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A few weeks ago I got ready to launch for a paddle up the Fox River at my usual spot and just as I had unloaded my gear and got in my car to go park, my car key was missing.  I take it off the key chain when I paddle  so I can fit it in the small pocket of my shorts so I knew I must have dropped it.  As that is the only key I have a feeling of panic started to settle in.  I calmed myself and after 5 minutes of pavement searching and looking inside the car I realized it may have fallen into the water when I lowered my boat next to the dock.  I thought of how when Kurt loses anything he says a prayer and usually within 30 seconds, he is miraculously lead to the missing object. So I did.  It was one of those “God, I know I don’t talk to you often, but…” lines that played out in my head.  I walked out onto the dock as I finished my silent prayer and I looked down and there it was below a crack in the dock.  A single beam of sunlight was hitting it and it reflected so bright from the darkness below the boards that it caught my attention instantly.  I looked up, smiled, and said a soft “thank you”. Within a few minutes 2 fisherman were helping me formulate a plan that involved what looked like chicken wire as a retrieving device to hook and raise up the key.   It took about 15 minutes and then I had my key back and was off.

This was a story I was going to keep to myself until Saturday when I had a similar experience, but this one gave me and Kurt the chills. We had gotten into an argument that morning and when he left the house we were both in a bad emotional state.  I was getting ready to go to the same launch spot to paddle and on the kitchen floor was a small refrigerator magnet that had fallen and it was a picture of the Virgin Mary.  We have a few collections of hundreds of magnetic pictures and poetry and I had never noticed that particular one before.  As I was in a pretty dark place in that moment, looking down to see that face looking up at me was comforting.  Instead of sticking her back on the fridge I glued her to the back of my ipod and took her with me.  As I pushed away from the dock I clipped my ipod in the usual place on my tank top and thought it was neat that Mary was right next to my heart. I hit play and shuffled randomly through and stopped at a song to see where I was in my play list.  The first words to play were,  ” When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me…speaking words of wisdom…let it be.” Within a few moments tears were streaking down my face and I was laughing out loud at the same time.  Even if I wanted to chauk this one up as a major coincidence, the incredible feeling shooting through my body would not have allowed it.

Although I would consider myself a spiritual person, I am not religious by any means. I was raised Catholic and stopped going to church after I turned 18. Nevertheless, this was a reconnection for me and it left me in wonder and awe. When I got home and shared the story with Kurt he was genuinely freaked out and said earlier that day he had prayed to Mary for the very first time.

This is certainly not the first time that the outcome of an argument has lead to an even stronger connection between the two of us.  Throw a little divine intervention in the mix and now we are left with something we shared unknowingly and both of us will never forget. Now I think I will never again be going on any solo adventures as Mary has a permanent place in and next to my heart.

 

 

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Jul
22

Life’s Weeds

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This afternoon I spent some time with the flowers (and the weeds) in the backyard.  After about 20 minutes alone with them, my ipod, and my thoughts, I got a wake up call.  It’s been nearly 2 months since my last post.  Aside from my frustration of being out of integrity with my personal commitment to this blog, I have been uninspired lately and have been trying to figure out why.

Getting into a weed pulling rhythm today I realized that all the weeds that had grown so fast, so big, and so quickly were very easy to pull out. It was almost as if they knew they didn’t belong.  When I wrapped my hand around some flowers accidentally and pulled, they held steadfast in their rightful place.  Because their growth happened slower with more time, care, and attention, their roots are now stronger and deeper in the ground creating a much more permanent home than their weedy relatives. Apparently flowers are smarter than weeds.

Smart flowers are like smart goals. They are intentional, hopeful, and with proper care and attention…they BLOOM.  In the past few weeks I have let my bad habits (like big obnoxious weeds) overcrowd my goals so much that they were lost. The weeds were stealing the water and nourishment from the plants just like my bad habits were sucking the life out of my positive intentions.  I have a goal to eliminate time wasters in my life in order to maximize the time I spend doing the things I love; however, I am disorganized, forgetful, and have a bad habit of always misplacing everything. Keys, sunglasses, ipod, you name it.  My things don’t have a place where they belong and return to when I’m done using them so they get left everywhere and then I am searching all over the house and yard almost daily trying to figure out where I left them last. It doesn’t help that my lovely fiance is the same way and so that’s double the time we spend looking for our things and each others.

Between not being organized AND being so forgetful, my goal of not wasting time was nearly impossible to attain.  Most of my goals have gotten a bit stagnant lately as I have lost track of the specific things I want because so many little things were getting in the way.  As they piled up I became less and less excited in my daily routine and more and more lazy.  Luckily, like pulling out weeds, this is a pretty easy fix and thanks to my inspirational time sitting in the driveway pulling weeds today, I am back in track and I am left feeling renewed, mentally refreshed, and in desperate need of a shower.

It just takes a minute to get clear on what it is that you are committed to and what you do in your life on a daily basis that contradicts that commitment and stops you from taking action on it. The pictures above were both taken today, and they are a reflection of my life in the past few weeks and my life in the present. I am dedicating this weekend to getting organized and locating the other illusive weeds that have crept into my life and kindly asking them to leave.

At the inner journey seminar I took last year, I remember learning this formula for having setbacks in life:

If you have a  setback or a breakdown over something it means you have a committment and something happened that stopped you from fulfilling it.  By recognizing what that committment is and taking new action on it, it can leave you recharged with just the right amount of energy to overcome the breakdown and instead create a BREAKTHROUGH. This happened to me today and I am so thankful for this reminder.

Have you done a little weeding in your life lately?

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May
25

Kayak Lovin

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I just got the sweetest deal of a lifetime on Craigslist! At one point in CA I had Craigslist to thank for my roomates, friends, job, furniture, and where I was living. I paid $350 for a sea kayak that runs somewhere between $1600-$2300 new! If it would have been made of plastic I still would have hit the jackpot, as the plastic ones were $800 new but this one’s a  fiberglass beauty and it fits me perfectly. I picked it up in Milwaukee on Thursday night and since I worked at a kayak shop for two years I have demo’d lots of boats, but none of them fit me as perfectly as this one.  It’s a Wilderness Systems Piccolo made for a smaller adult or a child and it’s just under 14 feet long.

I took her out for the first time yesterday morning and to my surprise that river is packed with much more adventure then I expected.  Since the river is over run by Asian Carp, every time I put my paddle in the water they would jump or I would feel a thud as they swam right into the bottom of the boat.  I would actually be a little frightened to jet ski or water ski around here now since they jump the way they do.   I have heard of at least a couple times people have died by hitting one of those things in mid air at high speeds.

The most interesting wildlife was the abundance of turtles and snakes.  I turned the boat around for a closer look when I saw a weird splash on the shore out of the corner of my eye and it was a snake that just caught a catfish!  First of all, I have never seen a snake swallow a fish whole and what’s even better is that I caught it on video with my phone. When I played it back for Kurt yesterday he was like “You know what kind of snake that is right?”  When he told me it was a Cottonmouth/Water Moccasin I realized it would be a great idea next time to keep a bit more of a distance  than the close proximity I shot this video from.

All in all it was an incredible day and what a great workout kayaking is for the arms and the stomach.  I would be out right now for another one if it wasn’t raining.  Kurt showed me a great launch spot for the Vermillion River in Streator so that’s my next destination as soon as the sun comes back. I feel like a kid again and my playground is any lake, creek, or river in driving distance.  If anyone around here reading this has a kayak, please join me!

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May
18

Do you Trapeze?

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I never really thought of the flying trapeze as anything other than something I would see during a circus act prior to a few years ago. I lived a few years in Marin before I discovered Trapeze Pro in Sonoma, which is just a 45 minute drive from where I lived in Mill Valley. You can attend a beginning trapeze class here just like you would any other fitness class and the cost is only 35 dollars for one of the most thrilling experiences of a lifetime. I set up a private class last Sunday for me and my friends and the cost was the same per person.

Set in beautiful wine country, the trapeze is located outside on private property and owned by a man who tried the flying trapeze for the first time in his 60s. He fell so in love with it that he had one built in his own back yard and now Circus Arts offers classes to the public there. It is a beautiful drive up up up on a winding road and once you find it, you’re in paradise.

Our class was 2 hours long with a group of 7 and the very first time you try it you get several chances to fly including hanging upside down, doing a back flip, and also someone else catches you and you fly with them. In my opinion, the scariest part is climbing the ladder to get to the platform, everything else has a safety net. Since this was my 3rd time, they also had me try splits on the bar which I happily attempted but that one will definitely take some more work on my next trip.

In my opinion, everyone should try this at least once as it is an absolutely incredible experience, the staff are fantastic, and it is a great workout!  Check it out at www.trapezepro.com, and if you live in the bay area or are visiting, definately sign up for a class!

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May
18

3 Week Road Trip

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Halfway through April I decided to head out on a solo camping trip to Mammoth Caves.  Since it is the largest cave system in the world not to far from home, I have never been there, and the weather was friendly…why not?  It was incredibly relaxing and fantastic for me to be out in the woods again where I always feel most at home. 

When I got back around Easter I received a previously unexpected tax return and decided it was perfect timing to head out to California to visit friends.  It was also the perfect opportunity to do a “Pay it Forward”.  About 6 years ago Kurt flew me out to New Orleans when we were just friends.  I was broke and entirely grateful to be going somewhere I have never been before and when I asked how I could ever repay him he said “just do this for someone else someday”.  I aimed to keep  my promise and finally I was able to.

 I drove out to Cali and flew one of my friends out to meet me in San Francisco on May 4th.  The drive out was exciting given there is so much snow in the mountains and around Tahoe I found myself in a pretty nasty snowstorm. There is something thrilling and peaceful for me driving a long distance alone.  

We had an action packed week in the bay area which included Kayaking, Hot Springs, Camping, Flying Trapeze, and Yosemite. My plan to fit everything in was successful, but the go go go of it all was pretty exhausting.  The drive home took 3 days and we made it back on Thursday and I started my classes on Monday.  I spent the weekend  in bed recuperating and now I’m sorting through video and pictures of the trip which I will be posting shortly.

It’s good to be back…

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Apr
15

I’m in Nashville…Indiana that is

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 I decided to take off and go camping for a week and a half.  Since I can do online classes anywhere and I haven’t been to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, it’s perfect timing.  I’m in Nashville Indiana and  moving slow to get there, but I am very excited to go to the biggest cave system in the world.  It stretches 365 miles underground and it isn’t that terribly far from home. 

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Apr
07

Bring on Summer

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     My entire life I’ve been asked “what’s you’re favorite Season” by people who have just heard my name for the first time and couldn’t come up with anything better to say.  I never answered their question without a “you’re an idiot” tone, nor was I able to think of a clever comeback for it.  In California the answer was fall, but back in Illinois summer takes the cake.  Surviving the winter after being in the San Francisco bay area for the last 8 years, I cannot wait for summer to come. 

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Mar
23

Hiking Vs Hunting

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3/21/11

I drove out to Matthiessen Park today near Utica, IL, for a hike with a shining sense of accomplishment I had from cleaning the house.  Finally I got to the park after several detours with my 15 yr old memory of having been here before (all I seem to remember are how pretty the waterfalls were). The park entrance sign said “Hiking Trails Closed” and since we had some storms over the weekend I thought maybe it was due to the mud, but since I wore my mud shoes I pressed on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving in I flashed back to being little and my parents driving through parks like this.  I used to watch all the separate units of families that had gathered in groups throughout the park from the loneliness of the back window. Each unit of people had their own special food spread and kids that all seemed to be my age and running around with kites and games and everyone seemed so happy.

Now at 30yrs old I’m looking across what seems like acres of abandoned picnic tables and BBQ pits.  Not a single person in sight, it sends a chill down my spine.  Is this really how it is now, everyone is at home with their Xbox? Don’t get me wrong, I am equally obsessed with my kinect because it’s actually keeping me in shape, but this is just scary to see.  Thinking that I realized that it was in fact Monday, and a sigh of relief mixed with the hope washed over me. If this was a weekend day, I would be witnessing a similar scene from my childhood.

I saw an outhouse on the way to the trailhead and thought “GBUG”, (which was the clever acronym “Go Before You Go” from my past as a camp counselor) and I headed in. I am slightly grossed out by outhouses, mostly because soap and water doesn’t exist. So, you know for a fact that no one has washed their hands before grabbing the door handle, instead of just being suspicious about it like in public restrooms. But, when I’m sitting down and I feel the cool breeze (where the majority of the people in the world have never felt a breeze before), I am flooded with memories and feelings of adventure from A.T. on my thru hike in ’02. On the trail, when there is that much airflow, the smell is never a concern.  Your biggest fear comes with the necessity of having to glance down in the hole before you sit down to make sure the pile hasn’t accumulated high enough that you actually have to hover yourself above the toilet to avoid sit down on something horrible. Now of course that would never happen here in a government maintained state park; however, I have memories that keep me from shaking the habit of always checking almost 10 years later.

Finally I am parking to hit the trail.  When I get out of the car I see this sign:

Finally it dawns on me: I could actually be killed if I hike today.  Here in the good ole Midwest, hunting is more important than hiking. It seems so incredibly absurd to me that I’m not even sure if I have been in California too long or just far enough away from the Midwest loop to pay attention to something like this.

  

 

 

 

 

Since hiking today isn’t important enough to get shot over I bust out my Jimmy Johns sandwich on the closest picnic table, appreciating the fact that I am not in California because you can’t get one of those in Cali. I wonder for a moment if Jimmy Johns was actually the tipping point that led me to deciding to move home.  I have a crazy love for this sandwich; it must be something in the mayo…

 

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That Free Thing

“"We don't see things as THEY are. We see things the way WE are." ”

Raymond Charles Barker