Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Ready for a road trip August 22, 2014

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — hmh912 @ 3:35 pm
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You never know the beauty you'll find.

You never know the beauty you’ll find.

I love adventure and I love road trips. The thrill of the open road (well, depends on the time of day and construction season), wondering what adventures await, and new memories to be made.

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My family recently headed out for our annual getaway. We decided to book at Barothy Lodge again, our favorite northern Michigan spot on the Pere Marquette River, adjacent to the Manistee National Forest. Unfortunately my husband ended up not being able to go due to various circumstances. I decided to go anyway. I love hanging out with my family and I love a trip to the woods (especially in a gorgeous log cabin).

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While I was admittedly bummed my husband couldn’t join us, I was also a bit excited for a road trip on my own (we were all able to leave at different times so did that). Barothy is approximately 3.5-4 hours from the Detroit area. It was a beautiful, sunny, warm summer day in the early afternoon when I set off with my new Escape packed with clothes, cooler of food and drinks for the long weekend, a book and my iPod filled with newly downloaded music.

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Lots of things can make for a fun road trip. Often times, it’s the people in the car but then again, solo car trips can be fun too. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when heading out to the road:

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  • Pack drinks and food.  I don’t like to stop a lot (excited to reach my destination!) so I always bring a water bottle, easy to eat fruit (banana, apple) and granola bar in case I need a snack. And I admit I always get a treat for myself, either a Starbucks chai latte or Dr. Pepper. Something about a road trip inspires splurging on treats!
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  • Stay alert with good drinks.

    Stay alert with good drinks.

    This should be obvious but make certain you have directions to your destination! While most cars or smart phones have GPS, I always confirm on Google maps on my laptop before heading out. I’ve had several instances where my phone’s map directed me differently than Google maps.  We ran into this in Maui for our massages so I finally called the spa, which gave me another set of directions! It may be safer to check directly with your lodging (many businesses put directions on their website).

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  • Bring good music. There is nothing better than jamming to good road trip music – fun, energized songs you can sing along to.
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  • Games. Have you ever played the alphabet game in the car? If not, it’s pretty easy – you look for letters of the alphabet along the road. You can also play this game when in the car alone in case you start to get bored. You can also look for various state license plates or whatever other clever games you create to make the drive fun.
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  • Catch up with friends. Because of every woman knows nothing passes the time better than talking to a girlfriend (especially when your husband really dislikes talking on the phone). Of course if you’re driving, be safe while talking on the phone. Use hands free devices whenever possible. My new Escape has the Sync option so I can connect my iPhone’s bluetooth technology with the car and talk hands-free. I love it. And please don’t even think of texting while driving. Seriously, so dangerous.
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  • Enjoy “me” time. I’m a firm believer that we all need downtime by ourselves to reflect on life and appreciate you. Everyone is on the go all the time in our society. I loved the ‘me’ time on the road to be able to reflect on what’s happening in my life now, where I want to be in a few months and what I need to do to get there. Ok, not all ‘me’ time needs to be so deep but at least learn to enjoy time alone. I felt my stress and life pressure slowly blow off me as I drove along the highway, windows down, hair blowing, sun shining.
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  • While Michigan has invested in upgrading their rest areas, I’m a little weird about stopping alone. The further north you drive, the less people at the stops. So I try to time my breaks near well-populated and busy exits. It’s been 10 years since I’ve eaten at McDonald’s, but there are free bathrooms.
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  • Enjoy your trip. Not every trip will go smoothly. You might take a wrong turn. You might get stuck behind a slow moving truck (or a stinky garbage truck). You might arrive to your destination later than planned. Take a deep breath and chalk it up to one for the memory book. Life’s a journey. Enjoy the ride.

Do you have any favorite preparations for a road trip?

Made it to my destination. Now the fun begins!

Made it to my destination. Now the fun begins!

 

Cancer made me try Zumba Toning August 15, 2014

Filed under: Cancer Tips,Life Lessons — hmh912 @ 4:38 pm
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Exercise keeps the body healthy!

I recently sat in a doctor’s office waiting area with several other people. I happened to be wearing a dress for this work-related visit. It was an appropriate length above my knees but short enough that a few inches of my scar from bone cancer showed along my outer thigh and knee.

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An older couple sat across from me. The gentleman noticed my scar, commenting that I looked too young to need a new knee. I smiled, merely responding, “You never know.” I guess his curiosity was piqued because he asked what happened. Yes he could be considered nosy but honestly I am open about my cancer history, taking it as opportunity to educate people on the disease and, most importantly, dispelling the myth that cancer is an automatic death sentence. So I briefly shared I was a bone cancer survivor and had surgery to replace my femur and knee with titanium. Both he and his wife were surprised (I’m always fascinated by how many people tell me I was so young to have cancer. It’s unfortunately a disease that affects every age) and we chatted for a few more minutes.

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Then he asked, “Do you consider yourself disabled?” The question startled me, partly because I’ve never been asked that but mostly because being disabled has never crossed my mind. Yes, cancer infected my body, I went through a horrible treatment, had my femur and knee replaced, and I have some limitations with physical activities. However, there are so many people worse off than me. I have my own two legs, can walk and more. I feel grateful every day I wake up for what I do have.

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When I asked him why I would consider myself disabled, he answered, “Because you had cancer. You probably can’t do much because of your leg.” While his wife was clearly a little appalled at his comments, I wasn’t. I realized this was a great opportunity to dispel some myths and provide a little education about cancer. I shared a bit of my history and all of the activities I can do, and a few of those I can’t because of my rod. He was genuinely interested and appreciated my openness.

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That conversation kept coming back to me for a few days. I usually just blow off those conversations, especially after all these years of being a cancer survivor and hearing many odd comments (my favorite is still, “I bet you’re happy that you’re not dead (from cancer).” What do you say to that? Uh, yeah.). I wasn’t offended by his question or comments. It was ignorance on his part and I appreciated that he seemed to want to learn.

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I finally accepted that he struck a nerve relating to activities in my life. I have discovered it’s one thing for me to ponder the limitations or modifications I now live with, but another for someone else to suggest limitations. In that instance, this weird stubbornness and determination set in every time and I get antsy to do something to prove to myself that I can….well, do something!

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So that conversation is what propelled me to a Zumba Toning class last night. My younger sister and I joined a Zumba class almost three years ago. I love it – love the music, working out without feeling like I’m working out, dancing, the camaraderie with the other women, our very energetic instructor and the satisfaction of having my body feel strong after each class. Zumba Toning adds resistance to movements by adding the use of light weights so you’re focused on different muscle groups. I thought this class would be a nice way to get a cardio workout with added toning benefits.

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Great advice!

Great advice!

I’ve been interested in the Zumba Toning class for some time now but didn’t know if I’d be able to keep up with the movements because of my leg limitations (full weight bearing movements and twisting are difficult; direct impact moves, such as jumping, are bad). However, with my husband working late and that conversation on my mind, I walked into the class. And am thrilled I went. I had a blast! And got a great workout.

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You still do dance moves like a Zumba class but slower and not as much since you’re focused on toning movements (squats, triceps curls, etc). I use heavier weights at the gym but quickly understood why you use no more than 2.5-pound weights. You’re moving nonstop and doing enough repetitions to feel the burn. The chair provides a great workout tool, as it offers support for balance and exercises. (My triceps were burning by the end of one song!)

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I did have to do some modifications, but not as many I thought I would. Overall I felt like a got a great workout (That sentiment was certainly reinforced when I woke up this morning and felt sore triceps and thighs!).

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By the end of the class, I felt more confident in my body and stronger for working on keeping it healthy. And I will admit that as I walked to my car, I couldn’t help but smirk as I thought, “Disabled? Suck it, cancer.”

 

My addiction to my fitness band August 6, 2014

Filed under: Life Lessons — hmh912 @ 9:14 am
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The app homepage shows your daily progress.

One of my favorite Christmas presents from my always generous husband was a new fitness band, the Jawbone UP. The band is a “holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle,” according to Jawbone.

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There are many fitness bands on the market. You have most likely noticed many people wearing a band on their wrist, whether an UP or another popular band, such as the Fitbit Flex. Justin researched the various brands quite a bit before deciding on the UP band. The idea of a fitness band is to help the user track physical activity, sleep patterns, food and more. And as someone who is constantly trying to motivate myself to stay active and healthy, this UP band really helps me stay focused.

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It’s become fun, interesting, and maybe a little addictive to track my workouts. The band also tracks my sleep patterns (I’m still trying to figure out how), showing how many hours of light versus deep sleep I get each night. You can track your food and moods via the app, although I never track  my food (too tedious). If you’re looking for motivation, you can form teams with other UP users. There is also an alarm and stopwatch feature, as well as a few other nifty features.

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I’ve had my UP band since Christmas and tracked many steps and sleep patterns. I’ve learned I need to move more during the work days and figure out how to have deeper sleeps! Seriously those are cool features of these health fitness bands. It’s recommended you walk 10,000 steps each day but you don’t realize how challenging that can be in an office setting. Unfortunately I spend a lot of time sitting in meetings. To combat that, I set my UP band to vibrate after 45 minutes of inactivity. When it vibrates during a meeting, I simply slip out if possible for a ‘bathroom break’ to walk up and down the hallway. Not always possible of course, but I figure anything helps.

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Evening and weekends tend to be better for accumulating steps. My Zumba class, which I already know is a great cardio workout, adds 6,500-7,500 steps depending on the instructor’s song choices (I also keep moving my feet between songs). Of course hiking and geocaching pump up the totals too. When Justin and I hiked several Nevada state and local parks, we averaged more than 20,000 steps in one day!

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Jawbone UP on left, Fitbit Flex on right.

Jawbone UP on left, Fitbit Flex on right.

One limitation I don’t like about the fitness bands, regardless of brand, is that it’s challenging to track certain activities, such as biking or weight training. Because there’s no impact with feet or movement with the wrists, very few steps are tracked. I rode my bike 15 miles the other day, only to have my UP band show less than 100 steps tracked. My friend tried putting her Fitbit on her shoe during a bike ride, which garnered more steps but not many. To offset these limitations, you can set the wristband for ‘workout’ mode or use the stopwatch mode, then sync your band to the app to log the activity, duration and effort level for an estimated calorie burn.

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I also downloaded the Map My Fitness app, which lets you track your route and distance for a variety of activities, such as biking, walking, running, and more. This app can sync with other fitness apps, such as the Jawbone app, so I can track these workouts with a little more detail. Jawbone also syncs with other apps (as the saying goes, “There’s an app for that!”)

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I like that the app homepage gives short tips and information relating to your use. For instance, my tips sometimes will point out the benefits of getting more consistent deep sleep and tips for getting a better night sleep. If my average daily step starts to go down, the tips will  tell me that and provide ideas for increasing my steps. These positive tips are good motivators for me!

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The UP band comes in a variety of fun colors and three sizes.  Another version of the UP band, the UP24, uses Bluetooth technology to provide real-time updates (the Fitbit Flex also does this). It’s a convenient mode, however, I was concerned about the constant battery drain by always having my Bluetooth feature turned on my iPhone.

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Do you have a fitness band? Do you like it? What keeps you motivated to stay active and healthy?

 

Free or low cost activities keep summer fun July 25, 2014

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — hmh912 @ 5:20 pm
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The kids & I love exploring the world outside.

The kids & I love exploring the world outside.

I’m always tempted to close my eyes when I see back to school supplies filling store shelves in July. And plug my ears when I hear people talking about fall activities. It’s only July and I’m milking every minute of our short Michigan summer weather! Besides there are still lots of activities I want to cram in before the cool weather arrives. The best part is my “to do” list is packed with activities that are free or low-cost and promise to be lots of fun.

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Take a walk through the ground of local cultural areas such as Cranbrook, Henry Ford Estate, Greenfield Village and others.

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Visit local parks for picnics, swimming, hiking and more. Many of these parks have a great nature centers, including Stony Creek Metropark, Kensington Metropark, Madison Heights nature center and the environmental center at Indian Springs.

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Ride a bike! There are some great trails through parks but it’s also fun to bike through your neighborhood or a new place. Downtown Detroit has created some interesting bike trails through urban areas that provide a glimpse at great architecture and history.

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Read! Visit your library to discover exciting adventures in fiction books or learn about something or someone new in a nonfiction work. I love sitting on my deck or spreading a blanket on the lawn to read a book (I can’t remember the last time I purchased a book. I check out books from my library or via the Overdrive library app on my Kindle).

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Buy local and fresh at one of the many farmer’s market in southeastern Michigan. From Eastern Market in Detroit to your community farmer’s market, there are many choices to buy local fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, honey, bread and more. Yum!

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Take up geocaching to go on an urban scavenger hunt  or wander through nature with GPS. I’ve discovered some new places by geocaching in cities I’ve never been or don’t know very well. Geocaching with friends makes for an adventure!

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HHcanoePick up a paddle. There are several places to rent canoes and kayaks in southeast Michigan. Looking for something really cool? Check out the full moon paddles that run out of Heavner Canoes (at Proud Lake State Park). It’s peaceful to paddle down the river in the dark, guided only by the light of the full moon.

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Hang out with friends – away from technology, which means no social media or smartphones on the table. I’m growing weary from always seeing people’s eyes on their phones or tablets rather than the person in front of them. It’s sad to see relationships fading because people would rather text or message via Facebook instead of spending quality in person time with friend and family. I certainly engage in my share of texting, social media, and emails but I try to balance that by scheduling plenty of face to face time (not to be confused with Facetime technology!) with the people I enjoy.

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Have some backyard fun! Run through the sprinkler, have a water balloon toss, play catch or baseball, set up an obstacle course or play tag. These are not just for kids – trust me, adults sometimes have more fun than the kids!

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What fun activities are helping you celebrate summer?

 

Alone on the trail – tips for staying safe July 16, 2014

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — hmh912 @ 3:48 pm
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My cancer journey has been quite a path.

Simple precautions keep you safe on the trail.

I’m loving Michigan’s summer weather, with the sunshine and warm, yet bearable temps. Perfect weather for hiking our local nature trails and biking the many trails (rails to trails, mountain bike and more). I love being outside with family and friends, yet also enjoy some quiet “me” time. Let’s admit it though – these are some crazy times we live in so I take precautions when on the trails alone, or even with a group. These precautions are not only to protect me from crazy strangers, but also in case of an accident or emergency.

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Most backpackers/outdoors people know the 10 essentials to carry. These include a map, compass, sunscreen/ sunglasses, extra clothing, fire starter, headlamp/flashlight, first aid kit, knife, matches, and extra food (REI has a great webpage dedicated to the 10 essentials and updated “essential systems”).

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On short outings when I’m staying near civilization, such a day hikes or bike rides, I don’t carry all of these (I don’t think it’s legal to start a fire on the Macomb Orchard Trail!) but I do carry enough items to feel safe. I also follow some random, basic safety tips so thought I’d share a few.

  • Park in a populated, designated area. Always be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to who is near and behind you. I took a sexual assault awareness and prevention class in college, which taught how to be smart when alone. Women tend to be too trusting at times (I try to find the good in everyone but the truth is not everyone is good!) but sometimes we need to be skeptical.
  • I always take (and use!) sunscreen, snack and water with me, whether biking or hiking. I also typically bring a hat and sunglasses in case the sun is really bright. If you’re uncertain of the weather, consider rain gear, sweatshirt or a piece of clothing to add or remove if necessary.
  • Always let someone know where you’re going to be and an estimated time you’ll be back to your car. If you have no clue when you’ll return, text or call someone when you do get back to your car. Even if you want some alone time it’s smart to not go off without notifying someone. What happens if you get hurt and can’t make it your car? Or darkness comes and you get lost?
  • Since the point of hiking into the woods or biking on a quiet trail is to get away from the chaos of life and people, I prefer not to carry my cell phone. However, I usually do in case of emergencies. The ringer is on silent though. Because I lock my phone, I write my husband and mom’s cell phone numbers on a sticky note attached to my phone in case someone else needs to call my emergency numbers. Keep in mind that you can’t always get a cell signal in the woods.
  • I clip a small, yet loud whistle to my shorts, pants or watch.
  • I notice many bikers wear earphones on the trail. Music or news can help you focus on the workout but don’t block both ears. You may not be able to hear other bikers or walkers, or more importantly, may not hear a car horn.
  • Cash is also something I stick in my bag. On local bike trails, such as the Macomb Orchard Trail or Paint Creek, there are stores or small restaurants to grab a snack, more water or anything else you may need.
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Hopefully you’ll never experience an emergency or need a first aid kit but it’s better to be safe and prepared than not. What steps do you take to stay safe and smart when on the trails?

 

Life advice from Dad June 26, 2014

Filed under: Cancer Tips,Life Lessons — hmh912 @ 5:50 pm
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Pictures capture the special memories.

Pictures capture special memories.

Tomorrow is a special anniversary for it will be 16 years since I walked out of the hospital finished with chemo and ready to face the world as a cancer survivor. I was terrified, relieved, excited, hopeful, anxious.

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Sixteen years later I still feel those emotions on a regular basis. Finishing treatment for cancer doesn’t mean you’re finished with the disease. If you’re blessed and lucky, the actual disease will stay away forever but the aftermath of treatment, both mentally and physically, continues to greet survivors daily. Of course I’d much rather face those challenges than the alternative of not being on Earth.

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Next month, the 10-year anniversary of my dad’s death from cancer will occur. While we were diagnosed a year apart, our cancers were different enough that our paths split.

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Thoughts of my dad flit into my mind daily.  Sometimes, it’s little things that make me miss him, such as knowing he’d help with a home project (he was a home builder) or his willingness to try the craft beers I like (even though he was a faithful Budweiser man). Other times, my heart aches for the major milestones he is missing, such as my wedding or the high school graduation of my niece. And, even though 10 years have passed, I still have the desire to share with him and ask his input on random things – successes at work, advice on marriage, family vacation stories, politics. I sometimes get taken aback at the strong urge to pick up the phone and talk to him.

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My dad knew his battle was ending, probably before all of us accepted it. While his spirit and mind continued to rally, his body was worn out after six years of treatment. In the months leading up to his death, we talked a lot. About how cancer changes you, his love for his family, his happiest memories, his childhood antics, my future. He was never an overly emotional person but his illness made him open up more to my mom, sisters and me. And in those moments he provided good life tips that only a father can share with his child. In honor of him and my cancer anniversary, I thought I’d share with you.

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  1. Learn to laugh at yourself, and also laugh at the challenges life brings. I’ve learned your attitude can be a major factor in how life plays out. You can’t control everything in life so focus on what you can.
  2. Learn to forgive. It may be difficult to forget when someone hurts you but forgiving heals you. And saves you time and energy. Why exert so much negative energy? Maybe you choose not to keep a person in your life but then don’t let them have so much influence that you’re negatively impacted. What’s the point?
  3. Let people love you and surround you with laughter. You can’t truly love or be loved if you don’t open your heart and take risks.
  4. Don’t let work be your life because at the end of your breaths, people matter. Make time for them, enjoy them, love them. Love life.
  5. Always hold your head high and do things you can be proud of.
  6. Be loyal but don’t let people screw you over.
  7. Learn about life and the world around us, listen to others, try to solve a problem yourself (this helps you learn something new), travel outside of your hometown and if possible outside of the U.S. Step away from the television, computer and phone to open your eyes to the beauty and happy people around you. Enjoy life.
  8. Don’t spend your energy and time on people who don’t make time for you, including friends and family. Life is too short to spend it on people who don’t feel the same. We’re all busy, whether you’re single, married, parent, business owner, etc. It seems like people are always trying to be busier than someone else these days. I’ve learned to make efforts with those I care about but if it’s continuously not reciprocated, then I turn my energies to others who make efforts too (but I don’t harbor negative feelings towards those who didn’t make time for me. We choose our priorities and live with the outcomes.).
  9. Don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. You can’t fix everyone’s problems or attitudes so focus on what you can.
  10. Treasure each day. Seriously, DO THIS. Appreciate being alive, time with your loved ones, your body, the breaths you take, the steps you walk and the opportunities you have.
  11. (Bonus) Love your parents for you never know when they won’t be there.
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It may seem odd to roll my cancer anniversary, a celebration, and the anniversary of my dad’s death into the same blog. But they are connected – being a cancer survivor and my dad’s death made me stronger, braver and much more appreciative of life. My dad fought cancer to the end and I continue to fight it daily by embracing those I love, taking advantage of opportunities and adventure, facing life with hope, standing strong for others when I can, laughing, breathing.

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What do you treasure and appreciate about life?

 

Exploring central Maui’s state park (part 3) June 17, 2014

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — hmh912 @ 8:36 pm
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The Iao Needle behind us.

We woke one day during our Maui vacation with no set plans except to relax so after breakfast on our lanai overlooking the ocean, we decided to head to Iao Valley State Monument near Wailuku in central Maui. I had read about this park in some of the travel guides, learning you could easily explore in a few hours so we figured we’d get a hike in, then swim in the pool or ocean. Ah, island life.

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The drive on Iao Valley Road is pretty as you leave the city sights of Kahului to transition into a rain forest. Lush, green landscapes surround you. The 6-acre state park is in a beautiful canyon. The park is the site of the Kepaniwai battle where troops of Kamehameha I conquered the Maui army in 1790. The Iao Needle is a spire that climbs 2,250 feet above sea level (Iao means ‘cloud supreme’). Guards climbed the spire as a lookout to ensure enemies weren’t approaching. How anyone climbed (and stayed on) this tall piece of nature is unknown to me!

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Cooling off in the river!

Cooling off in the river!

There are two trails to explore. A short 0.6-mile trail takes visitors across a bridge and up to the viewing platform to see the spire and gorgeous views of the area below. A six-mile (mostly paved) loop lets visitors explore more of the park.

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You can walk through a botanical garden and see various housing structures from Hawaii’s heritage, including a Hawaiian hale, Chinese pagoda, and mission house. A koi pond and Portuguese garden also greets visitors. There are numerous exhibit signs to give visitors a background on the history of the location.

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The loop goes along a river, where several people (including Justin) waded in to cool off from the humid heat. Ferns, banana trees and many other exotic plants line the area. Maui certainly has some beautiful plants and flowers on the island. So many vibrant colors and amazing scents.

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I noticed the gorgeous plant before this guy!

I noticed the gorgeous plant before this guy!

We really enjoyed our visit to the Iao Valley State Monument. It wasn’t on our original ‘list of things to do’ so I’m happy that we discovered it. I love that our adventures often take us on unexpected journeys!

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The park is open daily from 7am-7pm; admission is free. As a bonus, there’s nearby fun for geocaching enthusiasts!

 

 
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