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.

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!

 

 

 

 

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: Chillin’

It was a long week last week. Everyday started at 6:30 AM ended around 7:30 PM with a meeting. Luckily, there were slow times in between where I could run home and walk my dog, but I had some very long days even for somebody who usually gets up early. I’m waking up now at 4:15 AM in order to squeeze some yoga in, cook breakfast, take care of the animals and get out the door on time. I appreciated being able to sleep in this weekend even though “sleeping in” is about 6 for me.

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I started a 31 day yoga practice with a YouTube yoga teacher named Adriene. The practices are about 25-35 minutes, and she varies them from day to day. Her practices are moderate in pace, and she has a great knowledge of meditation and pranayama, too. So, when I saw she started a “Revolution 31-Day Practice” January 1 I decided to give it a try. I’m a little late starting but it doesn’t matter. The sessions are recorded. But I think they will be a better wake-up call for me than hitting a cup of coffee or tea first thing. I did Day 1 today, and I felt so much better after doing it.

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I’m also in a Virtual Boot Camp. It’s led by my friend and coach Jessica, and it’s a sane but effective strength-training and cardio series. We do three “circuit” trainings per  week which last 30 minutes each. I usually have no issues squeezing them in, but last week’s time suck really knocked me off the program. I only got one circuit done. I’m committing to doing tomorrow’s circuit no matter what, so I just cooked up a bunch of veggies and fruit for tomorrow’s dinner. I can just saute’ a fish filet, and I’ll be eating.

 

Yesterday I met up with another Michigan blogger here in St. Joe. Stacy has been following my blog since I moved up here, and we’ve been chatting off and on about meeting each other. We finally did it yesterday, and it was really fun to talk with another blogger and writer. During our conversation, I found out her boss was one of my best friends! She told me about ice fishing which is a big hobby of hers, and she shared many stories about snowmobiling in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Apparently, the groomed trails up there are very popular, and she said people snowmobile at about 80-100 mph. I’d love to go up there and experience that. But she prefers the slower pace of ice fishing. She explained to me that the huts that I see on the lake are more for parties. Most people just go out on the ice, cut a hole and fish. She brings a Coleman lantern to warm up her fingers when they get cold, and she gave me a tip to wear a mitten over my gloves to keep my hands warm.

I also met up with my friend Karen yesterday and then went ice skating at the local rink. I’m getting better. I’m able to glide a little, but I did fall twice in rapid succession last night. I lived to tell about it, and when I left the rink at the end of the evening, this woman stopped to tell me how good I was. I laughed because I thought she was being sarcastic, but she said she was serious. I don’t know that I’m good, but I am not as scared as I once was, and I am feeling like I’m actually skating now. My friends John and Marge run the concession stand, so I get to visit with them while I’m there. It’s great fun and exercise for only $5 a pop.

I had great intentions to go to the gym this morning, but my garage door opener didn’t work. My car was stuck inside the garage, and I don’t have a door on it. I had to call my neighbor, and her boyfriend came over and helped me. We finally managed to pull the cord to release the door without breaking a window, but it was very cold standing out there trying to do that. It’s an old garage door opener, so I don’t think I can program a new remote for it. I think I’m going to have to get a new one or just do without.

The rest of the day I just cleaned the house, deep-conditioned my hair and got food ready for the week ahead. I took Ashok for a walk at about 5, and it was so beautiful out. The sun was shining, and Lake Michigan was frozen over almost to the end of the pier. Silver Beach was deserted except for a few people taking photographs. I wish that a photograph could show you what it looks like, but there’s just no way to capture the icy magnificence unless you are immersed in it.

Ashok is getting used to her new booties!

I’m seriously considering getting in shape to run again. I don’t know that I want to do long-distance running anymore, but I’d like to be able to run a few miles to get my heart rate up a little higher than when I’m walking. I have something going on with my piriformis right now, so I’m really on the fence of whether I should try to run or not. But it’s just hard to get motivated to go to the gym, and I feel like I need something that’s also good for my soul. Running really fits the bill, and it can be done in 30 minutes. We’ll see where I land on that.

I hope you are noodling some healthy behaviors right now. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, but I am a big fan of fresh starts. I’ve learned over the years that exercise of any kind gets boring to me after awhile, and I’m always having to change it up. It’s so important for my well-being.

Have a great week, y’all. Get out and move. Your body will thank you.

 

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.

 

 

 

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: Skating, Gumbo and a Super Moon

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At the skating rink…

I’m starting to feel more confident about my ice skating… getting my skating legs I guess. That being said, I’m still slow as Christmas and fell right on my ass tonight. But, seems that’s a good place to fall since it didn’t hurt at all. I’m enjoying it. I like my coach Mindy, and the women that are in my beginning group are really sweet. We are all progressing slowly but surely.

I’m trying to do “swizzles” here. They are awkward!

I fell off the wagon a couple of days with sugar this week self-medicating from my distress about this election. But I was kind of proud of myself that I pulled myself together and got back on track. I also decided to sign up for Jessica’s (the Bitch) Virtual Boot Camp. I joined the Renaissance Athletic Club here. It’s a really nice club, but I have a hard time getting to classes. My best time to work out is first thing in the morning. The boot camp offers 30-minute workout plans, and Jessica says they are really effective. She’s worked out for many, many years, and she said these have totally transformed her body composition. She loves them. I did three of the workouts last week even though I had a hard time getting to the gym. I’m encouraged that I got on track and stuck with it. Tomorrow it’ll be up at 4:30 so I can get there at 5 AM to work out.

My new hairdresser Jose cut my hair this weekend for the first time. He did pretty good!

My big task this weekend was to make gumbo. I’m having some girlfriends from Whirlpool over Tuesday night for a gumbo dinner, and it’s been awhile since I made one. I chose chicken and sausage, and I really enjoyed cooking this morning. There’s something therapeutic about making a roux. I watched a couple of YouTube videos on making a roux even though I’ve done many in my life. It was interesting that so many different versions could exist when it’s such a simple little thing. The one below is the one I ended up emulating this morning.

I plan to take vacation this Friday through the Thanksgiving week. I’m so looking forward to having some extended time off. Ever since I got laid off two days after my May vacation, I have not had any vacation time. And when I moved in, I literally moved in one afternoon and went right back to work the next morning. I just need some time to chill. My parents might come up Thanksgiving week, and my friend JoAnn arrives Friday on the City of New Orleans in Chicago. One of my favorite things to do is enjoy the Christmas festivities and decorations in Chicago. Ironically, JoAnn and I had already planned to come up here for Christmas before I moved. Who knew I’d be living here?

I walked around downtown Kalamazoo before ice skating….

That Super Moon was hanging in the sky tonight. I could see it in my rearview window as I drove in from Kalamazoo. It hung low but bright even as the sun’s light was still on the horizon. They say this is the closest the moon has been to the earth since 1948, and it won’t be this close again until 2034. If I’m lucky, I’ll be 73 when it passes by again. I wonder what the world will look like then. I hope that I’ll be in good enough spirits and health to enjoy it. That’s only 18 years away. My, time is sure going fast.

Stop and smell the roses this week. Time is fleeting. 

Sunday Night Check-In: Never Stop Learning

 

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This weekend was relaxing. It was also kind of depressing. I don’t know that I’ve felt down in awhile, but I felt pretty down yesterday. I’ve learned that a down spell is temporary, and it’s also likely following a big push like I’ve had since July. I can push through the mountain of things that have to be done and put my needs on hold, but I pay the price eventually.

Yesterday I felt lonely. I missed my old friends in Louisiana that I could call up and meet at Magpie for a quick espresso and one of their divine scones. I missed heading to my parents for a first visit on Graveyard Island after they returned from New Mexico. I missed my friend JoAnn telling me to come over for her husband’s gumbo. And I missed my new friends here that I haven’t even met yet. For a few hours, I just wished I hadn’t done this.

My friend Tracee introduced me to the Snow app which was some silly fun….

Thanks to technology, I could reach out and ask my friends all over the place for a little spark to get me going. They showed up, made me laugh and posted fun pics of the things we had done together. I still felt lonely, but my step was a little lighter. And there was a spark that reminded me that at one time in Louisiana I felt the same way that I did today. This, too, shall pass. I know that for a fact.

Last week I had lunch with my friend Marv who is a partner at Lark’s BBQ. Lark’s was originally a car wash that served BBQ. Now, they are a successful restaurant that washes cars by appointment. My car has not been washed since I got laid off in April. And I have not been able to bring myself to do it. So I asked Marv to give me an estimate to get it detailed. He wanted to see it, and I reluctantly took him outside to show him. I was so embarrassed at the condition of my car. So, yesterday I decided I would get out and at least remove the first layer of dirt. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop, and I cleaned my car until it sparkled. I still need to get the seats shampooed, but it looks darn good if I must say so myself.

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This morning I made some Cincinnati-style chili and then bagged up several servings for homemade frozen dinners. And I did a little writing for a friend. I finished washing my clothes for the week, and then I met my friend Nancy for a little shopping. We had a nice short visit, and then I had to head to Kalamazoo for my first ice skating lesson.

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Mindy, my ice skating coach, has been skating since she was 5 years old. There were three women in my adult beginner class, and Mindy got us started by teaching us how to fall. “If you are learning to skate, you will fall,” she said. “You need to learn how to get back up.” I asked her how bad it would hurt to fall. She looked at me a little funny, and she said it depends on how you fall. But, she said you get used to it. I wasn’t super-encouraged by her words, but I was encouraged that I learned to get up off the ice the first time I tried. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.

I am NOT in this video… 

The lesson was 30 minutes, and then we had “free skate” to practice our skills for 30 minutes with about about 100 kids darting about like little torpedoes. We walked across the ice skating rink about 4 times in order to get used to the ice, and then she taught us to turn around in a circle and skate backwards. Skating backwards was definitely the most difficult. I fell a couple of times during the “free skate” time, but it actually didn’t hurt either time. The first time it happened, it scared me to death. But I was relieved that it finally happened. The anticipation was worse than the event. I lived to tell about it.

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It was mostly fathers with a sprinkling of mothers with their kids at “free skate”. The kids were having a ball. One Dad came flying across the rink and stopped with a spray of ice right in front of his little girl. If I had tried that, we’d have both been in the hospital right now. I can only hope I can ever get that confident in my skating.

At any rate, it was a blast, and I kept improving the entire hour. By the time I left I could actually glide a little. I can’t wait until next week to see what we learn. Mindy was extremely encouraging, and she didn’t think it was crazy at all for a 55-year old woman to take up ice skating. “We have to keep learning new things,” she said. She even told me she’s in a group that does snow running and invited me to join them in January.

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I was thinking on the way home that it was this time last year that I took my backpacking class. I wasn’t sure I could do that, either, but I wanted to try. It ended up being a hobby that I really enjoy and it helped me meet a bunch of new friends. Hiking season would just be beginning for me in Louisiana after the long, hot summer, but it’s coming pretty close to ending here. I suppose I could get out once or twice before it gets too cold, but I don’t feel like packing a thing much less a loaded backpack. The hiking season for 2016 was interrupted by a move to Michigan. That’s just the way it is.

I hope you all have a good week. Don’t be afraid to learn something new if you’re given the opportunity. The way I see it is I don’t ever have to do it again if I don’t like it. But what if I love it? I’d never know if I didn’t try.

 

 

Sunday Night Check-In: History Lessons

 

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I spent all day yesterday with my Repair Man Extraordinaire assembling my futon for my friend JoAnn’s visit in the next few weeks, painting the dining room heating vent, and many other small tasks. I’m surprised that John doesn’t run from me when he sees me yet, but he keeps showing up to help me with tasks and mow my yard. If I don’t run him off too soon, he’ll also be my snow removal hero. Oddly enough, he asked me to go out to dinner with he and his wife and some friends after a long day of putting my house in order.

 

Woodie’s Tavern is a hole-in-the-wall in Stevensville MI. I lived right around the corner when I lived here before but I’d never heard of it. They serve a prime rib special on Saturday nights for $12.95. I didn’t have extremely high expectations of this place, but I have to say that the prime rib was very good, and the place was hopping. I mentioned to my new friends that I was from Louisiana, and I was informed that there were two guys from Louisiana that were regulars at Woodie’s. When they heard I was from the Watson area, I was summoned to their table.

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Jimmy and Richard each grew up no more than 10 minutes from me. In typical Watson fashion, we reviewed the list of relatives and had the “who’s his Daddy” conversation until we were pretty sure that we knew all of the same people. Seems these guys are pipe fitters at the nuclear plant here, and they’ve been coming up for months at a time for almost 30 years. I’m still stunned that in all of the places we both could have been we ended up in the same small town bar in Stevensville MI.

 

After working so hard yesterday and last week, I decided to take today off and go north. It was a beautiful day, and the fall foliage is starting to peak. Next weekend will probably be better, but it was a very lovely fall day. I stopped at Ottawa Beach near Holland MI to take Ashok for a walk.

The area was beautiful, and after reading the historical markers, I realized that this was once a vibrant vacation spot for Chicago natives and Michigan folk. The Ottawa Beach Hotel once stood in this area, and people flocked here to enjoy the beach and Lake Michigan. The hotel has long since burned down, but the Pump House still stands and is in great condition. The Pump House was build less than a decade after Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity. Today it is a museum, but I didn’t get a chance to to go in. I’d really like to go back and spend the day here. The place was lovely, bike paths were literally all over the place, and I’d like to go inside that lighthouse if I can figure out how to get over there.

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Two young men made a silent movie about the Pump House in Ottawa Beach in 1972…..

Y’all have a great week. If you have some downtime, go to the website on Ottawa Beach. There are some fabulous old photos of this hot spot. I can see why it was so popular!

 

Sunday Night Check-In: A New Normal

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This weekend felt like a regular weekend for a change. I promised myself that I wouldn’t get involved in a house project other than cleaning up, and I made an appointment for a massage and a facial so I could “reset” this body of mine that has carried me through about three months of insane physical stress. This week I’ll get the last of the scheduled house projects done when my floors get refinished, and I plan to stop and get back to living my new life.

I was beat Friday. We have over 100 people coming in for training this week from all over the United States, Mexico, Canada and India. This is the big training event that has been in the works ever since I started. I wish I could say the work will all be over after that, but it’s really just the beginning. That being said, I’m starting to figure things out and feel more at home. After this training – I’ll be learning, too – I should better understand the new world I’m working in and will start to feel more at home. So, Friday I came home, cooked a simple dinner of veggies and eggs and went to bed early.

Saturday, Ashok and I went on a run at Harbor Shores which is a Jack Nicklaus “Signature” Golf Course on the banks of Lake Michigan. The course is amazingly beautiful. They took great care to preserve the wetlands surrounding Lake Michigan and the Paw Paw River, and the holes weave in and out of the wetlands, the river’s bends and the sand dunes. Walking trails were built all throughout so everyone can enjoy – golfers or not. Ashok couldn’t swim in Lake Michigan at Jean Klock Park, but she did take a dip in the Paw Paw River at a particularly beautiful spot. It was a lovely morning even though it was cloudy. The temperatures hovered near 70 all weekend.

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I showered, ran a few errands and then went to the Inn at Harbor Shores to get a massage and a facial at their spa. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Whirlpool employees get a discount. The spa was small but lovely, and I spent some time sitting in the sauna and the relaxation room in between treatments. I needed them both so bad. I missed having my facial with my friend Lisa because we’d always catch up and have a nice long visit, but Kelly was phenomenal, and I left with rosy cheeks and a much more relaxed swagger. I even felt so good that I took Ashok out for a short hike at dog-friendly  Grand Mere State Park.

Today, I set out to make some new friends, and went over to the local visitor’s center, St. Joseph Today. Karen, one of the employees there, has been chatting with me on Facebook, and she also delivered my Welcome Packet after I bought my new home. I was dying to meet her, so I went downtown to the old bank building that St. Joe Today calls home. It was a lovely old building, and, even though Karen was disappointed that I didn’t bring Ashok along, we had a nice visit. She told me about the Luminary Festival and a cool train ride that I might take this fall to enjoy what the area has to offer.

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I love the bank vault in the background!

I drove north to South Haven – another cool little town on the lake – to my first Meetup Group. The “Friends Over 50” group was small but really nice, and I met several locals and a few newly relocated Chicagoans. We stayed longer than our time allowed since we were having so much fun at Cafe Julia which is a lovely coffee shop with a delicious turkey cranberry sandwich. Before we left, the organizer of the group made us all co-organizers of the Meetup Group so we could add events as we saw fit. Everybody is trying to meet people and get to know the area, so I hope we can grow our little circle into something nice.

Now I’m curled up with Ashok and starting to prepare for tomorrow. All of our travelers should be at the Inn at Harbor Shores or en route at this moment, and I need to tie up a few loose ends before I hit the sack. I feel rested and connected, and I’m ready to get ‘er done. This time next week I’ll have my floors done, and I can relax at home! I can’t wait.

Y’all have a good week.