Hiking is Not a Real Big Fan of Me

“Hiking – I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre, To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.” – John Muir

Oh hiking…..   we have a pretty volatile relationship don’t we?

Not too long ago, I set off on day where I thought I would get two great hikes in, in two different parts of the County I was visiting. I had gotten some recommendations ahead of time, and then received another recommendation from the bartender at a funky restaurant I had dinner at the night before. I reckoned she must know what she was talking about, so I took her up on her lead.

Let me start by saying I am a very nervous solo hiker; I get out there in the woods, and my mind starts to imagine the crazy hermit person who is going to abduct me  and lock me up in their cabin and keep me their victim for months on end. And if the kidnapper doesn’t get me, certainly the cougars will. I mean really  – we now have mountain lions in Wisconsin, where we don’t even have mountains. I really wish those mountain lions would head back West where they belong. Continue reading

Time For a Hermitage

I’ve made it a tradition to travel for my birthday, either trips to beautiful locales I have not had the good fortune to visit yet, or to go find snow, my favorite thing in the world. My mother always made a point of celebrating our birthdays, and I learned to carry on that tradition. So many people dread the thought of getting another year older, but I relish the thought of celebrating life… my life…another trip around the sun, and God willing, many more to come.

About six years ago, I stayed home for my birthday, which does not happen too often. I had turned 40 the year before and took a big trip south of the border and learned to surf for that celebration. But at 41, I stayed home. I ventured out on my bike on the morning of my birthday, and while biking I did a little exploring and poking around the seminary and convent near my home. While walking through a beautiful arbor I discovered (that also happens to be the main photo of my blog), I stumbled upon a little cabin. There was a sign out front, and I immediately became intrigued with whatever a “hermitage” was.

So of course I went home and immediately looked it up.  Continue reading

The Language of the Universe (needs an interpreter)

Signs. Signs. Everywhere are signs…. if only we could interpret them the right way.

I’ve spent the last couple of years praying, pleading, asking, begging, manifesting, and wishing the Universe would send me a sign; any sign. Show me the next step; give me a lucky break; send me a vivid dream that lays out the path; have a mysterious person show up at just the right time please! Anything!

But instead, I get silence. Or so it seems.

I’ve always envied those stories of the luckier folks, who say that they had a grand vision one day while down with the flu, or they had a dream about a small store in Taos and they woke up and understood that the Universe was telling them to go to Taos. Maybe they woke up and starting typing, and the Universe gifted them a book in the making.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been strongly drawn to the written word, quotes in particular. I assign so much meaning to words and quotes, and use them to fuel me when I need strength to move forward.  One quote in particular comes from my favorite author and my favorite book, Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”. I’ve had this quote hanging in various spots throughout my house for years:

“When you want something, all the Universe conspires
in helping you to achieve it.”

I’ve been spending some time lately learning that the Universe doesn’t exactly speak loudly, nor does it speak in my language. It really speaks in more of a whisper. I’ve learned that I have to pay very close attention to things, and maybe to also interpret each oddity, each chance encounter, each moment that causes my sixth sense to perk up… to interpret them quite a few different ways before I can quite understand what it is the Universe is trying to tell or teach me. Continue reading

Getting My Hygge On

The year 2019 has arrived, and I gracefully slid into it from a hygge-induced state of complete contentment, which is a rare and special occurrence for me after almost a year and a half of schlepping myself through the Valley of Despair.

One of the things I kind of despise about America is our ability to turn any trend into, well, an obnoxious trend that you are suddenly inundated by online, in advertisements, in social media, in stores, on morning show TV segments…   As a good example, see 2018: “The Year of the Llama”, where we apparently needed a llama branded onto everything from bath towels to our Christmas wrapping paper.

But the trend of Hygge, now that is something I can get behind. And I’ve become damn good at it.

One of the positive changes I made in my life in 2018 was to stop uttering the words “I don’t have enough time”, and replace them with “I haven’t made the time,” because lets be honest – we all have 24 hours in a day. Before I was promoted to my high-responsibility, high-stress job, my previous boss used to always take the two weeks off during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, and one of things I looked forward to the most when I was promoted to her position was to do the same. “Oh, how nice that must be!” I thought to myself, at the same time that I cursed her in my jealous rage of having to work over the holidays to keep up with year-end tasks. Continue reading

Messages From Beyond

It’s been too long since I’ve written, even though I probably did more writing than ever in 2017. I just didn’t post it here. And while most writers are sitting down to write inspiring New Year’s Day posts today (Happy New Year 2018 by the way!), I just had two messages come from beyond that I wanted to share.

If you’ve not lost your parents yet, or someone you love dearly,  there is a pretty good chance that you will someday. And losing people is hard. You miss them, and you wish with all your might that you could see or talk to them again. For me, I pray for signs or messages from my parents, or I pray for them to show up in my dreams. And every once in a blue moon, there they are in my dreams. Or I find a message.  Continue reading

Yes, You Can Die of a Broken Heart

The year 2016 has not been kind to actors and musicians. I won’t even start with the long list of those who succumbed to the curse of  2016, but in the week between Christmas and New Year’s 2016, we were all stunned when Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) died one day, and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, the next. 

Initial news reports pegged the cause of death as a stroke, but today people are gossiping and questioning and whispering about whether she in fact died of a broken heart after the grief of losing her daughter Carrie. I happen to have some personal experience with the idea of dying from a broken heart. Continue reading

Captain and Crew of My Ship: A Story About Traveling Solo

I used to be obsessed with travelogues written by solo female travelers. I would read wide-eyed about these fearless women who thought nothing of hopping a plane to Uzbekistan or the Chilean Andes or some remote island in the South Pacific, with apparently no concern for their safety and the ability to pack light. I longed to be one of those women, yet didn’t have the gusto or the green to do so.

In my early professional years, when I was broke and scrounging for cash, I managed to travel a heck of a lot more than I do now that my paycheck is almost four times as much. A stress filled job and too much responsibility means no energy left to even plan a trip, yet alone travel. In the early years I went to Ireland, Costa Rica, drove up the PCH 1 from Big Sur to wine country, traveled to Toronto to witness Caribana, crammed into a car to drive all the way across the country to watch my beloved Badgers in the Rose Bowl, almost died during a whitewater rafting trip in Bozeman, Montana, breathlessly hiked mountains in Colorado and Zion National Park, soaked up the sun in Sedona, the Florida Keys, and zig zagged my way across Mexico.

Yet all of these trips happened with travel buddies. Save for the flight in or flight out, I was always with a gal pal or two on these adventures. Fast forward to today, where I find myself a 43 year old single, childless woman, surrounded by 43 year old married with child(s) friends, and I have almost no choice but to become a solo traveler. (No way in hell I am joining those singles trips!) Continue reading

The Year of Doing All The Things…a Recap

Happy New Year (Volume 2016)!

I love holidays. I love to have an excuse to dress up in ridiculous outfits. I love to dress up and go to themed parties. And NYE used to be one of my all time favorites. I would spend hours looking for the perfect silver, white, and gold (or all three of the above) outfit and deciding which party would be the perfect one to attend, or making certain I hit all four parties I was invited to because I didn’t want to miss a damn thing. From white parties, to bar parties, to house parties, to hotel parties, to live bands, living room dance parties, NYE day drinking, fireworks, you name it, I’d tried it all.

This year, well this year was a little different. Partially because I’m still reeling from being newly single. But also because I was living in crisis mode due  to being a caretaker over the holidays for a family member. I still went out, and I still drank too much, despite my best intentions. I had plans for a productive and healthy NYE and NY Day that included knocking something off my bucket list, and possibly taking the Polar Bear Plunge again (whereby one goes to the beach on a 20 degree or less Fahrenheit day and takes a nice swim, which supposedly cleanses you free of all of your old habits and bullshit. Or gives you cardiac arrest, whichever comes first). Continue reading

Mental Illness is Not a Crime

Mental illness is not a crime.

And yet, this country is so ill-equipped to properly treat people with mental illness. We don’t talk about it; we keep it buried in the corner, we hide the behavioral health floor within hospitals and tell loved ones “no one by that name is checked in here”. We send our mentally ill to doctors and therapists who don’t understand the disease; who try to prescribe it out of their office after an hour on the chair. We refer to people who are mentally ill as “crazy’, “nut job”, “looney”, “bat shit crazy”, or any other number of derogatory terms. When we realize what we are doing isn’t working (surprise!), and we can’t deal with our mentally ill anymore, we stop dealing with them all together.We put them in group homes or nursing homes or we altogether forget where we put them and then they end up homeless.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, I am dealing all too closely with a loved one suffering from mental illness.  Multiple mental illnesses, possibly. And it has been the most soul crushing, eye opening, heart-breaking, infuriating experience I have had in my adult life. One that makes me want to start a national conversation and debate about how f’d up the state of mental health care (or lack thereof) is in this country. And yet so many of us are afflicted by it. Continue reading

Resting in the Arms of Wisconsin

I don’t know exactly when in our lifetimes we develop a sense of place. Maybe some people are born with it; others live their lives battling a wanderlust that can never be satisfied, always looking for the next “new” place, never finding “their place”.

I grew up in three very unique parts of Wisconsin.  My childhood was spent in a small town just north of the state capitol, Madison. We grew up surrounded by the lush rolling farmlands of south central Wisconsin; our house was on a dead end street surrounded by tobacco and corn fields, with large islands of oak forest rising up among the crops.  We spent a lot of time near Lake Wisconsin, Baraboo, Sauk City, Devil’s Lake.  We were outside more than we were inside. I grew up with the sound of crickets, the sight of ever changing seasons, and the sensory variety of crisp winter air that made your snot freeze, and warm summer days that made you relish naps. We were only a fifteen minute drive from a metropolitan city center, and a funky and fun one at that, with Madison being a very liberal college town.  The city of Madison was surrounded by the waters of Lakes Monona and Mendota; born a water baby, this would become a constant in my life, the need to be near water. Continue reading