Ohio the Beautiful

People love to knock my home state of Ohio. I'm not sure why it gets such a bad rap when it comes to people in other states but Ohio is pretty darn cool. After a 2500 mile road trip to Maine and back, I'm even more convinced of this descriptor. Sure, I saw some beautiful places especially Acadia National Park in Maine but it also solidified even more the love of my state. I'll tell you why.

I wasn't born in Ohio, but just outside our nation's capitol so I am a transplant but this is the state I have resided the longest so hence I consider it my home state. Well, because my home is here. I lived on the east side of the state in the early 1970's near Youngstown where my immediate maternal family hails from. After moving to Tennessee and then Missouri (where my paternal family is from), my parents returned to settle NW Ohio in 1981 when my father took a job here. When I got older I lived in Indiana for a bit until my first marriage broke up. Since 1998, almost 20 years, I've resided here settled between Dayton and Lima, Ohio.

When I mention to someone who doesn't live in our great state that I live in Ohio, their face might crunch up in concentration before they blurt out, "Oh, Ohio has a lot of corn doesn't it"? I'm not sure how we got this reputation, but okay, yeah we have a lot of corn. Actually, I live in the country and I can look out my windows right this second and see corn fields. You know what? Corn fields and other crop fields can be really pretty. So there, doubters. I don't mind living out among the crop fields, it's better than crammed up against people you don't get along with. I'm happy as a calm out here in bumfuk Egypt as my dad used to call it.

But while I live in what most outsiders believes our state consists of, I can in 1-3 hours drive to multiple cities. In an hour I can easily be in Columbus, Dayton and Toledo. If I want to drive less than 4 hours, I can add in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Ft. Wayne (IN), Indianapolis (do I need to put the state?), Detroit (MI), Lexington (KY), Youngstown, and Louisville (KY). When we plan a vacation where we need to fly, we have quite a few cities to check fares. Within a few hours, I can drive to another country, entering Canada through Detroit. All these cities offer their own unique experience so there is always a million things we can plan for a night away or even a day trip.

And sports? Are you kidding? Ohio is chock full of college and pro sports. We have two NFL and MLB teams. Sometimes it can divide families but hey it's all in fun. Not to mention to all the college sports (Hello – THE Ohio State Buckeyes) so you always have something follow or go spectate throwing in hockey and soccer as well. I'm not a huge sports person but you get the idea. We are even very grudgingly so, somewhat tolerant of Michigan fans. The rivalry of just OSU and Michigan could warrant it's own blog post. There are plenty of minor leagues and local sports to keep you engulfed in sportsdom. Even if you aren't a fan of a Ohio NFL team (I'm a Redskins fan – no comments ha), chances are you can see your team in our state some years as they may play the Browns or Bengals.

While our cities are great, our small towns are pretty awesome too. My town has been working over the years to spruce up the downtown and bring in new businesses. My daughters graduated from the same school system as I did which wasn't in my life plan as I wanted to get the hell out of dodge the moment I graduated, but I am grateful they had the same great education I did. They have all moved on to be successful, self-sufficient adults. They also all 3 attended OSU at least part of their college career (I had to throw that in lol).

I have to brag about our hometown a bit though. Our town not only supports sports like most school systems, but they are very active in all the activities such as music, academics and so on. My oldest daughter was in Quiz Bowl for 4 years and our school always had the most parents and family supporting their team. When our high school football team went to the playoffs with a big Dayton school at a bigger stadium between the two schools, our side was chocked full of people while the Dayton school side was pretty sparse. We also have a heart, people from our side went to the other team's side and sat and cheered both teams on.

Side note – Parental involvement is so important. When my oldest was in an honors psychology class at OSU, I went in to help out with a project for the class. The instructor told me he does the same project with the non-honors class as well but the parental support is much less. He contributes the kids being in the honors class to having strong parental involvement much of the time, not always, but over his years of teaching, this seems to be a consistent pattern. Okay off my soapbox and back to my subject.

Ohio has an incredibly diverse and rich parks system from local to state to national parks. Our terrain just isn't miles and miles of crops, we have shoreline along a massive Great Lake (Erie) and to the south we run into the rolling hills of Appalachia and everything in between. Okay, no desert but there are so many opportunities to be outside. Boating, hiking, cycling (road and mountain), kayaking/ canoeing, backpacking, hunting, and much more. Ohio also pays attention to providing handicap accessible options to get everyone outside. I can attest to the hundreds and hundreds of miles of bike paths/rail trails traversing through our state. I have ridden much of it at one point or the other. I love bike paths because you aren't dealing with cars so much and it's a bit safer though you still have to be careful of people. We have backpacking loops in our state. More hiking trails from short jaunts to the Buckeye Trail which circles our entire state.

Musically, you have local opportunities and then also considering all our cities, if your favorite band is touring there is a good chance you can catch them in Ohio or the state next door. We are also in a days drive of 50% of our country. Great location I think. One day I can be hiking in Hocking Hills and the next day lying on a sandy beach on Lake Erie. There is all sorts of culture from local theatre to attending Broadway productions in our larger cities that may be touring. We even have ski resorts, one just a half an hour from me. There are opportunities for many ethnic experiences as people from all over the world have settled in our midst, especially in our cities. The Arts are very alive and well with numerous large art museums and so on.

Ohio's other resource is it's people. It is rare that I run into anyone really unpleasant in our state. In general, people are really nice. The more rural you travel, the more this seems to stand out. If I'm out walking the dog on our country road and it starts raining, I'll have 3-4 people stop and ask me if I need a ride. That is the one thing I hear when I travel, besides the cornfield comment, is that our people are kind and friendly for the most part. No we aren't all backwards hillbillies.

Education in Ohio is abundant with great school systems throughout the state (some better than others of course) and colleges galore. Of course everyone knows of Ohio State but there are so many others like University of Cincinnati, Toledo, etc. Many private colleges as well such as Ohio University and smaller ones most people have never heard of. There is little you have to travel out of this state to pursue education wise at least on the undergrad level.

Our medical facilities in the state are also very progressive with places like the Cleveland Clinic and the Ohio State set of hospitals like the James Cancer institute which amazingly extended my mom's life to the fullest with her three boughts of cancer. Research is being done all the time to find new treatments and hopefully a cure in the near future. I pray for a cure.

I could continue to go on about the many historical sites and rich history, the restaurants, and many festivals that dot the state all summer long but I will stop here. I"ve got the day off and I'm going to go enjoy some of the great offerings of our great state. Don't knock Ohio, you doubters, come visit us. Ohio has a lot to offer!

Till next time.

Flying Blind – Update – Creatures of Habit

Just a quick follow-up to my previous post in which I proclaimed "A Year of Me" and that I was going to stop measuring everything in my life that isn't necessary to see if I enjoy my life more.

Habits, they are as hard to break as it is to form them at times. I've spent the rest of the week getting out of the compulsion to pick up my phone and enter data into the apps I was using. Or make sure I had my phone on me every time I moved around to count steps since the Fit Bit didn't work for me at all. Essentially I was grading myself in many aspects of my life rather than living it. I didn't realize how much I was doing this until I had to force myself to stop. Leaving my phone sitting rather than dragging it everywhere with me is freeing. You don't realize it but you can become a slave to that thing. You think you are doing something good for yourself but in a way you're creating a little prison all its own for you to stay within those four walls.

I still take my phone when I ride, but only to listen to my music, have a map handy if I would happen to wander out of my usual cycling area and of course to call in case of an emergency. Taking the cyclocomputer off my handlebars has helped me focus on the ride and the beauty I'm passing around me plus I also pay more attention to how my body is performing. Just feeling the muscles working in unison can be an amazing thing when you think about it. I am almost 50 and everything is still working fine, even better than I was in my 20's because I am much more active now.

Recently I read an article by Mark Manson who wrote The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck entitled What's the Point of Self-Improvement Anyway? I wouldn't call myself a self-improvement junkie as he defined in the article but more the self-improvement 'tourist' who delves into this arena when something isn't working in their life or something bad happens, though I may edge on the junkie part because I feel like I always need to be working on myself, getting better. Maybe it is in my German genes or just growing up in a family that was always pushing you to do better, do more. Either way, it doesn't matter because the only thing that matters is how I live today.

Manson points out that all this self-improvement is self-defeating. I don't agree 100% with all Manson spouts but he is pretty close on most of his points. He at least got me thinking in a different way and reconsidering how I look at life. His point is that if we are alway pursing improvement, is you are trying to reach a goal where you don't have to think about increasing productivity, or pursuing happiness until you not longer have to think about being happy, etc.

He goes on to say the only way to achieve one's potential is to become fully fulfilled or "self-actualize" – essentially stop trying to be all of those things. Essentially, I feel it is not be able to enjoy where you are today. That continuing to trying to self-improve actually creates unhappiness because you never reach that point of contentment with yourself. You don't step back and look at yourself and think, hey I'm really in a good place in my life because we always feel we need to fix or change something about yourself. See how that works? You work really hard to get to point X and instead of feeling happy about your achievement, you set a goal of getting to point Y because then things really will be better. We don't stop spinning in the self-improvement circles long enough to see what we have achieved or just maybe, we are amazing and awesome just the way we are.

That's a hard concept for me to wrap my mind around. What if I stop trying to diet and lose weight? Would the world end? What if I put that scale and measuring tape up and just enjoy what I eat? What if I just say fuck it and if I get bigger just buy a different size or if I get smaller, then again just buy a different size? Not that I don't want to be healthy, I do. But the thing is, I am. Other than a genetic thyroid problem, my blood work and everything except my weight is considered healthy. There are people out there that are at their "healthy" weight but they can't walk 5 miles with a pack or ride 40 miles in the heat. I can. I'm strong, I can work outside like a farm hand in my yard and I don't seem to slow down much as I age. Sure, my body needs a little more time to recover but much of this stuff, I couldn't do in my 20's.

This is one of my biggest self-improvement hang-ups as it is a lot of women. Our size. It's like a prison. Trying to live up to some expectation of thinness or perfection. So what if I actually get down to that size 12? Would my life be perfect? Um, no. I'd still make mistakes, fall down and so on. That's just part of life. Why do we have such a hard time accepting ourselves? Yeah it could be the 10000000000 ads pointed at making us 'better' via weight loss, clothes, makeup, etc. What if we just focused on what made us feel good and made us happy?

Like, I eat a big salad with avocados, grilled chipotle chicken and hard-boiled eggs because I just love those foods. Or wear that new eye sparkly eye shadow because it's so pretty? Or no make up at all if that's how i feel that day. The world won't end if we walk out without no makeup. It's a vehicle to make us feel especially pretty as well if we use it for that reason. For us. My youngest makes makeup into a a creative art. And other days she doesn't wear any at all. It makes her feel good. That's the reason to use it. Not OMG, what will people think if I go out without my 'face'? Be authentic, don't hide behind it. Fuck those people, you won't care about them when you're dead.

What's wrong with my body right now? Nothing. Yeah I'm carrying around some extra but I'm also hypo-thyroid and going into menopause. My body is just doing its own thing. Why ride my bike just to exercise and burn calories? I should ride it because I love the freedom of riding, the feeling of power it gives me to be able to move from point A to point B by my own physical power. I hike because I love to be in nature and the woods. It is an avenue to add adventure into my life. I do yoga because it keeps me from getting too stiff, it counteracts my days of sitting at a desk, its spiritual/meditative and it also helps my body move better. At this age, it's critical to keep moving. Moving keeps me feeling amazing and younger than my 47 years. Google Ernestine Shepherd and see that aging doesn't have to be a walker and rocking chair.

After several days giving up all my metrics I use to judge myself, I feel better. Happier. I find myself noticing the world around me so much more when I'm not shackled to my electronics. I think giving up self-improvement and measuring anything is going to be something I'm going to have really work on, but I have this suspicion that it will be so worth it. Letting go of this, will be like dropping the shackles of unhappiness and walking away from them.

Thanks for all the comments about my posts. I love you guys!  You're awesome and amazing just as you are today.  Till next time.

Flying Blind (Sorta)

Recently, I decided to spend a year revamping how I live a bit. I have tongue-in cheek named this the "Year of Me" as I question different beliefs about myself, etc. More on that later on down the road.

Today I sat down and wrote down specific things I wanted to do over the next year. Under the "Stop It!" Heading, I decided that I need to quit measuring everything I do against some sort of benchmark. Like weighing myself or counting calories or measuring my body parts as well as not feeling like I have to be doing something productive every moment of every day. Essentially, I want to remember how it is to be a kid without all these measurements of how successful (or unsuccessful) I am.

So I went on and deleted all the apps I use to track anything from food to steps to miles. I want to just live and not make everything into a 'job' or 'chore' or 'goal'. I want to live better, enjoy the moments of my life more. Anyone who cycle knows there are many ways of measuring what you are doing from cyclocomputers, to Strava (GPS power) and so on. You can get pretty technical in weights in everything on your bike and what you wear (in grams) and so on. I decided today when I went out to my bike to remove my computer from the handlebars. I wouldn't be able to see my speed, distance, fastest speed, etc. a all. i had deleted my ride tracking app. Simply I got on my bike and rode my fave short route, to the end of my road and back.

Other than grumbling because they tarred and chipped the last section of my road, I had a very enjoyable ride. I know I rode about 13 miles but that's just from memory. I don't know how fast I rode, or how many minutes it took me to do five miles. What I did notice was many things I ignore on this ride. I saw the flowers blooming in the ditch, I found a natural pace without worrying about if I was going fast enough. I just rode for the sheer enjoyment of it. You know, like when you're a kid and you just get on your bike to ride to a friend's house or go on an adventure you dream up. Fun. Without worrying about mph or distance.

I am not training for any events, I simply ride for exercise and the fact I love riding. Today I found dropping all the gauges and metric associated with road riding, I had much more fun and it didn't seem like work at all. That's what we seem to do as we get older, make everything 'work'. Or a goal or a part of achieving something more. We forget to just be in the moment and have fun. And the distractions of all the gadgetry adds to missing whole parts of the experience.

Today instead of relying on the miles per hour displayed on my cyclocomputer, I simply listened to what my body wanted to do. Maybe I even rode faster, I don't know. And it doesn't mater. I'm outside, in the fresh air and working my cardio though it just felt like play.. That's how more things in my life need to be. Play, fun. I need to quit sucking the fun out of the simplest things because that's what I am 'supposed' to do as an adult.

This next year is learning how to enjoy my life more and take much better care of myself. I'm not great at that. i tend to push myself past my limits when I shouldn't. Just like forcing myself to ride 50 miles just to say I rode 50 miles. I'm not training for anything, then why do it? It's time to rethink the way I approach things in life. It's the perfect year to regroup, rethink and explore. And remember what pure joy a simple act like riding my bike can be. To rediscover childlike wonder with the world.

Maybe I'll get some sparkly streamers too!

The Small World…

Recently, my husband and I took a 2500+ mile road trip through New York State, parts of New England and arriving finally in Bar Harbor, Maine where we spent the majority of a day (and not nearly enough time) in Acadia National Park. Which by the way was totally worth the trip but next time I would fly into Maine so I could spend more time there on Mount Desert Island and the surrounding areas. Acadia is truly all it is said to be and it is also one of the most heavily visited national parks in the system.

The one thing about driving 2500 miles is that you are in the car a lot and luckily my husband loves driving our 2008 Corvette which we took on said road trip. This gave me a lot of time to think and ponder the many things that run through my mind. When I was imagining our road trip, I did some research via the interwebs but also with books I got at the library trying to figure out since we were just passing through Vermont and New Hampshire, what I may want to see for sure. Vermont ended up being Ben and Jerry's (don't make a special trip for this, the tour was only 30 minutes and mostly videos- fun but not worth driving that far) and in New Hampshire I chose driving the auto-road up Mount Washington in the White Mountains as my two definite bucket list items. More on Mt. Washington in a minute.

When you think of New England, what comes to mine, at least my mind, was these charming small towns filled with historic clapboard churches and old buildings kept to pristine shape but that wasn't really how it ended up being. At least the areas that we traveled through. Like any state or area, there are very nice areas and there are run down, impoverished areas. in a way, other than landscapes, styles of architecture, accents, food preferences and some cultural changes, pretty much every place is the same in some way. Now I haven't traveled much outside of the US so pretty much this is all I can speak about.

I'm in some groups and such that include people from all over the world. And while cultures and landscapes are going to vary much more once you leave our country, people in general are the same and want the same things. We want the best for the people we love and we want to take care of our families. People every where struggle with self-image, self-confidence and finding their ways or even finding love. The one FaceBook group I follow, I see people post from our country, UK, Australia, Japan, Mexico, and every where in between. While their English translations may jumble up their posts into broken English, I found it striking how similar we all are when you strip away the outward differences and get to the heart of a person.

That's the amazing thing about social media and the internet. It takes what seems like this massive world and makes it into one big neighborhood of sorts where people from all walks of life and countries (at least those with the freedom to be on the internet) together on something so simple as a say, Pusheen, which is this cat comic that has found a huge following (including my daughters and I) in all ages and even has become more genderless of a thing than it may have been twenty years ago. Or a cycling group that also has members from many different countries. We all have similar traits, we love riding though it may be road or mountain, completion or touring or just for pleasure. But cycling in itself has its own culture and the greatest joy is usually the freedom two wheels and your own power can afford you.

The other very cool thing about these groups is the support you see from perfect strangers say if someone lost a loved one and they share it in a post to the group. Depending on the size of the group, hundreds if not thousands of people may offer their sympathy and prayers. No, it isn't face to face but I know the power of other people caring has to make a great impact, especially when it is someone you simply share an interest with. That is encouraging about the human race, that in general, the majority of us are inherently good and we care about others. So much of what you hear on the news is all so negative while every moment of every day, so much good is happening around that one bad and/or tragic thing that we never hear about. I would like to believe that our world, there is immensely more good, more love than hate. Your community can be as small as a few friends and/or family but as big as people all over the world. I find that to give much hope when all you hear about is the opioid epidemic, suicides, murders, etc.

I have mentioned before that I believe the meaning of life is simply love. Love one another, love yourself, and do what you can to help others (who truly need help and you aren't enabling them). You may feel alone in your problem but there is probably someone say, in China, dealing with the same problem. Or maybe right in your own office or classroom or church. The thing is, i know many times we feel alone and the amazing thing is, we really aren't. I think my grandmother scared the crap out of me that when I'd get older like she was (and she was the queen of the guilt-trip when I look back), that I would be all alone. I would have these visions of me sitting alone, in a house with no one around. Just me and the fifty cats I've hoarded to become the crazy cat lady.

Unless you are truly a miserable person who treats people like crap, you have no reason to be alone. You have to be the kind of person other people enjoy being around and if you are a whiny, victim who is just hateful to others, then that might be an issue. You know those people? The ones who feel the world and everyone in it, owe them something? Ugh. Those people are alone because they are bitter and toxic. And you don't have to be that way. You can make a conscious choice to be a kinder and more personable human.

I have been adjusting to the looming empty nest where there are nights now that I am home alone. Just the dog and I and I can tell you it's been a very long, long time that I have time in the evenings alone. At first, I was all unsettled and feeling out of place but then I settled into the quiet. Instead of thinking, 'oh poor me, I'm a loser for being here in this house on Friday night all by myself', I started doing more things I enjoyed but hadn't had time for such as I took a yoga and wine class (well yoga class, with wine afterwards). I go down in the basement and practice my piano not worrying about being too loud and hell, I even sing along to my own music (trust me, I can play but NOT sing). I even started piano lessons for the first time in 36 years.

Being home alone isn't such a bad thing like it seems like it should be. I am spending this Friday evening just relaxing, listening to some jazz and writing this post. My little buddy is lying on the floor next to me patiently waiting for his walk. Off and on, I get IM's or messages from my daughters, my aunt, my husband when he has a free second or a friend. I'm not "alone" even though physically it's just me in this house. We live in an age where all we have to do is open an iPad to reach the entire world. No, you don't want to spend all your time with your face in a screen and you need to get out among the living sometimes but I take comfort in knowing the whole world is my village in a way.

One of my favorite books and movies is Bridges of Madison County. There is a scene where Francesca (Iowa farm housewife) asks Robert (traveling photographer for National Geographic) about the fact he never really settled down. Didn't he feel alone? (I don't have the exact words) but he seems incredulous as he never really felt alone. She asks him doesn't he need anyone? And he tells he needs everyone. Or something similar to that. I'd have to look it up. I always found that to be an interesting take on life. Though he had no one close at that moment, he felt close to the world (or so that was my interpretation). I suppose it is all in how you look at life.

Much of life, much of the world, simply is how we see it in our minds, how we choice to see it and how we choose to live. No matter where you go, there you are as they say. And deep down, we are all pretty much the same.  It's a small world after all.