daily basis how lucky I am to have such amazing people surrounding me.

I FINALLY took the extended trip I’d be longing to take and despite my vow to “sort out what I want to do with my life” while traveling, I didn’t and I’m ok with that. The journey was amazing, the experiences life changing and the people are imprinted in my heart, my memory and my life forever.

For 2012, I solemnly swear to put away my life map permanently and commit to becoming woefully lost in the experience of living. If an opportunity presents itself, I will take it. And if it changes me, I will let it.

Happy New Years to you and yours!

xo

J

World Junior’s is here!

All year I look forward to boxing day. It’s the first day that the puck drops in the World Juniors Hockey tournament and kicks off 11 days of great hockey. I love watching the juniors play. It’s fast-paced, give-it-all-you’ve-got hockey. These young guys are the rising stars in the sport and are working hard to make a name for themselves and prove their ability, skill and heart for the game.

There has been a lot of talk about Canada’s exhibition loss to Sweden. I don’t think it was necessarily a bad thing for a few reasons. First, it was a good wake-up for the team and exhibition is the time to have that. The loss helps the boys realize that the caliber of the talent on the other teams is right up there with their own and they can’t let their guard down for a single minute.

Second, I’m hoping the exhibition games showed coach Hay that he should really consider putting Wedgewood in as the starting goalie. I think he’s a really skilled goalie and will impress people (he already has playing with the Plymouth Whalers) if he’s given the chance. That said, I have to give it up to Visentin in the way that he has handled himself well since giving up 5-unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes of the gold medal game last year that resulted in perhaps the worst collapse in World Junior history and forced Canada to settle with the silver medal. He has had to answer a lot of questions about that performance and has been scrutinized endlessly. Throughout it all he has held his head high and patiently and politely answered those questions. So props to a young man who has conducted himself very well since that historic loss. All that said, my confidence is with Wedgewood and I hope he gets the nod to start today.

Finally, I don’t think the exhibition loss was the worst thing because it has removed some of the pressure from the Canadian squad to move through the tournament undefeated. Every year the Canuck kids have enormous expectations placed upon them to win every game, from the exhibition games right through the finals. With some of that pressure relieved, hopefully the boys will settle into the tournament and let their skills shine.

Canada plays their first preliminary game today against Finland in the tournament opener. Canadians are 20-7-6 all-time against the Finns and are heading into this game on the back of  a six-game winning streak against Finland. Game starts at 3:30 p.m. ET.

GO CANADA!