Daughmer Prairie Savannah – Ohio State Nature Preserve

786 MarionMelmore Rd, Bucyrus, Ohio  44820

Activities: Hiking – Mown paths of approximately 0.5 miles snaking through the 33-acre preserve, bird watching, nature photography, wildflowers, prairie grasses.

crawrodparkdistrict.org – Managed by Crawford County Park District

Daughmer Prarie Savannah is a preserved Bur Oak savannah which was purchased by the state in 2011 from the White family who had held the land for over 160 years. This preserve is a large chunk of remaining Sandusky Plains which totals less than 75 acres.

Bur Oak Trees

I chose to visit mid-June on a sunny hot day which was probably not the best idea. The parking area is heavy gravel and mown paths snake out away from the parking area in different directions. There are open areas without shade and some very nice shady areas as you traverse the trails. However, on this day, the paths had not been mown for a bit and the grass was pretty high. Since I was not expecting this, I did not dress appropriately for this walk. I needed at least tall socks, but better, long pants. So, I only walked up into the middle of the preserve and returned on another path. A revist it in potentially late fall or early winter and/or spring may be better.


While from the road, this preserve just seems like any old field with some big trees, entering into the savannah was almost like walking into a different world. It is reminiscent of a time when the area was more wild before people settled this area and started farming and building on the land. The massive Bur Oak trees are very impressive and standing in the middle of a cluster of them, I felt very small. The grasses and plants stood tall around as I wandered down the middle of the trail trying to avoid poison ivy. With the towering trees, it was almost like I was a child again. I have to admit that I love trees, especially big ancient ones. For a moment, I wondered if this might have been how Alice in Wonderland felt.

Savannah Prarie

While I would have liked to walked all the paths, it was simply too hot and the grass too high for the way I dressed. I will return on a cooler day and wearing clothing more suited for tall grass. If you do go during hotter weather, I’d suggest morning or early evening, coupled with bug spray and long pants and/or long socks in case it hasn’t been mown recently. In the future, I will update this post with my next, hopefully more productive visit.

Backyard Adventures – Canal Feeder Trail – Sidney, Ohio

One positive about this ongoing pandemic is that I have had to become very creative in finding activities somewhat close to home as traveling isn’t quite safe and convenient at this time. Many of my frequented parks and paths have been overrun with people trying to find ways to get out of the house. Though I am always promoting getting outside, at times it has become impossible to properly social distance. As a result of escaping the crowds, I have found some hidden gems.

As a cyclist, I tend to ignore paved trails unless they are at least ten miles or more as I normally will ride 20-30 miles minimum. I may have read about this path and thought oh, it’s only 2.25 miles (now 3.25 miles) then promptly forgot about it. But a few weeks ago, I was driving up S. Vandemark road from River Road and noticed a small parking area with a paved trail I hadn’t noticed previously. A few days ago, I parked at this spot and walked my dog a bit down the south end of the trail. The canal feeder is on the west side of the trail which isn’t too far from I-75. You can hear the highway noise and on the east side of the trail, sometimes you can hear a train but for me, I was just happy that there weren’t many people using the path.

South of S. Vandemark Rd

Yesterday, I returned with my road bike, parking at the S. Vandemark trail head. I first rode south on the newest mile of the path. The trail seems to go downhill and when I got to the end, I-75 loomed high above me and on the other side, lower down was the Great Miami River. Hopping off my bike, I followed the mowed path down to the water for a nice view of the water. When you drive I-75 south of the Fair Road exit for Sidney, this path ends at the dip/valley of I-75 where it of course, crosses the river. I’ve never noticed the bike path in all my times going north on 75, next time I will look to see if I can see it from the bridge.

Great Miami River

Back on the path and heading back the way I came, the path is uphill a bit. Back across S. Vandemark road, the path slips back into the shade as it leads north toward Sidney. Eventually, on the east (right) side the trail is bordered by a wood split rail fence and you can look down for glimpses of the river through the trees. I was a little surprised by how far up I was. Eventually you come to a ‘S’ curve in the path. At the second curve, a path goes off to the left. I stopped for a moment to see where it went and it goes very steeply up a hill. Dismounting, I pushed my bike up that hill only to find it ends in newer subdivision. I was disappointed, I thought maybe it would a new city park I’d not visited.

Hill up to subdivision

As I reached the top, a dad and his teenage son rode by me on mountain bikes then proceeded down that steep hill. You’d need disc brakes for that one, so I did the smart thing and walked my caliper-braked road bike down the hill. In road cycling shoes, that was interesting as this footwear isn’t known for their great traction or walking agility but I did make it down without falling on my butt. On my way down, I noticed that someone had dropped their honey bun on the side of the trail. Considering the drastic climb or downhill, whoever is bunless is probably lucky they didn’t lose anything else. Needless to say, the side path is great for people who live up there but I will not be traipsing up it again.

As the curve straightens out, a port-a-potty stands in the most random place but it’s nice to know facilities are available. Along the path there are benches every so often and placards with historic information about the canal and the area. I didn’t read them when I was riding but I read a few when I was walking the dog. They are a nice touch and I saw several people stopping to read them at different points.

At another curve in the trail, another side path goes up into another neighborhood but I skip that one. There is a sign and parking area there that announces to be cautious as this is a shared roadway. As the trail curves back to head up into southern Sidney, on the east side are three older homes almost touching the trail and indeed there are vehicles at these homes. Once you pass the last house, you are greeted with an old concrete tunnel that is a railroad bridge.

Railroad bridge

After you pass through the tunnel, the trail goes to the right and pops out into Graceland Cemetery which for some reason surprised me. I’ve never had been on a path that went through a cemetery. I only had glanced at the map that was tacked up at the information kiosk . The cemetery (if you like such things) is very interesting with some very old graves and stones.

There is a small parking area and a bench close to an old willow tree at this end of the trail. You can ride on down through the cemetery and onto South Main/County Road 25A. Across the street from the cemetery is Roadside Park and if you go left, the road leads to downtown Sidney. You will pass under the impressive Big Four railroad bridge. In the downtown square the Shelby County Courthouse resides, along with the Great Sidney Farmer’s Market (on Saturdays during the warmer months) as well as The Spot Restaurant and other shops, etc. You can also choose to park in the cemetery and walk/bike from the north end as well.

Graceland Cemetery Entrance

I love these little finds and adventures. For years, I’ve gone to Sidney but have completely missed this trail. It never ceases to amaze me the wonderful things you can find in essentially your own back yard.

Sears Woods – Ohio State Nature Preserve

1486 Mount Zion Road, Bucyrus, Ohio, 44820

Activities: Hiking – 1.25-mile loop covering prairie, woods and wetlands; bird watching, spring wildflowers, nature photography, fall foliage

crawfordparkdistrict.org – Managed by Crawford County Park District

Sears Woods is 137 acres[1] located just southwest of Bucyrus where the Sandusky River flows through the western portion of the preserve.  My visit was in mid-June when the foliage was out in full force.  The parking area is nicely paved and a large sign announcing the name of the preserve facing Mount Zion road.  There is a kiosk where brochures for Sears Woods stocked and announcement posters on each side as well a large map of the trails in the preserve. One side of the kiosk is dedicated to Sears Woods and the opposite side provides information on the Crawford County Park district including their Astronomy Club. As is the case with nature preserves there are no facilities such as restrooms, trash cans, water source or pets allowed. 

Map of the trails

The trail has two entrance points on each side of the kiosk which allows the trail to be a true loop.  I choose the trail to the east of the kiosk and closest to where my car is parked.  I will be traversing the trails counterclockwise. The grass path is wide and has been mowed recently and starts in a lightly wooded area of young trees.  On each side, abundant berries are growing and are in a green state.  Soon, there is a fork in the path as the woods start to open up.  To my left (east) a side trail for the Bluebird Box Trail leads off and I do this small loop.  I only see one bluebird box but a few empty metal fence poles where boxes may have been. 

Bluebird Box Loop

Doing the Bluebird Box loop counterclockwise, the first leg of the loop is in an open clearing and the return leg borders the wooded area.  I scared up a small deer who may have been resting in the tall grasses.  Typical of Ohio, be very cautious of poison ivy as it grows heavily in the prairie areas as well as the woods.  Once I return to the main trail, I go to my right and the open area dips under heavy foliage into a much darker and cooler wooded area.  As I step into the woods, I am greeted by a small toad hopping across the now dirt path.   The forest is fairly young and the path is marked by orange dots painted on the trees.  The area I drove to reach the nature preserve has been fairly flat farmland, so I am surprised to find that the wooded area path very quickly leads to a ravine with a dry creek bed winding through the bottom.  This is a good example of how Ohio’s landscape can change so quickly.

Portions of the trail are a bit narrow here and with the poison ivy, I suggest wearing long pants, gaiters or socks if you are allergic but I was able to pick my way through without ending up with an itchy rash later.  Before the first bridge, a large tree was downed over the trail and I had to do some creative climbing; though, I don’t think this tree had been down too long.  I’d already seen where fallen trees had been cut to allow a clear trail.  I made a note to return to this nature preserve during the fall leaf season as these woods would be beautiful with the fall colors.  The first bridge traversed a small dry creek bed and was in good condition.  After I crossed another smaller bridge, the trail started to get pretty muddy in spots even though we had not had much rain.  I’d suggest bringing a change of shoes unless the trail is frozen or there has been a drought though I was able to traverse the muddy sections without getting too dirty. 

Trail above Sandusky River

As the trail turns on the return loop, you will find that you are on a bluff above the Sandusky River and even with the trees and plants out in full foliage, there are plenty of views of the river.  This is also when I notice the first sets of initials carved into trees which was disappointing.  I had just made a voice memo remarking how there was a definite lack of litter and defacing of the trees.  Soon, I come upon a steep side trail that leads down to the river which has been created by people going off trail and is not on the park map.  I traversed down and a small footpath leads along part of the river, though still above with the only way getting to the water is to scramble down another steep portion that includes tree roots.  In short order the trail thins out and I decide to turn around and climb back up to the main trail which is of course, a bit harder than going down. 

Back on the main trail, I spotted an own sitting on a tree limb overlooking the river.  This was the first time I’ve ever seen one out in the daytime, just sitting there.  I was able to switch my camera lens to telephoto and snap a few pictures of it before it saw me and flew away.  A few of my naturalist friends identified it as a juvenile Great Horned owl.  This is the first one I had ever seen out in the wild.  This owl sighting was worth the almost two-hour drive from my home for certain! 

Juvenile Great Horned Owl

As the trail continues, it dips up and down with a final climb to exit the woods.  When I came out into a bit of a clearing, the trail went left and right.  I consulted the trail map and decided to go right which lead me out through a lightly wooded section that traversed near Mount Zion road and popped back into the mown area near the kiosk and parking area via the other entrance making a full loop.  There was a mini van parked in the parking lot which explained the shout of children on the other side of the park from me but otherwise, I did not see a single soul on the trail.  I was impressed by how well this park is maintained and thoroughly enjoyed my hike especially the owl sighting. 

Overall impression:  A well-maintained nature preserve which contains varying terrain in the 1.25-mile loop with some hilly areas and plenty of flat/rolling trail.  Though portions of the trail could be extremely muddy in wet weather, I think the peak times to visit this preserve are when the spring wildflower season as well as when the trees change to their fall colors but would hike this all year around when dryer.  Poison ivy and mosquitos are the biggest cautions during the warmer months.  There are some hills that are a bit steep so there is some challenge to the trail.  The bridges are well-maintained at this writing and the parking area is paved. 

[1] http://www.crawfordparkdistrict.org/sears-woods.html

Running My Life In Circles

Recently, I was tearing my house apart looking for some film camera equipment I haven’t seen since our move to our new house five years ago. While I was looking, I ran across a journal that started in 11/2006 and ended in 8/2008 in which large chunks of time are not accounted. I was thirty-six in 2006, my daughters all still living at home, my grandmother and mother were still alive which was essentially a whole other world for me compared to today. I read through most of the journal entries and was confronted with some truths about myself that I was not thrilled to learn.

Painful Truth No. 1 – I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my life since age 11 worrying about my weight, body size, calories, what I eat, how I look and today I’m still doing the same things. The same vicious cycle. And guess what? It hasn’t fixed much of anything. It’s been pointed out that I should probably go back and read my older blog posts. That I’ve been doing the same things over and over. I use a food journal, I quit, I swear off diets and scales, then I go back. You get the idea. This realization made me realize that it was time to just give it all up. It hasn’t worked long term. It’s wasted a huge chunk of my life. So fuck it, enough is enough. I will have to retrain my thoughts and start trusting my body. I guess if I get bigger, I get bigger, if I get smaller, I get smaller though I bet I stay pretty much the same size. Either way, I give up. I grant myself permission to be free of all this nonsense.

Painful Truth No. 2 – I ask myself the same life’s purpose and direction questions over and over and over. Should I pursue this college degree? What do I want to be when I grow up? Should I start my own business again on the side? Fourteen years (and more) I’ve been asking the same crap. Maybe I think there is a magic answer out there? This realization was the most surprising. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been asking these questions for this long. Literally, I’m beating a dead horse and now it’s nothing but dust. If I’m asking the same kind of questions, then I’ve found no answers. There is no celestial guidance, no sudden aha moment and my life suddenly all falls into place. I’ve been running in my life’s purpose circle for years. Chasing my tail like a dog and never quite catching it. I’ve pondered over this for several days, trying to figure out how I can let go.

Obviously, I’m a classic over-thinker which I hear that is common especially in introverted people. This painful truth is not so easy to resolve. I feel a great amount of anxiety when I consider letting go of this useless behavior. Maybe this over-thinking is a security blanket that if I quit trying to find my life’s great purpose then I must acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, I don’t have some great worldly contribution. That I am ordinary and like everyone else for the most part. That I might just be average and mediocre never writing a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel or curing cancer or making a stunning mark on this world that will be remembered in history books. When I consider that statement, I realize, I don’t even care if I’m in the history books and really rather I was not immortalized in a text book. What is it that I feel must achieve and why the continual push for excelling? I don’t know.

But it is time to stop another one of my useless behaviors. It’s time to stop thinking and get more into living, doing instead of mulling over my thoughts for hours on end. I can live my life or I can think about my life. I chose to live it. I grant myself the permission to stop over-thinking about my life’s purpose and live my life, freely and unencumbered by vague expectations that come from who knows where. Living in my thoughts is a safe place to be, a place where there are no real risks because you never leave your mind. It’s safe that way but safe is boring and I’d been complaining about where is the excitement in my life, why am I not like I was when I was younger? Well, because I quit taking risks and branching out. I’m afraid to look stupid or fail or both.

I’m grateful that I found that old journal even if I haven’t yet turned up my old camera equipment. I’m grateful for painful truths as they help to guide me to more positive ways of living. Now, I just have to put what I’ve learned into practice. Wish me luck friends!

Pandemic Tip: Be Kind to Yourself (and Others)

There seems to be a general attitude out there that as long as you keep your ass at home, you have nothing to worry about. Our grandparents and parents had to deal with wars and so on, all you have to do is sit your ass on the couch. I disagree, I don’t think it is just that easy. Maybe to keep the virus from spreading, yes, by all means we should stay at home as much as we can and follow the rules, even if you don’t necessarily agree, don’t be a dick and infect someone else. But to act as if this is easy and easier than what our parents/grandparents went through, like it’s no big deal is not right either. Not it’s not the same but it’s not so easy either.

War was in another country, not in our back yard or front yard or town. This war is on our own soil and while it is definitely different from when sons and daughters went overseas to fight and possibly be killed, this is still war. We can be caught in the cross-fire unknowingly by just trying to go pick up essential things like groceries. Sons and daughters are on the front lines but so are parents and grandparents. Instead of just soldiers, we have LPNs, nurses, doctors, EMTs, law enforcement, grocery workers, restaurant workers, gas station attendants, nursing home workers and so on.

Everyone is directly exposed to the enemy just by living your life and trying to survive.
This is also an invisible enemy, it’s not someone holding a gun, a grenade or dropping bombs that you might have the chance to see and avoid. This virus is completely unseen by the naked eye and can be carried on a gentle spring wind right into your body. You have zero chance of seeing it before it attacks you. You might be afraid to even leave your house, terrified when you have groceries delivered or picked up because of this invisible enemy. You may have been on the front lines the whole time, dealing with this enemy and watching it claim its victims, terrified you or your family are next.

In war, you have a weapon to fight back, in this pandemic, the only thing you can do is hide if you have that luxury but a good percentage of us have to still work. I’ve been fortunate to work at home but my husband, who works for a power utility, has been working 7 days, 12 hour shifts which is incredibly hard on the body. I can’t even imagine what doctors and nurses and EMTs are working or how are they handling it. They are so amazing, I bow to them, they are my heroes. If you get this virus, you may or may not survive. Thousands of people have already been killed on American soil by the enemy. And you have that a-hole out there telling you on social media that you should be able to accomplish all these great goals. Fuck you pompous social media asshole.

I’m just trying to get through the day, sequestered mostly at home and worrying about my family and friends as well as humanity at general. I’m worried that the partial lay-off I am now starting (20% of my hours have been cut) will turn into a complete lay off and after 22 years with an employer where many of my coworkers are like family, my career will end. I’m worried for my daughters (one who is out of a job) that the economy will be able to stay strong enough that they can continue paying their house payments, etc. I worry for everyone laid off by the shut-down and didn’t make that much money to start with. How are they living? What can I do to help?

Saying all you have to do is sit home on the couch hugely diminishes what people are going through right now. I don’t believe this is a fair statement and people are feeling as if their fears, sleepless nights, lethargy, depression, anxiety, and so on are unfounded. This is NOT unfounded, this is real, people are dying of an enemy that is silent, invisible and of which we have so little information to fight back. You can’t pick up a gun and shoot it. You can’t even see the f’ing enemy. There is no flash of gunfire to let you know that you have been ambushed. There is nothing. And that is terrifying.

I have one park that has a small enough parking lot, wide trails and enough area that I feel safe hiking. It’s not that I’m afraid that I may be attacked, murdered or raped. I am afraid I might get too close to someone infected, that they might breathe the virus in the air and I’ll walk right through it. Not very many people go to this park (thank god) but when I do have to pass someone on the wide paths, I literally walk ten feet off the trail and crouch down with my back to them to act like I am taking a photo of a flower or something with my phone. I will wave at them all friendly like but inwardly, I ‘m terrified they are carrying the enemy. They are probably perfectly nice people who would never intentionally hurt a soul but yet they are potential carriers of this virus. I feel bad for being this way but I am doing everything in my power to still live my life but also stay safe. I’m also protecting them, just in case I’d be carrying this and be asymptomatic.

One of the few ‘normal’ things I allow myself is to go through the drive through for Starbucks or Dairy Queen, but as soon as I pull away from the window out of sight, I’m wiping everything down and using hand sanitizer. I even wipe the lid where I sip my drink and the spoon that comes in my mini-Blizzard. I had been ordering books from this small bookstore and getting curbside pickup to help them stay in business, but as soon as he socially distance appropriately hands me the book, I throw it on the car floor and sanitize everything. Now, I have to give up my weekly book purchase because my hours have been cut. It was the one joy I had each week. I never normally buy books unless it’s something I will reread or use for reference but now I had been buying books I just wanted to read rather than getting them through the online library. That in itself felt like a decadent extravagance and it also gave me a feeling of helping out, hopefully keeping that bookstore afloat. I might be able to do one book every other week, but I’m starting to become afraid to spend money, I feel like I should save every penny in the case of a layoff.

Picking up groceries, we don’t even get out of the car and we refuse to sign anything or take the receipt. When we get home, we have a table, gloves, sanitizer and bleach spray in the garage in where we do our sanitization of what just was brought into our home. Non-perishable items that we don’t need immediately stay in the garage for at least a week. Other items are washed down as we can with bleach solution. My husband does the sanitizing and I do the carrying in. There is no more just taking it from the trunk of the car into the counter. We don’t even keep the bags the food comes in because we are afraid of contamination. We don’t even recycle them anymore. Touch once with gloves and discard. Not exactly environmentally friendly but safer from the virus.

With the shortages and hoarding, we can’t do just one weekly trip to one store with maybe a stop off at another store to pick up some produce. Nope, we have to do multiple pick ups in multiple towns to get everything we need. Grocery shopping has become almost a full time job and we are only a two-person household. And we allow substitutions on most every item except for a few. It’s not a time to be picky.

I worry about going back into the office, it’s a cube farm with enclosed space and an HVAC system that is cobbled together. The air flow is bad, the area is tight and I have to go through 4 doors to even get to my desk. Doors that are touched by so many people. I miss my friends at work but I’d just be afraid to be near them and vice versa. Working at home every day gets old. I feel like I never get away from the house, I start losing track of days. I’m very, very fortunate and grateful that I can and I’m protected but it’s not easy. I’m not on the front lines, but yet I still should be gentle with myself and acknowledge that I’m struggling a little.

But if I’m not writing the great American novel, doing fabulous home projects, starting a side business, or doing something else equally impressive during this time sequestered at home, then that’s okay. It’s okay that I don’t know what day it is and have to look at my phone or calendar to confirm the date. It’s okay that I don’t feel like cleaning the house or being creative or working on hobbies or anything. It’s okay if I just want to lie in bed and stare out the window. There’s a war out there. It’s okay if I am worried and scared. It’s okay if all I want to do is lie on the couch and watch movies. It’s okay if I’m having trouble sleeping. It’s okay if I miss my grown kids’ hugs. It’s okay if I feel isolated even though I’m an introvert. It’s okay if I’m exhausted even though I didn’t do much all day. It’s okay to cry. All of what I am feeling is okay, acceptable and very much warranted.

I don’t need to achieve, I need to survive. I need to be kind to myself (and others). My feelings are valid even though I’m not sending my sons or daughters off to a foreign country to war. My daughters are in the middle of the war, just like me because the war is HERE. No one has to go across the ocean to be killed by enemy fire. The enemy came to us and you can’t see it. It is threatening everyone I know and love. Everyone.

Be kind to yourself, what you are feeling is warranted for the situation. Don’t listen to social media when they say oh you need to do this or that, and don’t pressure yourself either. Eventually, this too will pass but we will be dealing with the effects for a long time and life as we knew it will change. Some things will be better and some not so great. Look out for your neighbor, for strangers as much as you safely can. We need to support each other just as we did (usually) in war time. But most of all, take care of yourself, be kind to yourself.

Sending my love and praying/meditating/wishing for everyone’s health and safety. Godspeed.

Nature is Still Open

This COVID-19 pandemic is freaking scary. People are dying from it every day. I can barely look at social media or watch/read the news. it’s so depressing, scary and sad. The hardest part for me so far is not being able to see my grown daughters in person. The other hardest part is not being able to go out and do some of the things I love. Neither are dire or life-threatening, just a challenge. I’m not complaining (well I’m a little pissed off about this whole thing) but I am coming up with game plans to help me stay sane in case of a complete lock down where I am not able to leave the homestead. But in the mean time, here is a reminder that even though many things are closed, the majority of parks (in Ohio at least) are still open (unless you are in an area that is not allowed non-essential travel).

Now I feel like I have to make a disclaimer, you have to use common sense and realize they don’t know everything there is about this virus so I suggest visiting parks that aren’t heavily visited and taking every precaution especially when using public facilities as restrooms. This virus lives on surfaces for a long time. I try not to use any of the public facilities and if a park is pretty much vacant, there’s always the woods. Hey, it’s what long distance hikers/backpackers do, they don’t have port-a-potties along the Appalachian Trail every few miles. I can’t promise that you won’t come in contact with this shitty virus at a park facility. Don’t touch things that others might have like fences, benches, picnic tables and so on. Like I said, just assume the f’ing virus is on every surface. Look but don’t touch. If you have children, I’d definitely avoid any playgrounds or play equipment.

In Ohio, there are numerous nature preserves that are hardly ever visited. Do some research in your area to find the lesser visited natural areas. Many parks are closing their facilities like rest rooms in response to the pandemic so check their website and/or call ahead. You may have to plan around the lack of bathrooms open, etc. Pack snacks and water. Just think ahead especially if you have kids. But even if a park is more visited, usually the trails are wide enough that you can give each other plenty of room. I’ve found the times I’ve been out in parks, they are fairly deserted compared to normal and those out are very polite giving room where needed.

Taking a short car ride to a natural area can help with cabin fever. Spending time outside in nature has a stress-relieving effect. Take time to breathe in the fresh air, notice the plants and trees around you. If you’re quiet, you may see some interesting wildlife. Also, this gives you a sense of normalcy in a time that is nothing near normal for most of us. Focusing on your surroundings allows you mindful moments where you can forget about all that is going on around us. Right now, spring wildflowers are starting to bloom as the days are getting longer and warmer. Brush off those guidebooks and take them with you, maybe you’ll discover a rare plant.

If you are in an area that the weather is cooperating and you own your home, there is usually plenty of yard projects you can get into. Trimming bushes, pruning plants, cleaning flower beds and so on. Depending on what restrictions are happening in your area, you may be able to fertilize and/or reseed your lawn if you are comfortable going to the home store to buy the supplies. Right now, it’s cold and rainy without much relief in site for my area for the next week, but I have gear for the weather, I may be out walking in the rain.

Unless prohibited if we go on lock down, I’m going to be walking my dog for miles and miles on our country roads. There are several old cemeteries that I can stop and visit which may sound creepy, but trust me, I’m not going to run across a living human there. I can take a sketch book and my charcoals to sketch the surrounding farm land. Or take my camera and challenge myself to find new shots right around my yard or the surrounding area. It wouldn’t hurt for my photography skills to look at subjects in a different way. This will force me to become more creative and maybe even figure out some of those little-used features on my DSLR.

No one knows how long this may last but the one blessing is that better weather is coming soon. It will be time to resurrect the hammock and patio furniture. Get out the fire ring and spend some evenings around a fire. Pull a blanket out as a I did as a kid and read on a makeshift outdoor bed. I had thought about buying a stand-alone basketball hoop for my driveway and a basketball a few months ago and I’m wishing I had done that earlier before all of this. In a way, it reminds me of when you were a kid and you had to entertain yourself on summer vacation. Well, if you were a child of the 1970’s or 80’s, we had to entertain ourselves in the summer after our parents shoved us out the door and told us don’t come back until dinner.

As I write this, I am seeing news stories about the first COVID-19 deaths in Ohio. This shit is scary. My heart breaks for the loved ones of these people as well as the loss of their lives. I’m so angry at all of this. I don’t know why it is happening or could it had been stopped, but it just pisses me off. But it is out of my control and at some point it will pass like everything else. Though the aftermath is already changing people’s lives, their family dynamics forever. It seems like in 2020, this shouldn’t happen but here it is, bearing down on us like the grim reaper.

This shows you that you never know what could happen in life, no matter how well you prepare, no matter the best laid plans, life as we know it can come to a screeching halt. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow or in a month, but I plan on taking it day by day, hour by hour. I’m going to self-quarantine as much as I can even though it totally sucks. I’m cancelling my spring break trip to Kentucky with my daughter which was happening over Easter weekend. Hell, we might not even be able to get together for Easter. It’s so hard to tell. But if we can’t, we can’t. It’s a small price to pay if it means someone will not die from the virus.

In the meantime, I will get outside, get into nature and of course, keep a lot of social distance by using the resources that are seldom visited or just in my own yard or neighborhood. Stay healthy and safe. We will get through this together.

Reflections From My Final Day of my Forties

Tomorrow, I turn 50 years old and for some reason moving into the next decade of my life always makes me reflective. I look over the previous decade and think about all that has happened. Where I was in my life when I turned 40 is a lot different now that I’m on the cusp of 50.
Turning 30 was probably the hardest for me as leaving my 20’s felt like I was definitely heading into middle age. My ‘youth’ was behind me it seemed. Turning 20 had been celebrated because I was more than happy to stop being a teenager. I always felt older than I was back then. In a rush to grow up and be independent. Turning 40 was no big deal. I didn’t have a lot of feelings about it, I was busy with three teenagers and taking care of my mother who was going through multiple bouts of cancer.
My whole 49th year, I have been thinking about what does turning 50 mean to me. When I turned 20, 50 seemed ancient and old. Last night at dinner, my husband asked me where did I see myself at 50. I honestly didn’t think about it before now. I had just been trying to survive in my 30’s and 40’s. There has been enormous changes during this past decade. I’ve lost some very important people in my life and in my mid-40’s, I became an orphan so to speak, with no grandparents or parents alive. My three daughters have grown up and moved out starting their own lives. Frankly, I hadn’t planned for this part of my life.
The beauty of social media is that you get to share moments with people in your life that you may not be able to otherwise. I’m friends with many of my classmates and us being the same age, I’ve watched them embrace their jump into the next decade. Not one of them complaining but joyful that hey, we made it to 50. My personal feeling is one of gratitude, that I have been given all these years to live and I’ll tell you, now fifty sounds young. My great-grandmother, Sadie, always said, ‘You’re only as old as you think”. She lived to be almost 101 years old. I never once remember her referring to herself as ‘old’. I think it is sage advice.
So many of my friends and people I know never made it this far so every day, every year is a blessed. Going into the fifth decade, you have a completely different outlook than if you were going into your 2nd or 3rd decade. You’ve seen some shit, experienced great heartbreak but also great amazing joys. What was important to you at 20 is probably not as important to you at 50. Wisdom comes with age and you finally understand the saying ‘youth is wasted on the young’.
At 20, you have all these lofty goals and ideas that may seem silly or frivolous now that you see what is truly important in life. Walking beside my mom in her final months of her life narrowed that list down for me exponentially. The only thing you take with you when you die is love. So my life is centered around those I love the most and being kind and loving to others. Love is my meaning of life. To love and be loved. To help others and not be a total shit to people.
As I move into my fifth decade, I want a simple and uncomplicated life. I know this isn’t always possible because well, … life. However, I will continue to strive to just enjoy the little things, enjoy what we have worked so hard for and have fun. I think I can finally take a breath and have some damned fun. I always put so much pressure on myself to achieve, but now I’m not sure what I’m achieving. To really focus on taking care of myself after pretty much all my life, I’ve taken care of someone else. To really pay attention to my health because I know as I get older, good health may be more of a challenge. The body is not as forgiving as you get older.
In conclusion, I’m excited to leave being my tumultuous 40’s. I feel more like I did back in college when I had my whole life ahead of me. I still have my whole life ahead of me, but the minutes and days are even more precious because I have much fewer of them. I look forward to trying new things and having many more new adventures. I enter this decade freer and less tethered as I am at the moment, not taking care of anyone but myself. It’s time to really enjoy my life, relax and have fun. Explore new possibilities. Look at new ventures and take a few risks.
Goodbye 40’s and hello 50’s, you sexy beast!

Don’t Change a Thing!

With the start of the new year also being a start of a new decade, social media, advertising, conversations, etc. have been set very much around ‘new year, new you’. Lose weight, get motivated, quit smoking, so on and so forth. Okay, giving up smoking is a really awesome goal – trust me, lung cancer is no picnic. This tide starts somewhere in November and runs through January usually dying off right before Valentine’s Day when our focus shifts toward a holiday that seems to be fraught with expectations and triggers (PS it’s also my 50th birthday – I love gift cards to bookstores, Starbucks and resturants if you feel inclined hahaha).

This new decade also starts my fifth decade of life so I’m being particularly reflective. I know a lot of people dread getting older. Oh, no! I’m going to be fifty! Well, I remember when fifty seemed ancient and now it sounds young. But I’m really not one of those people as I prefer to look as aging as a priviliege that so many people I love and know did not even reach the grand old age of fifty. I’m one of the lucky ones and considering my wayward youth, I am particularly lucky to still be kicking around this great big earth of ours. While I can look in the mirror and see the signs of the years on my face, my skin starting to become crepey, my joints aching a little more each passing month, I am truly and deeply grateful for all of it. I am here and I am alive and I am healthy (knock on wood).

So when you add in the new year, new decade and a landmark birthday, this trifecta got me thinking. I bought a new journal toward the end of the year (okay I’m a journal hoarder, just ask my kids) and started filling it with big ideas and plans. I’m going to lose weight and get really fit. I’m going to finish that novel. So on and so forth. Then a few weeks went by and I went back to this pretty journal. As I’m reading through all that I wrote, I felt more and more tired with each page. How many times had I done this? Make these big plans and when I come back to them, I find my motivation has already waned. Sure it is a good thing to write down your goals to make them real, but do I have the right goals? What if I didn’t make a bunch of big goals? Would the world end?

What if I didn’t work toward a ‘new’ me? What if I am okay with the present ‘me’? Why do I have to keep working toward something big? I’ll be honest, ever since I could write sentences and make up stories, people told me I should write books, be an author. But cresting on my fifth decade, I’ve published in several small ways but I never really feel a thrill or accomplishment in publishing. I truly believe if publishing a book was my heart’s desire, that I would have done it by now or at least made a much larger effort toward this dream. I use writing as a way to work out things whirling around in my mind, to work out problems and sometimes just to entertain myself. I love writing blog posts because it doesn’t take huge amounts of efforts and sometimes I actually reach someone.

Over Christmas break, I spent a day going to several bookstores and trying to imagine my book sitting on their best seller shelf. I’m sure I looked every bit the crazy person standing back with my eyes closed at times, staring at the shelves of hard-back books. I couldn’t imagine it. I didn’t find myself getting excited about the idea of my book and my name on some beautiful cover. I decided that writing a book isn’t a goal of mine. Giving up a something you believed about yourself most of your life is very disconcerting. This was part of my identity, becoming a successful, rich author had been ingrained in my psyche but it hadn’t really been my own goal. I’m still a writer, but I am most likely not going to be the author of best-selling books. I am not closing the door on that possibility but I’m letting go of that goal because right now at least, it’s not mine. I know myself, if it’s something I truly had wanted, I would have achieved it by now or in the very least, put in a Herculean effort.

So what if I don’t change a thing about myself? What if my big goal becomes listening to and following my heart? Giving love and kindness to others. What if that’s it? My whole goal list in three points. Love myself, listen to my heart, be kind to others. The end.

As I wrote that list, I feel very positive and happy about it. I think we get so tied up into accomplishing goals, making ourselves better or new, so on and so forth, that we forget to enjoy the very moment we are standing in. So this year, I’m going to let go and follow those three points. I want to be more in the present moment and enjoy my life. I want to live my life in love and be loved back. On my deathbed, I’m not going to be ‘oh, I wish I’d lose that last ten pounds’ or ‘oh, I regret not writing that novel I didn’t really want to write’ or ‘I didn’t follow that goal list to the tee’.

That’s my goal this year, don’t change a thing (about me). Love myself, love others and follow my heart. Maybe, you could give this a try too cuz you’re awesome just the way you are!

Midlife Reflections – How My Fears Limited My Life

At age 49, I’m going back to college, again, this time to complete my Bachelor’s degree.  As I went over the programs with my college adviser, I found myself facing the fact that I would have to take Algebra and Statistics as general requirements for the BS degree.  I tried my hardest to find a way around these even looking at other online college programs, but there was no doubt about it, I was going to have to take these classes.  So when I registered for my first semester’s classes, I bit the bullet and chose Algebra and a business management course.

Now, I’m not going to say I’m bad at math, I’m not.  I’m bad at things that don’t make sense to me.  These things make perfect sense to my husband who is very technical and can figure out formulas in his head.  But my brain doesn’t work that way.  In high school, Algebra was the only class I truly struggled with especially the tests.  When I planned my classes for high school, I went the safe route skipping trigonometry and calculus even though my desire was to go to school for more math and science-related area(s).  When I had taken several career apptitude tests, every sort of engineering came up along with landscape architect and orchestra leader as well.   But I was afraid of the math required to get these degrees.

I ended up taking a one-year program in Medical Assisting.  Physiology and Anatomy didn’t scare me at all.  Actually I loved all the medical classes even though it was a lot of memorizing.  My plan was to do the program and move to the city to finish my Bachelor’s degree at the bigger university that I really wanted to attend.  The medical assisting program would give me the ability to make a lot more money as I was paying for college myself as I paid for an apartment and my tuition.

But I picked this course,because I was afraid to jump straight in to the four-year university.  I knew I was going to have to take pre-requisite classes because I had avoided them in high school.  Most classes were easy for me.  But complicated math, ugh, I felt like a failure because I just didn’t get it and it was so hard.  Back then I didn’t consider the fact that maybe my brain just isn’t wired for certain things and I wasn’t actually a failure, that everyone has things that is hard for them.  Instead of facing something I could very well fail, I chose to go the route of avoidance.  I was too afraid to fail.

When I decided to finish my degree, I was faced with the fact that I was going to finally have to face my fear of passing college level algebra.  When the classes opened online a week before the actual semester start date, I dove into the algebra class.  As soon as I started into it and saw how much work it would be, I dropped the business course.  This class was going to take my full attention.  And it did, I spent over twenty hours on the first week’s reading, assignments, discussion question and online weekly meeting with our instructor.  All of the class was online including the homework which was nice, but the software wouldn’t let you bypass anything.  I had to learn it and sometimes, I would be almost in tears until it finally, finally clicked.

The class contained three exams, all paper that I drove over an hour to the testing center(s) as I decided this was easier than finding a proctor and making sure the tests were returned on time, etc.  The first exam took me 2.5 hours.  I got a low B.  The second exam took as much time but I struggled way more and I got a D.  But I made sure to ace everything else including the extra test credit.  I was applying the law of averages, I just need to pass this class not get a 4.0 in it.  Even with the D on the second exam, I was still averaging an A.

As the final exam approached, this 12-week class became more intense with more complicated formulations and equations.  Due to scheduling issues, I had to switch from the remote testing center to the main campus for which I lost five days of study time.  This was not good and I was almost in tears again.  I do great when I can see my notes and the book, but the tests were much harder.  So instead of panicking, I took the total points of the class, the points I had earned, assumed I’d get 100% on the homework and other assignments because I had and then added 50% of the points of  final exam essentially getting an ‘F’.  What grade would I get if I flunked the exam with half the points?  I sighed with relief.  I would get a ‘B’ in the class.  I knew I could get at least half the questions right.

Yesterday, I drove downtown to the main campus and while a little nervous, I knew I would pass the class regardless.  It took me almost 3 hours and I found while the story problems always mess me up, I really remembered most of what I learned including the quadratic formula I had memorized along with a host of others.  I might get a C on the exam, but I figure more a D.  But it doesn’t really matter, I accept that this testing is hard for me and I did my best.  I excelled in the homework and other assignments.  Sometimes, there are just things in life that you just have to do your best knowing that you won’t ace it.  And that’s alright.

The one thing I wish is that I hadn’t let my fear of failing derail my plans.  My life would have been a lot different had I stuck to my goals rather than letting fear dictate my path. I don’t know if it would have been better, but I know I wouldn’t have regretted diverting from my goals.  I short-changed myself big time.  Had I finished my degree as planned, my career path would have probably been greatly different.  I would have likely made more money, etc.

I walked out of testing center yesterday knowing I did’t get a high grade but I was happy and felt accomplished.  I did it, I passed college algebra!  It’s better late than never.  I realize that my tendency to avoid hard things limits my life significantly.  I suppose that is human nature, taking the path of least resistance.  No one wants to struggle and fail.  But failure is part of growing.  You can read that 10000 times and think yeah, makes sense but until you actually take action, face the possibility of failing, that these challenges is what makes you feel alive.  I’ve been so focused on doing my best in this tough class that I haven’t had time to be bored or overthink or any of that stuff that I tend to do.  Boredom for me comes from not challenging myself.  From staying in my comfort zone.

As the new year, 2020, approaches, I will continue my classes but I’m also going to challenge myself in other areas of my life.  If I fail, I fail.  At least I’m out doing something rather than hiding away in my cozy, comfy zone.

Over the next year, I’ll share in my blog some of these challenges.  I hope you will enjoy my ups and downs, my accomplishments and failures.   Let’s enjoy the ride!

To the Mean People

Mean people, we all have dealt with them in our lives.  Whether it was the fourth grade bully on the playground or the lunatic who keeps sabotaging your career or the family member who makes your life hard just for kicks, we have all faced them, been victim of them and many times, we have no idea what we have even done to them.  These are people who enjoy hurting others or throwing obstacles in their paths or even trying to ruin someone else’s life.  Many times, it’s revenge for a perceived slight that in their mind was serious but you can’t figure out for the life of you what you even did.  And many times, you don’t have to do anything at all, they are just wired this way.

These are the type of people who just make your life hell and without them around, your whole world becomes brighter.  I’m dealing with one such person recently, even though I have always been kind to them and kept my thoughts of ‘omg you are a lunatic’ to myself.  But that’s just it, this person is most likely mentally ill though I’m not a mental health or medical professional, the signs all point to some sort of issue that causes this person to be vindictive, hateful and sabotaging to other people so that they can feel important, powerful and large.  They are so insecure within themselves, so miserable and unhappy that they want everyone around them to be miserable as well just to make themselves feel better.  Their only real joy is to hurt others.

I believe this person blocked a path for me for something I thought I wanted.  Though I don’t have proof, the signs all point to this person’s interference in my journey.  Though at first, I thought it was other sensible circumstances.  But then when this person popped back up suddenly in my face, I knew in my gut, they were hoping to inflict even more pain or gain satisfaction that they indeed made me unhappy because they had blocked my path. I just can’t deal with the depth of what feels like endless crazy to me so I had pushed them outside of my life as much as I could.  I’m sorry this person is so unhappy but I’m not the person who inflicted anything upon them.  It happened way before I ever came into their life, or maybe some people are just born that way.

At first, I started to think of revenge (I am Irish after all) but as I sat and meditated on the circumstances, I smiled to myself.  This lunatic did me a favor.  When I really searched my heart, the direction in to which I had turned was not one that I truly desired and so having the decision made for me, the pressure was off of me.  I wouldn’t have been happier going down this road.  Thank you, mean person.  You actually did me a solid and as you hover around what you believe to be my carcass, you will find it’s just ash of out which I will rise like the Phoenix as I have always done in these circumstances.

As I think back over my life, though at the time, these circumstances of sabotage and hatefulness perpetrated by people who meant me harm, may have seemed dire.  Though as I look further along after the incident(s), I see how my life became better.   I’ve always been a survivor and I will continue to be that until my time on this earth is over.  I feel sorry for you, that you are so black and dead inside that your joy comes from the suffering of others (or in my case perceived suffering).  I am not the person people run away from when they see you or cringe when you text them or avoid you at all costs.  I’m not the person crying that they don’t have any friends and not realizing their own personality and propensity to being cruel is the reason for this predicament.  As you tried to hurt me, my own close friends came to my side giving me support and we form a wall of friendship and love that you can’t penetrate.  You actually bring us closer in unity because they too have experienced your cruelty.

While I should be angry at you, I only feel sorry for you.  I feel sad that your life is so empty and so destitute of love for yourself.  I pray that one day, you will see the light, that the road to happiness and self-love/acceptance isn’t trying to destroy others but helping others be the best they can be, by lifting them up.  Because when you do this, you lift yourself out your dark hell.  I pray that you get the help you need to heal yourself and love yourself.  Because until you can do this, you’ll just be a miserable lunatic that people run from.  You’ll die alone a victim one more time of your own misery.

So mean person, thank you, thank you for making my life better.  I sent you love and light in the hopes that one day you’ll see that the path you’re on won’t ever make you happy.   But know, that I will always rise above what shit you throw at me and you mean nothing to me at all.