My Flagrant Determination to Live Life to The Full

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Speechless. Stunned. Sad.
Whenever I hear about tragedy like the recent school shootings or the bombs at the marathon or the horrific suicide of someone I cared about or a cancer diagnosis of a loved one, I run through the gamut of emotions just like everyone else. The Whys? The What Ifs? The Whose Fault is This?s The How Could We Let This Happen?s The Where Did God Go?s The Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?s But the truth is, if I don’t have answers, I tend to stop asking the questions sooner or later. Not because I give up, but because I think they are the wrong questions.

Everyone weighs in with their opinions on why this happened or how we should fix it. Or their ranting about the horrors. Sometimes I feel like its a competition to show who cares more. Is it the angry who care more? The most distraught? The most determined to never let this happen again? The ones to rush in to rescue and help? The ones determined to find out who is to blame and ensure they are punished? Sigh. So frankly, I simply don’t say anything. I don’t know what to say. I can’t fix any of it, take any of it away, do anything differently. And talk is cheap.

But please don’t ever mistake my silence for indifference. Don’t ever think my determination to keep living my life as fully and bountifully as possible represents cold nonchalance. And please don’t ever assume that my cheerful silliness is flagrant disrespect. This is just simply me choosing hope in the midst of despair, choosing light while the dark is creeping in, choosing good despite evil. This is me choosing life. Because that’s all I know how to do.
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The kind of mom I wanna be.

Mother’s day has also often been a day of reflection for me, reflection of gratitude and of sorrow,  but this year it has new meaning as a day of hope.  This year I’m unexpectedly expecting. (This is a big part of why I haven’t written much lately. ..I spent most of the winter puking and taking naps and craving toaster waffles). And now having a little girl on the way, I can’t help but reflect on the kind of mom I wanna be to her.  Growing up in this world as a girl is just plain tough.  I remember,  I was one.  I’m trying to not plan ahead too much, because I suspect raising kids has a lot more to do with adapting than planning, but I do keep coming back with things that I hope I will remember when it’s time.  Here are some of the things I hope she sees in me and hears from me when she’s growing up.
1.  I wanna say more of “try it!” and “give it a shot!” and less “don’t do that!”  Obviously there is gonna be lots of room for “NO!” and “don’t even think about it,  kiddo” but I want her to learn to do things for herself,  to explore,  to try,  to fail,  to try again, to face her fears,  to succeed.  I want to teach her to be independent and adaptable and to learn what she is capable of.  And I want her to see me always trying to better myself and learning more too.
2.  I wanna say lots of “I don’t know,  what do you think?” instead of “because I said so” to her endless incessant annoying “WHY’S?”  My niece is in the midst of her Why? stage and we all know how exhausting that can be.  But,  last weekend spending time with her constantly asking why (and wondering how in the world my sister stays so patient all the time), it occurred to me a few times that many of us adults don’t ask why nearly enough.  We just accept things as they are and we view those who DO ask why as insolent rebels or malcontents.  But WHY? signifies wondering.  And wondering leads to exploration.  And exploration leads to adventure and knowledge.  All good things.  I’ve often thought it was a sense of wonder and adventure that set truly great people apart from the masses.  I’m ok with my daughter growing up with that.  (Remind me I said this in 3-4 years).
3. I want her to often hear me say wonderful things to and about other people.  I want her to notice beauty and joy and strength in others the way I do and the only way I know how to help her see others that way is if I model it.  I don’t want her to EVER hear me say mean things to or about others.  And I don’t ever want her think it’s Ok to compare herself to others by looking down on them.
4. I want her to often hear me say wonderful things to and about myself.  I want her to know it’s awesome as a woman to accept and embrace who she is and the only way I know to teach that is to model it.  I don’t want her to ever hear me say mean things to or about myself.  And I don’t ever want her to think it’s Ok to compare herself to others by looking down on herself.
5. I want her to often hear me say wonderful things to and about her.  And I don’t want these things to be just that she’s adorable and beautiful (which she will obviously be), but I want her to hear me boasting of her skills and capabilities, her growth, her silliness, her strength, her brain, her heart.  The best thing my parents did for me was praise me for being smart, funny, caring, creative, and a quirky “one of a kind;” and frankly those are the qualities that I value most in myself and in others.
I know there are so many more things and I know these are easier said than done,  but I’m hopeful.  And terrified.  I can’t even decide what color to paint the baby room or which stroller to get,  but I’m not so sure those are the important worries anyway.  I’ll let ya know how it goes.

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(I love my niece’s ability to be silly.  Come to think of it,  I love my ability to be silly.)

Happiness is a Flirty Little Tease.

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Not too long ago I decided to quit this pointless pursuit of Happiness, once I caught on that she’s just a flirty little tease. Instead, I’ve been relentlessly stalking Life, with its fullness and pleasures, sounds, tastes, joy and sorrow, beauty and pain. And somehow in the midst of my obsession with Living, I noticed that Happiness was following me around. I’ll let her follow, but only if she can keep up.

 

 

My First Solo Backpacking Trip (part of the Dream Big, Start Small series)

467574_10151473504121129_1303544284_o  So, one big dream I’ve always had is to do an epic solo backpacking journey; a big through hike on the Appalachian Trail. It’s no surprise I love to solo hike; breathing in the solitude while in nature is pretty much numero uno on my list of self care. So I’ve daydreamed about an epic through hike since my teen years. My sister and I got backpacks for Christmas in 1985 and we went on our first backpack trips the next summer. We did a couple more backpack trips as a family, an epic sister trip in my early 20’s, and hubs and I have done several trips since we’ve been married. I’ve had the bug since that Christmas in 1985, but it wasn’t til the last few years when I started toying with the idea of solo backpack trips actually being a possibility. Don’t get me wrong; I really enjoy overnight pack trips with others, but the idea of a trip in solitude….well, it was a challenge that I just had to do.   And, if I am ever gonna get to my big dream of epic solo AT hike, I bettter get to some smaller trips to see how it goes.

Here’s the thing: when I started telling people my plans to do a solo trip, I sometimes got the response “wow, that’s awesome” but usually I got looks of horror and shock, and lots of questions about my safety or “why in the world would you wanna do that?!”  Honestly, I had no good answer…I”m not really sure WHY I wanted to do it; I just did, I just HAD TO.  So I evaluated the concerns; there are of course safety concerns for any solo hiker at all times.  The fear of injury and inability to get rescued is pretty much paramount for any smart adventurer.  Others were concerned that,  as a woman, I was at more risk of being attacked or not being able to defend myself, or simply that I would appear more vulnerable.   And frankly, my biggest concern was the cold….I am no expert at starting a fire by myself and my personal body temp tends to run a little on the cold side so I was worried about surviving the colder night in a tent by myself.  There are other concerns such as simple loneliness, but that wasn’t top on my list.   I also had concern about my physical ability because the summer I decided to do this, I was still recovering from running injuries and my right hip flexor and IT band were giving me constant fits…I had been limping for about 7 weeks already with little progress.   And, a barrier I always deal with is not having enough time off work for an epic journey; at least not a very long one.  But despite my fears, the 2 people who know my abilities the best, my dad and my husband, thought it was a no-brainer for me and encouraged me to go for it.  And frankly, I knew I could do it.

005Here was my solution: South Manitou Island on Memorial Day weekend.   I love South Manitou Island and I’ve backpacked there before, just never alone.  It was close enough in Michigan that I could do it on a long weekend.  it’s far enough away that it felt like an epic journey to do solo.  It is an island that required a boat to access so the likelihood of an ax murderer stumbling upon on my tent in the woods was slim (everyone knows ax murderers don’t wanna be trapped on an island either…too hard to escape capture).  It is a national park so I would be registered with park rangers which meant someone knew where I was and would send a search party if I didn’t show up when I was supposed to show up at the end of my trip.  And I had options for how far I could hike depending on on how my hip and leg were holding up.    The island is also big enough for solitude, but small enough that I would run into other hikers which solves both the loneliness issues and the risk of being injured and undiscovered.  It was the perfect way to start small on my big dreams.

So, I spent some time working on my fire starting skills, I did my research, reviewed my “backpacking lists”, I packed light and re-packed lighter, and finally packed even lighter  (none of which were light enough), and I went for it.  I drove up early in the morning, hopped on the boat (ok, there wasn’t a lot of actual hopping with that heavy pack strapped on me), and started my adventure.  964686_10151473516036129_421079265_o

 

 

(Dinner by the bay; didn’t even have to make reservations)

It was the epic journey I had hoped.  I had adventures, I had things go wrong, I had soooo many things go right, I had hours of solitude, and I made friends.  I got all kinds of kudos for doing this alone from other hikers.  I was in the middle of the unloading line with a group of 10 guys on a bachelor party trip and I won first place for “lightest pack” (mostly because they had a LOT of beer in theirs).   I met up with a whole hiking club and spend some time hiking the island and exploring the lighthouse and discussing the benefits of polarized glasses (duh) with them.  I was idolized by an 8 year old named Tess and her 5 year old sister Josie, who followed me around a lot.  I overheard Tess and Josie’s dad talking to them about me, saying “see, she is here by herself, I told you that girls can grow up and do anything they want to.”    I almost froze to death in the tent the first night and I survived the first night by making fires, drinking hot water, and walking a couple miles in the moonlight just to keep warm.  I survived the 2nd night by hiking back out to the ranger station and borrowing an extra sleeping bag (I have survived subsequent nights on trips by having BETTER GEAR).

965386_10151473542536129_2104656113_oI got fires going enough times to eat hot meals (if you can call ramen noodles and oatmeal “meals”) and to warm up rocks to go into my 2 sleeping bags.  I took pictures, I hiked for miles, I sat on the beach and read Agatha Christie, I climbed the lighthouse, I made more friends, I had more quiet solitude, I ate a lot of Snickers.  You get the picture.  My hip and leg were in excruciating pain only about 73% of the time and they held up just fine.   It was amazing.

(As you can see, the extra sleeping bag made my 2nd night much more comfortable).

I hope I will do more and more solo backpacking in the future.  I am still dreaming big.  But for starting small, I had the time of my life.

920163_10151473543326129_768953729_oWelcome to my home.  Please bring beer.

 

Stay Safe But Don’t Stay Home (Aunt Sassy’s Top 5 Solo Travel Tips for Women)

Since I’m on vacation, travelling solo to get here and back, I thought of this post and thought it could use a revisit.

Fat Aunt Sassy Sees The World

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While it sucks that we live in a world that we have to be so cautious,  it’s really handy for you that I’ve had some rough experiences while travelling so I can share my wisdom. You’re welcome.  Here are my top 5 solo travel tips for women……guys, you are also allowed to learn from this if you choose.

1. Take back ups of the important stuff.  Carry cash, and two credit or debit cards from different accounts. Keep one seperate from other stuff (keep one on you, one in your car,or hotel safe, etc) so you can access a way to get home if you are robbed, something is lost, etc. A prepaid VISA card works great too. If you are traveling by air, also take two forms of ID (passport and driver’s license) and do the same thing (keep them separate) to make sure you can get back on…

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The Green Eyed Monster

I’ve been thinking a lot about jealousy lately. And resentment (which is related to jealousy).  And comparisons (yep, also related).   I sometimes reflect on the times when jealousy has blocked my progress in life.  To my credit, it became clear to me early on in my adult life that jealousy is the number one thing that seems to hold people back in life.  Honestly, instead of facing and conquering jealousy, it was simply easier to put up walls and avoid situations that might cause it.  But jealousy is an emotional cock block that won’t let your unique potential breed with your gritty determination. It’s a happiness squasher, a destroyer of adventure.  Jealousy is insecurity disguised as an ugly yet acceptable excuse.  Jealousy is fear.  Jealousy is a vicious ugly green eyed monster telling us that we aren’t enough and a deceptively beautiful creature flashing her green eyes and reassuring us that it is someone else’s fault that we aren’t enough.  Jealousy allows you to say “Oh, look at her…she’s so lucky that she gets to do that, I could never get to do that.”  Translation: “I’m too terrified that I might fail at trying to do that.”  Jealousy says “shit, I can never compete with her because she is so lucky to be thin and brunette and have those little perky boobs.”  Jealousy is a fucking loudmouth too.  She desperately screams in your heart, blocking out all the other whispering messages telling you how beautiful and amazing and clever and witty and strong you are.  Jealousy says “don’t bother trying because even if you succeed, someone luckier than you will steal it away.”  Jealousy tells Potential to come back later because we don’t know what in the world to do with her yet.

 We are jealous of others for what they have, what they own, what they do, who they have, and how they excel.  We tell ourselves they are simply lucky and “I just don’t get to have that, own that, do that, be with that person, or be good at that.”  By the way, “lucky” is the term miserable jealous people who do nothing to change their own circumstances use to describe those who are seem happy as a result of making positive changes to their own circumstances.  So we don’t bother to try.  We don’t bother to figure out if what they have is even what we want.  We don’t bother to figure out if it something we might be able to have if we work hard enough.  We don’t even bother to consider if they sacrificed something to get it that we simply aren’t willing to sacrifice. 

Jealousy is pathetic.  Sorry to be harsh, but seriously, it’s true.  Jealous people are annoying to be around because they are so miserable.  They make terrible friends because they are so tied up into their “woe is me” laments they will never notice when you need them.  They are untrustworthy because you know they will throw you under the bus in an instant to make themselves feel better.  They never give credit where it is due citing “good luck” and they never take responsibility for themselves citing “bad luck.”  So, if you find yourself often thinking negatively about those around you because of their good luck or thinking that you’ll never get ahead because of your bad luck, then I am apparently talking to you.  And I’m pretty sure you were intended to be just a little less pathetic and whole lot more awesome.  I don’t claim to be the expert on how to deal with jealousy, but well, I’ve made a lot of progress in my life, and frankly, I’ve found a lot of power and freedom the more I make that green eyed monster my bitch in my life.  Stay tuned for some future ramblings on the subject.  As soon as I get lucky enough to have some more spare time to write (snicker..see what I did there?).
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“Omg, I hate her.”