The Thing That Has Maybe Changed My Life

If you read my last post, you may remember that I have begun to employ the KonMari method around my house. If you missed it, you can catch up here. Embarrassing photo and all. It’s so simple. Look at all my things, one by one. If a thing makes me happy (or is something I *need*), I keep it. If I don’t need it, and it doesn’t make me happy, I have permission to let it go. This notion is huge for me! I grew up low-income, and with tight family ties. This combo is a giant-double whammy, and has led me to be a borderline hoarder all my life. But now, I have permission to let it go. My brain does not operate in any kind of linear manner, so organization has been a huge struggle until now. But using KonMari, I have less *stuff* to process, and packing what I DO have in clear bins makes sense. I get it! And it’s easy for me to maintain because I can see immediately when something is out of place and return it to its home. But there’s something that has helped me even more.

I have started going back to the gym, too. I had a wake-up call that reminded me that I need to take care of my body. The gym seems cliche (have you met me?!), New-Years-Resolution Driven, but the truth is that I love the gym. After spending an hour on the treadmill, reading and listening to music, I feel so good. It’s like a spa treatment. I have not prioritized going because it felt like a guilty pleasure, and because it has been difficult to get there. The Destroyer has had full-on panic attacks when we have tried to get him to stay at the facility’s childcare. It just wasn’t worth it. But now The Padawan can babysit, and The Destroyer even likes to work out on the treadmill, too, so it can be a bonding experience, at least in the short term. But that isn’t the thing that has revolutionized my take on the world.

I went to the used bookstore the other day, with $90 in credit from the books I had KonMari’d because I didn’t feel like I needed them anymore. In the humor section, I found the most incredible book, a gift from God. It’s called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*** by Sarah Knight.This is a family blog, so we’re going to say the f-word is Fig. The idea behind this book is so simple. Set a Fig Budget for how many figs you have to give overall and then see where they *really* matter and where they don’t. Where the figs given do not matter, cut them out. That’s it. There are even tips for how to do so politely so that feelings don’t get hurt when we say no. It’s all about prioritizing, and it’s glorious.

As a result, just a few days after buying the book, I am sitting at my kitchen table at 8:30 in the morning. School is delayed due to ice on the road. Husband has an early-morning meeting, so it is up to me to stay home and disperse kids. I normally leave for work at 7:15, and Wednesdays are busy days. But can I change the weather? I cannot. So why invest the energy of giving a fig? So I am blogging and drinking coffee while my son and his buddy play football outside. It’s not even an inconvenience. This re-route is a gift.

I went out to move my car for husband, and the car wouldn’t start. The battery is sick and needs replacing. That will take me a half-hour this morning. Can I control it? No. Will buying a new battery after I drop kids off make my life better? It will. No more mornings wondering if today is going to be the day my car won’t start. I can put that fig back in my pocket. And if it’s a battery? They’re expensive. But electrical issues in the car are MORE expensive. So a battery seems like a good deal. I will save this money-fig for another day.

So there it is. All that time and energy spent worrying about things that I can’t control today have been invested in writing. Do you spend more figs each day than you have? I have your solution. Read it, love it, share it. I’m serious.

Possum Living: Laying the Ground Rules

So back at the beginning of the year (is 2018 over yet, because it feels like it has hung around long enough!), I shared some of my goals. One of them was the most ambitious thing I have ever tried. Inspired by the book Possum Living (cool video here), I plan to go all of 2018 without buying anything I don’t NEED. Sometimes there is a giant grey area between needs and wants. Take books, for example. I need books like I need air. But do I NEED to BUY them? Unless it is a text for my job, probably not. This outline is rather fluid, and time may force some changes, but I will share any changes as a means of holding myself accountable.


  • Gasoline
  • Food
  • College tuition
  • Clothing (but NO T-SHIRTS)
  • Utilities and mortgage
  •  Cellphone – I have a Tracfone, so I have to get service cards periodically. Texts are $5 for 1000, and it’s the primary way we communicate at work
  • Books specifically relevant to work – must be read within a month of purchase
  • Car (I signed my car’s death warrant when I put my favorite sticker on it)
  • Potting soil and bare bones supplies for growing plants to sell at Farmer’s Market
  • Photo books – I do these twice a year as a gift for my mom, but I also get one for me. My photos are essential. But no superfluous photo gifts. I use Snapfish, and they usually provide me with good coupons.


  • Books (Goodbye, BookBub! Until next year?) – Not even the illustrated Goblet of Fire due out in October
  • Harry Potter memorabilia (this kills me!)
  • Music (unless I already have gift card credit on the music site)
  • Toys for the pets. It’s too bad, really, because Lumen is quite destructive, but she LOVES HER TOYS SO MUCH! I stocked up on the one toy she hasn’t managed to completely murder and dismantle, so she won’t have nothing. Don’t look at me like that!
  • Additional pets – (no more snakes? WHAT? But… but…)
  • He wants a friend…

  • Additional pet housing, beyond basic supplies (food, UVB bulbs, etc
  • Toys in general
  • Impulse buys for the kids
  • Clearance holiday stuff *whimper* unless it’s for prizes for my students
  • Squishables
  • Coffee or meals out – unless I am traveling or it is pre-arranged date-night
  • Postage for packages to friends
  • Gifts – beyond family birthdays and gift-giving holidays
  • An addendum to the above rule: no creating gift-giving holidays. In our house, Valentine’s Day is a children’s holiday. I cannot turn it into a “Hey, gimme this Funko Pop! figure” holiday.

So you’re here to hold me accountable.  Almost As much fun as a host of fleas nesting in your armpits.

I make a lot of impulse purchases when I’m feeling sad, lonely, depressed, excited, anxious. I admit that I shop (and eat) to deal with feelings and to fill a void. So what am I going to do when that shopper vibe starts bouncing in my brain? I’m going to be creative. Literally. Like, I’m going to create something. Here are some ways to channel my energy

  • Write – I’ve been successful with this one. I have been writing a LOT. I have written so many blog posts this year already, and that’s not even the tip of my brain’s iceberg. I think I could spend the next few weeks and write out blog posts for each day for the rest of the year. Don’t worry. I won’t. But I could. And I wrote a short story and entered a writing competition. So yay.
  • Take Lumen for a walk or a run- I ran with her a few days ago, and I totally freaked her out. “If Mommy’s running, someone must be chasing! LET’S MAKE TRACKS!”
  • Who’s the happiest dog-parking dog in the world? And maybe the most exhausted. Little Pittie mixes are fast and intense, old girl!

  • Read – I am on NetGalley, and I’m working on reading a book I’m super-excited about. And when I read the book, I can REVIEW it, so that brings me back to WRITING!
  • Knit – I have the basics down. Yay, me. But I suck at it. Practice makes perfect, so I shall practice.
  • Give stuff away – Stuff begets more stuff. If I clear out some of the clutter, I am less inclined to buy matching clutter. Also, moving stuff out helps me to realize how much I already HAVE.
  • Make little turtles out of Sculpey – I’m good at this, and I owe some people some critters. I gotta get on this as soon as my right arm begins functioning again.
  • Play Neko Atsume -What better way to practice becoming a crazy cat lady than to learn to attract stray cats?

    My yarn balls bring ALL the kitties to the yard. And I can’t get rid of them. Help!


How do YOU deal with anxiety or depression? What’s the most effective thing for you? Tell me in the comments.



A Brave New Year

Everybody makes resolutions. Some people are even all clever and make resolutions NOT to make resolutions, thus proving we can’t get away from this tradition/trend. I’m no exception. This year, I’m going in big. Go big or go home, right? Actually, it’s cold outside. Going home sounds not-so-bad at the moment… Just kidding.

2016 was a dumpster fire. I said there was no possible way that 2017 could be worse than that, which 2017 took as a personal challenge. It was not a good year overall. But you know what? That’s partly my fault. I am not going to spend this brand, spanky new year sitting passively in the passenger’s seat. 2018 is my year of being brave.

This year, 2018, I am going to:

  • Learn to knit. I don’t know a whole lot of people in person who knit, so I am REALLY going to have to go to the interwebs for this one. I have never learned anything from Youtube before, except to pee BEFORE watching an episode of Bad Lip Reading, so this will be an adventure. And for some reason, it makes me a little nervous. But if I practice knitting for a year, I’ll get decent, right?

  • Breed my dart frogs. I have a bunch of them at work. Three different species. And none of them have bred. I have done everything recommended, and I have gotten to the point of getting them in condition and getting them to call, but so far, no luck. If you have bred them before, hit me up. I gotta know what I need to do differently.

Why you little dudes take a vow of chastity?

  • I am going to put my interest in plants to use. I am going to grow some things to sell at the local Farmer’s Market this summer. I can’t stop myself from growing plants. It brings me joy and energy. If I am stressed, I can soothe my spirit by checking up on a cinnamon tree or a root peeking out of a fig cutting. And since I have no self-control where it comes to growing stuff, I can maybe share my joy with others. And make a little cash. To buy more plants…
  • I am going to learn how to make saagwala at home. I love Indian food. I have attempted curry, and I’m good at the recipes I have. Now it’s time to learn saag.
  • I am going to vote in any election that pops up. It’s my civic responsibility, and I’m going to take it seriously.
  • Call my representatives when there are issues I am concerned about. Which is, like always.
  • Add ALL my reps’ numbers to speed dial so I can leave them messages in all of their offices. I currently only have one number each in my phone.
  • Produce 2 pieces, either short story or essay,  to submit somewhere for publication. This means re-learning how to write a short story. Eek! But it’s time to start building my wall of rejections. Or acceptance, but it’s the rejections that make us stronger, right? I am gonna be STRONG!
  • Actually submit these pieces. This is me closing some loopholes.

And here’s the big one. The one that is the biggest change in my life. Are you ready? Am I ready?

  • I am going to go the entire year without buying anything I don’t need. I read a book by Dolly Freed called “Possum  Living.” It’s a non-fiction book by an 18-year-old. She and her dad spent 3 years living like possums (not eating them!). They ate what was around them – raised chickens in the cellar for meat, raised gardens, saved money however they could. They spent about $1500 a year. Even in 1978, that was chump change. And her motto when it came to buying things was “Not now, maybe later.” That’s my mantra for 2018. I’ll unpack this whole goal in a separate blog post, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress throughout the year. A surprising amount of planning goes into inaction, really. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this. It’s just a few minutes long and worth a watch!

How do you plan to make 2018 your lap dog? Inspire me!

Goals For The New Year

I decided not to make resolutions this year, mostly because it’s too hard to spell. I made goals instead. It’s a tip I picked up from a co-worker. She is so wise!  A resolution can die a sad death within seconds of the clock striking midnight on January 1. A goal is a year-long kind of thing. I like the idea of something I can’t screw up the first day.  Win! I have all these grandiose grand schemes, and mama needs to get these bad boys off the ground.

In 2016 my goal is to:

  • Hatch more of these:
  • Take up a new creative hobby. I’m thinking of knitting or crochet. Anyone want to teach me?
  • Drink more water. 20 ounces when I first wake up.
  • Pee more. Also counts as a hobby, so double win!
  • Eat better quality food. No more eating chocolate that I found on the floor. Unless it has been there for under five seconds because there’s no sense in being wasteful.
  • Be more organized. No more storing shopping lists in the sock drawer.
  • Bring home fewer of these:

    resolutions, writing, new years, cats

    But… so cute…

  • And fewer of these:

    Hillary and Humperdink. My new Nelson's Milksnakes. They are tiny and perfect and so sassy!

    Hillary and Humperdink. My new Nelson’s Milk snakes. They are tiny and perfect and so sassy!

  • Quit referring to husband as “Grouchy kill-joy who doesn’t want me to have lots of cool pets or be happy”
  • Spend less money on frivolous things. Everyone knows that Funko figures are a necessity. I’ll cut out some of the extravagances like heat. My kids are so spoiled on warmth. We have five cats. They can use those as personal warming devices.

    Surprise birthday Funko figures! I live in a world where Newt Scamander and Picket exist!

    Surprise birthday Funko figures! I live in a world where Newt Scamander and Picket exist!

  • Eat less fast food. One  fewer Sonic burger is less.  I’m perfectly happy to cross one off on a technicality.
  • Read more. With all that water I’m drinking, I’ll be spending more time staring at the walls in public restrooms.
  • Write more. See above. Also counts as creative new hobby if I use a sharpie and sign my name to my work. I’ll be the Banksy of public toilets.
  • Make my mark on the world. Again, sharpie.
  • Take the boys on another vacation. And remember this time to apply the sunscreen at effective intervals.

    humor, writing, zoo

    They’re not sunburned. They’re doing an impersonation of flamingos. And look at that balance!

  • Learn a new skill. Maybe peeing standing up? Or finally learning to program the VCR.
  • Find constructive ways to deal with my anxiety. Hitting bricks with a frying pan sounds kind of awesome.
  • Take Christmas tree down before Easter. Eh, who am I kidding?

Did you make any goals or resolutions this year? Or break any? I’m not here to judge.

My New Hobby

I started running recently. My husband is an avid runner. He is doing a bit of training with the Padawan, who has now appointed himself my personal trainer. As if I need one. You don’t get this stunning physique from sitting at the computer writing and eating MoonPies. Okay, maybe you do.

So the Padawan and I run to school each morning, which is saying something. When Bill Cosby wrote his bit about his dad claiming to walk to school and it was uphill both ways, he had our neighborhood in mind. Whichever direction you choose, there’s nowhere to go but up. But I do it because it makes the kid happy, and it makes me tired, requiring me to fortify myself with an extra MoonPie. What? I said I was running, not adopting an entirely new lifestyle.

I know lots of writers who draw inspiration from their runs, mulling over chapters, blog posts, short stories as they exercise. I am not one to let such an opportunity pass me by, so here you go. The poem inspired by my morning run.

Beautiful morning! Wow!

Cool breeze. Fall is here.

Padawan is so fast.

I’ll never be that fast.

If he makes fun of my speed again,

I will pound him into the ground.

I need running shoes.

These Chacos just aren’t doing the job.

Are we there yet?

Good Lord, this hill is long.

My legs hurt. I need to pee.

Why did I drink all that water this morning?

Goodbye Padawan! Have a good day!

I will never do this again.

Why are those people staring at me?

I hate them. All of them.

If that car honks its horn at me,

I will flatten their tire.

How long is this hill?

I think I may die!

No, seriously! Someone call 9-1-1.

I am not going to make it!


Catching my breath.


Never moving another step.


But I still need to pee.

Over in those bushes?

No, the neighbors are watching

After the last time.

Moving on.

I see the house!

It has never looked more beautiful.



And scene.


At the Trailhead: Alum Caves Bluff

We’re not ones to sit around the house while the sun shines. There are too many trails out there just waiting to be explored, so when my husband and kids had a week off, the first thing we did was plan some hikes. One of my goals this year is to hike at least four trails that are new to me, even if the rest of the world has already been there. Twice. And Alum Caves Bluff trail seems to fit into both categories.

The Smoky Mountains are a bit of a drive for us, so we made sure to get an early start. According to the map, the trailhead was close by the Sugarlands Visitor Center. This well-staffed visitor center is a destination in itself, containing a fascinating 25 minute film on the history of the area, a museum with taxidermied native species, and short nature trails with guided tours.

After a quick visit (read: pee break) at the center, we headed to our final ultimate destination, the Alum Caves trail. It’s apparently a very popular trail, as both parking lots at the trailhead were full. We don’t actually know where all those people went, however, since we saw almost nobody on the trail itself. Not that we were complaining.

The trail is only 2.5 miles long. After more than a mile of hiking, I asked my husband if I should be getting worried that we were gaining almost no altitude. The answer was yes. Shortly thereafter, we hit Arch Rock, a narrow pass up a rock staircase, and it was all hard uphill from there.

Straight up, and hang on tight! The cable handrail was much appreciated!

There were a number of water crossings, all over wooden suspension bridges.

Just one of the many foot bridges along the trail

The trail got steep. Very steep. We gained most of the 1300ft elevation in the last mile of the hike, but we are made of stern stuff (read: we did a little whining) and we pressed onward.

Everything seems to spill downhill like water. Even the roots of the trees.

After what felt like an eternity, we heard voices. Friendly ones. And they weren’t inside our heads, so we knew that we were close to our destination. Another steep, rocky path with a cable hand-hold, and we got our first view.

Yep. That's it. For scale, note the tiny little handrail in the center of the photo. I

View from the top of the bluff. Note the delightful 45 degree angle. We're overjoyed that we didn't die here.

We discovered that the footing under the bluff is basically course sand. One wrong move, and we’d plummet to a painful death. What’s not to like?

This one gives a little better idea of the angle. It's incredibly steep. My advice: bring hiking poles and stay low to the ground!

I have an irrational fear of heights (more accurately a fear of falling from great heights), so we didn’t stay long. The descent was terrifying, but I am proud to say that no pants were pooped in the hiking of this trail. But it was close a couple of times.

Due to my irrational (or in this particular case, perfectly justified) fears, Squish remained in the Ergo for the entire trip. But he was okay with it. He got cookie cake.

If you enjoy hiking and are in the Smokies, I do recommend trying this trail. It’s short and scenic, and there are some views you just can’t catch anywhere else. But it’s not a trail for the faint of heart.

Trail Ratings

Difficulty: on a scale from 1-10, I’d give this one a 7. The first part is very, very easy. The last half, not so much!  It’s better suited to people who are in good shape.

Length: 2.5 miles. 3-5 hours, depending on how fast you move and how long you stay at the bluff.

Kid friendliness: I’d recommend it for ages seven and up. There are some very tricky spots, and when it gets steep, it’s a challenge even for those who hike regularly.

Scenery: It’s simply beautiful up there. We’ll go again, but maybe not with the kids next time. We’d like to continue the trail up to Mount Le Conte, but doing so means gaining another 1500 ft in under a mile.

Tips: Bring hiking poles if you have them. If the weather is rainy and you are bringing kids, skip it altogether. The path would be dangerous in several spots in inclement weather. Pack a picnic lunch to eat under the bluff if you are brave!

And a parting shot

There were a number of waterfalls on this hike, but this one is my favorite. It's a little thing - no more than 30 inches tall, but it thinks it's Niagara Falls.

Running Is Hazardous to Your Health

Saturday should be sacred. It is the one golden day of the week where I can sleep late. We attend the early service on Sunday mornings, so sleeping past 7:30 on a Sunday means a frantic morning rush that can lead to losing our religion before we even get out of the house.

Saturdays are for quilts and pillows and sweet dreams, not the screech of the alarm clock at 5:45 so a spouse can get in his morning run. 5:45. I know the importance of his morning run, but I’ve got news. 8:45? Still morning! Wait a couple of hours. It still counts.

I get the importance of exercise and all of that. I do. And I know that running is a big stress relief. But honestly, what kind of stress do you have at 5:45 that isn’t actually caused by getting up  at that ungodly hour? No, the stress comes when you later realize your disgruntled, exhausted wife, awakened hours before her time, has put kitty litter in your morning coffee. I’m sure it was an accident and not revenge. After all, litter and ground coffee do look a bit alike. Even though the coffee is kept in a cabinet above the pantry and the litter is kept downstairs. I can’t be expected to know the difference between French roast and Fresh Step before the sun has even come up, right?

What’s the big deal, you ask? Why can’t I just go back to sleep when the alarm goes off? Oh, but I can. I usually have no trouble sliding back into the arms of slumber. But toddlers are a different story. Squish sleeps in our room. When the alarm sounds his Reveille , smallest soldier takes up arms for adventure. He is content to snuggle just long enough to warm his icy feet on my leg before he is clamoring for breakfast or making plans to ride his toy motorcycle with a bucket on his head in lieu of a helmet.

This morning, I was dreaming I was being chased by a chimpanzee who was trying to kill me. I longed to sink back into that dream, as my waking alternative meant trying to subdue a hairless primate who was amusing himself in the dark by transferring boogers from his nose to mine. Sharing is caring.  Running before daylight is killing.

If these Saturday shenanigans continue, my dear husband may discover he indeed has something to run from.  His exercise of choice may take on a whole new range of health benefits, including preventing his untimely death. If he can outrun me. This morning, his odds aren’t good.

Notes From the Fashionista

Okay, that title might be a bit of a stretch. I have barely enough fashion sense to match my socks. But that doesn’t mean that I have nothing to teach you.

I have lost a bit of weight in recent months, and have finally achieved my goal of being snake-bait.  I’ve had to hit the stores recently in search of some awesome new jeans. I normally find trying on clothes to be depressing and demoralizing. But with my smaller form, I have to admit my hunts this weekend was kind of fun. Especially enjoyable was rejecting garments because they were too big. I could get used to that. Self-esteem at an all-time high, I did something really nuts. For the first time ever in my life, I tried on a pair of skinny jeans.

I love the idea of skinny jeans. I want a pair of pants that can make me look like I eat like a bird and work out religiously without having to actually do anything. Skinny jeans could be the answer to my vanity and lack of self-control. You better believe I tried them on!

They fit. I guess. Here’s the lesson I took away from it. Skinny jeans are designed to make skinny people look skinnier and the rest of us look like Easter eggs on stilts.

They were comfortable, no doubt. Stretchy denim that forms itself unobtrusively to my curves like a big hug. What’s not to like? Oh, yeah. That roll of flab that’s now hanging over my belt. Pretty. Yes, squeezing into tight pants can make our legs look twig-like, but they are low-rise, and those 10 displaced pounds have to go somewhere. They’re denim, not magic. And I hate say it, but wearing a large, untucked shirt with them is fooling no one.

It’s logical to assume that tight jeans would really highlight the curves. And in places they do. But there are limits to what mere cloth can do. I am very, very sorry to have to be the one to say it. In order for a caboose to look totally awesome in a pair of skinnies, it needs to have some muscle tone to start with.The fabric is fairly unforgiving. It clings to muscle, and squashes flab.

Skinny jeans are the sports-bra for the rear. Those who aren’t in good shape are asking for a bad case of uni-bum, that frightful condition where ample hips are squished so tightly into a pair of pants that they bag in the seat, giving the impression that their owners have no tushy at all. It is an epidemic in malls everywhere. You know it. You’ve seen it, the person in front of you whose legs appear to be attached directly to their torso. Uncool.

And what is the lesson here? Just this. Skinny jeans are for actual skinny people. No exceptions. Ever. Ever, ever. ‘Nuff  said.

Weekend Wanderers

"Not all who wander are lost." J.R.R. Tolkien

For my family, a weekend with good weather is a weekend that is meant to be spent out of doors. One of our favorite things to do is hike, so when Saturday dawned all cool and sunny and delicious, we knew we had to get out and hit the trail!

There are several state and national parks close by, and sometimes it is difficult to choose one. This time, we voted to choose a trail we had never done before in a park we visit with some regularity. Having learned from past mistakes when we stumble back home exhausted and starving, I set out our dinner. All we needed to do was toss it in the oven for 15 minutes when we got back. We packed water bottles, apples and some bunny crackers for the trip home, and we were set.

We got to the park in less time than I had expected, and we were feeling fine.  One thing we enjoy about this park is that we don’t usually see very many people. We squashed our dismay at seeing the parking lot nearly full. Apparently someone was throwing a birthday bash in the closest picnic shelter. A raucous one. Oh, well, we thought. We’ll get back on the trail, and we won’t even realize that they are there. We parked the car and sun-screened ourselves. We forgot the bug spray, but what difference does that make, really?

After taking small ones to the restroom, we checked the trail map. 2.7 miles. No problem. A casual stroll for our family. We’d be home and eating dinner by 5:30. We grabbed our hiking poles, popped Squish into the Ergo and headed out.

The trail was nearly flat at the start, and nice and wide. After about 15 minutes of brisk walking, we noticed that we could still hear the merry-makers at the picnic shelter. Quite loudly, as a matter of fact. It was some party. Apparently the trail begins by looping back to the east and makes a very gradual turn back toward our destination. It took over half an hour of hard walking to finally get away from the noises of civilization and finally feel like we were back in the woods.

The trail sloped gently upward as we climbed the hill. My first dilemma of the hike came sooner than I expected. The kids were the first ones to find the scat. Yes, even when I write about hiking, I will still find a way to mention poop. After careful examination (from a distance, I will add), my 9 year old announced “That animal ate berries.” And he was right. The rest of the family dashed blithely on ahead as I debated whether or not to mention that turd was left by a bear. I decided against it. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

The sun was so hidden by the trees that it appeared as though we were on the verge of a huge storm, but as I found myself continually rubbing gnats out of my eyes, I left my sunglasses on. The big kids slapped at the bugs that were chewing on their arms, and Squish choked once or twice on a gnat. Next time, we’ll actually use the bug spray. But nothing was going to spoil this day.

The weather was cool but humid. The ground was littered with green leaves and small branches, evidence of a recent and rather severe storm. But we shouldn’t have any water crossings, according to the map. We pressed on.

The trail narrowed significantly, until it was more of a suggestion than a path, barely wider than my two boots. A steep drop-off was on my left, a tangle of branches on my right. Thank goodness for hiking poles to give us a bit of traction. The kids counted enormous millipedes and woolly worms, both of which we found in abundance, discussing the differences between a centipede and millipede, and the niche each occupies in the ecosystem.

I realized about a mile in that I had worn the wrong boots AND needed another pair of socks, but bravely I plowed on. Another mile, and we began to have some doubts about the accuracy of the trail map. We’d have 2.7 miles behind us really soon, and the trail showed no sign of ending. Ever. Each time we crested a hill, our triumph turned to chagrin as we saw a still larger peak ahead. I wondered more than once if we had actually been transported to Middle Earth, to a mountain that was fighting back. Oh, did you not know that I’m a geek? Consider yourself enlightened.

At times it did appear that the mountain had a mind of its own. Remember that storm? Not only had it dropped so much bright green leaf-litter that we could barely see the path, it also took down a few trees. Over the trail itself, as it so happens. We found ourselves sliding down rain-softened earth and scrambling up steep hillsides to pick up the trail again. And more than once we had to leap and limbo over the trunks of massive trees that had lost their battle with the storm. My daughter stayed close behind me to keep a visual on her baby brother and prevent me from knocking his head off as I slid under tree trunks with him perched on my back. American Gladiators has nothing on me.

After awhile, no one talked. We were too tired/daunted/annoyed to speak. And suddenly my husband said “Look at that!” And so we did. We crowded close to examine his find. It was no millipede. He had discovered one of our favorite things to come across in the forest, a carcass. This particular animal had been dead a few weeks, it’s pelt peeled partially back from its skull. The teeth were fascinating, consisting of large, thin, curved canines. Definitely carnivore. The rest of the remains were a bit of a puzzle. Long tail, tawny colored fur, once-powerful long legs designed for jumping. We spent the rest of the hike speculating what it might have been. It appeared to be a young animal, as there was another set of canines beginning to make their appearance, much more substantial than the first. I do love a good mystery.

After forty-five more minutes, the shine had worn off of that particular mystery. We began to wonder when and if the trail was going to crest and begin to loop back toward the east again. My biggest fear was that, having laid a long, gently sloping trail that stretched for miles, the trailblazer would have lost interest on the home trip and blazed a steeper, shorter trail for the return.

And so it was. The upside was that going downhill took pressure off the backs of my heels and allowed my boots to chew on  a different part of my feet. We did learn something, too. When a trail is named after a creek, that sometimes means that the trail once was a creek. Complete with large, slippery, moss-covered creek rocks. It makes for an exciting and sometimes unexpectedly speedy descent!

The trail seemed to improve marginally for a bit, and then we came to this:

Courtesy of Wikipedia

This is the actual trail. The photo doesn’t quite do it justice. The portion that you see is actually about 25 feet of rock. Steep, slippery, rippled rock with a lovely rock pit below ready to offer a landing you’ll never forget should you miss a step. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to slither across the bottom rim. Have fun! This photo represents our next dilemma. Do we attempt this crossing, or do we turn back, knowing that we will have three miles to cover should we double back.

My husband was ready to throw in the towel. “We can’t do this,” he said, shaking his head in frustration. My 9 year old considered carefully. Is he brave or was risk of injury preferable to hiking back three miles? A little of both, I think. He and my daughter studied the footpath and said “Oh, Dad, we can do this! Just put your feet here, and here, and then you hop over.” My husband did a test run for us, and we discovered they were actually right! It was way easier than it looked at first glance. Lesser people may have turned back, but we will not be vanquished! On we plowed.

Gradually, the trail began to smooth out. Fewer rocks and a wider path  meant that we could speed up a bit. We were done. Ready to go home. Enough fun for one day. And a mile and a half later, we made it back to the car.

We arrived home an hour and a half later than I had really hoped, my feet had been completely chewed by my boots, my hips were so tired from lugging Squish’s nearly thirty pounds that I could hardly move. And as the sun rose on Sunday morning, the first words out of my mouth were “Yesterday was so great! You want to go for another hike today?! ” We didn’t manage to find the time to do it again, but you’d better believe we’ll be out next weekend, if the weather holds and the creek don’t rise. Adventure awaits!

What’s Left?

This picture is directly related to my post. The world as we know it may come to an end.

I’ve been making a serious effort toward self-improvement. If it’s not good for me, I’ve been getting it out of my life, hopefully for good and ever.

It started with the cream in my coffee. I like creamer. The flavored kind. Lots of it. To the tune of one gigantic bottle of hazelnut a week. It wasn’t a problem for me. Something like 5 calories from fat per serving. But when I finally did the mental math about a year ago and discovered that I was consuming more than 1/2 my daily fat in creamer per day, I was floored. *Poof*  Creamer was gone overnight.

I added exercise, but I still wasn’t losing the weight I wanted to lose. Along came Lent. I gave up sweets and fast food, and dropped more than a few pounds. In order to keep myself from feeling deprived, I allowed myself a single favorite brownie per week. I didn’t even count the calories. I figured one brownie a week will keep me from craving other stuff. *Poof* Sweets and fast food gone.

I still have some weight to lose, and I’ve not been able to exercise as much, so I dropped my daily calories to about 1800 per day, give or take. That means that the sandwich or veggie burger, cheddar crackers, etc were too much. I’m down to two smaller meals and one big one (dinner) per day.*Poof* Big lunch gone.

The Earth Fare started messing with my life. They raised the price on my precious brownie. It went from $1.49 to $2.49 in 3 short months. The quality is too inconsistent to pay that much for it. It’s no longer worth it to me. *Poof* Delicious vegan brownie gone.

A few years after my son was born, I realized that I had inherited a metabolic disorder that can cause me a world of hurt if I don’t baby my liver. *Poof*  All alcoholic beverages gone. Forever.

We’ve been trying to stay out of debt and get ahead financially by following the basic but effective teachings of Dave Ramsey.  Recreational shopping is down to a very, very bare minimum, and we’ve been cutting back wherever we can. *Poof* Cable TV gone. I don’t miss this one at all, actually.

And this morning, I realized that if I keep drinking coffee (sugar, no cream, thank you) at my current rate of consumption, I will have a stroke before I am 45. Seriously. When you nearly blew a gasket because your toddler won’t stop talking, and an episode of “House” brings on heart palpitations, it really is time to cut back on the java. And I know it. But I am resentful. And bitter. Bitter as day-old coffee grounds.

I love coffee. I didn’t always. I pretended to like it when a coffee-loving suitor took me to a coffee shop on our first date. I learned to like dumping in gallons of flavored creamer when suitor became husband. And I learned to adore it myself when I gave up the creamer and actually bought good, fair-trade, shade-grown stuff. French roast became my favorite, all bold and sassy, and so strong it could talk back. And now what?

What pleasure is left in my life? I don’t eat sweets or fast food. My lunch is limited to a salad. Snacking between meals is out of the question except for boring, pre-approved items. I have no vegan brownie, or even a reasonable facsimile.I can’t go on wild shopping sprees. I can’t even drink to forget just how deprived I am. There is little fun left to me now. The next thing you know, someone will tell me that sex leads to pregnancy, and I’ll have to give that up, too.

But I am trying to focus on the positive. I know that my efforts to improve my life and my health will help me to live longer. Or at least it will feel like it.