Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lost in the Woods

This snowman greeted us at the trail head of a preserve not too far from where we live. With my son Ryan and husband Mike on skis and me on snowshoes, we looked forward to exploring all that the recent snow had sugar-coated with a frosting of white.

We talked with some other people in the parking lot and asked them if they had ever skied in this park before and they hadn't. I wasn't able to find a trail map online and there were no maps available at the trail head, so we forged out into the woods, figuring we would do a simple out and back loop.

We hadn't traveled too far when we came upon a large trail map painted on a wooden sign. After studying the map for a few minutes, we figured we could take the yellow birch trail out and loop back on the red maple trail to the parking lot. It all looked very simple, so simple in fact, that I took the above picture as I stood next to the trail map sign, rather than a picture of the sign itself. After a few hours rambling around in the woods lost, I would come to regret that decision.

Initially, on our way out, we passed many people walking their dogs which made us feel this was a well used park, difficult to get lost in. About 45 minutes into our trek, we passed our last person, a woman who warned us that the red trail was difficult and required some scrambling. Scrambling was an understatement, we would soon find out.

But with the day still new and the solitude of the woods welcoming, we didn't worry about where the trail would take us. We enjoyed traveling through patches of wild rhododendron and gazing upward at many of the larger trees.

Coasting down a small hill, my son exclaimed "this is fun!" And it was. But slowly, slowly, I began to wonder why it was taking us so long to hook up with the red maple trail. Hindsight tells me now, we should have turned around at that point, but we pressed on.

After a bit, we came to our first of what would be many stream crossings, growing in difficulty as we progressed. Soon after, we finally found the red maple trail and were excited to be heading back toward the parking lot. Problem was, this trail was extremely difficult to ski. Loaded with rocks and twigs and logs across the path (not to mention the numerous stream and bog crossings) which made for tedious travel. We felt fairly confident we were going in the right direction until our red blazes turned to orange. We had to go slightly off the trail to negotiate around a bog and when we resurfaced so to speak, the blaze color had changed. I prayed that the orange trail wasn't taking us back further into the woods. We traveled for at least 2 hours in this manner. As I crested each hill, I wondered if I would see something, anything that would make me we feel we were headed in the right direction. I kicked myself that I hadn't paid better attention to many of the signs that could help us out of this mess. For instance, I couldn't remember which side of the tree lichen grew on. Was it north or south? I wondered if the snow remaining on the bark of trees would be located on the north, as it would be the last to melt, or if the south side of the bark was covered since the snowstorm had come from the south. I was beginning to see how easily it was to get lost in the woods.
The above picture shows Ryan and I taking our lunch break with a water-filled bog we had just traversed in the background. Only three sounds could be heard while sitting here. Snow falling off the trees, water rushing through the bog, and silence. Funny, I think silence is a sound. I guess it becomes one when you never hear it.

As the day begins to wane, we hear a nearby road and a bit later voices. Civilization! Whew! We won't be spending the night in the woods. I have traveled the woods of Oregon, Colorado, and Georgia to name a few and have never been lost in the woods. We soon came upon a neighborhood and a man directed us back to the parking lot. He told us that you really need a GPS when traveling in the park, because it is like a maze. My husband and I have always made sure to have proper gear, food, and water when we go into the woods. Now we understand the importance of having some sort of directional device. I will be glad to put my head down on my pillow in my warm house tonight and dream of how beautiful the woods were without having to spend the night out there.

Friday, February 26, 2010

My First Nor'easter

A friend of mine remarked a few weeks back how it would be great for me to experience a Nor'easter while living here. I wasn't so sure. Up to that point, we had been enjoying a relatively calm winter, filled with sun drenched days, a vast departure from the gray Chicago winters I was accustomed to.
My friends wish came true last night though when it began to snow, heavily at times, and it hasn't let up since. Wanting to enjoy the beauty of what the storm had brought our way, I walked with my husband to the train this morning and captured the following images along the way.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rockclimbing- How it Benefits Teens

Soon after moving to this area, my son Ryan began to figuratively climb the walls here at home and needed an outlet for his energy- a place where he could literally climb the walls. After an online search, I signed him up for a rock climbing club for teens at a local gym. Initially, Ryan was hesitant to climb to any height that took him more than 5' off the ground, but with encouragement and support from his teachers, he was soon scaling 40' walls.

The beauty of rock climbing is that it forces teens to conquer their fears, problem solve, and build physical strength, all while having fun. As they work their way up from the easier 5.5 routes to those of greater difficulty, they develop balance, coordination and mental focus. This results in a bringing together of the mind and body, allowing for the confidence teens need at a time in their life when things naturally feel out of whack.

As I have watched Ryan progress in his climbing skill over the last seven months, his fingers, arms, and core have strengthened, enabling him to tackle harder and harder routes. He now makes climbing look easy, but when I try and duplicate even the easiest of moves he makes on the wall, I have a much harder time doing it. In this instance, Ryan becomes the teacher, showing me how to move, encouraging me along a route. How wonderful and empowering for him to be in the role of guide after all his years of being instructed by adults.
There really is no end in sight in regard to where climbing will take Ryan. There will always be harder routes to figure out, or bigger mountains to climb. Much like the challenges of life.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Time marches on...

Pictured above: Me with my niece Cassie and son Jimmy in Times Square.

I just paid my son's final tuition bill to Indiana University and look forward to his graduation in May. Where have the last four years gone and more importantly, where have the last twenty-two years since his birth gone? Only when I look at my son's age do I realize that I myself have aged, otherwise I tend to feel inside that I should be the one in my twenties.

Looking at my son's upcoming milestone makes me more aware of the fact that time is marching on and that I still have much I want to accomplish. I recently started work at a local food pantry and would like to help figure out ways to bring more healthy food to those in need. My business degree with a focus in part on institutional feeding, along with additional course work in the plant science field, makes for a perfect starting point toward figuring out how to get local produce from farm to food pantry.

The long cold days of winter have made for a perfect opportunity in which to read and learn about healthy food. I have learned much and look forward to putting this knowledge to work both in practice here at home and in my community. In the upcoming weeks, I will be sharing both the knowledge I've gained, and what I end up learning along the way, as I begin this new journey of mine.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Beach Walk...

I've been living everybody else's life too much lately and needed to get away by myself today in order to spend a bit of time alone. To reconnect with my passions and dreams, which sometimes can get lost under the daily demands of raising a family.

To let the search for sea glass along the shore or rush of the sea restore me. To try and slow down and be present and take in the beauty around me.

As a person who strives to not lead a busy life, life has just been too busy lately. In the last month, I have changed my family's diet in a major way which requires me to make many of our meals from scratch. I am also finding going back to school to be a big adjustment for my son, especially regarding homework, and have spent many, many nights trying to help him manage his time better in that department. These new obligations are stacked on top of what I already do as a mom. Most nights, I have found the day comes to an end before I have had a chance to take some time for myself. Sometimes life drags me off track in this way, and I have found time away in nature allows me to get back on track.
So today, I ignored the driveway full of snow my son and I couldn't finish shoveling yesterday, left the bills in a stack unpaid, and headed out to the beach.

The bright blue sky welcomed me and the snow underfoot made everything feel fresh.

As there were very few other people about, it was just me and a few birds twittering in the trees.

I stopped several times to gaze out onto the water, trying to empty my mind of its clutter. To push family obligations begging for my attention to the bottom of my mind and focus for now on me. To think of what I want from this one life I am living. Maybe it is my age, but I don't just want to be known as being a good wife and mother. I want to have time to focus on my interests and be successful in my own right. Over the years, I have put so much of my time into my family and I feel good about how well they have all turned out. But now, it is time for me.

Heading home, the pocketful of sea glass I found along the beach stood as testament of time well spent. I will place the collected glass in a clear jar on my windowsill, enabling the sun to shine through. Reflecting its colors into my world and reminding me of the beauty of life's possibilities.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thrift Shop finds...

The breakfast bar in the house we are renting has been without bar stools ever since we moved in six months ago. At one point around Christmas, when our dining table was covered with my son's winter village scene, I found myself standing before a display of low quality expensive bar stools at Target, contemplating a purchase so that we would have somewhere to sit and eat during the holidays. Luckily, I thought long and hard about the decision and ultimately decided against it, hating to bring more unnecessary crap into the world.

Today, as I strolled through a local thrift shop, I was rewarded for my decision. There before me stood two vintage bar stools, strong and sturdy, ready for a new home. I knew immediately they would fit in with my decor which is comprised of a combination of antique shop, flea market, and thrift shop finds. The stools had a special quality about them, their style reminding me of my Grandmother's cottage in northern Michigan.

Within a matter of minutes, the stools were mine and I was on my way home to have my dog Layla give the chairs a sniff and offer up her stamp of approval. I wonder about the people who owned these chairs before me and the stories the stools could tell. I look forward to adding my family's stories to the bank of collected tales these chairs hold within.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I'm a boring Compacter...

I've decided that I am a pretty boring Compacter. I really don't have much to say about my trials and tribulations regarding compacting because I am finding it pretty easy. Just a month into a year long attempt to not buy anything new and I am not finding it a struggle at all. While my son and husband are not "officially" on the Compact journey with me, my husband is limiting his purchases to work clothing and my son is only buying clothing and whatever he can afford with his own money.

As a child of depression era grandparents, their make-do attitudes must have somehow rubbed off on me and keeps me from buying new things. I tend to use what I have until it is truly useless and even then I typically figure out a way to jury rig it so that it becomes functional again. My snow shovel in the picture above has seen many Chicago winters and even though the blade tends to bend up at times, a good whack on the driveway pushes it back into useful form.
These pans of mine, purchased when my husband and I first married almost 25 years ago have not had handles for many years. They are the primary pans we use for cooking and work just fine with a potholder.

A few sets of our sheets are patched as shown above. It extends the life and keeps one from catching their foot or hand in the sheet and ripping it further.

The antenna on our phone has broken several times, rendering the phone useless. I finally duct-taped a Popsicle stick around the antenna and it has worked good as new for several years now.
Do you also have items around your house which have been pressed back into service? I would love to hear about them!