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Today was the kind of day I adore. I wandered the streets of the Old City, went into and out of museums at my leisure, and thought hard about things until shiny things caught my attention. I also looked at a lot of statues, because Quebecois seem to REALLY like statuary.

I began wandering the streets at 8 in the morning and by 11 I began to have a feel for the city as it had been in times past. That is one of the most difficult things I find about being in places steeped with history – it is almost impossible to envision them as they were at any given time, they’re an amalgamation of everything that came before. That is because modern overprints change the feel, and because the things that have been restored are those considered to have merit by whomever had the means. I focused on trying to understand the initial settlement in the early 1600s, with the vast forests beyond, and then the well-established French colony of the early-mid 1700s, surrounded by farmers fields. I think I got a fairly good picture of both in my mind.

The most interesting part of this exercise was an overwhelming feeling of ownership. The history of Europe has long interested me, and I have a strong connection with the history of Scotland. But despite my deep and abiding love for Canada, I’d never paid much attention or even cared much about its history. Oh, I knew the names Cartier and de Champlain, I knew the English won the war with France, and I had an understanding of how the government came into existence, but beyond that my understanding of our history consisted mainly of how the railway was built. And then, today, standing in the heart of New France, I realized what my beleaguered social studies teachers were trying to impart. This history matters because this is OUR history. What happened here shaped our country. Canada is the astonishing wonderful place it is in large part because this hilltop fortress of a town was breached from the west by soldiers who climbed the 1 kilometer high cliff.

These thoughts led to complex and vague ideas about how all history is our history and how all the world is intertwined, which I entertained as I climbed up to the citadel. And then I walked over the hilly park and stepped out onto the Plains of Abraham. It was one of those moments. A chill ran through me and I actually felt I might cry. The Plains of Abraham, where General Wolfe in 35 minutes wrested control of Canada forever from France. I can’t find the words to explain the feeling, except by comparison. Just as I felt the goddess Sulis at the fount in Bath, and I felt the Kings of Ireland at the Hill of Tara, I felt the Plains of Abraham. History resonated through me and I was awed.

And perhaps that’s a little to emotional and esoteric for a public blog. But that’s the kind of day I had 😉

I had been walking all day by this point and was exhausted both physically and emotionally, so I went down and sat in the public square where an anemic Gay Pride festival was trying to take place but was really only succeeding in providing music for the tourists walking by. I read my book about Wolfe and Montcalm and waited for Elise.

Elise is an internet friend of mine. We’ve known each other for about 6 years, watched each others’ children grow from babies into rambunctious boys. Meeting in person was so pleasantly enjoyable. I’ve occasionally met internet friends whom in person were nothing like their internet selves, but Elise was just like her online persona – intelligent, funny and sweet. Her boys are even more adorable in person and her husband Eric is really lovely. We had dinner in a Thai restaurant (Thai food works very well for the elimination diet!) and walked up and down some streets of Quebec that are also very old but not quite so old as the walled city. I am very happy to have met Elise, whom I can now call a friend instead of just an internet friend 🙂

All in all it was a tremendously satisfying day and I am grateful again for everything in my life.

After an extraordinarly relaxing day flying across the country (I haven’t flown without children in 5 years, so the quiet and the ability to ignore absolutely everything except what I wanted to pay attention to was glorious), here I am in Quebec City, la vielle Ville. I am enjoying myself enormously so far, in a very quiet, introspective and observant way.

The airport is a long way from the heart of the city. The suburbs are surprisingly large and modern (well, surprisingly to me, anyway, in whose mind the whole city was encompassed within the walls of the Old City). The Friday afternoon traffic is as bad as anywhere else. But! The grand maples are everywhere and as you get closer and closer to the Old City the buildings begin to suit my imagination.

I was worried about my French – the announcements on the airplane made sense, but the girl in the airport who asked me about the baggage was nearly incomprehensible. Thankfully my very chatty and helpful cabby put me at ease by understanding 90% of what I said, and I’ve been able to initiate most of my conversations in French. In the heart of the tourist district most of the people switch to English anyway, but at least I don’t feel incompetent!

The Old City is absolutely wonderful, everything a town that was originally built in the 1600s seems to promise. Imposing city walls, narrow streets and random side avenues, and even a castle at the end. The Chateau Frontenac is gorgeous. I’m looking very forward to the walking tour I’m going to take tomorrow, as well as just the walking about I’ll be doing.
My propensity to adore French couture is causing me a bit of trouble as it seems like every second store is little frou-frou creations, but knowing that I probably wouldn’t wear them more than once or twice is stopping me from coming up with reasons the cost is justified 😀

Flying between Quebec and Montreal was interesting. There are bits and pieces of the old growth forest strewn about between long, narrow fields everywhere. I know that is a relic of needing each farmer to be able to access irrigation canals or water bodies, but when you’re used to the gigantic squares of the praries, it’s funny looking. It also makes me wonder what is farmed here – before that flight, Quebec in my mind was a big old Maple forest with the occasional town plopped in the middle. Isn’t it funny how very naive (or ignorant, I suppose is a better term) one can be about one’s own country? Hopefully a few more trips like this will help me sort it all out.

I’m looking very forward to the rest of my week, although I imagine I’ll start to miss my little family soon.

I have been very lucky in my life in so many ways; until now one of those has been that I have never lost a friend to accident or illness. 31 years is a very long time to have enjoyed such luck and I am so grateful for it.

I am very sad to say farewell to my friend Heather. I have known her for five years, which means we shared the journeys of her youngest child’s infancy and the births of my two boys. She had so many qualities I admired and aspire to; level headed logic, sensible and sensitive parenting techniques and enormous capacity for love. Long before I had to admire her strength in adversity I enjoyed her wit and intelligence.

My heart is breaking for Heather’s family, who had only just recovered from the strain of her son’s illness. She has three beautiful children who will never have the joy of her adult companionship and who will ache for her loving arms. She left behind a strong wonderful man whom she loved fiercely. I am so sad for them.

I will miss Heather very much. I missed her often when real life called her away from her “imaginary friends” (as her husband called us), and was always so happy to “see” her again; it’s hard to believe that won’t happen now.

Heather’s faith was a defining element of her beautiful persona. I trust that she is now in the care of the God she so eloquently believed in.

Eternal rest unto her grant, and let perpetual light shine upon her.

Runrunrun

I made it 2.6k today. Those last 200m were fairly brutal and I was sweating profusely. That’s not something that has happened a lot yet, so I think I really was pushing the envelope. My lung endurance continues to lag substantially behind my leg endurance – I think my legs could have done 5k but my lungs were burning painfully at 2.6 so I stopped. Oh well, baby steps!

Goodbye January

2010 is off to a questionable start. While things have been really excellent on the triathlon training and school/teaching front for me, January continued the stress of December in terms of health at home.

First things first: Last week was so great for training. On Saturday the track was closed so I biked and then ran on the treadmill. I managed 1km on the treadmill after my bike, which was an improvement on my previous combination of bike + 600m.

I swam 800m on Monday, the first 500 of which were continuous front crawl. I feel very confident with that aspect of the triathlon. I was tired by the end but not exhausted. I mostly stopped because I get so bored of front crawl. 😀 I did 7 minutes of treading (with a minute of legs only thrown in) as well.

Wednesday was a write-off because the boys were sick (we’ll get there…), and Friday’s workout almost didn’t happen because I was sick. By lunchtime I was feeling a little better though, and I was anxious not to miss another workout (the edge of the bandwagon was perilously close!). So I dragged myself, sniffly nose and all, to the gym. Somehow, amazingly, my bike took me 24:30, my best time yet, and then I ran 1.7 k! I was so shocked and honestly, really proud. If someone had told me on January 1 that I could run 1.7k continuously by the end of the month, I’d have laughed like a maniac. Never mind the 10k bike first! And yet here I am.

I am debating whether I should just do a run tomorrow or do a brick – I am leaning towards just the run because I think doing the 2.4k last week was a bit of a breakthrough for my endurance. 6 laps around the oval is 2.4k – maybe I can manage 7?

With that dutifully recorded, on to other things.

January was a difficult month emotionally for me because my men, both big and small, were unwell. Silas’ main incision took much longer to heal than it should have and occasioned quite a bit of worry (n0t to mention grossness). Thankfully in the last 3 days it has taken a turn for the better and now looks almost as good as the two small incisions which had no issues. Having Si at less than 100% has been an eyeopener for me to say the least! I’ve always known I relied on him, but it’s amazing how much more drained I was. I’ve never stopped being grateful for his strength, but I’ll admit that I am more aware of my appreciation for it now.

My poor Malkie has had a pretty awful month. It started with an emergency ambulance ride to the Children’s Hospital due to hot tea spilling all over him. Thankfully the burns turned out to be 1st degree, but it was terrifying for everyone and very sore for him. Within a week he began running low grade fevers during the day and high grade fevers at night. When they lasted more than 3 days, I headed back to the Children’s. He checked out very healthy and I was assured it was probably a virus and would be gone soon…but to come back in 3 days if it was not. 3 days later, back we went. Exactly the same story. 3 days later with the nighttime fevers unabated I headed back again, fairly sure that they would be adding “Mother possible candidate for Munchausen’s by proxy” to his file. Thankfully  the Doctor was very sympathetic and assured me that although it was almost definitely a 10 day viral fever,   I was certainly right to have kept bringing him in, and that he was quite certain it would break soon.  Which it did, finally, 2 days later.  Breaking the whiny, indulge-my-every-whim-I’m-sick behaviour has taken up most of the rest of the week. Sigh.

Last but certainly not least, Friday night featured yet ANOTHER trip to the Children’s, this time with Dair. His first playground altercation earned him a deep cut just below the eye, which ended up needing 2 stitches.

Thankfully everyone seems to be on the mend now, and this weekend has given us all a lot of much needed rest. I’m fairly confident that February should turn out better health wise. I mean, it would have to really!

On the balance, January was a wash. The health stuff was pretty severely awful, but school is so fascinating and exciting and Silas has a new job and I’m excited about the triathlon. February holds promise to be pretty awesome, so I’m excited to begin.

Malcolm stayed sick with a fever until today, which meant I didn’t exercise Monday or Wednesday during the day. I was beginning to despair; staying on track with exercise plans is not my strong point, to say the least. So being forcefully thrown off track is tatamount to the universe daring me to quit! Fortunately, Silas came home Tuesday night and was able to help with Malkie yesterday so I did at least get to teach and go to class!

After dinner I was bemoaning my lack of training time over the last week and Si told me he’d take care of bedtime, I should head into town and do it then. My motivation was extremely low though, so I suggested he and the boys come with me. Good plan! We put the boys and the running buggy in the van and headed to the Olympic Oval. The boys were very excited to run. I started and Si lapped me, having the boys “catch” me each time. At 1600m I thought I was going to have to stop, but by telling myself that I could stop any time I was able to keep going. In the end, I made it 2400m! Hurray! Lots of stretching afterwards worked well and I’m not sore today.  I’m still very far from being able to manage all three elements one after the other, but the running was my biggest hurdle so now that i know I can do it I feel much closer to the goal.

On Friday I went to swim. I checked in at the front desk and the woman gave me a swim bracelet. I went in and changed, got kitted up in my styly new swim cap and goggles (which do not match my styly new swimsuit AT ALL 😀 ). Went to the doors to the pool…and found out there was a grade 6 swim meet (which incidentally explained the millions of children in the changeroom). I didn`t have my running/biking clothes, so my training plans were thwarted. I wasn’t overly upset except I was annoyed that the woman at the front desk didn’t bother telling me the pool was CLOSED.

Friday afternoon didn’t afford an opportunity to do any training, but Saturday afternoon I left Dair with Mama and took Mackie with me to the gym. I ran 1200m straight through, which is very likely the longest continuous run I’ve ever completed in my life. Woohoo! I had to stop though because my lungs were threatening to implode. I am finding that my muscular endurance is quite a bit greater than my lung endurance. I’ll have to look into how you work that up.

Then Mackie and I did yoga and stretching on the mats at the end of the track, causing no small number of university girls to die of cute overload as they ran by.

My goal for monday is to swim, since it’s now been more than a week since I have. I’ll check the pool schedule first though 😉