This Is Life

My heaven.

My heaven.

Recently I took a week off and went up to my cabin. The cabin is a fantastic place for doing what I love; I spent a part of each day hiking with my dog, kayaking, biking, cooking, napping and reading. It’s a little like heaven. The cabin is also good for thinking. There are fewer distractions, plus it is much easier to think about life when I am well rested and relaxed then when I am running from one thing to the next.

Yesterday I wrote about coming to accept that I don’t have a “big dream.” That was something I spent a lot of time thinking about. One morning I took the kayak out and spent time thinking about passion. We all are familiar with people who have always known what they wanted. They have a drive and a passion and go after it with determination. Then there are others that have dreams that they wish they could do, but have accepted that they may not become reality. I have a dear friend who recently said that if she was given millions of dollars she would open a wildlife sanctuary in Africa. She said it with such conviction that I was impressed, even though we both know that for a variety of very good reasons she probably won’t make it happen in this lifetime.

Then there is me. When I thought about what I would do with millions, my first thoughts were mighty mundane: install insulation in the attic, build a sleeping porch on the cabin, take a trip to Ireland, and so on. What didn’t pop up was some big dream. It is frustrating because I am a planner. This is why I am very successful at my job. I am very good at identifying goals, mapping strategies, making budgets, setting goals and figuring out the best way to achieve them. Not having a big goal or an endpoint is difficult for me. I keep struggling because I feel like I should be working towards something… I just don’t know what.

Then a thought hit me… what if I had already achieved my goals? I have a pretty darn good life; I have an amazing network of people I love and who care about me in return, I have not one, but two, houses filled with books (and one is by the water!), I have a silly but awesome hound dog and my life is filled with doing things I love. The last couple of years I have been working on my weight and my health, and I finally feel good about that too. Sure, not everything is perfect: I never have enough time with my loved ones, one of the houses… no both houses, have roofs that leak, my dog has had a string of very expensive illnesses, and so on. But what is perfect? There isn’t such a thing. Even if you have the perfect house, for example, entropy will come in and things will break (or the roof will leak.) It’s true with everything in life – stuff happens, things go sideways, and even if they don’t, we change ourselves. So what was “perfect” five years ago may not be perfect today.

It slowly came to me that I have been spending a lot of time thinking about “what’s next?” (it is originally why I started this blog,) and I haven’t been taking time to enjoy what I have right now. And at that exact moment, I looked up to discover that I had paddled halfway around the lake in deep thought staring at my knees! I hadn’t been enjoying the beauty around me. It brought home the point perfectly. After that, I tried to take off the thinking cap and instead be very “in the moment” and really enjoy the rest of the trip.

life movesLater, when I got back to the cabin, my first thought was from Ferris Buller’s Day Off. Remember this:

But it didn’t quite fit with how I was feeling. It’s not that life is fast or short or long, it’s that This Is Life. Right now. Everything I do is part of my life. Even the things that don’t seem like “life” like going to the grocery store, sitting at a doctor’s office, brushing my teeth – it is all my life. I’m not just putting in time waiting for something better to come along, this is my life right now, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I’m not saying that I’ll never have a big life changing dream. Anything can happen. But I keep running in mental circles trying to build a foundation for an unknown future, and frankly, it’s exhausting. I’m realizing I need to bring my focus my closer. I can work on smaller goals – like fixing at least one of the leaking roofs and figuring out how to spend more time doing what I love. I have what I need, it’s more of a matter of enjoying the here and now.

This Is Life.

Making it Work – Roof Rack Love

Guess who bought herself a new present?roof rack

This is my new roof rack. It can hold a bike and a kayak! I can’t tell you how excited I am!

Last summer a friend gave me a bike, and while I loved riding it, it was difficult to take places without a rack. I could put it in my hatchback and leave the back open, but that just didn’t seem very safe. On top of that, there are some great riding trails up by my cabin, but if I took my bike, I couldn’t take my dog. (I am not going to attempt to transport my dog in a car with an open hatch. He’d probably be fine, but I am not taking that risk.)

Likewise, I have a kayak at my cabin. However, it’s 10 feet long – it definitely won’t fit inside my car. And while I enjoy paddling around the lake by my cabin, I’ve been itching to take it elsewhere – even just down the road a half a mile to a pretty woodland inland lake.

So, I had a bike at the house I wanted to bring to the cabin and a kayak at the cabin I wanted to bring home occasionally, and this week, I made it all possible! Hooray!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my fitness goals. I’m doing a lot of things that at first glance seem pretty different: yoga, strength training, boxing, walking, running, biking, kayaking… and so on. Really, anything that catches my eye is fair game. So, what am I trying to do?

1) I’m looking to find fitness that is fun for me. I was at boxing class the other night and chatting with an older fella that always seems to be there. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, “Oh, you know… I’m unmotivated. I always feel that way before class. But, (siiiighhhhh,) I make myself get out and do it…” He was the Eeyore of boxing. I thought, “What the heck? Someone actually dreads this class? This class is awesome!” Of course I realize it isn’t for everyone, but then why come? Why not do something else?

If I am going to stay active for the next 40 – 50 years, I am going to do it by finding things that are fun for me. Even running, (which is probably my least favorite of all the stuff I do,) has benefits I love. I make it even better by running in parks and beautiful places. It may not be my forte’, but I never dread it.

2) I want to be a superhero. That is the best way I have of describing it. I want a whole bag of tricks at my disposal. I want to be strong, but also able to run. I want to be able to throw a punch, and also twirl a hoop. Actually, Steve at Nerd Fitness wrote a great post that totally fits in with how I feel: Becoming AntiFragile: How to Prepare Yourself for Chaos.

3) I’m still figuring stuff out. Up until one year ago, I would have laughed if you had told me that I’d be running or working out at fitness studio. I’m still figuring out what this new life is all about. The more things I try and say “Yes” to, the more I learn about myself. It’s a good place to be.

Putting it all Together

spokes by ben alfordTonight I am fasting so I can get some blood work done. It’s nothing serious; when I saw my physician the other day she noticed I was overdue for a full physical. She wants to get the blood work done in anticipation for that. I spoke to one of the nurse practitioners about when I should stop in to get the blood drawn – she said I could do it any time of the day, but since it is a “first come, first served” situation, the earlier the better. She suggested getting there right at 7:00AM since the lines are lowest then. So, I’ll have a meal around 6:30 and fast for the rest of the night.

I’m not particularly worried about it, I don’t eat much at night anyway. Actually, I am glad I am having it done. It will be good to see what my health looks like now. It seems like I am focusing a lot on health right now – two different doctors this week and three fitness classes, (two boxing classes and Hot Yoga is Saturday morning.) I’m hoping I can also get in a run or a bike ride too.

Speaking of which – I stopped in at the fancy schmancy sporting goods store yesterday and inquired about a bike/kayak rack for my car. Since I have an older model car (I bought it 10 years ago this month!), they had to special order in some of the parts. It will cost far more than the cost of the kayak and the bike combined, in fact, it will be pretty much double. I’m a little freaked out about spending that much money, but it will let me take the bike up to the cabin and bring the kayak back here, giving me so much more flexibility. Since I drive a Honda, I expect I’ll have this car for another ten years, so it’s a good investment. (And most of the parts I can take to a new car when I get one, so I won’t lose that way either.) It looks like it will be a couple of weeks, but once that is done, I’ll have a lot more options. I like that.


Photo credit: Ben Alford on flickr

Water Dreams

Kayak summer by Ted SakshaugLast night I had a crazy mixture of wild dreams. They were so vivid they woke me up roughly every hour, on the hour. I’d get up, get a drink of water or use the restroom, and then try to get back to sleep, only to be shot back into another vivd dreamscape.

The last dream, right before the morning alarm went off, was actually awesome. I dreamed that a friend of mine and I ran into each other at a fitness shop/gym and were both looking for some ways to increase our strength. We were talking to a saleslady about what to get, when a another salesperson came up and said, “If that’s what you guys want, you need to try our kayak slide.”

You know how some shops that sell boats have a small pond that you can try them out on? Well, this gym had a kayak river course. The goal was to get through it as quickly as possible. It was a cross between a full scale river and a video game (There were also animated penguins – don’t ask me where they came from.) It was great! I was flying down the river course, all the time knowing that I was fairly terrible at it, but having a blast. I knew I was going to sign up for a gym membership to this place immediately, and I was going to conquer that course.

Then I woke up. The dream was so vivid that for a moment I actually wondered if I could still kayak. A glance at my phone, and the weather app which was predicting snow, quickly shot that down. (I am sure there are folks that kayak in wet suits right up until the water freezes, but I am not that hardcore. (yet.)) But I had a new resolution.

This spring, I am buying a roof rack for my car.

I had money set aside for a rack awhile ago, but when my dog ended up having to have emergency surgery, all my extra cash went into helping him get better. That was fine, goodness knows I want my dog to be healthy more than I needed a roof rack, but now that he seems to be doing okay, it’s time to replenish those funds. I am determined in the next six to seven months to save up for a roof rack that will carry my kayak and my bike – the two summer sports I adore.

It isn’t a gigantic expense, but it isn’t exactly cheap either. I’ve priced out some of the components and I’m looking at several hundred dollars. I’m okay with that, I know exactly what I want and I want it done right, so now all I have to do is put aside the cash. To that end, this week I am going to get out my old budget. I used to use a budget religiously, but the last few years I have gotten away from it. Since I have some goals for 2014, (the roof rack being just one of them,) it’s time to figure out where I can pinch a few pennies.

In the meantime, I am going to hope I have that dream again, because man, that was fun!


Photo credit: Ted Sakshaug on flickr

Is It Still Working Out When You Are Relaxing?

turkey vultures

A good reminder why it pays to stay healthy!

As I wrote yesterday, I spent last weekend up at my cabin. It was wonderful! The cabin helps me to reset and recharge. It’s always been a place of journal writing, reading, taking long naps, and cooking elaborate meals. It’s still that, but nowadays, I also find myself getting in a lot of exercise. It is the kind of exercise I like best, but is the hardest to get: unplanned and out in nature. The weather was gorgeous, so I took long walks with the dog, kayaked around the lake, did a whole bunch of yard work, and even went for an unplanned run.

The roads near my cabin are mostly long gravel lanes or country highways. There are no short blocks, so my morning and evening dog walks stretched out to an hour or more. When I have the time, this is my favorite way to walk. Hermes and I both enjoy it. He pretty much keeps his hound dog nose to the ground, but I saw deer, rabbits and lots of birds – including a large flock of turkey vultures. No worries, they weren’t interested in me! I’m not dead yet!

On Saturday, after a long nap, I popped up, threw on my shoes, and went out for a three mile run. It didn’t go as well as my last run, but I didn’t really expect it to. It was more about just getting out and keeping up with my running than it was about any specific times. When I got back, sweaty and tired, I sat on my picnic table for a few minutes catching my breath, then finished cooling off out on the lake! (My run, and the couple hours I spent doing yard work and raking, were good calorie burners, which made me feel a little bit better about my multiple glasses of evening wine!)

By far my favorite cabin exercise, though, is kayaking. At this time I don’t have a way to transport it, so where my kayak is, is where I kayak. So, when I am at the cabin I go out as much as my arms will allow. I went out twice each day on Saturday and Sunday. (I would have gone out Friday night too, except it was dark by the time I got there. Fall is coming way too fast!) I like to start with a morning trip around the lake around 9:00 AM. It’s after the fishermen have left the lake, but too early for the weekenders. These morning paddles are fairly leisurely. I look for fish, turtles, frogs and water birds. I saw several nice sized bass – bigger than I have seen there before. (Which gives me hope that my little lake hasn’t been fished out yet.) I also spotted birds in a rainbow of colors: purple martins, blue herons, green herons, yellow finch, orange orioles and, of course, cardinals; plus gulls, geese, kingfishers and hawks. My afternoon rides are more… focused. There is usually a lot of motorized watercraft out by then, so the wildlife goes to quieter places. I just concentrate on joy of being out on the water.

When I got back to town on Monday, I was pretty tired. I could feel it in my bones. Good thing I had to go back to work – I had to take a rest day from my relaxation!

The Kayak of Happiness

Happiness. Orange happiness.

Happiness. Orange happiness.

This is my kayak. I took this shortly after I pulled it up on the shore. …and I wish I were on it right now.

My first time out was on Sunday afternoon. I admit, I was being a bit of a wimp at first. It was rather chilly and there was a stiff breeze – jeans and a long sleeve shirt kind of weather – not “let’s go out on the lake” weather. I was sitting down by the water, ostensibly reading a book, but really deciding if I had the guts to get out there… when I noticed how many kids were in the water. Kids are tough and they will go out in anything, but was I really going to let a bunch of eight year olds show me up? Finally, I put the book down and decided it was time.

Honestly, I was also a little nervous. I haven’t been in a one person kayak since 2004. Still, there wasn’t really a lot to lose. My lake is roughly 3′ deep (or less) in most place and it only gets really deep towards the middle, which was not where I was headed! I’m a great swimmer and I was going to be wearing a life vest, so the only thing possibly at risk was my dignity. I lost that once before – the first time I tried to use a rowboat, actually – so I wasn’t afraid of that.

I put my book away, put on clothes that could get a little wet, and cut the plastic wrap off my new kayak. The minute I got out onto the water I thought, “YES!” Immediate pure happiness washed over me. I was grinning like a maniac as I paddled around.

Eastern Snapping Turtle

Why hello there!

The lake was beautiful. It took me about 40 minutes to get all the way around the lake. I saw herons, fish, and big snapping turtle that swam right underneath my kayak. I kept thinking, “I wish my lake were larger!” When waves picked up or the wind started to blow, I thought, “Good! Bring it on!” None of this is my nature. It was so awesome though. I just wanted the ride to go on as long as possible.

I will also say this – I definitely noticed a difference between the first time out on my own, and the first time in my two person kayak. On that first trip, by a third of the way around my lake, my shoulders were aching and I was worn out. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it – and I had another person to help paddle! This time, on my own, I kicked butt. Working out and lifting weights has made a huge difference. I went around once and could have easily gone around again. Oh, and did I mention I had spent 2 hours raking and another hour weed whacking a bit earlier the same day?

The next day, the same thing. I put in a few hours raking and weed whacking (much-needed spring clean up) and then got out the kayak and hit the water. The weather was worse. Gray, cold, and windy. Even the kids had packed it up and stayed inside. Me? I was out on the kayak.

Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke

I Bought Myself a Present!

I love you orange kayak.

I love you orange kayak.

I decided it was time to reward myself for all the hard work I have been doing – the weight loss, the running and lifting weights. I’ve changed a lot about myself, not just physically, but my attitude and mental outlook as well. I decided it was time to get something to celebrate that. I bought a kayak.

I don’t remember if I have mentioned it on this blog before, but I own a cabin. It is just a little place up the woods located on a small lake. I’ve had the two person version of this kayak for years, but have been wanting the one person for almost as long. Why haven’t I bought one before? Well, I don’t transport my kayak – it stays up at the cabin, so I don’t own a roof rack or anything like that. I also drive a somewhat obscure hatchback, and finding racks that will work with it has been tough. So, the first problem has been simply transporting a 10′ kayak to the lake.

The other problem was money. For awhile after my divorce I had to be very, very frugal. A kayak just wasn’t in the budget. It’s seemed like every time I thought about buying one, something else popped up – something that required money. Usually a house repair project that couldn’t be avoided. Recreational kayaks like these aren’t terribly expensive, but when your toilet is flooding your cabin, other things have to take priority.

I’ll be completely honest with you, there is one other reason. I didn’t even admit it to myself until I thought about writing this post. I think I have been afraid of buying a kayak. With a two person, I always had someone with me to bail me out if I got in trouble. I never felt like I wouldn’t be able to menuever it or get it around the lake. In a one person, I’d be on my own. I’ve been scared that I didn’t have the strength to do it on my own – both mentally and physically, so I let the other challenges (transportation and money) keep me from moving ahead on it, even though it has meant that I haven’t been out on my own lake in a long, long time.

Things are different now. I am stronger. My mind, my body, my shoulders, my arms – I feel confident to power this kayak around the lake. I’ve also been taking more risks lately. I’ve been getting out there figuring out how to run. Having done that, I’m not as afraid of making a fool out of myself. If it happens, it happens. I am okay with that.

In fact, instead of being afraid of being out there alone, I am excited about the challenge.

Rather be kayaking