Change Is In The Air: Cassettes, Hair, and What’s Next

A couple of weekends ago, Liz and I stopped at RAD DAD’s Tacos & Tequila for some tacos. I stopped there a couple of times during the pandemic because they had really expansive outdoor seating and a couple of really good options for veggie tacos. I forgot that it was connected to a an ice rink, and last week there was a hockey game while we ate. It was fun to eat tacos while we watched the game and listened to all the associated noise. I just love ice rinks. It so different than my experience in southern Louisiana, and it’s just so normal here. I took ice skating lessons when I first moved here, and I really enjoyed it. But my ice skates sit upstairs in a closet waiting for a resurgence of desire to break my ass on the ice.

In front of our table was a wall that was completely wallpapered by cassettes. It brought back so many memories of my first Walkman, recording cassette playlists and all of the musicians whose cassettes I had purchased. I remembered that NPR’s Radiolab just launched a series of podcasts on the history and the impact of the cassette on the world. So I’m working my way through it. So far I’ve listened to episodes on how the cassette changed China, it’s role in the war in Vietnam and how Bing Crosby discovered and changed the radio with recorded shows. Since cassettes came out during my teenage years, I’m not sure I ever thought of how they changed the world. They just seemed like part of the world I grew up in. But, apparently, being able to move about while listening to music or self help or speakers had an impact way beyond my teenage escapades. It’s fascinating.

I’m also ready to grow my hair back out. I cut it short to transition to gray, and I am really regretting the decision to cut it. The silver is fine even though I may end up tempering it some lowlights eventually, but I don’t like it short anymore. I used to love my hair short. I fell in love with my curls the last few years. I also like the way they frame my face. I’ve been going back and forth on it because my friends seem to like it short. But this week I decided that, in the case of my hair, my opinion is more important than anyone else’s. I canceled my next haircut appointment and scheduled one for the end of January. I’m just going to let it grow as long as I can.

But that’s not the only ongoing transition. I ended up leaving my job at the outdoor outfitters after a long and grueling summer in retail. I’m glad I tried it, but I’m trying to figure out what’s next for me. The job market is interesting right now. There is lots of activity, but it feels chaotic. I don’t want to make a huge life-altering decision until the dust settles from the pandemic. But I also need to get something more permanent and more suitable to my skillset. So I’m trying things on for size and networking with the many friends I have that have been doing the same thing for the past 18 months. I am certainly not alone and that’s helpful. And thank you to Whirlpool for providing health insurance so I can take my time. I feel very grateful that I’m not having to just take something because I can’t be without health insurance. Why doesn’t this country have decent health insurance options? It’s absurd to put it all on your job when job security is non-existent.

My Neighborhood

In between all of that transitioning activity, I’m enjoying the holiday season. I have a little part-time job at the local visitor’s center which is a lot of fun. Everyone is happy when they come in, and I get to tell them about all of my favorite things to do. We have our big holiday kickoff event this weekend, and I’m looking forward to being a part of it. Ashok and I are walking more and enjoying my part-time schedule. The perk of being part-time is I have adequate time to exercise and do the things I enjoy during the week. It’s nice. I’m not going to waste my time wishing I could do it forever because I can’t, but I am going to enjoy it without needing to make it my forever plan. Life as I know it now will change and probably change again. Just look at the cassette. While it was an amazing invention, we’ve moved on many times since then. What once changed the world is now a novelty on a wall in a taco shop.

My Little House at Christmas…..

Let the Christmas Season Begin!

I have a couple of friends – one from Germany and one who just likes to travel to Germany – who keep telling me about the wonderful Christmas Markets they have there. The ChristkindlMarket is in downtown Chicago, and I’ve visited a couple of times over the years. It’s just so crowded that I never end up enjoying it or getting to see as much as I’d like. So my friend Liz – the one who likes to travel to Germany – has been on me to visit Frankenmuth with her. I’ve been waffling because it seems to be a big Christmas shopping mecca with restaurants specializing in huge meals of fried chicken. With me eating vegetarian and being basically unemployed at the moment, shopping and eating chicken are not at the top of my list.

So we compromised yesterday and visited the Kerstmarket in Holland MI. This market is decidedly smaller, and Holland is only an hour drive for me as opposed to the three hours for Frankenmuth. Plus I knew the Dutch restaurant in town serves lots of yummy vegetable-heavy dishes that would be a treat. Although Kerstmarket is Dutch, the market was inspired by the German markets and designed after them. We met for brunch at DeBoer’s bakery and restaurant where I enjoyed a Veggie Skillet with some wonderful Muesli Bread and a yummy cup of Beer Barrel Bourbon coffee. The coffee beans were actually soaked in bourbon and then roasted giving them a really unique and delicious flavor profile. It was the first caffeine I’ve had in a long time, but it was truly worth the headache I have today.

It was really cold out, and it’s the first day that it’s been cold like that all day since last winter. I dressed in layers so I’d be comfortable outside. There were about 20 cute little booths lined up outside the Convention Center, and we leisurely visited each one. The people who manned the booths were super friendly, and they each talked to us about who made their hand-crafted products and how they got started. I was particularly interested in one booth where they had all kinds of grains and beans and the most wonderful woolen hats. I’ve been in a bit of a hair crisis lately, so I bought one of those super warm and cozy hats and put it on right away. My ears won’t get cold walking Ashok in this one!

After our toes froze, we stopped in the Warming Shed and took advantage of the wood stove. My ears were warm and cozy, but it took a bit for my icicle toes to get back to normal. After we were warm we strolled through the rest of the market where I bought a cat toy for my kitties and made a list of vendors for jams and bakeries for future visits. We took a walk downtown, bought each other some cute little Christmas tree ornaments and discovered a really fun art supply store. I had never noticed it before, but I really want to go back.

It all got me in the mood to give Christkindlmarket another try. If I liked the small selection of booths in the Holland Kerstmarket, I bet I’ll find all kinds of things I like in the Chicago market. I was hoping I could grab some Stollen yesterday, but none was to be found. I picked up some today from the Bit of Swiss and had a slice this afternoon. It was delicious. Thanksgiving has come and gone, my Stollen is in the kitchen, my tree is up and lit, and I have a lovely little St. Joseph Lighthouse Christmas ornament I’ll hang on my tree tonight. This weekend, the City of St. Joseph will light up the bluff with holiday lights, and the Reindog Parade is Saturday. The holiday season has begun. I know it will be gone in a flash, but I’m looking forward to a low key and lovely few weeks.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!

My Ongoing War With Words

I remember the days when I couldn’t wait to write a blog post. It used to be so much fun to come up with a funny or interesting idea and see where it might lead me. Friends would respond on Facebook and we’d have great conversations and laughs over whatever silly idea I had highlighted. I wonder what happened to those times of lightheartedness when people allowed you to be who you were and didn’t call you names and harass you for your beliefs. It disappeared, and our friendly world changed overnight. I wonder what happened to me. Why does it now feel so hard to put my thoughts out there? When did the fear of the criticism and insults take over and kill my desire? I wonder if we will ever love each other again.

I still go on adventures. I still take pictures of this beautiful place called Michigan. And I still even think of story ideas. I turn them over in my brain while I’m driving and chuckle at some of my thoughts. But I never write them down. A hate-filled person who delights in killing my spirit prodded me, “Who do you think you are that anybody would want to read all that shit?” I tried not to take it to heart. I tried not to listen. But I have to admit it has stuck in my brain and pops out when I’m trying to write. Who do I think I am? Does anyone want to read this? That has been almost five years ago. Those words are still as loud and as hurtful as they were in that moment. I was having fun. And then I was not.

I finally got off Facebook because of the venom and hatefulness. I used to love Facebook. I’d post a call for blog ideas and people would rally to give me ideas on what to write about. It was a great practice for improvisational writing, and it was connected. We had fun hanging out together, and I felt like I was in a community. Now I’m afraid of what snarky comment someone will post or, even worse, what people say behind my back. When did the world get so hateful? What happened to community and having fun with people who may even be a little different.

Now I spend an inordinate amount of time watching YouTube videos on how to make my brows look fuller. What the hell? I spent my 20s and 30s trying to tame those babies and now that they have acquiesced the world has set a new expectation. I hope that I’m alive when the fashion changes again and they are going to have to bushwhack those things back into submission. By then I won’t have any, so it won’t bother me, but it’ll be worth seeing just the same.

I just finished watching “Maid” on Netflix. It is about the reality and the pain of escaping emotional and verbal abuse. As Alex grappled with how to get help when he never HIT her, I was reminded of the power of those hateful words. But the journey out of that hellhole of abuse is not easy. It sounds depressing and maybe it would be for someone who had not experienced it, but to me it was hopeful. Not unexpectedly she is a writer. When words are the evil force that wrecks your days and holds you hostage, is it odd that we would want to harness them and become their master?

I’ve been in a couple of emotionally abusive relationships. I didn’t recognize it as such because it’s so hard to pinpoint. People excuse it as them having a bad day. They didn’t mean it. They tell you not to let it get under your skin. The abuser will say they were trying to be funny. “Don’t be so sensitive,” they add. They turn it on you and all of a sudden your hurt and pain become your own fault. At some point, you become your own abuser hurling those words back at you late at night or when you are at your most vulnerable. It eats away at you. I’ve had to protect myself again from the barrage of words that fly like my bullets at my heart. The walls go up. My words stop coming. I want to write again. I want my power back. I want my life back.

Indulging My Cravings

When I need a day that is nourishing and that makes me feel like I have everything in the world that I need, I want to reach back into the dark corners of my mind and pull out a snapshot of today. From the moment I woke up, I felt content and blessed to have this cute little home near the lake with a refrigerator full of healthy food and happy little critters to share it with.

I’ve been craving Gallo Pinto, a yummy dish of rice and beans I ate every morning in Costa Rica. The craving was particularly bad last weekend and I started googling the recipe and how to find the yummy Lizano Salsa that is a key ingredient. Yesterday I made sure I got all of the ingredients and promised myself I’d make some this morning. As I was boiling the chilis and chopping the vegetables, I realized that it was this time nine years ago when I was in Costa Rica learning to surf among other things. How much of my craving was yearning for that lovely spot and how much was for the food?

At the same time I was craving the Gallo Pinto, a longing bubbled up for my Christmas tree. It’s still fall here, but I want it to be winter. I want the early darkness of those short days with the warmth of holiday lights and the scent of sweet candles. After last year, I have decided to reach for things when I want them rather than put them off because of inane expectations. Life is short.

Yesterday I prepared for my day of fulfilling longings by making up the Lizano Salsa, cooking the rice and beans and buying myself a holiday treat (at the urging of my friend Michael). I went to bed looking forward to a relaxing day at home and all of the comforts that go along with it. I fixed my favorite decaf coffee this morning and drank it while I was sautéing my wonderful Costa Rican feast. I played some holiday tunes and lit my favorite candles while I hauled my tree down stairs.

I took Ashok out for a walk and when I came back my house smelled wonderful from all the cooking. I was really glad I had to make the Lizano Salsa because those chili peppers brought an unexpected warmth to my kitchen. All afternoon I relaxed in its wake and the glow of my tree. Outside, the yellow and orange leaves fell on a 60-degree November day. It was hardly winter, and it definitely wasn’t Costa Rica, but it was a lovely day nonetheless.

It’s a Lot to Digest

I’m still adjusting to not having a corporate job after all these decades of working. I thought it would be easier to semi-retire. But it seems I still have a lot of energy for work. I know I need to/want to do something else, but I’m having a hard time assimilating my past experience with my current wants and needs. I’m spending a lot of time trying to digest what is happening to this world and with me.

I’m in Knoxville this morning. I have a week’s vacation in the mountains which should be a great palate cleanser for me. Last night I had a fabulous time reconnecting with an old friend from work. We spent three hours at dinner last night, and I was like a camel thirsting for water after a long dry spell of long conversations, silliness and laughter. We literally closed the place down, and if I hadn’t felt bad for the workers trying to close, we might still be there. I even downloaded a Magic 8-Ball app, and we had a great time asking it about our lives and what’s next for us. It seems everybody is in some sort of transition, and it’s an uneasy time to be transitioning. It’s a lot to digest.

I packed most of my meals for my travels, but I did stop a couple of times for coffee and snacks. Panera Bread’s dine-in service was closed permanently in the one town where I stopped. I tried to grab a Starbucks in Shelbyville IN, and a sign on the door said they were drive-thru only due to staffing issues. Homeless people have increased on the streets in the area I’m staying, and on a Saturday night after a UT football game, the restaurant where we ate had a lot of empty tables. I remember Knoxville for its Kingston Pike traffic snarls, and I saw very little traffic on my way to dinner. There’s a lot “off”, and with local newspapers dying, I’m afraid there are a lot of things that are not being surfaced about what’s currently happening.

In the meantime, Ashok and I are going hiking. She was going downhill with her arthritis a couple of years ago, and I thought that might be the end of our hiking days. But with acupuncture and food therapy, she’s coming back to life and things she couldn’t do before, she’s doing again. We won’t be doing 8-milers, but we’ll be fine for 3-4 milers with lots of stops to take in the fresh air. She’ll help me slow down a bit, too. I think it will be great for both of our spirits – and our digestion.

In Chinese medicine, digestion is a term that refers to everything we take in. It’s not just about what we put in our stomachs. We have to digest our feelings, our circumstances, environmental toxins, our losses and traumas. We have to digest our past and our fears for the future. We even have to digest the state of our health. All of that has to move through us and out of us in a healthy, meaningful way to keep us balanced. And, hopefully, some of it will nourish us with lessons learned and unexpected gifts.

I’m finding myself craving light and comforting foods. I’m completely off caffeine and am eating very limited sugar. I’m prioritizing my mental health and my sleep. There is so much to digest in the world and in my head that my stomach is resisting anything heavy or that is not nourishing. I’ve stopped eating meat almost entirely because it tastes too heavy and slimy. I have too much to digest at the moment to think about our meat processing system and all it entails. Beans feel so much better going down. I’m not a big fan of salads, but I found myself ordering a huge salad of spinach, broccoli, carrots and tofu last night. I couldn’t stop eating it. My body craved it like it was candy.

This was the brightest rainbow I’ve ever seen. I felt like it was a hug from the Universe and a sign that there will be an end to this.

For the next week or so, I want to feel the fresh air and hug a few trees. I’m looking forward to hiking and spending some time with my dog doing what we love most. After my experience on the way down, I’m a little worried about what I’ll find in these small mountain towns, but I’m going to play it minute-by-minute. It feels like a time to be mindful and to stay in the present. They say it’s super helpful to be mindful when you are eating. It aids digestion. It helps you hear your body’s signal for fullness. If that’s true for food digestion, I’m sure it’s true for everything else on my plate. This week I’ll try to have more stillness and spend more time listening to the wind through the trees. I think it will help my digestion.

Pictures from the Road………

Sometimes I Do… Sometimes I Don’t

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.

Did That Just Happen?

Whew!!

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.

Cheating Is Encouraged: The Deer Fly Stomp

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.

Congrats to the happy couple on their engagement!

After the Fire…. Relief?

I dreamed last night that my house burned down. At one point last night I woke up and heard my almost grown kitten walking across the control board on my oven. Beep…beep…beep… I knew I should get up and make sure the controls were locked, but I was so sleepy. I finally got up to check on it – this was my dream – and the stove had turned into a crockpot that was sitting on my sofa. Flames leaped up underneath the appliance on top of my charred sofa. Outside my front window I could see the flicker of flames on my front lawn. It wasn’t just the sofa on fire. It was my house.

I was stunned into stillness. What do I do? With an electrical fire, you don’t use water, but it appeared the rest of the house was on fire. That would require water. A voice said “Don’t stop to get anything. Get out”. I began to try to catch my animals who were by this time confused. I was able to grab all of them and put them outside but couldn’t find their carriers and wasn’t about to go up into the attic. I took Bella and Ashok to my car, but Luna was gone. That is so like Luna. Just when you need him to cooperate, he burns the house down and then runs away. That damned cat….

I got into the car, and the fire department was already arriving. A fireman loaded me and my animals in his truck and we drove away. He said it was better for people not to see it. I was confused. I sort of wanted to see it, but I sort of didn’t. I couldn’t for the life of me remember anything that I owned. I felt …. relieved? It was the same confusing relief I felt when I got laid off from a bad job when I had nowhere to land. There was a freedom to it that shocked me. Relief? Really?

Yesterday was a particularly hard day at work. It is very different than a hard day at work in my corporate life. It felt different in my body. For one thing, I was physically exhausted, and I even cut my hand while bringing some shoes down for a customer. I am accustomed to the mental exhaustion when stressed at work and the lingering questions about my decision-making and my worth. This was not the same. I was tired and exhausted and even bleeding. But we got through the day and actually had a great day for a Monday. But it made me ask myself “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”

I think my dream helped me answer that question. My old world has burned down around me. I am left with a much simpler set of responsibilities. And while there is loss from everything that changed, there is a sense of relief that I can sleep better at night. Now when I wake up at 3 AM, I fall back to sleep. When I feel tired and stressed, a good night’s sleep revives me, and I actually know I’m valued at work. Relief is what I feel even thought there’s a lot for me to learn and adjust to. I just have to get through the fire and save what is important.

I woke up truly grateful it was a dream. I sat down with some coffee to watch The Late Show. Stephen Colbert was back in the Ed Sullivan theater for the first time in 460 days. I was moved to tears when he walked out into the audience and danced with an audience member. The world is returning to a new normal with smatterings of the old normal mixed in. I had no idea how I missed that during the last 15-16 months. I’ve cried unexpectedly several times as I witnessed affection, excitement on friend’s faces that I haven’t seen in a very long time and faces without masks. My tenderness was as unexpected as the relief I felt in my dream last night.

In a universal sense, my dream reminded me that the world we are re-approaching has changed a lot. There will be elements of “home”, but it has a whole new structure that will be filled with loss and maybe even relief. We have to be gentle with ourselves and others as we assimilate. If you are left standing, you survived a pandemic. Nobody was left unscathed in some fashion, but we survived. This is the stuff of history books, and it was a true extinction event. Agree with the methods or not, a great many of us survived because of the speed of the vaccine development, mask-wearing and social distancing. Without vaccines, we would still be hiding from this virus just as they are in other countries that are not so fortunate. There is much to be grateful for in this new world.

What burned down for you during the pandemic? Do you feel relieved? Or a great sense of loss? Are your dreams talking to you about it? Are you listening?

I’m Jonesing on Life Right Now

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.

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