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!

Davey Woods – Ohio State Nature Preserve

Davey Woods SNP is located in Champaign county at 7661 Lonesome Road, St. Paris, Ohio east of Piqua, Ohio.  I love the name of the road.  It is a very quiet and fitting for it’s moniker, Lonesome.  This is a 130 acre wooded tract with almost 2.0 miles of trail that winds up through gentle hills of old-growth woods.  The Conrad Trail is 1.4 miles and the Short Loop trail is 0.6 miles.  There is a gravel parking area right next to the road with the sign proclaiming that this is indeed Davey Woods. There are no facilities and no pets allowed.  Bring plenty of water.  

To the left of the signs, you walk down a wide path in the woods that was once a road bed now grass.  In mid-July everything is a beautiful lush green as we have not had any dry spells yet.  You come to a kiosk which has the trail map on it and you can elect to go left or right.  We chose left because we saw a dark wood bridge.  The bridge always wins.  There is also a small donation box with the kiosk if you so choose to help fund these great preserves.  The bridge crossed a small creek and headed up into the woods.  

The trail is well traversed, very shady and I am sure offers wonderful wild flowers and beautiful fall foliage in other seasons.  There are several small bridge crossings as the trail winds up through the trees and hills.  Quite simply, we walked on an extremely hot day but did not feel the heat within the woods.  Of course you want bug spray and sunscreen even though it is shady.  The trails give you a bit of challenge going up and down but mostly they are moderate and easy to traverse.   Short Loop breaks off of Conrad Trail so we only did just Contrad Trail this trip.  We want to return soon to do both trails we enjoyed this nature preserve so much.   It reminds us a bit of the Lake Hope area, with very large trees such as oaks and tulip trees.  

There was no one on the trails with us that day and only one spot of Conrad trail had a little bit of road noise.  Otherwise, you are ensconced in the sweet peacefulness of wooded bliss.  Toward the last part of the loop back to the kiosk area, we climbed a hill and came across a little surprise.  Three old gravestones which had been set flat into concrete to protect them in the place in what the sign stated was the Pence Family Cemetery.  David Pence and his wife, Barbara, moved to this spot from Shenandoah County, Viriginia in the early 1800’s.  We had to pause and pay our respects as well as read the gravestones which were worn by time and the elements.  

At this point the trail started to descend and brought us out on the other side of the kiosk.  We could have extended our hike by taking the Short Loop.  Quite a pleasant trek.  We will certainly do this one again as it has beautiful and quiet woods as well as enough trail length and challenge to break a good sweat.  This one is good for anyone in relatively decent shape as there is ups and downs over the hills but I would not call it much more than a mild hike for the average person.  You do feel though as if you were transported into an era before even the Pence’s settled the land.   One of my favorite preserves so far!

Siegenthaler – Kaestner Esker – Ohio State Nature Preserve

Siegenthaler – Kaestner Esker SNP is located near West Liberty, Ohio, at 5505 Couchman Road and consists of 37-acres which contains an esker, kame and kettle which are glacial landforms which I had never heard of or learned in school and completely forgot.  

Parking area


Some definitions as per the ODNR site:

Esker – long, winding ridge of stratified sand and gravel deposited in layers according to grain size by running water with steep sides and a sinuous shape.  Or to me, a long narrow hill.  

Kame – Knolls formed by piles of gravel that were dropped into pits and crevices in the glacier when meltwater streams flowing on top of the ice.  Or as I would call them, small hills.  Often associated with kettles.

Kettle – A pond formed when a block of ice remained and surrounded by till.  When the ice melted, a depression was left and filled with ground water.  Or to me, simply a pond.

Black sandy, silty soil at base of esker


In other words, geology buffs will love this glacial area or simply nature lovers who like a gentle stroll in a quiet area.  We literally drove right by this preserve and had to turn around and go back.   The parking area is a grassy area which you can easily miss for a field.  You park in the grassy area, driving through a narrow former gate area between two fence posts, where there is a sign and kiosk for the preserve.  Like most preserves, there are no facilities.  Remember to bring water, bug spray, sunscreen and pack out any trash.  Don’t remove any natural materials.  Pretty much the same instructions for most nature preserves.  Oh and no pets.  

The trail is like a lollipop and approximately 1 mile long depending on if you decide to also traverse the summit of eskers as well.  The initial part of the trail is much like walking along a narrow, grassy country road with fence on both sides.  One side during our hike was a crop field (soybeans) and the other side appeared to be a livestock field, probably cattle.  There are mature trees on one side and then you slip into a more wooded area, make a sharp right turn and down a hill to where the trail tees at the first esker.  You can go either left or right, the trail will loop around to itself.  The day we visited, the trail had been recently mowed but be cautious of the poison ivy if you go during the late spring to fall months.  I am beginning to think the state plant should be poison ivy.  

Start of trail from parking area


We turned right initially, choosing to walk in the more open sunny area first followed by what seemed would be more shady.  The day was hot but not unbearable as there was a nice breeze most of the time.  One we rounded the first bend in the loop, we took the trail that went up to the summit of the first esker or hill to me.  You can see larger rocks where they have mowed a trail among the grass meaning that the heavy rock was deposited on top.  Again, be cautious of the poison ivy.  The hills are narrow and long and there are two of them with old trees, such as oaks growing there as well as many wild raspberry bushes.  When we went down the first esker, and came around to the trail going up the second one, we decided it looked too overgrown with poison ivy to chance walking the top so we chose the lower trail that went between the base of the hill and the fence.  

Mowed trail taverses top of esker


As we walked, we noticed the dirt that was exposed was black and sandy different from the brown dirt we saw on the other portion of the trail.  Curious, we bent down to touch it and it was soft and silty which means the finer till was deposited on the bottom of the esker.  Admist the thick growth we saw wild delphinium, a white phlox  and a red bell type flower growing on a vine.  When we rounded the far side of the furthest esker, the trail became more overgrown with thistles and a grass (and poison ivy) so we had to be careful to step around the plants otherwise the thistles would have scratched us.  You return to the start of the loop and turn back right to return to the parking area.  

Vining flower, unidentified


Due to the overgrowth of poison ivy, this may be better an early spring, late fall or winter hike or if you are brave like us, you just go and dance around the poison ivy.  This is a pretty area, open and peaceful.  If you have an interest in glaciers and/or geology, this is also a good place to visit.  It could be an easy stroll with kids though again, poison ivy might be a concern, maybe older children.  The trail is about half shad and half sun so if it’s extremely hot, you may want an earlier morning hike or later evening.  Open dawn to dusk.  

Clues From the Dreams of Your Youth

As most people know, we bought a new house and moved out into the boonies or BFE, whichever you prefer to refer to it (hey that rhymes a bit!).  And that I wish I had moved out of the city limits years ago but was trying to be frugal and financially responsible so I didn’t dare think outside the lines.  Financially of course, it made sense to stay in our old house, after all the mortgage, with escrow, was less than most people’s apartment rent.  Plus we had done a ton of work to the place.  But none of us was really happy there anymore.  Once we fixed what we thought was wrong with the place, well things were just still ‘wrong’.

My husband drug me out looking at homes, kicking and screaming because I wanted to say financially ‘safe’ and well, I had been entrenched in that house for 15 years.  He was right and I was wrong and hell I even admitted to him.  He may have written it down in his calendar as a major life event.  “Laura admitted I was right.”  Kidding… Sorta…

So I was sitting down with a card I bought my husband for Sweetest Day trying to think of what I wanted to write inside.  I always try to write something heartfelt and poignant for that moment in our lives so he knows I didn’t just grab random card from the shelf and throw it in the grocery cart.  I actually put love and thought into the whole action.  And I want him to know how very much I appreciate him and how truly lucky I honestly am to have him in my life.  Okay, now this is starting to sound like a greeting card.

When I thought about our move, I thought about how I had given up on my dreams that I had when I was 18/19.  When I moved to the big city of Dayton, with plans to work part time for a doctor after completing college for Medical Assisting and going back to college to obtain at least a Bachelor’s degree, maybe even go for my Ph.D.  My folly was moving with the man who would become my first husband and letting all his agendas derail my plans.  In other words, I compromised so much in that relationship just to keep someone else happy (who then repeatedly cheated on and lied to me) that I lost my dreams.

Over the years, I struggled, one bad marriage and then finally another bad married until I turned 38 and said F! This is enough of this crap.  And I changed my entire life.  Except I didn’t realize that I was too afraid to reach for my dreams.  I wanted to stay safe.  Financially safe.  Everyone experienced layoffs starting in 2009 and my current husband and I put in a plan to pay off all our debt except one vehicle payment and our mortgage.  Eventually the vehicle payment will go as well when we hopefully can just start paying cash for vehicles but that’s down the road.

We reached our initial goal and had all this money left over.  We thought whoo hoo, if something happens with one of our jobs or both of our jobs we can both work at McDonalds and pay the bills.  There is something to be said for financial freedom such as that.  It makes you feel way more secure and free.   Which was part of the reason my husband had to fight me so hard to consider going into a lot more debt on a house.   Finally we agreed that we would stay within a home price range that would allow us to meet our budget requirements on his salary.  In other words, if we couldn’t pay the bills on his take home pay, the house was too much money.

Because we had paid off so much debt, we were able to allow ourselves a handsome sum for a home or so it felt to me.  This seemed to be a reasonable compromise even though the credit union said we were approved for a mortgage double with what we ended up with.  There weren’t even very many homes for sale in that upper crust price range anyway.  Not that weren’t over 6000 sq ft and so elaborate that it made my head spin.  I’m still a simple girl and a lot of homes in that price seemed to have a lot of “look at me” features more to keep up with the Khardashians than to make your life more simple or enjoyable.  I don’t need a theatre room but I may consider the heated towel racks for my current house…

So when I was writing my message to my husband in my card, I told him thank you for making my dream come true because I was too afraid to do it.  When I wrote those words, I surprised myself because I had not really considered the fact I had been afraid.  Some of it was the financial jump but we can still pay the bills on his salary easy enough so it wasn’t really the money.  I had to face the fact that I had long ago given up on my dream of a beautiful colonial home out in the country.  I had convinced myself I no longer wanted the bigger house, telling myself it was frivolous and silly and not smart financially.  I was being smart staying put in the smaller house in town with the little mortgage and neighbors looking in my windows (well not literally, it just felt closed in).

That morning I had learned a childhood friend is facing a serious and most likely terminal illness.  We are the same age, graduated the same class.  I sat with the pen still in my hand and thought about how we never know how long we really have.  When you’re young, you think nothing can hurt you, or nothing bad can happen.  Then you get mid-life and you’re losing people you love, watching people your age die.  Death isn’t that myth anymore, it is the stark reality.  You don’t know how long you have or the people you love have on this earth.

Cancer takes so many of us every day.  It’s an epidemic, not to mention all the other tragic things that can happen.  That fairy-tale bubble seems to burst for many of us when we hit a certain age.  You wonder things like how did my grandparents handle all their friends and family dying?  Do you finally just get used to it and accept it as a fact of life?  Just embrace each day and be grateful for your blessings?  I don’t know, my grandparents have been gone for years so I can’t ask them.

As I sit here on my bed, the sun has risen and I have watched the light move across the west wall of my bedroom.  It is utterly quiet and peaceful at this moment.  Just the sound of the dryer in the other room.  I can see for miles from my second-story bedroom windows over rolling fields, woods and a quarry.  My dream actually materialized better than I had first imagined all those years ago.  The question that came to mind yesterday I wrote in the card was what other dreams have I completely repressed and pushed away?  I’m going to search this out and see if there is something else I am missing in my life that I haven’t given myself permission to pursue.

Maybe the dreams of our youth don’t really die but just sit and wait until we remember we had them.  After all, back then we were more likely to follow our hearts than make excuses why we can’t make them happen.   We were allowed to dream back then.  When you grow up, you’re expected to be responsible and make practical choices but not all dreams are “practical” or even seem “wise” or even “grow-up”.   I intend to revisit my youthful dreams.  Dig them back up and really examine them.

But this time I am going to listen to my heart rather than my head…  Happy Dreaming!

A Girl and Her Bike…

Cycling has become a religion to me.  Not in the way of the stereotypical cyclist who races, does tours, watches every ounce or gram on the bike, who lives and dies by the mileage and weighs precisely 95.6 lbs.  Okay I don’t know if anyone actually weighs that but weight is a huge issue in the cycling world, gear and rider.  No for me my bike has become somewhat of a ‘bible’ of sorts (apologies for anyone finding that blasphemous).  In the sense that it is my avenue to find peace and a spirituality that doesn’t come from Sunday services, verses, or commandments.  It is simply my bike and me on the pavement, sometimes the trail but out in God’s great creation we call ‘nature’.

I gain strength from cycling, the sheer at of revolution after revolution as my legs and feet turn the crank which turns the chain which drives the wheel.  It propels me to nowhere and everywhere at the same time.  Physical strength, mental strength, emotional strength.  Two wheels and a carbon fiber frame, some gears, brakes and words in neon green scrawled across my top tube “Go Get Em Killer” that started as a joke but has become my mantra, a reminder to keep going when I want to quit.  Not only quit riding but quit in life.

After over eight months of suffering sometimes excruciating pain, multiple doctors, food intolerances, GI upsets, two ER visits, many tests that came back normal, they finally have found what is most likely causing this issue.  A uterine ablation done mid-2012 that has gone awry and very possibly I will need a hysterectomy.  I’m 45.  I feel like I am too young to think hysterectomy.  I leave the doctor’s office crying, I drive home crying, my daughters want to comfort me but I tell them give me some space, I’m going out to ride.  I’m pissed because I feel like this procedure was doomed from the start and I may have avoided both surgeries, the ablation and the hysterectomy if I need it.  I feel as if my body has betrayed me.  I’m angry that this comes in the middle of buying a new house and moving.  I’m angry my mom isn’t here to talk to about this.

Quickly I pump up my tires, slap a water bottle in one of my mismatched cages, my phone in its holder and clip into the pedals and pick the hilliest route around our small town.  The route that will go right by the house we will be moving to in a few months.  The music in my headphones is loud, I’m challenging cars to hit me (I get a bit stupid reckless when I’m mad – blame it on my Irish side) as I crank through town until I finally climb the overpass over the highway and coast down into a more rural setting.  The wind is blowing against me forcing me to fight harder to keep up any kind of speed.  I’m not really paying attention to the scenery though it is a sunny afternoon, not too hot and at least, not raining.  The road is a straight line that just gently flows up and down hills that are harder than they look.

My mind starts to empty, my mood starts to level as my entire focus becomes nothing more than to crank the pedals and shift the gears to propel me over each crest, coast, climb, coast, climb.  Watch out for the rabbit peeking out of the tall ditch grass, the road kill, the groundhog who can’t decide if he’s going to run in front of me or go back into the ditch.  Slowly my mind picks back up, now the anger has been channeled into climbing hills and I can think logically again.  I can hear messages or emails coming in on my phone and I reach forward to flip the switch to silence the interruption.  At the first stop sign, I change my playlist from the driving beat of my more motivation mix of music to an artist that puts me into a more reverant mood.  I need to think.   Take a long drag off the water bottle, cringe because I can’t stand sports drinks but hate water more and then cross the busy two lane highway before a semi truck hits me.

Back into the quiet, coming closer to our future home that is about eight miles or so from our house.  The hardest hill is right before the descent that passes this place.  The hill and trees to its west obscures the house from view but I pedal by only glancing at the house, I am more focused on the views around the place and see an old school house about a mile up or so east of it.  I decide to ride to that crossroad and turn around.  I am more of an out and back riding for the sheer purpose of seeing what my average speed is because for some reason that seems like it would be more true than a loop ride.  I have no idea if this is true but it makes sense to me.  I’m retracing my steps, the wind is behind me, the terrain is now opposite, there has to be some science there right?

I’m thinking about the pain and the doctors and the tests and the frustration and all the lost sleep I have had since early November.  I am thinking about what other women have told me about the surgery.  I realize that if this is what is to be, it is not the end of the world.  I can be angry about all the tests, but I have a lot of proof that there isn’t any cancer or something else going on with my body.  Just simply this was missed because maybe the first time I visited my OB/GYN in May, I took pain medicine that prevented the physical exam from showing anything amiss. Good news, my next colonoscopy is five years out and I’ve had two with no polyps.  Bravo!

Climbing again, up toward the new house I smile to myself and think yes, I will be happy here.  I will have less gardens to tend, though our lot is much bigger it’s mainly just mowing.  We can sit out on our patio and not be stared at by 20 neighbors.  Or sit on our front porch and not be approached by salesmen.  I click off my music with my headphones switch and listen to the quiet.  A gentle wind making the corn stalks swoosh and dance.  Or the tall grass gently hush, hush.  Simply said, it is peaceful.

My husband and I had a hard time narrowing down what we wanted in a home.  Logically as we always are, we came up with a checklist of attributes the new property needed to have such as a two-car garage attached, enough room for our daughters, maybe a workshop for him, newer rather than older home that is maintenance free as possible.  The one element we really wanted though and took us a long time to figure out was we needed peace, quiet and solitude more than anything else.  The last few years had been brutal emotionally for us.  Our focus had shifted.  Things we once thought we wanted or were important were no longer so.  As is everything else, sometimes the direction of your journey isn’t evident and you take a few wrong turns until you get back on the road you need.  Sometimes you don’t know you need something and it takes awhile to realize it.

I cranked by the house and up the hill.  At the top of the hill is a cross roads and my hometown is way in the distance.  The elevation of this hill is high enough I can see the rolling countryside all the way to town.  I brake at the side of the road for a minute and smile.  I’m no longer angry or sad or frustrated or feeling depressed and old.  I’m bracing my bike with my legs and feeling strong because I just rode all that way out to here and I’m not even tired. Sweaty, but not tired.  I am 45, overweight and according to my tests and with the exception of my uterus, I’m in great health.   I lean down and put my hands back over the brake hoods and clip in my right foot into the pedal.  My bike is an extension of myself, the way I deal with all sorts of life issues.  It is my Zen.  It is the friend who never judges.  It is a vehicle to sort out my life, my emotions, my thoughts.  What I want out of life is much more simple than I ever thought.  Losing my mom put that all into focus.  I push off and both wheels hit the pavement again.  Clipping in my left foot, the fun begins as my ride out was hard.  The ride back is mostly downhill with the wind pushing me.  My cyclocomputer soon reads 25 mph as I lean down into the drops making myself more aerodynamic.  The world flies by and I feel a familiar rush of adrenaline and am finally having fun.

I’m simply a girl and her bike out for a ride.

My Happiness Theory…

I was thinking last night about a time that I can remember really being happy and blissful almost for an extended period of time.  I was 18/19 years old, in the time before I met my first husband Memorial Day weekend years ago.  Of course, I didn’t have the responsibilities and challenges that I do today.  There is just something about being a responsible adult that seems to spoil your fun a bit and steals away that carefree feeling.  You have a career, mortgage, bills, payments, kids, aging parents, health issues, repairs, maintenance, and the list goes on and on.  You have fleeting moments of that carefree bliss, like when I married my husband in a fairy tale ceremony at an antebellum mansion in Lexington, Kentucky, but it wasn’t long until life came rushing back and crowded out the bliss with responsibilities, drama, annoyances, irritations and crises that seem to happen on a daily basis.

As I laid there staring at the white ceiling, I thought to myself but I have a good life!  Why do I feel so frazzled all the time?  I have so many blessings, I’m grateful for all that I have.  I’m financially secure with a good job, great co-workers/work family, my daughters are all healthy and doing well, my husband is great and and I’m fortunate to have a great network of extended family and friends.  I can do more now than I ever could before when I was younger and I have more opportunities.  While I am truly grateful, I do not have that carefree, happy, blissful feeling I once did.  Why not? I asked myself this question and started listed all the annoyances in my life.  The list kept growing so I finally decided to stop myself.

There are always those people who are trying to steal your happiness. Or are they?  In truth, I let them steal my happiness and I give them too much power in my life.  There is always something going on, some stressor.  Something breaks, something won’t work, something doesn’t go my way.  How much of this can I truly control?  Very little usually. Most of this is out of my power, my locus of control but I am far from helpless. I may not be able to control what happens to me or around me but I do have more control than I think.

So I realized that I have a choice.  I can let all these little annoyances and even big crises steal my happiness or I can let it go and just be happy, content and serene.  It all comes down to how I react to each day’s challenges.  I can react negatively or I can preserve my peace and surround myself in happiness.  This won’t work for every situation and it is not like I won’t have reasons to be sad, angry or hurt but how many times do I react when I could just take a deep breath and make the conscious decision that whatever this bump in the road is, do I react by getting upset?  Or do I just let it roll off my back and go on ignoring it to preserve a peaceful bliss?

I think that is truly up to me.  I’m going to try an experiment this next week and consciously choose to be happy.  I figure what do I have to lose right?  Maybe I will recapture my carefree bliss if I don’t let every wind spin me around into a negative cloud.  It’s in my own power to recapture being carefree, happy and blissful. It all comes down to my attitude and my outlook. I truly believe this.

Check back next week, I’ll update you on my progress.  Namaste.