Cheating Is Encouraged: The Deer Fly Stomp

Just after I started working at Wanderlust, a gentleman named Paul Settles came in to ask for sponsorship for a race he manages every summer. I enjoyed talking with him about his little race that is in Grand Mere State Park. The distance is “about” 5K, but the winner is the one who catches the most deer flies on flypaper attached to their hats. It sounded really quirky and fun, so I told him I might run it. If nothing else, I thought it might be a fun blog.

I was having brunch on Saturday with a friend of mine, and as the date got closer I began to question whether or not I had time to get ready after the run. I decided not to go or to just head over for the start of it and then come home. I was walking Ashok Saturday morning and trying to figure out when I was going to run that day when it dawned on me that I should just go run the darn thing. It would be different, and it would be in a beautiful place where I don’t usually run during the week. I hurried home, brushed my teeth, washed my face, threw on some mismatched running clothes and trail runners and drove over to Grand Mere.

The gravel road back to North Lake Park was muddy after the rain Friday night. The air hung heavy with humidity. It felt pretty nasty out, but it was apparently perfect running weather for deer flies. Paul was super excited about the weather we were having. I was not. I was one of the first people to arrive even though it was only 30 minutes before the start. Dee, a woman I know from a lot of local races, was helping with registration, and she helped me attach the flypaper to my hat. Meanwhile, a steady steam of traffic entered the little parking lot. I laughed to myself as one truck pulled in with a big white barking retriever hanging out the car window. That dog would be covered in mud by the time this thing was over.

It was obvious this was a low-key, popular event with many repeat runners. I met several people, and we talked about the run and how much fun they have had over the years doing it. I was already so glad I came, and I texted my girlfriend to tell her I would probably be nasty and unbathed for our brunch. I was going to see this thing out, and it seemed it didn’t really have a tight timetable.

Paul gave a short speech about the run. The money goes to Alzheimer’s research. Paul was inspired to do this after his father’s, Paul Settles, battle with Alzheimer’s. The shirt features names on the back of local people who have battled the disease, and he is truly passionate about stopping the suffering. He gave us an overview of the course map which was scrawled on poster board, told us cheating was encouraged, and said “go” as he led the little pack out of the parking lot and into the woods.

I chatted with other back-of-the-packers as we ran through the beautiful forest and hoped to catch some flies. I got one and then, Kim, who was running with me exclaimed that I had three. I had no idea how excited it would make me to catch some flies. I imagined I might win for a second. But my hopes of an inaugural win were dashed when a young man came running through with his flypaper completely covered in flies. But I proudly posted my three flies on the board when I got back.

We were told to be back at 9:12, and we gathered for prizes. Local businesses and crafters had donated items such as homemade candles, gift certificates and one embroidered deer fly wall hanging. Everyone got a gift for their participation, and the winner with over 30 flies received their medal. A couple got engaged on the course which was apparently a first for the run.

I drove home with a smile on my face. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a run. My last one was canceled due to COVID. I forgot how fun they are and especially the little ones with their quirky customs. I met a few new people, participated in helping a good cause and actually had time to take a shower before my brunch. I would call that a good run.

Congrats to the happy couple on their engagement!

After the Fire…. Relief?

I dreamed last night that my house burned down. At one point last night I woke up and heard my almost grown kitten walking across the control board on my oven. Beep…beep…beep… I knew I should get up and make sure the controls were locked, but I was so sleepy. I finally got up to check on it – this was my dream – and the stove had turned into a crockpot that was sitting on my sofa. Flames leaped up underneath the appliance on top of my charred sofa. Outside my front window I could see the flicker of flames on my front lawn. It wasn’t just the sofa on fire. It was my house.

I was stunned into stillness. What do I do? With an electrical fire, you don’t use water, but it appeared the rest of the house was on fire. That would require water. A voice said “Don’t stop to get anything. Get out”. I began to try to catch my animals who were by this time confused. I was able to grab all of them and put them outside but couldn’t find their carriers and wasn’t about to go up into the attic. I took Bella and Ashok to my car, but Luna was gone. That is so like Luna. Just when you need him to cooperate, he burns the house down and then runs away. That damned cat….

I got into the car, and the fire department was already arriving. A fireman loaded me and my animals in his truck and we drove away. He said it was better for people not to see it. I was confused. I sort of wanted to see it, but I sort of didn’t. I couldn’t for the life of me remember anything that I owned. I felt …. relieved? It was the same confusing relief I felt when I got laid off from a bad job when I had nowhere to land. There was a freedom to it that shocked me. Relief? Really?

Yesterday was a particularly hard day at work. It is very different than a hard day at work in my corporate life. It felt different in my body. For one thing, I was physically exhausted, and I even cut my hand while bringing some shoes down for a customer. I am accustomed to the mental exhaustion when stressed at work and the lingering questions about my decision-making and my worth. This was not the same. I was tired and exhausted and even bleeding. But we got through the day and actually had a great day for a Monday. But it made me ask myself “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”

I think my dream helped me answer that question. My old world has burned down around me. I am left with a much simpler set of responsibilities. And while there is loss from everything that changed, there is a sense of relief that I can sleep better at night. Now when I wake up at 3 AM, I fall back to sleep. When I feel tired and stressed, a good night’s sleep revives me, and I actually know I’m valued at work. Relief is what I feel even thought there’s a lot for me to learn and adjust to. I just have to get through the fire and save what is important.

I woke up truly grateful it was a dream. I sat down with some coffee to watch The Late Show. Stephen Colbert was back in the Ed Sullivan theater for the first time in 460 days. I was moved to tears when he walked out into the audience and danced with an audience member. The world is returning to a new normal with smatterings of the old normal mixed in. I had no idea how I missed that during the last 15-16 months. I’ve cried unexpectedly several times as I witnessed affection, excitement on friend’s faces that I haven’t seen in a very long time and faces without masks. My tenderness was as unexpected as the relief I felt in my dream last night.

In a universal sense, my dream reminded me that the world we are re-approaching has changed a lot. There will be elements of “home”, but it has a whole new structure that will be filled with loss and maybe even relief. We have to be gentle with ourselves and others as we assimilate. If you are left standing, you survived a pandemic. Nobody was left unscathed in some fashion, but we survived. This is the stuff of history books, and it was a true extinction event. Agree with the methods or not, a great many of us survived because of the speed of the vaccine development, mask-wearing and social distancing. Without vaccines, we would still be hiding from this virus just as they are in other countries that are not so fortunate. There is much to be grateful for in this new world.

What burned down for you during the pandemic? Do you feel relieved? Or a great sense of loss? Are your dreams talking to you about it? Are you listening?

I’m Jonesing on Life Right Now

The pandemic is over in my little world right now. I’m vaccinated. I’m back to work. Summer is here. Downtown St. Joseph is full of bikinis, bicycles and Illinois people. This afternoon I actually broke a sweat outside of a workout for the first time in a year. My mood is lighter. I’m running again. My future is secure, and my dog is pretty happy for the moment. Right this minute, I can’t think of a thing I’d want that I don’t already have.

Last week Michigan strawberries came in. I picked up two quarts on Thursday and after leading a hike with a coworker this afternoon, I stopped to pick up two more. I know they won’t last long. Strawberries are a flash in the pan here before the season gets rolling with peaches, blueberries, raspberries and everything else. I’m eating strawberries for breakfast, snacks, dessert and out of hand. They are so good, and I don’t have to feel guilty at all for that high consumption of fiber and vitamin C. This precious treasure literally lights me up when I put them in my mouth.

Forte Coffee opened a location downtown. I’m literally a block away from my favorite coffeehouse, and today I walked down after work and grabbed a mocha frappe to celebrate the fact that it is hot and muggy in Michigan. I no longer have to hate it because literally tomorrow it’ll be cooler. Last weekend I was wearing a coat. Today I was sweating. The rest of the week will be moderately warm and rainy. Unlike Louisiana or Tennessee, I’ll only be hot for a moment and the rain is desperately needed. Summertime in Michigan is civilized and welcome.

I bought a pressure cooker a couple of weeks ago. For dinner I made the most perfect brown rice to accompany my pressure cooked Cuban beans. I don’t know how I’ve lived without this thing. It makes my meal prep for the week a cinch. After Thursday’s grocery shop, I had that pot running for hours cooking chickpeas for hummus, Cuban black beans, and brown rice. By the time my vegetables and fruits were chopped and stored for the week, my cooking was done. And now it’s so easy to throw together my meals at short notice. It’s helping me eat out less, eat healthier and eat some pretty tasty meals.

I’m running again. After my stint with the physical therapist I’ve been settling in to a regular running routine. Once a week I climb stairs or run hills, and two other times I run intervals. Eventually I’ll add some speedwork just for fun, but I need to heal and get stronger first. I feel great afterwards, and it helps me hit my step goal everyday. I just hit 7 days in a row with over 10,000 steps and quite honestly I’ve been over 15,000 most days. Being able to walk around at work instead of sitting home on my sofa helps. I feel so much better and am feeling stronger every day.

I got the interior of my house painted a month or so ago and hired a contractor to come in and repair some damaged plaster and paint my interior and exterior doors. I’ve ordered some blinds, and they come in next week. My house looks so good and all of those little imperfections that nagged at me to fix them are repaired. I can relax and not worry about it. My little house is not perfect but it’s perfectly me. There are a few more things I can do in the not so distant future or maybe I’ll put them off til next year. After all, there is no hurry here. Both my house and me are a work in progress.

This time last year I was preparing to be “retired” at the end of June and not really knowing what to expect. A pandemic was raging, and everything in the world was uncertain. I was trying to get all of my work transitioned, and I was honestly afraid to get near other people. I spent my days in Zoom meetings on my dining room table in that uncomfortable chair, and I just wanted to be done already. I was baking and eating junk most days and sitting around on my sofa getting soft and flabby. I even bought some really loose clothes to ease my expansion. Who knew what was about to happen, but I wasn’t going to starve to death.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but today I’m pretty content with my lot in life. I have a backpacking trip planned in a couple of weeks, and the rest of my summer is stretching out before me unencumbered with events and responsibilities. I’m learning my new job, and I quite like it. I love being downtown and being part of the hustle and bustle of other people’s vacations. They are happy and relaxed and talking of weddings and the beach. They are jonesing for St. Joe, and quite frankly I am, too.

Stair-Climbing and The Root Beer Barrel

My hiking buddy Liz and I met Sunday for a hike at a local nature preserve. We hiked a bit, saw a snake, had a brief lesson on “fear of snakes”, realized we couldn’t find the lake because the trails weren’t marked and decided to head into Saugatuck for a coffee and to climb the 306 stairs to Mt. Baldhead.

Water Snake?

Saugatuck is my favorite little beachfront town in this area. I’m not sure why because there are so many that are just adorable and filled with interesting little shops and restaurants. But Saugatuck has an energy that resonates with me. Ashok and I visit there a couple times a month. I always grab a coffee or a treat from Uncommon Coffee Roasters which features a side window for customers who have dogs. It was particularly useful and busy during Covid as they closed the inside area and just served from the window. A large porch with seating and benches on the sidewalk allow for pet-friendly seating. Liz and I ended up there to share some treats she brought and cappuccinos.

306 Stairs to the top!

We made the short drive around the river to Mt. Baldhead. After next weekend, we can take a human-powered chain ferry instead of driving. 306 wooden steps lead to the top of Mt. Baldhead, a Lake Michigan dune. It was a bit foggy out, and the clouds hung low over the dunes. But we had great views of the city as a reward for the strenuous climb. We talked to a couple of women who climbed it for the second time yesterday, and we vowed to come back once a month and add a “rep” of the stairs. It’ll give us an excuse to visit Saugatuck and get some heart-pumping, ass-building exercise. Plus there are some pretty nice views from the top.

We wanted to grab lunch, and we decided to stop at the Douglas Root Beer Barrel. I went there for the first time last year. This was a popular tourist hot dog and root beer stop in the 1950’s. It was located in a different spot near its current location, and tourists stopped here on the way to and from Oval Beach for hot dogs, root beer floats and, of course, root beer. It fell into disrepair at some point and in 2011 the community launched an effort to “Save the Barrel”. It was finally re-opened in 2018. I am amazed that they have room to cook and prepare food in there, but they do.

I had the BLT Hot Dog and a diet root beer. I forget what Liz had, but we both liked our dogs and root beer. We asked the owner or manager about their experience with COVID last year. He said they were closed for awhile, but they did a great takeout business. We were sitting at a table on the lawn, and he said all of the tables were previously on a concrete slab so they moved them onto the lawn for social distancing. He is leaving them where they are because it allows for pets and people to have a lot more room. They even have little kid adirondack chairs! I thought it felt like a picnic and agreed with his assessment to keep the COVID-inspired arrangement.

I got up inspired yesterday morning and climbed the downtown St. Joe Bluff stairs so I can get in shape for our monthly Mt. Baldhead climb. (I’m not sure if Liz realized she wasn’t just theoretically committing to this monthly climb, but I’m serious.) There are 73 stairs on the bluff. I climbed it 7 times yesterday for a total of 511. I exceeded the 306 from Sunday but am not quite there for the 612-stair climb in June. I’ll keep you posted on our progress. Perhaps our new tradition will be to climb the stairs and stop at The Barrel for a dog. Sounds like a perfect Sunday tradition to me!

I found a blog this morning that features history and a couple of photos of The Root Beer Barrel. You will find the link below along with articles launching the “Save the Barrel” project and the re-opening.

Have a great day and #getoffyourass!!!

Save the Barrel Effort

Re-Opening of the Barrel – 2018

Blog with Historical Photos and Comments about The Barrel

I’m Officially Gray-Curious

For a really long time I have been considering giving up dying my hair. I don’t have a super long hair dye story. I dyed it for fun when I was young. I was more concerned with straightening out these beautiful curls that I now love. I spent money on chemical straighteners and a hundred bad haircuts that I imagined would bring me sleek and beautiful ringlets instead of these wacky curls. It NEVER happened. So color was somewhere in the background. Honestly, I’m not even sure gray hairs bothered me. There was just so much else going on that seemed problematic.

In 1999 (at 38), I decided to wack off my hair because I had moved to Seattle. It rained all the time, and even with chemically-straightened hair and a lot of time spent cooking my hair with heat, the minute I walked out the door I got a weird frizzy afro. One day I walked into a salon and said “Cut it off”. I want it all cut off.” As much as I hated the thought of having very little hair I just couldn’t focus so much on it anymore.

After a few haircuts and tweaks to get it right I fell in love with my new short hairstyle. Yes, my face was front and center, but I got so many compliments it was overwhelming. Whether I thought it looked good or not, it obviously did. I wore that short haircut for 13 years. I always had a little gray at the temples, but my hair was so short it just looked more like a highlight. I started dying it after every haircut for fun the last 2-3 years or so. I liked it red. And it got cut off every hair cut so it truly didn’t matter.

I ran into problems when I started to let the curls grow out in 2013. I was curl-curious and wanted to see if I’d like them more now. I was starting to see curls come into fashion. But as they grew I noticed how gray my temples were. I kept up with the home hair dye but it was becoming harder to do with more hair growth, and I got a lot of splotchiness. By the time I got my Devacut, my hair color was crazy. The stylist was adamant we fix the hair color. That was when I started dying my hair regularly at the salon to cover gray. So, I’ve been dying my hair like that for about 6 years. And, to be honest, I never cared for that salon routine.

I don’t like the salon time. I don’t like the cost. I’m not even sure I like the look. I’m kind of a natural girl anyway, so I don’t really care if anyone sees my roots. With all the curl going on and the length of my hair, you don’t really see it unless I pull my hair back. My temples are really gray. The rest of my hair is salt and pepper in varying mixes. I started becoming gray-curious years ago when I saw this picture of Jane Fonda in a wig for one of her movies. It made me wonder how my curls would look with my natural gray.

I started the process of growing out my gray a couple of years ago but one of my girlfriends just shook her head and said, “no”. I put the genie back in the bottle and went back to dying it without question. But I’ve been in and out of “going gray” facebook groups and have been fantasizing about it for years. I watched my friend Ann with envy as she chopped off her hair and embraced her gray after she retired from Whirlpool. I told myself I’d do it when I turned 60. Or maybe I’d do it when I retired. I kept putting it off until the future. I thought about it last summer but I knew I’d need to look for another job, and age discrimination is a real thing. I tabled it again.

But now I’m in a good workplace where naturalness is embraced. I have also been growing tired of the amount of hair on my head and how hair dye is damaging it. It’s been hard to keep down the frizz and to keep the color looking good. I had an appointment yesterday for highlights and a root touchup. Two weeks ago I started reading some going gray blogs and watching This Organic Girl’s YouTube videos on her “going gray” journey. I began to imagine canceling the appointment, or using it to cut my hair off. It felt so liberating the last time I told the stylist to cut it all off. And it was liberating to embrace my natural curl. Could I do this?

I DID IT!! Day one of the “going gray” journey is in the books…….

I have no idea what my natural hair looks like. I’m going to give myself some grace and set a deadline. I’m not dying my hair before Thanksgiving (unless it’s a streak of purple or pink). That’ll give me 6 months to decide what I want to do. But I am a natural girl. I like natural things. I like low-maintenance in general. I have a feeling I’ll like my natural hair. After all I have all of that curl for interest. So, I went in yesterday and had Abby give me a pixie cut. I have plenty of hair dye left in the curls in front, but she lopped off a good bit on the sides and front. I can already see it peeking out. There’s a lot of white at my temples. It’s going to be a shock at my next hair cut to have that right by my face.

So I’m officially gray-curious at least until Thanksgiving. I’ll keep you posted on my journey. I’m also going to enjoy wearing hats again. I missed all of the great hats I used to wear when my hair was short. I looked like Bozo the clown in a hat with all of those thick curls bursting out. And it’ll be a relief to run or hike and sweat and not have all of that hair to air-dry afterwards. If nothing else, my hair routine will be much easier for the next 6 months.

I just realized I have on the same scarf in this photo as I did yesterday!!

Michigan’s Simple Pleasures

One of my favorite things about spring in Michigan is the wonderful asparagus that literally grows wild in this area. Of course, there are farmers who grow it, too, so I get mine at Sawyer Garden Center. However, whenever I get a chance to drive up M-139 I like to pick up a a couple of bundles at a roadside stand with the honor system. I love getting fresh-picked like that, but most of the time I pick up my weekly bounty at the garden center.

Yesterday they had purple and green asparagus and local green onions. I got two bunches of both. I chopped the onions for salads and meal toppings this week and roasted the asparagus whole. I just spread them out on cookie sheets, sprinkled them with virgin olive oil and salt and pepper and roasted them at 400 degrees. I stored most of it but used a serving for dinner.

Most of this past year I’ve been cooking plant-based. For 30 days after I left Whirlpool I ate completely vegan. I felt better almost immediately. I think the biggest culprit for me was dairy so I’ve really cut back on it. I also still eat some meat if I’m out in a restaurant, and now I’ve added Great Lakes fish back into my diet. Eating this way has really simplified my cooking and shopping. Tonight I prepared some brown rice mixed with yellow split peas and topped it with the roasted asparagus, chickpeas and pickled onions that I picked up at Molina Tortilleria right across the street from the Garden Center.

For dessert I made a pineapple smoothie with a little Greek yogurt, coconut cream, coconut, nutmeg and cinnamon. It was really creamy and delicious and reminded me of a Pina Colada. It was a great end to a really nice day. I took Ashok out to Saugatuck Dunes State park early in the day, and we hiked for about an hour. The lake was so still. Ashok always seem to be happy to be on a trail instead of walking around the block. It’s worth the 45-minute drive just to see her so happy.

I stopped on the way home to get groceries, so I prepped all of my veggies and put them away first thing. I made lunch and then lay down for a nap. When I woke up I practiced yoga for a half hour and completed a yoga nidra practice. I felt as still as the lake this morning. It’s a good way to end the day. I’m really grateful for a healthy, quiet, restful day.

Developing Patience

Good Morning!!

I have one week down in my new role. While starting a new job is always exciting and hopeful, it is also a time where I recognize my limitations and shortcomings. I’ll need to build relationships with my new work family, and there will always be hiccups and challenges in that process. And, of course, our dear coronavirus has presented additional work challenges and the really uncomfortable but necessary need for wearing a mask. It’s hard getting to know people when half of both of your faces are covered.

I also seem to have forgotten how to manage my time when 40 hours have been squeezed out of my daily allotment. I had to have a very narrow focus this week in order to get through it. It took me about 4 days to get physically accustomed to walking around the office and up stairs, talking to a bunch of new people and lifting and unpacking inventory. By day 5, I had enough energy to exercise after work and get to sleep at a normal time. That was much quicker than I anticipated.

I’m being challenged to develop patience. I have to be patient with myself with my work learning curve. I have to be patient with my new work family and my animals at home as we all adjust to this new normal. My kitten Luna has been with me a year but he’s never experienced me being gone on a regular basis. He seems much more needy and agitated when I don’t get him fed on time. And when he’s agitated, Ashok and Bella catch hell, too.

I’m having to be patient with the easing of the Covid restrictions and the mask wearing. Wearing one all day has been challenging, and I’m not drinking enough water. The upside is I’m not eating a bunch of junk either. I’ve lost five pounds in the first week, and I’m back to a pre-covid weight. I’m also having to be patient with myself as I get back into a routine. I can’t do yoga, exercise, meditation, cooking, walking the dog, journaling and napping. I’ll have to find a happy medium that allows me some downtime.

Most of all, I’m having to be patient with the weather. This time of year is when I get really sick of the cold and am eager for warmer temperatures. But I am still wearing a coat as we speak, and I have to keep putting my fingers in my pockets as my hands are freezing while I’m typing. Yes, I’m sitting outside in 40-degree weather. I just want May to be filled with May-like things, and this southern gal thinks May is an outside month.

I don’t like to be patient. I like for things to move and change quickly. But developing my patience muscle helps me be less reactive and to relax a bit more. It also helps me be more reflective. At this time, I could dive right in at work and make a lot of mistakes that are unnecessary. I could also be stressing myself out needlessly. Taking more time to reflect helps me make better decisions and fewer messes. I’m just going to give myself some time and keep doing the next right thing. One day I’ll look back and not even remember the frustrations of today. Hopefully, I’ll be a much patient person due to the practice.


I was on a Zoom call last night with some friends, and a shift has occurred. After months and months of attending our Monday night check-in, people are exhausted and invigorated from being out and about among friends. The energy was different, and it was obvious that the curtain has been lifted on “normal” life again. Each of us has been tiptoeing out to see friends that we haven’t seen in a awhile and spending time doing things that seemed crazy not too long ago. I first want to say thank you to the miracle of vaccines so that those of us who want to remain healthy don’t have to worry about a killer disease racing through us.

In my circle at least eight people have died of COVID-19 or have had a parent or close friend die of this dastardly disease. I feel a great sadness at the loss of life that has happened over the past year and the loss of life that is still happening in places like India. As I walk through small towns in Michigan, there are many empty storefronts, and I think we will find similar gaping holes in people’s lives and hearts. Anxiety and depression have increased, addictions have worsened, suicides and overdoses soared and grief perforates us. We will not be emerging into the same world. For the most part we are wounded, but as is true in most catastrophes, we will learn and be better.

I had my second vaccine dose two weeks ago today. I feel relieved. I still wear my mask for others who have not been vaccinated and to participate willingly in solving a societal problem. Going back to work increases the feeling that life is back to normal. It will take a minute to get used to the routine, but I’m not sure I want to go back to what I thought was normal last year. I’ve had over a year to sit in my life and re-evaluate where I want to spend my money and time and with whom I’d like to spend it. Life is short. Good health is a game-changer. Love is fragile. I’ve learned a lot in during my COVID education.

I’m not entirely sure how I’d like to re-emerge during this time, but I know that I don’t want to just slingshot myself back into the same routine I left. I really want to change my reliance on eating out. For one thing, restaurants are wounded, too. They are stretched with short staff and a surge of people hellbent on getting out and about and feeling normal. Prior to COVID, I spent too much money on restaurant food and then had to spend a ridiculous amount of time and effort working out to counterbalance the calories or beating myself up for eating too much. I’m eating mostly plant-based now, and it’s really hard to get an enjoyable meal in a restaurant that is plant-based. I feel much better eating this way, and I’d rather spend my money on travel or things that last. There’s nothing wrong in meeting over a really good coffee or for a walk, and I feel much better afterwards.

I also want to be choosy about how I spend my time. In just the last few days as I went back to work, I realize the value of the few hours that bookend a work day. I want to take care of myself, and I want to be rested. That requires a little effort and regular sleep. I want to invest in the relationships that matter most to me and let go of the ones that are mere convenience. Some of those friends are located across the country, and I don’t have to spend a dime to jump on a Zoom call. I’d like to invest some of my saved time and money to visit them in person when restrictions and safety allow.

Of course there’s nothing that has supported me more during the last year than being outdoors and enjoying Mother Earth. I want to continue indulging in those activities and maybe increase my involvement on the weekends. In my new role at work, I can introduce others to nature and teach them some of the things that were taught to me. There’s nothing more beautiful than waking up in the morning to a chorus of birdsong and sipping coffee fireside in the middle of the woods. Ahhhhh… I feel more relaxed just thinking about it.

I’m sure my new life will gradually build, and I’m curious as to what it will look like in a year. But I want to be conscious about what I add to the mix. I have a clean slate right now and can build as quickly or as slowly as I like. I think I’ll re-emerge slowly and with great caution. My life is important to me, and I want the next decade to be filled chock-full of things that are meaningful and life-sustaining. I feel great sadness and grief over what we have lost during this time, but I also want to honor what I have learned.

How will your re-emerge differently? What will you keep?

I Wanted Something Different

This time last year I was on furlough due to COVID. Little did I know that in a few weeks I would receive an offer I couldn’t refuse that would lead me down a different path and provide some much needed down time. While on furlough, I binge-watched Schitt’s Creek, bought some rugs for my home and nursed a sourdough starter into being. By the time my two week furlough was over, my house looked pretty darn good. I had gained at least five pounds, and I had some mandatory rest while the world was on lockdown. I was not one of those people who learned a foreign language, got another certification or otherwise did something productive with their time. I guess I’m just not the type. When I’m offered some time off, I like to rest.

I got an email a couple of weeks ago from a local outdoors outfitter where I have taught backpacking cooking classes and bought most of my camping and hiking supplies the last five years. The owner of the store had three job openings and wanted to know if I knew anyone that might be interested. “I’m not even sure you are still in the area, but maybe you know someone,” she asked in her note. I read through them with interest but then thought better of it. I didn’t really want to work the long hours of retail, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to stay in this area. I decided to think about it and respond later. Surely I knew someone who might like that kind of thing.

I was out walking by Lake Michigan two days later, and that email crossed my mind. “I thought you wanted to do something different,” a quiet voice whispered in my ear. It got my attention. “I did say that,” I replied. And fear of doing something different started to bubble up. I’ve been in the same field for decades. While I’ve been considered for a number of corporate roles in the last few months, I really wasn’t excited about any of them. I’d do it if I had to, and I’d do fine, but I felt like a lamb being led to slaughter. I have longed to do something different for a very long time. And this time I’m in a situation where I can actually consider it. I compared the fear of doing something different with the fear of not making a change. One felt like a leap forward, and the other felt like a huge loss.

I responded to their email and said I’d just like to meet with them to ask some questions about the roles they had open. But when I got there, they had a different leadership role in mind for me. The longer we talked, but the more excited I got about the “something different” they were offering. The best part was they were super excited that I was interested. They offered an Operations Manager role to me that evening, and I accepted the next morning. I am learning a whole new industry and work for a wonderful company called Wanderlust Outfitters. I have long day-dreamed about a job in the outdoors industry but I never would have thought I had a shot.

My new work home!

I’ve been off work for ten months considering my next move. With one potential role, I waited three and a half months for them to decide to offer it to somebody else. I’ve considered moving. I’ve been heartbroken, and I’ve been excited about opportunities. I’ve considered retiring. I’ve interviewed for a dozen different roles, many of which I turned down due to lack of interest. And it all ended in a week’s time with very little effort on my part. A door opened for me at just the right time, and I walked through it. It was as easy as pie.

I’m a beginner again. I’m trying to learn a new role and a new business. My morning routine is a bit rusty. How did I ever exercise, pack lunch and get my animals situated before 8 AM? Today is the first Sunday of my first weekend of being back at work. While I was “retired” Sunday was just another day in a long string of days that looked very much the same. But today I’ve been luxuriating in the knowledge that tomorrow won’t be the same as today. It will be different. And Monday won’t be the same as the hundreds of Mondays I’ve tackled in corporate offices. It will be different. Yes, I did say I wanted something different. Dreams do come true.

What I’d Tell Her if I Could

I’m having my house painted. I’m so excited. I’ve actually never had someone else do it for me, and I’ve only painted myself once. It feels like a declaration of making it mine and not a stopover point. The reality is I’m not sure if this house is a stopover for me or if I’ll be staying long-term, but I’m gambling that in either case a fresh coat of paint will be a good decision. My house is 100 years old this year, and she has plaster walls with cracks, joints that don’t necessarily connect and holes where past residents hung pictures and hardware. She is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

While taking down my hallway pics, I stopped to look at my photo of the Eaglettes, my high school dance team. Those young faces in that picture bring back memories of a time when my adventure had not yet begun. I know how they all turned out, and it’s interesting to gaze upon this picture knowing the struggles, hardships and gifts that each one of those young women would experience. For some, they knew exactly what they wanted and got there quickly. For others of us, it has been a journey that may never end. At that moment in time we had no idea what life might be like. We just knew how to take a choreographed dance and practice it until it was charmingly and imperfectly ours.

The Eaglettes – 1978ish

I would love to have coffee with that young girl with curly hair that was straightened into the perfect coif in about an hour’s time and with half a can of Aqua Net. I know she would be nervously trying to figure out who I want her to be because that’s what I always did. Not knowing the rules of life, I was constantly trying to figure out how to be good and right and please anyone I perceived to be in authority. My young, hollow view of life consisted of a single desire to fit in and be liked.

The first thing I’d tell her is that she’s NOT fat. The insensitive criticisms from the men in her life and the expectations of the women she respected about the size of her body will skew her perception of herself for most of her adult life. And digging out from that belief will prove impossible. So telling her she isn’t fat probably wouldn’t work anyway. Perhaps the better approach would be to ask her about her interests and her desires. Maybe we could talk about what she wanted from life which I know would be a career and the opportunity to live in a number of exciting cities. A discussion about her dreams and aspirations might crowd out the obsession about being too large for society’s approval.

What I’d most like to give her is the opportunity to be heard. I remember feeling like I was always listening to understand what was normal in order to mold myself to those expectations. What a gift it would be to speak freely and openly and explore what I was thinking without judgment or correction. I now know that’s the way I process things and am unapologetic about it. I have to meander through the maze that is my mind until I settle on what I believe is truth.

It takes hours – and a lot of stubbornness – to get hair that straight.

Although she is smiling in that picture I know she is depressed. It would be decades before a good friend will encourage her to talk about her depression and will hold her as she cries. In the moment captured here, she’s still trying to smile through it, get over it and otherwise pretend that darkness does not exist. I’d like to ask her about it, normalize it and tell her that some of those other smiling girls are feeling the same way. How powerful it would be for her if I could introduce her to meditation or yoga so that she doesn’t abuse alcohol later in life to self-medicate. I’m not sure she’d be open to it, but it would be nice to plant the seed.

I’d love to tell her what she has to look forward to in her life. I’d let her read me some of her poetry and tell her that one day she could be a writer just for fun. I’d encourage her not to be afraid to pursue her dreams of being a journalist. She doesn’t know how much courage and guts she has. I’d tell her she’ll become a teacher of sorts through her work and her writing, and she can use all of her hardships for gain. I’d like to encourage her not to limit her dreams to the ones she sees modeled in rural Louisiana. While she dreams of cities and adventures she reads about in books, she really doesn’t know that she’ll get to choose where she goes. I want her to know she has the power to choose her life… and change it if she doesn’t like what she chose. There’s no shame in that.

I’d reassure her that her stubbornness is a virtue, and she needs to protect herself with boundaries and not her will. She won’t know what boundaries are but I’ll suggest a book or two or tell her to write it herself. After all, she’s curious beyond belief. Her time will be better spent researching how to set boundaries than how to lose 10 pounds or catch the right husband. After all, she’ll probably be chasing those two goals the rest of her life and will one day realize they weren’t worth all of that effort anyway. Oh, yeah, and I’d tell her to get some good conditioner to let those curls go. She lives in humid Louisiana, and she may as well go with the flow.

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