The Daily Post – Friend

Friend (noun): a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.

These days “friend” means many different things. There are the friends we’ve known since childhood, the friends we make through our interests or work and the “friends” we make online. But what does true friendship look like?

For me, a true friend:

  • is there for you no matter what
  • listens without judgment
  • gives unconditional love
  • knows when you need comfort
  • shares mutual trust and respect
  • is loyal
  • is good fun
  • makes you happy
  • helps you to be your best self

True friendship is a beautiful thing indeed, and perhaps it doesn’t only come from our human friends but our furry/four-legged friends too.

Morven was my best friend. For over 17 years she was by my side. Many believe cats to be aloof, yet I knew she loved me unconditionally, trusted me to the extent that even while in pain at the end of her journey she let me handle her, and she always knew just how to make me feel better when I was sad or sleep when I was tired. I have so many wonderful memories of the games we played, the moments we shared and the “conversations” we had. It’s hard for me not having her around and I’m trying to adjust to the hole she has left in my life.

Not everyone can understand the bond we share with our pets, but those who do know that they are a big part of our lives, a member of the family. When we lose a pet we grieve in the same way we would if we lost a member of our family. That grief is hard, yet I wouldn’t trade in all the years of love and companionship for anything. No matter what other cats come into my life, Morven will always remain my special girl, my first cat, and nothing can ever change that.

Run free my special girl. I’ll meet you at the Rainbow Bridge when the time is right.

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Week In Review – Positive Action

I want to start with a thank you to everyone who has been in touch with kind thoughts since I shared that I had to say goodbye to my beautiful cat last weekend. I really appreciate all your messages.

As a result, this past week was strange but I found it helpful to have my training routine. It gave me a focus and helped me to make some decisions (more about that at the end of this post).

I have continued with regular yoga (most days that I didn’t have a class) and my week ended up like this:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps + a swim
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

Monday was, quite frankly, awful. I was a bit of a tearful mess and while I did manage to keep it together to teach my classes (a welcome distraction) by the time I got to my yoga class I was definitely feeling emotional. I knew that yoga would soothe me and I always feel better afterwards. I did, but in a different way. People have said to me before that yoga can release emotions, that they have found themselves crying during their practice, but since it’s always made me feel relaxed and happy, I was convinced it wouldn’t have that effect on me. Turns out, it is possible to shed a few tears in downward dog without anyone realising! I suspect the release helped though.

I felt a little better on Tuesday – I even risked some mascara (although realised on my drive to work that it may have been a mistake!). After work I headed to the gym for my bike reps. There had been a little snow around but nothing as I drove back and headed towards the gym. By the time I had changed and emerged from the changing room, there was heavy snow falling outside! I added two reps to the set of intervals I completed last week and already felt stronger completing them. After that I went for my first swim in AGES. It was perhaps not my best effort, but by the end of my session I was feeling like I was getting my rhythm back again.

There had to be a bit of a change on Wednesday because of the snow. I was supposed to do some hill reps, but thanks to a bit more snow during the day, Steve told me the underfoot conditions just weren’t good enough for my planned workout but that a short run in the snow would be possible. I got myself all bundled up in winter kit and headed out. It was tough going as the snow seemed to sap all my energy, but I loved it. There’s something invigorating about running in fresh snow that can’t be beaten. It was only as I was running that it crossed my mind I could have gone to the gym and run on the treadmill instead, but I think the fact that I never even considered that as an option tells you how I feel about that!

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IMG_5354Orchestra was cancelled because of the weather so post-run Steve and I were able to eat together then watch a little tv. I’m still finding things like this a little difficult as I’m so used to the cat curling up on my lap as soon as I commit myself to a seat. That’s going to take a bit of getting used to!

Thursday was cold and there was still snow on the ground, but I was really looking forward to my Ashtanga class. I’ve been doing a little yoga most days this month and feel stronger and more focused because of it. It felt so good to work through the Ashtanga poses (the class I go to works through about half of the postures under the guidance of our teacher) and there were no tears so I was obviously feeling a bit more at peace with the events of last weekend.

On Friday I was back at the studio with Steve for a PT session. My focus is on exercises that will benefit my running, principally by improving my strength and mobility. For me this means working around my upper back, my hip mobility and knee drive so this week’s session included the TRX, bar bell and Core Momentum Trainer. Quite tough on my arms so I was feeling it afterwards!

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Guess who jumped in the shot again!

Still in need of cheer, I decided to break out one of the other pairs of leggings I ordered recently. These ones depict my favourite Disney movie (and favourite Disney princess!) so they did make me feel a little better. Clearly the key to cheering me up is new workout leggings – the crazier the better!

IMG_5355As we went to bed that night we were aware that a number of parkruns not too far from us had already been called off so we weren’t sure what the morning would bring. Ours was provisionally on, but it was 50/50 depending on how much the snow/ice froze overnight. Saturday morning was cold (below freezing again at -4C) but thanks to a light dusting of snow the course was runnable and we were able to go ahead on the usual route. Clearly not a day to run hard, so I decided to ditch my earphones, ran at a comfortable pace and enjoyed the experience. Running in the crunchy snow, I’m finding, is something I rather enjoy and it seems that 183 other people agreed with me!

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IMG_5373In the picture below, there are two paths hidden. Our route takes us initially to the right then returns from the left. No sign of any path right now!

IMG_5434I felt invigorated after the run, as well as pleasantly surprised at my time. Once I was more sure of my footing I got progressively faster to finish with the revered Royal Flush Negative Split and, having expected to be around 27 minutes (a 9-ish minute mile feels good in these conditions) I did it a bit quicker.

IMG_5393As usual it was a quick freshen up at home then back out to meet Steve’s brother for our Saturday coffee. The place we like to go to always shuts for a couple of weeks at the start of the year but was open again so it was back to the bacon croissants. I really missed those!

IMG_5433The rest of the day was pretty relaxing. Steve and I headed out to the farm shop for some things in the afternoon and decided to stay for a mint hot chocolate and scone. Both were delicious!

IMG_5435 I also spent the whole day with a fairly persistent earworm…

I awoke fairly early on Sunday, had some breakfast (porridge with honey is my choice right now) and got organised to run. The snow was still there (not enough change in temperature for it to start melting) so rather than worry about my planned approach of every third mile faster, I simply decided to run. I knew that I wanted to re-visit the woodland path I ran on last week as part of my run so I could see it in the snow and getting there by a slightly different route meant that my run would total 10 miles.

IMG_5438I ran to feel and largely ignored my watch as pace was irrelevant. At this point in training a run is a run and I’m convinced that running in the snow is making me stronger as I’m working hard on changeable terrain. As a result, I thoroughly enjoyed my run and would have happily gone further. The woodland path was lovely (no heron this week though) and I passed so many dog walkers and families out enjoying the snow (quite a few with sledges). What a great way to start the day!

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IMG_5439It may have been a strange week, but these snowy runs have really made me feel a bit better as I’ve enjoyed the change of pace and scenery. The cold air has cleared my mind and while I’m still sad and missing my wee cat, the pain is easing.

Another reason for this is the decision I made about how to channel my energies in a positive way moving forward. I got my cat from Cats Protection, a charity which seeks to create a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs, when she was just 6 weeks old. She had been found living under a shed, presumably abandoned, and I loved her from the start as we quickly formed a tight bond. It breaks my heart to think that there are so many cats who don’t get that opportunity, and while I will likely bring more cats into my life in future, I can’t give a home to all of them. What I can do is raise funds to help improve the lives of cats in the care of Cats Protection. CP will never put a healthy cat down and will do whatever they can to find the cats in their care a loving home. But this, of course, takes money. In 2018 I will be dedicating my miles to the memory of my cat and raising funds for my local Cats Protection branch. It just feels like the right thing to do and I know my cat would approve.

First up is the Stirling marathon, where I will run in a CP top. Having this motivation will help to get me out the door on the coldest days and work towards my next goal. I’d love it if you could support me by making a donation. The equivalent cost of just one cup of coffee could enrich the life of a cat who deserves some love. Thank you.

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Week In Review – The Hardest Goodbye

I hope your first full week back in a regular routine has gone well. For me, things were emotionally charged (more on that later) and I was glad of a bit of “normality” to help me deal with things.

Here’s how training looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps at the gym + sports massage
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 8 miles

The new school term began on Monday and it was a super cold day. I was out at my car early hacking away at the ice which seemed to have been well and truly welded on. It took me almost half an hour just to get it passable enough to drive!

IMG_5333The first day back is always tough, but I had the first class of a 5 week block of Hatha yoga to look forward to. There’s no Saturday morning class right now, but the teacher is still doing Mondays (in a new location) and I was keen to return. It was a lovely gentle class for the first one back and I felt much better afterwards.

On Tuesday it was time to get things moving again. While I’ve been on the bike at the gym since my training for Loch Ness, it’s only been for a straightforward cycle rather than a set of intervals. Steve gave me my workouts for the month and I got on with the business of bike reps. I had to play around a bit with the resistance in the first couple of reps and I could feel myself getting weary by the end, but it was a good kickstart.

I had hoped to squeeze in a quick swim afterwards but there was no time as I had my first sports massage of the year booked. As ever, I’ll be having these monthly to keep my legs shipshape.

It was all go again on Wednesday as I needed to fit in a run before my orchestra rehearsal. My Wednesday run alternates between form drills and hill reps, starting with the drills this week. Somehow I managed to complete my run (the cool down was a little curtailed), have some food and be ready for my sister picking me up for orchestra. Phew!

Thursday saw me back in the yoga studio for the first Ashtanga class of the year. It felt like so long since I did this class as I missed one when I was ill in early December and was still quite sore when I returned for the last class before the Christmas break. Despite all that, I still managed to hold Wheel for a few breaths so I’ve not lost all my yoga ability!

Steve was able to fit me in for a PT session on Friday so after popping home to get changed, I headed over to the studio. Having survived the first week of term, I decided to wear my awesome new “pants of perspective” leggings.

IMG_5334We worked on the usual things – upper back mobility, knee drive and hips – mainly using the Core Momentum trainer.

What I’ve not said is that throughout all of that I continued to worry about my cat. She wasn’t herself and was clearly missing having me around. Tests revealed a persistent infection so she was back on antibiotics but a little quiet on Friday. I’ll not get into the details, but when we went to find her on Saturday morning to give her medication, it was clear that something was very wrong and we rushed her to the vet. Sadly, she had reached the end of her journey and it was time to say goodbye. The kindest thing for her as I had promised myself she wouldn’t suffer, but the hardest thing for us as despite over a year of managing her health conditions, everything moved so very quickly at the end. We were both there with her, and all plans for the day were shelved as I needed time to begin processing what had happened (mainly by crying). It’s safe to say I felt devastated, and we did the only thing we could think of to “toast” her on Saturday night by raising a slice of Steve’s homemade pizza to her memory. She always did fancy the cured meat on the top and was known for trying to sneak some, as the evidence below attests!

IMG_1018I knew that I would feel better for a run, so decided to head out as planned on Sunday morning. It wasn’t important how far I ran or how fast, I simply needed the headspace and endorphins to reset. As I left I realised that I wanted to head to my favourite woodland path to enjoy the peace and solace of nature, so did end up running the 8 miles I had on my plan, but if I had only run 2 miles it would have been fine.

I no doubt looked a real sight as I blubbed my way across town. At one point I met a friend who was out running too. She ran towards me with her arms out for me to get a hug. Of course this resulted in both of us crying as she said goodbye to an even older cat in the last few years too. As I ran on it rained a bit but I didn’t care – the pathetic fallacy seemed fitting.

The run through the woodland path, however, was just the tonic I needed. I chatted to dog walkers, petted their dogs and a lovely man pointed out a huge heron that was sitting by the stream. It was watching everyone go by, not at all bothered by us talking and the man’s dog bounding around our feet. A woman I had already run by stopped to join in and told me she could remember the heron being there since it was quite small, probably a couple of years. Despite the weather, they were happy to have a conversation. It reminded me of how nice the world can be and lifted my spirits a little to then face heading out for some essential food shopping in the afternoon.

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IMG_5340Not the week I was expecting and I know I have a process of grief ahead of me as I adapt to a routine that doesn’t involve my special little girl. 17 years is a long time together so it’s going to take time to get used to how quiet it seems without her. It’s a good thing I have marathon training to distract me!

fullsizeoutput_22abHow was your week?
What pets do you share your life with?

The Daily Post – Shelf

This past Thursday was World Book Day, and while I would love to have posted this on Thursday, it just didn’t work out that way. Still, it’s given me a great opportunity to finally write this post based on a Daily Post prompt I saved about a year ago!

The prompt “shelf” really got me thinking. As an English teacher I have A LOT of books, in fact it was the main thing everyone commented on when we moved house last year as we roped in loads of friends to help us and the least popular job was lugging my boxes of books around! I’m one of those people who finds it hard to give books away, although I have had one or two clear outs whenever I’ve moved. Still, I just can’t help myself and permanently have a pile of books waiting to be read, a Kindle loaded with titles I’ve spotted on offer and some hefty wish lists on a well-known internet retailer! Safe to say that I’m a bit of a book worm…

For me, my passion for books goes right back to childhood. Bedtime stories were a real highlight for me and I ALWAYS knew if someone got it wrong despite not actually being able to read for myself yet! Visiting grandparents were regularly treated to a big pile of books I expected read to me and my reward for good behaviour during the weekly shop was a book, usually one of the Mr Men or Little Miss books. And I loved it!

Once I was able to read I was one of those children who would be constantly getting a telling off for staying awake too late to read, so sometimes I would read under the duvet with a torch instead (great for helping to feel safe during “scary” parts!). I loved mysteries, adventures and school stories, with a particular penchant for Enid Blyton. I still have my Enid Blyton collection and went as far as to buy a small bookcase to shelf them in my spare room (they’re double-stacked so there are more behind!).

IMG_0931My more “grown up” collection is a feature of our living room and still tends to draw comment, usually “have you really read all these?” Yes. Yes I have. There are a couple of shelves where I keep the books I’ve not read yet (behind my comfy chair), but all the rest have been read. When I moved into Steve’s flat there wasn’t room for all of my books so about half were put into storage and I really missed them. What can I say? I took an English degree and pretty much spent 4 years reading books in order to achieve it. And as an English teacher, I’m not going to stop any time soon! I read every single day and my favourite time to read is when I go to bed. It relaxes me and gets my mind ready for sleep. I’m often so tired that I only manage a couple of pages, but I would never even contemplate getting into bed without a book to read.

IMG_0904I have one more book shelf in my house and that is actually built in to the frame of our bed. Buying a new house we had to be quite clever with storage, so found this great bed frame that had shelves on the headboard. Genius! Mine, of course, has one shelf dedicated to books. This is where I keep all the books about running, cycling or people taking on awesome physical challenges that I’m still to read. Above that, one or two other books – usually ones I’ve just purchased or that people have lent to me – that I plan to read soon, with my current title on top so it’s easy to grab when I get into bed. I even keep a spare pair of my reading glasses on a shelf below that so I always have my specs to hand ready to read!

IMG_0903For me, my book shelves are really important. Each title represents a new world explored, an adventure experienced vicariously or an inspiration to try something new. Some books are an anchor to a moment in time that I can remember clearly and re-reading that book would evoke that moment for me once more – a bit like hearing a song that you associate with a particular experience. I long ago accepted that I’ll never read everything I want to, but I’m prepared to give it a damn good shot. I do my very best to transfer that enthusiasm to my pupils and hope that by discussing books, reading together and showing them what reading means to me, I might inspire them to further their reading journey.

Of course as a cat owner, there are also times when one of my shelves actually just looks like this:
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And true to the cat code, she sees it as her civic duty to regularly stuff herself into the empty shelf I’ve kept for my collection to expand into. Typical!

Reading over this post, it seems that “shelf” really was an interesting idea to consider. Somehow I’ve managed to encompass my love of books, my love of running and my love of cats into one post. That’s pretty good going!

But now that you know what “shelf” means to me, I’d love to hear about what it means to you in the comments below…