Things I Learned in My 55th Year

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Today I am 56 years old. WTF? Dolly Parton’s birthday is also this week, and she’ll be 71. I’m only 15 years from 71. Holy cow… WTH???

Daddy called this morning and wished me a happy birthday. He went on and on about being old enough to have a daughter that is 55. I said, “Daddy, I’m 56.” “That’s even worse!” he said. I laughed but it wasn’t funny. Why does this clock keep moving? Can’t I just take out the batteries and let it rest awhile?

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I know in my heart that there is full life on the other side, but I have a long list of trails to hike and adventures to take here on earth. If I was independently wealthy I might have time to get them all in, but I have to work until I can retire … and if the Republicans have their way, I probably won’t even be able to do that. So, I’m pretty much relegated to fitting it in between holidays and vacation weeks which means I have to prioritize. 15 years? 20 years? How much time is there left anyway? Who says the biological clock ticks in your 30s? Mine is ticking now.

56…. I can remember when I thought that was old. And I feel as good now as I did in my 30s. Well, regardless, there’s not anything I can do about it but make the best of each day. So, I’d like to reflect a minute on some of the things I learned in my 55th year (the blogs are linked for your enjoyment):

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I am a badass in my soul. I learned how to backpack in my 54th year and took the new hobby on my own in my 55th year. I learned to scale down my pack to the essentials and that didn’t include makeup or hair product. I also learned that I can be a badass if I want to be, and I enjoy doing it. In a few words, I learned that I don’t need much baggage to be happy and content. I just need to be challenged.

Kefir is a miracle anti-depressant. I haven’t talked about this much since I’ve started making kefir and drinking it everyday, but I’m here to tell you that this stuff is a game-changer when it comes to anxiety and depression. Since July I’ve been consuming a glass every morning, and I usually end the day with a glass. It helps with my blood sugar after I consume sugar, and it keeps my anxiety at bay. They say that gut health is critical for anxiety issues, and I’m a believer now. Even Ashok is less anxious because she gets a couple tablespoons when I do. Kefir rocks… and it’s so easy to make at home!

God is not too busy to take care of me. I won’t go into a ton of detail about it here, but the way this job and move came about was absolutely divinely inspired. I should not be here, but I am, and I got an amazingly low interest rate on a 15-year mortgage on a great house. If I ever doubt that God has my back, please slap me silly. He even made sure I would stop complaining about the heat. He covered all the bases…. period.

Change your energy … change your life. I had another session with Lexlee a couple of weeks ago. I was starting to feel a bit down after the holidays, and I needed a lift. I’ve had the same experience this time as I had last year – although not as dramatic because I’m in a better place to start. When I shift my energy, and I start focusing on keeping it that way – doing yoga, eating right and managing my emotional state by feeling my feelings – life starts moving in an improved direction.

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I don’t know what I’ll learn in my 56th year. I hope I learn that having sex is like riding a bicycle. Or maybe I’ll learn that being wealthy doesn’t solve all your problems, but it does allow me to buy a yacht. I know that I will learn something. I’m learning much more rapidly as I get older. I know I pay attention more, and I also focus on living my life with intention. Every moment seems so important now. When I do cross over to the other side – this week or 40 years from now – I want to remember every second. I want to know that I spent my time here enjoying all of the beauty and love and laughter that was put in front of me. And maybe I’ll even inspire a few others along the way.

It Ended As It Began – 2016

 

 

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Happy New Years Eve! 2016 has been an up and down year for me for sure. I’m eager to see it end, and excited to see what 2017 might bring. All week, I’ve been seeing memories from Facebook of last year’s holiday hike on the Wild Azalea Trail. It was my first long backpacking trip with three ladies and one girl dog. It’s made me reflect on that hike and remember what it meant to me to be so adventurous and learn all of those new survival skills. It truly was a life-changing experience.

Last year’s hike on the Wild Azalea Trail….

As I was watching those pics pop up, it made me a little sad that I didn’t have hiking buddies this year. I’m ready to get out hiking, but I just don’t have those folks on speed dial that would say Hell, yeah! if I called and asked if they wanted to go on a hike. By some stroke of sheer luck, my friend Karen posted on Facebook that she was in Southwest Michigan this week. Karen is one of the lucky travelers who travels around the country in her RV working at National Parks and other odd jobs. In her spare time she hikes. I went out to dinner with her last night, and at the last moment, I asked her if she wanted to hike this morning. “Hell, yeah!” she said. (Well, maybe that’s not what she said, but that’s what I heard.)

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We met at 9 AM at Warren Dunes State Park. It is about a 25-minute drive from my house. I had driven over there once before but wasn’t interested in just climbing those steep dunes all day. I had done some research and found out that not all of the trails were over the dunes. Some were in the woods, so I was eager to get my feet on the trial to see if I liked it.

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We hiked through the woods with our dogs – females Ashok and Tippy – on another all-girl adventure. A slight dusting of snow was evident at the start, but gradually the snow disappeared. The leisurely trail through the wooded park sat just on the edge of the sand dunes. We finally reached a juncture where we had to choose if we wanted to get physical and climb some dunes or stay with a more easy pace. We both decided to go for it, and up we went into some of the largest freshwater sand dunes in the world on a beautiful 40-degree day.

The dunes, of course, led us to that gorgeous gem, Lake Michigan. There was no ice today. We walked the beach next to crystal green water boiling with waves just like the ocean. We found a little “tumbleweed” that was formed from the dune grasses that line the shore. The dunes had eroded a great deal, and a massive “wall” of sand marked the edge of the beach. The sand was stacked in layers that looked like some kind of massive sandstone rock formation.

The tumbleweed and sand wall….

We climbed Mount Randal which is a 260-foot dune and the namesake of the trail. Feeling like we were lost in the desert, we kept climbing and walking on the top of the dunes trying to find the trail. It disappeared into the blowing sand, and there was little evidence of a walkway. To our left was a sharp drop-off that went almost straight down to the woods, and on our right was a less steep but still unnavigable drop into the heart of the dunes. Eventually, we saw this really long, steep “trail” that looked like it led back to the wooded area. We decided to slide down as far as we needed and then lope the rest of the way down the dunes. It was like a long sand slide, and I had a ball trying to get down.

We found a lovely little creek at the bottom and followed it and the trail back to the car. It was such a beautiful day, and the dogs had a great time playing with each other and hiking. It was a perfect way to spend the last day of 2016. I’d spent the first day of 2016 on a trail in North Louisiana alongside a beautiful creek. I never would have dreamed that I’d be climbing a massive sand dune in Michigan by the end of the year.

On the way back, Karen and I talked about the Great Lakes and the massive sand dunes. On that trail, we had two very distinct eco-systems. The dunes very quickly fade into a super-dark soil that could support trees and ferns. The Great Lakes were formed when very heavy glaciers pressed down upon the earth and dug out (or pressed down) the soil. So, these dunes and soil rose up in the process. When the glaciers melted, the depressions filled with water, and we now have some of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. I find the history so fascinating.

I hope that you have a Happy New Years’ Eve tonight, and I wish you the very best year for 2017. I hope that you discover and seek out experiences that fill your heart with joy and make your soul’s desires your most important priority. Life is too short to miss the beauty and love all around us. And it won’t come to you. You have to go seek it out. Happy New Year!

See this drone footage I found on YouTube of the park we hiked today….

 

 

Christmas Is Christmas …. Always

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My sister asked me this morning, “Is it hard?” We had been talking about my Christmas on My Own this year. It’s certainly not the first Christmas I’ve spent on my own. One of the first Christmases I spent on my own was the first one after my first divorce. Momma came up for the days before the holiday, but I had Christmas  Day by myself. For that one, I spent the day reading and taking a hot bath and spending some time in tears. I certainly survived, but it was not a pleasant day. This year, in comparison, is a piece of cake.

It was much harder to spend Christmas with someone who made holidays very painful because of their propensity for holiday chaos. In that scenario, Christmas was just a painful day that reminded me that I had to do something different with my life. The loneliest Christmases I’ve ever spent were when I was in an unhappy marriage. Being single and alone for Christmas is just a tad lonely and sad at moments. Being trapped in a painful relationship at Christmas feels hopeless.

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All of my friends that are spending the holidays in the Louisiana flood area have mentioned how hard it is to be there right now. The newness has worn off, and the heavy lifting on cleaning out their homes is over. The rebuilding takes so long. People have moved away because they don’t want to deal with it. Families have been co-habitating for months, and the welcome has worn off if it ever felt welcome in the first place. Traffic, I hear, is unnavigable. With so many people impacted, it takes longer to get appliances, supplies and contractors. They may be feeling hopeless that Christmas will ever be happy again.

I’ve had 55 Christmases in my lifetime. I imagine most were happy. Particularly as a child Christmas was magical. As an adult, there really isn’t any magic. The adult Christmas season is about celebrating relationship. And there’s nothing magical about relationships. They are hard work. Christmas as an adult is about spiritual connections and connections with other people on earth. And if a person has superficial or strained or downright abusive relationships, Christmas sucks. If someone special is missing from your Christmas gathering, it can be a very painful Christmas indeed. Christmas, it seems, can be a litmus test for whether or not you are truly content in your life.

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So, as I reflect on my Christmas on my Own today I don’t feel sad about it. Sure, there are moments when I feel sad, but on the whole I have some great relationships. Just because I am here on my own, and they are busy with family elsewhere doesn’t mean we are not connected.

One of my good friends is celebrating Christmas with her husband today. It is the first time that they’ve ever celebrated Christmas without their kids. Because of jobs and distance, they won’t be coming home this year. She was a little nervous about it and not sure what they would do. Another friend decided to work today because Christmas is really kind of painful with his family. And I know lots of people who are going through the motions. They will be glad to rip the tree down out of the stand and get this sh*t done. The old refrain “Christmas just aint’ Christmas without the one you love,” is really just sort of a sappy sentiment. Christmas is Christmas always… it just sometimes looks different in its execution.

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If this is one of those Christmases that feels unhappy to you, my heart goes out to you. I’ve done so many things in the past to make it special or at least bearable:

  • Take a long hot bath and journal about the great things in my life.
  • Pretend it’s not Christmas and just do whatever I’d normally do on a day off.
  • Focus on my spiritual practice and the real celebration of the season.
  • Join other “orphans” at Starbucks or at a Chinese restaurant.
  • Go to a 12-step meeting or church gathering for some spiritual food.
  • Curl up with a good book.
  • Let yourself cry and feel your feelings.
  • Take a long walk and enjoy the Christmas lights.

Above all, remember that “this, too, shall pass”. That’s my mantra for this holiday season. I’m in a new area and not well-connected yet. Christmas will not be like this next year. Christmas, like everything else in life, changes from year to year. It could be better next year, or it could be worse. But you can bet your Christmas stocking it will be different.

Merry Christmas, my dear readers…. whether your Christmas is happy or sad or somewhere in-between, I hope you’ll find it informative. The holiday season can be a great time to reflect on what you need to do to make your life better. It’s very appropriate that New Years’ resolutions follow on the heels of Christmas. And, remember your happiness is not about him or her or them doing something different. Happiness and good health are inside jobs. If there is something lacking about Christmas or any other day, it’s up to you to create something different.

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas from Michigan

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Merry Christmas, Midlife Moments Readers from snowy, cold Grand Rapids! Thank you for reading and hanging in there with me this year. For me, it has been a year of ups and downs and all arounds. I’m grateful to have landed where I have, and I’m grateful to be bundling up for Christmas rather than sweating.

Baton Rouge weather forecast….

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I’m in my “Christmas on my own” mode this year. But I have to say people up here are so darn nice that I can hardly believe it. I have an invitation tonight to spend Christmas Eve with a friend and her husband, and I have an open invite tomorrow with another friend if I am not out and about on the trails which is how I think I’m going to spend my holiday, weather permitting. Thursday night I was able to get two short visits with two old friends that I haven’t seen in 10 or more years. It was fun to catch up and see them again.

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I decided to come to Grand Rapids for a Meetup.com hike this morning so I can meet some like-minded folks, and I’m sitting cozy in a Starbucks all decorated for Christmas. Christmas music is playing, and I feel in the holiday spirit. With the absence of a party to attend, I made a trip to the outlet malls yesterday and scored my own Christmas loot of the fashion sort. I’m still building my winter work wardrobe, and I enjoyed getting some great deals on Ralph Lauren, Loft and Calvin Klein items. I think I’m ready for the long haul now. I just have to keep being active so they don’t get too small!

 

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On a lark, I decided to sign up for Match.com a couple of months after getting here, and I’m meeting some very nice men. Nobody special yet, and it takes time for me trust somebody I meet on the internet, but it seems that Michigan men like me more than the Louisiana ones did. I was wondering this morning if maybe I’m in an area now that has more men than women. That could be a factor, too. Match hasn’t been very successful for me for dating, but it’s been a great place to make friends with common interests. I don’t know what I’m looking for in the dating arena anyway. I’m sort of busy at the moment.

So the hike this morning is in a park near Grand Rapids called Provin Park. There are 17 people signed up, and it’s a dog-friendly hike. It’s not too cold today by Michigan standards, so I’m looking forward to a nice morning in the woods meeting some new people. I thought that the outdoor groups would pack it up and get started again next spring, but that was obviously a southern notion. They are just as busy – if not more – for the next few months. If you can’t hike, you snowshoe or cross-country ski. Kayaking is obviously out because you’d have to have skate blades on it, but people get out and ice fish and ice skate instead.

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There was rain forecast for last night, but I walked out of the hotel to go to a meeting, and it was snowing like crazy. The parking lot of the meeting place was on the downside of a big hill, and I couldn’t get slowed enough to turn. I didn’t get stuck or anything but I sort of slid onto a snowbank on the side of the driveway. I just backed up and was able to get right in, and I jokingly told people I wasn’t drunk, I was just driving Southern. When I tried to drive home, I couldn’t make it up the hill, so I had to take a side road midway up to work around the icy incline. But I got home safely even though there were many cars on the side of the interstate stuck in snow and ice.

 

It’s kind of funny driving in this. People are all over the roads and in the ditches when it snows. It seems they are not much better than Southerners at driving in it. But there are always loads of people providing assistance. It must be a normal thing to either get stuck in the snow or help people out. My Dad, of course, is obsessed with the reports of those huge pile-ups on the interstate, and I get a report every day of how many cars have been involved in snow pile-ups on Northern interstates. I guess it gives him something tangible to worry about. The reality is that I’m more likely to end up in a snowbank than a pile-up, but I take it slow. Billboards urge drivers to take it slow in snow and ice, but obviously some don’t. I’m told that’s who I really need to worry about – the other guy.

We got snow a plenty in Grand Rapids, so it’s beautiful out this morning. I’m looking forward to walking around in it, and I know Ashok can’t wait! I hope you all have a Happy Christmas Eve doing whatever is in your hearts. It is truly a special holiday, and it only comes once a year.

Happy April Fools’ Day!

I was thinking today – and for awhile actually – that Facebook has gotten boring. Sure, there’s the occasional really moving or inspiring quote that catches my attention, and interesting articles that pop up every now and then. But, for some reason, I have never figured out how to fix my news feed where I get all of my friends posts. I get about 10 people’s posts all the time, and then I have to go over to my other friends’ pages to see what they’ve been doing. It’s frustrating, and it used to be a lot more fun before all those ads started coming up and polluting my news feed.

So, I had an idea to google “fun things to do on Facebook”. Surely there are other fun things to do on Facebook besides insult friends over politics or religion. I found a ton of things to do on Facebook that made me as happy as a clam. The first one that popped up was a hyperlink that would send whoever clicked on it back to their own timeline. Hmmmmm….. That would be fun on April Fools’ Day, wouldn’t it?

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Besides, I kind of liked the idea of posting something really complimentary and sending people back to see their own face! It just seemed like a great way to create good karma. I do think people enjoyed it. And I honestly still don’t know how it works, but it does. Pretty snazzy. I also posted one on my Midlife Moments Blog Facebook page if you’re interested in trying it out. It didn’t get as much traction, but that’s okay.

So, the next time you’re bored or you want to slam your friends and call them stupid because they support a different political party or they worship in a different way, maybe you could take a look at one of the below articles for some ideas. You could learn something new, and it might even lift your spirits. Kitten videos can only do so much. I do know that laughter is good medicine and anger is not. Why don’t we start a movement to have fun again on Facebook?

7 Cool Things You Can Do on Facebook

10 Great Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do On Facebook

19 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do on Facebook

Oh yeah …. I did go to that page to see if I could find out who unfriended me. Then I got to thinking…. “Why would I intentionally seek out information that could hurt my feelings?” You know, sometimes we need to just let sleeping dogs lie. There are so many fun things to do on Facebook and on the internet in general that I could probably stay busy the rest of my life. I think I’ll focus on the fun posts, the cute pictures, the happy families, the beautiful vacation pictures and the wonderful people I’ve reconnected with over the years.

Did you ever realize that if Facebook hadn’t come along, most of us would not even be in each other’s lives anymore? And, instead of being grateful for an opportunity that has never happened in the history of the world, we pelt each other with insults and negative news at an insane pace. And I know that life is NOT Facebook. I have plenty going on otherwise. But, it is a place where I keep up with folks, and I want that to by my happy place.

Happy April Fools’ Day, y’all. I, for one, am choosing to be grateful that you and Facebook are in my life today … even with all the issues that we all have. Without it, I would have never known how your story turned out. That’s truly a gift.

Galveston: Avenue O Bed and Breakfast

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I ended up passing on the mountains this weekend to get some girlfriend time from my Texas girlfriends. The weekend before I was feeling lonely, and I knew that going camping by myself takes an adventurous spirit and me feeling on my game. I didn’t. So, I did what all great women have the prerogative to do – changed my mind.

My friend Kristi made the suggestion that I meet her in Galveston on Saturday night instead of hanging out in Houston. I’d never been to the island, and I thought it was a great idea. After hunting for at least an hour for a pet-friendly, reasonably-priced hotel near the Galveston area, I stumbled across the Avenue O Bed and Breakfast. It normally required a two-night minimum on the weekends, but a couple stayed Thursday and Friday night, so Saturday night was free and available to me. The price was reasonable and cost about the same as a cheaper hotel with a pet fee, so I decided to splurge and treat myself.

One of the reviews that I read mentioned that “some people think a B&B is weird”, and I’ve heard that before. But I’ve always liked to stay in someone’s home. My experiences at B & B’s have all been very good, and I love meeting new people. At a bed and breakfast, you have to want to talk to the owners and visit with the other guests at breakfast. If that’s weird, then so be it. I just think it’s friendly.

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I arrived about 5 PM, and Connie met me at the door. She was very welcoming, and there was a little greeting for me that made me feel pretty special. She took me upstairs to the Rainforest Room and gave me the short tour. There was a whale’s tail tub, and she showed me how to turn on the “lights and bubbles” and the jets. I already knew I wanted to try that out. She took me out to the back deck and showed me the backyard where they would have a firepit from 7:30 PM – 10 PM. She even included a s’mores “kit” for me to use that evening and said if Kristi wanted to join me to let her know. She’d get her own kit for the fire that night.

Kristi and I walked down to the beach which wasn’t all that far from the B&B. It was a holiday Saturday night, and the crowds were thick on the streets and on the beach. I’m really not much of a beach person, but I suppose you can’t go to Galveston without going to the Gulf of Mexico at least for a few minutes. We drove over to The Strand which is a street with shops and restaurants and had dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a beautiful evening, and we sauntered over to La King’s for candy and ice cream afterwards. I got a scoop of Lemon Cream ice cream that was divine and a piece of Rocky Road candy for the an Easter treat. I would have loved a hot fudge sundae from the old-fashioned soda fountain, but enough is enough. I called Connie to tell her we wouldn’t make it because dinner ran late, but she said her husband would restart the fire for us when we got back around 10 PM. They were so nice!

La King’s Confectionery and our view at Fisherman’s Wharf… 

Kristi and I sat around the fire with a twenty-something couple that had just gotten married on Friday. They were really cute and really sweet. Connie’s husband (can’t remember his name) told us that they were from up north – Minnesota I think – but his job brought him to Galveston. Connie always wanted to run a bed and breakfast, and she’s been doing so for about 10 years. I could tell she was passionate about it. Every little thing was just perfect, and she was so accommodating.

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Kristi and Ashok out by the fire

I drew my bath in the crazy fun tub late Saturday and took a long soak. It took so long to fill it that it never even got completely full, but I enjoyed the lights and bubbles. Ashok passed out on the bed. It had been a fun and exhausting day for her.

The next morning I got dressed early and took a walk down Avenue O before breakfast was served at 9 AM. Lovely Victorian homes perched under magnificent Live Oaks and palm trees. The temperature was perfect, and we walked for about 40 minutes before returning.

Lisa and Scott were at breakfast when I got there. They had stayed at several bed and breakfasts in Galveston and were really liking this one. They were former bloggers themselves, and we had a great time talking about blogging and travel. At one time, they traveled the boudin trail in Louisiana and hosted their very own boudin tasting contest. Like me, they love talking to people and told me how they met a bartender in Galveston years ago, and they go see her every time they are in town. They’ve kept in touch over the years, and she’s since left the bar where they met her, but she meets them out for drinks and conversation. Before I left I had an invite to their big party in Texas called Moody Gras. (Scott’s last name is Moody.) It’ll be fun to check that out!

My breakfast buddies….

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Momma talks about reading the book about the hurricane that destroyed Galveston in 1900, and I’ve always wanted to read it. Lots of people died because there was no warning system back then. Vacationers were surprised when the storm hit and wiped out the town. Scott and Lisa are history buffs, and they said they spend most of their time discovering Galveston’s history when they are in town. Their favorite pub in town, O’Malley’s, was originally a brothel. When the most recent hurricane struck Galveston, the bar got water, and they had to clean up the entire building. While they were cleaning up the mess, they found a poster with pictures of the “ladies of the evening”. Each girl on the “menu” was marked with a number instead of a name. What a find! It’s on display now if you’re interested in stopping by for a beer and a history lesson.

Breakfast started with fresh strawberries and blueberries and a home-made sticky bun. Coffee was delicious, and Connie had a little pitcher of sugar-free mocha and half and half. It was so good I didn’t even have to go to Starbucks. The main dish was a sausage casserole made with herbs from her garden, bacon fried perfectly crisp and a yeast-risen biscuit with home-made jam and fresh butter. It was better than any restaurant fare I’ve eaten in awhile. And to top it all off, I made some new friends and got to chat with the chef. The young married couple came down for a bit, but they weren’t very hungry and didn’t stick around long.

I have to say that the Avenue O stay made my visit to Galveston . I had a blast with Kristi, and the town is really cute, but the hospitality and experience at the B & B was just perfect. Kristi works for the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and at dinner she was telling me about a summer exhibit they are having that will feature “living art.” Instead of viewing the art as an observer,a patron will actually have an “experience”. That’s sort of how I feel about my stay in that beautiful old home on Avenue O. It provided a place to rest my head to be sure, but most of all it provided an “experience” that I won’t forget anytime soon.

If you want to stay at Avenue O, here’s a link to their website.

P.S. Tell them Sharon at Midlife Moments sent you….

 

 

 

 

Happy Singles Awareness Day

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Happy Valentine’s Day to my lovely readers!  Before I start poking fun at a holiday that is fraught with horrible memories for me, I’ll tell you that today is a day to celebrate romantic love. The day is named after St. Valentine who is actually more than one saint. You can read more about the history here. My favorite story is that the Roman military found out that single soldiers made better soldiers than married ones and outlawed marriage. St. Valentine secretly performed marriages for those interested – thus ensuing that love would reign.

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Remember, though – that in any of the stories St. Valentine was eventually put to death for his actions. It wasn’t a happy ending … but, then again, how many love stories end happily anyway? I’ll keep a long story short by saying that when I was married, Valentine’s Day was less than special. I’m not sure if it was the men I married, the relationships or just the holiday in general, but it was more of a forced march through the motions for both of us. The day just reminded me of what I wished I had and longed for from a mate. Needless to say, I’ve never been much of a fan of Valentine’s Day.

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Over half of the world is single. You’d never know it by our cultural expectations. I don’t know how many singles are involved in romantic relationships at a given time, but I can tell you there are lots of us out here who barely remember Valentine’s Day is coming. The only time it bothers me is when I’m at work on Valentine’s Day, and the receptionist’s desk is littered with flowers and red hearts addressed to others – but not me. But, I’ve heard those women talk about their husbands. It ain’t a bed a roses in most cases. I’ll take the sting of one day over the sting of everyday anytime.

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I do know a few happy couples who enjoy Valentine’s Day in all its glory, and I hope to have that one day. But I know better than to put all my eggs in one basket. I try to count on the love I have – whether it’s platonic love, girlfriend love, parental love, godly love or the love of life itself. All of these seem so much more abundant and rich to me than romantic love has ever been. They are truly worth celebrating. I think there should be a day for people who have lots of love in their life but no main squeeze. We could call it Freaking Rock Star Amazing Person Full of Love No Need for Labels Day. There would be no need for gifts because love is the best gift of all.

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Whatever your relationship status, enjoy today. I’m going to go visit my parents. It’s going to be 72 degrees… not a real strong reminder that it’s February. And, if you are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic partner, make it a day where you commit to every day being an expression of your love to them. That would truly be a celebration of love. If you are single, count your blessings. It just means that the next year is full of opportunity for romantic love. Write down what you want and start to manifest it!

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Mardi Gras in The Forest

  
On Monday, the dehydrating began. The Badass Backpacking Bitches are on the road again for Mardi Gras weekend. In Louisiana, many offices are closed for Mardi Gras day and, in some cases, the day before. Mardi Gras dwarfs Christmas in scope in Southern Louisiana with festivities starting in early January and reaching a crescendo this weekend thru Tuesday. Mardi Gras signals the end of the holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving. The rest of the country starts their New Years’ diet plans Jan. 2, but people here start after Mardi Gras. It’s a big damn deal.

  
With a four day weekend in our sights, the Badass Backpackers planned another backpacking event, and this one is girls only. I spent all week dehydrating dinners, breakfasts and lunches in an attempt to lighten my load. Last time I carried some real food for lunch, and I wanted to see if I could rehydrate a bean and rice salad for lunches. I chopped up some sun-dried tomatoes and olives to add some veggies and fat to the mix. I opted for oatmeal breakfasts with steel-cut oats, yellow raisins, powdered whole milk and pecans. One morning I’m replacing the oats with dehydrated sweet potato to try a recipe I found on the web. Tofu jerky, nuts, home-made granola bars and dates round out the snacks category. Dinners will be home-made chili and a dirty rice dish with roasted carrots. My food bag is definitely lighter this time, and I’m excited to try some new trail food!

  At lunch I went home to pack my pack, and my meticulously prepared food bag was not in the freezer! WTF??? Did somebody break into my house and steal my dehydrated food? That did not make sense to me. I looked in every drawer, closet and cranny. No food. I unpacked my pack. Nada. I dug through the garbage. No luck. I finally found it in a weird pocket in my pack. I guess I stuck it there while I was testing the weight. It about gave me a heart attack. It’s not like I could recreate that in a few hours.

  
My pack -after digesting the information I learned last weekend from my more experienced backpacking friends – weighs 11 pounds lighter than on my Christmas trip. I’m ecstatic. I did have to get a lighter tent and give up my cozy chair, but I’m going to try a few tricks to see if I can compromise comfort for ounces on the trail. If something has to hurt, I’ll choose my butt over my back any day. 

  
While my friends are out catching beads in the coolest city that ever was, we’ll be counting steps through the forest. This hobby is not for everybody, and, for some it’s an acquired taste, but we’ll more easily find a place to pee than the parade-goers in New Orleans this weekend. It sounds like a great swap to me. There will be giggles in the woods this weekend. The Badass Backpacking Bitches are on the trail again. 

  
Happy Mardi Gras y’all. Do what strikes your fancy this weekend. Tell ’em I told you to!

This is my Story, and I’m Sticking To It

On my birthday, I’m going on a trip down Memory Lane. I thought I’d compile photos and places where I’ve lived. Warning: It will probably be boring to you, but I’ve enjoyed doing it. It’s kind of my way of scrapbooking, I guess.  You can click on the pictures to get the captions.

First, I was born…..

Town: Watson LA

Years Lived There: (1961-1979)

Key Events: Childhood, Live Oak Elementary and High School

And, then, I went to college……

Town: Hammond LA

Years Lived There: (1979 – 1984)

Key Events: Attended Southeastern Louisiana University – Degree, Bachelors of Arts in English Education, Worked at the Lions Roar Newspaper as Sports Editor, Worked in the Sports Information Department, Drank at the Brown Door

And, then I got my first real job…..no pics from this time…

Town: Harlingen TX

Years Lived There: Summer 1984

Key Events: News Reporter at the Valley Morning Star Newspaper

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And then I got married…..

Town: Monroeville PA

Years Lived There: 1984 – 1985

Key Events: Married John

And, then John got a new job at the Florida Times-Union…..

Town: Jacksonville FL

Years Lived There: 1985 – 1987

Key Events: Claims Adjuster at Allstate Insurance

And, then John got a new job at the Knoxville News – Sentinel…

Town: Knoxville TN

Years Lived There: (1987 – 1998)

Key Events: Birdkeeper at the Knoxville Zoo, Divorced John, Started working for Whirlpool Corporation

And, then I got a job in Seattle…..

Town: Kirkland WA

Years Lived There: 1998 – 2000

Key Events: Sales Trainer for Whirlpool Corporation, Met Steve and got engaged

And, then I got a job at Whirlpool’s Corporate Headquarters in Benton Harbor MI…..

Town: St. Joseph MI

Years Lived There: 2000-2003

Key Events: Project Manager for Whirlpool Corporation, Met Rick and got married for the second time, started practicing yoga

And, then Rick wanted to move closer to his kids in Chesterton IN….

Town: Chesterton IN

Years Lived There: 2003 – 2006

Key Events: Went to graduate school at Purdue Calumet, a campus of Purdue University – Degree, Masters of Science in Education, Instructional Technology

And, then we both wanted out of the cold weather…..

Town: Memphis TN

Years Lived There: 2006 – 2013

Key Events: Instructional Designer for ServiceMaster Clean, Accredo Health Group and FedEx Services, Divorced the second time

And then I decided on a lark to move home…..

Years Lived There: 2013 – Current

Key Events: Instructional Designer for Louisiana Community and Technical College System, Learned to BackPack and am still trying to love the swamp!

 

I’ve covered pretty much every area of the country except for the Southwest…hmmmm…..NEXT… :). I’ve owned 7 homes, 2 dogs, 5 cats and had 2 step children and two husbands. I’ve worked for a zoo, several major corporations, a yoga studio and a university. I have two degrees. I have so many friends that I can’t count them. Life has been good…and eventful. Enjoy the ride….

NOTE: When I tried to add Baton Rouge to my Google Map, I got the error message that I had reach the maximum number of stops. I guess I’m going to have to stop moving or start over with a clean slate!

Happy Birthday to Me

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I have never understood those people who don’t tell anybody it’s their birthday or those who suffer through them asking people not to mention it. I have always loved being the birthday girl. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I only had 14 months of being the only child. Or it might be just because I’m freaking happy to be on this planet.

I mean, when I think about it, if I had never be born, my parents would have no reason to have gray hair. They’d still be young and energetic. They’d probably have a little more retirement money. My sister would have never discovered Bhan Thai in Memphis. Quite frankly, why would she have gone to Memphis anyway? If I had never been born, Ashok would be wandering the roads still looking for a Momma. My friends on Facebook would not even know who she was. Knowing her, she’d eat sand on the lam and not live to tell about the experience. If January 15, 1961 had come and gone without this little curly-haired baby being born, I like to think the world would have missed me. I’d like to believe that there would be a Sharon-shaped hole that people would notice. To me, that’s reason enough to celebrate!

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So, I started a tradition a long time ago of celebrating the entire week of my birthday. I’m not a huge fan of presents although it is really sweet when people give them to me. I’m a fan of “presence”. I want to see your face more than I want to unwrap gifts. So, if a gift is the reason that you ask me to pop by or go to lunch, then so be it. I’ll take it with a smile… as long as I can see yours.

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Wednesday’s Lunch with Jean Ann, Lisa and Donna

Today is my birthday eve. I will be 55 years old tomorrow. I don’t like the fact that it’s so close to 60, but it beats the alternative. Tonight I went to the Indigo Spiritual Center, and they led us through the creation of a Manifestation Board or Vision Board. I thought it was really appropriate to dream about this year the night before my birthday. Although 54 will be gone with a whimper at midnight, 55 will be ushered in with hope. My heart dreamed up a tree filled with words that have special meaning to me. Love … laughter … friends … camping … nature … even romance hung from the limbs. I hope to manifest more money and success. I even envisioned more gentleness, great curls and some time in the snow. I’ll continue to add until I feel it’s complete.

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I’ve been taken to a Mexican restaurant, Monjuni’s – my favorite Italian place in town and got my monthly facial with Lisa. I visited my friend JoAnn and her husband Robbie, and she gave me some great camping gear.

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Pink Cammo Toilet Paper!

 

Yesterday, I met some old friends from high school at Zea’s where I really overindulged with shrimp and grits. Then the waiter offered a free dessert for my birthday, so I selected the New York Cheesecake with praline sauce. I am not exaggerating when I tell you it is the BEST cheesecake I have ever put in my mouth. Last night I had some amazing energy work done that rocked my world. I feel better than ever.

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Today my friend Amanda and I went to La Divina Cafe and I got a yummy sandwich and french onion soup. While I was at the counter, I asked the woman about their King Cakes. She said they were hand-made, hand-kneaded and really, really good. I asked for a recommendation, and she recommended the blueberry. I asked her about the tray of King Cakes sitting behind her. “Oh,” she said. “Those are Nutella King Cakes.” It is the best King Cake I’ve eaten. The cinnamon and Nutella are the perfect mix, and the glaze on top of the sweet, soft dough makes it taste like the best donut on the planet. And, yes, Michael, I know it’s not supposed to be a donut, but I’m telling you it was good.

Tomorrow, I get to have lunch with my parents. That’s a rare event since I’ve lived away most of my life. I was so excited when they called and asked me to lunch. After all, it was just the three of us on that day 55 years ago tomorrow. I think it’s very appropriate to celebrate it that way.

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Nutella King Cake

The Badass Backpackers have been planning a trip to the Tuxachanie Trail this weekend. My friend Mike is cooking steaks for my birthday celebration by the campfire, and Blake is cooking up a chili for about 20 people on Saturday night. We have people of all ages and all walks of life coming out for the trip. Some will day hike. Others will camp, and some will even backpack. There are lots of options, and I know it will be a great trip. The forecast is cold for down here, so I packed my down coat. I’ll be car camping, so I get to be a little more spoiled this weekend. Instead of my regular inflatable sleeping pad, I’m sleeping on a 4-inch thick foam mattress the size of a twin bed. I’m going to sleep good!

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I’m packed!

I’ll end my birthday week with lunch and a movie with my sister on Monday. I’m lucky that I share a birthday with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., so I get a holiday every year for my birthday. I love my birthday. It marks the date that my soul entered this world. In my mind, it feels like a pretty special event. And I’ve certainly had a very special week.