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.

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 7.13.23 PM.png

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!

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 8.22.26 PM.png

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.

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 8.08.15 PM.png

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

fullsizeoutput_17f5

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.

Girl sitting on the rock by the peaceful sea at sunset.

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.

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-6-37-29-am

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.

 

A Peek Into My Mind

300x300

So I felt like writing today but nothing really is solidifying in my brain. In fact, I ate too much sugar today because I’m feeling a bit anxious. It just made me worse. So, I think I’ll just tell you the random thoughts running through my anxiety-ridden mind.

The best thing about the next four years is comedy is going to be great! I don’t know that I’ve laughed so much in ages… hysterical laughter … but laughter nonetheless. You just can’t make this sh*t up.

A guy just contacted me on Match who is an obvious scammer. He said my profile was duplicated, and it was amazing. When I click on the link, it tells me to log in on a fake website. I reported his stupid ass. I wasn’t born yesterday, fool.

Ashok is mad because I was too lazy, tired and had a head full of wet curls to walk her.

I’ve spent all evening reading the New York Times, fake news sites, Twitter accounts that are totally off the wall. I’ll never get that time back.

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 8.38.18 PM.png

 

 

I found the North Country Trail Association website. This trail is 4600 miles long – almost twice as long as the Appalachian Trail. I aim to get involved with one of the groups that does trail maintenance and hiking. Ashok will be happy!

 

I’m anxious to go home for a short visit in March. It’ll be nice to be warm for a change. Magpie Cafe, here I come!

img_2146

 

 

Speaking of being warm, where is the SNOW???? It appears snow got canceled this year. There’s nothing but moderate temps and no snow in the forecast. It’s February …. in Michigan … duh.… it’s supposed to snow.

And speaking of warm again, did you see where the Antarctic ice shelf is cracking in historic speed. Damn global warming…. if we don’t get flooded or blown away by big storms we’ll die by drowning when the oceans rise. How can this be ignored???

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-8-21-10-pm

Bella says she’s running for President in four years. She’ll be the first woman president, and she doesn’t even know how to use email or Twitter! She’s going to run on a “dog ban” platform.

I just drank some kefir hoping it will help me sleep tonight. The sugar is going to mess me up for sure. I’m really mad at myself. I know better than this.

hart

The famous Gary Hart scandal photo.

Last night I listened to the federal court argument online, and yesterday I saw a group of protesters in my little town of St. Joe picketing to keep the ACA… in the pouring down rain. If there is a silver lining, people are paying attention. I’ve never been interested in politics in my life except when Gary Hart ran. Then he got thrown out of the race because he was in a picture with a woman that wasn’t his wife.  What a scandal! 

Tomorrow is Thursday… Friday eve … come on, weekend. Come on…. 

It’s time for bed. Night, y’all. I hope my mind gets back on track tomorrow. On second thought, let’s hope the world gets back on track tomorrow.

12 Weeks: Reflections on a Spring-Like Evening

 

img_1834

I got biceps!

I just completed my 12 week Virtual Boot Camp. My personal trainer Jessica knows the power of reflection. Just because exercise is physical in nature doesn’t mean that it only impacts our physical bodies. In order to commit to a program of exercise, we have to make daily changes in our lives. And when we make changes in our lives, we can’t help but learn about ourselves. Our tendency is to do whatever we want in the moment. But, when we commit to anything that changes our behavior and follow through on that commitment, we have to face a variety of issues that sabotage us. Jess knows this, and she asked us to reflect on the 12 weeks that we just completed.

fullsizeoutput_17f7

I started that program because I was floundering. It was right before Thanksgiving. I was still in the middle of adapting to the move, winter was settling in, and I was depressed over the outcome of the election. My desire to exercise was there, but the enjoyment of it was not. My energy level was down, and I was eating crap because I didn’t feel like shopping. I was stuck in a day-to-day survival mode. Planning ahead seemed like an arduous task.

fullsizeoutput_17eb

 

I reached out to Jessica because I knew I had to do something, and she suggested this. It was within my budget, and it was 12 weeks long – long enough to get me through the holidays. And the program consisted of three 30-minute strength workouts a week. I could even do them at home. I felt that was totally doable, and when I mentioned it on Facebook, two of my friends decided they needed something, too. We formed a Facebook group, and we were off.

Honestly, I had to drag myself through the exercise for most of the 12 weeks. I started seeing results about halfway through and that got me really motivated. I think I didn’t really believe that I would see dramatic results in 90 minutes a week. But, when I started seeing my abs get some definition, and my biceps bulging, I got a little more motivated. My main motivation was to get in a good habit of strength-training regularly and to do something that I didn’t hate doing. After all, now that the 12 weeks are over, my exercise commitment is not over. This is a lifelong, ever-evolving thing.

fullsizeoutput_17f5

Tonight was an absolutely beautiful evening in St. Joe. It was in the mid-50s, and there was very little wind. I grabbed Ashok, and we went downtown to walk. Throngs of people were out running, walking their dogs and enjoying the surprisingly spring-like weather. The lake was calm, and there were remnants of ice bergs floating near the shore. A kayaker paddled near the mouth of the river, and ducks floated quietly nearby. How quickly things can change in a few days … how drastically things can change in 12 weeks.

12 weeks ago I was 5 pounds heavier. 12 weeks ago I was floundering. 12 weeks ago the Christmas lights on the bluff had not even been strung…. our new organization was still but a dream … winter was just beginning with a massive pile of lake effect snow. The snow that was melting today was freezing into an unbreakable solid shore.

fullsizeoutput_17f9

When I decide that I want to do something, I have to face the pain of following through with that in the moment. A commitment doesn’t just happen. It takes screaming through an exercise that hurts. It takes starting over the next day after I don’t do what I needed to do. It takes support and encouragement. It takes reminding myself constantly of WHY I’m trying to do this. And it takes faith that even though I don’t see results in the moment, it will show results in the end. 12 weeks will come and go regardless. But if I want something different at the end, I have to do something different every day.

fullsizeoutput_17ef

 

12 weeks is a quarter of a year. Even though I muscled through a lot of the boot camp, the last 4-5 weeks felt different. I got more motivated about eating right. I started feeling better. I started feeling a desire to start running. I committed to a regular yoga practice, and I started preparing my meals ahead of time. I believe that when we make positive changes, our bodies change. Our cells turn over rapidly, and I am literally not the same person that I was 12 weeks ago. My energy is different, and when you change your energy, you change your life.

Now, I just have to decide what I want my life to look like … feel likebe like ….at the end of the next 12 weeks. That will inform my agenda for tomorrow.

img_2142

Sunday Night Check-In: Chicago, Lush & La La Land

I spent the weekend in Chicago with my friend Nancy. It’s not a long trip from here, but it does involve tolls and a time change. I got to her place in Des Plaines early Saturday, and we stopped at a place called Tiffany’s for breakfast. We made our plan for the day which included a stop at Lush Cosmetics for some curly hair products.

I’ve been experimenting with some different products for my hair with varying success. I’m not sure why I insist on trying to fix something that’s not broken but I can’t help myself. Lush has all-natural shampoo bars that look like bars of soap so they have minimal packaging. I like that concept, so I wanted to give them a try. We parked out front of the Bucktown location, and I was amazed that in Chicago you can use your mobile phone to pay for parking instead of parking meters. Nancy pulled up the app and paid for a couple of hours, and we went in to the sweet-smelling, trendy Lush boutique.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-7-50-19-pm

I told the sales clerk what I wanted, and she gave me a complete tour of their super-hydrating, unusual hair products which were made with coconut oil, beeswax and a variety of other hydrating and cleansing products. Some were in bars and others looked like cheese wheels. You could cut off as much as you like, and you paid by the pound. I decided to try one called Trichomania, got a sample of a texturing paste and bought some hand cream and lotion. She also showed us some tooth powder which is powdered toothpaste. I liked the idea so I got a sample to take home.

Buzz: Killer Espresso

We decided to get some coffee at a place called Buzz: Killer Espresso. I got a hot chocolate which was this really mildly-flavored “not too sweet” chocolatey drink in a gorgeous mug. We watched the shoppers go by on the street and then visited an art gallery and a small neighborhood specialty supermarket. After our two hours were up, we headed to the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge to see La La Land.

img_2113

Much to our surprise this beautiful old theater was one huge theater. I don’t know how they’d ever fill it up these days. But we grabbed some buttered popcorn and found the perfect seats out of the hundred of seats that were available. The movie – a romantic comedy modern-day musical – was absolutely charming, and we both felt really uplifted after it was over. As a couple of single gals, the plot sparked some great conversation over coffee about the nature of romantic relationships and the inherent difficulty of making one work.

For an early dinner, we stopped at a restaurant that she passes by frequently in her neighborhood called Balkanika. We weren’t sure what kind of food it was, so we checked out the menu before being seated. The gentleman at the bar said it was Balkan cuisine, and since neither of us had ever had Balkan cuisine, we decided to try it. It was simply amazing! We got a sampler of dishes which included cheesy, garlicky potatoes, broccoli cooked with a creamy garlic sauce and and skewers of perfectly grilled chicken beef. It was the best comfort food I’d had in awhile.

fullsizerender

I know it’s too dark,  but it’s the only one we took together.

We went to bed early and read and got up for coffee and chatter this morning. We went to a Fashion Outlet mall in Rosemont, had lunch at Whole Foods and then went back to her place. I had to drive home, and I lost an hour, so I left about 2 PM. I stopped at an Oasis on the way home. On the highways in Chicago, they don’t really have rest areas because it’s so crowded and so difficult to get off on the side streets. So, they build these little centers that are clusters of fast-food restaurants, service stations and restrooms that look over the interstate. They remind me of an airport but instead of boarding a plane, you get back into your car.

The Oasis

It had been a gorgeous sunny weekend, but the minute I arrived in St. Joe, the clouds took over. I had not exercised all weekend, so I threw on some running clothes and went for a run. I followed that up with one of my strength-training workouts from my Virtual Boot Camp. This happened to be the last workout of my 12-week program! I stayed committed through the holidays and for a solid 12 weeks. I was sick one week, and there were a few weeks that I replaced the strength workouts with hiking, but I stayed committed the entire time!! Woohoo!! I am so proud of myself, and I’m ready for tank top season even though it’s freezing outside.

It was great to spend a weekend with a good friend with lots of coffee and good food and fun activities. Ashok didn’t get to come, and I can’t pick her up until tomorrow. My cats seem to be happy to have my full attention, and I’m ready to call it a night. I hope y’all have a great week. I’ll have to figure out my workout plan for this week since my boot camp is over, but I want to stay the course.

Get moving, ya’ll! It’ll make you feel better. Have a great week.

Our Obsession With Ice

img_2077

When I was in Louisiana, I noticed this obsession with ice. Now it’s hotter than Hades down there, so I could understand the obsession with keeping things cool. I even got to the point that I would take ice and put it on the back of my neck before and after a run.

When I camp, I have to keep my food cool, so I become obsessed with ice. Every day – or sometimes twice a day – I stock my igloo cooler with ice from the grocery for use in drinks and to cool my milk. So I was thrilled when heard that these new ice chests would keep ice so cold that it wouldn’t melt for 24 hours. So, two summers ago before I headed to North Carolina, I decided that I would splurge and buy one of those nice ice chests. I didn’t need a big one, and I gave myself permission to pay up to $150 for a nice ice chest. I was stunned to see that $150 didn’t even touch the price of an ice satchel much less an ice chest. I settled for the best little igloo I could find and bought ice as usual. It was then I realized that ice – while made completely of water – was revered like gold.

img_2082

Ice is plentiful here. In fact, it’s more work to keep things from icing than it is to keep it from melting. Just yesterday, I noticed that a storm drain had frozen as it was dumping water from the bluff downtown. The entire “waterfall” was a solid chunk of ice. “You don’t see that in Louisiana,” I thought. My friend Kenny who lives in Wisconsin said his “must-have” tools for getting his car out of his garage in winter are an ice ax and a snow shovel. He has to literally chop the ice away in his garage to get his car out. And I have to wear traction devices on my boots to keep from slipping on the slippery stuff when I walk Ashok.

People make do with what they have. They eat alligators and crawfish down in Louisiana, and up here they make use of ice. While I get so frustrated that my water freezes when I’m hiking and my hot chocolate turns cold in about 5 minutes, the folks here have festivals celebrating ice. Last weekend, they had a snow-carving festival in Frankenmuth even thought there was no snow. This weekend, Saint Joseph has their 13th Annual Magical Ice Fest. I’m headed to Chicago today, so I’ll miss the frozen fish-tossing, but I went down last night to see the carvings. In the middle of town, they were carving ice sculptures with mini-chainsaws and they built a bonfire in the middle of a huge block of ice.

I was eager to see a fire in ice. I am fascinated by the ice-fishing huts here. This year it hasn’t been that cold, so I haven’t seen any, but when I lived here before I was always taken aback when I’d see a hut in the center of a lake. My fellow blogger and new friend Stacy is an avid ice fisherman, and she said you only need 4 inches of ice to safely get out on it and fish. So, ice fisherman bring a stick to measure. (I don’t know about you, but I don’t know if I’d trust the measuring skills of a male companion enough to put my life in his hands. The correct estimation of inches usually seems to be greatly exaggerated. But I digress.) After they are assured the ice is solid enough to hold their weight, they go out onto the ice and dig a hole to fish.

 

I asked her if she had one of those ice fishing huts. “No,” she said. “Those huts are not easily moved. They are mainly for parties.” Parties? Hmmmm…. I know that people have told me that they build fires right on the ice in those things. I am fascinated at how you can build a fire right on the ice, and you won’t fall through. So, last night, I was very curious to see what would happen when you built a fire in a block of ice.

img_2087

They lit the blazing fire about 7:30. Everyone stood around as fascinated as I was that you could build a fire in ice. Meanwhile my hot chocolate turned cold in about 5 minutes, and my ears and hands felt like frozen human popsicles. I went inside the Saint Joseph Today visitor center to save my hot chocolate and visit my friend Karen. After getting her set up to subscribe to my blog, I went back out to the bonfire which had become a small fire still sitting in the middle of a large block of ice. There were spots that had melted, but it was still frozen strong. I was amazed.

img_2089

I have been wondering how I had missed all of these ice fests when I lived up here before. If this was the 13th annual event in Saint Joe, I would have been gone the year it started. But I’m glad to see that there are so many things to do with ice. I can ice skate, carve ice sculptures, ice fish, enjoy pictures of all of the manifestations of ice, throw frozen fish and even build a fire in ice. The people in Louisiana need to be more creative. Yeah, I see a Yeti every now and then here, but they are all on clearance. Who needs a $700 ice chest when you can just throw your beer – and your fish – outside?

 

 

 

Whatever Happened to Kindness?

sadness

The other morning I got up to do yoga. My yoga space has a small window that looks out into the street. It’s on the third floor, so I get a bird’s eye view of the area. I was standing in Tadasana, and I saw what I first thought was a dog. I realized in horror that it was a deer. It was walking down the sidewalk in my neighborhood headed toward the street. What is happening to our animals? And why doesn’t anybody care?

I feel really sad this morning. It’s the first morning I’ve woken up in tears in a long time. I thought of the deer walking through my neighborhood. Tucked in my bed with my animals, I thought of the animals on our planet. In all of the hiking I’ve done in the last few years, the animals seem to be gone. There are few birds twittering. A sighting of an animal is now a complete rarity. Sure, in Louisiana there was evidence of wild hogs, and I see squirrels here. But where are the animals that I used to see with some regularity?

I texted one of my friends in Memphis yesterday. She admitted that she was worried about herself because she is so depressed and crying all the time over the state of the planet and, in particular, the political scene. She’s even thinking of seeing a counselor to help her deal with it. Another one said her anxiety is at an all-time high, and she doesn’t know what to do about it. All of my closest friends are struggling with fear about the state of the world, and I am, too. My only advice is to grieve the loss of what we think it should be.

tears-quote-for-word-press-skinny

I feel this huge sense of loss that people really don’t care about human rights, the wilderness, animals and – most of all – kindness. Somehow we have lost the desire to be kind. Maybe that desire was never there, and I was just oblivious. That’s the major reason I got off Facebook. I don’t like the disrespect and meanness that is surfacing. I can’t stand to look at it. I never could watch violent movies, and I feel like our society has turned into one. It hurts, and when I say it hurts and saddens me, I get insulted by insensitive people who see kindness and sweetness as a weakness.

I’m further confused that this behavior is somehow getting lumped in with Christianity. Christ is so different than that. He held people accountable, but his overwhelming teaching was about love and kindness to others. And it seems so ironic that this “majority” wants everybody to become Christian, but this need to politicize their agenda turns people off the Christian religion. I just don’t believe that cramming a belief system down people’s throats does anything for attraction.

Words like sadness and kindness and compassion are treated with disdain. Fear and anger have become synonymous with strength and power. Name-calling and bullying are encouraged, and arguing is now a favored form of entertainment. For empaths like me – and there are many of us – words like torture and bans and power and gag orders hit our bodies with the effect of violence. And nobody cares.

kindness-1

Our political system has become reality television. For 8 years, we watched as one party dug their heels in like 2-year-olds and wouldn’t play even though this country badly needed their assistance to pass policy that would sit with everybody. The scene now looks like a bunch of incompetents who don’t know how to do anything but grab power for themselves. Who is caring for our constitution? As long as we can have our guns, we don’t need the First Amendment anymore. We’ll just shoot the dissenters. If the law doesn’t suit us, we just change it so we can slam our policy in place. Power is the new black. Billionaires are the new public servants. And kindness and respect have been deemed useless.

I don’t know what’s going to become of us as a society. I am very fearful of what is going to become of our animals and fellow creatures that are struggling to survive. I am worried about the carelessness with which we regard our planet. I am totally confused about our culture’s willingness to mock and set aside the poor and the disabled. I am saddened with the way people are discarded or treated with disgust because they have different beliefs and viewpoints. The losses I’m feeling right now are overwhelming.

I don’t want to be on a soapbox this morning. I just want to ease this huge gaping hole of pain. I’m tired of being called names because I want to see a world filled with kindness. I want to live my life in compassion helping others realize their dreams. I want to enjoy nature and make a decent living. I don’t want to be rich. I don’t want to take advantage of other people. I want to leave the world a better place than I found it. I crave safety for everyone. And I’m afraid that dream – just like democracy – is just a fantasy imagined by fools.

 

 

 

Change is Good

 

img_2064-1

I’m still making it Facebook-free! I think it’s been a week.. or more maybe. I don’t know how long it’s been, and I don’t care. I just know that I don’t miss it at all. I’m finding ways to stay in touch with most of my friends by now in other ways, and that feels really good. Yes, I sort of miss knowing what all is going on in everybody’s lives, but, I don’t miss knowing what’s going on in everybody’s head. Besides, maybe there is something to be said in reaching out to someone instead of lazily stalking their life with no real connection.

img_2065-1

I started using Instagram. I have to admit it doesn’t have the addictive quality of Facebook, but it does offer cute cat videos. I’m calling it the softer, gentler social media outlet. This weekend my friend Cy and I were playing with some of the features. He’s a friend from Louisiana, and he’s sick of the BS on Facebook, too. When I told him about Instagram, he was a little hesitant but thought he might try it. Next thing I know, he’s posting update videos from Livingston of his daily goings-on. He’s becoming an Instagram super user!

img_2063-1

There is a new feature on Instagram called My Story. Apparently, the idea was stolen from the popular Snapchat, but since I never have gotten into Snapchat, I don’t have any judgments. You can upload pictures to My Story, adorn them with text, add the temperature and location and decorate with funny accessories. As the day goes on, My Story grows, and your followers can view it like a slideshow. After 24 hours, it disappears! I had fun on my adventure this weekend chronicling all my stops with videos and pictures. I had a few followers sharing in the fun. They say a picture paints a thousand words, so Instagram is an efficient way to get a point across.

I’m also meeting different people on Instagram. Some of my friends are on Facebook and Instagram, but many of the ones on Instagram are not on Facebook, so I haven’t been “socializing” much with them in years. It’s nice to see my friend Amy’s kids growing up and catch up with a couple of my runner friends in Memphis. It’s just a bit of a different experience, and I don’t find myself obsessed about being on there. I actually have time to read and cook and exercise.

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-9-17-27-pm

I subscribed to the New York Times, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. When I was on the News app on my phone, all I got was stories on politics and tragic happenings. Now that I have the Times I try to go in and read some of the features, scour the book reviews, devour the articles about history and occasionally read about politics. The writing is so good. Articles are well researched and actually have a real story behind them. I feel so much better about the world. Yes, there’s drama going on at the White House, but the rest of the world seems to be moving along quite normally.

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-9-18-29-pm

My Virtual Boot Camp is almost over, so I’m trying to decide what I want to do next for fitness. I really do miss the heart-thumping cardio from running, so I’m considering getting in shape to run again. I did my first 30-minute run/walk tonight. Injuries have plagued me the last few years every time I got started, but I’m hoping if I take it slow enough I’ll get back into it. I’d like to keep the distance at 5k or 10K at the very most because I want to continue my yoga and strength-training, too. I think marathons are in my rear view mirror. I’d rather be hiking!

img_3497

Will I ever get back to this again? I miss my runs.

I’m continuing to follow Weight Watchers’ maintenance plan, and the accountability has helped me stay on track and actually lose a few pounds the last few weeks. Tonight I made some delicious butternut squash soup, and finished it off with smoked trout from Lake Michigan and some homemade bread with goat cheese. It was delicious! I feel so much better when I’m eating right. I’ve been tempted a couple of times this week to indulge in the crap that is out at work, but I’ve stayed on track due to the “rails” I have in place. I even ate pretty healthy over the weekend while I was out of town. I’m sort of proud of myself.

I head to Chicago this weekend to stay with my friend Nancy. I’m looking forward to being in the city. We might go ice skating, walk around downtown and will probably just hang out and laugh a lot. Meanwhile, I have to get through Thursday and Friday at work. It’s only Hump Day, y’all! Friday’s coming…

8dcbd08fba45be4f118d6c3b3dbe8ff9

 

Sunday Night Check-In: A Trip Up the Coast

img_1953

The fabulous little beach towns up and down the coast of Lake Michigan are one of my favorite things about this area. They aren’t the ultra-classy newly developed beach towns of the Gulf Coast down south. Most have been there for ages, and Victorian homes and quaint downtown streets have been visited by vacationers and locals alike for decades if not centuries. Each little town has its own charm and history, and most have their own unique lighthouse that claims its spot on the shore. And, lucky me, I can go to probably 8 or 10 within a 1-2 hour drive in one direction to another.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-7-21-07-pm

This weekend I wanted to go out of town, so I began to noodle which direction to head. Frankenmuth had its Snowfest complete with snow-carving contests. Chicago, of course, is Chicago, but I’m going there next weekend. I could have gone to Grand Rapids and done some hiking and visited one of the coolest coffee shops in Michigan. I also had options of going Southwest or North on the coast. At the last minute, I decided to head to Grand Haven and Muskegon. I ran into a friend at our downstairs coffee shop Friday, and she said Muskegon was beautiful. That’s all I needed.

Approaching the Grand Haven Lighthouse….

I packed a bag and headed up the coast. I stopped first to get a mocha at The Phoenix Rising in Benton Harbor. I’d heard that they made their own mocha, and it was really good. Grand Haven was about an hour away, and I immediately fell in love with its downtown area. Lots of shops, restaurants, breweries and coffeehouses lined the main street which ran right into the inlet off Lake Michigan. Ashok and I walked the boardwalk until I realized that I didn’t have the right boots on to go all the way to the lighthouse. Ice and sand made the walk slippery, and I needed to put on my hiking boots. We got back in the car and drove down to see this stunning little lighthouse in the Grand Haven State Park.

Downtown Grand Haven

You can tell Grand Haven is a happening spot in the summertime. Although the hot dog stands and ice cream shops along the water are all shuttered now, I can just imagine throngs of beachgoers hanging out and soaking up the much-awaited sunshine. I know in Saint Joseph the crowds in summer swell way past the crowds that attend the winter festivals. My sister is coming Memorial Day weekend, and I thought this would be the perfect spot for us to visit. But, I’m sure it will be much more crowded then.

Muskegan and the Stormy Kromer shop…

I drove up to Muskegon, and I made reservations at a hotel about 20 minutes out of town. My friend at Whirlpool had told me about the Stormy Kromer shop, and I really wanted to go in. It’s a Michigan company that makes outdoor wear for the cold winters in the Upper Peninsula. They are known for their hats. I stopped at a coffee shop to ask where this place was, and it happened to be right next door. The saleslady was so nice, and she told me how wonderful and warm the Stormy Kromer hats were. I tried on a few, and I also tried on a poncho. Everything was wool, and it was so well-made. I could tell it would last forever. I handled some wool pants that were the thickest wood fabric I have ever seen. I’d love to have a pair of those!

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-7-14-26-pm

I ended up buying a hat and then had dinner at Handsome Henry’s, a restaurant the saleslady recommended. Then I went to the hotel and retired for the night. This morning Ashok and I hiked at the Muskegon State Park. It was stunningly beautiful. We hiked the South Camp trail which followed the beach first. I saw four swans and numerous ducks who found some unfrozen water to paddle. At one point, an eagle flew overhead and circled twice before flying away. I felt like it was stopping by to say, “Hi. I’m still here with you.” We finished up by hiking the Dune Ridge trail which followed the tops of the dunes throughout the park. The view was phenomenal, and we could see Lake Michigan and the channel on the other side. It began snowing heavily right before we got back to the car, so we ended our hike covered in snow. It was fun.

 

As we were leaving, I noticed a sign for the Winter Sports Complex, and I decided to drop by there. I had read that they have the only public luge in the United States. Everything was closed today because the temperatures were too warm last week, but they were working furiously trying to water everything down to refreeze for a Tuesday opening. They have a huge outdoor ice rink, an ice skating trail, sledding, cross-country skiing and the Luge. The guys there were really friendly and showed me around. They were shoveling snow into the luge. Later, they will hose it with a fire hose and let nature freeze it to make it solid. When my brother and his family come up at the end of February, I think we are going to check that place out. It was really cool.

I loved Muskegon and Grand Haven, and I look forward to returning. At the furthest point, I was less than two hours from home, so it’s definitely doable – even as a day trip. All of these little towns are having winter festivals now. There is no lack of things to do in the winter. In fact, I was thinking yesterday how lucky I was to live in a place where I have year-round hiking. Yes, it’s cold, but I just dress for it. Truth is, I usually end up sweating rather than getting cold. But it’s nothing like a July in Louisiana sweat!

Pere Marquette Beach in Muskegon

Have a great week, y’all. Try to get out and enjoy something near you. There’s a lot of drama going on right now, but we have to stay positive. That eagle reminded me today that we are not alone, and we need to focus on the big picture…. whatever that is for you.

 

Day 2: A Little Bit Unexpected

 

17556-the-unexpected

So, today I was pleasantly surprised that I felt more connected to people than ever – no Facebook needed. I got emails from several friends, texts from others and have even gained a couple of new blog followers from Instagram. One even sent me an email to tell me her story. It seems that life after Facebook is … well …. pleasantly social!

Tonight I went to dinner with some old friends. I felt the urge a couple of times to take pictures of my food and post, but I realized that it wasn’t necessary without Facebook. I suppose I could have posted to Instagram, but you really can’t tag people so it’s just not the same. I like a feature that Instagram offers that’s called “My Story”. I can post pics and videos all day to “My Story”, and people can view it as a slideshow. In 24 hours, it disappears. I’ll give that a try on one of my adventures. It’s not the same as a Facebook photo album, but I can make photo albums on Google Plus, and, of course I can post them on here.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-9-24-08-pm

It spit snow all day but nothing ever stuck. It’s supposed to snow the next few days but it doesn’t look like much accumulation. It’s really weird. The winter has had a few cold spells, but I always remember there being snow on the ground most of January and February. I guess it’s getting warmer up here, too. It’s just been foggy and dreary with rain for the last two weeks. My friend Laura in Louisiana said the azaleas are already blooming down there. It’s like we had winter for 3 weeks in December, and then it stopped. All I know is I will not have to suffer in July anymore! Yay!!!!!!

 

img_1889

 

A little present from Louisiana arrived on my doorstep today. My friend Michael bakes King Cakes every year, and he sent me one. I was so excited to receive the colorful sweet bundle. King Cakes are served in Louisiana during Carnival season, and they are served in offices, at parties and anywhere people are gathering. My Facebook feed has been full of photos of people at Mardi Gras balls for the last few weeks. It is one of the things I miss. Even though we still have Christmas lights lit up here, there will be no festivities until Memorial Day. But in Louisiana, they are dancing and eating and socializing like there is no tomorrow. The normal holiday season is just a warm-up for Mardi Gras.

My friend Laura’s comment about the azaleas reminded me of one of my favorite days in Louisiana. A friend of mine came into town from Memphis, and we went to Cafe des Amis in Breaux Bridge. It a small bar in a small Cajun town that has a Zydeco breakfast on Saturday mornings. This is no quiet brunch. It’s an all-out dancing party at 8 in the morning. On the way out, we spotted some blooming potted Camelia bushes. It was my first winter in Louisiana after many, many years, and I was so delighted to see flowers in January.

I felt the same delight today when so many people were contacting me. I’d opened up a little space for something new by letting go of Facebook. The Universe gave me a little gift for trying something new – a confirmation that this could be good for me. Maybe it would bring new people into my life that have been living in other social circles. Perhaps those that have just been on the sidelines of my life might now make more effort to stay really connected. And maybe I would work a little harder at staying in touch, too. It was as unexpected and as pleasant as seeing flowers in January.