Natural High

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

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

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

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

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Here are the sugar stats for today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday Night Check-In: Shifting Gears

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

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

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

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Me and Strider

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

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

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The flooded Kalamazoo… oil-free.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

12 Weeks: Reflections on a Spring-Like Evening

 

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I got biceps!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our Obsession With Ice

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

“Welcome Aboard,” The Conductor Said

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Some of my friends do not understand why I would ever come live in a place with a northern winter. I get a lot of flack from them when I post pics of this beautiful Michigan season on Facebook. I’m sitting here looking out my window at the snowy scene at the first glimpse of daylight. Frost etchings in the corners of my windows make the most delicate frame for the winter scene.

Why am I here … at this time … and in this place … AGAIN?? I’ve asked myself the question numerous times – each time for different reasons. Sometimes it’s in angst from the effort of moving. Other times the pain of loneliness begs to know why as I struggle to get connected. And just as often, it’s asked in a sense of anticipation and wonder. Why am I here? 

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I moved when I was younger out of a sense of adventure laced with some sort of searching urgency. I was looking for something. I’ve described midlife as a time of waking up for me, and, in this time, this relocation business has reframed to something else entirely. I’ve learned over the years – and the lessons – that everything happens for a reason. The urgency for answers has gone, and I find myself relaxing into the questions.

When I was first contacted about this job, I pulled the Eagle card. It is the first card in my Medicine Card deck, and it represents a strong connection to the Great Spirit. Eagle medicine urges me to look at things from the eagle’s perspective, a perspective much broader than a human perspective. My friend Ann reminds me of this when things get tough. Sometimes I’m happy to be reminded. Other times I ask, “But why, dear God, am I here?”

Loneliness is my greatest teacher. Being an extrovert, I have a high sensitivity to loneliness, but I also have this really strong need for solitude. Achieving a balance is critical for my well-being. I’ve gotten so much better at understanding my needs, but when events like a relocation happen in my life, the challenge increases.

This bench was at the top of a dune at Grand Mere State Park, and this was the view!

I had some energy work done with my friend Lexlee the other night because I was feeling lonely and low after the holidays. During my session, she said the Eagle came to her. It was a reminder of my purpose here, and she reiterated the assurance that ‘Every step has a reason.’ I pulled a card the next morning to see how I could “step into” Eagle energy because right now it seems a bit unreachable. Wolf appeared to me and reminded me that I am a teacher. And right in the middle of the reading for the card, wolf medicine urges me to “seek out lonely places that will allow you to see your teacher within. In the aloneness of a power place, devoid of other humans, you may find the true you.”

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I still don’t know the answer to “Why Am I Here?” I may never know the answer. But I do know that there is a reason I am here. I have learned that God does not send me anywhere for a job. He sends me to places because I need to be in a specific place with a certain group of people at a certain time. I imagine myself boarding this Southwest Michigan passenger train at this moment in time,  and none of us really knows where we are going or why we are aboard. We could be riding together for a long time or a short distance, but when I think of how this all came about there is no doubt that I landed here on the wings of eagles. So, I’m just trying to step into my own best self and contribute what I think is mine to give.

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Last week I hiked in Grand Mere State Park. Like Warren Dunes, it is a beautiful place with woods and enormous sand dunes overlooking that jewel Lake Michigan. I stood on the top of a dune and looked around. “Why am I here?” I said aloud. Without even knowing that I would later that evening brush wings with eagle, I felt her presence. The view was incredible, and I was literally on top of my world. The sting of loneliness ebbed beneath the surface of my heart, but the magic of this transition held me captive emotionally. “You know why you are here,” eagle answered back as she descended upon me playfully. My soul resonated with the knowing that this is a spiritual journey that led me to the top of a dune in a very cold place alive with a warm and inviting spirit.

“Welcome Aboard,” the conductor said. “Enjoy your ride.”

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Sunday Night Check-In: Miss, You Have to Glide

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When I lived up here before, I lived 3 years in St. Joseph and 3 years in an Indiana town called Chesterton. It was here in February of 2003 that I took up running. Don’t ask me why I started running in February in Michigan, but I did. In fact, I lived on a road that had no sidewalk, and in the dark, I ran in the snow and slush before work. By the time we moved to Chesterton later that spring, I was running a 5k pretty easily.

I was lucky enough in Chesterton to be 10 minutes away from a National Lakeshore, and the Indiana Dunes State Park. It’s a beautiful place preserved in its natural state amid miles and miles of development leading into Chicago. I ran most of my runs in that area, and my favorite trail run was Trail #9 in the State Park. It is shaped like a noose, and the trail follows the top of many dunes with a gorgeous view of the Lake Michigan shoreline for about a mile. It was a challenging run, but the view was so breathtaking it was worth the extra work.

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I had a little time off Friday afternoon, so I loaded up Ashok, and we drove the 50-minute drive to the State Park. It was covered in snow, and I brought my snowshoes just in case. The snow wasn’t deep enough for snowshoes, but I donned my “traction” devices on my boots, and Ashok and I took off for a 2-hour hike.

Except for the one runner we saw near the end, we had the trail to ourselves. Two deer stood and watched us from the beach when we were near the shoreline. Because I’m so used to southern beaches where it’s hot, it always strikes me as unusual that the sand mixes with the snow here. It is convenient since the sand provides traction in the slippery stuff, and even the cities here use sand instead of salt because there is so much available.  We hiked across a frozen swamp, snowy trails, towering dunes and into a gorgeous snow-covered forest. It was just as beautiful as I remembered.

We had more lake effect snow last night. So, I woke up this morning to more snow to shovel. I shoveled yesterday, so I contacted a snow-removal guy to help me out today. I spent the day lazing around the house cooking chili and chatting with my friend Alisa on Facetime.

I went to the ice skating rink for Open Skate around 2 PM to get a little exercise. My lessons ended last week, and I bought my own skates. I was anxious to try them out. I’m better than I was in the beginning, but I still sort of plod along in a pseudo marching/gliding fashion. I was getting into a stride tonight when a little girl skated by me. “Miss, you have to glide,” she said.

“What,” I asked, confused that she was stating the obvious.

“You have to glide,” she repeated and she skated around me showing me how to glide. “Like that,” she added with a sly smile and skated away.

I don’t know if it was the fact that I was starting to feel more confident on my skates after six weeks of lessons, or maybe the fact that I’ve learned that falling is not as bad as I feared, but I decided to try it. I know my coach was trying to get us to glide, but for some reason I HEARD it in a different way from that little girl today. Something clicked in my head, and I knew what she meant when she said I had to glide. I tried it, and I tried it again. I didn’t glide the rest of the night, but I glided for minutes at a time. And when I was gliding, I felt much more stable. In fact, a couple of times I almost fell, and I glided to keep myself upright. I forgot about falling when I was gliding, and I enjoyed the ride.

Right foot push …. gliiiiidddddde …. left foot push … gliiiiiddddde... push ….. gliiiiddddde ….. wow….. this was ice skating. My little miniature coach skated by once, and I mentioned that I was getting it. She seemed to approve and urged me just to push. She, on the other hand, spent half of her time on the floor, but she was totally enjoying herself.

Remnants of summer past …..

 

After skating, I took Ashok out for a walk downtown. We walked down to Lake Michigan, down the bluff by the Christmas lights and finally down by the river. Huge icebergs are forming, but I couldn’t get any close-ups because my camera battery died. It was very cold. My hot chocolate was almost frozen by the time we finished as were my fingers. But I thought a lot about this little town and my move here. I thought about learning to snow shovel and ice skate and my attempts at building community. It can be overwhelming at times, learning a new culture. I have to admit that a real Michigan winter challenges my sensibilities.

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This morning I walked Ashok in the deep snow, and I noticed families loading into their cars with hockey sticks and equipment. The rhythm of my day is slowed way down. It takes so much longer to do things because of the preparation for being outside. I’m carrying boots and dealing with wet slushy snow everywhere. I can’t even get out of my driveway some days without shoveling snow for 30 minutes. And I even have to get used to sliding on the roads. In so many ways, the earth is slippery beneath my feet. I keep working to get my balance and solid footing.

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Miss, you have to glide. Maybe it’s not about being safe and rooted solidly in the ground. Perhaps she’s right.  I have to glide.

 

 

 

Tiger Sightings: Great Lakes Winds

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Last night I bundled up to walk Ashok in the neighborhood. I dreaded it as I could hear the wind rattling the windows. It was colder than it had been, my car registering 21 degrees when I left work earlier in the evening. It would drop to 15 before the sun rose, but I’d be tucked into my bed by then. I was more worried about the temps ratcheted down by the wind as I put on my new down coat, several layers and my snow boots.

Brrrrrrrr … I whispered as I walked down the icy steps. Ashok turned around and looked at me excitedly. I steeled myself for what I knew would be a cold one and headed down the street. The wind literally growled around me. I imagined the surf on Lake Michigan 10 minutes away. Was that the waves I heard as a backdrop for those ferocious winds? Surely I couldn’t hear it from here, but still ….

“What are you doing out here?” the tiger growled. He swirled around me, brushing my legs and nudging me forward. “It’s too cold out here for you, curly girl.” I shuddered and put my head down, shuffling through the icy street.

A million tigers growled around me. I wondered if he was right and I shouldn’t be out here. But I was warm and cozy in my winter clothes. As long as I kept my face covered, it wasn’t so bad. I slipped a little around the corner. The light snow covered the icy cement surface of the sidewalk. Some neighbors had shoveled and some had not. A frozen obstacle course challenged me and Ashok as she searched for a place to pee. Piles of frozen created icebergs, and it seemed that the earth moved under my feet.

The tiger growled around us, and I covered my face and hugged my coat around me. My fingers were starting to get really cold in my gloves, and my face stung with cold. “Go away,” I said and shivered. “Go home, Southern girl,” he snapped back at me. “You can’t take it out here.” I brushed him off and walked faster.

At the corner of the main road, he roared loudly. A hundred tigers ran at me through the funnel of the street. The force took my by surprise, and the cold whipped around and underneath my coat, shocking my bones. “I said go home, Southern girl,” he screamed. “You can’t handle this!” I straightened up in my boots, breathed in strength from the earth and imagined a Louisiana summer day. The warmth boiled my blood, and I snapped back, “You don’t scare me. You are just a puffed-up bully. I chose this. Go back from where you came.” My resolve coursed through my veins.

Angry winds howled and spit around me the rest of the way home. But I had said my piece. I contentedly finished my walk with my girl. I was happy to be home and warm inside the rest of the evening as the tiger growled and swirled around my house. I imagined all of the nights that Michigan winds had haunted this place, and it was still standing. “I AM home,” I whispered to myself as I curled up under my woolen blankets to fall asleep.

 

Let the Shoveling Begin #southernbadass

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I knew it was coming. St. Joseph was just on the edge of the lake effect snow of last week. We got an inch or two which was beautiful but was certainly NOT lake effect snow. All day last Thursday I watched the radar as Benton Harbor/St. Joe skirted by on the edge of the snow belt onscreen. But the forecast said we were only just starting. I knew it would get us sooner or later.

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This morning I looked out the window, and I knew today was the day. I practiced a little shoveling snow a few days ago when we had a baby snow. I just wanted to figure out how to do it. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. But, then again, it wasn’t much snow.

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When I lived here before I never even owned a snow shovel. I lived in a condo, and my condo fee paid for snow removal. I just waited until it was done and went on about my business. My second husband who was from Chicago did not shovel snow. I had made a deal with him that if we bought a house instead of a condo, he had to do the yard work. I didn’t realize that his agreement was based on the fact that he had an extremely low standard of yard work. If it wasn’t in danger of covering the rooftop, he wasn’t mowing it, shoveling it or weeding it. I hated having to wade through snow while my neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways were free and clear of ice and snow. But I kept my mouth shut. That was his job.

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With a house, I need to shovel snow. Someone is supposed to come out for snow removal when it gets over 4 inches, but I don’t really know when they show up. I have to get out today, and when I saw what was outside I knew I would have to get on with it. I waited until I saw the neighbors out shoveling their sidewalk. I didn’t want to do something ridiculous like shovel snow prematurely. But as soon as I saw them outside, I bundled up and took to the task.

The white blanket left no evidence where my sidewalk or driveway ended, and neither neighbor on either side had shoveled yet, so i had to figure it out. The steps were easy enough, and my friend Kenny who moved to Wisconsin from Memphis had advised me earlier in the week to get some traction for my boots. I received these little pull-on “snow tires” for my feet in the mail yesterday.

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My supervisor waited to see what I was going to do and bounced around a bit while I was figuring out where to start.

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I started with the steps and moved on to the sidewalk before tackling my single-track driveway. I yelled at Ashok when she peed on the neighbor’s driveway. “How embarrassing,” I thought. The teenage boy came out to warm up his car while I was out, and I asked him if I should shovel the center of the driveway where grass grows. “No,” he said and added, ” Do you mind if I just drive out your driveway? If I don’t get stuck, that is.” Well, I thought, I don’t care if she peed in your driveway if you are just going to take advantage of all my hard work.

It didn’t take as long as I thought it would, and it wasn’t all that hard although I did get my upper body workout done for the day. I felt very happy knowing that there were women all down the street telling their husbands, “Honey, that southern woman has already cleared her driveway. When are you doing ours?”

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As I was finishing up, my neighbor across the street walked out, and I asked him how I did. “Better than I’m doing,” he said. “Now if we can just get that dog to shovel snow.” My other neighbor didn’t seem as impressed with my novice shoveling. “It’s an art,” he told me. “You get better at it as you go along.” Of course I noticed that he drove away from his house without shoveling at all. I guess even art can be procrastinated.

 

 

 

Sunday Check-In: Snow, St. Joseph and Single Gals

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The last two weekends were very full of activity, plus I was really sick the week of Thanksgiving, so I decided to be grateful for some downtime and do whatever I wanted to this weekend. I made no plans other than to follow my nose and get my house clean.

Friday night I decided last minute to meet my friends Karen and Bob down at the Christmas tree lighting in downtown St. Joe. The lights have been up for awhile, but Friday was the office ceremony where they flipped the switch.

Sometimes this town reminds me of a movie set. With its quaint Victorian beauty and charm, it’s the ideal place for little hometown gatherings. We are so lucky because we have fantastic restaurants and an abundance of locally-owned small business. In fact, most of the businesses that were here 13 years ago are open and still thriving. I give a lot of credit to the influx of Chicago folks that swarm the area to enjoy the beach in the summer. They bring lots of money and “vacation spending” which focuses on the small businesses that stay creative. As a perk, the locals get to enjoy the benefits after the crowds leave. It’s like an 8 month beach vacation (albeit cold) right at home.

Friday night was no different. The storefronts featured live mannequins, and local crowds were walking in the streets with their dogs, kids and elderly relatives in wheelchairs. It was just so sweet and festive. I grabbed a hot chocolate and brought Ashok with me to enjoy the lights down on the bluff. The light show lined the sidewalk on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, and I felt so happy to be a part of it this year.

 

Most of the day Saturday I ran errands and cleaned my house. I picked up a snow shovel because this is the week it starts. We have snow in the forecast three times this week. A man at the Christmas lights fest laughed at me in my parka for the 40-degree evening. He said we are getting a polar vortex this week. A couple of years ago they had one come through, and it dropped to 40 below. Note: I checked the weather. This one is not going to be that bad… but it will bring snow. So, now I have a snow shovel and a bag of Safe Paw snow melt on order from Amazon. I’m just about ready.

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I decided to go down to the local skating rink for Open Skate last night. It’s an outdoor rink, so it didn’t open until it turned colder which was right around the holiday. It was my first time at an Open Skate not designed for people taking lessons, and I enjoyed the high energy skating of the teens and pre-teens on the ice. As I plodded around with my tiny little glides, I hoped that one day I would be as comfortable as the rest of the folks out there. A lady and her daughter looked so graceful skating around in their figure skates. I wanted what they had.

When I was taking off my skates, I happened to be sitting next to the lady that was ice skating so beautifully. I asked her how long she’d been skating, and she said this was her first time back after 4 years. To my surprise, she and her lovely daughter had just moved here in the last couple of months from Vermont. She needed a life change after a divorce. She chose this area because her sisters lives close by in Chicago. But she fell in love with St. Joe. I have met so many women my age and older who have moved here to retire or to start over. In fact my whole block is full of single women. I got her number, and I hope to catch up with her soon. I won’t be skating with her for awhile, but we can sure grab a hot chocolate or go for a stroll downtown.

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I started today with some yoga and meditation. I have my ice skating lessons this afternoon, and I plan to meet a new friend for coffee and a bite to eat afterwards. I hope today will be a lazy day. It’s cold, and we are supposed to get our first “sticking” snow tonight. We are looking at 3-5 inches if the forecasters are on target. I may have to get up early and shovel snow in the morning! I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Sunday Night Check-In: Hiking, Swizzling and Twinkling

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I was sick in bed over Thanksgiving, and since I didn’t want to ruin other people’s holidays by giving them what I had, I stayed home. There was no turkey or dressing or anything festive at my home. I ate leftover pizza all day Thursday. Honestly, I felt like crap, but it was a great excuse to rest without any guilt over house cleaning, chores or spending money. I watched movies, slept, read, slept and then went to bed and slept.

Yesterday, I took the opportunity to get out in St. Joe with a new friend to see the town and shop a bit. Holiday decorations were up, and I made a mental note to take Ashok for a walk in the evening to see the lights. I actually ran into 4 people I knew while I was downtown. I guess I’m going to have to behave myself here. One woman stopped me and asked if I worked at Whirlpool. She said she’d recognize those curls anywhere.

I just LOVE Caffe Tosi!

I bundled up last night to go see the lights, but most of them won’t be lit until this Friday. I’ll have to make time this weekend to get out and about. It was still beautiful, and I enjoyed being warm and cozy in my new LL Bean coat and wool tights. I made a run to LL Bean in Chicago last week to stock up on winter outerwear for both me and Ashok. I hope that we are all set. I know last night I felt warm and toasty and was even sweating by the time I got home. That being said, it was only in the low 40s. The temperature will be dropping much lower than that in no time.

This morning I got up and decided to take a drive in the hopes of finding a trail or two. I stopped first at my favorite breakfast place from 13 years ago and had a frittata with sweet potatoes and avocado. The Blue Plate Cafe serves wonderful organic coffee and homemade baked goods along with a healthy assortment of brunch and lunch dishes. It is located on the Red Arrow Highway (I call it the Red Arrow Drive, and you can get info here.) which leads to a string of little beach towns between here and Indiana. When we were dating, my second husband and I used to go to yoga every Saturday morning in Indiana and then stop by the Blue Plate for breakfast. We had some great times there and often brought our friends from St. Joe to both yoga and breakfast. It was a ritual that I remember fondly.

But this morning breakfast was followed by a search for a trail. I finally landed on a little area called Warren Woods. (Warren Woods and Warren Dunes were named after a guy who made his fortune creating the featherbone corset.) The signs say it is a primeval forest, and it was lovely. The sun wasn’t out, but it was only in the 40s so it wasn’t too cold. Ashok and I hiked for about an hour and a half beside the marsh and a small creek. We saw several other dogs with their owners, but it was mostly very quiet and pleasant. The area reminded me a lot of the Wild Azalea Trail  in Louisiana except for this sign that greeted us at the beginning.

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After hiking, I did some grocery shopping and then reported to my ice skating lesson. I’m happy to report that I’m improving. At my second lesson, Mindy taught us to “swizzle”, but I have not been able to get it successfully. Tonight, about halfway through the open skate, everything clicked, and I was doing my swizzles! I was thrilled.

I inquired as to what will happen after our next two lessons are completed, and Mindy said I can actually take lessons through June. I’m thinking I just may do it. These things take time to learn, and if I commit to a season of lessons, maybe I’ll be good enough at ice skating to have some fun with it. And I’m making some new friends, too!

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Since half of my holiday was spent being sick, and the other half was canceled due to work, I’m wishing I had a little more time off. But, tomorrow is Monday, and we are on the home stretch to our “live date” for our new organization. I’ll be glad when we are settled in to our new world. My goal this week is to spend a little time each day in meditation, work out 5 days at least and continue eating healthy with minimal sugar. We’ll see how it goes.

Have a great week, y’all and make some time to enjoy the holiday lights. They’ll be gone before you can blink an eye.