My Desk Is A Ladder

Blog Title1Saturday afternoon, Joseph and I assembled my desk that had been in storage since February. I had not thought much about being without a dedicated personal writing space, all 6 x 2.5 x 1.8 of it, for nine months.

After packing up my apartment in Seattle and heading to Vancouver, I found writing-friendly places everywhere: my husband’s desk draped with a bedsheet to preserve his stuff; cafes down South Granville Street;  our dining room table; the coworking space Suite Genius for weekly “office” hours; benches along False Creek; picnic tables outside Hillcrest Community Center after a swim;  YVR airport lounge before flights; and Molli Cafe and its tall tables barely wide enough for my laptop and plate of tacos.

My laptop and my freelance writing work allow, sometimes seemingly demand, me to write at various times in different places every day of the week. Every location for writing has its quirks, advantages, and annoyances. I stopped visiting and began living in Vancity thanks to those hunts for coffee, WIFI, and people. They were some of the best parts of this past summer.

I would choose a corner Tim Horton’s with strong internet over a hipster cafe with bad WIFI

But it was not until Saturday when I leaned my desk against the wall, unrolled the lamp cord, and opened my laptop, did I suddenly feel relief and comfort, even safety. My own space. My own space in my new husband’s office in a new city in a new country. One defined place that fosters my writing, that immediately signals the start of the work of writing – no longer taking my laptop into the restroom and or wondering if the wall outlet actually functions.

The desk is not fancy. It is wedged, like the frame of a new condo building downtown, between chester drawers and short cabinets. I turn right and can see the rising Vancouver skyline, straight and see a happy yellow wall, and left the doorway out. Just five pieces of wood, the desk is two skinny side planks with three open shelves bolted between them, the bottom shelf being the widest and where I work. The middle and top rungs will eventually hold notebooks, an old dictionary, and pens.

I want to keep my desk uncluttered. It’s easier to climb that way.

This Is Not A Hill

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When I first ran up this road in Stanley Park, I struggled to breathe. My lungs and legs burned. I doubted that I would reach the flatness of Prospect Point, doubted my decision to try this triathlon thing. That was me five years ago running the BMO Vancouver half marathon when the climb to and over Prospect Point was the most cursed section of the course.

About a month ago, in the final weeks leading up to IRONMAN 70.3 Cabos, I completed six up and down repeats of this hill (plus run warm-ups and 6:20 sprints at the end). There was some discomfort, but I mostly felt the hot satisfaction inside my gut for seeing my legs and arms move in good form. My training through the spring and summer was paying off, and completing the race under the Mexican sun seemed possible, satisfying, even enjoyable.

Thanks to my improved physical fitness, the hill is no longer a hill.

Instead, other hills spread in front of me.

It is not the hill of doubt about my decision to shift my career sideways and launch a freelance writing service in my early 40s.

It is not the hill of summer loneliness that left a canyon each day, swelling up in the afternoons after the rested mornings, crumbling when the busycookingcleaningbrushingmyteethtakingdogoutgoingtobed evenings started.

It is not the growing hill of financial worry every time I do my budget.

It is not the hill of boxes entombing my books, my family photos, my stuff from Seattle, all now stacked in our living room.

It is not the hill of never-ending steps and jumps to Canadian permanent residence.

It is not the hill of sadness with its mean switchbacks of depression when Luddo, my canine companion, stumbled and fell close to death.

One of the reasons I love triathlon is its requirement to physically and mentally push yourself to make yourself better. In the past, its training had been my way of injecting challenge and growth into my day.

Now, triathlon is a comforting refuge with its predictable pain and needed endorphin rush. Its hill is no longer my hill.

Some days, when I ungracefully and doggedly scramble over the professional and personal changes stacked  around me, I wish I could go back five years to that churning burn of Prospect Point.

To feel relief by seeing a definite peak, feeling solid wherever my feet land, stopping my running, walking a bit, and catching my breath.

My Miami to Los Cabos Layover


Today we travel from Vancouver to Los Cabos with a layover in Los Angeles. We are at LAX now, watching planes and drinking coffee.  If all goes as planned, the husband and I will complete the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Los Cabos on Sunday…and the sweaty race day could not come sooner.

For the past seven months in Vancouver, I have been training (swimbikerunstrength) for the Baja race, launching my freelance writing service, adapting to married life, and becoming a resident of Canadaland. On top of all that, I slipped in and out of my depression, gained an awesome writing client, mourned the passing of a cousin, and turned down two months in Toronto with the husband to care for a sweet but sick dog.

The past year has not followed the tidy initial plan I journaled about on my balcony those sunny afternoons in Seattle of last September.  Did I overestimate my capacity to handle all of the logistic, financial, and emotional changes? Yes. Did my inclination to say “HELL YES, I can do this” finally show dangerous consequences? Yes.  Did I escape into the pool and on the road to experience satisfaction and happiness from the triathlon training? Yes.

Last year at this time, I was flying alone into Fort Lauderdale to race the IRONMAN 70.3 Miami (both Los Cabos and Miami races are held the same weekend) as a personal reward following sixteen years employed by Philanthropy Northwest. Then, I was not sure, but I wanted to shift my career and lifestyle to something that would allow me to combine my passions and interests. It would be great, I thought, if I could find a way to write, train, and travel while making a living.

Across the table in the airport lounge, the husband adjusts his earbuds, and I plan to begin a project for a client on the flight to San Jose del Cabo. I realize now that Miami was the start to this new career, new country, new marriage, and Los Cabos is a perfectly-time comma mark in this year of change. In this journey from Miami to Los Cabos, I have changed more than an address, crossed more than one border, and had a very long layover.

It Was A Good Day

It Was A Good Day

It Was A Good Day

With the sun out and temperature up last Sunday morning, I got out of bed at 5:15. I meditated, ate breakfast and journaled, and took Luddo out. I next gathered my bike and gear bag and loaded the car. I drove to Pacific Spirit Regional Park arriving around 7:45 a.m. I parked on a side street, took out my bike, and organized my gear for a ride and run.

I rode along 16th Avenue, Marine Drive, and Chancellor Blvd, making two and half loops around the University of British Columbia campus in 90 minutes.  I returned to the car, exchanged cycling gear for running and did a 20 minute transition run.

I returned home, calling my parents and wishing a Happy Father’s Day to my dad. Afterward, I caught up with Joseph about his volunteer experience with the Toronto Triathlon Festival during the weekend.

Feeling that tired calm following a good work-out, I walked to JJ Beans on Cambie and spent two hours completing assignments for a freelance writing client and planning activities for my coming week.

I returned home in the late afternoon to slice and cook vegetables for dinner and future meals. I ate, watched a bit of television, and then read several blog posts by freelance writers about their practices. I feel asleep by 10 p.m.

It was a good day.

The training and writing easily mixed. I knew what activities I needed and wanted to do, rather than spending time preparing gear or prioritizing tasks, and I had adequate time to do them.

As a freelance writer living solo for the past four months, I have had control over practically every hour in my day. I determine how to organize my daily agenda, where and when I work during the weekend, what I do on a Wednesday morning, and why I wake am out of bed at 5:15 a.m. There is no one else to blame, accommodate, or rely upon for my day – no useless meetings, no ambiguous emails, no sudden requests slicing into my calendar. Just what I decide I need to do.

The opportunity has allowed me to blend building a freelance writing business with living a dedicated triathlete lifestyle.

When the mix is right, my training nurtures my writing and my writing interprets my training. Sunday was such a day.

When the mix is skewed, however, I lose time and energy debating what to do in the next hour. It underscores the necessity of planning both goals and tasks in advance and being disciplined in carrying them out through the day. Even with my current freedom and control in my day, getting this mix right and regular is not easy. I probably have a 1:3 ratio of successful days to disappointing ones.

But I continue to seek out and set the conditions for those successful days. I want to keep finding those Sundays. If you are a freelancer or remote worker, how do you organize your day for success and satisfaction?

What Terry Fox Knew

I ran by the Terry Fox Plaza in front of BC Place last Sunday.

Terry Fox Plaza

Terry Fox Plaza

The memorial for the Canadian hero consists of four bronze sculptures representing the iconic image of Terry, curly hair and simple shoes, running with a thin prosthetic leg towards you, approaching you along a road.

Sunday was the 35th anniversary of his starting the Marathon of Hope, a cross-country run from Newfoundland to Vancouver he planned to raise awareness about cancer. An earlier diagnosis of cancer in Terry resulted in the amputation of his right leg.

The experience also resulted in his personal commitment to instill hope in others living with cancer by doing something incredible, such as running across Canada. At the age of 21, he ran 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles) before the cancer returned, forcing him to end the Marathon of Hope after five months. The story of Terry continues to inspire people today, and the foundation set up in his honor has raised over $650 million dollars for cancer research and generates an unlimited amount of global awareness about cancer.

“I’m not a dreamer, and I’m not saying this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer, but I believe in miracles. I have to.” Terry Fox

I ran by the memorial for appreciation and inspiration.  Terry started his Marathon in 1980 without the aid of an ipod or GU — while recovering from cancer and running with a basic prosthetic leg. He ran without the benefit of the information we easily have now about proper gear, hydration, and training for an endurance run. I wonder if any one then knew how such an effort would impact his body.

I wonder if not knowing all of that made it easier for Terry to go forward with the run.

In my current world of launching a freelance writing service while trying to stay healthy, it’s easy to either be complacent with the advantages of this moment or ridiculously freaked out about the risks. It’s easy to obsess about my running plan or be despondent when my Garmin drops its reception on 12th Avenue.

It’s easy to read one more blog about freelance writers writing as freelancers for freelance writers wanting to be freelance writers. It’s easy to find a podcast proclaiming the latest myths, truths, to-dos, things to avoid, secrets, common sense, thought leaders, and accidental entrepreneurs about launching a small business.

It’s easy to not move forward with too much information.

I then run past Terry Fox’s memorial facing towards his final destination of Stanley Park, and immediately feel that my moments without gratitude ignore opportunities, my moments with hope create more opportunities, and my moments of not knowing bring me the most satisfaction.