A Walk in the Woods

I’m 46, I’m fat, I’m sedentary, and I have a gazillion health problems.

For years, I’ve viewed my body as my enemy, or at the very minimum a foreign entity with which I’m saddled against my will.  Not a healthy perspective.  Moving has helped a great deal–I’m not sure how I can explain the connection between my self-concept and my immediate environment, so you’ll just have to take me on faith that the ground I walk on is important to me, as is the view from my window and the smell in the air. Now that I’m surrounded by trees, smelling pine, I’m happier.

But I’m still 46, fat, sedentary, with health problems…and possible more surgery upcoming (but I won’t think about that now, because it may not happen).

For a couple of years, I’ve had the pipe dream that I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. Not all 2100 miles of it, certainly not at once, but *part* of it. Even a small part. For someone with my health conditions, as dependent as I am on pharmacology multiple times a day to keep living, that’s a big pipe dream.  Lately, I’ve decided, against all conventional wisdom, that I’ll do it. A hundred miles a year, maybe.  Starting (as we all like milestones) the summer after I turn fifty.

Which gives me four years to slim down, get in shape, try to get rid of some of the medicines I need (or least find ones lightweight and easy to pack…), and learn what I need to learn to not die the first five miles.

I’m very, very excited. Seriously excited.

Aside from just reading books (another blog entry, that one) and looking at maps, I’ve had to start, well, *walking*. Not quite hiking yet (although I have hiking sticks with me), but at least forward motion, not on pavement, for more than a few minutes at a time.  Another good thing about my move is that there are gazillions of hiking trails in my area, not least of which is a series of trails many miles long, of varying difficulty levels, practically out my front door.  Seriously.

I’ve gone out walking a few times now, and this week I set a new goal: I need to get at least a half-hour of exercise in, every five days out of seven, minimum. So far so good.  Aside from walking, I have big plans of joining the golf course here and taking up golf (after twenty-five freaking years), and getting my canoe water-ready and in the Rum River which is a block from my house.

My first few attempts were wonderful disasters.  Wonderful in that I felt awesome and walked and walked and walked and walked–for two hours or more–which left FibroGirl here *wasted* for days and days afterward, barely able to breathe. It feels so good at the time, I don’t feel like stopping.  But I’m learning.  I need to build. (Note: it’s not muscle-pain that slays me–there’s not even a whole lot of that–but absolute exhaustion, mental and physical, that is the fallout in fibro, and the deep, chronic, non-muscle-strain type of pain that is debilitating.)

My short terms goals are simple: by this upcoming autumn, I hope to be able to walk for a day (a few hours, with breaks) with a small pack with lunch, without wiping out my whole week. And lose 50 pounds.

By next summer, I hope to have lost another 50 pounds and by the following autumn, be able to weekend hike to walk-in camp sites, with full pack.

I’ll worry about further goals leading up to the AT (I figure three weeks’ worth at a time, every summer, for that) later.  These first ones, first. And if takes me longer, who cares.  I’m not going to fret about that.  As thruhikers on the AT tend to say, “Hike your own hike.” This is me, doing something for me, on MY damn time.

In order to help me forward with my goals, I plan to blog fairly regularly about my hikes, with photos.  I’ve already made lists of places nearby (within an hour or two of home) to hike on weekends this summer, and I want to keep it interesting.  I want the hikes themselves to be worthy, not just a means to an end. I want to live in the present while I’m preparing for the future.

To begin, some pictures and notes from walks (hikes) already taken this spring, in and around Milaca, MN and Onamia, MN:

Hike #1: March, 2012.

This was the day we discovered the trails just across the road from us.  It was an unseasonably warm day in March, not covered in snow (but only patches) because this spring has been so weird, and we set out to see what was up Riverside Drive across the highway from us.  We found, first of all, a gorgeous, hilly, expansive cemetery, and secondly, paths from it to all over the place.  This particular day we chose to walk down to town via the path over the Rum River, to Rec Park,  then across town to my mother’s nursing home for a visit.

Justin, on the road leading up to what will be new discoveries for us:

Justin, Riverside Drive Milaca, March 11, 2012

Forest Hill Cemetery, MilacaMilaca Trails


Bridge from cemetery to Rec Park, over the Rum River

Hike #2: April, 2012.

We walked up to the cemetery again, but decided to take the paths west from it to see where they went.  There are many categories of trails here…miles and miles of them…but they all start here.  We walked around a slough, through some woods and bogs, to the river, and back again via a stand of pines. We walked for hours, and it was incredibly pleasant. I’d forgotten my walking stick, however, and only grabbed a branch partway through.  Not a mistake I’ll likely make again.

Milaca Trails Map

Discovering new paths!

Rum River


Hike #3: April 23, 2012.

Took the Milaca trails again, but this time on a different route, one that resulted in very up-and-down, hilly, densely wooded trails, and our getting lost, basically, not knowing the way back.  It was hella fun, though, and we did make it back after a couple of hours.  Wiped me out, but was pretty darn worth it!


Off we go! With walking sticks!


Smile! We're walking!



Hike #4: April 24, 2012.

Onamia, MN, is on the Soo Line Trail, a long ATV/bike trail that runs from Genoa, MN (southwest of Onamia) to Superior, Wisconsin, over 114 miles away. Across Highway #169 in Onamia, the the Soo crosses via an immense bridge, and I’d always wanted to walk over it.  S o, we started in the heart of town and followed it out a way, on a warm, sunny afternoon, and returned.  I want to do various sections of this trail, too; preferably in the woods.


Overpass on Highway #169, Onamia



Hike #5: April 28, 2012 (today!).

I had the idea to go to Riverside Park in Milaca and check it out, which we did…but a walking wonderland, it’s not.  Great for picnics, or landing your canoe, and would be fantastic for frisbee.  So, after walking the river as far as we could, we headed back to the Milaca trail system and did the “red” (difficult”) section again, for about an hour.  Lots of up and down, lots of trees, and since today was very cold and overcast, it was, at times, nearly spooky…but that only added to the fun.



Canoe landing, Riverside Park, Milaca MN

Riverside Park

Into the Woods, Milaca Trails


Mushrooms, anyone?


I. Love. Forest. And Justin...


Trestle bridge over the Rum.

I’m Here!

Sort. Pack. Stack. Load. Unload. Sort. Store.


Yeah, so we’ve all moved before.  I’ve moved (at last count) 12 or 13 times. But this summer had the added excitement of not only moving my and my husband’s household (which is still in-process), but move my parents’ household and sell their house, AND move my mother’s room from one Alzheimer’s care facility to another one.

And our combined five cats.

While I’m preparing for a new teaching position, with totally new courses, in a whole new part of the state.

The fact that I’m actually using a computer in my new home, hooked up to internet, with a coffee mug full of coffee that was actually brewed right here and isn’t from a Starbuck’s paper cup (not that there’s a Starbucks here in east-central rural Minnesota) is a testament to all the hard work done by my husband, my father, our loyal and selfless friends and family members, and my in-laws.

So, while I have a minute (I’m taking a break from my course planning, as classes start in THREE DAYS [gasp]) I’ll share some of the truly lovely things I’ve noticed about my new town, new school, and new life living with “my guys” (my 87-year-old father and my husband, and, again, our five cats).

I love, love, LOVE my new house. Seriously.  It’s so great that all the consternation over getting it (see previous entries) is worth it, several times over.  I’m undeserving of this, and so very, very lucky. I’ll share some of my favorite snapshots over the last couple of weeks so you can see what I’m talking about.

My backyard, during a light rain. Seriously. I live here.


Having breakfast with my husband in the gazebo.

Scandinavian collection on mantle on one of the TWO fireplaces.

A fibromite's dream bathroom!

I love my new town; everyone I’ve come into contact with from the hardware store to the grocer’s to the pharmacy to the cell phone shop have been delightful and extremely helpful. I’ve been enjoying the farmers’ markets around, and natural resources.

Behind our woods, there are forest trails!

Farm Market Café, in Onamia, MN...uses all local ingredients from local markets.

I love my new school!   The administration and faculty and staff have been some of the loveliest and most helpful people I’ve ever met. I’ve laughed with my colleagues, and been included on gatherings, all week during in-service, and my initial reactions to the school during my interview (I thought it was welcoming and happy) have been borne out. I’m excited to begin my new professional life here.


My new universe. 🙂


Like a cat held tightly–a cat with claws–I generally chafe at being boxed in, metaphorically. I’m not easily labeled.  I prefer organic flow, flux.

Litha Pull


Except when it comes to tasks.

I’m one of those people you read about who can’t clean the sink because then the whole kitchen needs cleaning, and what’s the point of doing that if you can’t change the sheets and mop up the basement, so the sink doesn’t get done.  I can’t grade just a couple of papers and then move on to something else; I’d best get them all done or nothing.  This is probably why I can’t do daily cooking chores, either; it’s either got to be a full Thanksgiving spread or I order out for ‘za.

I compartmentalize, and I can’t move from one compartment to the next until the first one’s empty and put on a shelf.

It’s not efficient, it’s not pleasant, and it drives my husband crazy, but there you have it.  I’m forty-five years old; change comes hard.

This probably explains why, when I’ve spent the last two months in total limbo over whether or not I’ll have a place to live by my new job, I can’t quite open the “plan for new school year” box until I have the “now completely settled in my new house” empty (save for a scrap or two, perhaps) and put away. As we hope to close on Wednesday (two days from now, but that’s not even settled), and as we’re planning on the actual moving process (I have very little to offer, what with the tendinitis and fibromyalgia and all), so we’re needing to line up help.

My husband, wisely, has said, “Well, it might take a while…we could do it [names possibilities weeks down the road] since we don’t even have our current home on the market, yet.”  Perfectly reasonable.

Unless you’re ME.

“AAACCCKKKKK!  No!  I need to start getting together with my new English colleagues and go over curriculum!  I need to plan my new courses, and get my room ready!  AAAACCKKKK!!!”  (That would be my reply.)

“Um–,” patient Husband responds, with puzzled look, “Can’t that overlap a bit?  I mean, you can still get together with your colleagues even if you’re not moved in, right?”

WHAT?!?  That would mean HAVING TWO BOXES OPEN AT THE SAME TIME! That’s CRAZY TALK! Nonsense!  I have to be moved in, with pictures on the walls and the right rugs on the floor, and everything put away, before I could possibly meet and discuss CURRICULUM and OUTCOMES! What, is he speaking GREEK?!?

Yeah. So that’s where I am right now.

And speaking of open boxes…my house is full of a bazillion of them as we slowly sort and pack. And people wonder why I’m a raving lunatic right now…

Hay and Meditation

I’ve been known for a few things for all my life: I doodle, I’m stubborn, and I have zero patience. This summer has shown me a clever (read: frustrating) way to combine all three!

As I’ve been talking about, we (husband, father, all our collective cats, and I) have been planning a move across the state. Good things afoot. Found the perfect house, one I can’t wait to move into. Which obviously means, of course, that it’s time for the obstacles to enter, stage right. Getting a loan, having inspections, and now finding out how best to get the septic system up to code in order to get the loan when the sellers may not wish to comply.

And it’s been a holiday weekend.

And our loan officer seems to be mostly…MIA and uncommunicative.

I like the pace set at the beginning of this process.  I interviewed on May 26. I was offered the job on May 31. I resigned my old job June 1 and formally accepted the new position June 3. That same day, the 3rd, we found the house we wanted. We put in an offer on June 6th. Wow.  Whirlwind of changes!  Here we goooooooooooOOOOOOOOO!

And then…wait. Look at clock. Panic. Draw diagrams of new house.  Color-code the placement of furniture based on which house and which room the pieces are coming from.  Fret.  Rearrange.  Color-code some more.  Sketch some more.


Refuse to dream too much about the house because it would be heartbreaking to lose it.  Offer accepted (with some changes), inspection completed (with further changes).

Dig heels in, get good news, and finally start to relax and dream about the place.  Smile a lot.

Stubborn, but Smiling

Stubborn, but Smiling

Then, the septic system snafu (tension tends to run to the alliterative). Still in the process of this one, and I’m losing years off my life, here. While I don’t want to hear a definite “no” to this house, this limbo sucks, too, and there’s nothing else in the area in our price range.  I start my new job next month. Things are crazy!

There’s nothing left for me to doodle about (digitally or otherwise). Being stubborn will only go so far. And now, my patience is completely and totally gone.

Send help. I’ll be the one braying while holding a pencil and hitting my head against the wall, drowning in boxes.

Have you seen Julie B.?

I’m not generally a sentimental person. At least in my adulthood; as a child and teenager, I had massive issues with separation anxiety and attachment, likely because of being bounced around my first two years of life (foster care, bio mother, foster care, adoption) and, well, I wasn’t a happy kid. I also grew up partly on a fishing resort in Alexandria, MN, which was fantastic (and I have more fond memories of that than anything else in my childhood), but also meant saying goodbye, weekly, to friends I’d made, as they went home to the Twin Cities, or Illinois, or Iowa.

I used to have to keep every memento, every scrap of paper or photograph or tangible evidence of life experiences, even to the point of obsession. It was seriously as if the event didn’t happen unless there were written or photographic proof.  Boxes filled.  Drawers were overflowing. Add to this the fact that throughout my depression- and anxiety-ridden adolescence, I kept a journal (oy, vey, the horror of that now), which became a ginormous stack of wire notebooks, filled with the most godawful declarations of angst and despair imaginable.

Veronica, 1996

Veronica, 1996

My stepdaughter from my first marriage, Veronica, now twenty-two and living the academic boho life in California, also recalls that I would photograph her every move. (She also recalls that I would always have Kleenex on my person, and together, these two things raise my Motherly Quotient.)

Along the way, however, something changed. I know I, myself, got healthier, in some ways–I no longer need photographic proof.  Ironically, this movement toward not needing memory-enhancements coincides with my own once-perfect memory losing its strength from middle-age and, mostly, effects of auto-immune diseases and fibromyalgia, but that’s another story. I recently saw a Michael Moore tweet that pretty much sums up my viewpoint, in some ways: “More crazy things we believe:Taking a picture of our kid getting his diploma is better than watching it w/ our eyes& storing it in our brain.”

Or, on the other hand, it’s less to do with noble philosophy and clutter and more to do with I really don’t want to remember a lot of things from my youth.

I have never attended a class reunion, for starters, and don’t really see a time when I will.  High School was miserable; I was bullied, I hated myself, and I still cringe when I see the building. Ick. For the most part, people I went to school with that I wanted to stay in touch with, I have–or I’ve reconnected in other ways–and I have absolutely no desire to buy a fancy dress to try to impress people who never liked me, nor I them, and listen to horrid 80s music that I couldn’t stand the first time around, spending money I do not have. (Okay, a slight bit of bitterness, perhaps…ahem…)

But I have lost touch with people from my past that I did like, and would like to talk to again, which brings me to today.  I dreamt this morning, before waking, of a couple of these people.  In this case, the kids of neighboring resort owners, kids I used to hang with quite a bit. Thinking of those two led me to think of others, and thus I’ve just spent the last two hours combing the internet, trying to locate them.  One of them I had a good lead on–I’ve been in contact with family members, etc.–and I’ve just posted to her brother’s facebook that I would like to get in contact with her (Julie B., are you out there?). She’s in St. Petersburg, FL, doing very well, and I seriously just watched nearly an entire online medical presentation about cleft palate babies because my old friend, a speech and language pathologist, was one of the presenters.  She looks exactly as I remember her at 16, dammit…

The other was tougher.  I found her mother’s obituary, eventually, which made me sad to see, and that, in turn, pointed toward Oregon where my friend now lives.  However, my friend has a very, very common name, and that’s as far as I’ll get right now, it seems.

Today’s activity leads me to a couple of conclusions.  First, the internet can be entirely scary. I did a search on my name (after finding the tool) and you can see a picture of my house. I’m not about to pay the money to find out if the site is accurate as to my hobbies, religion, and income. Second, nostalgia can hit at the oddest times, but perhaps it’s because I’m moving and saying goodbye to yet another place and group of people that’s triggered this. (Not to mention avoidance of sorting and packing…)

After my divorce in the late 90s, I found I wasn’t able to let go quite as quickly as I’d want to.  I’m not big on process, and I don’t deal well with the non-logical (i.e. emotional) aspects of life when they consume me. I sought a therapist, who pointed out something that should have been obvious to me: because of my attachment issues, I don’t do goodbyes. I’ve always avoided them.  I recently was explaining to my husband and a close friend, here, that I’m thrilled that I didn’t find my new job until my school year was over, because facing saying “goodbye” or having others say it would have been murder. I’m far better at just sneaking out in the middle of the night, leaving a note, and starting new without looking back as much as possible.  Which works fine, until it’s a divorce, of course, or others don’t understand and assume I don’t care.

And, I suspect, such behavior also tends to lead toward the frantic, “OH MY GOD I HAVE TO FIND JULIE!” moments twenty-five years later on a Saturday morning.