What’s On My Mind?

What’s on your mind? Facebook implores. The first instant I am tempted to oblige, remembering the Facebook days of old when people were nice and language wasn’t so loaded. Back in those days I didn’t read the news much to my friends’ dismay. Today I read the news much to my dismay. My mind was such an innocent and happy place to be before I inserted myself back into the world.

What is on my mind? I actually read 1 1/2 books this weekend. I beach -hopped all up and down the Southwest Michigan Coast, an area called the Midwest Riviera. My dog and I hung out and watched the boats go by in Saint Joseph, Grand Haven, South Haven, Saugatuck and Holland. It was relaxing sitting under a shade tree with my e-reader in my hand. A man with two huge German Shepherds in a kayak paddled amid the yachts and fishing boats. All hell broke loose when a little yap-dog on a pleasure boat passed by.

The first book I read was “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. It’s the first fiction I’ve read in a long time. I just haven’t been interested in made-up stories. True life seems so much more interesting at the moment. But a friend recommended it, so I downloaded it. Even though it was set on the Carolina coast, it brought up memories of the swamps and marshes of Louisiana. Mostly I resonated with the female character in the book who didn’t quite fit in.

Later I picked up “The Night of the Gun” by David Carr. I’d been wanting to read it since reading his daughter’s memoir “All That You Leave Behind: A Memoir”. Erin’s life – and her alcoholism – was so tied to the elder Carr’s journey that I felt like I needed to get the whole picture. Besides, I love journalists. I always have. I would’ve, could’ve, should’ve been one but I was a chicken. So I married one. And I read about them. And I support their work. There’s just something so interesting to me about people who have the guts to uncover the truth about the absolute greed, corruption and insanity in our world. Storytelling is an art form, and they are among the best.

If I had to find a connection between the two books I’d have to say that they both led an underground life. David’s hard-partying, drug use and alcoholism played out every day while he tried to go to work and be a somewhat normal guy. He wasn’t. Kya was trying to cope after being a victim of her father’s addiction and family dysfunction. Both of them had no idea how to run their lives or manage relationships until they came to a spot where they had to figure it out. Fiction or non-fiction, we are the hero of our own story.

What’s on my mind? How do I keep my life simple? How do I stay in the moment and appreciate my time here on earth this day? How do I end the day in a better place than when I started it? Who needs a hand up today? Who is being misunderstood and could use some understanding? Who needs to speak their mind today and is desperately needing to be heard? Who might be in the abyss of their Hero’s Journey and need some support? That’s what’s on my mind, Facebook. Thanks for asking.

Medicine Cards: Salmon – Following Your Instincts

Imagine the beautiful salmon fighting her way up and over the rapids and through the driving current to at long last give birth and die. Whether she knows what is going to happen or not, she follows her instincts and wills herself to the call of her greater nature. I drew the Salmon Card this morning.

I am mesmerized by salmon. First of all, I love eating salmon. Dense and oily, I know I’m getting a dose of healthy nutrients that will help my blood continue to flow in healthy veins and arteries. I have great memories of salmon from my time in Seattle. For most of my life I have purchased salmon at the grocery. But in Seattle I learned that there are many kinds of salmon – Coho, King, Copper River, the most beloved of all. Salesmen tossed the beautiful fish around and gave out samples of dried and cooked salmon at every booth. I began to order a species of salmon based on it’s flavor profile until I left and now I get salmon – whatever kind you have.

They introduced salmon into the Great Lakes to revive a floundering fishery gutted by overfishing and the invasive sea lamprey. I buy salmon from a local fish captain, and I was always a bit curious because I thought salmon were saltwater fish. Turns out, they are pretty flexible and thrive in the freshwater Great Lakes as well.

Last year I camped at Ludington State Park, and we kept seeing these really big fish in the clear water of the river. They’d jump and swirl. I thought maybe it was some kind of carp, but it turns out they are the remnants of a thriving salmon fishery. I am mesmerized by them every time I stand on the banks of that lovely river.

Once I read the card this morning, I realized I already knew salmon medicine just from watching and studying them. Salmon urges us to learn from all of life’s lessons. We grow from what we learn, and the more that we integrate those lessons, the more powerful and valuable we get. Our instincts are important guides to keep us on the right path between the twists and turns inevitable in any river. Adaptability and flexibility are key to survival. Trusting your inner knowing and going along with the flow are critical pieces of navigating upstream. And I guess I would add that it doesn’t hurt to be graceful and jump for joy a little bit. That will, at least, make bystanders happy.

Shifting into Monday

I realized last night that I have now lived in Michigan longer than I lived in Louisiana on my second round. Of course, I lived my whole childhood there so it’ll take a while to surpass that. I’m starting to feel like I have a full life here. I have things to do with friends every weekend. My routine suits me. I walk to the beach or in the neighborhood every evening. The rhythm of the changing seasons is starting to feel normal.

It’s going to storm today, and for the next 10 days it’s nothing but highs in the 70s. The temps are coming down. I’m focusing on tracking my protein intake this week. I struggle because I really don’t like meat that much. I eat beans, peas, lentils, full-fat yogurts and eggs, but it’s often right on the edge of being enough to maintain muscle. I’m eating more fish these days, and I have a great local source for Great Lakes fish. Last night I sautéed Lake Perch in some exquisite olive oil I purchased for a small fortune in St. Louis last year.

It’s raining already so I won’t be able to get out for my steps this morning. That means I’ll need a long walk this evening in addition to stepping it up at work. I’m working on strategy for my new organization with the other leaders in my group. I’m excited to be thinking about building our function and trying out the ideas that have been bubbling up for awhile. Finding time for it amid the chaos of the day-to-day stuff is the challenge. But it’s like anything else. If I don’t make time for planning, I’ll be lost in a quagmire of conflicting needs.

I did a loving kindness meditation this morning. It always puts me in a great frame of mind to connect with others and see those people who pass me in the hallway in a better light. Remembering that we all are looking for love and acceptance in the midst of our struggles helps me be more compassionate and friendly. It’s a great way to start off a Monday.

Ashok is softly snoring, Bella is asleep at my feet, and Buster is cooing while he purrs in my lap. A soft thunder rumbles in the distance. My oolong chai is percolating soft energy into my veins while my mind starts to make the shift from being relaxed and self-focused at home to focusing on the work tasks before more. I take one more deep, long breath and settle into my sofa for a last relaxing moment. “MOVE!” my Garmin urges. Okay. Let the workweek begin.

Happy Monday, y’all!

Snap… and It’s Here

Yesterday in St. Joe

A cold snap came through this week. It was still 75 degrees yesterday, but with the low humidity I opened up my windows and let the breeze blow through the summer cobwebs and stale air-conditioned air. The cool respite is a reminder that fall is coming, the crowds are leaving and apples are ready for picking.

This summer on a business trip I volunteered to take a later flight home and scored $700 worth of Nordstrom gift cards. I spent most of it earlier in the year, but I sat down yesterday and spent the last $250 on a lovely quilted jacket, a sweater and a thermal top. I can’t wait to wear them.

This summer – with the motivation of my free money – I indulged in a pair of expensive Paige jeans and discovered why people would spend $200 on a pair of jeans. They are as comfortable as the softest tights. They have the sexy look of a tight-fitting pair of jeans with the added benefit of sculpting my middle-aged body into a more fit-looking form. I am hooked. My tastes in clothes is a problem. I’ll never be able to retire but I’ll definitely be dressed well.

I haven’t been running this summer. Ashok doesn’t have it in her anymore, so that took away some of my motivation. I decided I’d only run if I wanted to, and I just never really felt the desire. I dusted off my old Garmin and have been walking 10,000 steps per day (about 5 miles). I’ve found that very motivating. On nights when I have a couple thousand steps left toward my goal, I will actually get my dog out and finish it up. It’s keeping me moving. One day this week the thought crossed my mind that I might like to step it up a bit. But I didn’t.

My friend Autumn told me Friday night that she had started running again, and I felt like the Universe was nudging me to reconsider my running hiatus. It was so beautiful and cool yesterday morning. All of a sudden I felt that old urge to run. I laced up my shoes as soon as I could and did a 1 min run/1 min walk for 3 miles. It felt great. And it was gradual enough that I don’t feel sore this morning. I still missed my girl trotting alongside me, but I suppose I need to let that go.

The snap of coolness is freaking people out. Either they are excited that fall is coming or they are traumatized by the inevitable cascade into winter. I’m going to put up my holiday tree again this year and keep it around until the snow melts. The twinkling lights brought me a sense of joy last year while the polar vortexes wreaked havoc outside. I love the coziness of winter. I’m looking forward to hunkering down and bundling up for long nights of sleep and lots of good reading. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have about 3 months before it settles in. I aim to enjoy every moment.

Ashok and I made the trek to Saugatuck this morning. I brought a jacket, and tourists are walking around wrapped in light sweaters over their shorts, ready to take advantage of the afternoon sun. Tourist traffic is light as next weekend will be the monster for these little beachfront towns. I still haven’t decided what I’ll do. I’ll either opt for a staycation or go stealth camping in the backcountry. Campgrounds on holiday weekends are amateur hour – too much partying and loud music for my tastes.

At any rate, Labor Day weekend is a turning point here. As for today, I’ll let myself settle into summer so I don’t miss one moment of this beautiful Michigan weather.

What’s happening in your neck of the woods? Got plans for the holiday?

Adventures with an Aging Ashok Part 2

Ashok received her first acupuncture treatment about a week and half ago. I’ve been seeing gradual improvement. She seems excited about walking again, and the old spark is back in her step. It’s not a puppy-sized spark, but it’s improvement just the shame.

There is a field next to our house and her habit since we moved here has been to run around in wild circles, tail wagging. The first year we were here, she’d pace out two large circles before running back to me. Later the circle count went to one. For the last 6 months or so, she no longer looked up at me to signal she wanted to run. Sunday we walked past the field and she stopped to look up at me with an eager dog smile on her face. “You want to run?” I asked aloud. Her eyes lit up. She raced happily in a big loop, her eyes brimming with delight. It made my day.

Monday was her second appointment. We’ve been watching her liver numbers as they’ve been a tad elevated. Dr. Tulson said they were up a tad more. She recommended I put her on diet of whitefish and potatoes (sweet and white) for two weeks to see if that helps. She said her elderly dog does great when she’s on that diet intermittently.

She spent her time with Ashok placing a few needles and massaging her acupuncture points. She saw less “deficiencies” this time. When I asked what that meant, she said there were fewer blockages in her chi (energy). Ashok was even telling her where to massage by turning around or placing another body part by her hand. Dr. Tulson said horses are particularly good at self-prescribing massage and treatment points, and she said Ashok was pretty good at it, too. I found myself wishing I was getting a massage soon. Maybe I need to self-prescribe as well.

Acupuncture is not like Western Medicine. It’s not a dramatic cure for anything although the results can be dramatic cumulatively. I know this from my own experience. Over time and with the right care, our bodies can heal themselves. Acupuncture encourages and clears the energetic pathways so the body can do its thing. Of course as we get older the process is slower.

Monday night I took her out for her walk, and she seemed particularly energetic. A bunny in a nearby yard sparked her prey instinct, and she nearly pulled me down as she leaped in response. The entire walk she was ahead of me, pulling on the leash and eagerly trotting down the street. It was good to see my old girl back. In her younger days, I’d urge her to “heel” and pull her back, but I thought I’d just let her run. We both deserved that.

So now I’m boiling whitefish and potatoes, and Ashok is enjoying less kibble and more unprocessed food. She’s lapping up the juice saved from the boiling like it’s a doggy delicacy. If nothing else, she’s better hydrated. She loves it! We’ll see in two weeks if it made a difference.

Re-Playing Tiny Dancer

I can’t get it out of my head. I saw Rocketman on Saturday. The rolicking, exhausting biopic musical about Elton John’s life has me replaying Tiny Dancer over and over in my head. I did the same thing with Rocketman on Sunday. His music is the music of my youth, but it’s also poetry that haunts the soul. Tiny Dancer captures the essence of my girlhood fantasies about rock stars and the women they love. Is it the song I can’t get out of my head or the spirit of my youthful dreams?

The movie is not a historical narrative. It seeks to capture the spirit of Elton John’s experience of his life. The music played in many scenes of his younger days was not even written then. But, man, the music and the dancing and the costumes dragged me in to his particular brand of drama. It was wild, over the top, touching and normal all at once. While I never had a rock star life, I could related to the recklessness, addiction and mistakes that landed me later on a path to recovery. By the end of the movie, I was completely exhausted.

This morning I am in Knoxville. I lived here for 10 years in my late 20s and early 30s. Much of my early life drama played out here, and there are happy memories as well as ones I’d just as soon forget. I had dinner with an old friend the other night and we caught up on the past 25 years since we’d worked together. It’s so interesting at this time of life to see “how it all turned out” with people I knew in my younger days. With some, the arc was predictable. Others experienced twists and turns that are completely surprising. But what happens to us is not who we are.

I was not really a huge Elton John fan. I enjoyed his songs but I’m a country music gal. Some of the scenes from his life I did not recognize. But I did recognize his flamboyancy and his costuming. I have been obsessed since Saturday about his life. I’ve watched countless YouTube interviews, music videos and old news reports just to “catch up”. It feels like I reconnected with an old friend who was a bit player in my life at some point but who became someone with whom I have much in common. I am very interested in his story. Apparently, now I’m obsessed with his music. And what is not to love about that sequined Dodger jumpsuit and his unrelenting energy?

Adventures with an Aging Ashok

Ashok really never recovered from our winter hiatus this year. Last summer she ran with me (at least once up to 7 miles) and seemed to do fine. I walked her some in the winter once the ice started accumulating but not nearly as consistently as in the warmer months. I got my exercise at the gym with with yoga, and doggies aren’t allowed. She just never bounced back to running this year, and, frankly neither did I.

Lately she started “missing” when jumping into the car, and she started yelping a little with one of her front legs. We’ve been walking a good bit and she’s not limping but something was obviously off. Sheepishly she’d look at the sofa and then skulk into her kennel. I got some pet steps, but she did not want to use that. “Steps?” her body language told me. “That’s for old dogs. I’m not going down that easy.”

I took her to my vet and asked if they thought she had arthritis. My vet looked at her and said she might be older than 10. NOOOOOOO. I wanted to scream. She is younger than 10. She’s actually 2 going on 3. But I know that I really don’t know how old she is as she was full-grown and a rescue. She could be 28 for all I know. She estimated her to be 12.

I’ve been trying to slow down time. In that moment the clock fast-forwarded another two years. That’s two years of hiking and camping and swimming in Lake Michigan gone. G… O…N…E. Two years of hugs and healthy activity evaporated in one second. I asked her if it was over. Was this the downhill slide of which she would never return? She assured me that the goal was to keep her happy and active as long as we could. She did not feel the descent into old age and a lifeless sleeping dog in the corner was in our foreseeable future.

Dr. Hall prescribed an anti-inflammatory, and I was encouraged to see a pick-up in her energy right away. So I started walking her at her speed two times a day and adjusted my workout schedule to include a Garmin-tracked 10,000 steps a day. She loved it. Our morning walk has become her happy time, and she’s expecting me to lace up my shoes as soon as she is fed. It’s actually good for me not to sit on my arse first thing in the morning, too. And day by day she’s gotten happier and more energetic. Last night she jumped into the car before I could even pick her up.

Pet acupuncture was the other remedy offered. My primary source of medical care is acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, so I was all in on that. I was curious how she would react to the needles. So this morning we visited Dr. Tulson at the Nickerson Animal Health Center. She tried a method of that utilizes B12 to speed up the process of moving energy with the needles, but Ashok was having none of it. So she switched to the typical needling I’m familiar with and after a yelp or two, Ashok settled into a very calm and happy state while the good doctor massaged some acupressure points and talked to her.

She says that Ashok has a “fire” constitution which is why she hates the heat. I have a “fire” constitution as well. No wonder the stay in Louisiana was so hard on us. We were already running hot, and the swamp-like climate made it even worse.

Acupuncture works to set the body back to its ideal state but it’s not immediate. Well, it could be immediate. But often it’s like training a puppy. You have to keep showing it where it needs to go several times before it sticks. Right now she’s happily sitting beside me as I write. We’ll see what happens. All I know is this morning was a very pleasant experience for both of us. If I can turn back that clock, dammit, I will.

Five Elements in Chinese Medicine– Fire

In the Wake of Change

I just started a new job. I’m in the middle of the first few weeks of adjustment. I walked into a meeting the other day and realized I didn’t know anybody in there very well. It was weird. All of a sudden I feel like I’ve been assigned a new family, and I have to learn all of the new rules. Although it is a bit unsettling, it’s kind of exciting.

This role change was the result of a massive reorganization. Every last one of us is checking org charts to see who’s in charge of what and wondering what the new normal will look like. Since it was such a big change, we are moving physically as well. Vacuums are interrupting meetings as they clean out dust and offices. Desks that have long been empty are now being filled. The people in charge of the moves are running up and down the hallways escorting employees loaded down with boxes to their new workspace. I’ve had to develop new habits for parking, storing my lunch, scheduling meetings and even get to use a new lady’s room. I know some people get anxious with change, but I actually love times like these. Moving things around shifts energy and makes room for new outcomes.

I walked around our new “neighborhood” the other day and chatted with all of my new neighbors. Another group is moving in from another location this week. We will be having a little welcome celebration in the morning. For some reason, I volunteered to bake. About 10 years ago I stopped baking. I had too much to do. It wasn’t enjoyable anymore. It was to fattening. Blah … blah … blah. It’s kind of fun to bake, but I just didn’t have the desire to do it anymore. So I quit.

My Savory Corn Pudding with Prosciutto

Maybe I’m just excited about the move and offering some good food to my new work family. Or maybe I’m feeling better with the summer sun providing Vitamin D on a regular basis. Whatever the reason, I really got into it this weekend. I made banana bread and a savory fresh corn pudding that looks delicious. While I was at it, I decided to cook min-frittatas to freeze for breakfasts and lunches the next few weeks. I even pre-cooked meals for the week. Now I’m exhausted.

My new team is overwhelmingly male. My former team was mostly women, and, for the last 10 years or so, I’ve worked with largely female teams. I could literally feel the difference in the energy the first couple of days in my cubicle. Not only was it different to hear so many male voices but the dynamics changed significantly.

Kelly, one of my direct reports chatted me: They are throwing things over here.

Me: Really? Well, throw it back.

Kelly: We can throw things? This is awesome!

Me: Well we have to fit in. If they are throwing things, we have to throw them back!

So now we throw things all day long with our peers across the aisle and down the row. I even tried to kick something one day but that was a major embarrassment. I wonder if my sudden desire to start baking is my estrogenic response to a sea of testosterone? Hmmm…. this could be interesting. At least it will be easy to find someone to open my jars and carry heavy objects!

It’s Coming

“It’s coming,” Michiganders say as they scrunch their face and chuckle. The end of July signifies the countdown to the end of summer here in Michigan. This one was short, too. We were wearing sweaters at the end of June. This morning I wore a light jacket to walk Ashok. It’s coming. You can bet your bottom dollar on it.

Fall happens to be my favorite season here, so it’s not all dread. And I have taken a liking to the short days and cozy nights of winter. But having the freedom to walk out my door without bundling up and showing some skin to the sunlight is a pleasure that has become rare indeed.

The tourist season in Saint Joseph lasts basically from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The weekend after Labor Day last year I was sitting out on my favorite beach bench with my coffee, and a cyclist rode by. “The tourists are gone!” he exclaimed happily. We have this beautiful place to ourselves from September to the end of May. Some days it’s not very enjoyable but for most days Saint Joseph is a fabulously quaint and deliciously friendly place to be.

Many of the shops will start closing up around October and almost all will be closed in January and February. A lot of my friends will head to Florida or New Orleans for warmer temps. A fair number of restaurants close for the winter, too. I’ve heard some locals complain that there is nothing to do here in the winter, but I’ve never found it lacking. I think winter hiking is the best, and my favorite haunts are still open with the exception of the Bit of Swiss Bakery. My waistline could actually could use a break from that anyway.

The seasonal nature of the place makes me happier. I appreciate things that aren’t around all the time. The weather and the town is always changing, and it encourages me to get out and enjoy it NOW. This week has been gorgeous with highs in the 70s and lows in the 60s. Any time I think of sitting home and surfing the internet, I tell myself, “It’s coming.” That closing window forces me to get some sand between my toes. There will be time for internet surfing in January. Right now, it’s Prime Time in Southwest Michigan. I’d better get out and enjoy it. It’s Coming.

More Than a Cup of Joe: Sacred Grounds

I have somehow been appointed to be President of the Purdue Alumni Association of Southwest Michigan. “Congratulations,” my friends say when I tell them. I chuckle because it’s like any volunteer commitment. Somebody asks if you’d do it. You say yes and then immediately start questioning what you got yourself involved in. But it’s been fun. I’m meeting a lot of really cool people. That’s what life is all about.

So this week is the Alumni Leaders Conference, and a subset of leaders with time and ability to attend have gathered on the main campus of Purdue. I’m at a bit of a disadvantage because I actually never went to school on this campus. I got my Masters at Purdue on a satellite campus. It’s been fun to spend the last few days with people who are diehard Boilermakers who lived their lives on campus from the 50s all the way up to the present moment.

I’m coming to believe that I actually did go to school here. I’m starting to recollect fond memories of drinking at Harry’s Chocolate Shop, hanging out by the Bell Tower and walking across campus in the snow. At any rate, I’m here and I’m enjoying all of these people and their hospitality.

This morning I woke up in my dorm room and had time to get breakfast. So I googled good breakfast stops and found one called Sacred Grounds that looked interesting. Trent, the barista, briefed me on the history of the building. Originally it was a butcher shop, but it’s path afterwards is infinitely more interesting.

Sacred Grounds is owned by a local church. It was a topless bar when they bought it. It took a turn as a speakeasy. In one iteration of its history, it was a bar, and the bartender raised chickens out back. People kept stealing them, so he rigged up a shotgun and ended up shooting his neighbor. A prison camp for Confederate soldiers was in this neighborhood, so there’s a cemetery where a bunch of southern boys are buried. And the Ball family, founders of the mason jar, live in this town.

Anyway this place makes a great cup of coffee, and I love the energy of the place. It makes me smile. If you stop by here, order the vegetarian scramble. It was delicious. And don’t forget to look out at the mural on the building next door. Just yesterday, a group of traveling artists came by and painted it. But don’t worry. Trent will remind you to go look at it. And ask him about the place. It sounds much better when he tells it.

Y’all have a good day now.

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