Even though I’ve been a consistent exerciser my entire adult life, I don’t always want to do it. In fact, if I’m honest, 85% of the time I have to have supports in place to make sure I get it done. My most effective one is reminding myself how great I’ll feel when it’s checked off the list and my blood is pumping through my body. Sometimes it works. Other times it doesn’t.
My second most effective tactic is remembering how it will help my anxiety or depression or insomnia. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
And then there are days when I have a real conversation with my body, and it tells me that it would much prefer a rest day. I know I will be more motivated another day, so I don’t talk back unless it’s been a series of days where my body has said no. During the lockdown I grappled a bit with my inertia on the sofa. But I knew I would always get back to it. That’s the thing about exercise. I can start over anytime.
This morning, my body said no. I’m having a second cup of almost decaf coffee, posting a short blog and perusing camp sites in Michigan. I also meditated and spent some quality time with my pets. For some reason this morning, Luna wants to sit in my basket staring at my meditation cushion. Maybe his body said he should rest, too.
That’s about the best word to describe the last few weeks…. several months….. last year of my life. Did that just happen? Did I just abruptly retire from a 25-year-long career in Learning and Development, survive a pandemic (I’m trying to be in denial that it’s not over yet. Get your f*ing vaccine so it will be), and start a new career in the outdoor industry? Wow. Holy cow. That’s all I can say.
I’ve spent the last year re-evaluating, processing, dreaming, grieving, raging and laughing at this crazy world we live in and the current state of our planet. It is at once inspirational, totally flabbergasting and enraging that we are dealing with climate change, the crumbling of our democracy and a pandemic all at once. I could go on about the inability of our culture to reckon with our past, acknowledge the reality of the present and collectively create a better future, but I don’t want this to be a rant. Get the f*ing vaccine so we can focus on other things, please.
This time last year I was a month into my “retirement”, and I had no idea what things would look like on the other side of this. I still don’t. I do know that I’m really enjoying what I’m doing at the moment. I know that I have a core support team of great friends who are going through this with me. I am eating better than I ever have. I’m exercising, practicing yoga and meditation and otherwise taking care of my health. Yes, I got the f*ing vaccine, and you should, too. This is neither the best of times nor is it the worst of times for me. And I’m truly grateful for that. I do wish I was sleeping a little better. I’ll keep working on that.
Oh, yeah, and it’s summertime in Michigan. I don’t like summer as a rule. I’m a much bigger fan of the shoulder seasons. But if I have to do summer, I’ll do it in Michigan all day long – over and over again. It’s such a happy, beautiful place filled with small towns, an unpredictable surf and giddy tourists. It was 58 for my morning run yesterday, and it felt amazing. We do get hot days every now and again – not Louisiana hot. But it never lasts long. We sweat a little, b*tch a little about the heat and then it cools down just as quickly as it heated up. I can deal with that.
Here’s an update on my gray hair transition….
My friend Liz and I were going to the beach today, but there is a Beach Hazard warning. Apparently life-threatening waves will be battering the coast along with dangerous rip tides. We won’t be getting in the water, but I do think we’ll head to the beach to watch because there should be a plethora of surfers and windsurfers. Surf’s up!!
Well I need to feed these animals and get ready for the day. Have a great Sunday wherever you are. Oh, yeah… please get your vaccine. Did I say that already? We are never going to get out of this pandemic and on to other things if we don’t all do our part. And I’m ready to get on to other things. We have to somehow cool down this planet before we all drown or burn up.
Just after I started working at Wanderlust, a gentleman named Paul Settles came in to ask for sponsorship for a race he manages every summer. I enjoyed talking with him about his little race that is in Grand Mere State Park. The distance is “about” 5K, but the winner is the one who catches the most deer flies on flypaper attached to their hats. It sounded really quirky and fun, so I told him I might run it. If nothing else, I thought it might be a fun blog.
I was having brunch on Saturday with a friend of mine, and as the date got closer I began to question whether or not I had time to get ready after the run. I decided not to go or to just head over for the start of it and then come home. I was walking Ashok Saturday morning and trying to figure out when I was going to run that day when it dawned on me that I should just go run the darn thing. It would be different, and it would be in a beautiful place where I don’t usually run during the week. I hurried home, brushed my teeth, washed my face, threw on some mismatched running clothes and trail runners and drove over to Grand Mere.
The gravel road back to North Lake Park was muddy after the rain Friday night. The air hung heavy with humidity. It felt pretty nasty out, but it was apparently perfect running weather for deer flies. Paul was super excited about the weather we were having. I was not. I was one of the first people to arrive even though it was only 30 minutes before the start. Dee, a woman I know from a lot of local races, was helping with registration, and she helped me attach the flypaper to my hat. Meanwhile, a steady steam of traffic entered the little parking lot. I laughed to myself as one truck pulled in with a big white barking retriever hanging out the car window. That dog would be covered in mud by the time this thing was over.
It was obvious this was a low-key, popular event with many repeat runners. I met several people, and we talked about the run and how much fun they have had over the years doing it. I was already so glad I came, and I texted my girlfriend to tell her I would probably be nasty and unbathed for our brunch. I was going to see this thing out, and it seemed it didn’t really have a tight timetable.
Paul gave a short speech about the run. The money goes to Alzheimer’s research. Paul was inspired to do this after his father’s, Paul Settles, battle with Alzheimer’s. The shirt features names on the back of local people who have battled the disease, and he is truly passionate about stopping the suffering. He gave us an overview of the course map which was scrawled on poster board, told us cheating was encouraged, and said “go” as he led the little pack out of the parking lot and into the woods.
I chatted with other back-of-the-packers as we ran through the beautiful forest and hoped to catch some flies. I got one and then, Kim, who was running with me exclaimed that I had three. I had no idea how excited it would make me to catch some flies. I imagined I might win for a second. But my hopes of an inaugural win were dashed when a young man came running through with his flypaper completely covered in flies. But I proudly posted my three flies on the board when I got back.
We were told to be back at 9:12, and we gathered for prizes. Local businesses and crafters had donated items such as homemade candles, gift certificates and one embroidered deer fly wall hanging. Everyone got a gift for their participation, and the winner with over 30 flies received their medal. A couple got engaged on the course which was apparently a first for the run.
I drove home with a smile on my face. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a run. My last one was canceled due to COVID. I forgot how fun they are and especially the little ones with their quirky customs. I met a few new people, participated in helping a good cause and actually had time to take a shower before my brunch. I would call that a good run.
The pandemic is over in my little world right now. I’m vaccinated. I’m back to work. Summer is here. Downtown St. Joseph is full of bikinis, bicycles and Illinois people. This afternoon I actually broke a sweat outside of a workout for the first time in a year. My mood is lighter. I’m running again. My future is secure, and my dog is pretty happy for the moment. Right this minute, I can’t think of a thing I’d want that I don’t already have.
Last week Michigan strawberries came in. I picked up two quarts on Thursday and after leading a hike with a coworker this afternoon, I stopped to pick up two more. I know they won’t last long. Strawberries are a flash in the pan here before the season gets rolling with peaches, blueberries, raspberries and everything else. I’m eating strawberries for breakfast, snacks, dessert and out of hand. They are so good, and I don’t have to feel guilty at all for that high consumption of fiber and vitamin C. This precious treasure literally lights me up when I put them in my mouth.
Forte Coffee opened a location downtown. I’m literally a block away from my favorite coffeehouse, and today I walked down after work and grabbed a mocha frappe to celebrate the fact that it is hot and muggy in Michigan. I no longer have to hate it because literally tomorrow it’ll be cooler. Last weekend I was wearing a coat. Today I was sweating. The rest of the week will be moderately warm and rainy. Unlike Louisiana or Tennessee, I’ll only be hot for a moment and the rain is desperately needed. Summertime in Michigan is civilized and welcome.
I bought a pressure cooker a couple of weeks ago. For dinner I made the most perfect brown rice to accompany my pressure cooked Cuban beans. I don’t know how I’ve lived without this thing. It makes my meal prep for the week a cinch. After Thursday’s grocery shop, I had that pot running for hours cooking chickpeas for hummus, Cuban black beans, and brown rice. By the time my vegetables and fruits were chopped and stored for the week, my cooking was done. And now it’s so easy to throw together my meals at short notice. It’s helping me eat out less, eat healthier and eat some pretty tasty meals.
I’m running again. After my stint with the physical therapist I’ve been settling in to a regular running routine. Once a week I climb stairs or run hills, and two other times I run intervals. Eventually I’ll add some speedwork just for fun, but I need to heal and get stronger first. I feel great afterwards, and it helps me hit my step goal everyday. I just hit 7 days in a row with over 10,000 steps and quite honestly I’ve been over 15,000 most days. Being able to walk around at work instead of sitting home on my sofa helps. I feel so much better and am feeling stronger every day.
I got the interior of my house painted a month or so ago and hired a contractor to come in and repair some damaged plaster and paint my interior and exterior doors. I’ve ordered some blinds, and they come in next week. My house looks so good and all of those little imperfections that nagged at me to fix them are repaired. I can relax and not worry about it. My little house is not perfect but it’s perfectly me. There are a few more things I can do in the not so distant future or maybe I’ll put them off til next year. After all, there is no hurry here. Both my house and me are a work in progress.
This time last year I was preparing to be “retired” at the end of June and not really knowing what to expect. A pandemic was raging, and everything in the world was uncertain. I was trying to get all of my work transitioned, and I was honestly afraid to get near other people. I spent my days in Zoom meetings on my dining room table in that uncomfortable chair, and I just wanted to be done already. I was baking and eating junk most days and sitting around on my sofa getting soft and flabby. I even bought some really loose clothes to ease my expansion. Who knew what was about to happen, but I wasn’t going to starve to death.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but today I’m pretty content with my lot in life. I have a backpacking trip planned in a couple of weeks, and the rest of my summer is stretching out before me unencumbered with events and responsibilities. I’m learning my new job, and I quite like it. I love being downtown and being part of the hustle and bustle of other people’s vacations. They are happy and relaxed and talking of weddings and the beach. They are jonesing for St. Joe, and quite frankly I am, too.
My hiking buddy Liz and I met Sunday for a hike at a local nature preserve. We hiked a bit, saw a snake, had a brief lesson on “fear of snakes”, realized we couldn’t find the lake because the trails weren’t marked and decided to head into Saugatuck for a coffee and to climb the 306 stairs to Mt. Baldhead.
Saugatuck is my favorite little beachfront town in this area. I’m not sure why because there are so many that are just adorable and filled with interesting little shops and restaurants. But Saugatuck has an energy that resonates with me. Ashok and I visit there a couple times a month. I always grab a coffee or a treat from Uncommon Coffee Roasters which features a side window for customers who have dogs. It was particularly useful and busy during Covid as they closed the inside area and just served from the window. A large porch with seating and benches on the sidewalk allow for pet-friendly seating. Liz and I ended up there to share some treats she brought and cappuccinos.
We made the short drive around the river to Mt. Baldhead. After next weekend, we can take a human-powered chain ferry instead of driving. 306 wooden steps lead to the top of Mt. Baldhead, a Lake Michigan dune. It was a bit foggy out, and the clouds hung low over the dunes. But we had great views of the city as a reward for the strenuous climb. We talked to a couple of women who climbed it for the second time yesterday, and we vowed to come back once a month and add a “rep” of the stairs. It’ll give us an excuse to visit Saugatuck and get some heart-pumping, ass-building exercise. Plus there are some pretty nice views from the top.
We wanted to grab lunch, and we decided to stop at the Douglas Root Beer Barrel. I went there for the first time last year. This was a popular tourist hot dog and root beer stop in the 1950’s. It was located in a different spot near its current location, and tourists stopped here on the way to and from Oval Beach for hot dogs, root beer floats and, of course, root beer. It fell into disrepair at some point and in 2011 the community launched an effort to “Save the Barrel”. It was finally re-opened in 2018. I am amazed that they have room to cook and prepare food in there, but they do.
I had the BLT Hot Dog and a diet root beer. I forget what Liz had, but we both liked our dogs and root beer. We asked the owner or manager about their experience with COVID last year. He said they were closed for awhile, but they did a great takeout business. We were sitting at a table on the lawn, and he said all of the tables were previously on a concrete slab so they moved them onto the lawn for social distancing. He is leaving them where they are because it allows for pets and people to have a lot more room. They even have little kid adirondack chairs! I thought it felt like a picnic and agreed with his assessment to keep the COVID-inspired arrangement.
I got up inspired yesterday morning and climbed the downtown St. Joe Bluff stairs so I can get in shape for our monthly Mt. Baldhead climb. (I’m not sure if Liz realized she wasn’t just theoretically committing to this monthly climb, but I’m serious.) There are 73 stairs on the bluff. I climbed it 7 times yesterday for a total of 511. I exceeded the 306 from Sunday but am not quite there for the 612-stair climb in June. I’ll keep you posted on our progress. Perhaps our new tradition will be to climb the stairs and stop at The Barrel for a dog. Sounds like a perfect Sunday tradition to me!
I found a blog this morning that features history and a couple of photos of The Root Beer Barrel. You will find the link below along with articles launching the “Save the Barrel” project and the re-opening.
Have a great day and #getoffyourass!!!
For a really long time I have been considering giving up dying my hair. I don’t have a super long hair dye story. I dyed it for fun when I was young. I was more concerned with straightening out these beautiful curls that I now love. I spent money on chemical straighteners and a hundred bad haircuts that I imagined would bring me sleek and beautiful ringlets instead of these wacky curls. It NEVER happened. So color was somewhere in the background. Honestly, I’m not even sure gray hairs bothered me. There was just so much else going on that seemed problematic.
In 1999 (at 38), I decided to wack off my hair because I had moved to Seattle. It rained all the time, and even with chemically-straightened hair and a lot of time spent cooking my hair with heat, the minute I walked out the door I got a weird frizzy afro. One day I walked into a salon and said “Cut it off”. I want it all cut off.” As much as I hated the thought of having very little hair I just couldn’t focus so much on it anymore.
After a few haircuts and tweaks to get it right I fell in love with my new short hairstyle. Yes, my face was front and center, but I got so many compliments it was overwhelming. Whether I thought it looked good or not, it obviously did. I wore that short haircut for 13 years. I always had a little gray at the temples, but my hair was so short it just looked more like a highlight. I started dying it after every haircut for fun the last 2-3 years or so. I liked it red. And it got cut off every hair cut so it truly didn’t matter.
I ran into problems when I started to let the curls grow out in 2013. I was curl-curious and wanted to see if I’d like them more now. I was starting to see curls come into fashion. But as they grew I noticed how gray my temples were. I kept up with the home hair dye but it was becoming harder to do with more hair growth, and I got a lot of splotchiness. By the time I got my Devacut, my hair color was crazy. The stylist was adamant we fix the hair color. That was when I started dying my hair regularly at the salon to cover gray. So, I’ve been dying my hair like that for about 6 years. And, to be honest, I never cared for that salon routine.
I don’t like the salon time. I don’t like the cost. I’m not even sure I like the look. I’m kind of a natural girl anyway, so I don’t really care if anyone sees my roots. With all the curl going on and the length of my hair, you don’t really see it unless I pull my hair back. My temples are really gray. The rest of my hair is salt and pepper in varying mixes. I started becoming gray-curious years ago when I saw this picture of Jane Fonda in a wig for one of her movies. It made me wonder how my curls would look with my natural gray.
I started the process of growing out my gray a couple of years ago but one of my girlfriends just shook her head and said, “no”. I put the genie back in the bottle and went back to dying it without question. But I’ve been in and out of “going gray” facebook groups and have been fantasizing about it for years. I watched my friend Ann with envy as she chopped off her hair and embraced her gray after she retired from Whirlpool. I told myself I’d do it when I turned 60. Or maybe I’d do it when I retired. I kept putting it off until the future. I thought about it last summer but I knew I’d need to look for another job, and age discrimination is a real thing. I tabled it again.
But now I’m in a good workplace where naturalness is embraced. I have also been growing tired of the amount of hair on my head and how hair dye is damaging it. It’s been hard to keep down the frizz and to keep the color looking good. I had an appointment yesterday for highlights and a root touchup. Two weeks ago I started reading some going gray blogs and watching This Organic Girl’s YouTube videos on her “going gray” journey. I began to imagine canceling the appointment, or using it to cut my hair off. It felt so liberating the last time I told the stylist to cut it all off. And it was liberating to embrace my natural curl. Could I do this?
I DID IT!! Day one of the “going gray” journey is in the books…….
I have no idea what my natural hair looks like. I’m going to give myself some grace and set a deadline. I’m not dying my hair before Thanksgiving (unless it’s a streak of purple or pink). That’ll give me 6 months to decide what I want to do. But I am a natural girl. I like natural things. I like low-maintenance in general. I have a feeling I’ll like my natural hair. After all I have all of that curl for interest. So, I went in yesterday and had Abby give me a pixie cut. I have plenty of hair dye left in the curls in front, but she lopped off a good bit on the sides and front. I can already see it peeking out. There’s a lot of white at my temples. It’s going to be a shock at my next hair cut to have that right by my face.
So I’m officially gray-curious at least until Thanksgiving. I’ll keep you posted on my journey. I’m also going to enjoy wearing hats again. I missed all of the great hats I used to wear when my hair was short. I looked like Bozo the clown in a hat with all of those thick curls bursting out. And it’ll be a relief to run or hike and sweat and not have all of that hair to air-dry afterwards. If nothing else, my hair routine will be much easier for the next 6 months.
One of my favorite things about spring in Michigan is the wonderful asparagus that literally grows wild in this area. Of course, there are farmers who grow it, too, so I get mine at Sawyer Garden Center. However, whenever I get a chance to drive up M-139 I like to pick up a a couple of bundles at a roadside stand with the honor system. I love getting fresh-picked like that, but most of the time I pick up my weekly bounty at the garden center.
Yesterday they had purple and green asparagus and local green onions. I got two bunches of both. I chopped the onions for salads and meal toppings this week and roasted the asparagus whole. I just spread them out on cookie sheets, sprinkled them with virgin olive oil and salt and pepper and roasted them at 400 degrees. I stored most of it but used a serving for dinner.
Most of this past year I’ve been cooking plant-based. For 30 days after I left Whirlpool I ate completely vegan. I felt better almost immediately. I think the biggest culprit for me was dairy so I’ve really cut back on it. I also still eat some meat if I’m out in a restaurant, and now I’ve added Great Lakes fish back into my diet. Eating this way has really simplified my cooking and shopping. Tonight I prepared some brown rice mixed with yellow split peas and topped it with the roasted asparagus, chickpeas and pickled onions that I picked up at Molina Tortilleria right across the street from the Garden Center.
For dessert I made a pineapple smoothie with a little Greek yogurt, coconut cream, coconut, nutmeg and cinnamon. It was really creamy and delicious and reminded me of a Pina Colada. It was a great end to a really nice day. I took Ashok out to Saugatuck Dunes State park early in the day, and we hiked for about an hour. The lake was so still. Ashok always seem to be happy to be on a trail instead of walking around the block. It’s worth the 45-minute drive just to see her so happy.
I stopped on the way home to get groceries, so I prepped all of my veggies and put them away first thing. I made lunch and then lay down for a nap. When I woke up I practiced yoga for a half hour and completed a yoga nidra practice. I felt as still as the lake this morning. It’s a good way to end the day. I’m really grateful for a healthy, quiet, restful day.
I have one week down in my new role. While starting a new job is always exciting and hopeful, it is also a time where I recognize my limitations and shortcomings. I’ll need to build relationships with my new work family, and there will always be hiccups and challenges in that process. And, of course, our dear coronavirus has presented additional work challenges and the really uncomfortable but necessary need for wearing a mask. It’s hard getting to know people when half of both of your faces are covered.
I also seem to have forgotten how to manage my time when 40 hours have been squeezed out of my daily allotment. I had to have a very narrow focus this week in order to get through it. It took me about 4 days to get physically accustomed to walking around the office and up stairs, talking to a bunch of new people and lifting and unpacking inventory. By day 5, I had enough energy to exercise after work and get to sleep at a normal time. That was much quicker than I anticipated.
I’m being challenged to develop patience. I have to be patient with myself with my work learning curve. I have to be patient with my new work family and my animals at home as we all adjust to this new normal. My kitten Luna has been with me a year but he’s never experienced me being gone on a regular basis. He seems much more needy and agitated when I don’t get him fed on time. And when he’s agitated, Ashok and Bella catch hell, too.
I’m having to be patient with the easing of the Covid restrictions and the mask wearing. Wearing one all day has been challenging, and I’m not drinking enough water. The upside is I’m not eating a bunch of junk either. I’ve lost five pounds in the first week, and I’m back to a pre-covid weight. I’m also having to be patient with myself as I get back into a routine. I can’t do yoga, exercise, meditation, cooking, walking the dog, journaling and napping. I’ll have to find a happy medium that allows me some downtime.
Most of all, I’m having to be patient with the weather. This time of year is when I get really sick of the cold and am eager for warmer temperatures. But I am still wearing a coat as we speak, and I have to keep putting my fingers in my pockets as my hands are freezing while I’m typing. Yes, I’m sitting outside in 40-degree weather. I just want May to be filled with May-like things, and this southern gal thinks May is an outside month.
I don’t like to be patient. I like for things to move and change quickly. But developing my patience muscle helps me be less reactive and to relax a bit more. It also helps me be more reflective. At this time, I could dive right in at work and make a lot of mistakes that are unnecessary. I could also be stressing myself out needlessly. Taking more time to reflect helps me make better decisions and fewer messes. I’m just going to give myself some time and keep doing the next right thing. One day I’ll look back and not even remember the frustrations of today. Hopefully, I’ll be a much patient person due to the practice.