Heather's Hangout

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

5 tips to relax and enjoy life October 15, 2017

5 tips to clear your head_blogheader

It’s been an odd weather week in southeast Michigan. Dreary, downpours, high winds, then sunshine, humidity and warm temps, then back at the wet, gray again. So when the sun glimpsed out, I quickly pulled on my cycling shorts and jersey, grabbed my gear, loaded my bike and headed to my favorite rails-to-trails. I needed fresh air, quiet trails, sun on my face (with sunscreen, of course) and the feel of my muscles moving.

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It was a shorter ride, just under 30 miles, but, oh my, did it feel good to be on my bike after almost two weeks without cycling. Glorious, really. I just haven’t had the chance. And I felt it. Mentally, physically and emotionally. Between my recent trip to Boston, the wet weather, work (where I’m temporarily taking on part of a colleague’s responsibility), unexpected bumps of ‘that’s life,’ volunteer projects and trying to maintain the “expected” social life of an active, single woman (ha!), life has been moving at a brisk clip.

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It’s also been challenging the past few weeks for the people in my life. We unexpectedly said good bye to a woman who’s been a second mom to me for 40+ years. A friend received the stunning news she has breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. Another friend decided to end a long marriage. I was asked to mentor two young adult females recently diagnosed with bone cancer. And a few weeks ago a biopsy revealed melanoma in a small mole, requiring additional surgery on my arm.

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Life hasn’t been all stressful though. There are always positive, smile-inducing moments in every day. Thank goodness for that knowledge! My good friend who experienced a medical emergency during our RAGBRAI trip is recovering like a champ post-surgery. Another friend got engaged after meeting her now fiance at a conference last year. Another friend got a clean bill of health after a grueling cancer treatment. I made positive strides on some career decisions and my second biopsy revealed clean margins (no sign of additional melanoma) so I only need to remain vigilant with follow up. My beautiful nieces and nephews are healthy and enjoying life.

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In the midst of the chaos that sometimes bullies its way into our lives, it’s important to take some time to relax and clear your head. At least it is for me. And should be for you too. Stepping away from our day to day routine or away from stresses help provide a different perspective or opportunities to simply distance yourself from what’s causing you grief, demanding decisions, and overwhelming your thoughts. We all need moments to clear our head, take a breath before making decisions or determine if what you’re feeling about a situation are valid emotions or possibly from overthinking that situation (um, not that I EVER overthink situations! Nooooo.).

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Here are a few of my go-to areas when I need to clear my head.

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Get outdoors. You all know I love to be outdoors. Fresh air, blue skies, sunshine. Oh my. I sometimes like to simply sit on my deck, a park bench by the lake or blanket on the grass. I mostly enjoy being active, hiking, biking, geocaching, backpacking and more. Combining nature with physical activity almost instantly relieves stress, anxiety, mental exhaustion. Some days I almost immediately gain a fresh perspective on a situation, other days I don’t think at all except about the activity at hand and how much fun I’m having.

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BooksRead. I like to read a LOT. I mostly enjoy reading fiction for the simple fact that I can escape to so many new neighborhoods, stories and people. While most of the books are fiction, the good ones enable me to relate to characters and feel a myriad of emotions. But the plots are unrelated enough to me so that I can close the book and leave their drama behind!

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Dance and/or sing. If you only knew how much I sing and dance in my house, or even office (door closed of course)! All.The.Time. Some people prefer the television on for ‘background noise.’ Not me. Give me music any day. I was raised in a house filled with music – my parents often had music in the background of our lives, or center stage as we sang and danced through the living room, kitchen, garage, wherever. It’s amazing how music can move us emotionally. There really is a song for every situation! From joy to heartache to anger to anticipation to determination and more. I think that’s why I enjoy Zumba so much. After a busy day at work, it feels awesome to dance and sweat away any work or life stress!

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Spend time with children, family and friends who make you laugh and enjoy life. When I made a big life transition a few years ago, I also made decisions on the type of people I want and need in my life. Particularly ensuring there were mutual respect and mutual efforts for the friendship/, after recognizing not all of my current relationships had those. I made changes, some not easy at all, and I’m incredibly happy in my life right now. I’m blessed and fortunate to have many amazing people in my life. People who make me laugh, listen, support and love. There is nothing better than spending time with these people, going on adventures, talking openly, being silly, able to be yourself, laughing and more.

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HH_GaylordDockTake some me time. I had some free time recently when I was at a conference in Boston. It was a great opportunity to step back from my day to day life, thinking about how far I’ve come and what path I want my life to follow. I think it’s important to live for each day, yet also look to the future. While I believe that things happen for a reason, I also believe you can nudge your life in a certain direction. It helps me be certain I’m making decisions for the ‘right’ reason, not because I think someone else wants me to or tells me I should. I need to do what I think I should and want. I encourage you to take some me time to revel in how far you’ve come, and think about your future. And don’t you dare feel guilty about me time. Everyone needs some time alone.

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I hope you are all having a beautiful weekend and have had an opportunity for ‘you’ time to clear your head. If not, do it! You deserve it, you amazing person!

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Food, shopping, history at Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace October 13, 2017

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 4:15 pm
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Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston

Arriving early for a conference gave me a beautiful day to explore Boston. Motivated to get the most out of my time in one of my favorite cities, I woke early on my second day and after a sweaty workout in the hotel’s gym, I set off for new sites. (And, yes, I did shower before setting off, in case you wondered!)

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On a recommendation from a friend, I headed to Faneuil Hall Marketplace. I had researched the location prior to leaving Detroit, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. It was busy! People milling around everywhere, spilling out stores and relaxing at restaurants and bars. I loved it all!

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Cobblestone streets take visitors along several buildings – North Market, South Market, and Quincy Market Colonnade – that house more than 70 retailers. Some of the stores are popular around the country, like The Gap, Victoria’s Secret and Sephora, while others are more local to the area, like Make Way for Ducklings (okay, I really just love this name!), Local Charm and Revolutionary Boston.

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When you enter the Quincy Market Colonnade building, you’re greeted by

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Great Hall inside Faneuil Hall

an…..interesting smell. It’s a multitude of food vendors battling for aromatic space in the air. Lobsters, oysters, sandwiches, gelato, frozen yogurt, pizza, salads, sausages, smoothies and much more provide delicious options to please any hungry patron. But you must be patient. Especially if there on a weekend. At lunch time. Note to self, don’t visit marketplace around lunch time on a Saturday.

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Faneuil Hall is a cool historic building to visit while at the marketplace. Built in 1742, the hall has been used for public debate, meetings, special events and more. Faneuil Hall served as the seat of government during the Revolutionary period. It’s full of beautiful architecture inside on the first and second floors. You can almost picture our ancestors sitting in the chairs listening to debates and informational meetings, participating in decision-making and encouraging change.

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After I wandered for a while, I realized I was starving. I walked through Quincy Market a few times before deciding I was a bit overwhelmed at my choices. I tried to get a spot at Cheers – yes, an authentic replica of the famous TV bar – but the line was crazy long. And, did I mention that I was starving at this point? After passing the Mija Cantina & Tequila Bar a few times, I decided I could eat some Mexican food. I found a spot at the bar so I could look outside at people walking along the cobblestone street. Mija has an open air patio and bar, which was great in the beautiful weather. I met some nice people also sitting at the bar, all from outside of Massachusetts. That’s one of the parts I love about traveling away from home – meeting people and hearing their stories about traveling.

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So worth the splurge at Berry Twist

After filling up on Mexican food and a drink (although I skipped sampling from their extensive tequila menu), I wandered through the marketplace a bit more. Several street performers were at various spots, including a juggler, musicians and a magician. After the performances, I headed to the waterfront. It was bustling with activity but I found a shaded spot on the grass under a big tree to enjoy a pretty water view and relax.

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There are many walking options near the marketplace. The waterfront is across from the marketplace so you can walk along that. The Freedom Trail also runs from this area.

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A fun fact I learned while washing my hands in the restroom is that Paul Revere, as the first president of Boston’s Board of Health, supervised the outhouse inspectors, who were responsible for ensuring residents properly emptied out their outhouses and didn’t let them overflow to prevent disease. And, now, you too, learned a fun fact.

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It was a fun day at Faneuil Hall and the waterfront. I’m happy for the opportunity to explore a great part of the city and meet so many friendly people.

 

Visiting the John F. Kennedy presidential museum October 12, 2017

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Campaign banner from Detroit!

It’s been several years since I visited Boston, one of my favorite cities. So I was excited to travel to this harbor town last weekend for a conference. I decided to head there a little early to enjoy exploring.

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Amazing weather greeted me when I arrived mid-morning at the hotel. A seamless check-in to the hotel provided awesome views of the city. It was time to enjoy the day!

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I love history and exploring new places so was excited to learn that Boston is home to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. I decided this would be first stop in my exploration. John F. Kennedy became the 35th president on Jan. 20, 1961, the youngest president (43 years) and the first Catholic. He is a president I grew up hearing much about. Of course his assassination, and conspiracy theories, fill American history. Movies, books, stories. But he is also a president who served and led during important moments of our country’s story – racial desegregation, the Cuban missile crisis, advancement of mental health care, creation of the Peace Corps and many other important historical moments.

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“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.” ~ President John F. Kennedy

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I love learning about history and cultures. And our presidents, love them, hate them or you really want to forget them, play a significant role in shaping our country. It was very interesting and inspiring to walk through the museum, reading transcripts of

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Transcript clips from inauguration speech

interviews and speeches; seeing gifts and items collected by JFK and Jackie Kennedy through their time in the White House; watching clips of speeches, debates and foreign trips. It was powerful to watch the video of his inaugural speech with the typed transcript near it highlighting where he changed words as he spoke. We learn about the presidents through history classes in school, and JFK’s death is a major piece, but I liked learning more about other moments in this time.

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A replica exhibit of Robert Kennedy’s office of the Attorney General showed the blunt challenge of the Civil Rights movement, that truly continues in today’s divisive political climate. Robert was the youngest attorney general at 41 since 1814. But he was aggressive in fighting for equality, young people and a strong justice department to stop crime and corruption.

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“We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.” ~ President John F. Kennedy

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The museum also features Jackie Kennedy, who became first lady at 31 years old. She was a big supporter of arts and culture, working to restore and preserve the White House by establishing a White House Fine Arts Committee, and the position of White House curator.

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Campaigning for JFK

President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963 in Texas. The shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, was arrested, but killed by Jack Ruby the following day. There have been lots of conspiracy theories about his death.

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“It is not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me, but what kind of America I believe in.” ~ President John F. Kennedy

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May 29, 2017 marked the 100th birthday of John F. Kennedy. A special exhibit, JFK 100: Milestones & Mementosfocuses on historic milestones in President Kennedy’s life by featuring 100 artifacts, photographs and documents. Some of the items include handwritten notes, a suitcase used by JFK during a 1960 road campaign, and a few of his neckties.

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I always enjoy visiting our country’s historical sites as it’s a good way to remember what we’ve been through, survived and should learn from so we don’t repeat our disappointing or scary moments (and yet, history does repeat itself).

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The library and museum overlook the water, fitting since JFK was an avid boater. After my museum visit, I walked along the paved trail, thoroughly enjoying the breeze while watching boats in the water. A beautiful day.

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For hours and admission information, visit the library and museum’s website.

 

Working together to fight cancer September 25, 2017

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Ready to make a difference!

As you know from my previous blog, my birthday was spent in Washington, D.C. meeting with members of Congress to discuss cancer-related bills and issues. I meant to write a follow up immediately after my return……but, well, personal and work ‘stuff’ has provided very little free time (I won’t share how little time has been spent on my bike seat. Insert sad face).

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Quite frankly, some of my time has been spent fighting back against the latest proposed disaster of a healthcare bill. This newly proposed bill would have detrimental effects on millions of people, including those with pre-existing conditions. In fact, I encourage you to call your Senator now to ask them to vote NO on the Graham-Cassidy health care bill. You can click here for a list of Senate phone numbers.

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Thankfully, my time spent in D.C. was successful, fun and motivating. I joined 400+ volunteer leaders and staff of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network at a leadership summit and lobby day, where we talked to our legislators about important cancer-related issues. Our requests included:

  • Increase funding for research at the National Institutes of Health to $36 billion;
  • Support the Palliative Care and Hospice Education Training Act (H.R.1676/S.693)
  • Support the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Screening Act (H.R.1017/S.479)
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Grateful for the past 20 years.

There is something about being in a room with 400+ cancer advocates….empowering and motivating. There is something about standing with dozens of other cancer survivors…hopeful and grateful. There is something about meeting with elected representatives to work toward a common cause…..exciting and satisfying.

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Our first two meetings were with our Michigan senators. Both are supporters of our many cancer-related priorities, which I’m grateful. I always enjoy meeting with my senators and their staffs, who are friendly and welcoming. After those meetings, our group split into smaller groups for meeting with our representatives from our home districts. I attended several of these House meetings, all productive. I particularly enjoyed meeting with Rep. Sander Levin. We had an energizing conversation about health care. All in all our meetings were productive and promising in the fight against cancer.

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The evening brought the Lights of Hope ceremony. This touching event included more than 25,000 tribute luminaries lining the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool. Each bag represented a cancer survivor or someone who died from the disease. It was an emotional journey as I walked among the bags, many decorated with pictures, messages and items of memories. Somehow, both my honor bag and my dad’s memory bag ended up beside each other. I admit as I stared at those two bags, for a moment I felt alone. I missed him deeply in that moment, overwhelmed with the ongoing question of how I survived and he did not. Yet, as I looked around the reflecting pool, at the thousands of bags lit to reflect unity against a disease, knowing I am one of millions who fight daily to make a difference against cancer, I felt comfort too.

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Beautiful Lights of Hope!

I’ve been asked many times over the past 20 years why I put so much energy into this fight. People wonder if I feel obligated. There is some truth to that. Even though I know my dad would say don’t feel obligated, live your life for you. Yet this is my life, and I like it, I appreciate it. I thrive in the environment of helping others, standing together to fight back against a disease that knows no boundaries in who it touches. Or takes from us. I am alive, with a voice that can share my story, and his story. A voice to talk to members of Congress, doctors, health care executives, fellow cancer survivors, caregivers and advocates. I am alive with a voice so that even those who can’t speak, those in a hospital getting treatment, those too sick or tired or scared, still have a voice.

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While I may feel a little obligated to speak out as I breathe, I mostly feel great passion and motivation to work for a positive change that can help others affected by cancer. There is a deep genuine belief in me that if we wrap our arms around the good, the strong, the dedicated, if we all as individuals stand together, this disease will not win.

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This disease has changed my life in many ways. It has broken me, motivated me, led me down many new paths, taken people, and brought people to my life. It is the one thing I think of every day for the past 20 years. It has taught me to stand up to fear and anger, embrace love, hope and kindness, grow courage and strength and motivation, seek love and laughter, enjoy the simple things. It has shown me that one person can make a difference to someone, and many people can impact millions.

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I invite you to be the one person to join the many. Get involved. Make a difference. You can get started by checking out the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network wherever you live.

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My birthday wishes September 12, 2017

My birthday wishes

Birthdays have always been special days in my family. My parents made each new year fun and happy. We didn’t have bounce houses, farm animals or huge parties like are in excess today, but I loved the sleepovers, house full of family and friends, and laugh-filled celebrations with my favorite Angel food cake.

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When I was diagnosed at 21 with bone cancer, appreciating and celebrating life took on new meanings. I spent my 22nd birthday in the hospital hooked up to an IV of chemo, feeling too nauseous to eat cake (I think my then-pregnant older sister and favorite resident doctor enjoyed my piece!). I promised myself that every birthday from that year on would be a time to reflect on life and remind myself to wrap my arms around the joy of life.

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EEdwards_lifequoteToday, on my birthday, I’m in Washington, DC, ready to join hundreds of other cancer advocates on Capitol Hill in meetings with our various legislators to discuss the importance of increased funding for cancer research and supporting cancer-related programs. It’s a long way to come from that birthday 20 years ago spent in the hospital fighting for my life and leg. A slew of emotions are whirling through me.

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Every year that I celebrate another birthday is a joyous occasion for me. And not one that I take for granted. I will soon have spent more of my life as a cancer survivor than not. What an emotional accomplishment. The past 20 years have been full of ups and downs. I whispered goodbye to my dad as he died from cancer, battling survivor’s guilt almost daily when I think of the life he’s missing. I’ve picked pieces of my heart up more than once, broken sometimes because of my naivete and other times by people I should have been able to trust. I worked tirelessly to remind my body how to walk after surgery…twice. I felt lost and alone many times. I rethought Plan A so many times that I no longer remember what my original life plan was! I’ve learned life is hard. There’s no guidebook, no getting back lost time, no map, no time outs, no re-dos to change something. Sometimes life knocks you flat on your tush. Again and again. And yet…..life is still beautiful. There is sunshine, laughter, kindness, unexpected love, blue skies, hugs, music, mountains, beaches and So.Much.More.

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In January, I dubbed this year as my Best.Year.Ever. Of course I had no idea what the year would bring because I’ve certainly learned you can’t control all that will happen, but I needed goals. And, darn, it’s been a good year. I’m at the lowest weight and best overall health that I’ve been in many years, I logged more miles on a bike than I ever thought possible (the year isn’t over, and I’m already planning how to ride more next year!), I’ve traveled to new places and experienced fun adventures, I’ve been involved with amazing cancer advocacy opportunities with several more exciting possibilities on the horizon, I’ve met so many awesome people and strengthened relationships with people who bring so much joy to my life, and the list goes on. Of course, there are things I’d like to still accomplish with my career and personal life….but there’s still plenty of time left in the year!

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What will a new day bring?

I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone over the years but none more so than almost two years ago when I decided to change the negativity, mundane and discontented cycle my life had slipped into. It was unnerving, very unnerving, to step into the unknown by myself. I had to ignore the doubters and really focus on what I wanted out of life. But I had to do it. For me. And I can honestly say that I didn’t expect to find so much joy, contentment, adventure and satisfaction from those changes. I didn’t realize how much I was holding back happiness until I decided I was worth it and deserved it. Was it easy to leave a relationship and life I thought I wanted and society said I should stay in? Not at all. But I wanted, and needed, to open my heart to the possibility of true love, happiness and real life. And, no, life hasn’t been all sunshine and dancing unicorns; that’s not how life works. But, heck, it’s been good.

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I had a recent conversation with a friend relating to religion and spiritual views. It got me thinking about life in general. It reinforced that just because society says you should think this, or live your life ‘this way,’ the truth is you must do what works for you. And that sometimes is difficult. Because other people may get hurt, or it takes more courage than we’re used to, or others tell us it’s not right, or stepping over that edge into the unknown is heart-stopping. Sometimes, actually often, life takes us on a very unexpected path. Maybe you find a career that you surprisingly enjoy, maybe you meet someone who captures your heart at ‘the wrong’ time (by the way, don’t waste life waiting for the right time), maybe your health doesn’t stay as perfect as hoped. That’s all okay. I know it can be scary, tiring and worrisome. If we let it. Because sometimes the people and experiences we encounter, that are off the ‘traditional path’ of life, are the very ones for us. I’ve learned that often the unexpected moments, plans and people turn out to be exactly what we need to help us find our ultimate path in life, joy and love.

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I’m feeling a bit philosophical this year, and I realize I’m babbling a bit. But, hey, it’s my birthday and sometimes turning a year older makes you pause to think about life. I believe it’s important to check in with yourself every so often.

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What’s my birthday wish? I have a few (again, it’s my birthday so bear with me!). You all find happiness. You find courage to live the life you want. Don’t waste a day. Don’t be afraid to open your heart. Take a chance on adventure and happiness, take care of your health and body, explore the neighborhood and world around you. Share your feelings with people you care about, help someone, be kind, stand up for others. Don’t sit on the couch watching the days go by. When I close my eyes and make my birthday wish, I know what I hope for my life. If you had a wish, what would it be? Think about it…..and go for it!

 

You are beautiful wearing your bike helmet August 31, 2017

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Post-ride sweaty, happy appearance

I recently enjoyed a beautiful evening bike ride on a local bike trail. While I started out alone, I often encountered other cyclists throughout the 30+ miles who rode alongside for several miles here and there. I loved the friendly people and awesome reminder of how great summer evenings can be.

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At one point, I started to pass a young woman on her bike. She struck up a conversation so I stayed alongside her. We had great conversation and rode an almost perfect pace together. As the miles clicked by, I really enjoyed cycling with her. However, one thing kept nagging at me – she wasn’t wearing a helmet.

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I try to keep opinions to myself on lots of things because I believe people should make decisions best for them and others shouldn’t be quick to judge. But…..she asked me many questions about my Specialized Ruby (and you all know I LOVE my bike) and some tips about being new to cycling. So I decided it was a good opening to mention the helmet.

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She smiled when I suggested wearing a helmet, actually agreed that she really should wear one. Then she asked if I was single. I replied yes, although I had no idea what that had to do with wearing a bike helmet. Turns out, she feels she looks silly in a helmet and her hair is a mess after a ride. What if she met a good-looking guy while biking or at the parking lot? Uh, okay. A whole lot of thoughts raced through my head, including flashes of how crazy, frizzy and completely messy my hair looks after I take off my helmet! I have passed a mirror or reflection after many rides and thought ‘oh my goodness, am I in public looking like that?’ But I can’t recall worrying that a guy won’t find me pretty because I’m sweaty and my hair is a mess after an awesome bike ride. If anything, I want to be with a guy who enjoys participating in these type of activities with me, appreciates the effort it takes to get sweaty and messy, and also understands I clean up pretty nicely.

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I almost replied “I think you’ll be much more beautiful with your head intact.” But you know, I wasn’t sure how to kindly say that. Lol. I also recognize that she is 27 and I am in my early 40s, so I have a bit more ‘worldly experience’ and a few more relationships on my side. I’m at a point in my life where people need to accept me for me. Especially my next significant other. I have learned to be true to myself, particularly over the past few years. The next man I’m with must take me as I am, crazy helmet hair and all. That means the sappy, emotional moments and energetic, dance around the living room moments and confident, take on the world moments and feeling overwhelmed, I need support and encouragement moments and goofy, singing in the car moments and everything in between. I want that man to be willing to share, laugh, love and choose me. To not judge so much and expect me to change who I am. I don’t want to settle for a “sort of happy and make it work because that’s expected” relationship. I want mutual real, true happiness, joy, laughter, support and encouragement in my next relationship. Heck, I want that in my life, whether it’s with a special man, friends or family. I want to enjoy the good moments, work through the tough moments, appreciate the good people in my life and embrace the opportunities awaiting me. That’s why I made the decision to change my life a few years ago and that’s why I wear a helmet every time I bike (and I’d rather not suffer a head injury). I want to do everything possible to be alive to enjoy and experience life.

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When you love what you’re doing, you forget you might look a mess. 🙂

To be honest, I didn’t always wear a helmet when biking. I wore one when biking near traffic but when on the rails to trails routes, I sometimes would simply wear a baseball hat to block the sun. And, frankly, what hit me a few years ago was this realization: I busted my butt to survivor bone cancer and am always careful not to hurt my leg with the titanium rod.  How stupid to survive all that, only to suffer a brain injury because I didn’t have a helmet.

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Oops, I think I digressed. Ha. Focus, lady. Back to my point about wearing a bike helmet. Consider these facts:

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  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that less than half of all Americans who ride bicycles wear helmets.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recorded 45,000 bicycle injuries in 2015 (latest stats), with cyclists age 50-59 having the highest rate of injury
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that head injuries are the cause of death for the majority of bicyclists killed in accidents with automobiles. Helmet use is estimated to reduce the risk of head injury in these cases by 85 percent.
  • Eighty-five percent of bicycle-related head and brain injuries can be prevented by a helmet, according to the Snell Memorial Foundation and Safety Education Center. The center also reports the number of bicycle head injuries annually that require hospitalization “exceeds the total of all head injury cases — including baseball, football, skateboards, scooters, horseback riding injuries.
  • If you’re in any sort of accident with your helmet that may have damaged the helmet’s padding, replace it. The plastic and expandable foam that absorbs the impact and protects your head may no longer able to absorb the impacts. If you notice the plastic cracking, replace it (regardless if you’ve been in an accident).
  • There’s no good research on if a helmet has a ‘shelf life’ but most of what I read suggested replacing a helmet after five years, unless you use it excessively, sweat a lot, wear lots of hair gel, etc. Anything that may make the foam padding decompose, the plastic crack or damages the straps.
  • Make sure your bike helmet meets safety standards and fits properly. If you’re uncertain, visit a reputable bike shop to ask for assistance.
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These are sobering statistics and reminder that biking can be amazing fun and great exercise, but requires a degree of caution and safety (as most activities!). I shared in a previous blog post that a good friend was recently injured after a fall from his bike. Afterwards, I held his bike helmet in my hands, with dings and dents very visible. It was unnerving. His head was thankfully well-protected. What a real example of the importance of wearing a helmet!

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The young woman I biked with? We talked about relationships and being yourself, not settling for anyone – whether significant other, friend or even family – who doesn’t appreciate you for who you are. And we also discussed strategies for post-helmet hair. When we parted miles later, she smiled and promised to buy a helmet. I assured her that she would look beautiful.

 

Tips for solo hiking and biking August 25, 2017

trails

All this talk of summer being almost over is depressing. I’ve had a fantastic summer! It’s actually been a fantastic year! We’ve been fortunate to have great weather in southeast Michigan, comfortable temps and bearable humidity. Perfect weather for hiking our local nature trails and biking many rails to trails and road options. 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. I hope you’re all careful doing whatever activity makes you happy!

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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”). Cyclists carry a variety of personal items, but definitely should have a spare bike tube, CO2 cartridge, water, snacks and sunscreen. These important items for both activities are of course in addition to the appropriate gear (shoes, clothing, helmet when biking, etc.).

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On short outings when I’m staying near civilization, such a day hikes or bike rides, I carry the basic items (bike tube, water, etc) but usually skip a fire starter (pretty sure you can’t start a fire at the local parks!) and the other obvious. I also follow some random, basic safety tips that I wanted to share.

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  • Park in a populated, designated area. Always be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to who is near and behind you.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings on the trail too. While I sometimes get wrapped up in thoughts, I am always looking ahead, behind and around me. I always know if someone or something (animal, car, etc) is approaching or if a hazard (hole, rock, etc) is near.
  • Always let someone know where you’re going 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?
  • I wear an ID bracelet when hiking and biking (I wear it whether I’m alone or with people). It lists my name, two emergency contacts, and that I have a titanium rod in my femur and a serious allergy. Road ID is a popular brand with hikers and cyclists but there are many options.
  • Listen to your gut. I’m a friendly, outgoing person. I smile and talk to anyone. But I also try to be smart about the situations I put myself in, especially when alone. A few weeks ago, two fairly obnoxious men were biking along the trail and started making idiotic comments when I came upon them and wanted to pass. I was polite, yet also tried to ignore them. I finally squeezed past them and went on my way. A short while later, I spotted them at the parking lot loading their bikes onto their truck. While I had reached my mileage goal, I decided to keep going and then circle back once they were gone. They were most likely just obnoxious, lewd men, but my instinct said to avoid them so I did.
  • I always take (and use!) sunscreen, snacks and water with me, whether biking or hiking. I also typically bring a hat and sunglasses in case the sun is bright (of course I wear a helmet when biking) and chap stick (who wants dry lips after a windy ride?). If you’re uncertain of the weather, consider rain gear, sweatshirt or a piece of clothing to add or remove if necessary.
  • Since the point of hiking alone into the woods or biking on a quiet trail is to get away from the chaos of life and people, I’d rather not carry my cell phone. However, I usually do in case of emergencies (and admittedly I use the camera all the time). The ringer is on silent though. Of course, 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 when I’m hiking.
  • I carry my medical insurance card and cash too in my bike saddle 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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I hope you never experience an emergency on the trail, but better to prepared and safe. What steps do you take to stay safe and smart when on the trails?

 

 
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