Happy Singles Awareness Day

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Happy Valentine’s Day to my lovely readers!  Before I start poking fun at a holiday that is fraught with horrible memories for me, I’ll tell you that today is a day to celebrate romantic love. The day is named after St. Valentine who is actually more than one saint. You can read more about the history here. My favorite story is that the Roman military found out that single soldiers made better soldiers than married ones and outlawed marriage. St. Valentine secretly performed marriages for those interested – thus ensuing that love would reign.

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Remember, though – that in any of the stories St. Valentine was eventually put to death for his actions. It wasn’t a happy ending … but, then again, how many love stories end happily anyway? I’ll keep a long story short by saying that when I was married, Valentine’s Day was less than special. I’m not sure if it was the men I married, the relationships or just the holiday in general, but it was more of a forced march through the motions for both of us. The day just reminded me of what I wished I had and longed for from a mate. Needless to say, I’ve never been much of a fan of Valentine’s Day.

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Over half of the world is single. You’d never know it by our cultural expectations. I don’t know how many singles are involved in romantic relationships at a given time, but I can tell you there are lots of us out here who barely remember Valentine’s Day is coming. The only time it bothers me is when I’m at work on Valentine’s Day, and the receptionist’s desk is littered with flowers and red hearts addressed to others – but not me. But, I’ve heard those women talk about their husbands. It ain’t a bed a roses in most cases. I’ll take the sting of one day over the sting of everyday anytime.

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I do know a few happy couples who enjoy Valentine’s Day in all its glory, and I hope to have that one day. But I know better than to put all my eggs in one basket. I try to count on the love I have – whether it’s platonic love, girlfriend love, parental love, godly love or the love of life itself. All of these seem so much more abundant and rich to me than romantic love has ever been. They are truly worth celebrating. I think there should be a day for people who have lots of love in their life but no main squeeze. We could call it Freaking Rock Star Amazing Person Full of Love No Need for Labels Day. There would be no need for gifts because love is the best gift of all.

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Whatever your relationship status, enjoy today. I’m going to go visit my parents. It’s going to be 72 degrees… not a real strong reminder that it’s February. And, if you are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic partner, make it a day where you commit to every day being an expression of your love to them. That would truly be a celebration of love. If you are single, count your blessings. It just means that the next year is full of opportunity for romantic love. Write down what you want and start to manifest it!

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Louisiana School

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I’ve made some mistakes in my life. Some of them have been very big. I’m a bit of changeling, so it’s not surprising that I’ll bump my head a time or two and even crash and burn at least once. I don’t kid myself that I always do what’s best for me, but I do know that I’m a freaking survivor.

Sometimes I hate being a survivor. It seems so much simpler to be somebody who doesn’t take risks, follows the standard plan for life and otherwise stays in out of the rain. I tried it for a very long time. I felt like a caged animal. What other people find comforting and secure, I find suffocating and numbing. It wasn’t until after my second divorce when I took some time off to understand who I was that I figured out that I had to let go of the fairy tale. The Cinderella story for me felt more like Carrie’s trip to the prom.

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I count my move to Louisiana as one of the most difficult journeys in my life. I don’t have any idea if I would have decided not to come if I’d researched more; I don’t know if I’d have known the questions to ask. It felt and moved along like it was of God, but I wonder sometimes if I forced it. More than likely this is one of those life lessons that I had to learn by being in a space where I couldn’t breathe. I literally sometimes can’t breathe when it’s hot here, and I figuratively feel trapped at times – like someone is holding me under a blanket and telling me I have to get used to this. It feels like marriage felt to me.

I know that one chess move does not lose a game. I do know it can set you back, or it can put you right where you need to be. And, honestly, I have learned a lot here. An astrologer looked at my charts and told me that starting in March 2012, I started a transit that would be very hard. She said it looked like it would have been a time where everything …. virtually everything …. would have been stripped away. She couldn’t have been more dead on.  She says that it’s now over. It’s time for me to move on to my next adventure with some very important lessons in my backpack.

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In order to remind myself of what I learned and maybe even share them with you if you need to hear them, I’ll recount some of my biggest lessons from Louisiana School:

  • God shows up in little ways even in the darkest of days. Sometimes He’s a firefly and other times He’s a blazing sun on a hot summer’s day. Reflecting that light back to others is one way to make it grow. I write … you may sing … cry on somebody’s shoulder … let them cry on yours … offer a meal. It doesn’t matter how small or large the reflection is, the light grows exponentially when reflecting it to others.
  • Nature has healing powers beyond anything else on this earth. The natural world is of God, and it vibrates at an entirely different level than our man-made world. I feel high when I’m in it. Hug a tree. It’ll hug you back… I promise.
  • When I can’t see the forest for the trees, I try to embrace what is in front of me. I made a practice of that last year. The world can be tumbling down on me but focusing on that one little thing that makes me happy can shift my perspective.
  • It’s not a place that makes a home. A home is made of people that love you and that show up for you. We all have different talents and gifts. A friend of mine once told me that some people are born to be helpers. I’ve learned to let them help me… but I am stubborn at times. They show up anyway.
  • I can shift my energy through meditation, yoga, listening to music, smudging my space and using crystals. I knew it at some level, but I’ve learned to shift my depression instantaneously with these methods. Being able to do it and see results has literally been miraculous. I won’t say that I’ll ever need medication again, but I’ve been anti-depressant-free for over 2 years now, and I feel better than ever. And I’m in menopause!
  • Diet is a game-changer. In the time I’ve been holed up in this cute little gift of a house, I’ve learned how different foods affect me. All of my life I struggled with my weight, and, for the first time in my life, my weight is stable. With a better diet – especially without sugar – I am much happier and pretty much anxiety-free.

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I don’t know how my story will turn out. One day when I’m 98 I’ll look back and see how this chess move contributed to my game of life. I hope that it will look very different in hindsight. I know that I thought being single was the single most devastating thing that could happen to me, and it’s turned out to be an incredibly empowering and amazing way to live. I didn’t know what was best for me then, and I’m smart enough to know that I may not know what is best for me now. I don’t want to hurry up 98, but I hunger for that larger perspective.

My teacher Stacy has a mantra that she repeats when she’s facing something hard. “Accept what is,” she says. She says if you fight it, it just keeps you stuck. If you ‘accept what is’ and go with it, you can flow with it a lot easier. I think I’ll work with that one today. I’ll ‘accept what is’. Drop the struggle. Oh yeah, and I think I’ll meditate, too. 

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The Saga of the She-Beads

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My friend Alayne’s birthday is the day after mine. It didn’t really surprise me when I found out because we had a very strong spiritual connection almost from the day we met. For her birthday, I like to get her something that is spiritual in nature. This year I was noodling what to get her, and I remembered the necklace my sister gave me several years ago for Christmas.

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Here’s a pic of me wearing my She-Beads hiking.

This necklace is unbelievably fabulous. It’s not ornate in an expensive, fancy fashion. It’s handmade, and it’s beautiful. But that’s not why I love it. I am pretty much a one necklace girl. I change out my earrings frequently, but I like to have one necklace that I love and that is durable enough to wear everyday – whether I’m running, walking, going to work or even backpacking. It has to be sweatproof, waterproof and otherwise pretty indestructible. When my sister gave me the necklace, I thought it was lovely, but it looked so dainty I knew I probably wouldn’t wear it very often. I googled the shop and read about the beads. To my surprise, they said the beads would not fade! In fact, they said the beads would stay just as beautiful as ever – for YEARS! I was so excited!

I have worn this necklace for everything. It’s fun… it’s pretty… and it’s durable. The necklace is made of She-beads. The beads are not painted. They are made of colorful clay, so the design is baked right in. It’s pretty amazing how they make them.

How they make She-Beads….

 

So I thought of this necklace and wondered if She-Beads had anything that would fit my budget for my friend Alayne. I searched on their website, and I found some necklaces called Intention Beads. Hmmmm … I like the idea of setting intentions. And I knew that Alayne is going through a bit of a life transformation right now. That might just be the ticket. They had so many different Intention Beads that it was hard to choose just one, but I finally chose one that was perfect for her. I ordered it and shipped it to her address.

About an hour later, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I had an old address for her. I texted her, and, sure enough, I’d sent the Intention Bead to an old address. I knew that I had screwed up, but I called the shop anyway. I happened to talk to the artist that made the bead, and she fixed the address for me. That’s what I love about shopping with small businesses. It’s the personal service and the ability to talk with somebody that can actually fix things. It wasn’t already packed on a conveyor belt somewhere on a “no return” trip. I hung up very happy.

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This necklace has to be five years old at least and look at the colors on the beads.

I won’t go through all the details, but I got to know the owners of She-Beads quite well the next few days. Even though they manually fixed the address, the ordering system changed it back. The necklace went to the wrong place. They sweetly agreed to overnight a second intention bead – the only one they had left – to her. I’ll make a long story short and tell you that the Houston postal service screwed up the delivery, and it took another week for her Intention Bead to arrive on her doorstep. Meanwhile, I was extremely impressed at the care and concern that Alexandra and Sandy – the owners of She-Beads and Intention Beads – had for my little gift. I will definitely purchase more of their beautiful meaningful beads.

During our conversations, Sandy explained to me that she is an astrologer. The Intention Beads are very powerful because she makes each bead during the exact time that the “energy” for that intention is strongest. It’s usually a short window of time, so she may only have  a couple of beads for that intention. For example, she only had two beads for Alayne’s intention. One went to the wrong address in Houston (it did finally make it back to their store), and the other made it safely to Alayne. They are not mass-marketed. It truly was a special gift.

This would be a good Intention Bead for me!! 

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When Alayne received her gift, she said the bead was beautiful and there was a little card that explained exactly how to work with affirmations for the intention she had. She was already eager to journal about what it was that she wanted to manifest with this bead!

If you’re interested, you can find Alexandra and Sandy at the studio in Willmette IL. They are a family-owned business with three divisions – He-Beads (for men), She-Beads and Intention Beads. Tell them Sharon from Midlife Moments sent you!

 

 

Lessons From the Trail: The Bridge is Out

 

IMG_6927Carryn, JoAnn and I hiked the Black Creek Trail near Wiggins MS this past weekend. We planned three days on the trail. We spent Friday night at Janice Landing, left a car at the Janice Landing trailhead and drove to Fairly Bridge landing to get started on our Badass Backpacking odyssey. This would be our second backpack since the backpacking class in the backcountry, and we were all trying to lighten our packs.

We froze to death on Friday night. None of us had sleeping bags rated for the below 30-degree weather. I ended up putting on every item of clothing that I brought and slid myself inside a construction-grade garbage bag with my sleeping bag. I was okay, but I never felt warm the entire night, and Ashok was shivering in her sleeping bag. I didn’t sleep much, and, by the time the sun came up, I was ready to get out of that tent. We knew it would be warmer Saturday night and even warmer Sunday night. It would never get toasty, but it would be tolerable.

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We got on the Black Creek trail around 11 AM. For the first two miles, the trail wasn’t all that exciting. It was muddy and the scenery was very much like most of the hikes we’ve been on recently. After two miles, the trail became extremely hilly, challenging and much more interesting. It got so hilly that we didn’t make nearly the mileage we would have liked that first day. We wanted to do 7 miles and get just inside the Black Creek Wilderness area, but we did under 6 and camped almost in the middle of the trail by a water source. I chose a spot on an incline, and I found myself sliding to the bottom of the tent all night with the slick sleeping bag. I’d pull Ashok and her sleeping bag up by my shoulders, and the next time I’d wake up, she’d be right by my feet. It was irritating, but I slept better than the night before.

 

Almost immediately the second day we entered the Black Creek Wilderness. The trail started to follow the Black Creek, a designated Wild and Scenic River, and it was beautiful. I found the topography similar to what I’ve seen in the Appalachians although not as rocky, and, of course the vegetation was different. Rhododendrons in the Smokies were replaced by beautiful huge old Magnolia trees at Black Creek. Lovely vistas of the river came and went, and we spent the day oohing and ahhhing at beautiful spots all day long.

Not too far into the Wilderness area, we came upon a creek. The trail went right up to the creek edge which dropped off with a very steep bank. The other side of the creek was the same way, and we could see a log way down in the creekbed that we assumed at one time could have been used to cross the creek. We walked around and could find no bridge or easy way to scale the creek banks on either side to cross. My first thought was that we were stuck. Then, I remembered the many creek crossings in my Smoky Mountain hiking days where we had to climb rocks and scale banks to get across.

The Bridge is Out….

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“What are we going to do?” Carryn asked.

“We’re going to cross this creek,” I said. “We’ll just have to figure it out.”

Since we’ve been hiking together, we’ve never really had any obstacles except mud here and there. Every creek crossing has had a bridge. We’ve not had to scale rocks or embankments. It’s all been pretty straightforward. One of our backpacking classmates had just done this hike 3 weeks ago, and he never mentioned this. I figured he just assumed this was a natural creek crossing for hiking, and we shouldn’t flinch at trying it ourselves.

I scouted out a spot that didn’t look too deep to cross and that led to a scaleable part of the creek bank. I figured I could tie some rope on a tree, and we could use it to pull ourselves up over the bank. I’d go first, and then we’d throw the packs up and then the rest could come over. It was easy to cross but the water was very cold. We had to put on our sandals so our boots and socks weren’t wet. But, once the initial shock of the cold water was over, it actually felt pretty good on my feet. I climbed up, tied some paracord to the tree and came back to get the packs from Carryn who stood midway in the creek.

The biggest problem was JoAnn’s pack. It weighed about 50 pounds. We asked her if she had a life raft in there that we could use to cross the creek. Carryn lifted the pack and handed it to me. We both threw it on the bank and tried to heave it up. It was so heavy that I thought it was going to pull me back down the bank, but with Carryn pushing and me pulling, we got it up. The rest was easy. Ashok bounded across the water and up the bank, and Carryn and JoAnn followed. It seemed sort of silly afterwards that we thought it was such a big deal, but it was our first challenging obstacle, and we did it!

We camped the second night at a beautiful spot in the middle of the woods next to Black Creek, and I spent a bit of time the next morning having my tea overlooking the river. We were all much warmer that night, and I didn’t even have to have my coat on while I slept. The Wilderness was 10.8 miles total, and we hiked about the last 5 on Monday. We got back to the car around noon and couldn’t wait to hit the nearest Mexican restaurant for some non-dehydrated food.

My tea spot Monday morning….

After the hike, we threw our packs down and laughed about how accomplished we felt. Everybody said that the best part of the hike was crossing that creek. Even though the whole challenge of backpacking is pretty empowering, facing our fears and crossing that creek made us all feel like true badasses. It also makes me wonder how tiny that creek crossing obstacle will seem years from now when we have faced many more challenging situations on the trail. We are only getting started. But we are learning so much.

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Lessons on the Trail:

Lighten your load. If you are carrying extra baggage in this life, you have to take the time to unload it or at least pare it down to a manageable size. If not, when you get into a challenging situation, the extra weight will only make the journey harder for you. And, your friends will have to deal with it, too. Your baggage affects others!

Bridges will be out. There will be times in life when the bridge is out. An obstacle will present itself with no obvious way to get around it. At first you may decide to deny it’s there, or you may decide to backtrack to avoid it. But, at some point, you will need to decide that the only way out is through, and you are going to have to climb that creek and scale that wall. You will need your friends to help! Don’t try it on your own!

The toughest challenges are what make you stronger. When you look back in your life, you are going to be the most proud of yourself for those things that scared you but you did them anyway. It will be the things that you can’t believe you did that make you stronger and help you grow into the badass that you want to be in your heart.

Celebrate your successes. Talk with your friends about the amazing obstacles you overcame. Make a point of taking a break from life and celebrating when you’ve done something amazing. It will help all of you to learn from each other and share your joys. Life is meant to be shared – obstacles and successes.

Get the right gear. It’s really important to have the right tools to be successful. Ask others for information on how they’ve overcome obstacles. Create a toolkit with some variety. Not every problem is a nail, so a hammer isn’t the only tool you need. Sometimes you need a rope (a lifeline), a pair of sandals (a strong foundation) or even a dry bag (boundaries) to protect your valuables. You never know what you’ll need, but you can certainly plan ahead and anticipate what you’ll need in a crisis.

Every time I hike I learn some valuable skills that apply to my life in some way. It’s somewhat of a microcosm of life’s little problems which always manifest in fear, frustration or joy. So, I’m starting a new series about Lessons From the Trail. I hope you will enjoy…  and learn a few things, too.

We’re done!!

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Mardi Gras in The Forest

  
On Monday, the dehydrating began. The Badass Backpacking Bitches are on the road again for Mardi Gras weekend. In Louisiana, many offices are closed for Mardi Gras day and, in some cases, the day before. Mardi Gras dwarfs Christmas in scope in Southern Louisiana with festivities starting in early January and reaching a crescendo this weekend thru Tuesday. Mardi Gras signals the end of the holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving. The rest of the country starts their New Years’ diet plans Jan. 2, but people here start after Mardi Gras. It’s a big damn deal.

  
With a four day weekend in our sights, the Badass Backpackers planned another backpacking event, and this one is girls only. I spent all week dehydrating dinners, breakfasts and lunches in an attempt to lighten my load. Last time I carried some real food for lunch, and I wanted to see if I could rehydrate a bean and rice salad for lunches. I chopped up some sun-dried tomatoes and olives to add some veggies and fat to the mix. I opted for oatmeal breakfasts with steel-cut oats, yellow raisins, powdered whole milk and pecans. One morning I’m replacing the oats with dehydrated sweet potato to try a recipe I found on the web. Tofu jerky, nuts, home-made granola bars and dates round out the snacks category. Dinners will be home-made chili and a dirty rice dish with roasted carrots. My food bag is definitely lighter this time, and I’m excited to try some new trail food!

  At lunch I went home to pack my pack, and my meticulously prepared food bag was not in the freezer! WTF??? Did somebody break into my house and steal my dehydrated food? That did not make sense to me. I looked in every drawer, closet and cranny. No food. I unpacked my pack. Nada. I dug through the garbage. No luck. I finally found it in a weird pocket in my pack. I guess I stuck it there while I was testing the weight. It about gave me a heart attack. It’s not like I could recreate that in a few hours.

  
My pack -after digesting the information I learned last weekend from my more experienced backpacking friends – weighs 11 pounds lighter than on my Christmas trip. I’m ecstatic. I did have to get a lighter tent and give up my cozy chair, but I’m going to try a few tricks to see if I can compromise comfort for ounces on the trail. If something has to hurt, I’ll choose my butt over my back any day. 

  
While my friends are out catching beads in the coolest city that ever was, we’ll be counting steps through the forest. This hobby is not for everybody, and, for some it’s an acquired taste, but we’ll more easily find a place to pee than the parade-goers in New Orleans this weekend. It sounds like a great swap to me. There will be giggles in the woods this weekend. The Badass Backpacking Bitches are on the trail again. 

  
Happy Mardi Gras y’all. Do what strikes your fancy this weekend. Tell ’em I told you to!

Sunday Night Check-In: Losing Weight, Hanging Food and Outdoor Education

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About mid-week last week, I decided to go camp out with a subset of the hiking club (although not a hiking club event) at Kincaid Lake in Kisatchie National Forest this weekend. Me and two other badasses were going to go, but, at the last minute, one had an emergency and the other one’s vehicle kicked the bucket. I was halfway packed on Friday night when I got the news, and I didn’t know if I still wanted to go alone with a new group. I’ve gotten used to the badasses in the Badass Backpacking Group, and this was going to be a new group of people that I’d met but really didn’t know. By the time I went to bed, I’d decided not to go. I turned off the alarm and went to sleep.

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My body woke up right on time to go, so I took that as a sign that I should get up and go. I had finished packing, so all I needed to do was get dressed and head out the door. The 2 1/2 hour drive to north Louisiana was seamless, and I arrived about an hour before the 9-mile hike with shorter options was to begin. The weather was forecast to be sunny and about 76 degrees. It was going to be a beautiful day, and I was not disappointed. In fact, as promised by Rick, the person who initially included me on the group emails, it is the most scenic area I’ve seen in Louisiana thus far. The lake was beautiful, and the trail followed the lakeshore all the way around.

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One of the prettiest areas was an overlook of the lake with a nearby sandy beach. A duck blind was parked near the overlook, and it resembled a Caribbean island (without the green water) at first glance. Ashok even decided to wade into the blind to see what it looked like. We ended up hiking about 6 miles altogether. I carried my big backpacking pack in preparation for next week’s backpacking trip, and it’s still a bit heavy for a 9-mile hike. Most of the group stopped at 5 miles, and Jonathan, Raymond and I decided to hike another mile and a half back to the campsite.

The group was really nice. They were very welcoming to me and provided me with some much desired expertise. I love my Badass Backpackers, but we are all novices. We don’t know sh*t about backpacking. This group was very experienced. When I walked over to the trailhead with my pack, they teased me about this being a day hike. I told them I was practicing, and Rick asked me how much my pack weighed. I said I thought it was about 35 pounds, and he made a face and gasped. There was a resounding opinion with the group that I was way too heavy, and for about 24 hours I got suggestions on what to leave behind. I came home determined that I was going to cut some weight, and my first stop is with my 6-pound tent. That baby has got to be relegated to car camping from now on.

On the trail, I told them I still didn’t understand the whole “hanging the food” routine, and they offered to do a demo when we got back to the campsite. You have to hang food in bear country, but down here you hang it mainly to avoid mice and raccoons. There are two reasons to hang food. The first is you don’t want the animals to get your food. It wouldn’t be any fun to be in the backcountry with nothing to eat or to have damaged gear from hungry critters. The more important reason is that you don’t want bears coming into your campsite or your tent to get food. You hang the food a good distance from your camping area. If they are going to be attracted by the food smell, they can go get it down the trail. You’ll go hungry but you won’t be harmed or scared to death.

 

Raymond and Rick gave the demo. It was nothing like we had been doing on my backpacks. Thank heavens we weren’t in bear country, or I’d have already woken up with one in our campsite.

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  • Tie a long paracord or rope around a fairly heavy object like a rock. Rick says he carries a Crown Royal bag for holding his rocks. (I didn’t ask him what he did with the Crown Royal.)
  • Throw it over a strong branch at least 10 feet high. It needs to be about 8 feet away from the trunk of the tree. Bears and raccoons can climb. So, if it’s hanging next to the tree as we’ve done it,  they can climb right to it. It won’t be so easy for them to climb 8 feet out on a limb and reach for food dangling below the branch.
  • Clip a carabiner on the bag that is holding your food.
  • Tie one end of the rope to the carabiner.

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  • Thread the other end through it. The rope has to be long enough so that it goes up and over the branch and trails along the ground on the other side.
  • Pull the bag up into the tree. Pull it all the way up to the branch at this point.
  • Wrap the section of the rope in your hand around a sturdy stick that is larger than the “biner”. Wrap the rope around it twice and knot it. Note: You are NOT doing this at the end of the rope. You need the end of the rope on the ground so you can get the food in the morning.
  • Start feeding slack to the rope so that the food bag begins to fall below the branch. The stick will stop the fall when it gets to the “biner”.
  • The next morning when you get the food, pull on the end of the rope until the stick comes back to you, release the stick and release the food bag to the ground.

This process was so different than what we had been doing! For one thing, we never started high enough at all. The branch Raymond used was really high in the tree. If you figure the bag has to hang 10 feet from the ground and at least 5 or 6 feet from the branch, it has to be at least 15 or so feet from the ground.

So, now I know how to hang food! I can’t wait to try it next weekend.

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These guys take “lightweight gear” seriously!

I got home, unpacked my pack and weighed every item in it on a food scale. Now, I know what everything weighs, and I can truly decide if it’s worth the weight to pack it in. I feel so knowledgeable! This morning’s coffee conversation was all about gear and what each person could and couldn’t backpack without. It all depends on what makes you comfortable, and everybody is different. I haven’t heard one piece of gear advice yet that someone else didn’t contradict, except they all said to lighten my load!

Y’all have a good week. Lighten your load a little this week, will ya? If it’s not important, let it go. That’s a good life lesson for everybody.

 

Do You Feel Invisible?

A friend of mine is writing a paper on why women over 40 say they feel invisible. I’ve read about this before, and I have to say I’ve felt it to some extent. But it caused me to think about whether or not I feel invisible being of an advanced age.

Between 40 and 50, I think I did feel invisible. On my 40th birthday, I had just broken off an engagement, and I had to start dating again. I remember feeling like I was too old to be dating. I wasn’t young and able to have children anymore. I thought those were the things that were important to men. Let’s face it, men like to date younger. But I felt really young. I really didn’t want to date older. I wanted someone my own age or in the near vicinity.

Of course I met someone and without much consciousness, I married him. So, I spent most of my 40s in a bad marriage just trying to get by. Being invisible wasn’t much of a concern to me. Trying to figure out my life was my biggest concern. I was a mess. My life was a mess. Frankly, I felt relieved to be invisible.

I did not like the approach to 50. This would surely be the end of my life as I knew it. I’d start the downhill slide into old age. It was about to be over. Sure, there were celebrities who looked good into their 50s but that’s not real folk. They have access to resources I don’t have. The closer I got to my 50th birthday, the worse it got. One morning I got up and decided I could either let myself slide into the inevitable or reframe what 50-years-old means. I decided if it was coming – and it was – I’d embrace it for what it was. I knew that at 75 I’d find it amusing that I thought I was old at 50. Why not adopt that attitude while I’m young enough to do something about it?

I started reading about women who were having happy lives after 50. I filled my head with quotes that professed the power of being middle age. I ultimately decided that there is no one particular path that people over 50 take, but the one I was going to take was going to be empowering. I felt good. I was going to do what I felt like regardless of the number on my birthday cake. I decided to live my life with intention and cut out the filler. Up to that point, the world pretty much told me how to live. After 50, this was going to be my ballgame. And when I start to feel old, well, I’ll deal with it.

In answer to my friend’s question, I do feel invisible in that I’m not the hot young thing in the office anymore. I’m not the gal that’s climbing the corporate ladder trying to get on every important agenda that would move me up to that next rung. I don’t care to be in the groups that party all the time. And if I don’t like you, you pretty much know it. I also don’t put up with petty BS, office drama and people who can’t shoot straight. That pretty much rules out most of the population. To all of them, I probably am invisible. But I’m highly visible to those who matter. In fact, I’d argue that I’m more visible than ever. In order to be “visible”, I have to be “visible” to myself. I have to know who I am.

Today I choose what I want to do. I rarely cave to peer pressure, and, if I do, it’s because of a relationship. I’m still trying new things. I’d rather write than party. I’d rather hike than go on a dinner date. I don’t dress my age, and I don’t even know what “dressing for my age” would look like. I color my hair, and I get facials to keep my skin looking good but I don’t do anything artificial to cover up my age. I want my face to be filled with that beautiful shiny smiling light that I’ve seen in 60 and 70-something yoga instructors. I want to be comfortable with who I am and own the age I’m in. I exercise and am eating better than I ever did. I’m more comfortable with myself and my life is easier without all the drama. I’m living my life on my terms. (Well, I do wish I was independently wealthy, but I can’t have everything.)

Do I feel invisible? Sometimes. Sometimes I long for those younger years when I was such a go-getter. But I know that I have been there … done that. I know how that movie ends, and it wasn’t all that special. The priorities of youth sometime seem a bit silly to me now. Unexpectedly, I think I’m more attractive to the opposite sex than I ever was in my younger years.  I have no idea why. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that we are all attracted to the light in others. I know my light shines much more boldly than it ever did because I stoke it with what makes me tick. I’m me … like it or not. 

Invisible??? Nah. That’s for the younger crowd. I choose to be invincible.

Do you feel invisible? If so, do you know how you’d like to change that?

Who’s My Daddy?

Ashok loves her Mommy. They go hiking together … and eat together … and run together … and ride together in the car.

One morning Ashok woke up and wondered if she had a Daddy. The Pomeranians down the street had a Daddy. They didn’t seem to have a Mommy. Maybe he was her Daddy!

 

Then she realized that a Daddy would hug her and feed her and take her places, and he never did. Ashok decided that she would see if she could find her Daddy.

But where would a Daddy be? So, she asked her Mommy…

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“Who’s my Daddy?”

Mommy said she didn’t have a Daddy. But how could that be true? She wanted to have a Daddy, so she decided to do an undercover operation and find her Daddy!

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She remembered Gerry in Memphis. Could he be her Daddy? He gave her a bone and lived in that nice condo overlooking the river. Maybe he was her Daddy!

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But then she realized that he was in Memphis, and they moved away from Memphis. If he was her Daddy, they would still be there.

So she thought and thought and thought….

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“My Daddy must be out there,” she thought. “Maybe I should think of what I like to do and that will tell me where my Daddy would be!” Surely a Daddy would like to do the same things as their dogs!

Ashok loved to kayak, and she set off to see if she could find her Daddy on the river!

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When she arrived, she looked around, but there was nothing but sand. There was no Daddy for her on the river.

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She knew she loved to ride the golf cart on Graveyard Island! Could that man be her Daddy?

Then she remembered that was her Granddaddy! He couldn’t be her Daddy! She was really excited to know she had a Granddaddy, but she wanted a Daddy.

She loved to ride on a boat! “I’ll go find my Daddy on a boat,” she thought!

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But, she was hungry first. Looking for a Daddy made her hungry!

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“Could Jeff be my Daddy?” she wondered. “He likes to eat, too!”  she thought. “Jeff must be my Daddy!” So, she asked him if he was her Daddy. Jeff told her that he loved her very much, but he was not her Daddy. He suggested she go to the bar to see if he was in there.

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One man seemed to really like her, but Ashok knew that her Mommy didn’t like to hang out in bars and neither did she. How could that be her Daddy? Even if it was, she’d never see him, so she decided that she should stick with her original plan and see if she could find her Daddy on a boat.

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“Are you my Daddy?” Ashok asked the nice man in the red shirt. “No. I’m not your Daddy,” he answered with a laugh. “Maybe Ray is your Daddy,” he said. So Ashok went to see if Ray was her Daddy.

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Ray really liked Ashok and hugged her and played with her, but when she asked if he was her Daddy, he told her that he wasn’t. He was much too busy with work to be her Daddy. This made her very sad because she liked him very much, and besides …. he has a nice boat.

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Ashok realized that even though it would be fun, maybe her Daddy didn’t own a boat. After all, her Mommy didn’t have a boat except for a kayak, and it was no where near as nice as those motorboats.

So she thought and she thought and she thought…..

“I’ve got it,” she said! “My Daddy is a hiker!”

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She waited for her Mommy to pack their bags to go hiking, and she was so excited! “I’m going to find my Daddy!” she thought.

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But, alas, she took off with a bunch of girls, and Ashok knew that girls couldn’t be your Daddy. You had to be a boy to be a Daddy! She wasn’t born yesterday.

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But she thought, “Maybe my Daddy will be hiking with us!” This made so much sense because she and her Mommy loved hiking and camping.

IMG_5056“I hope Duane is my Daddy!” Ashok thought. “He always has good things to eat and shares them with me. Plus, he has two little girls that like loving on me.” But Duane told Ashok that he was not her Daddy.

“I have two little girls, and I don’t have time to be your Daddy,” he told her. “But if I ever wanted to be a dog Daddy, you’d be my first choice.”

Ashok was broken-hearted. She might be Duane’s first choice, but he still wasn’t her Daddy. She was no better off than when she started hiking.

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She walked over to Kirk and told him her story about wanting to find her Daddy. She was so sad. Kirk petted her and hugged her, but she knew he wasn’t her Daddy either. She could just tell that he was a good friend to have, but he didn’t feel like her Daddy.

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Ashok hiked with Kirk back to camp, and she felt much better. Even though she hadn’t found her Daddy, she’d found a good friend who made the world’s best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. That was something!

She went to bed that night and thought about where she might find her Daddy. She only had one more day to the hiking trip. Surely she would find him tomorrow. Her Daddy had to be a hiker!

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It was cold the next morning, and Ashok put on her favorite pink and black fleece camping jacket. If she met her Daddy today, he’d think she was beautiful. After breakfast, Blake came over to pet her.

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Last night he picked her up and put her in his lap. Nobody ever picks her up and does that! Ashok weighs 40 pounds. She’s too big to be a lap dog…. but not for Blake!

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When Blake was petting her, she could feel herself getting very sleepy. She started daydreaming about Blake being her Daddy. She knew he couldn’t be. He wasn’t old enough to be her Daddy. Besides he was another dog’s Daddy. But, what a beautiful world it would be if Blake would be her Daddy.

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Ashok was very sad on the way home. She hadn’t found her Daddy on the hiking trip. She had a great time running in the woods and taking treats from everybody. It was the perfect weekend for her. She fell asleep and dreamed about all of the hiking trips, kayaking trips and fun things she’d done since she found her Mommy all those years ago.

When she woke up from her nap, she felt ….. happy. She was really, really happy. How could that be? She still hadn’t found her Daddy but something had happened while she was dreaming.

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Ashok realized that while it would be great to have a Daddy, a Daddy isn’t the best thing in the world. After all, a Daddy will sometimes have to go to work and spend time with women and get angry because she ate his dinner. Having a Daddy would be great, but it wouldn’t always be perfect.

While she’d love to have a Daddy, what she really wanted was a family. And she had a family! In fact, she had lots of family. When one person was busy, another one could pay attention to her. A family was so much better than just a Daddy!

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Ashok was so happy! All of the pictures of her family started going through her mind. It made her smile just to think about all of the family she had. She couldn’t wait to tell her Mommy!

 

Evolution of a Backpacker

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As an Instructional Designer, I am an expert in making learning effective. I wouldn’t say I’m perfect at it, but I’m better than your average Joe. So, I had dinner with my backpacking teacher and new friend, Katherine, a couple of weeks ago to discuss some improvements she could make to the Backpacking 101 course I took last fall. It is an amazing course, and she teaches all of the skills that you need to get started, so the only suggestion I had was about organization and building in some excitement around backpacking. After all, we all paid $190 to learn to how to do it. We really need to be chomping at the bit to hit the woods after we’re done.

She readily agreed, and like every good teacher I know, she turned it around and asked me to come talk about my experience. I said yes because I can’t get enough of talking about backpacking since I started, and tonight is the big night! The last week I’ve been noodling what I would tell a group of eager young (or old) novice wanna-be backpackers about my experience.

Don’t worry about the cost of the gear! That was my biggest worry. I kept adding up all of this gear and really wondering if I could afford this hobby. But, you can always borrow gear.

It’s much more social than you imagine. I thought of backpacking as a solo journey, and I guess it can be, but my social life has become over-the-top busy since I started. And I have a whole new community of friends that appeared like magic.

Katherine will prepare you well enough to do it. I was a little worried about whether or not the class would get me ready, and my trip with JoAnn and Carryn proved that she prepared us well enough to get out and backpack on our own. Now, we’re not ready for winter backpacking in Yosemite with grizzly bears, but we’re ready enough to enjoy the sport.

It is a skill, and you must schedule some trips and get over your fear. I knew when I got finished I’d better get out and practice my skills or I’d forget them or become afraid that I’d forgotten them. I get more confident and am more prepared every time I go out.

It is an A+ stress-reliever. I love the rhythm of the day with backpacking. I never really thought it would feel like it does. But, you really get down to the bare bones of survival, and every day is the same sort of routine. Get up and get the food … cook breakfast and have coffee … break camp … hike … find a campsite …. gather water …. build a fire …. pitch your tent …. cook dinner …. hang the food. It’s so relaxing to be unplugged from electronics and the rest of the world. And, of course, you’re getting exercise and fresh air to boot! Stress be gone….

But I don’t want to just talk to them. I know a picture paints a thousand words. So, I put together a slideshow I call Evolution of a Backpacker. It highlights the class, our class backpacking weekend at Chicot and my first trip without the teacher on the Wild Azalea Trail. I’ll love to return to it when I become an old seasoned backpacker and forget how happy I was to start. There’s nothing but smiles here, and I cried a little watching it because it brought up such happy memories.

My friend JoAnn says it best, “I can’t believe we just pick a spot in the woods and camp there.” It’s as easy as that but so much more. I don’t know how my backpacking partners feel but this midlife gal feels more empowered and confident than ever. I just wish that I didn’t have to work so I’d have more time to go! There are mountain ridges I must climb, and I’m anxious to get there. I just hope I make some more new backpacking friends in this class. In six weeks, they’ll be ready!

Meeting Jesus with Whiskey on My Breath

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This morning in my two-minute commute to work I was listening to the Bobby Bones show. He was playing “Whiskey on My Breath” by Love and Theft. I came in right in the middle of it. The refrain really grabbed my attention, and I sat in the car to listen to the rest before going into the building. After it was over, Bobby went on and on about how much he loved the song, and he kept playing the refrain over and over. I was glad he kept pushing redial.

Stephen and Eric, two of the Love and Theft band members, have personally experienced alcoholism in their families. You can read about it here. Eric decided to give up drinking as a result of family members drinking themselves to death. The song was written as a result of their own personal experience.

Alcoholism is a family disease. It spans generations and causes codependency among family members, an inability to connect at an intimate level, controlling behaviors and all kinds of psychological disorders. It doesn’t just affect the alcoholic. The damage continues for generations until somebody gets help…. and not only the alcoholic needs intervention. In fact, sometimes the most affected and dysfunctional ones are the family members. It’s sad and devastating to see lives wasted because of this disease – and it is a disease – when there is so much help available today. Denial helps nobody and harms everyone in its wake.

I came into the office and watched the music video. I remember those mornings waking up and wanting to stop the roller coaster caused by my drinking problem. I was a binge drinker – never a daily drinker – and I never drank in the mornings unless it was a social occasion. But, still, I knew where I was headed if I didn’t stop. I’d seen it all too often, and I was smart enough to realize early on that it would be harder to stop if I allowed it to continue. Blessedly, my first husband set a boundary, and I stepped up to the plate at age 26 and got help. The video shows this guy cleaning up and everybody has smiles on their faces, but it’s never that easy or quick. It is a lifelong process. But, OMG, is it ever worth it.

So, I’ll be looking up Love and Theft this morning and probably downloading some music. I’m also wishing that anyone who is waking up on this Monday knowing that they have to quit will take some inspiration from this music and this old gal. I know somebody must need it, or I wouldn’t be compelled to pen this. There is help available and there is abundant life without alcohol and drugs. It’s not easy but it’s a helluva lot easier than the path you are on. You can do this, but you can’t do it alone. I’m praying for you right now, and God must be on your side because he’s pressing my buttons this morning.

How to get help for alcoholism

If you are affected by a loved ones drinking, click here.

Whiskey on My Breath by Love and Theft

I woke up with a pounding head
With a bottle laying in the bed
There was a little, a little bit left
So I picked it up and I killed the rest

Oh I know I’m going to heaven
But I can’t go with me like this
I need to pull myself together
Before then
No and I ain’t afraid of dying
But what scares me to death
Is meeting Jesus
With whiskey on my breath.

I lost her and all my friends
Broke all but one of my Lord’s 10
But Jesus died for all my sins
That’s how I know I’m getting in

Oh I know I’m going to heaven
But I can’t go with me like this
I need to pull myself together
Before then
No and I ain’t afraid of dying
But what scares me to death
Is meeting Jesus
With whiskey on my breath

Oh I know I’m going to heaven
But I can’t go with me like this
I need to pull myself together
Before then
No and I ain’t afraid of dying
But what scares me to death
Is meeting Jesus
With whiskey on my breath
Is meeting Jesus
With whiskey on my breath