Sunday Night Check-In: Pseudo-Spring

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A week or so ago we had an almost 60-degree day. The rains came, the snow melted, the rivers rose. Ever since then, it shocks me that its cold outside when I go out. I expect it to be warmer even though my weather app says its still in the 30s. In fact, last week, we had four days of sub-freezing temperatures. It is NOT spring by any stretch of the imagination, but my imagination is running wild.

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I ran Friday night after work. It was much colder than I thought. The sun was out, so I ran down to the lighthouse, through downtown and through the lakefront park. It felt so good to kick off the weekend that way. I got home, curled up in bed and continued reading The Great Alone.

I spent a lot of time reading this weekend. After living a couple of winters up here, I could relate to the snow-covered Alaskan scenery. If I really stretched my imagination, I could even imagine the long period of darkness with the cold, brutal winters. I couldn’t relate to the characters. Or maybe I related too well. The alcoholism, codependency and out-of-control rage really got under my skin. And the mother who thought she was some kind of savior for standing by her man while he was beating the crap out of her and scarring her kid made me sick to my stomach. I wanted them all to get eaten by a grizzly bear. But I did finish the book. It was relaxing to be taken away into a fantasy land that is not of my own making.

The Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery….

I hiked the dunes and the Lake Michigan beach yesterday with a friend, and I made a conscious effort to leave my camera behind. I’ve gotten tired of social media. In fact, I’ve even been struggling a bit with blogging. It was time to re-up my membership to my blog site this week, and I seriously debated justing deleting it. But I decided to push through and continue. Maybe I’m just in a slump. If I feel the same way next year, then it may be history.

The time change took a lot out of me, and I didn’t feel like running today. I loaded up Ashok, and we drove to the Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery to pick up some artisan cheese. It was such a nice day, so we did a little exploring at the nationally significant New Richmond Bridge. A little boardwalk and a walking bridge crossed the beautiful Kalamazoo River. We walked around for a bit and enjoyed the sunshine. Ashok even spotted a muskrat which caused a great deal of canine excitement.

I stopped at a couple of coffeehouses today. On the way out, I stopped at the Phoenix Coffeeshop (#11 for my tour) in Benton Harbor. It had closed for a bit last fall but has now reopened under new management. Japhy, the new owner, told me this is actually the third rising of the Phoenix. He didn’t really intend to open a business, but when the old shop closed, he felt it was a big loss for the community. They serve Dagger Mountain coffee and a limited but delicious lunch menu. I wasn’t in the mood for coffee, so he suggested the homemade chai, and I ordered the Power Bowl for lunch.

The chai was phenomenal, and the Power Bowl was a great combo of quinoa, black beans, spice and bell peppers. While I ate, I enjoyed the bookstore atmosphere. Japhy said they are working on their own menu of bakery items, so I look forward to that in the future. I’m glad they reopened. We have a few coffee shops here, but I do like the location of this one, and the light streaming through the windows was really cozy.

The owner Japhy and my Power Bowl!

I will enjoy the longer daylight hours after work. I’ll be starting some trail running soon as part of my training plan, and I look forward to having enough daylight to do it after work. Winter may not be over, but I think the worst of it is behind us. The next few months will gradually bring warmer temperatures, spring flowers and loads of sunshine. I’ve already booked a spring camping trip, and I plan to outline a few backpacking trips real soon. It’s not spring yet, but I’m going to spring forward into the thought anyway.

P.S. I’ll review the other coffeehouse later this week!

 

Sunday Night Check-In: Coffeehouse #4

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I spent yesterday working around the house. It was a disaster. A contractor has been remodeling my bathrooms and my closets, and between the snow and construction dust and boots tracking in and out, my house was disgusting. I scrubbed everything and even rearranged the furniture to make my house more livable. It felt so much better that I fell asleep like a baby last night and slept until 7 AM. That is extremely unusual for me.

BEFORE…

DURING….

AFTER….

After shoveling snow all Friday night and then cleaning house all day Saturday, I woke up with a desire to take a ride. I loaded up Ashok and we headed to Holland to check out coffeehouse #4, 205 Coffee Bar. I’ve been following them on Instragram, and it seemed like a really cool place.

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As soon as I walked in the secret door to coffee, the owner Jacqueline greeted me. She had a vision of this space where people could come and hang out, and it has certainly manifested. A beautiful mural on the outside attracts brides and photographers from all walks of life. I didn’t have anyone to take my picture or I would have done it, too, but I guess it gives me a reason to go back.

The bar serves classic coffee drinks, Stovetop coffee and espresso and Kombucha which is made locally from all kinds of wonderful natural flavors. I sampled them all. The lime jalapeno was really interesting, but I loved the strong flavor of the beet brew. She recommended the brown sugar and molasses latte, and I went for it. It was smooth and slightly sweet. It was so good that when I spilled some into my saucer I picked up the saucer and poured it back in my cup. I didn’t want to miss a drop.

The business strategist, David, for Stovetop Roasters was also in the shop, and we chatted for awhile about visiting coffee shops wherever we went, yoga and blogging. He recommended I visit Nashville for the premier coffee shop experience, so I might have to plan a trip. Meanwhile, I’ll definitely make 205 a frequent stop when I’m in the area.

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I had a dog in the car, so I needed to head out to take her for a walk. We drove to Holland State Park in the hopes that we could find a clear enough path for a short walk. It had snowed again last night, so the snow was very deep. We were able to find a path out to the lighthouse and even walked out to edge of the channel to see Lake Michigan. Ducks and gulls swam in the water that surrounded the ice, and the lake looked like the moon to me. Only a few people were out, but we were all enjoying the day and the raw beautiful landscape.

All in all, it was a really good weekend. I got in a run, some snow shoveling which was a rocking upper body workout, and I got to relax and enjoy the snow on Sunday. I love the feeling when my house is clean and put together, so that’s a great way to start the week. I hope you have a great week, and I’ll leave you with some pics from a snowy Michigan weekend in February.

Sunday Night Check-In: Winter Fest

 

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When I lived up here last time, I don’t remember doing much in the wintertime. My ex was a wuss when it came to cold weather, and he thought winter was made for waiting for spring b*tching about the weather. I didn’t know any different. As a southerner, you hunker down and drip your faucets when it gets cold enough for water to freeze. But it’s a lot shorter wait in the south for springtime.

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Last year I walked downtown with Ashok in February and noticed a big festival going on.  (You can read my blog here.) Ice carvers filled the streets, and onlookers drank hot chocolate and shopped. In the middle of the square was a massive ice cube, and they lit a bonfire inside it. The fire burned out and my hot chocolate turned cold before the ice melted. I would never have imagined such a thing.

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So, this year I promised myself I’d get out and experience the winter festivals. I ran a 5K in the Magical Ice Fest in Saint Joseph Saturday morning, and then drove up to the Icebreaker Festival in South Haven. The 5K was really fun. It was cold. I mean, it’s February in Michigan, right? We had snow on the ground, and plenty of it had turned to ice. The announcer told us to watch our footing as there were a couple of slippery places on the course. I looked under my feet, and I was standing on a solid bed of ice. Hmmmmm….

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The race was beautiful and uneventful, and I didn’t even look at my time when I came in. I just enjoyed the day and the event. We got a fabulous big mug instead of a shirt, and I could not wait to get home and fill that baby with hot cocoa. The post-race food was divine. Sliced fruit, homemade chocolate chip cookies, pretzels, marshmallows and popcorn were placed in front of crockpots of melted chocolate for dipping. The South Bend Chocolate Factory provided trays of their finest chocolates. Biggby Coffee provided coffee and hot chocolate with plenty of whipped cream for topping. I will definitely sign up for this one again!

After watching some ice carvers, Ashok and I headed up to South Haven for their Icebreaker festival. I’d seen the billboard a hundred times, and I really wanted to go. This was a much bigger festival, and it took awhile to find parking. I finally decided to park down by the lighthouse and walk into town. The lighthouse catwalk was covered in snow and ice, and we walked around with a few other adventurous folks enjoying the scenery and the challenge of standing upright.

It was a beautiful day, and there were lots of people about. The festival featured cardboard sled racing, ice sculptures and a Frozen Fish Fling. I wish I’d gotten a picture of the Frozen Fish Fling, but my phone died before it started. A large crowd gathered round and cheered and jeered as adults and children flung big frozen fish as far as their arm would propel it. Laughter filled the air, and a good time was had by all.

I went to yoga this morning, had lunch at a local deli-bakery, took a nap and then took Ashok out to Grand Mere State Park for a walk in a snowstorm. It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend. Well, actually it wasn’t all perfect. When I got out of the car yesterday, my beautiful mug fell out and broke into several pieces. I am heartbroken. I guess I’ll just have to do it all again next year.

Y’all have a good week, and quit b*tching about the weather. If you have ice, channel a Michigander and make ice sculptures.

 

 

 

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.