Baby, it’s hockey season

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Hockey is hockey is hockey. Baseball is what happens when its not hockey season. I am a huge sports fan, and favor hockey, baseball, and football, in that order. For years I would go to the Thanksgiving Day hockey game. The arena personnel were like family. There are no more Thanksgiving Day hockey games, so last year I cooked Thanksgiving at home.

I have had the privilege of attending a NHL game and a MLB game for my favorite teams. My favorite national teams will not ever change no matter where I live. I consider the fact that I have been able to see my favorite national teams to be a great privilege, as it is not something that the everyday person has the opportunity to do. First, tickets are expensive, and second, geography and work schedules are not conducive to attending national games.

People typically root for the home team. Attending national games is for the people with means to do so. Many people will not have the opportunity to see their national teams live in person. Hometown teams are in our backyards. These are the regional teams, the college teams, the high schools teams, and sometimes simply the frozen corner lot with a bunch of kids from the block running around on ice in sneakers, hitting a puck with a broomstick.

This past weekend, I spent $4 to see the local college hockey team play on Saturday afternoon. There are 4 colleges and universities within a 30-mile radius around me. I knew about the university team (whose tickets cost as much as an AHL game). I did not even know that the local college had a hockey team. Apparently, it’s been there since the 2000-2001 season.

After being pampered by heated stadiums at AHL games, it was shockingly refreshing to watch a game in an unheated arena, wearing full winter outerwear trying to keep warm through three periods of play. Next time, I will bring a blanket. Of course, I am also the fool that sits in row three in an 18-degree ice rink.

While my home team lost, the play was great. The passes were crisp, the checks were hard, the skating graceful, and most of all, you could tell they played their hearts out and enjoyed every minute of the game. This is what hockey is all about.

Not only was the game well played, but it was the most relaxed I have ever been at a game. I was not worried about taking photos to post online, I had no need to constantly check my phone to text someone, I was not preoccupied with thoughts of homework or other things I had to do with my day once the game was done. I was able to sit and enjoy that hockey game more than I have typically enjoyed hockey games. There was no stress of going through security like the have at AHL and NHL games. I always travel light, and carry the smallest purse possible that is large enough to hold the epi pens, but just having the more relaxed atmosphere that did not include pat downs and metal detectors was refreshing. There were concessions that had coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and snacks. There was no pressure over beer or wine and no worrying about rowdy fans around me because they were continually fueled by booze.

This was the first hockey game I attended since I slowed down my life, and it was amazing. I am able to enjoy the things I love so much more now that life has slowed down. What’s more, it’s affordable. I can attend the entire season of college hockey games for what it would cost me to attend one AHL game. While I have seen my NHL team play on home ice once, to do so again would require almost a full month’s pay between the cost of the ticket and travel.

I think I enjoyed this hockey game more than I have enjoyed any other hockey game in recent memory.

To think that this team has been here for the past 15 years, and I had no idea what was in my own back yard. It is good, fun, affordable entertainment. What other activities are in my own back yard that I had no idea exists? Now that life has slowed down, I have the opportunity to open my eyes to what is around me. I no longer have tunnel vision focused on work and school, punctuated by brief periods of “relaxation” that involved some big, expensive trip just for the sake of “getting away.” I am very fortunate that there are so many sports teams around me to support and that ticket prices are reasonable.

What events are in your back yard? I have heard the concept of being a tourist in your own town before, but when I think tourist, I think of museums and plays. I did not initially think about attending college sports events.

So while it may be 27 degrees out this morning, I willingly spent a part of Saturday afternoon in an 18-degree hockey rink watching some college kids on skates hit a once-inch thick piece of rubber with a stick. Baby, it’s cold outside; baby, it’s also hockey season. It does not get much better than this.

All That Jazz

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Last year, I had written about letting go of our fantasy selves. If you have table service for 12 with visions of hosting grand soirees, yet in reality value solitude, then letting go of the extra table service and allowing your self to live authentically is going to do more to bring happiness than constantly planning for a house party that probably will not happen.

In my quest to slow down my life and to pare down my belongings so that I am only surrounded by that which I love, letting go of my various fantasy selves has been quite helpful. This is not to say that we should abandon or tear down all of our hopes and dreams. To the contrary, I am actually living the dream now that I have given up the fantasies.

One of the dreams I have always had is one of leisurely weekend mornings spent with good music, good coffee, and quiet peacefulness with those I love. I’ve finally made it happen. This weekend, I had Frank, Duke, and all that jazz. I was at home with the ones I love, good coffee, and nothing pressing on my agenda.

My work schedule changed recently, and for the first time ever, I am working Monday through Friday with weekends off. While I have traditionally shied away from working on Sundays sue to my running schedule, I have worked Saturdays for quite probably, with no exaggeration, 20 years. Now that I have Saturdays off, my life is slowing becoming that of the setting on the washing machine – “normal.”

We have had frost at least 5 times now, with the first time being at the end of September right before I had caught the flu. With the weather driving me inside, I am focusing more on home and being sure that I am surrounded by only by those things that I love. I recently went through my CDs. While I have been adamant that my music collection is the only thing that I will allow to be wholly untamed and off-limits to my minimalist tendencies, I decided to see what life would be like if I stored about 150 items from my collection.

I have found that not only am I more likely to listen to my music collection again compared to the drone of the radio, but that I am enjoying listening to entire albums without skipping around. It’s very soothing to sit at night with vinyl on the record player and relax. It’s equally restorative to push play on the CD player in the morning and be able to melt into the music without automatically being all keyed up with the events of the day.

Being able to listen to jazz in the morning helps to set the tone for the day. It helps me to appreciate and be thankful for all of my blessings instead of going straight into the stress of news and politics that are happening in the world.

I had tried having a morning routine to deal with stress. My thought was that if I had a morning routine, it would help to center and prepare me to meet the demands of the day. Instead, my morning routine only served to stress me out more. If I did not have time to do it all, or if I did not feel like going through the entire process, then it made my morning routine more of a chore than a point of relaxation.

I have decided to do away with the morning routine, and instead listen to my body and do what is best for me for my mind, body, and soul for the moment. Lately, what is best for those three things have been jazz, coffee, and a good book.

Almost a year into retirement, I am still not sure what to do with myself. I feel like I’m still trying to find my footing and figure out how to navigate the world without the identity of “student.” Changing my mornings have helped to ground me in peace. I’m hoping that somehow out of that peace will come direction.

So this morning as Duke Ellington spun in the CD player, I did more than just listen. I felt the music with mind, body, and soul. I felt it in my bones. I may not know where I‘m going from here, but all that jazz is a pretty good place to rest.

 

 

Grow Where You’re Planted

I’ve had a hard time finding my groove in retirement. It’s been 9 months since my 20 year career as a college student has ended. I feel sort of like a recluse. No one talks to me now that I’m no longer in school. It’s almost as if I’ve lost my voice and nothing I say or do matters.

So I’ve been struggling to fill the large, gaping hole left in my life now that I’m not in school. I had joined a book club. I had joined a writing club. I’m not one for bars. Running is a solitary sport, and I have no interest in group sports. What is there to do?

To the seemingly surprise of many, I returned to church about 6 months ago after a significant hiatus. I was raised very strict Baptist, and even married to a minister – until he got his girlfriend pregnant. I tend to be extremely liberal in my views with a laid back personality, so many people did not see me as any sort of Jesus freak.

In these past few months of drifting, I have gone back to old habits and old coping skills in my quest to find both an anchor and my next direction in life.

After the numerous negative experiences I have had as a Baptist, I was cautious to go back to church. I was basically just looking for some peace without the politics. I knew I could not return to the Baptist church after everything that has happened, and decided I needed to convert. On recommendation of a very good friend, I tried a Methodist church.

In June, I went through my official confirmation ceremony to join the church. Good bye, Baptist. Hello, Methodist.

I mostly keep to myself at church. It’s a traditional service that provides familiarity, and brings fond memories of services attended with my grandparents in my youth. Plus, most of the congregation is older than me. I really haven’t met anyone my age, and there’s only about 40 people that go.

The friends I’ve made at church are slightly younger than my grandparents would be if they were alive and well. So, it fulfills that sense of safety & joy I had attending church with my grandparents growing up.

There is one gentleman who stopped me dead in his tracks. When he sings, he sounds just like my grandfather, and it brings me to tears. My grandfather was the one person in my family who was ever supportive of me. He was such a role model. This gentleman at church is the exact age my grandfather was when he passed away.

While book club and writing club did not work for me (mostly, my work schedule changed), I had been thinking of getting involved at church. I have such a sense of peace there. But, I don’t want to be involved in the politics like I was as a pastor’s wife. Plus, while I long for a sense of belonging, I am not looking for a huge commitment. I don’t want to replace the rigors of school, but I need something to do.

I had been thinking about volunteering for the food pantry, but with multiple food allergies that react by touch, that doesn’t seem like a good idea. At one point, out of frustration, I actually asked God what I should be doing with myself. I’ve been out of school for almost a year. I’ve spent the entire time drifting, and have at times been in a bad place.

Well, today, out of the blue, the woman in charge of the food pantry asked if I could help with the August food pantry, as the usual person is on vacation. They know how severe my food allergies are, so I will be doing the people and paperwork part – checking people in, and being sure they get enough to get by – like inventory, without having to interact with any of my allergens.

Also, the woman who is the church gardener is moving south to be closer to her children and grandchildren, and today she stood up in church and asked if anyone would be willing to take over the gardens both to serve God and to keep them up for the enjoyment of all the people.

Before I knew what was happening, I was volunteering.

I know nothing about gardening. I can’t keep a plant in the house. The only plant I ever had that I didn’t kill was a spider plant, and Kitty ate the entire thing until it was gone (this was years ago).

So, I know nothing about plants, but now I’m the new church gardener.

I had the lady walk out with me after service to explain everything that needed to be done. She even told me the plant names. I didn’t know them.

Right now, it will be mostly weeding and getting the plant beds in shape. I can spend a few hours a week doing that before work. Maybe growing plants in soil outside will be easier than having a house plant inside with two cats.

Lets hope so.

I’m looking forward to some quiet time weeding, reflecting, thinking. If I wanted to serve the church without being involved in the politics of church life, then maybe the garden is it.

Apparently, somehow in this transaction, I’m also now doing the flower arrangements for the alter. I don’t think they know what they are getting into. I don’t know names of flowers. I’m just like, this is pretty, put it here.

I mostly went back to church in my quest to peace. I’ve been trying to unwind and relax. That’s the entire purpose of rewind real slow. You can’t enjoy the good things in life if you are frantically going from one thing to another and trying to keep pace.

Lets hope that church gardening is my groove. When they say grow where you’re planted, they weren’t kidding. Hopefully the gardens keep growing under my care

This is what I signed up for

Being a parent is hard. No matter how much you try to prepare, how many books you read, or how many people you talk to for advice, you truly don’t know what you are getting into until you are there, elbows deep, unable to escape, back track, or change your situation.

When you adopt, you take on all these responsibilities knowingly. In fact, you even have to go out of your way and try harder to become a parent compared to those who are just blessed with the ability to have their own children naturally. No matter how much you plan, and no matter how much you think you know what you’re getting into, you really have no idea until you are in the middle of it.

Kitty had a doctor appointment today, and the news was surprisingly good. He is responding well to the medication, and even though he has a tumor in his intestines, he managed to gain back one of the four pounds he had lost. Two months ago, we were unsure if he would make it to 18. Not only did he make it to 18 last week, but we are also now expecting that he will be around for Christmas. His next check up is not until December.

In addition to the horrifying camping trip I had in July, I remember what terrified me the most was the thought that if something happened to me, there would be no one to take care of Kitty and Jude. Although I had a very good friend who is completely capable administering his medication while I was gone, I was still unable to relax because I was worries about how he was doing.

Kip passed away at 14. He lived with kidney disease for half his life, and I administered his medication daily for 7 years. His original prognosis was that he would have maybe 3 years with kidney disease. He had an additional 7. So being used to giving Kip his medicine for such a long period of time, you would think I would be more relaxed with Kitty’s meds and not so high strung about it. I’m not sure if its due to the medication schedule itself – precise doses at exact times, or if dealing with cancer is emotionally different than dealing with chronic kidney disease, but I feel more stress dealing with Kitty’s meds than I did with Kip’s meds.

So today, his appointment went well, and his dosage is being decreased, but it is still a daily dose. Then I thought about my vacation coming up in a few weeks.

I have 9 days off in the middle of August. This is going to be the first time in 23 years of working that I am getting a week long paid vacation. For the first time in my life, I have time and money to do something. I had made reservations back in March to be out of town for 4 of the 9 days.

I hemmed and hawed about boarding the cats at the vet office, taking them with me, or trying to find a babysitter so I could go on vacation. I normally wouldn’t worry about leaving them alone for a few days, but Kitty’s meds need to be on an exact schedule (or it could literally kill him if I screw it up).

I decided not to board them. They have never boarded before, and with Kitty’s anxiety over a 30-minute office visit, I don’t think I could leave him there for 4 days. I don’t think he can handle it. I think he would die of a panic attack. I can’t take them with me. While Kitty is leash trained and would do fine, Jude is not. It’s not fair for him to spend 4 days in a box. Finding a babysitter for that length of time is challenging, and I would not want to put that responsibility on anyone for that length of time. One or two days is fine, but not four days.

I canceled my vacation.

I’m going to have 8 days of day trips instead.

For the first time since 1999, I am not taking my Adirondack camping trip.

It’s probably a little ridiculous. I could probably work something out to get Kitty’s med schedule covered. Except, I don’t think I would be able to relax and enjoy my.vacation because I would feel guilty and I would feel bad about someone else shouldering my responsibility.

I signed up for this.

When I signed the dotted line 18 years ago, I knew it was for life. Through sickness and in health. I can’t just go and leave the one person who has stood by me every single day for the past 18 years and drop them off someplace where they are terrified just so I can go play in the woods for 4 days.

When Kip was on medication, I would get a babysitter. As long as he got his meds once a day, it didn’t matter when. Of course, it was preferable to have consistency. But 3 days of random doses once a year, were okay. With Kitty’s medication, a missed dose or a dose at the wrong time could mean death.

I think I need to stay home until either he improves enough to be without meds (I doubt it) or passes away (more likely).

He has been here for me every single day for 18 years. This is the least I can do. Like I said, I signed up for this.

So now I’m looking forward to 8 beach days coming up. Hopefully the weather cooperates. We are technically aging a drought. Of course, every time I have a day off is when it decides to storm severely or just plain rain all day. With my luck, the drought will probably break with 9 straight days of rain during my vacation. It would suck to get stuck inside like that, especially after enduring a very harsh winter this past year.

In the meantime, on the scant beach days I have had, I have had the opportunity to do some beach reading. Those books with the stickers that say “beach read” finally got read on a beach. Hopefully my day trips will be just as relaxing and rejuvenating as my usual camping trip typically is for me.

This is what I signed up for, and this is what life is made of – spending time with those yo love while you still can. Life is so very short.

Happy 18th Birthday, Kitty

Kitty has been with me longer than any human being, including my parents. In 18 years, the longest amount of time we have ever been separated is a time span of 3 nights.

I’m not sure how much longer we have together. It’s hard watching his decline. Although his health is currently stable on medication, I will honestly be surprised if he makes it to 19. It’s possible this is his last birthday.

Kitty has literally been by my side through everything, even when no one else was. When we didn’t have anyplace to live and were living in the car, Kitty always kept a look out & would alert me to anything weird going on while I was sleeping.

When they were little both Kitty and Kip (deceased a few years ago) would go camping with me. They are leash trained, and were perfectly fine outside at the campsite and walking the trail.

I was thinking that if Kitty had been with me on that camping trip from hell, that he would have protected me. Kitty has spunk. He will walk right up to a dog and start a fight. Then, I think, Kitty 10 or 15 or maybe even 5 years ago would have done that. But Kitty today is so old and frail that although his fighting spirit is still alive and well, there is absolutely nothing he could do physically to intimidate or protect like he used to do.

Kitty snuggles my head as we sleep each night. The past few months have been hard. As his health has declined, he has not been able to control his hind nails like he used to, and his back claws are almost always out. I notice it because now when he snuggles me, I’m constantly getting scratched. I guess I took for granted for 17 years that when he slept with me, he kept his hind claws retracted out of courtesy.

He has a hard time getting comfortable. I notice this in the way he plops himself down now. He has to lay on a side and cannot just lay straight on, which I’m sure is due to the tumor in his intestines.

It’s hard watching my best friend go downhill. I don’t know what I’m going to do without him, but I don’t want him to hang on just for me.

We had the discussion a few weeks ago, in which I told him that if he needs to go (pass a way), I understand. He’s given me the very best of himself his entire life, and he deserves to rest free from pain.

But, he’s a fighter. Kitty is still fighting. I can tell he’s not ready to go yet. As long, as he’s not in pain, that’s okay. I know I’m going to lose it when the time comes.

Kitty and I grew up together. He picked me out at the animal shelter when he was 4 months old. We’ve been together for half of my life, and pretty much all of his.

Losing Kitty is going to be harder on me than losing anyone else in my life.

But for today, he is stable. He looks happy, and he is definitely still showing that fighting spirit that says, “I’m here. I love you, and I’m not going anywhere.”

Happy 18th Birthday to my son, my best friend, the one who grew up with me, who taught me to adult, and through it all, made me a better person. I wouldn’t be who I am without you in my life.

I love you, Kitty. It’s wishful thinking, but here’s hoping for a few more birthdays.

No More Matching

People who know me well know that I have a small obsession with lingerie, particularly Victoria’s Secret. It’s an indulgence where no matter what I am wearing clothing-wise, only I know what I am wearing underneath and it gives me a sense of empowerment.

For example, when I was finishing my bachelors degree, my “advisor”, whom I called the Dragon Lady on the 4th Floor, called me white trash and said I would never do as well at my 4-year school as I did at community college. For the record, I was valedictorian at my community college, and # 6 of 2,000+ at my 4-year university graduating Summa Cum Laude. But while she was berating me about how much of a lowly scum I am, I knew that underneath my $9 outfit I had gotten from Salvo, that I was wearing a $5 pair of Victoria’s Secret panties with a bunch of apples on them that also said “Bite me.” My underwear was appropriate to the situation.

My underclothes almost regularly cost more than my outfit. About 95% of my wardrobe is second hand, but I truly believe (for sanitary reasons) that my underclothes should be new. If I’m going to buy something new, then I want the good stuff, or if not good, then I at least need to be having fun as I kiss my money goodbye.

So generally, my bra and panties are matching, even of I’m having trouble getting my outfit to match. My excuse is that I’m legally color-blind (which is true, according to my paperwork from when I tried to join the Navy back in the 90s). So, gosh darn it, my socks may not match, but my underwear does. You gotta take what you can get sometimes.

Now, it is well known by anyone and everyone who has a hankering for horror movies that the girl being terrorized, hurt, maimed, or killed in such flicks is most usually wearing a matching bra and panty set.

I have never understood why this is the case. I just figured it to be a costuming snafu or some sort of elaborate Hollywood joke. Maybe its some well-placed, subliminal advertising. At any rate, I’ve always thought horror movies were pretend.

That is, at least, until I took the vacation that made Freddie and Jason look like a daydream.

I took my worst vacation in 20 years this week. It was the first time that I have ever come home early from someplace. I came home a day and a half early. In fact, I was gone less than 24 hours.

Things went to hell in a hand basket fast, and now I am starting to think there just may be something to this matching bra & panty gig that Hollywood perpetuates.

I refuse to end up in a body bag, so from now on, I will not be matching my bra and panty sets. From now on, when I get dressed in the mornings, I will do so with an abandon that makes a 3-year old dressing themselves look like executive level material.

Why have I decided to stop matching and have this linked to matching panty sets? Let me set the scene ….

So Monday left to go camping in an area of the Adirondacks that was brand-new to me. The spot I had chosen was about an hour to the north and east of my usual haunt. The place I go camping in August, I’ve been going to for 15 years. This trip this week was a new experience.

The drive was gorgeous, the directions easy. I arrived with high expectations for some relaxation. The first maybe 6 hours were great, and then everything changed into a horror flick. Damn Hollywood and matching panties.

Hindsight is 20/20, and now after the event, I realized what happened was this: I went hiking through the campsite to locate showers, garbage, bear prevention accommodations, etc. when I passed some guy on a bicycle. I said hello, as I normally do to other campers. Later, I passed this same individual on foot. So, he parked his bike, right? I thought nothing of it.

That night as I was tending the fire, I noticed the wood truck went by several times. I do mean several. It slowed down next to me quite a few. The guy was wearing a hat. In retrospect, it was the same guy from earlier. When I left the campground, I found out that this location does not offer wood service. It was NOT in fact, a wood truck, but some creep-o stalker dude.

At the time, I thought it was the wood truck.

After properly distinguishing my camp fire at about 10 pm, I was in my tent by 10:30. The purpose of staying in a tent is to reset circadian rhythms.

At about 11:30, I woke up due to some rustling in the brush. I have seen chipmunks, squirrels, ducks, deer, and even a bear once while camping. I am quite familiar with woodland animal sounds. The interesting part is that at this camp site, I had not seen any animals earlier, and the sound was not entirely familiar. Also note that I was told at check-in that the ranger station closed at about 11-11:30 pm.

I looked outside the tent and saw nothing. I went back to sleep.

I was once again awakened, this time at 1:30 am. It was a human sound. Directly outside my tent. I have spent enough time running trails when I train for my marathons, that I know the sound of sneaker on dirt. Especially when the sound is close to my head. I have been camping enough over the past 20 years to know it was not an animal sound. I have been homeless before and know from living on the streets what it sounds like to be laying down with people walking by you.

This was a human sound, and suddenly I was scared as hell. Now, most normal people know better than to walk through other peoples camp sites. They most certainly do not do this at 1:30 am.

Not knowing the intentions of the person, who said nothing and ran off, I then spent a very uncomfortable night in half of the backseat of my car. The other half was taken up by the cooler.

I finally got to sleep at 4 am, only to be awakened at 6 am by some extremely loud children 4 sites away (4 sites!) screaming their heads off. I taught preschool for 11 years, and I have no problem with groups of children being loud when having fun. But these kids were screaming to be assholes.

I left the camp site and reported my experience to the ranger station. They seemed to know the exact person I was referencing, but were not concerned, as that person is “harmless.” When its someone you don’t know standing right outside your tent at 1:30 am, it does not seem harmless.

I came home from vacation less than 24 hours after I left. Needless to say, I won’t be going back to that location again.

When I returned home, I ended up sleeping 15 hours recovering from my ordeal. I also set the tent up in the yard to be sure it was dry and swept before putting it away again. The “harmless” individual had left a bodily fluid on the side of my tent. I’m glad I came home when I did.

I spent the last day of my vacation having a beach day at Lake Ontario. Some vacation. It was not the relaxing reset I had been envisioning.

So now I am just continuing to trudge on until my week off in August. Lets hope that trip goes off without a hitch. If I have another experience like this one, I’m pretty sure I will lose my mind. I have had plenty of experiences like this pretty much every time I had ever visited New York City, but this was the first time I ever had anything like this happen to me upstate.

I can tell you right now, I won’t be wearing matching bra and panty sets anymore. Freddie and Jason can just keep their Hollywood starlets, thank you very much.

I’m just going to keep hoping I get the break I need in August. And I’m never going to match my clothes again.

Escape

As much as I have tried to create a life I don’t need to escape, sometimes we need to take a step back in order to view situations objectively. When we are enmeshed and really “in” something, we are much more likely to make poor choices because we just can’t see out or around the situation in which we are living.

An expression I said almost all the time during the last few years I spent working on my bachelors degree was, “I keep pushing the escape button, but I’m still here.” I spent 15 years working on that degree, and sometimes, I just wanted a break from the constant flow of work, home, and school.

I will be getting a break next week, and am extremely fortunate in that not only will I be getting a break in July, but one in August as well. This is going to be the first time in my life I have gotten two breaks in one year.

Some things are beyond our control. As much as I have tried to slow down, I cannot control a family members illness or the stress that brings, or certain other life events that just kind of “happen” to us. The only person you can control in this life is yourself. We do not always have control over anything around us.

Next week, I’m going camping, and I am really looking forward to having a break. As much as I love my ill family member, I just feel like I need a break from them and the situation. I feel guilty saying that, because this disease is their everyday reality, but its hard sometimes to hold it all together.

My camping trip next week is in a location completely new to me that I have never been to before. My August trip will be to my usual spot, but for July, its someplace new.

It’s pretty sad when you have to drive yourself to the middle of nowhere to a location with no cell service, no internet, no electricity, and no water just to escape your own life. Unfortunately, in today’s technological society, sometimes that is the only way to completely unplug.

Away from glowing screens, email notification dings, and the noise of an overly congested and poorly planned small city, I will be reconnecting to nature. Camping off the grid is time to listen to body, mind, and soul and align all three with the universe. You can’t hear that “still small voice” when constantly surrounded by noise.

So yes, I will be escaping next week. I also think there is a difference between an escape and running away. Sometimes we need to escape our situations momentarily to take a step back in order to view things objectively. Escaping allows us to return renewed and refreshed, perhaps with a different perspective and brighter outlook on how to tackle a challenge.

Running away, on the other hand, entails leaving the situation and either avoiding it completely, with no intention of return, or returning to the situation with the naive idea that it had changed in your absence, even though you have done nothing about it.

Running away and escaping are two profoundly different situations.

So while I strive to create a life I don’t have to escape, I have come to realize that I do not have total control, and sometimes we need the escape to take a step back in order to face uncertainty with more clarity.

Here’s hoping my camping trip to this new location next week brings me peace, rest, and refreshment. It’s the ultimate adult time out when you come to realize that you are so burned out, that you need to recenter yourself before you reach out and slap someone.

Hopefully by making the effort to take better care of myself, I can be better for those around me. How do you escape when you need some objectivity and refreshment?

Out the Door

I was walking out of the house to go for a run last week, when my neighbor stopped me and asked where I run? There is a well-maintained trail about 3 miles from my house. I drive to the trail head, and run there, safe from traffic and full of scenery.

My neighbor asked why I didn’t run our road? Well, I had never thought of it before. I live on a dead-end street directly off a major highway. I usually drive immediately from driveway to highway, because I know there is little on my road. I never thought to run my own street without driving someplace to run.

So, this past Friday, I did it. I laced up my running shoes and ran right out my front door. It was nice to not have to drive someplace to run.

The run itself left much to be desired. I was on a little 3 mile run, and I must have had to do at least 20 laps up and down my dead -end street to make the 3 miles. It was boring as hell. I would much rather drive the 3 miles to run the trail, where I can do a simple out and back that has diversity in scenery.

What I learned from this experience, is that in the 10+ years I have lived here, which is the longest I have lived anywhere, I never once thought to run my own street.

I was always too busy going out the door to pay any attention to what was quite literally in my own backyard.

I won’t be running my street again. I dare say that they treadmill is more exciting than running my street. The important learning part was to pay attention to what is around you. We don’t always have to go to the next town, out of state, or somewhere else to have fun. There are things to enjoy in our own backyards.

I have been hanging out closer to home lately, both due to lack of gas money, but also to spend more time with my sick family member. What I am learning this summer is that sometimes staying close to home is not so bad.

Yes, its fun to go to new places and have new experiences. Don’t forget about the beauty that immediately surrounds you as well.

I have spent the past 10 years going out the door to drive places without going out the door just to, well, go out the door and down the street. What are you missing by going out the door?

Mayberry, baseball, birds, & Grub

So, I’ve had an exciting week. After realizing last week that I was way overscheduled and overstressed at work, I made a conscious effort to slow down my schedule this week. When I have an abnormal reaction to a normal situation, I know that its time for an adult time out.

My time out started on my day off Sunday, when the weather finally cooperated enough for me to go to baseball. After an almost solid two weeks of rain outs, it was nice to see the sun and support the local team. While there is a minor league team about an hour south of me, I took in a college game about 4 miles down the road, and I had a better time there than I did my last time at a minor league game. The kids are talented, it was great ball, and the atmosphere couldn’t be beat.

On Monday, I headed up to Lake Ontario hoping for some surfing. The waves were okay to kind of glide on, but not good surf like we had last year. Still, I enjoyed the water for most of the day, at least 6 hours. I also got pulled into a football game and some Frisbee.

The only snafu came around lunch time, when the scene was reminiscent of Hitchcock’s The Birds. I eat on the beach all the time, and the seagulls typically land around hoping for scraps. I had never seen them be aggressive as they were this past Monday.

If my lunch break was a newscast, the headline would have read, “Asshole Seagull Steals Hummus Pita.” I kid you not, these birds were not just hanging out begging for food per the usual seagull experience. I actually had one swoop down and steal hummus pita out of my hand. It was so cleverly orchestrated, it made Ocean’s Eleven look like child’s play. Luckily, my apples, raisins, pickles, and everything else was safe. The taking of hummus pita was conducted with stealth swat-like precision.

While I work nights, and very much prefer working nights, I am actually home three evenings this week. While unusual, it is a welcome change every once in awhile.

My favorite classic TV channel that I get on bunny ears has ramped up showings of Mayberry in the nighttime line up. That means I have three nights this week that I am home to see both Mayberry and Happy Days.

If I could slow down my life to a state of perfection resembling a sitcom, I would love to live in the world of Mayberry. Baseball, surfing, and Mayberry are the things summer nights (and days) are made for.

Finally, I went out to dinner tonight for the first time since being diagnosed with my autoimmune disorder. Eating out with 4 food allergies and an autoimmune disorder is nearly impossible. Anytime I eat prepared food, I run a risk of cross-contamination, if not an all-out reaction.

I had passed by this new restaurant for a few weeks now, that advertises as paleo (whatever that is), vegan, and allergy friendly, so I decided to stop. I usually pick vegan items because it knocks out half of my food allergies, so I only have to check for the other two.

To my delight, not only was the menu easy to navigate with a surprising abundance of options given my allergies, but the staff was able to handle my warning label without batting a eye.

Normally when I want to eat out in a restaurant, it becomes this huge production. As soon as staff find out I have food allergies, the manager gets called over, numerous servers and cooks start running around; its chaos. I appreciate the extra effort in taking precautions that I don’t die, but it just makes eating out embarrassing, so I rarely do so.

The staff at Grubs tonight wrote them all down, nodded like they get this all the time (which maybe they do, because they are the ONLY restaurant I have EVER seen that advertises as allergy friendly), and delivered my food, only noting one substitution due to my allergies. Said substitution was presented in the nicest manner: We know you couldn’t have X, so we gave you some of our homemade Y. It was delicious.

My meal was even prepared in a designated “top 8 free” cooking area, so I am pretty sure this was my first experience eating out having a significantly reduced risk of cross-contamination. If only every restaurant could handle food allergies this way.

While my journey in rewinding real slow has primarily been about minimalism, reducing possessions, and focusing on life priorities, it is also important to remember to slow down our time.

Spend time doing what we truly love to reduce stress levels, ensure happiness, and be more productive in our daily lives and at work. I’m sure I have been much more pleasant to work with this week than I was last week now that I have made a conscious effort to slow down. I don’t know about you, but I do better at work when I make the effort to take care of myself.

How can you take care of yourself this week? What does your version of Mayberry look like?

Depression Era Cooking

Cooking, baking specifically, is a positive coping skill for me. With 4 food allergies plus an autoimmune disorder all adult onset, both cooking and baking have become daily challenges.

I have, for the most part, mastered egg substitution. With an egg allergy, I have learned that I can substitute applesauce for up to three eggs. Recipes beyond three eggs require some creativity. The individual cups of applesauce commonly found in children’s lunch boxes are the perfect size to equate to one egg.

I have used this applesauce coping skill to adapt some recipes. I successfully make banana bread on a regular basis. I even found an allergy friendly recipe for pumpkin pie that, while a lot of work, completely made my thanksgiving last year.

Tonight, completely by happenstance, I came across a recipe for depression era chocolate cake. I don’t even remember exactly what I typed into google, except that it involved something concerning the link between egg allergies and gluten autoimmune disorders.

Whatever I typed, I was fortunate enough to come across the depression era chocolate cake recipe. In the 1930s, eggs, milk, and butter were limited and expensive commodities in the United States. If Americans wanted baked goods and treats, then they had to get creative. Ingenuity is a hallmark of American civilization, indeed.

While invented for the purposes of economy, depression era chocolate cake is actually vegan, and perfect for someone trying to navigate the minefield that constitutes the modern problem of navigating the world with multiple food allergies.

It is quick, it is easy, and it completely fills the void left by being unable to bake comfort foods due to multiple allergens. Prior to food allergies, I used to enjoy making brownies and other baked goods to take to the fire station, for example, for some of my friends who work there. Since food allergies, I have had to make my entire environment allergen free due to the severity of my reactions.

Last night, not only did I have all of the ingredients readily on hand, but baking depression era chocolate cake was the perfect answer to the “I’m sick of eating the same allergy friendly food all the time” dilemma.

I have a new recipe to add to my arsenal, and now feel that I have something to contribute when it comes to potlucks and dishes to pass that is not completely obscure to those who don’t have to worry about food allergies.

I’m starting to wonder what other depression era recipes may be out there that would help with navigating the very frustrating world of multiple allergens.

For now, I have baked my cake and am going to eat it too. Lets hope that my search for more depression era recipes that are allergy friendly proves fruitful.

Depression era chocolate “wacky” cake recipe found in multiple locations, so it should be considered common knowledge without having to be cited:

1 1/2 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used the vegan one)

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

 1 tablespoon vinegar

1 cup water

preheat oven to 350. Bake for 30 minutes. I would recommend 35-40 if you use a loaf pan as I did for thicker texture.

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