First Day Hike

I’m an avid, amateur hiker. I’m no Cheryl Strayed or Grandma Gatewood, but I like to hike and I’ve been hiking since I was about 13, when I joined the 8th grade hiking club in middle school. There is something about the outdoors, the dirt, the aroma, the sounds of water flowing or birds singing, leaves crunching and twigs breaking that grounds and calms me.

Hiking is a hobby and passion that I wish to pass on to my daughters, so far with mixed results. I’ve had them join me on a few shorter hikes, and while they claim to enjoy the time outside, there have been tears, complaints, and downright tantrums. Needless to say, my enthusiasm for bringing my children with me hiking is not tops. There’s nothing quite so disturbing as to be screamed at during a favorite past time. (insert side eye here).

First Day Hike is a January 1st tradition for hikers, and I decided today would be a nice time to try a short, guided hike at a nearby NC State Park that was billed to be intentionally family friendly. I figured if other families with kids were there, the girls would naturally decide this was a fun event and maybe the seed would be planted without them knowing it was mom who planted it.

My daughters, begrudgingly joining me for a First Day Hike

The seed was not planted today.

I chose a 0.8 mile “hike” on the Alder Trail at Lake Norman State Park. Park Ranger Greene was our guide and he did a great job of telling us about the trail, that specific portion of the park, various flora we saw on the trail, and allowing us to stop and watch a fisherman throw a cast net with no success. There were about 20 people on the hike, most with small children. While I wouldn’t consider it an actual hike, seeing as how I didn’t need a backpack or water bottle, it was a good super-beginner outing with enough interesting things to see to keep everyone’s attention.

I was able to log 1 mile for my 100 Mile Challenge, so that’s a plus as well. My hope is that we’ll be able to find other trails at other places that the girls will like, and that I’ll be able to complete some of the more challenging hikes this year. It was a nice way to start 2020 off and I encourage all women to find a place to go walk outdoors, in the dirt, with nothing but nature to keep you company.

A view of Park Lake from behind the Lake Norman State Park visitor’s center

Twenty-Nine

Ten years ago I was twenty-nine, pregnant, unemployed, alone, and really unsure of where I was going or what I was going to do. I had been on top of my game for several years, switching directions frequently but always by choice. Ten years ago several changes had happened not of my choice, and they all flung me into the chaos. It was a disorienting, terrifying, and, at many times, humiliating life. Everything I thought was secure and guaranteed had come crashing down and I was left standing there trying to sort through the pieces to find a way to put my life back together as quickly as I could before this tiny human showed up and tossed it all in the air again.

To make the very complicated and tragic story short and overly simple, I had been laid off from a very good job and my partner of several years had suddenly decided he did not want to be my partner any longer or have any part in my life or the life of our planned and wanted baby that was on her way. So, here I was with no income, no support, and I was lucky enough to have it all happen right at the peak of a nationwide economic disaster. All I could see in front of me was struggle and uncertainty.

Because this all happened in Washington state, I was fortunate to have access to the state worker retraining program and I took full advantage of it, enrolling at Green River Community College to take the prerequisite courses for their LPN program. I really only did it as a stopgap until I could figure out how to get back on my feet, find a job, raise a child, pay my bills, feed myself… It wasn’t a long-term plan and I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. All I could see was darkness.

Fast-forward to today.

I’m a registered nurse with my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. I have two healthy, intelligent, and independent daughters who blow my mind daily with their hearts and brains. I own my own home. I made it to the other side of the tunnel.

It wasn’t just a straight shot, though. There were some very difficult days. In order to make it to this side, I had to move clear across the country. I had to give up everything. I went further into debt. Much further. I had to humble myself and ask for help and be willing to accept it, and the judgment that came with it. I had to learn to let things go even when I wanted to stand up and fight. I also had to learn to fight.

I don’t know where I’ll be ten years from now, but I hope that it won’t require as much bending and sometimes breaking as the last ten years did. I hope I carry with me the knowledge that I made it through what were some of the hardest experiences a person can go through and I came out a little bruised and scarred but stronger than I could have ever anticipated. Strength wasn’t the only thing I gained, though. My heart and mind have opened to a better understanding of the world and people around me, a greater capacity to empathize and reach for understanding, and a willingness to trust myself and believe that I will be okay no matter what because I’m capable, patient, and resilient.

Here’s to thirty-nine and whatever the next ten years bring.

The 40 List

This is the 40 List. It’s a list I created over the past few months of activities and achievements I want to accomplish over the next year; a to-do-before-I-turn-40 list. Some of the items are simple (go fishing, make an apple pie, go to the dentist) and I’ve included those activities because they are easy but necessary for my mental and physical happiness. Other items are more complex and daunting (burpees, create a retirement plan, host a dinner) and they are important for challenging me and planning for the future. And finally, I have some fun, out-of-the-box, new and exciting items (motorcycle license, read a poem in public, nude photos) and they are on the list because they are both long-held dreams as well as take me to new places and experiences that I want to have and hold on to for many years. There is much more to explore with this list, and some adjustments to make since I realized I repeated some items. I don’t know if I’ll add or subtract or change, but this is a fun and thrilling place to start.

Both Feet OFF the Ground

I have been struggling with my self confidence all my life. As I’ve gotten older I struggle less with what I think other people think of me (trust me, other people don’t think about you as much as you think they do) and more of what I think of myself. This still means I find it difficult to be confident in my abilities and my achievements and my worth.

Tonight in my Taekwondo class, Instructor Mack gave a short talk about loyalty that despite its brevity hit me square in the nose. He talked about how as we get older our goals seem more difficult to achieve and staying loyal to ourselves and keeping our eye on the goal ahead is the only way to get to where we want to be. He reminded us that even though we want and feel as though we should be able to get to our goal right away, sometimes it takes A LOT of work to get there and we have to be willing to be patient, do the work, and – here’s the key: NOT GIVE UP. Whoo! I thought he was following me around today like a ninja spy, because this was exactly what I needed to hear.

After the talk, we all stood up and he walked us through what has been my nemesis so far: a jump roundhouse kick. Like, he wanted us to throw out a round house kick. While jumping. In the air. With both feet off the ground. He prefaced the exercise with “You may feel like this is too much and if you really feel like this is above you, try to do something close to it that works for you.” But I did it. I. DID. IT!!!

I have been working very hard at Taekwondo, trying to do everything that is sometimes hard for me thanks to old injuries…and age. But I give it my all, I work up a sweat, and kihap with all the confidence I can muster. And because of my hard work – and willingness to simply try – I earned both my blue and my red stripes tonight. For anyone who doesn’t know, this means I’ve learned all the skills necessary to graduate to my next level belt. It is such a confidence boost to see all five stripes on my belt tonight. I’m reminding myself that it’s with the help of some amazing instructors, but it’s also because I haven’t given up and I’m willing to do the work, to get both feet off the ground, and do it.

And tonight’s jump round house kick is absolutely a metaphor for all the other seemingly impossible things I want to do that with loyalty to my goal, time, work, and perseverance, I will be able to do.

Where Am I Going?

This is my first time setting up a blog like this, so I’m a little lost. Please forgive the wandering lady, and the mess of unedited headers and “blocks”. I guess this means I’m officially old if I can’t figure out technology. I will figure it out eventually. I hope.

This leads me to why I’m creating this page, and that is to document this mighty adventure I’m on of *gasp!* dun, dun, dun…turning 40. And of course, the years after this impending milestone. I have a year to go and the journey is expected to be fantastic.

When I was a child, I remember my parents turning 30 and it seemed sooo old! I look back on the last nine years and I realize I was just getting started on life. Now, at nearly 39 (less than 48 hours to go!) I know that the number is just that – a number. It’s really all about how much life you put into your years and nothing to do with how many years are in your life.

I have a “40 List” of the things I want to do in the year before I turn 40. Some of them are practical and on the list of things that every responsible adult should probably do by this point in life. But a lot of them are things that remind me I’ve still got a lot of living to do and right now is the time do start doing it. There are things that scare me, things that challenge me, things I’ve always wanted to do but forgot about, and things I want to do because I’ve recently been reminded of all the dreams I had when I was younger and set aside for the past decade. The list isn’t complete yet, but it will be in the next two days. And then it’s go time.

Happy reading!

P.S. I promise to figure out the layout and editing…some day.