The everyday life of a New England woman.

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Decisions & Changes

100_0542It’s almost November, and that, of course, excites me to no end. No, not because winter is coming (*shudder*), but because on November 9th, my student loan grace period ends. I get to reconsolidate my loans and reapply for my payment plan…and find out whether I’m thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2015 or not. It’s been a seemingly long wait, since July. I’m a very patient person by nature, but having my life be in such limbo was really grating on my nerves. By late November or early December, I will have my answer. I will consider it my Christmas gift if it just so happens that I can hike!

Life has changed a lot for me between July and now. Just when I thought I had everything figured out, I discovered that I don’t. It’s not so much that everything has changed, but my sense of direction has. It’s changed in a way that I’ve shared with a few people but am not ready to share with everyone quite yet. It’s exciting and scary, and will certainly be carefully considered quite often on my hopeful nearly 2,200-mile adventure. Once that “Bucket List” item is checked off, it will be gonads-to-the-wall job hunting for me.

So stay tuned, the time is almost here for the Appalachian Trail decision!

Hunting Season & Outdoor Safety

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A doe in my yard.

Hunting season is closing in, and for outdoor folks, that means it’s time to break out the blaze orange apparel! There are a number of ways to stay safe in the woods this fall. Here are some tips:

  • Wear blaze orange or other bright colors (preferably neon: orange, green, yellow are best). Avoid black, browns, grays, reds, and whites…those colors are too similar to that of bears, deer, moose, turkeys, etc.
  • Display your blaze orange apparel where it can be easily seen from a distance. A blaze orange logo on your back will not be visible if you’re wearing a backpack. Hats and vests are good, visible apparel. If you’re wearing a large pack and do not have a blaze orange pack cover, tie a blaze orange bandana to the outside of the pack where it can be seen.
  • Don’t forget about your canine friends! Make sure they are wearing a wrap-around blaze orange vest every time they go into the woods.
  • If you see or hear hunters in your vicinity, make your presence known. Verbal identification is generally better than making noises. Do not assume that they can see or hear you.
  • Know and avoid popular hunting areas entirely, if possible. Know when hunting season for bows and firearms begins and ends in your area.

I’ll be digging out my blaze orange hat and tying my blaze orange vest to the outside of my pack while I do my training! Be safe in the woods this hunting season!

Training Update (and Some Introspection!)

20140829_140634 I’m still hard at work with my anticipatory training for the Appalachian Trail (November is inching closer to find out for sure!). My training has changed a lot since I last posted about it, so here is what I’m currently doing versus what I was doing back on June 19th:

Now:

Day Workout
Sunday DAY OFF
Monday 4.7-mile trail hike, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Tuesday 4.7-mile trail hike, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell, abdominal/core strengthening
Wednesday 4.7-mile trail hike, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Thursday 4.7-mile trail hike, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell, abdominal/core strengthening
Friday 4.7-mile trail hike, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Saturday 4.7-mile trail hike, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell, abdominal/core strengthening

June 19th:

Day Workout
Sunday DAY OFF
Monday 2-mile road walk, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Tuesday 2-mile road walk, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell
Wednesday 2-mile road walk, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Thursday 2-mile road walk, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell
Friday 2-mile road walk, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Saturday 2-mile road walk, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell

For the month of August, I started using my trekking poles and wearing my pack with 10 pounds of gear. I just added 10 more pounds for September, and when October comes I will add the final 10 pounds for a total of 30 pounds. I’ve lost approximately 14 pounds of body weight and am feeling really good, although pretty tired by the end of the day. Often, I want to head to bed at 8 PM, and those who know me well know I tend to lean toward being a bit of a night owl!

At times, I have to dig pretty deep for inspiration. When you decide you want…need…to do something like thru-hikng the Appalachian Trail, it can become daunting. Almost-2,200 miles is a long way to hike. A really long way. I have the additional challenges of medical issues. So, I dig deep. I remember how I discovered the Trail, why I decided I want to thru-hike it, and how I will feel if I don’t go down to Georgia next March and give it 100%. These are pretty normal feelings, from what I’ve read of many other thru-hikers’ journals. That’s why I have chosen to train six days a week, rain or shine (except downpours and lightning, of course). No amount of training will have me totally prepared for what the Trail will throw at me, but if I’m in the best possible physical shape that I can be in, I will at least stand a chance. It’s a domino effect: feeling physically adequate will give me the mental strength I will need. I also have a ton of support from family and friends, and people who don’t even know me (via social media). I am grateful.

I look forward to so much that the Trail has to offer: interesting places, history, random acts of kindness of strangers, the complete physical and mental challenge, and contemplations about my life’s direction. In November, my student loans will be the deciding factor as to whether the dream is actualized, or becomes dust in the wind.

The Death of Robin Williams

As a new MSW (Master of Social Work), Robin Williams’ suicide has me thinking many different thoughts about life, death, and my future work. These are my own personal thoughts.

I have never been so touched by the death of a celebrity than I have by Robin Williams. He was exhausting to watch. He was brilliantly funny and entertaining. He was amazingly versatile. Many of us welcomed him into our homes like a good — albeit perhaps crazy — friend. It’s no wonder that he was so beloved. Who could think of a more seemingly happy person on the face of the earth than Robin Williams? I have never met the man, I did not know the man personally…but I was utterly shocked and heartbroken to learn of his suicide on August 11th.

Robin Williams’ suicide has taught me more than “money can’t buy happiness”, more than “drugs are bad”, more than “sometimes the happiest people are the saddest people”. His suicide has taught me that I have much research, education, and advocacy work to do in my future career. I have a whole career of people I haven’t even met yet to care for and to help, and perhaps also, some to lose. I have a firm grip on the reality that, “you can’t save everyone”, but I have yet to put it into practice.

Depression is, yes, partly a chemical imbalance…but it is also more than that. It is genetic. It is environmental.  I’ve learned that stigmas and myths can be dangerous. “People who talk about suicide don’t commit suicide”, “suicide is selfish”, and so on. Suicide maybe boils down to the inability to live with that darkness that alternates between rearing its ugly head and lying dormant inside your soul, whatever that “darkness” is. Maybe it’s substances. Maybe it’s past trauma. Maybe it’s having not yet found an effective medication to treat a mental illness. Maybe it runs in your family. Depression does not care how famous you are, how much money you make, or what a good person you are.  Depression can be overcome in some circumstances. I should know, I used to be depressed. While I don’t profess to possibly know the depths of Robin Williams’ depression, what could cause someone like him to commit suicide and allow me to keep going? Is it the differences in people’s brain chemistry? Is it the depth of the depression itself and the individual’s coping skills (or lack thereof)? I don’t know.

Thank you, Robin Williams, for the decades of laughter and tears. I have learned things through your unfathomable tragedy.  I wish that there could have been a much better solution for you.

Video

Hike 08-07-14

Video

Hike 08-05-14

Video

A Wet Wander

Quick Update

My student loan lenders neglected to inform me that two of my loans are in a mandatory grace period until early November, so at that time I have to reconsolidate my loans and reapply for a payment plan. I won’t know anything further about my Appalachian Trail hike-in-planning until then, unfortunately…but at the same time it will work out well. As it stood, I was going to have to try and find a computer to reapply for my payment plan during my thru-hike, which would’ve been an inconvenience, especially if I had to submit any documentation. Hopefully this way, I won’t have to reapply for anything until after the hike. So, stay tuned and I’ll update you all again this fall!

Update

100_0530I know that I have a lot of folks eagerly anticipating whether or not I’ll be thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail next year or not…believe me, there is no one who is more eagerly anticipating the answer than me!

Things are still up in the air right now. I am being patient, and hopeful. My student loans should be consolidated by the end of June and I should be able to arrange a repayment plan with my lender in July, so hopefully I will have a definite answer in July. The “answer” I’m awaiting is whether or not I’ll get an affordable student loan payment. I have saved a finite amount of money that I would need to stretch from July to when I land a job, which would be after my return from the Trail in Fall 2015.

If all systems are “go”, I’ll be making a few gear upgrades to lighten my pack and revising my current “anticipatory” training to “let’s do this” training. My “anticipatory” training regimen currently is:

Day Workout
Sunday DAY OFF
Monday 2-mile walk, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Tuesday 2-mile walk, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell
Wednesday 2-mile walk, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Thursday 2-mile walk, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell
Friday 2-mile walk, upper body w/two 10-lb. dumbbells
Saturday 2-mile walk, lower body w/one 10-lb. dumbbell

As far as my walks are concerned, I don’t just walk on nice, sunny days. I also have been walking in anything up to a heavy mist (no lightning, of course). My walk consists of a road walk that is flat-to-gentle-hills. If I am able to do the hike, I’ll also walk in light and moderate rain and will be doing steeper hills and more trail terrain. I will also be adding an introductory announcement video to my YouTube channel (which will also be posted here). In an effort to not clog my blog up with too many updates about this, I won’t be updating about it again until I’ve settled a repayment plan with my lender.

Stay tuned!

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Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke

As the temperatures climb this summer, we should all be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke in ourselves and our outdoor companions. Let’s beat the heat!