Pain of My Own Choosing

Today my hands hurt, pretty much all the time, but especially when I use them for anything more than typing. I can’t be certain of the reason, but am fairly sure it’s because of the bike ride I took yesterday.

It was a relaxed ride because I went by myself. I almost prefer going alone so I don’t have to be embarrassed by all the times I stop to take pictures or just look around the forest (or walk up a hill that simply requires too much of me).

The bike paths are well engineered but they are not meant to be smooth like pavement. There are rocks and roots, hairpin curves, sand traps, small ups and downs put there on purpose to make the ride interesting. It’s supposed to be different from road biking, and it is. On some of the hills I’m tempted to brake because I know there’s a curve at the bottom. But there’s also the reality that the “downs” help you when it’s time to go up again. There’s a rhythm established that it’s best not to break (or to brake). Steering is also complicated because it’s not as simple as just missing objects in your path. You also have to miss them without getting unbalanced. Often I can’t do both and have to decide to hit the rock and go over it. All this leads, without intention, to a death grip on the handle bars the whole time I’m riding. I choose to do this.

Pain tells me I’m alive (as long as it’s not too bad). Bike rides take me to places that I love to see and give me a sense of freedom. Bike rides give me lots of cool pictures in my phone. Bike rides give me an excuse to give my hands a rest on the following day. I hurt, but it’s pain of my own choosing and comes with its own weird satisfaction.

Here are some of my cool pics from yesterday – which, by the way, was an excellent day.

The path goes around this lovely marsh
This creek winds through the property
This bridge crosses the creek and goes back into the woods. Trails are on both sides of the creek.
A relatively smooth part of the trail. I’m too busy on the curves to take pictures of them.
Riding bike through the woods is a singular experience.
Trails like this are all over our north Wisconsin area making it a destination for fat tire biking. BTW, good thing there is a hospital nearby…

Summer Excess

Yesterday evening I was tired. I didn’t want to exercise. I wanted to wind down and go to bed early. But, my exercise conscience was not quite dead yet and there were still two hours of daylight left.

It was a week ago today that I gave blood at the blood mobile, and my first time giving double reds. I had a couple days of feeling slightly oxygen deprived with activity, and then forgot about it. I felt fine going for a 9 mile bike ride over the weekend, and was really excited about joining the LCO Boys and Girls club for a canoe outing on Monday. After all, summer is short. Pour it on!

Yes, good question. Are you ready for the river? That’s what it asks on that sign.

The canoe outing was interesting, which is the word I use most of the time instead of “fun but hard”. There was wind, a helpful 9 year old with a paddle, and a middle rider who was afraid of spiders. I spent a lot of time going backwards down the river, when I wasn’t trying to steer out of the bushes on either side. It was a challenging paddle and my arms are a little sore, still. And I will probably go again. Summer is short here. I think I said that already.

On this tired evening I decided that I could probably go biking again, since I could then balance my tired arms with equally tired legs. You know, balance in life is important.

I live wonderfully close to some trails specifically made for biking through the woods. They are part of an extensive network of trails, making our area a destination for this kind of sport. I rode my bike there and got on the trail. I’m not an expert at this yet, and I suspect that CAMBA (Cable Area Mountain Bike Association) is kindly trying to discourage the inept, for their own good of course. The entrances to the trail always have two posts that seem awfully close together to me. My first rush of adrenaline comes with trying not to hit them. It’s a mind thing – the more you think about it, the more likely it is to happen.

The trails are built and maintained so bikers can go whizzing through the forest without looking at it. Sometimes that doesn’t make sense to me because I go to the forest for exactly that reason, to look at it. The trails are also designed to be as long as possible without really going anywhere far. My GPS gets so confused and keeps thinking I’m pausing when really I’m just going around tight turns and doubling back all the time. There’s sand, rocks, hills, creeks, grouse that explode out of the bushes, and scared deer that jump out in front of me. The forest is not flat here and there is a definite roller coaster ambience to the whole ride. My advice is, do this if you want a fun challenge. Maybe don’t do this if you want to relax. It’s not relaxing to me. I’m always thinking “thank you God that I didn’t wipe out on that corner”, and “thank you God that I was going slow when I hit that rock”.

Yeah, just shut your eyes and ride up the hill between those poles. Don’t think about it.

Last night’s ride was only six miles, but as I said, my GPS was confused so it may have been more. I did some street riding at the end just so I could relax and feel the breeze, and go straight, no bumps.

Do you see what I mean about summer excess? There are so many good opportunities to do active things, and quite a few more hours in which to do them. I love the north woods summer, even when it wears me out. I haven’t gone swimming in Round Lake yet, but that will be next. I have a plan, just sayin’…

“Full of Feelings” Month: Fear and Frustration

Nothing makes me fearful like a letter from the IRS. It’s a different kind of fear. In my mind the IRS is a big office somewhere with a few tired people sitting at desks with large piles of paper. They are staring at the walls in a trance because there is no way for them to look at more than one paper each day, and they may not even get that far. I feel sorry for them.

At the same time, they have computers that randomly spit out scary letters to unsuspecting folks – none of whom are really trying to defraud the government by not paying their taxes.

This morning I opened that scary letter from the IRS.

It was a fearful time because I knew it would be like trying to reason with a big, lumbering giant who couldn’t read or hear me screaming. Once the giant thinks he is owed money he is deaf to evidence and arguments because my paperwork will be on the bottom of the pile on a desk in the big room with all the comatose workers. It may take two years before it gets read – two years of increasing penalties and interest on the money I never owed in the first place. I know all this from previous experience.

Supposedly I owe roughly (because I left the letter with my tax preparer and can’t remember the exact amount) $7,400, plus a $1,500 penalty for not paying this “substantial” amount, plus the interest on it for the last two years. It was from the 2019 tax year, which they are just getting to now. So, almost $10,000!

My tax preparer says not to worry. She already knows what the problem is. I hope she is right, but I’ve heard that from an accountant before – one who ended up as frustrated as I was after months of lost communications, numerous phone calls, and the hiring of a special representative to “walk” my paperwork through the big office and put it on top of someone’s pile. Before that whole thing got settled, the giant had withheld that year’s tax return and was garnishing my social security income.

It’s one thing to fear a system that works, but worse to fear a system that is pretty much broken. It’s like talking to a wall.

Bottom line: God is my provider and he knows what I need. Even if it were true, and I had to pay $10,000, I would probably survive. But it’s stressful fighting giants and I was hoping for a quiet year… just sayin’.

Weighing In

It’s Sunday, which means it’s a day off from the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Instead I want to update anyone who has wondered whether or not I accomplished anything with my December walking/fitness goals.

10,000 STEPS

For a while there, the 10,000 steps a day thing was at the top of my list. It was hard to make it happen. I got tired of it and was glad when the month was over. But, guess what? It became more of a habit than I anticipated.

It was a challenge, and not meant to last forever, but I loved the activity and have kept it up, with a few alterations.

First, I lowered my daily expectation to around 8,000 steps, which I have heard is just as beneficial as the higher number. Who decides? I think I heard it was a somewhat arbitrary number that sounded good to someone in charge of a program.

Second, I don’t reach that number seven days a week. Realistically, there are days when it’s just not going to get done because something else is more important. But if I go two days without walking, I know it’s time to hit the road again. Now that the snow is gone it is so much easier, and so interesting to be outside in the spring!

Ooops, did I say the snow was gone? Well, it was, and then it wasn’t.

FITBIT

In December I frequently found myself looking at fitness trackers and smart watches. Carrying my phone for GPS and counting steps was always an uncertain thing. I was always wanting to walk at the low end of the phone battery life. But I thought I could hold off getting one – maybe someone would get me one for Christmas?

So that’s what I finally did, bought myself a Fitbit Versa 3. I spent about a month wearing it 24/7 and got addicted to all that good information it was giving me. Then I noticed a reddened area on my wrist under the band that looked very unusual to me. Being a nurse, I immediately googled the problem and found scores of reports of allergic skin reaction and possible EMF sensitivity. I was very disappointed and stopped wearing it all the time.

Made myself a little cuff, for when I’m not wearing long sleeves. Zeb can’t figure out the new gadget.

I still use the Fitbit for shorter periods of time, and I always wear fabric between it and my skin. So far, so good – no new skin inflammation. It can still read my pulse and count steps, and give me notifications from my phone. I’m not using it to track my sleep though. I’m being cautious and giving my arm some free time at night. Basically, the Fitbit is now an expensive pedometer.

NOOM

There’s more. I saw a trial offer for Noom on Facebook and decided to go for it. I like learning about different approaches to weight loss and wanted to know just what was so unique about this one. They promised I could lose what I wanted to lose by mid April, and they were right! I did it. I am back down to a weight I can easily live with, and I think I can keep myself there. Here’s why.

I’ve been made so much more aware of why I eat (overeat) and this understanding has made a lot of difference. The psychology around weight loss has taken some pretty big leaps. I was surprised by a lot of it, but it made sense. The daily lessons were short (I chose how long I wanted to spend on them). They involved some snarky humor, which helped it be interesting. And who doesn’t want a couple coaches and a group of fellow Noomers available for encouragement and accountability, right there in your phone, whenever you need them?! Again, a little addicting.

Gonna miss the #NoomNerds

Apparently I wasn’t keeping track of when my trial period ended, and was a little surprised when my next monthly charge came through. I decided not to renew, even though the program was good and effective. Daily weighing and logging of meals raised my awareness of what I was doing to myself which was helpful, but also time consuming. It was like a long range project. I don’t need another project in April. They refunded the charge and cancelled my account with no hassle. I still have use of the free app, and I learned a lot of good stuff.

BOTTOM LINE

I feel pretty good about my general health and have added some new tricks to my “already pretty good lifestyle”. Everything isn’t perfect, and I’m still feeling wear and tear on my aging body, but I’m not dead yet and I’ve lived through 2020 without getting COVID 19! How great is that? Feeling blessed, just sayin’…

April A to Z Challenge: Can I Ever Forget?

Welcome to the April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year my contribution is the story of my great grandmother Alzina. She lived in the style of “Little House on the Prairie”and kept a record of her life through letters to family and her own journals. I find her story fascinating and intriguing. Each post will start (sometimes strangely) with a consecutive letter of the alphabet, just because they have to. My hope is that we can “catch” some of her courage to help us face challenges in our present times.

1879

Can I ever forget? This day has made such an impression upon me, and upon the whole family I felt I must record it. I think we will all remember it.

It was the day of the Fair, not for our county but the neighboring one. It’s such an undertaking to travel to something like this, especially with the four children but Emerson and I (my name is Philena) know that we have to take a short holiday and put something positive into our lives. It has been a hard year farming our small homestead and we are definitely stretched, both in our finances and our faith. But that’s what faith is for, and it grows through the stretching. I am less sure about the finances, but we will do our best through working hard and trying to remain positive. That’s why we decided to go to the Fair.

We went in the wagon, of course, our usual means of transportation when we have the whole family. Alzie, our eldest daughter, surprised me by being up and ready to help quite early. She’s only eight, but she tries so hard to help. She probably had the most curiosity about the day ahead, since she remembered a previous fair. The younger ones didn’t know what to expect, but they were cheerful, cooperative and willing to be bossed around by “big sister”.

The Woodson County Fair in Neosho Falls is the closest fair, the one we look forward to every year. Emerson had a few things from the garden that he was taking to show, and I had a knitted shawl that had turned out nice enough to exhibit, but there was another reason we didn’t want to miss going today. We had heard of something special to happen. The president of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, had been talked into visiting us here in Kansas! Who would have thought that would ever happen?

We walked through the agriculture exhibits and all the home goods exhibits. We let Alzie and Phebe have their first photograph taken and what a treat that was! It was so good to be Kansans, and around others who loved the land as much as we did. I have to say it has always picked up our spirits to have the fellowship, taste all the good food, join in the fun of contests and see what others have managed to accomplish. I’m not so keen on the horse races and the betting, but the animals are so fine and majestic looking that I love to see them run. Emerson might have gone in for the corn husking competition but frankly, I needed him to help me keep watch of the children. There was such a crowd it would have been easy to lose the little ones.

We were glad to finally go to the amphitheatre, where we were able to sit and rest before the parade. Even I was not sure what to expect from a presidential visit but the fair board made a good show of it. Of course, all the schools took the holiday so families could attend, and I don’t know how they managed it, but even the rail companies gave special pricing so people and exhibits came from far away. I could hear the noise and clamor increasing as the parade came past the amphitheatre and then, there he was, President Hayes. He was standing in a fine carriage, drawn by four white horses. He was waving his hat above his head and smiling at the crowd, amid much clapping and shouts.

But I will admit that what struck me most was looking down at the faces of the children, even the little ones who hardly knew what they were seeing. Alzie has had some schooling and she especially had a look of awe and wonder that made me guess at the feelings she was forming for her country and its leaders. It made me think a short prayer for those who stand for us in government. I don’t really know much about President Hayes except that a lot of Kansas people seem to like and respect him. I know the kind of courage I respect. I heard at Temperance Meeting that his wife Lucy was the first President’s wife to refuse to serve liquor in the White House. That took some “standing up”.

It was a long day, but I am so glad we went. I never thought I would see a President, and who knows, we might never see another one in our lifetime.

Phebe (left) and Alzina (right) at the Fair. Their first photo.

Random Spring

Today it is raining and blustery. Will it snow once more in the hours ahead? It’s possible. I never know how to dress for my daily walks – down coat, rain jacket, only a sweatshirt, hat? So I put it all on and take it off and carry it if I have to. For our spot on this planet, the month of March is never sure whether she is winter or spring, which leaves us waiting in various ways. Life is just a little more eclectic and full of random activities, waiting activities.

We watch the snow melt. I know it’s hard to imagine that being exciting, but when you’ve seen nearly five months of whiteness, a little bare ground is a big deal. It has disappeared from the roads and most of the yards except for the deep snow banks that the snow plows left. There are still patches of snow in the woods where the sun doesn’t shine. The lakes are still covered with rotten ice, but the geese are arriving and looking for any open water in the streams and marshes.

We are cleaning closets, emptying boxes long forgotten, and making decisions. Spring cleaning, it could be called that but it’s much more. It’s like taking trips down memory lane and we spend a lot of time talking about what we are remembering.

We (I) are finally putting December behind us. I turned off the winter lights on Daylight Savings day. The sun is coming up earlier and in a different place on the horizon. The patio furniture is out on the east porch and we are ready for the first day that allows us to sit outside for morning coffee, no longer in the dark and cold.

For some odd reason, I’m finding puzzles to be more than usually comforting. They have appeared in greater than usual numbers too, thanks to friends who have dropped them off. This is the first year that I’ve done puzzles alone since there is no one in the house who cares for them like I do. When my brain needs a break from daily duties, the puzzle is there waiting, demanding nothing, requiring a different kind of focus, full of color, visually interesting, solvable and just challenging enough.

Even the cat is waiting to be let outside. She watches the squirrels at the bird feeder and gets all excited, but only spends a few seconds in the cold when I let her out. She is waiting for the warm times she remembers, and as I watch her sitting in the sun I am reminded of spring window washing duties. I cleaned this window this week and it looks much better now.

Everyone’s chickens are laying eggs now and it is easy to get them fresh from the farms. I get a strange delight at boxes like this one from a chicken breed called Rainbow – for obvious reasons. I am having time to pay more attention to our nutrition and exercise needs. I feel healthier and ready for summer, ready for the sun, and work in the garden.

I am writing, although finding it hard. April Challenge is coming up and I would like to have my posts finished beforehand. It is slow going because my theme is so interesting and personal. Stories of my great grandmother and her family are so thought provoking and absorbing and I find myself spending days thinking about one episode before actually nailing it down. It is hard but I know it will be worthwhile.

And amid all the projects that didn’t get done this winter, there are a few that are getting done. I’m sealing the beautiful outdoor chairs that my uncle made for our patio, and I sawed the backs off my kitchen stools and painted the seats barn red. Now they fit under the counter better. I swept under the stove, vacuumed out the truck, and put away the snow shovels in favor of the rakes. I am even finding time to knit, and that amazes even me. I am grateful for all there is to do that makes waiting an interesting part of life, almost like a season in itself.

I can almost forget I’m waiting,… just sayin’.

February Goodness: Volunteering

I can hardly believe February is nearly over! So many good things to report, and many I missed writing about because I was busy living them…

What an amazing event! And I have gotten to volunteer to help with it, in a very small way, for the third consecutive year. The American Birkiebeiner is the largest cross country ski race in North America and the third largest in the world, and it was created by a visionary man who lived right here in Hayward, my home town.

Part of my amazement is the way the race has adapted to pandemic times and become even more available to sports enthusiasts all over the world. The Birkie went virtual. There were still over 8,000 skiers participating this 47th year of the race but half of them were not here in person. Yesterday I got to watch some of them as they passed the Fire Tower Aid Station. Unlike other years, they had to bring their own water containers and food, but we dispensed water and electrolyte drink and watched out for those who might need medical attention.

Our cozy aid station with drink systems in place. Challenge was to keep the hoses from freezing.
Volunteer and Birkie employee, keeping the fire going.

It was a perfect skiing day with temperatures getting into the 30’s and barely any wind. Many skiers remarked about the snow being just right. What they complained about were all the hills. There are few places that have the kind of hilly, glacial terrain found in the 43 K forested trail of the Birkie, so skiers have a challenge to prepare for it. I talked to one man who thought he had prepared but was seriously considering cutting his distance in half after reaching our aid station.

Most skiers would expect to be skiing down hills like this, but not in the Birkie, no, no, no. Every “down” is partnered with an “up”.

What did I and the others on our team do? We set up the aid station with water hoses, touch-less dispensing systems for water and drink, got the fires burning for those needing to warm up (but seriously, there were people with shorts and T-shirts in this race and they still thought they were hot) and served as the cheering audience. No spectators were allowed this year. I mixed up several batches of Noom in the 10 gallon coolers, answered questions (like “how much farther do I have to go?”) and held ski poles while people filled their drink bottles.

It was a great day to be outside. We started at 7:30 am and were done by 2 pm when most of yesterday’s skate skiers had passed our station. As I watched some of the last stragglers wearily climbing Fire Tower Hill, I remembered my Grand Canyon experience, and was glad I was going home in my truck and not skiing another 12 K out in the forest wilderness of north Wisconsin.

These were the elite, early wave skiers. The later ones did not power up this hill with the same energy.

I will probably never ski the whole Birkie Trail – it’s not on my list – but I would like to hike the whole thing. Maybe this summer will be the right time to do it. Tell me if you want to come along. It will be epic, in one way or another, I promise.

February Goodness: Finding Lost Things

It is so good to be able to find things that are lost. Well, not actually “things” plural, but “thing” singular. I’m betting every woman who owns a purse or a bag that goes everywhere with her knows the panic of losing her purse.

It’s not a little purse.

This is my purse. I don’t take it everywhere because I carry most of what I really need in my phone wallet. But today I took it along to the husband’s weekly chiropractor appointment. I had it with me in the treatment room and hung it on his cane, like in the picture. After the appointment I had an errand to run for Mom at the hardware store.

I came out of the hardware store with my purchases and as I set them on the floor of the truck, where I usually put my purse, I was aware that my purse was not there. Thinking it must be in the back seat, I got out, opened the door and took a look. The inside of my truck is black too and sometimes the purse is hard to see. It definitely was not there.

No problem. We just went back to the chiropractor’s office a minute or two away. It wasn’t in the waiting room where I thought it had to be. But I could have put it down in the treatment room when I helped the husband up after his adjustment. The receptionist went in and looked. It wasn’t there either.

Back to the truck I went. Everything in it got lifted, opened, felt and thoroughly examined, but there was still no discovery. I went back in the office and waited for ten minutes until the person in the treatment room was finished and came out. I had to see for myself that the purse was not there, although I didn’t think they could have missed it. There was no purse and there was nothing left to do about it except pray that it be found. The chiropractor added his prayer as well, and it was comforting to know he was genuinely concerned.

I went back to the truck to inform the husband, who is also as eager to give lost causes to God as I am.

Husband: “God knows where it is. We’ll pray and keep looking.”

Me: “I know, but there isn’t any place left to look. It wasn’t anywhere in the office and I can’t see it anywhere in here, unless you’re sitting on it.”

Husband: “I am sitting a little bit crooked.”

Me: (looking at him in disbelief) (shoving my hand behind his back and feeling a purse strap) “You’re sitting on my purse! You couldn’t feel that?!”

Husband: (looking sheepish and overjoyed, a very strange combination) “Well, that was quick.”

All good. We were both so relieved that there was instant laughter. Losing things is not fun, but sometimes finding them again makes it all worth it. Just sayin’…

February’s Good Things: Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not something we do for other people, it’s something we do for ourselves, to move on.

From ProjectForgive.com

Today’s good thing is forgiveness, both the kind that others give me and the kind I give myself.

The day started out just fine, and I must have let my guard down a little because of that. It wasn’t much past noon when I forgot an appointment. I had also put my phone on silent earlier and forgotten to take it off, so I didn’t get Mom’s reminder call. I’m pretty sure I’ll be forgiven for both of those things just because my people are nice. But when I miss an appointment it really bothers me, so I don’t forgive myself right away. I carried that around in my bag of disappointments for a couple of hours.

I felt pressure to do my exercise before too late in the day. That was my one productive activity, after which I started messing up my room collecting things for the upcoming rummage sale. It was all out on the bed, and overflowing onto the floor, when I realized it was time to cook dinner. Where does the time go? I had intended to cook for Mom, but because I hadn’t let her know, she had eaten earlier. The bag of disappointments was feeling full, so I forgave myself for that one.

Instead I started cooking dinner and got distracted, until the faint smell of burning food brought me to my senses. I’m forgiving myself for burning dinner. After all, I’ve not burned dinner many more times than I’ve burned it. I cut the burned parts off and we ate it anyway. I forgave myself for ruining the non-stick pan because I don’t really think there is such a thing. I’ve never met a non-stick pan that I couldn’t make sticky. And I forgave myself for forgetting to turn off the burner for another hour. It’s -30 degrees outside and the house needs the extra heat.

Oh pan, I’m sorry.

And now I’m forgiving myself for the awful shape my room is in. I’m going to push everything off the bed and take care of it tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a brand new day, and that’s kind of what forgiveness is all about – starting over fresh, and second chances. Forgiveness and extending mercy feels good and in my life, it is oh so necessary. Just thinking about it and its merits has reminded me of how important it is not to hold grudges against others or beat myself up about things that are past. I’m not saying it’s easy to do this, but maybe that’s why God gives me days like this – to practice.

Donating (again)

Today I donated, not to Salvation Army or Goodwill or Humane Society Thrift Shop. Today I donated to Memorial Blood Center. I’ve done it several times since moving north, since I’ve stopped making trips overseas and since my hemoglobin number has been high enough. It’s kind of strange to think of my blood being shared with someone else, from my body to theirs. It’s strange and amazing to think that I have that much extra, and that I can make more so that it’s hardly even missed.

I became aware of a new kind of donation called double red because my brother had given in that way and told me about it. I wanted to help meet the demand for red cells, which I was told was high, and I qualified so I went online and got on the schedule. That kind of donation has to be scheduled because it takes considerably more time on a special machine called an apheresis machine. Blood is separated into various components and some parts are collected, in this case it would be red cells, and the rest of the fluids and plasma are returned into the donor’s body.

Pulling into the parking lot today, I was a little excited about doing the double red thing. As a nurse, I’ve seen a lot of blood and transfused a lot of blood so I’m not upset or queasy about the thought, but I’ve never been the one hooked up to the machine either. I registered at a table manned by the bus drivers (yes, they do multitasking when the bus is parked) answered my online questions and was sent to one of the buses to get the process going. I had quite a wait and started thinking about the apheresis machine and wondering how it worked and how they cleaned it, wondering if it ever malfunctioned… was even getting a bit anxious (deep, slow breaths, calm thyself…).

Then due to a scheduling mistake they told me they couldn’t get me on a machine and asked me to donate whole blood instead. So, short story, that’s what I did. It was over in a few minutes and was familiar to me. I was fine with that.

The most common blood type is O+ and it also happens to be the one most easily shared with others. I am type O+ and am blessed to be healthy enough to donate, to give back. There’s also a little something to be hopeful about – people with O+ type blood have been showing more resistance to COVID19 and are among some of the most long-lived people as well. I’ll take that.

Oh, and I got a T-shirt and a snack. Just sayin’…

A little wrinkled. I wore it already – a good workout shirt.