Sunday Night Check-In: Scattered Pictures … Scattered Brain

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My brain is scattered all over the place tonight. My weekend went by too fast. I spent a lot of time making myself busy so I didn’t have to feel or think. It didn’t necessarily work 100%, but it did work somewhat. Now, I’m left with an uncleaned house, a scattered brain and the Sunday night blues. I feel like this dog right now. It’s sometimes the little bitty problems in life that send me running for the covers.

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I did have some fun this weekend. I enjoyed exploring my Backpacker magazine. In fact, I finished one issue and started another today. The section on women and backpacking was particularly enlightening. I learned that one reason women cry more than men is that our tear ducts are smaller. 18% of women admitted to crying on a backpacking hike. I also learned that it is much safer to hike alone in the backcountry than it is to walk in a city at night by yourself. I suppose I knew that already, but it was good to have it reaffirmed. And women are more afraid of crime than men, but the reality is that men are much more likely to be victims of crime than women. Oh yeah… because women don’t take as many risks, they most often live when they are in a nature “rescue” situation. Men decide they can figure out what to do, and die more frequently because of their egos making bad decisions.

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I also found out that marketing adult novelties in Backpacker magazines has a pretty simple strategy. Strategy: Put a pack on a blonde gal with big boobs. (More evidence as to why more men make poor decisions. Poor focus.)

Me and my friend Pam.

Me and my friend Pam.

I did have some fun with friends this weekend. I met my old college friend Pam in Hammond, and we shopped and had a long, leisurely lunch. It was fun, and we had a chance to catch up on the last two years. We decided we definitely have to get together more often and even made some tentative efforts to plan some dates. I also got to have brunch with a new girlfriend and go condominium-hunting with another. I needed my gal pal time this weekend. My scattered brain really needed to rest somewhere, and my friends know how to be there for me. In that way, I was fed.

A treat this morning toward the end of my run.

A treat this morning toward the end of my run.

I happened to find out that “A Walk in the Woods” is being pre-screened in Baton Rouge tomorrow night as part of the Louisiana International Film Festival. I signed up and got tickets as quickly as I could. I’m not a member, so I’m not sure how this is going to work, but I’m really looking forward to seeing this movie. It looks hilarious, and I thought it was a serious book. Apparently, it’s a bit wacky. I really want to read it now. I’ve only been putting off reading it for about 15 years. I’m super-excited to be seeing this on a Monday night, especially when I’m not ready to go back to work tomorrow. It will give me something to look forward to when I get up tomorrow.

This morning’s run… down by the River and around the Capitol.

It’s all quiet here in the house. I think I’m going to head to bed early and read some more of the Backpacker magazines. They really are interesting, and the Hiking Club meeting is this week, too. I’ll get a big dose of vicarious hiking this week with the reading, the movie and the club meeting. It’s too hot again to hike anyway. The chill in the air has evaporated into the boiling sauna again. Please … please … please.... cool down soon.

The pics in the blog are some pics from a walk last night downtown and my run this morning. They’ve made a lovely little sitting space down on the levee by the river. If you are in Baton Rouge, you should grab a coffee and go sit down by the riverside. Watch the barge traffic go by. It’s a relaxing and beautiful way to start or end your day.

Peering Through a Glass-Bottomed Boat

I love taking up a new hobby. It’s fun to learn something new. I’m always up for learning a new skill. Every hobby has a community built around it that I find even more interesting than the activity itself. When I started running and subscribed to Runner’s World magazine, I found out how the running community worked, the topics that interested them such as proper protocol for doing #2 on a run and all of the different types of equipment that are available for running.  Now that community seems like my own, and I would be surprised if someone else thought we were strange. But, I remember being fascinated by it at first.

When I decided that I wanted to learn backpacking, I joined the Louisiana Hiking Club. I can tell they have their own little subculture that hikes all the time for fun. While the rest of the world spends their weekends at Target or at football games, these folks are up early and out in the woods. Then, they write and share emails detailing their adventures. This subculture overlaps with the paddling subculture, so, as I’m watching the club emails pass through my inbox, I’m getting to know those folks as well.

My friend Linda urged me to look up the podcast TrailSide Radio after I posted my blog about wanting to learn backpacking. I googled it and listened to the podcast show that featured a panel of serious backpackers rating trails, backpacking equipment and home-brewed beer – which is apparently shipped to them all over the country. They were funny. A trail hostel (I had no idea there was such a thing.) owner had died, and they memorialized him and his amazing hostel which they said “everybody” knows about. I thought it was fascinating to get a glimpse into this world which I had never seen before. It was like peering through a glass-bottomed boat into an unknown, unseen world.

Click here for TrailSide Radio.

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There’s another funny podcast called The Trail Show. It’s totally hilarious, and I don’t even know if I can describe it. You’ll just have to listen to it. Consider it your adventure for the weekend.

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I was having so much fun listening to these wacky, funny folks, I decided to subscribe to Backpacker Magazine. When I came home this evening, I found not one but three issues of Backpacker in my mailbox. Apparently, I got the August, September and October issues all at once. Oh well… I’ll have plenty to keep me busy over the weekend. I was thrilled to see an article on “Women and Backpacking” and not so enthusiastic over one that details which insects you can eat to survive. Hmmmm … this is going to be different than Psychology Today …. and even Runner’s World.

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I flipped through pages of ads for Backcountry Dog food – for dogs that love exploring – and Wilderness cat food. Apparently, even backpackers fall for pet food marketing that reflects their own interests. I was thrilled to see many trails in different parts of the country featured complete with directions to the trailhead, photos,  campsite locations and trail descriptions. That will be fun to explore. There was an article on how to care for your feet. It was NOT pedicure-related.  I now know how to lance a blister, toughen up my feet before a long hike and treat blood under a nail. Runner’s World might benefit from a reprint of that last tip. This magazine is not for sissies.

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Backpackers love their celebrities, too. A short interview with Nick Nolte and Bill Bryson about the upcoming movie A Walk in the Woods was featured in the front section. My hiking friend Susan in North Carolina gave me a copy of A Walk in the Woods to read a few weeks ago. I’m eager to see the movie now. I flipped another page and learned how difficult it is to start a fire without a match. Gratefully, they finished the article with detailed instructions on how to do it. So, now if I get lost, I can start a fire and cook up some insects for dinner. No problem. I got this.

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A pair of hikers got caught in a volcanic eruption in the Andes, and they wrote about their adventure for one of the long feature stories. The magazine highlighted ten of the best park rangers in the country in another feature-length piece. They are featuring National Parks that I didn’t even know existed. I think I’m going to learn a lot from this exploration. I’m starting to get overwhelmed with all of these places I need to go … and now want to hike. I’m going to have to quit my day job. Oh yeah.. and there’s a job board for women who want to work in the outdoors. You better believe I’ll be perusing that baby.

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So, I’m going to settle in and start peering through the glass-bottomed boat into the underground world of backpackers, hikers and adventurers. I’m not a part of it yet, but one day I may be. I know that running changed my life and brought me all kinds of amazing new experiences. I met really cool people and ran races in lovely cities all across this country. Could my feet bring me into another world through backpacking? Perhaps. Only time will tell. For now, I’ll let myself vicariously learn about an unexplored subculture that seems to be pretty wacky and adventurous. Tomorrow morning, I’ll get up and practice the new drills to help me balance when walking across a log. At least I won’t have to snack on bugs tonight.

The Next Right Thing

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I haven’t pinpointed the root of my feelings, but I woke up really sad this morning. It’s the kind of sadness where my whole body feels like it can’t breathe. I want to run back under the covers and close the blinds and pretend that tomorrow will never come. Oh, hell, I hope today doesn’t even happen, but as my clock ticks away, I see that 8:30 AM keeps getting closer and closer. I will – at some point soon – have to drag myself out of this house in an acceptable manner and show up at the office. But, right now, I have time to be in denial. I’ll take it.

I’m thinking of buying a condo here in Baton Rouge. My friend Alisa is going to show me some places this weekend. While a part of me is excited about finally committing to being here at least for the longer short-term, I’m afraid. There is the whole financial piece and the worry that it’s not the wisest thing to do right now. But, the bigger thing for me is whether I really want to stay in Baton Rouge. I REALLY miss the mountains. I hate having to drive 10 hours to get a dose. A part of me is wishing that I had the courage to just chuck it all and take a risk to go where I want to be, and a bigger part is too afraid to do something so risky. In a word, I feel trapped, confused, angry at myself, and just very, very sad.

I feel happy that I don’t live in a world anymore where I think that I have to DO something when I feel sad. I don’t need to make it go away. I don’t need to distract myself from it. I don’t need to force solutions. I actually think I was in this very place before I left Memphis, and I forced a solution. Now, I’m left with an even less desirable problem. But, I have to be gentle with myself and realize that, for whatever reason, I’m here, and this is my reality. To be honest, there are some very good things that have come from this move. And it certainly wasn’t as bad a decision as marrying my second husband. Things could be worse.

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In my meditation this morning, I asked God to give me some wisdom to help me understand what I’m going through right now. I pulled ‘Standstill’ from my bag of runes. Isa is the name of this rune. It means “ice” or “standstill” or “withdrawal”. It tells me that nothing good is going to come of plans made during this time. It also tells me not to trust others. I need to take care of myself and just wait. A part of me hates the thought that I need to wait before anything happens. But, another part of me is happy because I’m frankly feeling tired and burnt out right now. Besides, I’m too busy watching my IRA plummet. That’s another area where I need to just wait.

In my journey of personal growth, I’ve learned to stop worrying about huge jumps and leaps and just do the next right thing. That … as opposed to finding a new job across the country, making all new friends and being happily ever after … feels doable this morning. I think I’ll just do that.

Rock Bottom by Glennon Doyle Melton from SALT Project on Vimeo.

It’s National Dog Day! What’s There to Celebrate?

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This morning at 5:30 AM I passed another dog owner walking his dogs. “It’s National Dog Day!” I yelled across the street at him. He chuckled, and I ran on. It was 62 degrees this morning, and I enjoyed my run immensely. Even Ashok seemed to be pretty happy with running in the less humid air. On these first days when the humidity dies down, she jumps and bites the air when she walks outside.

I wasn’t born a dog person. I’m a cat person. But, I’ve learned to be a dog person. When I have friends come to stay with me that are dog people, Ashok is noticeably different. She cuddles and jumps in their lap. I always look at them and wonder why she’s not like that with me, but I know that she’s not like that with me because I’m not like that with her. The most amazing thing about her is that she reads people so much better than I can.

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A few years ago in Memphis, I was sitting in the waiting room with my friend Elizabeth who also had an appointment with my acupuncturist that night. Ashok always came with me to acupuncture because Marlene is a dog person, and she loved seeing Ashok. Marlene walked in, and Ashok immediately jumped up and was pouncing on her. Marlene bent down and was tussling with her and talking in that ‘doggy’ high-pitched voice. While this excitement was going on, and Ashok was uncharacteristically going nuts, a patient walked out of the treatment room.

She turned toward the chairs, and Ashok ran over there to her. About the time she got there, I noticed that the woman was moving very slowly – as if she was hurt or very, very old. I was afraid that Ashok would pounce on her since she was in that state of excitement that she gets around dog people. The woman reached her hand ever so slowly toward Ashok’s nose, and Ashok immediately sat quietly and did not move. She let the woman touch her, and she never once moved. I looked at Elizabeth and said, “Did you see that?” She said, “Wow. That was amazing.”

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It’s moments like those when I’m most happy I have a dog. She does the same thing when a throng of kids comes up to pet her. No matter how excited and crazy they are – pulling her tail and ears – she sits and lets them do whatever they want to her. It’s so cute. She’s not the same with other dogs, though. She turns into Cujo. She will get used to them given a little time, but it’s one of the things I hate about having this dog – her reaction to other dogs. I guess it comes from her being a rescue and being in a single dog household, but it drives me crazy.

Things I’ve learned by having a dog:

  • The world is made for groups of people. When I travel in the summer, I can’t leave her in the car. It’s too hot. Rest areas don’t allow dogs in the rest rooms. I often wonder what they expect me to do. The same goes with campgrounds. I can’t leave her alone at the campsite, but I can’t take her in the restroom. I’m in a Catch-22.
  • Virtually anything is edible – if you want it to be.
  • There is nothing on this earth more exciting than food.
  • A dog’s life is way too short. It seems like the ‘sweet spot’ between puppy mayhem and old age lasts only minutes.
  • Running and walking are rituals that create the strongest bonds between humans and dogs according to the Dog Whisperer. Having a dog makes me get out and exercise whether I want to or not. Just seeing her jump up and down when I ask, “Do you want to go for a run?” is enough to make me want to lace up my shoes and go.
  • Veterinary care is very expensive.
  • A dog sees its human as its Higher Power. She is much more comfortable when I’m running things and in charge of what we are doing. Obedience training was a miracle in teaching me how to be a dog owner. It’s not DOG training.
  • Dogs dream. I see her twitching and little barks or yelps come out of her mouth. I often wonder if she’s being chased or having a good time.
  • A dog can be a pain in the bohunkus and the best gift in the world at the same time. As a single dog owner, much of my life revolves around things I can do with my dog. I made a commitment to her. Sometimes I want to be free of the commitment, but I love the fact that I have a companion that will do almost anything with me gladly. She loves to kayak, hike, run, meet new people and eat vegetables. If I was a different person and liked different things, I think she’d like those things instead.
  • I’ve learned most of all that dogs are here to serve their masters. Momma said one time she sat in the back seat of their truck with their dog, Prissy, and she was curious what she did when they were riding. Prissy stared at Daddy the entire time. Ashok stares at me all the time. She is wired to be loyal to me. I have to trick her at the kennel when I’m leaving her. I walk to door as if I’m going with her, and tell her “Yes, I am going to trick you.” The kennel I go to has a glass door where I can see her after she goes through. She turns her head and stares at me all the way back. It breaks my heart every time.

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I actually don’t think I’ll ever get another dog. I got Ashok for protection and as a companion for running and camping. But, I may be wrong. Who knows what I’ll feel like after she’s gone, and I no longer have that sweet face looking up to me. I had one dog before her. His name was Arf. Arf was more devoted to himself than me, but I took him everywhere. He was a pocket dog – a Pomeranian, and he was adorable. He also had a horrible problem eating shoes. He ate my shoes, my husband’s shoes, our guest’s shoes… he never outgrew it.

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So, today, I’ll celebrate National Dog Day and celebrate both of my dogs. I hope you’ll celebrate yours in some way. And, if you don’t have one – well, go get one. It might change who you are.

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National Cat Day is October 29.

Monday Blues, National Dog Day and Dog Days of Summer

There’s nothing worse than a Monday unless it’s a Monday when you have to go the gynecologist, too. And unless it’s so hot that at 6 PM the “feels like” is 104 degrees. It was that kind of Monday today. So, I did what all good gals should do when they want to make themselves feel better. I stopped for ice cream.

FullSizeRender-1 It wasn’t just any ice cream. I thought and thought about what would be a real treat for me. I haven’t had ice cream since … sincewell, I did have ice cream on vacation, but that was vacation. So, I haven’t had ice cream in BATON ROUGE in a very long time. All of a sudden I remembered that Cold Stone Creamery was over by Whole Foods. Num Num Num Num…. I dodged all kinds of traffic to get there.

“What size do you want?” said the young man behind the counter.

I said, “What do you have?”

He showed me each cup in every-increasing size and ended up with the big kahuna, the Gotta Have It size.

“How much is that one?” I asked. My eyes were bulging out at the thought of that much coffee ice cream with roasted almonds, caramel and Heath bar chunks.

“$4.99,” he informed me. Hell, that’s about the same as a coffee at Starbucks.

“I want that one,” I answered, and it was done.

I took it outside to a bench under a tree where it was quiet, and I could focus on my initiative. It began to melt around the edges. The top of the ice cream liquefied and got soft. I took my spoon and dragged it over the top and sides of the creamy dreaminess and scooped up yummy melted coffee ice cream laced with caramel. Then I grabbed a dip of crunchy almonds and Heath bar bites laced with creamy cold coffee ice cream. Yummmmmm …. it was so good. How could I eat that much? I did. I ate every last bite and sucked the last of the creamy leftovers out of the container. If Whole Foods would have blown up, I don’t think I would have noticed. I was entranced in my sugary quest to bliss.

Take that, Monday.

I almost forgot that Wednesday is National Dog Day! I found out about it last week. The website has some great ways to celebrate National Dog Day. I’ve found a few that might interest me. You don’t even have to have a canine companion to participate!

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 7.43.36 PMClick here for ways to celebrate.

I want a holistic spa treatment!!

I want a holistic spa treatment!!

Given my indulgence this afternoon, today became a rest day, exercise-wise. I ran 8 miles yesterday and walked for 45 minutes this morning, so it’s ok. I probably need to rest. I have a choice to run Tuesday and Thursday this week or Wednesday and Friday. I took a look at the weather forecast. It will be 77 degrees tomorrow morning when I get up. It will be 66 degrees Wednesday morning when I arise. Wednesday and Friday it is! I’ll do my TRX workout in the morning when I get up. I’ll be in the air conditioning.

It’s so hot outside, I have my own beach umbrellas growing!

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Bella is already getting started on her TRX program!

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I just started working out with a TRX trainer at home. I used to go to classes in Memphis, but I can’t find any here in Baton Rouge. It is the BEST workout. Runner’s World reminded me the other day that it’s the best core workout around, and I immediately bought a trainer for myself. I thought I would die the first time I used it, but I’m getting stronger each time. This workout works, and all I have to do is keep watching this video of smoking hot Drew Brees using it to keep me motivated.

I want that core!!! And that ass!! And those biceps!!

Happy National Dog Day, y’all. And eat some ice cream and exercise. They are both good for what ails you.

Sunday Night Check-In: Settling Back In

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At around noon today, I finally packed the tent away. It was raining when I broke camp last Sunday, so I just threw it in a garbage bag so I could dry it when I got home. We’ve had day after day of rain, so it didn’t dry out. I walked out and checked today at noon, and it was dry as a bone. I had a little sadness that the last piece of the puzzle was put away. Vacation is now just a memory.

I had a lazy Friday night. I met a new fellow – just a friend – at Magpie for coffee. We had a nice chat, and I was home early enough to walk Ashok and get to bed. Saturday was productive with a capital P. My trip to the WWII Museum in New Orleans didn’t materialize, so I got the inspection sticker on my car, bought groceries and stocked up on my Devacurl Products. I had some cold brew at Starbucks, and they must have made it really strong because I was wired for sound! In fact, I didn’t even feel really well I was so hyped up.

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I had the thought that I should start down-sizing a bit. If I do indeed move later this year, why move all of this stuff that I don’t use anymore? So, I filled up Pursy with stuff from my kitchen that was no longer useful to me and hauled it to Goodwill. It felt awesome to unload all of that stuff. I celebrated by cooking roasted vegetables and making homemade coconut milk. I had a delicious dinner, practiced Yoga Nidra, read a chapter of Finding Your Own North Star, and went to bed early. I had a long run to do this morning, and I didn’t want to be tired.

I got up around 4:45 AM this morning and went for my long run. I missed it last week being on vacation, but I did lots of hiking. Still, I had to do a 6.5 mile long run, and I didn’t do it. I initially thought I’d do the 6.5, and I’d just be behind a week. But, it was fairly nice outside, and I felt pretty good a couple of miles into it, so I thought I’d try to do the 8 miles originally planned. I ran from my house to the LSU Lakes and then circled a lake before turning around and running the same route back.

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I saw that fox over by the lakes that I saw last year. It makes me really sad to see a wild animal with such a small territory. I watched where he entered the woods through a gate, and there is a small section of forest on the banks of the lake. A sign says LSU Blvd. Wildlife Refuge. I looked it up but can’t find anything on it. It hardly looks large enough to support wildlife with food and space, so no wonder the fox runs about the neighborhood. I fantasized about getting my brother to help me catch it and take it somewhere where it can really live a fox’s life. I guess it’s one of those things I just have to feel sad about. I just feel sorry for that fox.

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After I got home, I decided to get a latte at Starbucks and sit outside with Ashok to color in my coloring books. I bought them awhile back, took them to North Carolina, but I haven’t cracked them open. If I’m at home, I have too much other stuff I have to do. So, we sat outside, and I colored while she greeted everybody that came up. The manager came up and chatted with me. She said she wanted to find my blog again. I had blogged about them once a long time ago, and she said the blog got passed around all over their district offices, but she had lost the address. She wants to follow it. So, I gave her the name to google. The heat finally drove me home.

I cooked lunch and laid down for a two hour nap that turned into a three hour nap, but I feel much better now. I have food in the fridge for the week, I”m caught up on my half-marathon training, I have my monthly facial appointment with Lisa Tuesday, and August is almost over. I’m beginning to think about what’s going to happen when my lease is up, and I may try to buy a townhouse here in Baton Rouge. I was talking to my friend Nancy tonight, and I need to make a commitment. I’m making a lot more friends, my schedule is staying full, and I’m learning how to work with the heat. While a part of me wants to move to cooler climes, something is telling me to stay put for right now. At the moment, I think I’ll listen. That being said, the beauty of being an ENFP is that tomorrow may look entirely different to me. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Have a great week, y’all!

Ahhhhhh ….Click Here for Something Positive :)

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I am sitting outside at Starbucks on Highland waiting for a party that I suspect will not show. One of the irritating things about Meetup Groups is that people RSVP and don’t show, or they show up and don’t RSVP. So, you never really know if the event is going to happen and how many you need to expect. Today, it’s not a big deal. I’m pretty exhausted. I got home late Monday night and have been working ever since. I did take a little comp time yesterday afternoon, but I really need to spend some time around home.. and a nap would be sooooooo sweet.

Amazingly, ever since I returned, the weather here has been unseasonably cool … or maybe it’s just unseasonably dry. But, it has been raining a lot, so I don’t know if it’s dry. Whatever … I’ve been comfortable in a month where I expected to swelter and sweat and be downright miserable. I am a very grateful gal this morning as I sit outside on a beautiful sunny morning with my Starbucks cold brew.

I find myself once again in a budget crunch. My unexpected, unplanned vacation was budget-friendly but certainly impactful. The stock market took a plunge, and my IRA looks like somebody lopped off a handful just because. It took my breath away when I saw my statement, but then I remembered that it’s normal for it to ebb and flow, and I just have to trust the Universe and not the stock market for my sustainability. It offered up this weather, didn’t it? If a beautiful morning can happen in South Louisiana in August, anything is possible.

I’m finding myself unfollowing a lot of people on Facebook at the moment. The presidential election is hopping up, and people are acting like anti-social morons. I totally respect each person’s right to their opinion, but I don’t respect mud-slinging, name-calling and general rudeness. Where I used to block people so I wouldn’t see their stuff, I now can “unfollow” and am doing so generously. I don’t want to see that ugly side of you, thank you very much. It can very quickly lead to me not wanting to see you period because I think you are a jerk. I’d rather continue to see you in a more favorable light. So, don’t get insulted. It’s in your best interest if you want me for a friend.

I received my Southeastern season football tickets yesterday. Along with this fall-like weather, I’m looking forward to fall. I know it’s not quite over yet, but I think the worst of the worst is behind me, and I have a full 9-10 months where I can revel in normal temperatures. That stretch of cooler months before me makes me smile on the inside as well as on the outside. I was in Marshall’s Thursday, and there were boots and sweaters on the racks. I’m not buying yet, but it was nice to dream. Ahhhhhhh …. yes…. life is good. I made it!!! It’s amazing what a few degrees sliding downward does for my soul…. not to mention my hair! Lion up!

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 8.14.21 AMMy friend Sandra posted a video this morning about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. I’ve never been to Yellowstone. It’s on my short list of places to visit. When I get free of work, I’ll definitely be one of those who goes to live out there and work. My friend Karen did it numerous times, and it’ll definitely be part of my plan. When I first saw Sandra’s link, I didn’t want to click on it. The pic was one of those teasers where you don’t know if this is going to be awful or good. In my frame of mind this morning, I don’t want to hear anything negative. I clicked on it anyway, and I was delighted to read about the amazing difference that wolves – and their killing of deer – has made on the environment. It’s a perfect example of the difference one species can make on the world. And, it’s also an example of the good that man can do if we focus on the right things. I know a lot of people think we ought to just use the world’s resources for our own good, but I want to leave the world at least as good as I found it. I hope this brings a smile to your face, too. And, if it doesn’t, please find something today to make you smile. You are worth it. At least for me, today is a happy day.

Tell Me Somethin Good … Woohoo… Tell Me That You Like It

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I hadn’t planned on taking a vacation in August. I had decided to wait until fall, my favorite season of the year, to head out and enjoy nature. I had several big projects at work that had just kicked off, and I didn’t think I could pull off anything until mid-September anyway. But, I had an astounding week at work a few weeks ago, and all of my projects got put on the fast track. All of a sudden, I got the itch .. and it seemed like permission … to get the hell out of Dodge.

I had no idea if I could pull it together enough to get out of town in a week, but I said a little prayer and told God I was open. If He thought I should get out of town then please help me grease the skids. If not, I’ll wait to September. I let go of the outcome and just tried to see what might happen. Everything … I mean everything … miraculously fell into place. When I saw the projected temps down here for the week I was going to be gone, I had to chuckle. He was taking me out of ‘hell week” down here. He does have a sense of humor.

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On my drive up and back, I had time to listen to several speaker tapes. One of the ones I heard yesterday was about living in the ‘now’, and the next one I heard was about giving up resistance and just following God’s lead. As I listened to one speaker talk about letting go and dealing with what was in front of him instead of trying to make something happen, I thought about my vacation. Since I went on the spur of the moment, I had nothing planned. I decided that this thing fell into my lap, so I was going to just let it unfold the way it was supposed to. Last year’s vacation was okay, but I was not in a good place, and I didn’t really want a repeat of last year. I decided to let the Universe be my tour guide and see what showed up. I could not have planned anything better than the week I experienced. It was perfect for me.

This morning, I want to step back into that feeling and just trust that whatever is supposed to show up for me today will show up. My morning reading in The Language of Letting Go was about valuing the moment.

To trust the process, to trust all of it, without hanging on to the past or peering too far into the future, requires a great deal of faith. Surrender to the moment. If you’re feeling angry, get mad. If you’re setting a boundary, dive into that. If you’re grieving, grieve. Get into it. Step where instinct leads. If you’re waiting, wait. If you have a task, throw yourself into the work. Get into the moment; the moment is right.

~~ Melody Beattie in The Language of Letting Go – August 18

For some reason, when I was meditating on this, the refrain “Tell me something good” sang itself into my mind. It was so catchy that I actually starting singing it aloud much to Ashok’s surprise. It didn’t come from me; I’m not even all that enamored with that song. So, I looked up the lyrics. I couldn’t understand what that song had to do with anything until I realized that God was singing this to me. It’s a perfect message from Him. And, yes, God … I like it, and I love you. Thank you for thinking of me this morning. You certainly know how to get a gal’s attention.

Party’s Over… Back – to – Reality Time

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Well, the party’s over. :(

I made the bulk of the drive today and pulled into my driveway around 8 PM. It was a balmy 90 degrees. The worst part about camping is unpacking all of that stuff. I keep thinking that one day I’m going to “rough it” and not bring so much stuff, but I never do. I always bring way too much food. I can’t seem to count how many meals I’m going to cook and do the math on what to bring. I could have stayed another month comfortably with all that I had to unpack. I wore almost all of the clothes I brought, though. I even wore some hiking clothes two days in a row. I wasn’t bathing, so who cares if my clothes are dirty, too.

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My friend Dan reminded me to save some unpacking for tomorrow, so I gave it up and cooked a veggie omelet, my favorite comfort food. Buster is reading me the riot act, although he stopped for a moment when I gave him a saucer of milk. Bella is taking her usual stand that she’s going to ignore me so I know that she didn’t even know or care that I was gone. Ashok is trying to adapt to sharing me, and she doesn’t seem too happy about it. She’s also going on a post-vacation diet. On the road, she got some of everything I ate, and it’s really not good for her. It’s back to regular dog food fare with the occasional treat. Party’s over for her, too.

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It’s time to put the post-vacation back-to-reality transition plan in place. There’s no getting around going back to work tomorrow, but I can ease myself back into the flow without getting too depressed. Tomorrow evening I will go do something fun and out of the ordinary to remind myself that I can take mini-vacations right here at home. I also bought one souvenir to help remind me of the cooler climes of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I’ll plan on having my hot drink in the mornings out of this mug. I can reflect on hiking the Boone Fork and Tanawha Trails before heading out for the day. Maybe I’ll even go back and read some of my blogs. I’m finding they are a great digital scrapbook for me. It’s an unexpected dividend of my writing. My friends Susan and Gordon in Asheville gave me Bill Bryson’s book “A Walk in the Woods.” I’ll start reading that right away – maybe even tonight. I’ve heard his retelling of hiking the Appalachian Trail is fabulous.

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My new friends in Asheville also told me about a conference in Maine for the Appalachian Trail every other year. I think I’ll do a little research and see if that might be something for me to plan for 2017. My backpacking class starts in October, so that’s right around the corner, too. I believe I may have some exciting hiking trips in front of me with the hiking club right here in Louisiana. I’m looking forward to meeting some new hiking friends and exploring some Louisiana trails… when it’s cooler, of course.

I have a lot to think about and process from my trip. For now, I’m curled up on my chaise lounge in my pretty little house with Buster curled up in my lap and Ashok by my side. I’m home. I had a great trip. I made lots of memories. I met some great people and hung out with some old friends. I faced my fears about getting out and exploring North Carolina on my own, and I survived with flying colors. As far as I’m concerned, I get an A++ on this trip. Now, let’s please hurry up and get into fall.

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The Tanawha Trail: Cows, Feathers and Wildflowers

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For our final day of vacation, I wanted to take a pretty long hike and meander and relax for a bit. We’d had to rush through the Boone Fork Trail because of the approaching darkness, so I decided to start out first thing Saturday morning on the Tanawha Trail that ended in our campground. Besides, rain was forecast for the afternoon, and I hoped to get back before it started.

Ashok and I set out about 8 AM and ascended to the meadow that we had hiked the Friday. It was here that we’d pick up the trail and head out to unseen wilderness. I had more than a few blackberries on the way out as no other hikers had picked the best ones nearest the trail. The purple and white wildflowers attracted bees and butterflies, and the field was abuzz.  At the edge of that meadow, the trail crossed a gravel road. There was a couple looking at a sign, and they asked me where they were. I looked at their map and showed them our location. We had a good laugh at the number of cars that GPS was sending to this particular spot in the middle of nowhere.

Earlier in the week, I had plugged in Mt. Pisgah in my GPS, and it led me on a wild goose chase that took me an 1 1/2  hours to unwind. I ended up on a gravel road surrounded by hillbilly houses flying confederate flags. A large sign warned me that this was a private road, and it was NOT the way to Mt. Pisgah. I surmised that I wasn’t the only one that had been led astray, and I wondered what had happened to the others. As soon as I started hearing banjos, I turned around and got my curly-haired ass out of there. I learned real quick not to follow GPS in the mountains.

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After leaving the lost couple, I found the trail marker which led me through a gate into a cattle pasture. A sign warned not to let Ashok run the cows. I learned real early this week not to let her off leash. She caught sight of a deer, and, if I had not had her leashed, I know her and that deer would have ended up on the other side of North Carolina. She was chomping at the bit.

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About midway through the pasture, I saw this beautiful little stand of trees. It reminded me of a place where Captain Call and Gus might camp for the night, and I sat on a big boulder in the shade and read for awhile. It was one of those moments that I’ll never forget. Ashok was laying peacefully at my feet, the sun was shining, and a soft breeze was blowing. It was perfect. I even read aloud to her for a bit. After about 30 minutes, I packed up and spotted an apple tree nearby. We each chomped on an apple fresh-picked from the tree before making our way. I took advantage of what was in front of me. And this time it was apples.

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The trail then led through a beautiful, peaceful forest. As we turned a corner, a couple of wild turkeys and about 5 baby turkeys took off running for cover. The path lead to another meadow and then we got stopped by some very large cows that were blocking the path. Ashok barked at them, and I told them to move. I was a little worried about what to do if one of them charged me. I don’t know anything about cows, and wouldn’t that be a great ending to my story to be killed by a maniac cow? The just rambled on down the trail and went into the woods to let us pass.

The last part of the trail was a rhododendron thicket with several little creekbeds running through it. Ashok had several drinks of water, and I stopped to eat a Nutella sandwich. The section of the trail we were hiking ended at Cold Prong Pond which was a big disappointment. There was no pond, and the trail was not maintained very well. It got so brushy that we couldn’t pass, so we just turned around and made our way back.

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We got back to the campsite about 30 minutes before the rains started. I headed into Boone to take my first shower in 3 days and got a burger as the rains continued to fall. It rained into the night. I spent my last night sitting in the tent finishing “Wild.” I had started the book about Chery Strayed’s journey on the Pacific Coast Trail on Sunday. I’d rather read at night when camping than sit out by a campfire, so every night after I’d hiked during the day, I’d read about Cheryl’s hike. Each day when I hiked, I’d think about her experience and compare my thoughts and experiences with hers. It was cool that my adventure was ending just as I was finishing reading about hers. As I sat in the tent with rain pouring down, she was hiking across Oregon with the rain pouring down on her.

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All week I felt like I had a kindred spirit in Cheryl. Her hiking inspired me to get out and enjoy the day and the moment – one footstep after another. I love the momentum of hiking. There’s a path in front of me, and I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, trusting its lead. It’s meditative, and it’s soothing. I move forward, and the scenery slowly changes. I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel very spiritually connected.  My heart cracks wide open, and I am filled with gratitude and the knowing that God cares for me as much as He did for this beautiful creation.

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Cheryl talks about ‘trail magic’, and I certainly felt like I experienced it on my hikes this week. On the Tanawha Trail, I discovered a feather in the middle of the trail. The trail marker for this trail is a white feather. I put it in my pack as a remembrance. Little surprises like the apple tree and the sweet blackberries and the turkeys made me smile all week long. The hiking made me happy. I’m on my way home now, and it’s back to work tomorrow. But, I feel like my soul is refreshed. I met some new friends, reconnected with some old friends and explored a lot of new territory. I told one of my friends that I was sad that my adventure was over. He urged me to start a new one tomorrow. Okay… I think I will. Just follow the trail … one footstep after another.