The New Normal

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With the lake effect snow we had last weekend, I had to pull out my snow boots and heavy coat and get used to the “snow” drill again. On Sunday, I put on my boots and bundled up for a trip to Sawyer for some coffee and biscotti. It took forever to get out the door. I forgot my mittens. Then I remembered I needed my computer. Oh yeah, then I had to shovel snow to get the car out of the driveway. Finally I was off!

I spent some time reading and drinking coffee and then decided I should do my grocery shopping. I’ve been trying to save a bit of money, so I thought I would try shopping at Meijer, a Michigan-based Walmart-type store. I hate that store, but it is cheaper. This week it would be good to save some money.

Bundling up for the early morning routine…

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As I said in my Yummly blog, Yummly is changing my life. I got out my shopping list and began checking off items. Meijer’s produce is wildly disorganized, and I couldn’t find any rhyme or reason to the setup. I even asked an employee how it was organized, and she couldn’t tell me either. All she could do is point out the items when I’d read them off my list. “I hate this store,” I mumbled under my breath. “Breathe… you are saving money,” my saner brain countered. I continued my shopping which seemed to take approximately 3 hours because I couldn’t figure out where anything was. The lotion was completely across the store. It was a mile and half walk through molasses to get it and then walk back to the dairy and frozen foods. “I’m never doing this again,” I said. “Relax,” my saner self said. “It’s almost over.”

It’s 5 AM. Go shovel!

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I finally got in the line, and it was like being in a slow motion movie. The woman in front of me had purchased food for the entire state of Michigan, and the cashier was in no hurry to get finished. I tried breathing. I attempted meditating. When it came to the point where I wanted to scream and leave my basket in the lane, I had to talk myself down off the ledge. “You don’t ever have to come back here again,” I bargained. “It’s worth $100 to shop somewhere else.”

Yep… gotta shovel…

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I walked out to the car, loaded my groceries in and left. I had to go the local bookstore to pick up some Christmas gifts, and I realized that I didn’t have my phone. I had it when I was checking off my list in Meijer. I drove back over to see if someone had turned it in. I trudged through the parking lot looking close to where I parked to see if I dropped it. Snow and slush and water covered the area, and I knew that phone could be covered up under that or run over by a car. The customer service desk (and I use that term loosely) had no better news, and I drove back home empty-handed.

To make a long story short, I ended up having to cut off my phone and get a new one. But the whole saga took about 4 hours and $300 off my Sunday. Going to Meijers did NOT save me any money, thank you very much. I will never go there again.

It’s been one frustration after another this week. I get up, check the driveway to see if I need to shovel. Shovel if necessary. When I get ready to go to work, I have to get boots, pack a pair of shoes for work, pack my lunch and bring mittens along with my purse and phone. I inevitably forget something. Once I’ve been outside in my boots, I can’t wear them inside because they are wet. So I have to take the boots off and go back inside to get what I forgot. If I forget something in the car, I have to put my boots on to go outside … and my coat … and my mittens. Everything just takes so long!!!!

My friend Ann and I went downtown to look at the Christmas lights. We bundled up, bundled up Ashok and headed down Main Street. When we turned on the street toward the Christmas lights, the cold north wind off Lake Michigan roared right through us. It took my breath away. We walked about 10 steps, and Ann said, “I don’t think I can do this.” “Maybe we could drive by the Christmas lights”, I said … and we did.

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Downshifting to Winter

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Almost as soon as Labor Day rolled past, the Lake Michigan winds started to blow. The temperature has dropped slowly but steadily since then. Sunday, we’ve got highs in the 30s, and there’s a chance of snow in the forecast tomorrow. Thanksgiving is next week, and that is what I’ve always considered the marker of winter here in Southwest Michigan. Tonight Saint Joe has their Luminary Festival, and, of course it is spitting rain outside. I’ll probably head over there a little later if the rain hasn’t doused the event.

My coats are hanging on my porch for ready access, and I’m starting to bundle up for my walks with Ashok. This year I’m running, so I’m starting to remember how many layers I need when it is 50, 40 or 30 degrees outside. I haven’t seen the 20s yet, but it’s coming. And snow is just on the horizon. I’m trying to decide if I’m going to run in snow and ice or take to the dreadmill in the gym. I hate that damn treadmill. But, it’s better than busting my arse.

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My energy changes in the winter, and my mood begins to drop. I find myself changing my self-care regimen a bit. I still need to exercise, but I find myself wanting to come home and curl up on the sofa with a couple of fur babies and a cup of hot tea. I still do my fit camp circuits, but I’m trying to add more yoga to the mix. I signed up for a yoga workshop Saturday, and I attended a friend’s yoga class last night. My body feels like it needs to stretch and breathe more in the winter. And I try to listen.

I’ve made the switch from coffee to tea. I drink lots of chai, and this year I started making my own homemade almond milk. It tastes lighter and sweeter than cow’s milk, and it perfectly compliments my chai. Lately I’ve been drinking gallons of green and black chai and a herbal turmeric chai. Turmeric seems to help my achy knees and joints and the ginger in this one is very warming. I’m having steel cut oats for breakfast instead of summer’s granola and yogurt, and I’m preferring cooked apples and pears to chilled fruit.

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I’m enjoying the warmth of being in the presence of people. I like the yoga class instead of practicing at home. The comfort of sitting in a coffeehouse is more attractive than being at home. And I’m craving the holiday lights in busy Chicago. I hope to make it over there next week.

I feel more reflective in general. I have the urge to blog and have long conversations with friends. My friend Ann and I have spent a good deal of time together the last few weeks, reflecting on our lives and our friendship. We’ve eaten soups and pasta and warm toasty bread. We’ve both shed tears. I sleep more and better this time of year, and there are mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed. I never really sleep late, but I certainly do enjoy cuddling under a warm wool blanket when it’s cold.

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When I was in the Upper Peninsula this summer, I saw lots of sauna dealers. It occurred to me that people up here probably like saunas more than we do down south. I remembered that the women at the spa were always asking me if I wanted to sit in the sauna for awhile before I got my facial, and I didn’t understand the draw to that. After spending 3 years in Louisiana, the last thing I wanted was to be hot. But I realize that the warmth will probably be good for my skin, my joints and my mood. So, I’m going to take advantage of that this winter.

I plan to talk long walks in the snow among the twinkling holiday lights with the roar of Lake Michigan waves in the background. Ashok loves rolling in the snow, and we’ll head out to the woods where it will be still and quiet. The deer in the neighborhood will start grazing in my yard again, and I’ll watch them from my yoga room upstairs. I hope the Collective has a toasty meditation or gong bath at the winter solstice where I can curl up and rest among friends. Winter sets its own pace in Michigan. Let the downshifting begin.

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Summer’s Sensuous Kiss

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Image from Michigan Beachtowns website

After an early dinner, I decided to take Ashok for a walk downtown. The muggy, rainy morning had transformed into a gorgeous sunny afternoon with just a hint of a breeze. And I had time to kill.

Bustling with summer vacationers and weekend visitors from Illinois, Saint Joe was dressed in its summer finest. With a stroke of luck, I found a a parking spot on Main Street, and we walked down by the bluff and headed to Silver Beach. If shoppers weren’t eating ice cream or shopping for Great Lakes souvenir wear, they were photographing children sitting on the painted fish that decorate every corner. With equal measure, children were laughing and playing or crying from sheer exhaustion after a long day in the sunshine. It is summertime in Michigan.

For months I’ve strolled the beaches and the streets with my dog. Parking was crazy easy to find, and it was rare to see people just hanging out on the benches in town. If you were downtown, you had a reason to be there. The snow and wind and bone-chilling temps of winter kept people inside drinking hot chocolate and visiting with friends. With spring’s approach, every flower burst into bloom, and the people started to come. Summer’s peak arrived Memorial Day weekend, and now I am grateful if I can find a parking spot.

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This morning’s farmer’s market was crowded. I bought fruits and vegetables for the week. As of five o’clock yesterday, I am on vacation. I packed road food purchased at the market. Smoked whitefish, creamy artisan cheese, local blueberries and peaches, homemade pesto and a boatload of just-picked veggies will satisfy my hunger on the long drive. While the crowds arrive here for their vacation, I will head north – as far north as I can drive.

But tonight we walked downtown and out on the jetty by the lighthouse. Tourists who left their dogs at home stopped to pet Ashok. The cutest curly-haired twin girls squealed with delight as they saw her, and hugged and petted her. One of them wouldn’t leave her side as we walked away, and her father finally had to go pick her up and put her on his shoulders. She burst into tears to see her go.

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It was warm tonight, but I didn’t even break into a sweat until I was headed back downtown. I thought about July in Louisiana as I walked down the jetty in the sunshine. It would’ve been brutal to walk around downtown Baton Rouge at 5 PM this time of year. The cabana on the beach had a sign out front that read “reserved”, and a couple stood inside getting their photos taken as they staged flowers for a sunset wedding. White sheers flapped in the breeze as the bride giggled and fell into her lover’s arms.

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I did the math as I was walking back downtown. It’s almost the first of August. In 6-8 weeks, our temps will start dropping a bit as we slowly start the descent into winter. It won’t be long until I need a jacket to walk to the beach. And in a snap, Lake Michigan will be frozen. Summer is fleeting in Michigan. While I love autumn’s crisp air and even crispier apples, it comes too quickly in a northern climate. Summer is more than precious to Michiganders. It is divine.

Today I took the perfect bite of a Michigan summer. Sweet, sweet blueberries and peaches tickling my tongue ….. a bustling downtown ringing in my ears ….. the sparkle and bubble of Lake Michigan and its fabulous boats in my sights …. a sunset wedding tugging at my heart …. it was all here today. As I passed the Silver Beach carousel, I heard the cackle of joyful children over the tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. I giggled to myself. Christmas will be here in a minute.  I live here nowthis is home …. this beautiful place … where summer in its golden finery has at last stolen my heart.

 

 

 

An Evening in Victorian St. Joe

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Artist’s Way: Paying Attention

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I started The Artist’s Way course again. I had such great success with it the last time, and spring just feels like a good time to begin again. So, last week I started with Week 1. Week 1 helps me identify the reasons why I don’t embrace my creativity. I had great success with my Morning Pages and even went on an Artist’s Date to get some stickers and fun things to decorate my journal.

Today, I started with Week 2. Right away, I was caught by the below sentence:

It is important to remember that at first flush going sane feels just like going crazy.

~~ Julia Cameron

This week’s lesson helped describe the crazymakers in our lives. They are the people who want to sabotage you in having your own life because they are either jealous or scared of living their own lives. Misery loves company, so they have all kinds of ways of distracting you from being your very best self and trying new things. I’ve had a few crazymakers in my life, and I’ve probably been a crazymaker at some point in someone else’s too. Life – and relationships – are just messy like that. But often we enjoy the sabotage that the crazymaking brings because it keeps us from getting out of our comfort zone and trying something new.

Three Oaks, MI – Loved the Rain Garden!

Her antidote to the crazymaker is to “pay attention” to your life. It sort of reminded me of my Alanon journey. After all, an alcoholic is a King Crazymaker. Drama abounds to get your off course. She had an Aunt with an alcoholic crazymaker, but her aunt minimized his effects on her life because she paid attention to everything little thing in her life. She wrote letters that outlined everything that was going on in her life and included the minute details about the weather, what was blooming and what was going on in her mind. By paying attention, she lived a full life and focused on what was in front of her rather than what was trying to pull her away.

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So, I headed out tonight to “pay attention” down at the beach. I left my cell phone at home and used a camera so I wouldn’t be distracted by social media. I’ll just leave you with the photos. I took one photo tonight that was an accident, but I kind of like the way it looks. I was trying to make a video of the waves and the beach, but I didn’t bring my glasses. I kept pressing buttons and couldn’t see what was happening. I had about 20 pictures of my feet from different angles. So, if you decide to head out to “pay attention” in some way, you can leave your phone but don’t forget to bring your glasses.

What got my attention in St. Joseph….

Have a great week, y’all! It’ll be Friday before you know it.

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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