Podcasts That I Love

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For over a year now I’ve been listening to hiking podcasts. I love listening to the stories of thru-hikers. One of the podcasts is made up of interviews of hikers while on the trail. The background noise of the wind and their steps kicking up dirt accompany the rehashing of their daily ups and downs. On on The Trail Show, they are just as interested in reviewing craft beers and through the course of the three-hour show they usually end up very drunk and very silly. All of them review trails and gear. They all make me laugh and show me a different way to live.

I also listen to an Alanon podcast which helps me get recovery support in an area that is rural and doesn’t have a big community like Memphis or Baton Rouge. I’ve listened to a Christian Counseling podcast for many, many years where listeners call in and ask questions of the counselors on the spot. And, my favorite these days is the Daily – a New York Times podcast that features reporters commenting on the news of the day. These don’t really make me laugh but they do help me to learn and to improve myself.

I decided I wanted to find some other podcasts. So, today I sat down and googled some suggestions. I found this article that featured 16 podcasts of all kinds to keep you engaged while working out. The cool thing about podcasts is that many are free, and there are shows that cover almost any topic of interest.

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After choosing a few from this list, I spent some time searching for podcasts that might interest me on iTunes. I found some on the outdoors, health, yoga and meditation, humor, journalism and recovery. I even found several different types of podcasts on history. I listened to one from this outdoors podcast called Out There about a scientist finding an unusual collection of birds buried in boxes in the basement of a high school. It was a fascinating story, and I learned how they discovered that DDT was killing off the bird population by comparing modern eggs with some very old collections of bird eggs. Sometimes saving useless things can turn out to be a good thing. You can listen to it here.

I’m looking forward to listening to more of these podcasts. I’ve gotten bored with listening to music when I’m driving around. I’d rather be learning or laughing or being entertained. Who knows, maybe I could make my own podcast if I could figure out what to talk about. What is your experience with podcasts? Do you have any favorites?

Here are some of my favorites:

Trailside Radio

Sounds of the Trail

The Recovery Show

The Trail Show

The Daily

New Life Live

Out There

Memories of a Gorgeous Weekend

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I didn’t get to post about the weekend because it was so hectic, and I’ve been busy since I got back, but I wanted to share what could have been one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time. My sister and I went crazy in Chicago and then drove all over the northern portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan.

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I’ve only been up to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore once, and I remember being blown away by the beauty up there. But this time, we got to drive down the coast and saw even more of the emerald green waters and natural beauty. We stopped in the small towns of Frankfurt and Manistee. I can’t wait to go back!

I don’t have a lot of time to write, but I did want to share this with you! This place is beautiful!

Thanks to Reba for her song “My Sister”……

Memorial Day 2017 from Sharon Kay King on Vimeo.

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!

 

 

 

 

Ignorance is a Selfish Act

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The New York Times printed a feature story the other day about Mexico City’s struggles with water as a result of climate change. Click here for the story.  I have heard frequently from my scientist friends that the last wars will not be fought over oil. They will be fought over water. I have friends in California who can tell you just how awful it is to be without water. For those of us who live in water-abundant places, we can’t imagine having to wash our dishes in the shower or severely limit how much we flush the toilet to conserve the liquid gold that sustains us. We are blissfully ignorant of how blessed we are to run the water while it heats without guilt for wasting it. We have no clue that other people in this world would literally kill to have our waste.

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Meanwhile, other parts of the country like my hometown get buckets and buckets of water dumped on them for days on end. It’s easy to say that droughts aren’t that concerning because there is plenty of water. But, the fact is that those storms are evidence of climate change. Because of the heat, the atmosphere absorbs so much water that eventually it has to dump it in excessive rainfall. California is experiencing it now. Louisiana experienced it last year. And, yet, still many like to think it’s a fluke that it ever happened. Just go to any scientific website, and they’ll tell you what is happening and what is to come. Here’s a simple explanation.

Our denial will be our demise. I am shocked at my generation’s incessant focus on its own immediate needs and consumption to the detriment of the generations that follow. I am saddened that we don’t put a priority on curbing those things that we know are raping our planet and our environment. It was really hard for me in Louisiana to be around the environmental destruction of plants and the oil industry. And I was stunned that these plants would have my friends working for months on end without a day off just to sustain their operations. In all cases, the driver is money. The more we do, the more money we pay you, and the more money the politicians can spend. And, yet, with all of the effort to make money, what I saw was poverty on a grand scale. The state government was poor, struggling to foot the bill for basic services. Where there should be prosperity, there was famine.

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I don’t even begin to know the answer. I know that sustaining meat production in factory farms produces gases that contribute to the damage to our atmosphere. So, I eat grass-fed beef if I eat meat at all. I know that fossil fuels contribute a great deal to the problem, so I drive an energy efficient car and try to make my house as energy-efficient as possible. I wish I could afford solar panels, and maybe one day I can invest. My next car will definitely be even more energy-efficient and take advantage of cleaner fuels. And I vote for people that support the needs of our planet.

I feel physical pain when I hear threats of hobbling the EPA, severely loosening environmental regulations and ignoring our responsibility of climate change. I feel physical pain when I see pictures of polar bears who are losing their habitat while we look the other way. I feel like I’ve been stabbed when yet another blow has been dealt to efforts to sustain our planet. And I feel guilty when I enjoy a sunny, snowless day in February.

I believe that God put us here to be stewards over our environment. And I believe that being a steward means ensuring that the environment continues to prosper for future generations as well as my own. Ignorance is a selfish act. 

Click these links for more information from scientists:

NASA on Climate Change

EPA on Climate Change

 

 

 

 

Sunday Night Check-In: Trails, Dogs and Travel

I went in to the weekend with one lunch planned on Saturday with my friend Autumn. The rest of the weekend would just have to unfold as it should. I got home Friday night, and I wanted to unplug from the internet and fall into an alternate reality. I’d been wanting to see A Dog’s Purpose, so I drove over the theatre and checked out for a couple of hours.

The thing I hate about dog movies is the dog always dies at the end. (BTW, I looked up the controversy about the treatment of that German Shepherd in this movie, and they were cleared of all charges. Apparently that organization was just trying to propagate fake news… and they failed.) In this movie, though, the dog dies about 6 times and lives at the end. The movie is about the many incarnations of one dog soul into this world. I felt so in love with my dog when it was over. I couldn’t wait to get home to hug her neck. But I definitely should have brought Kleenex to the theatre.

I took Ashok for an early walk on Saturday and then I met Autumn at Caffe Tosi for some soup. She told me all about her trip to the Rose Bowl Parade. I was fascinated by her trip. It was an educational tour, and they learned all about the history of the parade and how the floats are made. They got to help build some floats, and then, of course, watch the parade. I’ve never been on an educational vacation, but she made it sound like so much fun that I looked up the travel company that she used, Road Scholar.

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My sister and I texted back and forth the rest of the evening about the options that they offered for educational travel. Trips lasting anywhere from 4 days to 2 weeks feature lessons and experiences on topics like art, writing, hiking, geology, history, crafts and just about anything you’d ever want to learn. I am imagining myself learning to sail down the coast of Maine, writing my memoir on the coast of Oregon and viewing the Northern Lights in Alaska. They have trips all over the world, and they are very reasonably priced. I am definitely going to take some of these tours. I may even go on one of the Michigan hiking trips this year!

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I’ve been reading Becoming Odyssa, a book about a 20-something woman who hiked the Appalachian Trail. My sister gave me the book for my birthday, and I’ve been going to bed at night reading about sleeping on the trail and fantasizing about finally doing that thru-hike on my bucket list. Today I had planned to hang out at the house and grocery shop, but all of this hiking thinking got me in the mood for the woods. I looked up some hiking trails, packed up Ashok and headed northwest to the Yankee Springs Recreation Area.

We hiked the Chief Noonday Trail and continued on to the Long Lake Trail, too. It was rainy when we started but cleared up rather quickly. As soon as the rain cleared, the wind picked up. It never did get really cold, but I had to put on my hat and coat by the end of the hike. It was a quiet hike with very few people crossing our path, and it was lovely. The temperature stayed above freezing, and the swamps and woodlands were full of melting snow puddles. It didn’t feature the magnificent views of the dunes, but I was really in the mood for the woods. Toward the end, I was treated to a sighting of several white-tailed deer high-tailing it with their patch of white flashing through the forest. It was a great way to end the hike.

I’ve been chatting with Mick who heads up the Chief Noonday Chapter of the North Country Trail Association. The North Country Trail (NCT) is a 4600-mile trail that starts in North Dakota and runs all the way to New York. I had heard about this trail when I was listening to trail shows while living in Louisiana, and, ironically, now I live within an hour and a half from the NCT. Trail “chapters” all along the trail take care of sections, and they educate people about hiking it. The Chief Noonday Chapter has 135 members. I plan on joining them for a hike on March 4. I’m enjoying going to the North Country Trail website and dreaming about backpacking large portions of that trail. I even signed up for 100-mile challenge for this year.

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After we left the Chief Noonday parking lot, I decided to drive the backroads to Grand Rapids to try a new coffee shop that I’d read about called The Sparrows. I was so thrilled when I saw a sign for the North Country Trail trailhead just a few miles down the road. I turned in, snapped a few pictures and just had to hike a few steps on the trail. “We’ll be back,” I told the trail as I hopped back into the car. And I meant it. I can’t wait for the day when I park there, heave ho my backpack and head to the woods for a several day Michigan adventure. I may not get on the Appalachian Trail for awhile, but there’s an even longer one practically in my backyard! BTW.. The Sparrows was great, and I’ll go back for a longer visit in the future!

So, my mind is spinning with the opportunities for travel with Road Scholar and backpacking on the NCT. On the way to the hike and back I listened to more hiking podcasts about the community on those long hiking trails and how life-changing a thru-hike can be. (Click on those links to hear them!) One thing I’d have to change is needing to work for a living. Tomorrow it’s back to reality. But I’m grateful to have a great job which will help me save money for these trips that I may not get to take and that brought me up here to this state full of great hiking. This was a great weekend – dogs, trails and all.

Y’all have a good week. Dream a little this week. One of them might just come true.

Sunday Night Check-In: A Trip Up the Coast

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The fabulous little beach towns up and down the coast of Lake Michigan are one of my favorite things about this area. They aren’t the ultra-classy newly developed beach towns of the Gulf Coast down south. Most have been there for ages, and Victorian homes and quaint downtown streets have been visited by vacationers and locals alike for decades if not centuries. Each little town has its own charm and history, and most have their own unique lighthouse that claims its spot on the shore. And, lucky me, I can go to probably 8 or 10 within a 1-2 hour drive in one direction to another.

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This weekend I wanted to go out of town, so I began to noodle which direction to head. Frankenmuth had its Snowfest complete with snow-carving contests. Chicago, of course, is Chicago, but I’m going there next weekend. I could have gone to Grand Rapids and done some hiking and visited one of the coolest coffee shops in Michigan. I also had options of going Southwest or North on the coast. At the last minute, I decided to head to Grand Haven and Muskegon. I ran into a friend at our downstairs coffee shop Friday, and she said Muskegon was beautiful. That’s all I needed.

Approaching the Grand Haven Lighthouse….

I packed a bag and headed up the coast. I stopped first to get a mocha at The Phoenix Rising in Benton Harbor. I’d heard that they made their own mocha, and it was really good. Grand Haven was about an hour away, and I immediately fell in love with its downtown area. Lots of shops, restaurants, breweries and coffeehouses lined the main street which ran right into the inlet off Lake Michigan. Ashok and I walked the boardwalk until I realized that I didn’t have the right boots on to go all the way to the lighthouse. Ice and sand made the walk slippery, and I needed to put on my hiking boots. We got back in the car and drove down to see this stunning little lighthouse in the Grand Haven State Park.

Downtown Grand Haven

You can tell Grand Haven is a happening spot in the summertime. Although the hot dog stands and ice cream shops along the water are all shuttered now, I can just imagine throngs of beachgoers hanging out and soaking up the much-awaited sunshine. I know in Saint Joseph the crowds in summer swell way past the crowds that attend the winter festivals. My sister is coming Memorial Day weekend, and I thought this would be the perfect spot for us to visit. But, I’m sure it will be much more crowded then.

Muskegan and the Stormy Kromer shop…

I drove up to Muskegon, and I made reservations at a hotel about 20 minutes out of town. My friend at Whirlpool had told me about the Stormy Kromer shop, and I really wanted to go in. It’s a Michigan company that makes outdoor wear for the cold winters in the Upper Peninsula. They are known for their hats. I stopped at a coffee shop to ask where this place was, and it happened to be right next door. The saleslady was so nice, and she told me how wonderful and warm the Stormy Kromer hats were. I tried on a few, and I also tried on a poncho. Everything was wool, and it was so well-made. I could tell it would last forever. I handled some wool pants that were the thickest wood fabric I have ever seen. I’d love to have a pair of those!

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I ended up buying a hat and then had dinner at Handsome Henry’s, a restaurant the saleslady recommended. Then I went to the hotel and retired for the night. This morning Ashok and I hiked at the Muskegon State Park. It was stunningly beautiful. We hiked the South Camp trail which followed the beach first. I saw four swans and numerous ducks who found some unfrozen water to paddle. At one point, an eagle flew overhead and circled twice before flying away. I felt like it was stopping by to say, “Hi. I’m still here with you.” We finished up by hiking the Dune Ridge trail which followed the tops of the dunes throughout the park. The view was phenomenal, and we could see Lake Michigan and the channel on the other side. It began snowing heavily right before we got back to the car, so we ended our hike covered in snow. It was fun.

 

As we were leaving, I noticed a sign for the Winter Sports Complex, and I decided to drop by there. I had read that they have the only public luge in the United States. Everything was closed today because the temperatures were too warm last week, but they were working furiously trying to water everything down to refreeze for a Tuesday opening. They have a huge outdoor ice rink, an ice skating trail, sledding, cross-country skiing and the Luge. The guys there were really friendly and showed me around. They were shoveling snow into the luge. Later, they will hose it with a fire hose and let nature freeze it to make it solid. When my brother and his family come up at the end of February, I think we are going to check that place out. It was really cool.

I loved Muskegon and Grand Haven, and I look forward to returning. At the furthest point, I was less than two hours from home, so it’s definitely doable – even as a day trip. All of these little towns are having winter festivals now. There is no lack of things to do in the winter. In fact, I was thinking yesterday how lucky I was to live in a place where I have year-round hiking. Yes, it’s cold, but I just dress for it. Truth is, I usually end up sweating rather than getting cold. But it’s nothing like a July in Louisiana sweat!

Pere Marquette Beach in Muskegon

Have a great week, y’all. Try to get out and enjoy something near you. There’s a lot of drama going on right now, but we have to stay positive. That eagle reminded me today that we are not alone, and we need to focus on the big picture…. whatever that is for you.

 

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….

 

 

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.

 

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.

I Feel a Chill in the Air

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I was just startled by the raucous calls of an army of Canada Geese rising up from the lake to start their morning journey. Ashok raised her head with perked ears, and both of the cats jumped up onto the windowsills to see what was asunder. The cool breeze flutters the sheers, and I had to put on my cozy sweatshirt and tights. For all practical purposes, this Louisiana gal feels autumn in the air. (Ironically, I’m going to meet my friend Autumn for lunch today.)

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Whirlpool gives two days off for the summer holidays here. I know all too well the gift of summer after the long descent into winter on Lake Michigan. Everyone here is discussing the last days of summer as if somehow the warmth of the sun disappears on Labor Day. It doesn’t really come that fast, but it does start it’s journey. By November, there will be more cold days than warm ones, and by December, we’ll be in it. But for all practical purposes Labor Day signals the end of summer. My friends tell me that Monday night the boat ramps at the lake will be jammed with trucks pulling boats out of the water for the season. They will be brought to storage facilities where they will be shrink-wrapped or stored inside until late spring or early summer. Monday, it seems, is the last hurrah.

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I needed to buy a headlamp, so I went to the local chain sporting goods store last week. The entire front of the store was filled with winter gear. I walked down the aisles looking at the gear that I would eventually need to purchase for running comfortably here. An entire row was dedicated to balaclavas and winter hats. Rack after rack was filled with down coats. And, there was a whole section for Yaktrax – a sort of cage that you put over your shoes to provide traction on the snow and ice. I ran in them when I lived here before. I donated them before leaving for Memphis. But, I suppose I’ll be buying them again.

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At a poolside BBQ Wednesday night, we donned sweaters and were surprised at how cool it was. I came home and turned off the AC. I’ve been having to close the windows at night the last two nights because it was too chilly. My proposed new house will be needing a new furnace – if the deal works out – , and I thought I’d have some time. But that’s my Louisiana experience talking. I’ll need to get that baby right away.

My thoughts have turned to fall, and I’m ready for pumpkins, apples and a colorful turn of leaves. I am ready for my first northern winter in 13 years, at least figuratively. I still need to buy a coat ($$$), snow boots and snow tires. The next few months will be expensive, but there’s no room for compromise on this. I will bite the bullet to stay warm.

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Yesterday afternoon I stopped at several farm markets on the way home to check out the offerings. It’ll be easy to can or freeze here. Most of the farms offer bulk purchasing, so I can prep some foods for the winter if I want. I bought a butterkin squash that is a cross between a pumpkin and a butternut squash. I cut it in half, seeded it, dotted it with butter and cinnamon and baked it this morning. I cooked some apples and mixed them with cottage cheese as a filling for the squash. It was a delicious warm and savory breakfast. It’s a great change from my usual oatmeal and loaded with the vitamins from farm-fresh produce.

Have a great Labor Day weekend – whether it’s the end of summer where you are or just another day in a long string of hot ones. I’m going to check out grocery stores today and hopefully find out about my house deal. (We have appraisal issues.) If it goes through, I’ll be in it by next weekend!