Homeward Bound

 

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It’s finally here!! I’m making my first journey home from St. Joe. I booked my flight awhile back. You know I’m not going to Baton Rouge after it gets too hot, and with this warm winter, that’s next week. So I found a cheap flight from O’Hare to New Orleans, and the day has finally arrived.

I could pay about $300 more and fly out of South Bend which is much closer, but that’s a flight that always stops in Atlanta. Every single time I’ve flown from South Bend to Louisiana, it’s been a 12-hour travel day. Delays, weather, the big flood in Louisiana and even a detour through Charlotte have plagued all of those flights. It’s worth it to take more time on the ground and travel to Chicago for a nonstop trip. Besides, they have better snacks here!

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So, I left the other side of the lake this afternoon and boarded a bus in Indiana headed for O’Hare. The driver was so nice, and the bus wasn’t crowded at all. While she fought Chicago Friday afternoon traffic, I texted my sister, ate some nuts from Starbucks and read the New York Times. It was a stellar way to get to the airport, and the parking was free at the bus stop. By the time I would have paid $20 a day to park at O’Hare, the bus ticket was a wash.

It’s been awhile since I’ve flown, and I’ve flown out of small airports the last few years. I checked in for my flight on my phone on the bus and purchased my pass to check a bag. When I got off the bus, I just walked over to a kiosk where I printed my own bag tag, slapped it on my bag and handed it to the counter guy. It all took about 2 minutes. They gave me a pass on the TSA check, and I sauntered right through security without stopping. It was so easy!

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I arrived at the gate and immediately got an email that my flight was delayed but, at this point, I’ll only arrive 30 minutes late. As easy as this trip has been, I’ll not complain. I’m sitting at a Starbucks now trying to decide if I want to grab a healthy snack. I didn’t eat dinner, so I’ve been snacking on fruit and nuts. And I get to spend the night at Michael’s house. Yay!

As far as my sugar journey, I messed up today. It was an accident, but I ate some sugar at lunch. I didn’t realize sloppy joe meat had sugar in the sauce. Of course, I don’t know how much, but I looked up a generic sloppy joe nutrition guide, and it said 32 g. That’s about 2 teaspoons of sugar. I could tell immediately after I ate it. I got a little light-headed, and I did not feel good. After a week of feeling grounded and stable, I was disappointed that I was feeling this way. I learned a lesson. I’ll be more careful next time. It happens, right?

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I’ll give you a breakdown on the last few days:

Energy: My energy has been great and very steady. I haven’t gotten much sleep the last few nights, and, even with that, I have felt good. After 5 hours of sleep night before last, I still had enough energy to workout yesterday.

Sleep: I haven’t gotten good sleep the last couple nights but it’s not because of sugar. I drove to a hiking club meeting an hour and a half away Wednesday, and I was too wired to sleep as I got home at 10:30 PM. Last night I was up packing and running around the house and was again too wired to sleep. I imagine tonight will be a re-run, but tomorrow night I can catch up!

Brain Fogginess: My brain was really messed up after eating sugar at lunch today. Before that, I’ve had good mental days and got a lot done at work.

Mood: I have been a bit on edge, but I think it’s the lack of sleep that’s doing that. We’ll see.

Bodily functions: I’ll add this tonight and won’t mention it again. When I don’t eat sugar, I don’t wake up to pee in the middle of the night. And, on top of everything else, I become much more regular (if you know what I mean). I won’t post any pics on this!

Hunger: Yesterday, I didn’t get hungry at all. I remember the last time I got off sugar, I realized that my hungriness is part of the sugar cycle. Hunger – when my body is clean of sugar – feels different, and it’s not so insistent. I can just say “Hmmmm …. I’m hungry,” and I don’t even feel compelled to eat right away.

At any rate, I’m back on track with no sugar. I may even start my 30-day clock over. I’ve got a busy weekend. I’ll be in touch.

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Ashok even found a boyfriend at the petsitter!

 

 

 

 

 

Natural High

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After I posted last night, my friend Ann from NOLA said she was in the process of quitting sugar, too. My former boss commented that he and his wife are doing Whole 30 right now. In that one, you only eat whole foods which means ALL the good stuff – booze, sugar, grains, dairy and legumes – is out the door. I salute them on that challenge. That’s a whole new level of discipline. One of my coworkers at Whirlpool did it in January. The other day I asked him if he kept any of the habits. “I still eat,” he said.

I’m so lucky that my friend Ann here and my sister are both trying to make positive changes in their eating habits and lifestyles, so we are all supporting each other in the journey. Last night, Ann and I chose a restaurant that would make it easy to make good choices and then took a long walk. Today was a gorgeous sunny day, so I texted her again and asked her if she wanted to join me for the sunset and another walk.

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We chatted enthusiastically about our new eating plans and how much better we felt and even laughed about our day’s temptations. But I’m happy to say we both got another 24 hours under our belt and even exercised to boot. I feel so good when I’m eating right and exercising, but it’s so hard to keep on keeping on. It really is a “one day at a time” gig, and the challenge is always to keep dusting yourself off and starting over. It’s like ice skating. The first thing they taught me in my lessons was how to get back up. “If you are going to learn to ice skate, you are going to fall,” Mindy said. Falling is not a matter of if …. it’s a matter of when.

The sunset on Lake Michigan was amazing but fleeting tonight. And the cool breeze, lovely river and great company put me on a natural high. Who needs sugar when there is such sweetness in life? At least for today, not me.

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Here are the sugar stats for today:

Energy: The slump after lunch disappeared today. My energy stayed pretty steady from the time I got up until now. I’m actually not even beginning to feel sleepy yet, and that’s unusual. When I’m eating sugar, I’m usually exhausted by the end of my workday. But tonight I was totally energized. I did yoga and went for a walk without any resistance.

Sleep: I slept all night last night. When I woke up, it was 10 minutes prior to my alarm set time. I felt rested and didn’t even really need a caffeine boost right away. (I had one anyway, but I could have done without it.)

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Cravings: I had some bad cravings this afternoon around 2:30. I am tracking on Weight Watchers, so I decided that I was going to learn something and make a better choice this time. I took my phone so I could use the barcode scanner and went to the little convenience store downstairs. I checked items for sugar first and realized I’d have to go savory. Even somewhat healthy-looking snacks had sugar. I found a bag of jalapeno tortilla chips that didn’t have sugar. They were baked, so they were low points when I scanned them. I ate them, and they were actually delicious. I felt like a rock star. I navigated that with ease.

Mood: I was grumpy when I got to work this morning. I was irritated by every little thing, and I finally realized it. I’m sure it was the lack of sugar. It always makes me more irritable. I had some green tea and that seemed to help my mood.

Brain Fogginess: No difference from yesterday. I was pretty clear-headed.

Joint Pain: I did yoga tonight, and while my muscles were tight, I did not have any pain in my joints.

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Body, Heal Thyself

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Okay, I’ve decided I’m committing to 30 days without sugar. I was telling my friend Ann tonight that I really need to develop this attitude about sugar that has a more positive slant. It’s not that I want to give up sugar. No one wants to give up sugar. It’s delicious, and when I eat a bunch I feel like I’ve taken a wonderful drug. Who wants to give that up?

What I really want to do is to take care of my body. I spent so many years eating loads of sugar in response to negative emotions and being bored that I have done a number on my system. It was not unusual after my second divorce to go an entire day eating nothing but chocolate. One of those big bags of Dove chocolates was a single serving on too many occasions. Somehow my body coped with it, but eventually I developed hypoglycemia. Now even a little sugar sets me off on a blood sugar roller coaster. My eating habits have damaged me.

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So, I want to approach this as an amends to my body. It got me a long way despite my abuse. I would love to commit to a 6 month hiatus to give my body a chance to heal and rest, but I don’t know that I can commit to that. I’ll do it for 30 days. If I’m feeling good enough and want to continue, I’ll do it. Who knows, I might develop some new habits that I enjoy more than eating sugar and certainly more than dealing with the aftermath.

I am now on Day 3 without sugar, and I’m feeling pretty good. I didn’t have any cravings today after two days of really strong ones. I’m eating a lot of fruit to keep my sweet tooth at bay. I know that fruit has natural sugar, but it also has lots of healthy nutrients, too. If I feel like I later need to cut that out, I will. But for now, it seems to have no negative effect. I slept really hard the last two nights, and I’m sure I’ll sleep good tonight too. And, without sugar ramping up my adrenalin, I don’t have an issue with coffee. So, that’s a perk! (Pun intended.)

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April 4 will be my Day 30. I’ll use this as a journal, so if you don’t want to read about my quitting sugar you may as well take a Midlife Moments vacation. If you’d like to join me, please do so. I know … I know. But it might be good for you! As for today, I’m feeling good. I’m going to measure my progress by detailing the following:

  • Sleep – I’m sleeping harder and waking up less. I’m still a little groggy when I wake up, but I wake up early. And I have great, crazy dreams!
  • Energy – Not very energetic today. I got up at 4:30 to workout. I did workout, but it was pretty painful. I was so sleepy after lunch that I had to stand up in a meeting. But I had plenty of energy after work to meet a friend and go for a walk. It’s 9:18, and I’m getting sleepy but am not super tired.
  • Joint Pain – I’m achy today. I worked out my legs this morning, and they ache.
  • Mood – I laughed a lot today. I mean I really laughed a lot.
  • Brain Fogginess – I was foggy this morning, but I was engaged at work and able to think through things until I got sleepy after lunch. It was hard to rebound even though I drank some matcha.
  • Cravings – I was hungry but was not necessarily craving sweets. I ate a good deal of fruit for snacks.

Goodnight y’all. I’m so happy to go to bed so I can sleep and then drink coffee in the morning!

Sunday Night Check-In: Shifting Gears

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I’ve had a rough week. To be honest, I’ve had a rough time for a few weeks. I’m not sure if it’s SAD, or if I’m just sad. I know that I’ve been trying to reign in my consumption of sugar with a great deal of inconsistency. Every time I eat it, I am awake in the middle of the night for hours kicking myself. The stuff disrupts my sleep no matter what time of day I eat it. I’ve been knowing this for over 3 years now. And still I struggle with it. It may even be the cause of my mood.

Friday was Employee Appreciation Day, and we had a candy bar in our office. A whole row of beautiful candies and chocolate greeted me as I walked in. I had absolutely no willpower. “So much for eating right,” I said before putting my purse on the floor. There were no brakes …. no deceleration … no hesitation. I went for it, and I woke up at 2:30 Saturday morning. “Hello, Sugar,” I say now when I wake up in a fit of insomnia. I’m not sure if I drifted off again or not, but I left early Saturday morning for a hike. Since I didn’t get much sleep, I told myself that I was NOT having any sugar this weekend. So far, I’m golden.

I met a group from the Chief Noonday Chapter of the North Country Trail Association in Marshall MI for a 6.5 mile hike. This was a “road” section, so we basically walked on the road through cornfields, a bitter winter wind and through neighborhoods. It felt a little weird since we were about 50 people with backpacks and stuff, but nobody else seemed to be bothered so I just enjoyed the day. A couple of river crossings gave me a little natural scenery, and I was very excited to meet Strider, the NCT thru-hiker I heard on one of those trail shows last year. (You can listen to his account of the trail here.)He is one of 8 who has hiked the entire 4600 mile NCT. I felt like I was meeting a celebrity although he seemed like a pretty ordinary hiker.

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Me and Strider

He works part-time for the National Park Service working on this trail, and there were a other park rangers on the hike. I talked to one who told me that they were all worried about the budget cuts coming. He said anybody that has anything to do with the environment is holding their breath. 97% of the funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Project is in jeopardy. It takes my breath away to even think of those beautiful lakes going back to their former polluted condition. All we can do is pray…. and call our senators.

I drove around Marshall to look at the town, and there were some beautiful historic buildings there. I put the GPS on “back roads” and drove home via country roads. I passed through several small towns and took a quick tour of Battle Creek. I found the Fort Custer Recreation Area and made a note of the nice campgrounds. The Kalamazoo River was up, and the sign next to the river assured me that any oil I saw would not harm me. Apparently there was a huge oil spill in this river many years ago, and the EPA spent a long time cleaning it up and holding the oil company accountable. I can only hope they will continue to be able to do jobs like that in the future. All I can do is pray … and call my senator.

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The flooded Kalamazoo… oil-free.

I woke up really down this morning, but I managed to get out and wash my car, take care of some chores and cook myself a healthy lunch. The sun came out and then ducked behind the clouds while I stewed in my juices about all of the sad things going on in the world. I tried to watch a movie about grizzly bears, read an article about a river that has disappeared because of human consumption in India and laughed at last night’s Saturday Night Live episodes. I needed to work out today, but I could not get motivated enough to move. I decided to walk Ashok around the block and keep walking if I felt like it.

Once I got going, I felt better, and I made my way to Lake Michigan. It was a beautiful late afternoon. The water was almost still, and the sun was hanging low on the horizon in a lightly-clouded sky. Few people were on the beach, but the ones who were out enjoying the spring-like day were friendly and talkative. We walked back at a slow pace, and, by the time I was home, I was really glad that I made the effort.

I’ll continue to try to shift out of my funk, and I’ll continue to pray … and call my senator. I hope you will do the same. Have a great week, y’all. I wonder what drama will go down this week!! You can’t make this sh*t up!

 

 

 

 

Lighthouses, Snowfall and Pie

 

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My baby brother came to town last weekend with his wife Laura and his daughter Mariya. Mariya had wanted to see snow, so back in November or December when we were inundated with the fluffy powder, they booked a trip for Mardi Gras weekend. As it got closer, it became more and more obvious that global warming had canceled the snowfall this year, and I texted Terry last week to tell him his winter vacation might be more of a spring vacation.

Saturday’s Travels

We did get lucky on Saturday with a little light snowfall, so Mariya got to play in it some, but it was mostly gone by Sunday, and the temperatures were on the climb. But at least the more moderate temps gave us a chance to get out and spend some time outdoors. I won’t bore you with the blow-by-blow, but let’s say that we pretty much covered the entire Lake Michigan Coast within an hour of my house, experienced a Viking Fire Fest in middle Michigan and had some of the best pie I’ve ever put in my mouth. From my view, it was a pretty nice visit.

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If I had to pick a day, Sunday was my favorite day. Saturday was stormy, and the wind made anything outdoors uncomfortable after more than 15 minutes. I had to work Monday, so that wasn’t any fun either. But, Sunday, we loaded up the car and headed north. After a really nice lunch in South Haven at Clementine’s II, Terry decided to go off the beaten path and look up a place called Crane’s Pie Pantry in Fennville MI.

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Crane’s has all kinds of specialties. They are first and foremost an orchard. We passed apple trees and blueberry bushes for sure. The inside of the restaurant was decorated in old memorabilia, the best of which was this stuffed dog who had died 80 years ago. It was more than a little creepy, but it got me to thinking about whether or not I’d want to stuff Ashok after she’s gone. I could prop her up in the passenger seat, and she could ride around with me through eternity. And I wouldn’t even have to walk her anymore. She’ll be hassle-free!

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Terry and Laura got the flight of pies which included a sample of cherry, blueberry, apple and raspberry pie. I asked the waitress what was ‘to die for’, and she recommended the apple. I was a little disappointed because apple just seemed so … you know…. ordinary. But I had asked so I took her suggestion. It was absolutely to die for. And if you are not up for dessert, they have flights of hard cider, beer and wine. It was a special place, and I will definitely be back.

Ashok got a doggie moon pie….

We wandered a little more and found an old home place that was set up as a monument because this family was the first family to come to these parts and plant corn. And, if you ever come here, you will see that corn is gold in the Midwest. We grow a lot of fruit in Southwest Michigan, but corn is everywhere. So, I guess this was corn royalty. It was pretty interesting to imagine this place as it might have been. Laura was just imagining this place without the wind.

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Our last most interesting stop on the back roads was a self-service artisan cheese shop called Evergreen Lane Creamery. We saw the sign for it, and when we drove in the driveway we thought it was closed. There was no one to be seen. We walked inside, and there was a little refrigerator stocked with artisan cheeses, a description of the cheeses on a laminated card and a self-service cash drawer. You see that a lot around here. I hope that these local farmers get nothing but honorable customers. Terry and Laura picked out three of their favorites, made their change, and we were off to Holland MI to see the windmill.

The day was full of lighthouses, stairs (we climbed 305 steps to the top of a dune), food, laughter, ice, sand and finally a beautiful sunset. Most people say the summertime would be a better time for them to visit, but the nice thing about the winter is that we have this beautiful place to ourselves. The lack of crowds gave us more time to explore, longer visits with shopkeepers and less of a hassle. I spent last Mardi Gras backpacking in the woods in Mississippi. This year, I got to spend it on the shores of Lake Michigan. Where are we gonna go next year?

Saugatuck and Holland 

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Ignorance is a Selfish Act

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The New York Times printed a feature story the other day about Mexico City’s struggles with water as a result of climate change. Click here for the story.  I have heard frequently from my scientist friends that the last wars will not be fought over oil. They will be fought over water. I have friends in California who can tell you just how awful it is to be without water. For those of us who live in water-abundant places, we can’t imagine having to wash our dishes in the shower or severely limit how much we flush the toilet to conserve the liquid gold that sustains us. We are blissfully ignorant of how blessed we are to run the water while it heats without guilt for wasting it. We have no clue that other people in this world would literally kill to have our waste.

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Meanwhile, other parts of the country like my hometown get buckets and buckets of water dumped on them for days on end. It’s easy to say that droughts aren’t that concerning because there is plenty of water. But, the fact is that those storms are evidence of climate change. Because of the heat, the atmosphere absorbs so much water that eventually it has to dump it in excessive rainfall. California is experiencing it now. Louisiana experienced it last year. And, yet, still many like to think it’s a fluke that it ever happened. Just go to any scientific website, and they’ll tell you what is happening and what is to come. Here’s a simple explanation.

Our denial will be our demise. I am shocked at my generation’s incessant focus on its own immediate needs and consumption to the detriment of the generations that follow. I am saddened that we don’t put a priority on curbing those things that we know are raping our planet and our environment. It was really hard for me in Louisiana to be around the environmental destruction of plants and the oil industry. And I was stunned that these plants would have my friends working for months on end without a day off just to sustain their operations. In all cases, the driver is money. The more we do, the more money we pay you, and the more money the politicians can spend. And, yet, with all of the effort to make money, what I saw was poverty on a grand scale. The state government was poor, struggling to foot the bill for basic services. Where there should be prosperity, there was famine.

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I don’t even begin to know the answer. I know that sustaining meat production in factory farms produces gases that contribute to the damage to our atmosphere. So, I eat grass-fed beef if I eat meat at all. I know that fossil fuels contribute a great deal to the problem, so I drive an energy efficient car and try to make my house as energy-efficient as possible. I wish I could afford solar panels, and maybe one day I can invest. My next car will definitely be even more energy-efficient and take advantage of cleaner fuels. And I vote for people that support the needs of our planet.

I feel physical pain when I hear threats of hobbling the EPA, severely loosening environmental regulations and ignoring our responsibility of climate change. I feel physical pain when I see pictures of polar bears who are losing their habitat while we look the other way. I feel like I’ve been stabbed when yet another blow has been dealt to efforts to sustain our planet. And I feel guilty when I enjoy a sunny, snowless day in February.

I believe that God put us here to be stewards over our environment. And I believe that being a steward means ensuring that the environment continues to prosper for future generations as well as my own. Ignorance is a selfish act. 

Click these links for more information from scientists:

NASA on Climate Change

EPA on Climate Change

 

 

 

 

My New Red Baby

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I’ve been thinking about buying KitchenAid’s Nespresso Espresso Machine ever since I landed on Whirlpool soil. I get a great price with employee pricing, but I couldn’t really decide if I’d like making my own lattes at home. I love coffee shops, and it’s so much more than a cup of coffee for me. I went back and forth, and I promised myself I wouldn’t buy until I was totally sure that I wanted it.

I’d go to the KitchenAid webpage and look at the Nespresso one and then the larger version that had its own built in milk frother. The Candy Apple Red was calling my name. At first, I dreamed of getting the “big daddy” one, and I read all of the reviews and watched the videos on how it worked. How do you pass up that sexy English accent on that video? Just think how classy this country girl would be with that heavy piece of machinery that percolates coffee gold! Then I got to thinking that for one person that was probably a bit of an overkill. It’s not like I’d be making five lattes at a time.

When I finally made peace with downsizing, the decision became less of a big deal. I was a little worried about those Nespresso pods. For some reason, I was thinking of Nestle, and I was thinking that wasn’t really much of a great coffee name. Did I want to be stuck with one brand of pod to use? What if it wasn’t all that good? I talked myself out of it about three times. But, week before last, I was once again breathing heavily as I watched that beautiful brown liquor pour out of that red flashy machine on the video, and I decided I was going for it.

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I texted Michael and asked if the coffee was really good. He said I would love it, so I ordered coffee off the Nespresso website and ordered my coveted machine. I got the coffee two days later. It would be another three days before my baby arrived. Luckily, I work at Whirlpool!! Our kitchens are stocked with these machines, so I took my pods to work and started drinking the most divine coffee I have ever tasted. I even drink it black frequently, and I NEVER liked my coffee black. It is silky smooth, and all I need is a touch of milk if I want any at all.

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The pods come in ristretto (a small espresso shot), espresso and lungo (a larger espresso shot) sizes. I’ve been making Americanos, Espressos and Lattes all day long. I even had to place a second order for decaf because there’s no way I can drink this much coffee without blowing my mind. Right now, I’m having a decaf Americano topped with frothy milk. Yum! Who needs dessert?

And I’m saving lots of money. My $3.50 – $4.50 daily latte at Starbucks or at work has been replaced by a 70 cent to $1.40 cup of fabulous brew. The other day I bought a coffee at work, and I could barely choke it down. It can’t hold a candle to this stuff. I have no idea how I lived this long without this candy apple red toy. For a second the other day, I thought it was broken. My heart hit the floor until I realized I’d forgotten to add water. Whew! That would have been a disaster.

She’s so beautiful!!

 

 

 

Test Something for Me, Please!

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Hey, my friends. I’ve been a bit down lately so I haven’t posted my blog, but I did want to share my pics from the weekend. After leaving Facebook, I’m really sad that I can’t share my pics anymore, so I’m looking for a new way to share.

Last weekend Ashok and I went hiking by PawPaw River, climbed the dunes at Warren Dunes State Park and hiked 13 miles on – AND off – the North Country Trail. It was a beautiful 60-degree weekend.

Click on the below link and see what you think about Snapfish’s photo-sharing platform. You can click on the little zoom icon and see the pics in a slideshow. I believe you can even comment on the album (although I’m not sure about that). I’d love to know if this is an easy way to share pictures and whether or not you like it! Please test it out and let me know.

Thanks! I’m feeling better… I’ll be back soon.

Click here!

Sunday Night Check-In: Trails, Dogs and Travel

I went in to the weekend with one lunch planned on Saturday with my friend Autumn. The rest of the weekend would just have to unfold as it should. I got home Friday night, and I wanted to unplug from the internet and fall into an alternate reality. I’d been wanting to see A Dog’s Purpose, so I drove over the theatre and checked out for a couple of hours.

The thing I hate about dog movies is the dog always dies at the end. (BTW, I looked up the controversy about the treatment of that German Shepherd in this movie, and they were cleared of all charges. Apparently that organization was just trying to propagate fake news… and they failed.) In this movie, though, the dog dies about 6 times and lives at the end. The movie is about the many incarnations of one dog soul into this world. I felt so in love with my dog when it was over. I couldn’t wait to get home to hug her neck. But I definitely should have brought Kleenex to the theatre.

I took Ashok for an early walk on Saturday and then I met Autumn at Caffe Tosi for some soup. She told me all about her trip to the Rose Bowl Parade. I was fascinated by her trip. It was an educational tour, and they learned all about the history of the parade and how the floats are made. They got to help build some floats, and then, of course, watch the parade. I’ve never been on an educational vacation, but she made it sound like so much fun that I looked up the travel company that she used, Road Scholar.

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My sister and I texted back and forth the rest of the evening about the options that they offered for educational travel. Trips lasting anywhere from 4 days to 2 weeks feature lessons and experiences on topics like art, writing, hiking, geology, history, crafts and just about anything you’d ever want to learn. I am imagining myself learning to sail down the coast of Maine, writing my memoir on the coast of Oregon and viewing the Northern Lights in Alaska. They have trips all over the world, and they are very reasonably priced. I am definitely going to take some of these tours. I may even go on one of the Michigan hiking trips this year!

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I’ve been reading Becoming Odyssa, a book about a 20-something woman who hiked the Appalachian Trail. My sister gave me the book for my birthday, and I’ve been going to bed at night reading about sleeping on the trail and fantasizing about finally doing that thru-hike on my bucket list. Today I had planned to hang out at the house and grocery shop, but all of this hiking thinking got me in the mood for the woods. I looked up some hiking trails, packed up Ashok and headed northwest to the Yankee Springs Recreation Area.

We hiked the Chief Noonday Trail and continued on to the Long Lake Trail, too. It was rainy when we started but cleared up rather quickly. As soon as the rain cleared, the wind picked up. It never did get really cold, but I had to put on my hat and coat by the end of the hike. It was a quiet hike with very few people crossing our path, and it was lovely. The temperature stayed above freezing, and the swamps and woodlands were full of melting snow puddles. It didn’t feature the magnificent views of the dunes, but I was really in the mood for the woods. Toward the end, I was treated to a sighting of several white-tailed deer high-tailing it with their patch of white flashing through the forest. It was a great way to end the hike.

I’ve been chatting with Mick who heads up the Chief Noonday Chapter of the North Country Trail Association. The North Country Trail (NCT) is a 4600-mile trail that starts in North Dakota and runs all the way to New York. I had heard about this trail when I was listening to trail shows while living in Louisiana, and, ironically, now I live within an hour and a half from the NCT. Trail “chapters” all along the trail take care of sections, and they educate people about hiking it. The Chief Noonday Chapter has 135 members. I plan on joining them for a hike on March 4. I’m enjoying going to the North Country Trail website and dreaming about backpacking large portions of that trail. I even signed up for 100-mile challenge for this year.

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After we left the Chief Noonday parking lot, I decided to drive the backroads to Grand Rapids to try a new coffee shop that I’d read about called The Sparrows. I was so thrilled when I saw a sign for the North Country Trail trailhead just a few miles down the road. I turned in, snapped a few pictures and just had to hike a few steps on the trail. “We’ll be back,” I told the trail as I hopped back into the car. And I meant it. I can’t wait for the day when I park there, heave ho my backpack and head to the woods for a several day Michigan adventure. I may not get on the Appalachian Trail for awhile, but there’s an even longer one practically in my backyard! BTW.. The Sparrows was great, and I’ll go back for a longer visit in the future!

So, my mind is spinning with the opportunities for travel with Road Scholar and backpacking on the NCT. On the way to the hike and back I listened to more hiking podcasts about the community on those long hiking trails and how life-changing a thru-hike can be. (Click on those links to hear them!) One thing I’d have to change is needing to work for a living. Tomorrow it’s back to reality. But I’m grateful to have a great job which will help me save money for these trips that I may not get to take and that brought me up here to this state full of great hiking. This was a great weekend – dogs, trails and all.

Y’all have a good week. Dream a little this week. One of them might just come true.

Channeling My Inner Icelander: Longings

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I spent another day yesterday riding the sugar roller coaster. “Just stop eating it,” you say. “It’s bad for me,” I say. “It’s poison,” say the books that proclaim sugar as the downfall of our health as a country. “It’s an addiction,” say the psychologists and substance abuse counselors. “It keeps you company when you are lonely,” says the addict on my shoulder. “It hugs you when you are scared,” says the devil. “And it’s just so, so sweet,” says my addicted, pleasure-seeking brain. Sugar’s energy sucks the life out of me. Its initial calming effect leads to an unrelenting anxiety. No matter what, I always end up laying awake at night in the middle of a blood sugar crash cursing myself for my dependence.

Today, I vow, will be different. For some people, I assume sugar is not what it is to me. But, for many, I can see that they struggle with the need to eat it for stress relief and comfort. I can see it because it literally shows up on us in anxiety, inflammation and weight gain. As stress levels rise during this time, you can literally see people “puffing up”. I feel helpless in my own spiral. But I know that it is not hopeless. I have been here before.

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Yesterday I read an article in the Atlantic about the stunning success Iceland has had in breaking the cycle of drug and alcohol abuse in its teenage population. When the country became alarmed at the addictive spiral of its youth, the country decided to get to the root of the problem instead of trying to manage symptoms. You can read the article here, but the goal was to teach teenagers to handle stress in proactive ways by working with their bodies’ natural body chemistry. As humans, our body chemistry helps us relieve stress if we “lean in” instead of “numbing out”. Some of get stress relief by increasing our energy and soaking in our endorphins. Others need to slow down to quell anxiety. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Meditation works as well as dancing all night long. It just depends on who you are.

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I actually know what works for me. It’s a combination of meditation, exercise, eating right, real connection with others and reading spiritual material. So, when I got up this morning I made my tea without sweeteners and cracked open Ronald Rolheiser’s book Holy Longing. In the introduction, he talks about this longing that we have inside us as humans that is never really satisfied. This desire drives us. It drives us to seek God. It drives us into an anxious state when we are unoccupied. It drives us into all kinds of addictions and modes of escape. We are always in a state of unrequited desire. We have moments of peace. We never have a lifetime of it.

Twelve step groups say addictions of all kinds are an attempt to fill a God-sized hole with something else. We just keep trying and trying to find comfort but it never works. We need more and more to keep that elusive peaceful feeling. We all have different “solutions” to our anxiety. While I pound sugar to get that “high” I like so much, another engages in angry arguments to help them feel smarter than others. A credit card buys all of the things that comfort others. A momentary comfort is experienced in the numbness of substance-abuse. The credit card bills come due, our relationships unravel from the arguing and substance abuse, and my blood sugar crashes from the sugar. We are always left with the remorse and the emotional fallout. Peace – from those things – is elusive.

Writing helps me reframe my thoughts, and I think I’ll approach today differently. With the awareness that I’m feeling a God-sized hole right now for a variety of reasons, I’ll fill it with time with Him and engage in my spiritual practices. I’ll abstain from sugar and let the withdrawal take me. I’ll find a way to connect with others tonight and express my true feelings. I’ll eat something healthy for breakfast and do a yoga nidra… BEFORE reading the news. For today, I’ll pretend I’m an Icelander and deal with the root of the problem.