Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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On the seventh day of donating…

The majority of the non-profits I’ve donated to so far have been local. Today, I’m going for a non-profit that provides services around the world: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

Our medical teams act fast to save people’s lives in conflict zones, natural disasters and epidemics. We go where we are needed most.

https://www.doctorswithoutborders.ca/content/about-us

Founded in 1971, MSF provides medical care as an independent, impartial organization. Some of their recent work includes providing services for:

  • the Ebola epidemic in West Africa
  • conflicts in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Ukraine
  • migrants attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea

Goodness knows there’s more than enough conflicts, disasters, and epidemics happening – and they will continue to happen. An organization like MSF provides valuable services to people in dire need.

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On the fifth and sixth day of donating…

So I got distracted for various reasons yesterday and forgot to do a blog posting. So today I’m writing about two non-profits that I’m donating to for my fifth and sixth day of donating.

First up, the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society (VAFCS). I went to a fantastic workshop there this year and decided to read more on the services they provide, in addition to the beautiful venue. Their mission statement is:

“To provide practical tools for accomplishing our visionary ends through socio economic programs and services that empowers self reliance; responsibility; success and prosperity, for all urban Aboriginal individuals, family and community.”

http://www.vafcs.org/about/donate.php

They provide all sorts of great programs, including:

  • recreation for urban Aboriginal youth
  • Elders Wisdom, which “provides a nourishing environment for elders to apply and maintain their traditional practices in a social environment”
  • family support services
  • Aboriginal shelter
  • Family place for people with young children
  • community navigation
  • volunteer opportunities
  • catering

Next up is KidSport New West. Their mission statement is:

KidSport™ is a non-profit organization that is part of a national and provincial network of community based volunteer groups whose goal is to ensure that kids in financial need have access to the positive experience of sport and physical activity. We believe that sport and physical activity provides a life-long opportunity for self-expression, goal setting, dedication, positive thinking and increased self confidence for kids.

http://www.kidsportcanada.ca/british-columbia/new-west/about-kidsport-new-west/

Sport has always been an important part of my life and I like that this organization is helping to ensure that financial barriers don’t prevent kids from having a chance to participate.

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On the fourth day of donating…

Today’s donation was inspired by my friend Carolyn’s tweet:

 

Carolyn’s tweets inspired me to donate to MEDIA INDIGENA:

MEDIA INDIGENA is a weekly Indigenous current affairs podcast. Our website also features Aboriginal news, views and creative expression.

https://mediaindigena.com/about/

I love podcasts and I love learning and I know I have a lot to learn about Indigenous issues, so this seemed liked a good place to put some money. And I’ve downloaded a bunch of episodes and I’m pretty excited to listen too them!

And I’m also excited to get a Tarot card reading by Carolyn!

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On the third day of donating…

Today’s non-profit is Aunt Leah’s Place, an organization that support youth who are “aging out” of the foster care system at 19 years of age, as well as helping mothers keep custody of their children.

Aunt Leah’s Place helps prevent children in foster care from becoming homeless and mothers-in-need from losing custody of their children. To support them on their journey to self-sufficiency, we provide supported housing, job training, and coaching on essential life skills.

https://auntleahs.org/about/

As they point out on their website: “In BC, 7 out of 10 parents with 19 to 28 year-olds at home provide groceries and free rent. Today, nearly half of young Canadians age 20-29 live in their parent’s home[2], mostly to defer rising housing and education costs. Therefore, extended supports for young adults past age 19 is already de facto ‘social policy’ – Aunt Leah’s works to catch up to the ‘best practice’ of average Canadian families and give young adults from foster care similar opportunities to succeed.”

Aunt Leah’s provide provides such services as:

  • supporting housing for youth transitioning out of the foster care system and for young mothers in need
  • education and employment programs
  • life skills programs

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On the second day of donating…

BC is in the middle of a housing crisis, not to mention an epidemic of loneliness, and there are so many seniors living in situations of low income and social isolation. So for today’s non-profit, I’m donating to the Senior Services Society. They are located right around the corner from my home and directly across the street from my gym, but I didn’t actually know that much about them, so I just checked out their website.

Their mission is simply put:

To connect adults 60+ with individual supports & housing navigation services to enhance their lives. 

http://www.seniorsservicessociety.ca/Values.html

They run a number of services to help seniors live independently in their own home, as well as running a shelter for seniors who don’t have a home to live in. Some of their program include:

  • Better at Home, which provides non-medical services to help seniors live independently in their own homes
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Light Housekeeping
  • Bus Outings that provide an opportunity for social connections with other seniors
  • help completing a variety of government forms, like taxes and applications for social assistance programs
  • Santa for Seniors – providing gifts to seniors living in isolation

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On the first day of donating…

I enjoyed my 12 days of giving last year so much that I’m doing it again this year! And just like last year, I’m starting with Purpose Society.

The Lower Mainland Purpose Society for Youth and Families is “a community-based multi-service organization that delivers a continuum of programs to children, youth and families.”

http://www.purposesociety.org/

As you may recall, Purpose Society is the non-profit for which my recent powerlifting competition raised funds. They do awesome things for our community and I’m happy to be able to support them.

Also, the trainers at my gym have to lift the same kilograms as we donate in dollars. Here’s their video from week 2:

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I submitted the last of my grades on Friday…

…and just like that, another semester is over.

I mean, I still have all the online courses that I’m developing to work on, but I get a reprieve from prepping lectures, schlepping out to campus to teach once a week (plus schlepping out to a difference campus on two weekends at another university), marking assignments, creating exams and then marking them too. At least for a few weeks until next semester starts!

Next semester shouldn’t be so bad (famous last words, right?) because I’m teaching a course that I just taught this semester so everything is fresh and doesn’t really need to be changed very much and the online stats course that I’ve taught for eleventy billion years (so it pretty much teaches itself). And one of the online courses that I’m developing will be pretty much done.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I have a glorious month of (relative) freedom! Huzzah!

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My First Powerlifting Competition

So that powerlifting competition that I’ve been talking about? That happened today.

For the competition, you get three attempts. You have to tell the organizers how much you plan to lift for your first attempt and after you do your first attempt, you decide what you want to do for the next one. If you don’t make the first lift, you try that weight again. If you make it, you decide how much weight you want to add for the next try. You can only go up in increments of 2.5 kg and you can’t go down in weight, even if you don’t make the lift.

My previous personal record (PR) was 87.5 kg, which I’d previously lifted for 2 reps, so I decided to start with that because it was a weight that I knew I could get. Then I figured I’d go up to 90 kg, unless 87.5 kg felt really light, and in which case I might try 92.5 kg. And then my stretch goal for the final lift would be 95 kg.

So after what seemed like an eternity of waiting, when I finally got to the platform for the first lift, I lifted 87.kg and it felt light. So I decided to go for 92.5 kg on my second lift. And that felt great too, so many trainer said “That looked easy. How do you feel about going way up? Like 100 kg?” And you only have a minute to submit your number so I was like “OK” – didn’t have time to psych myself out of it. I figured I had 92.5 kg as a new PR, so even if I failed on 100 kg, I still have a new PR, so I’d be happy. But then I did it. I lifted 100 kg (i.e. 220 lbs).

Lifting in front of a crowd like that was a really interesting experience. I started to get nervous for this about a week ago when I learned that a real powerlifting judge was coming. I had just assumed that one of the trainers from the gym would judge, so finding out that it was going to be someone who judges real powerlifting competitions made it seem that much more real. So my nervousness started then and last night I dreamt that I was running a half marathon in Stanley Park that I hadn’t trained for and then I looked at my watch and saw it was 2:00 and I was like “Oh no! I’m supposed to be at my powerlifting competition!!” So the morning started full of nerves, but I had a shower and then I had some coffee and something to eat and then I got dressed and I thought “I want to look good.” I had a friend in undergrad who always showed up for exams with her hair done, make up on, and dressed really nice. And she said something to the effect of “If I’m going to feel terrible, I want to look nice because then I feel better”. And I thought, “If I’m going to feel this nervous, I may as well look nice!” (The angle in that video did me no favours, so I hope you just looked at the weight I was lifting and not my face!).

I was hoping that I’d be able to channel the nervous energy into lifting energy. I learned to channel nerves into performance when I did my drama classes in undergrad and it’s served me well whenever I’ve had to give a presentation or teach a class, so I figured it would work in this situation too.

When they call your name, you have one minute to get to the bar and start your lift, so you have no time to overthink it. I just walked up the bar, took my position, tensed up all the muscles I needed to activate, and lifted. I felt like the world shrunk from these dozens and dozens of people around me to just me, and the bar, and the judge’s hand. The judge is holding his hand in the air and once you do your deadlift, you lock out your knees and your hips and you have to make sure your shoulders are back and once the judge sees you have done of that, they lower their hand to tell you that you can lower the bar. So I heard nothing and I felt like my vision was tunneled to just the judge’s hand, until he held up the white card to indicate my lift was good, and the world came rushing back in and I heard all the cheers from my friends and trainers and gym mates and totally strangers and my heart leapt with joy: “I did it!” I really never could have guessed that I would lift 110 kg today! I was such a thrill!

To top it off, it turns out that I came in second place among the women!

Second place in my first deadlift competition!

The woman who won was absolutely amazing. I hadn’t met her before, as she doesn’t work out at my gym but does work for the non-profit we were raising money for, Purpose Service Society. Her name is Elizabeth (I didn’t catch her last name) and she is so amazingly strong. If memory serves, her final lift was 150 kg. Just so phenomenally strong and she made it look easy! It was a thrill just to get to watch her.

After the competition, there was a party, with delicious food and beer and vendors to shop at. My prize for second place was some cool stuff from Strike Mvmnt, a local company active wear company. I got a new shirt, hat, bag, and water bottle. And then I may have also bought a pair of shoes that feel so freaking good to squat in!

Now, I’ve spent the evening relaxing (with a bit of stretching so I don’t get too stiff) and experiencing my adrenaline crash (headache, dry mouth, and sleepiness) and I’m reflecting on the event. It was such a joy to watch every competitor today. There were 12 women and 12 men and even though not everyone made every lift, honestly it was a major accomplishment for everyone who competed to just to walk up on that platform and try. I’m so honoured to have shared the platform with everyone who competed today. You are all amazing!

Special thanks to the Strong Side New West team for putting this competition together – they work so hard for the gym members and the community they have built is amazing. Today was a special day where the place was packed with people who came to cheer on the athletes, but every day at that gym is a wonderful community of supportive, funny, wonderful people who celebrate in each other’s wins, cheer each other on through the hard days, and who I’m enjoying getting to know more and more as we pick things up and put them back down, week after week.

And special props to all the people who volunteered to make this event happen – the people loading the weights onto the bar for all the lifts really should have won a prize – they had to lift all the weights for 2 hours! And the event couldn’t have happened without scorekeepers and the judge and the people checking in the athletes when they arrived. Every one of them is amazing and I thank you for making this special day happen.

And finally, don’t forget to donate to Purpose Service Society. They do really important work in our community and the money raised at today’s event is just the beginning. Strong Side New West is fundraising for Purpose throughout December and however many dollars we donate, the trainers have to lift that amount of kilograms! So give early, give often!

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Gains

So I’ve completed the first phase of my training for the powerlifting competition. My training consisted of working each of deadlift, back squat, and bench press to see if I could increase my theoretical 1 rep max. In the first week of this phase, I found my 3 rep max by testing out heavier and heavier weights until I found the maximum amount that I could lift 3 times in a row. From that, I calculated what my theoretical 1 rep max would be (using a handy dandy online calculator like this one). Then, for the following four weeks, I lifted a percentage of that max for 8 reps, then 6 reps, then 3-5 reps, and finally 2-3 reps this week.

Here are my 3 rep maxes from my first week and my theoretical 1 rep maxes calculated from those 3 rep maxes:

Exercise3 rep maxTheoretical 1 rep max
Deadlift80 kg84.7 kg
Back Squat75 kg79.4 kg
Bench Press45.5 kg48.2 kg

And here are the amounts I lifted for 2 reps this week, along with my theoretical 1 rep maxes calculated from them and the % change from my first week:

Exercise2 rep maxTheoretical 1 rep max% increase
Deadlift87.5 kg90 kg6%
Back Squat85 kg87.5 kg10%
Bench Press46 kg47.3 kg-2%

So that last one is a bit puzzling. I’m pretty certain that I didn’t lose strength over 5 weeks of training my bench press. I definitely feel like I’m stronger! I’m guessing that because I wasn’t actually testing to find my 2 rep max, but was just taking a guess at what I’d be able to lift for 2 reps, I must have underestimated my strength and chosen something that was less than what I could really lift for 2 reps. Though to be honest, that 46 kg felt really freaking heavy.

But look at the gains on my deadlift and squat!

And I still have 22 more days to train! I’m starting the next phase of my program on Sunday. So excited!

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A bunch of my goals for 2019 were related to getting my condo more organized. I had very high hopes that I’d be all handy and DIY-y this year and I would:

  • build a closet organizer in the front hall closet
  • build a closet organizer in the pantry closet
  • install a lazy Susan in each of the two corner cabinets in the kitchen
  • paint the inside of both the front hall closet and the office closet

I eventually came to accept that I just do not have the time to do these things and that my life would be much improved by being able to actually reach all the things that are in my kitchen cabinets and not have all my coats falling off the broken front hall closet coat rack. So I bit the bullet and called the guy who installed my closet door and closet organizer in my spare room last year and he knocked the first three of those things off of my “to do” list for me. I decided that I want to do the painting of the inside of the closets myself (with the leftover paint from last year’s painting project) and I figure can do that when I have some time off in December.

Here’s what my front hall closet looked like before:

Front hall closet - before
Front hall closet - before

Notice the wire rack that the coats are hanging on is broken on the right side, that the internet-related devices and all of their various cords and tangled mess on top of that wire shelf, and that shoes and other crap are all piled in a heap at the bottom of the closet.

Here’s what the closet looked like after:

Closet - after
Closet - after

Notice how there’s a proper rod to hang coats on and also a reasonably sized pile of crap on the bottom. In fairness, we did take the opportunity to go through all the stuff that was in the closet and divert some of it to donations (for the things that were still usable) or to the garbage (for things that were unsalvageable). But part of it was having a proper shelf to put stuff on (you can’t really see it well in the photo, but under the coats there is a shelf that that we could put things on). Also, all the various internet devices are now attached to the wall, so they don’t take up valuable shelf space:

Front hall closet -  after

Next up was the pantry cupboard. This cupboard, where we mostly store Tupperware and various other food containers, was rather infuriating .

Pantry - before

And here’s what it looked like after:

Pantry - after

You can’t tell from the photos, but those old wire shelves were about 4 inches less deep than the new shelves, so we’ve got quite a bit more shelf space now1. We also sorted through all the stuff in the various locations and took some of the stuff that was in here that we don’t use very often and have stored it elsewhere.

And lastly we have the kitchen cabinets. I have two corner cabinets in my kitchen that are quite deep and trying to get anything out of them was a complete nightmare. I’m pretty sure these cabinets defy the laws of physics, as no matter what item you want, it is always, somehow, buried underneath all the other objects and way at the back of the cabinet. Which resulted in the cabinet with all the pots and pans and various other cookware looking like this:

Kitchen cupboard - before

The second of these cabinets was used mostly for food (but also for baking sheets and cooling racks) and while it didn’t end up with everything all upside and turned around like the other cabinet, it was still a nightmare to try to get stuff out of – or even to see what stuff I had, which may or may not have resulted in me having 3 different bottles of apple cider vinegar and several opened boxes of lasagna noodles.

Kitchen cupboard - before

The sensible way of designing these cabinets, of course, is to have a lazy Susan in them, so that you can spin the shelf to find what you want rather than trying to reach all the way to the back. So we got a lazy Susan installed in each and now here’s what they looked like :

Kitchen cupboard with pots and pans - after
Kitchen cupboard with food - after

The picture doesn’t totally do justice to how much of an improvement this is to my life.

Also, while all of this was being done, we had to take everything that was in the front hall closet, the pantry closet, and the two kitchen cabinets out of those locations and store them in living room. And I just have to say that I was astonished by how much storage room my condo actually has, as just the stuff from these 4 places2 pretty much filled up my entire living room:

We had to empty out all the closets and cupboards that were being worked on
We had to empty out all the closets and cupboards that were being worked on

and my dining area:

We had to empty out all the closets and cupboards that were being worked on

So that’s definitely a selling feature I’m going to have to remember if I ever decide to sell this place.

Anyway that knocks three items off my 2019 goals list, which is nice because it’s already freaking November so the year is almost up!

And it makes my day-to-day life just that much more pleasant, which is pretty great too!

  1. You can also see that the white bins we use for recylcing at the bottom of the closet got considerably more filled up between the “before” and “after” photos. []
  2. My condo also has a walk through closet in the main bedroom, a closet in the spare room, and a storage locker in the parkade! []