A Sweet and Gentle Surprise this Wednesday Morning

On this magnificent day in Ottawa – yes- the sunshine, blue sky and perfect temperatures are the perfect antidote for all my previous complaints. It turns out the gardens loved all that rain and cool air and now after four days of sunshine the plants are bursting forth all over.

This being the case, I am already in a state of enthusiasm, when my friend showed me her latest art acquisition. It’s a tender, meaningful piece of a young soldier holding the front paws of  a small bear, standing on hind legs. She says in passing, that is “Winnie.” I  looked dumbfounded and she added, “you know, the real Winnie the Pooh.”

I didn’t know the back story to one of the world’s favorite characters. She briefly explained that the real live “Winnie” was a Canadian bear cub.  This particular bear cub was found and adopted by a young British/Canadian  soldier, Harry Colebourn,  who was also a veterinarian. He named the young cub, Winnie, in honour of his new hometown of Winnipeg.

My friend was on her way out the door when all of this quickly transpired, so I couldn’t ask more. Nevertheless, my curiosity was piqued and I went looking for the history of Winnie the Pooh. I quickly found a lovely piece on a history site with original photos. It is an inspiring story on the ripple effects of one young man’s actions that influenced a small boy and his Father, A. A. Milne.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometime.” Winnie-the-Pooh

I am often awestruck about ripple effects and how one action leads to untold consequences for both good and ill. We can easily get jaded with all the horrors in the world and overlook, as unimportant, a small act by a man who loved animals. Yet, that series of events resulted in a series of beloved children’s books that brought relief and hope to a war torn world. And have lovingly endured for over 80 years.

“Statues at both the London Zoo and Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo, of Colebourn holding the hands of Winnie as she stands on her hind legs also offer reminders of the bond between a Canadian soldier and a black bear cub that led to the creation of a literary classic.”

I hope you click on the link below and read this gentle and true background on how Winnie the Pooh came to be.  A simple distraction that warmed up my heart.

The surprising background to Winnie the Pooh

Fun Facts:

CBC website on “90 Wierd and wonderful facts about Winnie the Pooh”

Fact 63) Cambridge University’s Pembroke College Winnie-the-Pooh Society was established in 1993. The Queen is apparently a member. They regularly meet at 4 p.m. every Saturday of the full term to drink tea, eat cake and read from the works of A.A. Milne. The annual membership fee is £2 ($3.35 CAD).

Fact 89) A group of researchers in the pediatrics department at Dalhousie University published a report (you can read the spoof) entitled Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood in the Canadian Medical Association Journal’s winter 2000 lampoon issue. The satirical article assigns each Milne character at least one psychological disorder. (there have been readers who took it seriously)

Note 1:) My friend’s dad, so I learned, went to the same British school as the author, A.A. Milne. Hence a little more interest in Winnie.

Note 2:) Every now and then I think we can benefit from an obscure, kind and little story that is ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.

Note 3:) I thank you for opening this blog post and I wish you all a great first week of official summer. I hope to enjoy Friday the 21st,  the longest day of the year, outdoors and in a garden. Remember  Pooh’s advice: ” you’re braver than you believe and stronger and smarter than you think.”

Next Steps…part 2

So, here’s the thing. I have never once done something like walk a 1/2 Marathon, where I finish, and wish I hadn’t done it. I am satisfied after I do the walk. (walk is a synonym for any form of exercise) I am never disappointed with my time. My goal is simple – I want to finish.

And I am always awestruck by the supporters of these community race week-ends. Streets lined with people of all ages, cheering everyone along, plus  water stations; snacks; sprinklers; inspirational signage and live music.  And of course the hundreds of volunteers,  dozens of police, and the emergency medical assistant teams, without whom, no races would be walked or run. Money is raised for charity; confidence is raised in one’s own ability through training and execution; lives are changed through challenging one’s self to take a chance.

As a non athletic person I was introduced to the power of exerting oneself in the company of others, whether for a  community cause or for a  personal goal. The ripple effects go way beyond what I would have thought possible. People get fitter; depression often lessens; other new habits become easier to stick with; friendships are formed and stories become part of family and friend lore. “Remember when…”

Best of all, from my point of view, all are welcome in these races.

Every single age and body type. I used to assume that to take part in something like this you had to be a certain type. One introduction to a race weekend, and those ideas are soon vanquished. People in wheelchairs; people using walkers; people who are blind,  along with those who have other challenging conditions.  I almost forgot the relay teams. A chance to participate without doing the whole race yourself. It is as egalitarian as I have seen, with accommodations made to help anyone wanting to participate.

I am writing about this because all across small town North America, you will find shorter events that people can participate in. It isn’t just about these big weekends. Shorter events are common. Family walk/runs. Fund raisers that are active rather than traditional bake sales. The community improves when multi-generational people, get outside and participate in some event, and maybe have a picnic afterwards. Being outdoors and moving our bodies, even in the slow lane, improves almost everything.

Next Steps

So what’s next? Part of living well at any age is taking care of the basics. Moving our bodies and spending time with others is part of that. For me personally, the next steps are strength training and flexibility.  We all want to preserve our functional strength  –  the strength that helps us get through our daily lives and do what needs doing. As we age, it becomes vital and if we haven’t started we had best get going. Our bodies are so amazing, and although I have neglected my body for seven months, my body still wants to cooperate. Consequently I now want to lend a hand to my body.

Therefore, my new physical goal is to do what I can to improve my core strength. I found a set of basic exercises that I can begin doing three times a week. I upped my chances of success by agreeing to do them with a buddy. Despite the fact that we don’t live in the same city, we can report in to each other from the same page. It may be ideal to have a gym and a trainer but it isn’t always in the budget.

Why all this talk on exercise?

We are designed to move,  just like we need good food and water. We do not, however, need to be action figures or marathoners.  Moving our bodies helps pretty much everything that ails us. It can be as simple or as complicated as we choose. It can be gentle and slow; it can be fun and it feels great! Moving our bodies is good medicine. In general, the best exercise is the one you will do.  Don’t overlook it.

In sickness and in health and in all ages we need to do what we can to be strong and flexible. As a result, most conditions like cancer and heart disease do better with exercise. (Even a little bit.) Nevertheless, always talk to your physician first before exercising, especially, if you have been sedentary or you are living with a chronic condition.

Time slips through our fingers, and there is no sense regretting what we haven’t done. Start where you are is always the best policy.

Notes:

Note 1:) This past Sunday in Halifax, was near perfect weather. Yeah! That was a bonus.

Note 2:) Many thanks to my cousins Heather, Sonya and Barb. You are great sports, wonderful company and I am glad that we are related.

Note 3:) Don’t worry, this is the end of my exercise soap box for awhile. Although, I do want to slip in the great benefit of dancing, for those so inclined.

Note 4:) I love the notes and comments you kindly post and email. Always, I appreciate your showing up week after week. With appreciation and warm regards, Trudy

 

 

 

 

We’re Better Together

Ok. let’s start with the weather. There is a reason why Canadians focus so much attention on the weather, and this is one of them. Today Ottawa achieved the distinction for the coldest June 4th, in the history of this city. This is our year of multiple weather breaking awards. We have had the coldest February; the most snow and the gold medal  for the coldest capital in the world, on January 19th. Need I say more.

I keep hoping the weather will warm up but that is a pipe dream, a wish, a marshmallowy kind of unrealistic fairy/pixie hope that I have no control over whatsoever. I can subtly complain, as you have just noticed or I can acknowledge what can’t be changed and choose my clothing and activities accordingly. Which is what I did on Sunday morning.

You see, I have been neglecting my walks. I gave myself a pass for the six seven months of winter due to extensive ice that can cause broken bones. Here we are in June and although it is pouring rain it wasn’t cold on Sunday, so,  I dressed for rain and went walking. The motivation wasn’t just about getting my body moving, rather it had everything to do with walking a 1/2 Marathon this coming Sunday in Halifax. The fact that I am doing so with three wonderful cousins is the real reason that I went for a three hour walk in the rain.

The three cousins represent one of the most important resources we have in life.  Other people we can count on.  More and more research is coming forward on the importance of time spent with others. Besides all the other basics of eating, exercise, sleep and purpose, we all need people in our lives that we can count on and enjoy. It makes everything better.

In a recent book, Timeless: Nature’s Formula for Health and Longevity featured on  The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, author Louis Cozolino, has this to say:

People who lead extraordinarily long lives are those who have maintained close ties to others. Centenarians,  tend to be more extroverted and have higher morale, indicative of reaching out to others, giving and receiving support, and maintaining attachments…much of wisdom is expressed in how people interact with and treat one another.”

 

The famous longevity study, still ongoing after 80 years, out of Harvard, is very clear on the dominant role of our good relationships with others as an important factor in happiness and longevity. Dr. Waldinger, the current director of that study suggests that we try new things with old friends, to help keep our relationships lively. (our marathon walks are something like that)

Consequently, when it comes to health, healing and longevity our social interactions appear to be paramount.

When we combine a purpose/goal, in the company of others  we up our chances considerably of accomplishing the goals we set out to do. Whether it is physical activity, creativity, or volunteering together. So many different opportunities to contribute and have fun.  In my case, the long walk next Sunday is one of those opportunities. Because I am clear on the goal and not wanting to let others down, if not myself, it is easier to actually achieve it. We don’t let the weather or our feelings of lethargy be the only defining factors. They are there but they don’t call the shots.

When we make our goal or purpose public and join in with a few others we up the pressure to show up and do it. And guess what? When we do certain activities in the company of others we can have fun. FUN. When my cousins and I do these long walks once or twice a year we get to catch up. We live in different provinces but we now come together and we have a visit as we cheer each other along.  If something goes wrong, we take care of each other. We aren’t there to win the race but to put one foot in front of the other – approximately 26,000 steps. And when it is over we celebrate with pizza and prosecco. And we laugh alot.

I am not able to run and I recall the exact moment in time when I discovered you could walk in these big race week-ends. It was October 2014, and I was cheering my daughter as she ran the Toronto Marathon that fall. I was near the finish line and I caught a glimpse of a woman about my age, walking and when she passed by she had an official bib on her back that said WALKER. That was it. I knew that the next year I would be a WALKER. And so it has been every year since.

I am definitely not suggesting that everyone rush out and walk a 1/2 Marathon. I am suggesting that having a goal or a purpose with a few others, where you also move your bodies, has a wealth of effects worth cultivating. (and of course we don’t limit ourselves to only physical activities.)

The last two years my Mother joined us in Halifax and Ottawa.

She, along with 40 more relatives, walked the 10 K and 5 K together. She was 97 and 98 for those two walks. This year she has the year off,  as she prepares for her 100th birthday bash in Victoria next Easter weekend. In the meantime she still walks 30-60 minutes everyday; contributes to quilt making for refugees; plays cards; stays in touch with family on her I-pad (that counts too) and says YES to all invitations. She continues to cultivate her many wonderful friendships within and without the family and is graciously and lovingly blind to all of our flaws.

Staying in touch and reaching out to old friends and family members may seem like too much trouble. I am not consistently good at it myself and I want to get better. But it isn’t trouble. It is more like self-care. Taking care of your own precious mind, body and spirit. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that one of the best things you can do for your mind is (not just exercise) but spending lots of time with people you enjoy.  And what could be better than that. Our entire community benefits when we take care of each other.

Notes

Note 1:) There is so much info on this topic on Harvard but this is a 15 minute synopsis that you may enjoy.  Ted Talk with Dr. Waldinger 

Note 2:) One of my goals is to become more like my Mother, the person and centenarian I admire the most.

Note 3:) Thanks everyone for dropping by and for all of your encouraging words. See you next week, shin splints and all. (only kidding, I don’t walk fast enough to get that painful condition) Warm regards, Trudy