An Outdoor Playground in Michigan

IMG_3784

If you recall, last weekend I had so much fun backpacking that I wanted to try it again over the Fourth of July holiday. I’d love to do the Manistee River Trail. However, as I researched it, that trail is very popular over the summer and particularly crowded on holiday weekends. No…. that’s not what I had in mind.

As I thought about Plan B, I remembered that I have always bad experiences camping on holiday weekends. Holidays are amateur hour in the woods. More than once I’ve been camped next to a bunch of drunk men who couldn’t keep their voices down after midnight. No, thanks. That’s not what I had in mind either.

The Mackinac Bridge that spans the Straits of Mackinac…..

I’ve been wanting to head to the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. I’m going to the North Country Trail Conference in late July in Marquette, but my agenda will be set with conference activities. Although I’ll be doing lots of hiking, I won’t have the freedom to explore. So, I started thinking that maybe this would be a good time to tack an extra day onto my four-day holiday and drive as far north as I can go without going into Canada.

The UP reminds me of a mini-Alaska. Winters sock it in for months at a time but that doesn’t stop people from enjoying snow sports. Snowmobiling is huge up here, and snowmobile trails are as plentiful as roads. I really want to come up here to see it in winter, but I’ll have to get my adventure hat on and take the chance on driving in even snowier weather than at home. And the summers here are divine.

Cut River Bridge and Delta

 

 

I got here yesterday, and I’ve been driving around and hiking as much as I can. I’ve been to the UP twice in the past. As I pass the places I stayed with my second husband, I realize that we didn’t do any of the outdoors stuff up here at all. WTF?? I’m not sure what we were thinking. We stayed in McKeever Cabin which is a remote cabin, but all we did was stay in the cabin and skinny-dip in the lake. I passed the road where we rode bikes, and I laughed because we rode our hybrid bikes on a stupid highway. Why didn’t we get in the woods? What a waste of time!

Lake Michigan Recreation Area…

I took the long way up here and stopped in Manistique, the Lake Michigan Recreation Area and hiked around the Cut River Bridge. The lady at the Welcome Center in Mackinaw City told me about a place called Big Spring where the water is so clear you can see huge fish all the way to the bottom. I stopped there, too, but I didn’t take the glass-bottomed boat ride. It was jammed with people and dogs, and I was looking for a more secluded experience. But the spring was lovely just the same.

Big Spring aka …..

Kitch-iti-kipi

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Lake Michigan look so raw and beautiful as it was yesterday. And Ashok and I saw and waded in three Great Lakes in one day – Lake Huron,  Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. All were cold. All were sandy. And all were stunningly beautiful. It was a very special drive.

Lake Huron

Most of the businesses here are locally-owned, so I visited with the shopkeepers and asked for recommendations on what to buy. I bought smoked whitefish and Wisconsin cheddar from the man that smoked the fish at the Cut River Store. I had my first pasty from Lehto’s Pasties as soon as I got on the peninsula. Pasties are meat pies that are a UP tradition. I can just imagine eating these hot hand-held pies in the dead of winter. They are so filling! We didn’t eat any of those when we were up here before either!

Ashok and I hiked today, but I’ll tell you all about that in a post of its own. Suffice it to say that I am falling in love with the UP. As I drive down the road surrounded by wildflowers, water and green, my mind’s eye overlays an image of what it might look like in winter … then in fall with the leaves changing. Click, click… those images keep shifting in my head and I wonder what it would be like to live up here. Could I take a snowmobile to work? How about munching on a pasty after a winter run? What might that cold wind feel like off Lake Superior in January? Brrrr …. I’m chilled already. Or maybe it’s the 50-degree July evenings that are raising goosebumps on my arms. No sweating this year!

Michigan Goodies!

 

 

 

Homeward Bound

 

fullsizeoutput_193d

It’s finally here!! I’m making my first journey home from St. Joe. I booked my flight awhile back. You know I’m not going to Baton Rouge after it gets too hot, and with this warm winter, that’s next week. So I found a cheap flight from O’Hare to New Orleans, and the day has finally arrived.

I could pay about $300 more and fly out of South Bend which is much closer, but that’s a flight that always stops in Atlanta. Every single time I’ve flown from South Bend to Louisiana, it’s been a 12-hour travel day. Delays, weather, the big flood in Louisiana and even a detour through Charlotte have plagued all of those flights. It’s worth it to take more time on the ground and travel to Chicago for a nonstop trip. Besides, they have better snacks here!

IMG_2560

So, I left the other side of the lake this afternoon and boarded a bus in Indiana headed for O’Hare. The driver was so nice, and the bus wasn’t crowded at all. While she fought Chicago Friday afternoon traffic, I texted my sister, ate some nuts from Starbucks and read the New York Times. It was a stellar way to get to the airport, and the parking was free at the bus stop. By the time I would have paid $20 a day to park at O’Hare, the bus ticket was a wash.

It’s been awhile since I’ve flown, and I’ve flown out of small airports the last few years. I checked in for my flight on my phone on the bus and purchased my pass to check a bag. When I got off the bus, I just walked over to a kiosk where I printed my own bag tag, slapped it on my bag and handed it to the counter guy. It all took about 2 minutes. They gave me a pass on the TSA check, and I sauntered right through security without stopping. It was so easy!

IMG_2562

I arrived at the gate and immediately got an email that my flight was delayed but, at this point, I’ll only arrive 30 minutes late. As easy as this trip has been, I’ll not complain. I’m sitting at a Starbucks now trying to decide if I want to grab a healthy snack. I didn’t eat dinner, so I’ve been snacking on fruit and nuts. And I get to spend the night at Michael’s house. Yay!

As far as my sugar journey, I messed up today. It was an accident, but I ate some sugar at lunch. I didn’t realize sloppy joe meat had sugar in the sauce. Of course, I don’t know how much, but I looked up a generic sloppy joe nutrition guide, and it said 32 g. That’s about 2 teaspoons of sugar. I could tell immediately after I ate it. I got a little light-headed, and I did not feel good. After a week of feeling grounded and stable, I was disappointed that I was feeling this way. I learned a lesson. I’ll be more careful next time. It happens, right?

IMG_2565

I’ll give you a breakdown on the last few days:

Energy: My energy has been great and very steady. I haven’t gotten much sleep the last few nights, and, even with that, I have felt good. After 5 hours of sleep night before last, I still had enough energy to workout yesterday.

Sleep: I haven’t gotten good sleep the last couple nights but it’s not because of sugar. I drove to a hiking club meeting an hour and a half away Wednesday, and I was too wired to sleep as I got home at 10:30 PM. Last night I was up packing and running around the house and was again too wired to sleep. I imagine tonight will be a re-run, but tomorrow night I can catch up!

Brain Fogginess: My brain was really messed up after eating sugar at lunch today. Before that, I’ve had good mental days and got a lot done at work.

Mood: I have been a bit on edge, but I think it’s the lack of sleep that’s doing that. We’ll see.

Bodily functions: I’ll add this tonight and won’t mention it again. When I don’t eat sugar, I don’t wake up to pee in the middle of the night. And, on top of everything else, I become much more regular (if you know what I mean). I won’t post any pics on this!

Hunger: Yesterday, I didn’t get hungry at all. I remember the last time I got off sugar, I realized that my hungriness is part of the sugar cycle. Hunger – when my body is clean of sugar – feels different, and it’s not so insistent. I can just say “Hmmmm …. I’m hungry,” and I don’t even feel compelled to eat right away.

At any rate, I’m back on track with no sugar. I may even start my 30-day clock over. I’ve got a busy weekend. I’ll be in touch.

IMG_2561

Ashok even found a boyfriend at the petsitter!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 7.13.23 PM.png

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!

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 8.22.26 PM.png

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.

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 8.08.15 PM.png

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: Chicago, Lush & La La Land

I spent the weekend in Chicago with my friend Nancy. It’s not a long trip from here, but it does involve tolls and a time change. I got to her place in Des Plaines early Saturday, and we stopped at a place called Tiffany’s for breakfast. We made our plan for the day which included a stop at Lush Cosmetics for some curly hair products.

I’ve been experimenting with some different products for my hair with varying success. I’m not sure why I insist on trying to fix something that’s not broken but I can’t help myself. Lush has all-natural shampoo bars that look like bars of soap so they have minimal packaging. I like that concept, so I wanted to give them a try. We parked out front of the Bucktown location, and I was amazed that in Chicago you can use your mobile phone to pay for parking instead of parking meters. Nancy pulled up the app and paid for a couple of hours, and we went in to the sweet-smelling, trendy Lush boutique.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-7-50-19-pm

I told the sales clerk what I wanted, and she gave me a complete tour of their super-hydrating, unusual hair products which were made with coconut oil, beeswax and a variety of other hydrating and cleansing products. Some were in bars and others looked like cheese wheels. You could cut off as much as you like, and you paid by the pound. I decided to try one called Trichomania, got a sample of a texturing paste and bought some hand cream and lotion. She also showed us some tooth powder which is powdered toothpaste. I liked the idea so I got a sample to take home.

Buzz: Killer Espresso

We decided to get some coffee at a place called Buzz: Killer Espresso. I got a hot chocolate which was this really mildly-flavored “not too sweet” chocolatey drink in a gorgeous mug. We watched the shoppers go by on the street and then visited an art gallery and a small neighborhood specialty supermarket. After our two hours were up, we headed to the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge to see La La Land.

img_2113

Much to our surprise this beautiful old theater was one huge theater. I don’t know how they’d ever fill it up these days. But we grabbed some buttered popcorn and found the perfect seats out of the hundred of seats that were available. The movie – a romantic comedy modern-day musical – was absolutely charming, and we both felt really uplifted after it was over. As a couple of single gals, the plot sparked some great conversation over coffee about the nature of romantic relationships and the inherent difficulty of making one work.

For an early dinner, we stopped at a restaurant that she passes by frequently in her neighborhood called Balkanika. We weren’t sure what kind of food it was, so we checked out the menu before being seated. The gentleman at the bar said it was Balkan cuisine, and since neither of us had ever had Balkan cuisine, we decided to try it. It was simply amazing! We got a sampler of dishes which included cheesy, garlicky potatoes, broccoli cooked with a creamy garlic sauce and and skewers of perfectly grilled chicken beef. It was the best comfort food I’d had in awhile.

fullsizerender

I know it’s too dark,  but it’s the only one we took together.

We went to bed early and read and got up for coffee and chatter this morning. We went to a Fashion Outlet mall in Rosemont, had lunch at Whole Foods and then went back to her place. I had to drive home, and I lost an hour, so I left about 2 PM. I stopped at an Oasis on the way home. On the highways in Chicago, they don’t really have rest areas because it’s so crowded and so difficult to get off on the side streets. So, they build these little centers that are clusters of fast-food restaurants, service stations and restrooms that look over the interstate. They remind me of an airport but instead of boarding a plane, you get back into your car.

The Oasis

It had been a gorgeous sunny weekend, but the minute I arrived in St. Joe, the clouds took over. I had not exercised all weekend, so I threw on some running clothes and went for a run. I followed that up with one of my strength-training workouts from my Virtual Boot Camp. This happened to be the last workout of my 12-week program! I stayed committed through the holidays and for a solid 12 weeks. I was sick one week, and there were a few weeks that I replaced the strength workouts with hiking, but I stayed committed the entire time!! Woohoo!! I am so proud of myself, and I’m ready for tank top season even though it’s freezing outside.

It was great to spend a weekend with a good friend with lots of coffee and good food and fun activities. Ashok didn’t get to come, and I can’t pick her up until tomorrow. My cats seem to be happy to have my full attention, and I’m ready to call it a night. I hope y’all have a great week. I’ll have to figure out my workout plan for this week since my boot camp is over, but I want to stay the course.

Get moving, ya’ll! It’ll make you feel better. Have a great week.

Day 2: A Little Bit Unexpected

 

17556-the-unexpected

So, today I was pleasantly surprised that I felt more connected to people than ever – no Facebook needed. I got emails from several friends, texts from others and have even gained a couple of new blog followers from Instagram. One even sent me an email to tell me her story. It seems that life after Facebook is … well …. pleasantly social!

Tonight I went to dinner with some old friends. I felt the urge a couple of times to take pictures of my food and post, but I realized that it wasn’t necessary without Facebook. I suppose I could have posted to Instagram, but you really can’t tag people so it’s just not the same. I like a feature that Instagram offers that’s called “My Story”. I can post pics and videos all day to “My Story”, and people can view it as a slideshow. In 24 hours, it disappears. I’ll give that a try on one of my adventures. It’s not the same as a Facebook photo album, but I can make photo albums on Google Plus, and, of course I can post them on here.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-9-24-08-pm

It spit snow all day but nothing ever stuck. It’s supposed to snow the next few days but it doesn’t look like much accumulation. It’s really weird. The winter has had a few cold spells, but I always remember there being snow on the ground most of January and February. I guess it’s getting warmer up here, too. It’s just been foggy and dreary with rain for the last two weeks. My friend Laura in Louisiana said the azaleas are already blooming down there. It’s like we had winter for 3 weeks in December, and then it stopped. All I know is I will not have to suffer in July anymore! Yay!!!!!!

 

img_1889

 

A little present from Louisiana arrived on my doorstep today. My friend Michael bakes King Cakes every year, and he sent me one. I was so excited to receive the colorful sweet bundle. King Cakes are served in Louisiana during Carnival season, and they are served in offices, at parties and anywhere people are gathering. My Facebook feed has been full of photos of people at Mardi Gras balls for the last few weeks. It is one of the things I miss. Even though we still have Christmas lights lit up here, there will be no festivities until Memorial Day. But in Louisiana, they are dancing and eating and socializing like there is no tomorrow. The normal holiday season is just a warm-up for Mardi Gras.

My friend Laura’s comment about the azaleas reminded me of one of my favorite days in Louisiana. A friend of mine came into town from Memphis, and we went to Cafe des Amis in Breaux Bridge. It a small bar in a small Cajun town that has a Zydeco breakfast on Saturday mornings. This is no quiet brunch. It’s an all-out dancing party at 8 in the morning. On the way out, we spotted some blooming potted Camelia bushes. It was my first winter in Louisiana after many, many years, and I was so delighted to see flowers in January.

I felt the same delight today when so many people were contacting me. I’d opened up a little space for something new by letting go of Facebook. The Universe gave me a little gift for trying something new – a confirmation that this could be good for me. Maybe it would bring new people into my life that have been living in other social circles. Perhaps those that have just been on the sidelines of my life might now make more effort to stay really connected. And maybe I would work a little harder at staying in touch, too. It was as unexpected and as pleasant as seeing flowers in January.

 

Shared Treasures and Beautiful Things

I’m settling in to my little cozy house and am starting to make it my own. I took down the broken wooden blinds that covered up my beautiful double-hung windows and let the sun shine in. I’m starting to take up the carpet off my hardwood floors even though it’s a lot harder than I anticipated. The floors underneath have some issues but I think if I get them refinished they will be quite nice. Besides, I don’t like this carpet. It’s got to go anyway. If nothing else, I’ll get a different carpet installed.

Apparently my new company makes appliances, so I got a nice little package of free appliances as part of my offer. I got a call today that my new KitchenAid Duel Fuel Convection Range and my French Door Refrigerator are in and ready to be installed. Unfortunately, I have a huge training event going on next week, so I can’t get them next week. But, I’ll take delivery and have them installed on the 10th. I can’t wait. They will be so gorgeous in my new little kitchen, and I’ll love cooking with gas again. It’s been too long.

 

I’ve been looking for some nice blankets for my bed. I have those lovely linen sheets, and I bought some flannel for the winter. But, my blankets are all cotton.I have the quilt Momma made, but I’ve been eyeing one of those Woolrich blankets that are so thick and cozy-looking. Hudson Bay blankets are gorgeous, but the price tag on all of these fancy beautiful heirloom-style blankets are upwards of $500 for a queen-size. I’d been thinking I might splurge when it got colder, but I lucked out this week. I found an ad in Whirlpool’s want ads for two Hudson Bay blankets – a queen and a twin –  for $180 for both.

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-8-04-43-pm

I looked them up on LL Bean last night. The twin blanket retails for $399, and the queen goes for $499. $180 was a steal!! I bought both of them, and I put the queen on my bed over my linen sheets. The stripes are beautiful with my quilt. I’ll probably burn up tonight because it’s just not that cold yet, but who cares. What a nice touch for my new little Michigan bungalow. And when guests come, they have a nice blanket too!

When I emailed Paula, I told her that I had just moved up here from the South and was looking for some nice blankets. Today, I asked her why she was selling them, and she said she was actually moving South, so she needed to get rid of her blankets. We laughed about the swap, and then she told me she will be working at the Whirlpool office where I used to work. We have at least one mutual friend. I told her how much I loved living in Knoxville and working there. She’s a single gal about my age, and she’s off on a new adventure, too. I wished her the best of luck and tucked my blankets into my Rav 4. I wondered if one day I might take off for Knoxville and maybe sell my blankets on the way out. No telling what the future holds.

11168460_1083858114962394_1506102856923086935_n-1

Mr. Olllhoff is on the right.

The neighbors told me that the original owner of this house was the lighthouse keeper in St. Joe. When I lived here before, I was really interested in those lighthouse keepers that no longer really exist. I wondered what their lives and workdays must be like as they cross the ice-covered piers that bring them out to the lighthouse. They were essential to safely guide boats on the Great Lakes. This man, Ollhoff, was the lighthouse keeper from 1916 – 1927. Since this house is about 100 years old, he would have started working on the lighthouse about the time he built this place. They say he had three little girls, and they lived in the bedroom upstairs.

17a81b9f14de77185260d8afc7d47d76

Mr. Ollhoff and his family shared this house, and now I’m making it my home. Perhaps there are things in the basement marked with his fingerprints. Did he shine up that beautiful hardwood that I’m unveiling. I wonder what he thought of this house, and what it looked like. Would he be shocked that I want to have bare hardwood as my floor? Was it his pride and joy or just a place to live? Did his daughters have lovely memories of this place that I now call my own? And now Paula’s blankets will be my treasure on those cold nights as I write and read and sleep. How many nights did they keep her warm, and did she hate giving them up? Maybe one day some young single gal will find my blankets at a thrift store with their holes and lovely frayed edges and eagerly bring it home.

Ashok is snoring beside me, Buster and Bella are exploring all of the nooks and crannies of this place. My boots are by the front door where I left them, and I’m sipping on herbal tea with honey. It’s time for me to call it a day. Hope y’all sleep well. I even hear it’s cold in Louisiana tonight… go figure

 

Please Step Into the Door

img_7023

“Please step into the door,” the automated voice in the revolving door says to me every morning when I walk into the offices at Whirlpool. It has become the cue for me to be present and shift gears into work mode.

The movers came Tuesday, and I began the physically and emotionally challenging journey of making my new house a home. They unpacked my stuff at my request, but they can’t put anything away so it just laid in piles on the floor. Michael says he hates the “unpacking” option because it’s too overwhelming, but I prefer it because I hate dealing with boxes. It’s one more gigantic task I have to do in an already overwhelming job. I decided Tuesday night that I would “let sleeping dogs lie” until I got home from work on Friday. I was tired, and I just couldn’t face the task before me.

Work is intense, but I’m starting to really love it. With a new job the task is overwhelming. Learning new names and new people and new processes and an environment can be exhausting. And I am in the middle of a project where even the long-time employees are looking at deadlines and shaking their heads in disbelief. It’s a lot for this curly-haired gal who craves lots of downtime and peace.

img_7221

So this week when I’d walk up to that door and hear her say “Please step into the door,” I’d take a deep breath and try to pull up energy from the earth. It was a gigantic mental and energetic shift, and I knew that it would be full bore all day long. Whirlpool’s office design is ideally suited for the way I work. I have a cubicle where I can light, but I spend the majority of my day in “huddle rooms” that are scattered all over the building. If I need to meet with a coworker, we just grab a room that is equipped with a full-size projector so we can share screens, a phone and a comfortable space to work. There are also “focus rooms” where I can hole up and work individually. Since we have big screens on the walls where we can view the same documents, we rarely have to print things, but, when we do, we print to our badge. We can access our print queue anywhere across the Twin Cities. Whirlpool has many offices here, and though I don’t move around much, many people do. In my opinion, many of the obstacles to work are removed, and I feel completely supported to do what I need to do.

img_7601

The view from Friday afternoon’s meeting. Do you see that lake?

We worked full bore Friday until 5, and I came home to my mess at home. I thought I heard a woman at my back door say, “Please step into the door”, but I quickly realized there was no automated door, and this task was not going to be easily done. I took a deep breath and decided to at least put my clothes away in the small closets of this 100-year-old home. It wasn’t an easy task as the best closets are on the top floor, but I managed to make it work. Once I got started I couldn’t stop, and I was once again running from room to room – at home this time. I have a basement, a main floor, and an upper floor. I crashed at 10 PM, but I managed to get my bedroom and dressing area completely set up. By the time my friend Kathy got here at 10 AM Saturday, I was ready to hang pictures and start cleaning up. We spent all day Saturday hanging pictures and decorating.

I cooked a late dinner at home Saturday night. I put a load of clothes in the wash, and I set up my yoga space for my nightly meditation. There is work to be done, to be sure, but this morning I’m drinking my coffee on my favorite chaise with all three of my fur babies resting beside me. They are tired, too. They LOVE the stairs and all of the different levels. So they’ve been climbing stairs and exploring ever since things got a little cleaned up Friday. We are all tired and happy to be home at last.

img_7607

Tomorrow when the lady asks me to “Please step into the door” I will feel more rested and settled. The revolving door of work will not be so daunting. I’ll know that I have a place to rest when the day is over. I will have lunch to pack and dishes to pack it in. The drama that began on July 2 with a request to send my resume to Whirlpool is now complete. Let the adaptation begin!!

Now excuse me while I cook breakfast and go back to bed.

 

What Dreams May Come…. Moving Day

IMG_7212

I dreamed last night about moving into my new house today. Except you know how dreams are. My dream offered up a couple of twists. I bought one house, but I had the choice of two.

The first choice was on Lake Michigan. It was a ranch-style house built in the 60s that had never been remodeled. It was carpeted in dark carpet, and the walls were dark paneling. It felt dark and cozy. The refrigerator was a Whirlpool, but it was round. When I opened it, the inside was on a carousel. It was colorful and beautiful, and I thought that this would do for awhile. I walked through the house and was not very excited about what I saw. It seemed like I’d have to do a lot to lighten things up and make it mine. But it had lots of storage and most of the modern conveniences that I’d need.

 

I walked on to the carport and looked out at the lake. It wasn’t Lake Michigan. It was the waters of Louisiana. The water came within 6 inches of the patio, and I could feel my anxiety rise wondering if that “lake” ever rose. “I’m right in it even before I begin,” I said to myself. I looked at that murky, muddy water and decided I needed to look at the second option. This house seemed risky and heavy and not really my style.

The second house was a bungalow not unlike the one I’m actually scheduled to close on today. It was light and airy and simply done. The sun streamed in the windows, and I thought that I liked this one better. There would be lots of work to be done. There were no remodels or modern conveniences. It had the basics like indoor plumbing and a laundry area, but there was plenty to buy. As I looked around in the closets and cabinets, it was obvious that the women before me had not moved out. Her clothes hung in the bathroom as if it was laundry day. The kitchen was full of glasses and plates and assorted cookware. My realtor picked up the phone to call her, and she didn’t seem at all interested in coming back to get that stuff. If I wanted this one, I had to move her out to move in or accept her things as mine. That didn’t seem quite right either.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 7.21.55 AM

My new bungalow

 

 

I’m so ready to get moved in today. This last week has been really hard, and I’m at my limit. In fact, I feel like I’m past my limit. After Saturday’s breakdown I had another yesterday. My emotions can only take so much, and I’m not sleeping either. Work doesn’t stop coming like a freight train regardless of whether I have to move or not. I feel isolated out here because of the lack of cell service. I can get it if I walk down the street, but the mosquitoes are so bad I can’t stand outside more than a couple of minutes. Yesterday afternoon I drove down the road and parked in a parking lot to call a friend and cried my eyes out the entire time we were on the phone. It felt good to be heard.

I slept better last night. Given that I dreamed I know I got some good sleep. I’ll pack things up here this morning and head over to my closing. The movers arrive 30 minutes after I’m done, and I’ll spend the day in that mountain of work. I’ll drive back over here tonight and pick up my animals for our first night in the new house – unless there’s some reason I need to stay here. Today, I have movers coming, an HVAC vendor and ATT for internet service. It will be full bore today, and tomorrow I go right back to work. The rest of this week will be a blur. I’m dying for the weekend.

hangers

In my dream, I chose between Louisiana and this life. Unfortunately, this life is filled with the clothes of Sharon past. While there are wonderful things here, I’m a different person than I was 13 years ago when I was here. I have to somehow let go of those old expectations that Sharon had on herself and encourage the new me to show up instead. Or perhaps it should be more of an integration. I need to take time and sort out what fits and what doesn’t – decide what serves me now and what doesn’t. The rest needs to be put on the curb.

In my dream I was happy to see the previous tenant left a lawnmower in the garage. “I’ll need that,” I told my dreamtime realtor. I just hope a lawnmower will be enough to clean out the weeds of the past. This morning I feel like a bush hog is a more appropriate piece of equipment for the task. The only way out is through. 

Gotta go, folks. I gotta get packing. Send lots of positive energy my way.

frost

 

 

 

 

 

Whew … What a Week!

img_7462

For a four-day workweek, this one was a killer. Yesterday was supposed to be my closing date, but it slipped, so now I close on the house Tuesday. I’m looking forward to getting settled in my new home with my animals and my belongings. The last month has felt more like six months, and I think I’ve gotten as much done as I would in six months. It’s been productive, exciting, infuriating and expensive. I’m very happy to be cuddled up on my temporary sofa writing.

It’s going to be a rainy day, but I hope to get a run in before it starts. I’ve also planned a few things to take care of me today – painting my toes, deep-conditioning the curls and curling up with Undaunted Courage. I have been enjoying a bounty of fresh fruits and veggies as this is peak harvest time in Southwest Michigan. It seems as if every fruit is at its best right now, and I’m savoring every bite. It will be cooling down soon, and I know that party will end rather abruptly thereafter.

img_7550

At some point this weekend, I want to get my stuff sorted and washed so that I can easily pack next week. The movers are supposed to arrive at my new place right after closing, and my plan at the moment is to just get my stuff in and shut the door until the weekend. Work has been really intense, and I don’t want to divide my time and energy while I need to be focused on that. There will be plenty of time on the weekend to sort it out. Besides, I want to bring my animals home when it’s a little more normal. They got really stressed during the move to Louisiana, and they are coping much better with this one since I’m settled in one place. No need to mess that up.

We all have hard things to do in life, but this is one of the harder ones for me. I do it often enough so you’d think I’d have it pinned down better by now, but it’s always really difficult for me. Relocating is a lot of work, and I have to do it all. The hardest part for me is dealing with all of the new people with conflicting and urgent needs for my attention. And to make it more difficult, I’ve had limited cell phone service and wi-fi. Communication has been difficult at times and mostly by text. The lack of context in a text can mess things up more than I’d like to admit. And yesterday I found out that my voicemail has not been working for a month. I had 24 unread messages of varying degrees of sensitivity and urgency in my inbox. It was the worst possible timing for a technology snafu.

The locals are complaining about how hot and humid it is. I was walking into Whirlpool yesterday morning, and a coworker laughed about his glasses being fogged up when he got out of the car. I was just thinking about how it didn’t feel that much different than some mornings in Louisiana. I stopped at Lark’s BBQ yesterday to see my friend Marv and grab lunch. A young man at the counter was from New Orleans, and we chatted about the flooding. On the way out, I was behind a car with a Florida Gators license tag. There are plenty of southerners here with our drawling accents and poor winter driving abilities. And I’m sure we all giggle a little when Michiganders complain about the heat.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-00-43-am

This weekend I’ll be shopping at LL Bean online. I need to buy a winter coat and some snow boots among other things. I plan to give them a call to see if they’ll give me a “stock-up” discount. A snow shovel is on my list as well as a brush and ice scraper. I need to pace it financially, so I’ll try to get a couple of things a month until I’m ready. I’m told there is “ice melt” that is safe for a dog’s paws, and I’ll need a bag to put on my front porch for tossing on the steps and sidewalk. She’ll need a coat and snow boots herself. And to top it off, I rescheduled my Smoky Mountain backpacking trip once more, and now I’m signed up for a winter backpacking trip in February. I need to learn how to camp in the winter here. The adaptation has begun.

 

 

Life on the Farm: First Days in Michigan

IMG_7437

I arrived on Sunday afternoon with my zoo and a month’s worth of stuff. The little lake house where I’m staying exceeded my expectations. (A) It’s not little so it has tons of room, and (B) the family welcomed me with open arms and lots of food. I had dinner with them Sunday night although Sunday – and even Monday to some extent – was a blur. I felt like I was in a drug-induced stupor after all the tasks of the last three weeks and the driving for three days. And I really needed home-cooked food.

After leaving Memphis on Saturday morning, I drove through the woods and fields of Arkansas, Missouri, and Southern Illinois, but there was nothing but cornfields and soybeans the rest of the trip. When I first moved to the Midwest, I was shocked at the farmland although I’d studied about heartland agriculture in U.S. history. It took me by surprise that there was so much of it. After I moved away, I missed it. I watched Hoosiers a few months after I landed in Memphis, and I remember my heart aching for that corny landscape that I had grown to love.

IMG_7446

I’m at Dewey Lake in Dowagiac MI. Lacking the cypress trees and mud of Louisiana lakes, Michigan lakes have homes built on every inch of lakefront. I am always reminded of Garrison Keillor‘s Prairie Home Companion radio show when I’m walking around on the lakefronts in Michigan. Although Keillor was from Minnesota, his stories resonate with images of the Midwest and days on the lakes up here. A fiend of mine in Tennessee had recordings of those radio shows, and we’d listen to them around our campfires. What I’m remembering is what I envisioned those nights as I’d never seen it in person.

 

My commute to work is about 30 minutes, and the landscape is all farmland. you couldn’t throw a rock and not hit a farm stand, and the only time traffic slows is when a tractor pulls out into the road. I’ve been lost at least 10 times on these back country roads, but it is so pretty I don’t even care. Yesterday, I stopped at a couple of farm markets to do my grocery shopping, and I got almost everything I need for the week. Between the farmers and the Amish, the locals are pretty self-sustaining – in the summer. After October, I’ll have to find a regular grocery.

IMG_7441

My morning commute

The Browns, my friendly hosts, are a family of 10 siblings who own and have rented the three little houses on the “compound” to visitors for over 11 years. Luckily for me, they stopped renting mid-August, and this place was available. They all live in Chicago or New York but come over here frequently since this was their business. At least one or two of my hosts have been on the compound since I’ve been here, and, from what I understand, they kidnap Ashok while I’m at work. She’s been taken for boat rides and walks and just general hanging out in the big house. With the long commute, she’s at home longer than usual, so I’m glad they are entertaining her.

My Hosts

Work is good. I’m still adapting and getting to know the culture and my role. I don’t ever have to leave the building which is not necessarily my preference, but it’s easier for now. Eventually I’ll get out and, after I get my house, I can actually go home if I want. Luckily they have lots of healthy options in the cafeteria, and the green tea latte downstairs is really good.

My time and energy are stretched right now. I haven’t made plans yet with my friends here. I need to get my roots sprouted a little before I can start planning a lot. We got past the inspection contingency on the house yesterday, and I hope to close on September 9. It seems close, but even if it’s in the general vicinity of that date I will be happy. While this place is lovely, I want my my own little spot in St. Joseph.

Happy Hump Day from Michigan, y’all!