Thriving Thirties Crisis Anyone?

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Another trip around the sun means I’m one step closer to the inevitable mid-life crisis that happens at 40. Or, at least that’s what I’ve been told. What baffles me, though, is nobody talks about the time between your quarter-life crisis and your mid-life crisis. That in-between time where so much happens your head spins. So this is a post about the unnamed, unknown crisis turned opportunity I’m calling the Thriving Thirties.

I was thinking this week, what a shitstorm of highs and lows, all in a decade. Ones you think you can anticipate, and in many cases long for, but society does a great job of masquerading into something else.

There is of course the biggie—my status. I went from girlfriend to fiancé to wife and now mother. Each time, I discovered my beliefs and understanding of what unconditional and unwavering love means were completely underrated. You hear about the sacrifice that comes with parenting, often when you are rolling your eyes at your parents, but experiencing it is a whole different ballgame. Talk about high highs and low lows. There really needs to be more about the tough days, because frankly I’ve never experienced something more challenging than raising a family.

My career took a backseat—something I never thought would happen. I changed jobs three times in my 30s, only to discover that while I know I want to make my mark in the world, I have no clue how to do it. Career advancement, which seemed to come so easily in my 20s, came to a screeching halt as I realized that living in a place I love, doesn’t always come with abundant economic opportunities. Guess what? I wouldn’t change a thing (other than my paycheck).

The lifelong learner in me had a near meltdown when I finally paid off my student loans and realized for the first time in 34 years I wasn’t attending or paying for continuing education. I opted to re-enroll for my 4th college degree creating a seamless transition from being a student to graduating at the same time my son enters school. And so the cycle continues.

And then there was the pursuit of happiness. Despite self-help books telling me that I could in fact wake up everyday and conquer the world and be happy, I seriously question the sanity of those so-called authors. Living the life that I want with those I want, where I want, means compromise. It means prioritizing and sacrificing and wiping boogers and changing diapers. It means long commutes, limited shopping, befriending Amazon Prime and fighting over things like uncrushed diet Mountain Dew cans scattered around the house. It means experiencing unmet dreams and acknowledging that sometimes life is bigger than your needs and wants.

Nobody warned me about the weight-gain that comes with an aging metabolism. Gone are the days of downing Dr. Pepper and munching on chips and Top the Tater while binge watching the latest season of Dawson’s Creek. Instead, I found myself hitting the pavement (literally) and crossing the finish line not once but ten times over the past six years, to barely maintain the weight gain that I’m lovingly calling my dirty thirty in honor of my attempts to do Beach Body at this size. The running highs and lows are a whole different post but if you had told me in my 20s, I’d have some of my heaviest and hardest conversations with myself wearing running shoes, I would have laughed.

My 30s did not result in endless afternoons hanging out at coffee shops chatting about the weather like the characters on Friends. Instead, it was spent scrambling to keep connections with lifelong friends on Facebook messenger and recognizing that many of those friendships would fade away, despite noble and in some cases knock down, drag down attempts to keep them. It was hard to let go at times but I find friendships now are easier—more based on common interests, shared values and day-to-day life experiences than the baggage of what you were once pegged to be.

And somewhere in all of this, I discovered that one of life’s greatest gifts arrived for me in my 30s. It frankly couldn’t have happened sooner. And, maybe I’ll change my mind after my next centennial crisis, but in this moment, I’m still a bit in awe.

I distinctly remember my quarter-life crisis. It played out like a bad after school special that left me leaving television news and moving to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. It meant abandoning bad habits, facing my demons and acknowledging that the person I was trying to be, wasn’t me. But, then my 30s hit and I discovered that instead of trying to be someone or something, I could instead, just be me.

Better yet, I could embrace it. There’s something empowering about grabbing life and saying, I’m good enough. I wake up everyday and I do my best. Frankly, that’s enough. It may mean 175% some days or surviving on others. And that’s ok, despite the self-help books saying otherwise. It isn’t that I don’t care. It isn’t that I don’t embrace life and all of its complexities and know all too well that we never know when our ticket is going to come up. Instead, it is acknowledging that some of the best things in life happen, when you just let them be.

So in a long winded way, I discovered I know less in my 30s than my 20s. But this I know. At times I’m irritable and unbearable and cranky. I’m stubborn like my mother. I’m a bit odd. I crave meaningful connections but am an introvert. I love to try new things like roasting coffee and buying obscure plants that have no chance of survival (banana plants anyone) because it is fun to try and fail. I run races with mediocre times and battle the bulge, while still finding a way to love myself even though health blogs and beauty magazines tell me I’m obese. I tell really bad jokes and most times, people can’t even tell if I’m joking. I’m inpatient. I’m independent. I’m loyal. And the best thing is, all of this could change in a heartbeat because the thing I know most, is I’m a constant work-in-progress and that’s what makes me, me.

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The Economics of Time

Let’s be frank. It isn’t on my side right now. I find myself caught in-between trying to keep up with the day-to-day, while struggling to find new and exciting goals to be excited about this year. It is an odd place for me to be right now, but I’m starting to think this may become my new normal.

I was listening to a Planet Money podcast last week, in which the economics of love was the focus. It is a pretty entertaining, and frankly informative episode. In it, the conversation around love being in abundance came up and yet many of us (myself included) choose to limit our love to one partner.

The economist cited a Nobel Prize winning economist’s theory about the finite complexities of time and how it is a valuable resource for all. Later on in the discussion, the notion of being with something that’s good enough removes the time for you to experience or pursue something that could be really amazing.

This really hit home. At the time, I was border line burned out due to a number of events colliding at the same time. Each day, I’d wake up and go through my to do list and find a way to cram it all in, but I was missing the luxury of just enjoying life. I realized that while project management is great, equally as great is just saying no.

This past week I stepped down from a committee I wasn’t passionate about and passed on a great freelance gig because frankly, money isn’t and cannot be everything. I scaled back from a half-marathon to a 10K. I got excited about a bathroom remodel project, only to step back and put it on-hold. At first, I was pretty bummed out. Frankly, I felt like a borderline failure. But, then I realized that by saying no to these things, I was making room for things like planting a garden with Jake and reading a novel on my deck and even continuing the Tuesday night fitness classes. That while I may not be running a half-marathon this spring, that doesn’t mean I can’t do the Shamrock Shuffle followed by a 1k with Jake—both of which sound a lot more fun. Sure, I want a new bathroom. But, I also want my sanity.

I have an abundance of hobbies. An endless checklist of items I want to do in the here and now because frankly, we don’t know when our time is up. But, in my haste to make the most of each day, my time to do more of what I love is getting squished out.

I never thought economics would remind me of that. Nor, did I think a Planet Money Podcast would make me pause and re-evaluate the time-space continuum. But, I’m really glad it did.

Year-In-Review

And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln

As I look back on the past year, my head and heart ache a bit. It was a whirlwind year filled with incredible highs and some tough lows. But, it was also a lesson in resiliency.

I’m not one much for ringing in the New Year. This year was no exception, other than at 12:01 am I was awoken to the sounds of my son heaving. Mopping the floor and soaking my son’s puke-filled Superman footie pajamas, I couldn’t help but think what an ironic way to ring in a New Year. This trend continued for much of the night. But, come morning, my son awoke with his usual zest for life with a desire to wrestle, be pulled around our lake on a sled and eat crackers and juice while wrestling with dad. Just like that, he bounced back.

My son’s resiliency always ceases to amaze me. But, it isn’t just him. This past year, I’ve watched some friends and colleagues suffer illness and loss that I couldn’t even begin to imagine. And, they’ve done it with such grace. When asked how, they simply say, you’d do the same. But would I? I’m not so sure.

Past experience has taught me New Year’s resolutions don’t work for me. But, that doesn’t stop me from hoping the coming year will find me being more resilient when things happen. That I will find ways to bounce back versus letting them consume me. To recognize that even while mopping up puke while millions ring in the New Year with champagne, I am in fact truly blessed. After all, for years all I wanted was to be mom. And, I am. That’s just one of many blessings I need to appreciate.

A girlfriend recently got a t-shirt that reads, perfectly imperfect. I totally want it. It sums up my life and well me. This coming year, I hope to improve upon a few things beyond just being resilient. Some I’m just not quite ready to share here. But, I hope to do so with a bit of grace and understanding that I’m a work in progress and that’s frankly ok, partly because of all of the amazing people that have chosen and continue to be an integral part of my life. I couldn’t do any of this without them. Likely, if you are still reading this post, that includes you. So thank you. I wish for you in the coming year joy and excitement and should life throw you curveballs, the resilience you need to power on.

Happy New Year-

So much of the same

I realized I hadn’t checked in lately. If you have a moment, grab this month’s issue of Northern Gardener. I did a column about apples – which may not sound super exciting at first. But, if you are all into the economics behind the price of an apple or wondered why there are so many variations of apples in the store, you might enjoy it. I’ll try to post a copy of it as well sometime soon.

I meant to post on the 15th anniversary of September 11. But, I was flying to Chicago and time got away from me. So I’ll share a bit of that now. I think we all remember where we were that day when the planes struck. We all have our own story – our own memories – our own truth of that day. For me, I was working on my MA in Broadcast Journalism and had actually left the newsroom for my morning class at UWS in broadcast journalism. The topic that day happened to be breaking news. My teacher and mentor Mike Simonson was talking about the first crash that had happened right before class as an example. At the time we didn’t know the magnitude. He turned on the Today Show to demonstrate how well (or in his mind how sensational network news was becoming, given he was a public radio guy), when we watched the second plane hit live. It was a surreal moment to share in that class. We ended it and I immediately headed back to the newsroom where I spent the next few days attempting to connect what was happening to ties in the Northland while still giving viewers the weather and sports they wanted to hear. At the time, I was convinced that I’d finish my degree and climb the corporate newsroom ladder, landing in some mid-to-larger market as a newsroom executive.

It is crazy to think how that definitely did not happen. I finished my degree with my grad thesis focused around female news managers and how they find a work-life balance. The only thing that solidified was that this career path probably wasn’t right for me. I left news soon after that. Fast forward to today and life is very different but in many ways the same.

This fall I started school again. On the anniversary of 9/11, I was busy studying a different topic but with the same passion for learning as always. This time, I’m pursuing an MBA in Rural Healthcare to hopefully land in a more operational position so I can work to help my friends and neighbors access care in rural communities. It is a cause I care deeply about and want to play an active role in improving. But, it comes at a time when I’m already struggling to balance my time between an aging father, being a new mom, working full-time, a growing freelance business and enjoying time with my hubby. Add in my much needed desire for me time to stay sane and well I have a hunch the next few years will be interesting, potentially rocky and a bit chaotic. But, no matter how I slice it, definitely worth it. And at the end of the day, isn’t living a perfectly imperfect world better than not taking risks? Stay tuned for more updates as I embark on life as a Saint (AKA CSS student).

So that’s the latest from Moon Lake. The leaves are just starting to change and I look forward to sharing some shots soon. This weekend we’ll be attending yet another fall festival and hopefully harvesting apples with Jake so he can make his first batch of Apple Crisp. Should make for a yummy but messy weekend.

Happy Harvesting-

Wild, Free and Three!

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Hey folks – it is me Jake of Moon Lake stealing mom’s blog again because in just a few days I’ll be 3. I can’t believe another year has passed. That’s 1/3 of my life folks! It has been another year of whirlwind adventure.

Since writing last, I’ve taken up a new hobby. Talking. A lot. I often hear friends and family say wow, he’s talking so much more. I’m a bit bewildered by how surprised they are—after all, I have a lot of important information to share.

Did you know I’m a superhero who can also fly planes? Mom got me a batman cape. Then daycare got me a cape. And mom and dad found three capes at a garage sale for $1. Can you believe that? Anyways, I pretty much wear them everywhere I go. I definitely prefer being Batman but will fill-in as Robin or Superman if needed. I primarily leave those roles for my friends at daycare, though.

Yep. I’m still a full-time daycare kid. And yep, I’m still not potty trained. I did pee once on-demand for mom when she asked. But I did it on the floor instead of in the toilet. I needed to make a point. Not sure what that point is but I made it anyway. I’m sure I could be potty trained if I wanted to be but I like to keep mom and dad humble. So those two things haven’t changed much in the past year.

Mom and dad have to work harder to limit something called screen time for me. I don’t mind. I’d much rather be outside practicing my baseball swing or attempting to drown myself in Moon Lake. But sometimes when I’m really tired, I like to veg out in front of a few episodes of Super Why or Batman. Dad even let me watch the 60’s version of Batman. Since sharks are all the rage right now, the scene where a shark eats Batman’s leg is particularly entertaining.

I also find snacking on string cheese, crackers and watermelon while watching television quite satisfying. It used to be applesauce but mom put a stop to that saying something about needing new furniture. In my mind, I’m telling her you’re welcome since I know that’s just an excuse for her to buy stuff.

Speaking of buying stuff, my belongings are still primarily the product of garage sales and daycare friends. My entire wardrobe was pretty much worn by my buddy Nolan first. But, mom and dad keep saying the money is going towards my college fund instead so I guess I’m ok with that. Although, mom also talks about how I’m going to be QB1 or the next Steve Jobs… both of which are unlikely. I mean, have you seem my gene pool?

All of that said, mom and dad did make an effort this past year to show me there is life outside of Smiling Faces Daycare and Moon Lake Estates. I spent a lot of time with fish at the aquarium, hanging with family at the green cabin, exploring new trails, eating at new restaurants and flying jets at an air show. I also caught my first fish at take your kid fishing day… and it was a BIG one. It is so special it keeps getting bigger every time I talk about it. Dad has taken me out to a lot of timber sales where I get to play on super large, cool machinery. Mom stresses about that and instead takes me to bookstores and regular kid playgrounds. I don’t mind, though. She’s at least trying.

I’m still growing but not nearly as fast. I weight in at a solid 38 pounds and have passed the 3-foot marker. I survived my first cleaning at the dentist and am cavity free. Oh, and I managed to pick up and give strep and a number of other spreadable diseases to mom and dad. I do love to share. But, I’m healthy and happy.

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That’s the latest from Moon Lake. I’m not sure what comes next other than the promise of multiple cakes and cupcakes. Maybe some more toys. Hanging with mom and dad. Making new friends. Seeing new places. I’d say all in all, life is good on Moon Lake folks.

Until next time-
Jake from Moon Lake

Pilot Jake and the Adventures of Motherhood

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My son wants to be a pilot. More specifically, he wants to crash paper airplanes and steer parked jets. I told him he’d make a great fighter pilot, right before I told my husband I’d cry if he joined the military. My baby will be 3 in August.

Raising a 2-year old is utterly exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. But, it is a living reminder of what’s lost with the wisdom adults supposedly gain. Each morning, my son wakes up ready to tackle the world. Better yet—he truly believes he can and will conquer the world. By the time I change his morning diaper, he’s babbling away about all of the exciting people he’s going to see, toys he’s going to master, and a lifetime of activities he’s going to do—all by noon. By nightfall, he’s still talking and giggling and sharing stories about his endless adventures. Sure, in-between there he has his dreams and hopes dashed… he’s been cut-off on his third bowl of cereal or told he has to wear pants at daycare. He’s not allowed to jump off furniture (most of the time), and he can’t go outside without an adult. One time, I even accidentally broke his banana in half when pealing it. We barely got through that one. But, as quickly as his world shatters, life resumes. He’s resilient.

This month we took Jake to the Duluth Air and Aviation Show. I was nervous. Large crowds, hot weather and a 2-year old don’t always mix. I was stressed out before we even parked. But, the weather was on our side. A rainy day dispersed crowds and a well-executed event (and pre-planning by me) gave my son plenty to see, touch and try. But, what I loved most about the event was the perspective it gave me. My son was equally as excited to ride the school bus from the parking lot and he was to get up close to a Blue Angel. The squeals of joy from driving his plastic airplane in the sky were equally as high pitched as the squeals when steering a cirrus jet. He devoured his Cheetos with the same enthusiasm as his apple slices. And as we left, he didn’t beg for a bigger adventure but rather asked if we were going home so he could see Joey our dog.

This was a special day for us. I try really hard to take Jake on experiential adventures and to expose him to life beyond Iron River. He doesn’t know or understand this. But, what he does know is that each morning he’s going to get up and make the most out of his day. He’s going to play hard and nap harder. He’s going to giggle and laugh and maybe cry but move on. He’s going to experience something for the first time, even if it is the dentist. And, whatever that something is, he’s going to make the most of it.

All of this has made me wonder—when do we lose this sense of excitement. When do we decide that getting up in the morning is something to dread versus embrace. That we need some adventure or experience to be excited about to make life worth living. Sure, we talk about life being this great gift and how we need to give 150 percent each and every day and make the most out of life. But, if we truly tackled life like that, there wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar self-help industry reminding us about the benefits of being this way.

There are many benefits to being an adult. I get to go outside when I want to and can jump off the couch is I choose. But, by gaining access to these adult choices, I’ve lost something. I’ve lost that sense of wonder and excitement that comes with blowing bubbles for the first time or spending an afternoon skipping rocks. I miss the world of pretend where my 10-speed huffy bike is a race horse. Or, believe that I could run outside and do some cartwheels like Mary Lou Retton without a single day of training. And when I quickly learned I couldn’t, it was ok (other than a sprained ankle).

Jake’s a living reminder of what I’ve lost as I’ve aged. But, he’s also an inspiration to me to not do more and be more, but to do less. To rediscover the sense of wonder that comes with running around all day long but actually getting nothing done, other than living life. And frankly, shouldn’t that be enough?

Bayfield County Staycation

IMG_1734If rocks could smell fear, I’d be in trouble. I was never one blessed with agility, balance or sense of adventure. Yet, I always seem to find myself at river intersections that involve rushing water, a series of unstable rocks unreasonably spaced out before me and at least one expensive piece of camera gear around my neck. And, I’m generally alone with my irrational thoughts contemplating how many ways a simple slip could send me plunging to my death. Today was no exception.

But, today also marked a sense of wonder I haven’t had in a while. Today was a time out. It was an opportunity to wander in the woods and get lost in my thoughts. To remember why I choose to live here. I put on my tourism pants, loaded up my camera gear, filled my traveling coffee mug to the brim and set out on a day-long adventure in northern Bayfield County. I had exactly 8.5 hours from daycare drop-off to pick-up for just me.

My first stop may or may not have involved some doughnut holes from B’s Busy Bakery in Iron River. Listening to the Growth Show and snacking on sugary sweets, I drove the windy and scenic county highway to Port Wing. It was a perfect summer day. Once in Port Wing, I did a quick leg stretcher at Twin Falls. In the past, I’ve generally stayed up top but today I opted for the lower falls trail. Recent rain had the river higher than normal for summer, but certainly not the powerful rage spring often brings. It also meant repeated river crossings, to my final resting spot of a gentle waterfall. It was a great warm-up to the day.

IMG_1735From there, I headed to Herbster beach to enjoy a few more sips of coffee and catch my first real glimpse of the lake. I never tire of seeing or listening to her music. The rippling of waves washing up along Lake Superior stones far surpasses any meditation tape. I leave, ready for a power walk thru the woods.

IMG_1737Next up is a 3-mile hike at Lost Creek Falls. Thanks to the Bayfield County Forestry department, the trail is much improved from my infamous first date with the hubby (you can read more about that here). In fact, it even has a trailhead with parking, signage and a pathway patched with gravel and crafty boardwalks. It is quite impressive. But, the trail is just a prequel to this out-of-the-way waterfall.

I have yet to meet someone on this trail. Of course, a river walk wouldn’t be complete with a series of rock crossings, but I’m feeling extra dangerous today. (It helps that the water is only 5-6 inches deep). This sense of adventure ends with me getting my feet wet but saving my d-slr. Success comes in many shapes and sizes.

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Someone has left an Inukshuk directly in front of the falls. This Inukshuk, which is a signal of one being on the right path, resonates with me today. While much of today is about having fun, one can’t help but contemplate life while immersed in nature. This symbol seems all to appropriate for the questions I’m trying to answer in my head.

Harbor House SweetsI glance at my watch. It is approaching lunch time and decisions must be made. I opt to skip lunch and instead, consume my weight (and then some) in calories at Harbor House Sweets. This is a somewhat new candy and sweet shop in Washburn. I plan for just a few small chocolates and some almond bark but out of the corner of my eye, I cannot help but notice the luscious chocolate cupcakes staring me down. I casually ask about them. As the words, infused with caramel come out of the owner’s mouth, I’m immediately sold. I know mood can affect one’s taste buds and perhaps that had something to do with this experience, but honestly, it was the best cupcake I’ve ever consumed. And, I have consumed quite a few cupcakes in my day. I would have shot an interior shot of this gem but I was driving. By the time I reached Houghton Falls outside of Washburn, the only thing left to photograph was an empty wrapper.

I haven’t been to Houghton Falls for a few years. I must admit, I was a bit taken aback by the intense signage in the parking lot. Lots of lines through things, warnings about surveillance cameras, and even an automatic gate that will lock you in the parking lot if you are there after 8 pm in the summer. If you happen to get stuck, plan on paying a fine. I’m sure all of this is being driven by a few nimrods who can’t respect public land and a community that wasn’t expecting usage of this trail to be quite so high, but still, I’m having a few moments of Gooseberry Falls PTSD and the time I had to take a bus into the park during fall peak season. Pretty sure there were more people in nature that day then in my entire town. That said, my car is the only one in the parking lot on this beautiful day.

Round trip, I’ll only clock about 1.6 miles on this trek. It is a short, yet interesting walk. The massive rock gorges, multiple waterfalls, and ultimate view of the rocky ridges of Lake Superior reminds me slightly of the North Shore, but without the crowds. It is peaceful here. Once at Lake Superior, I take a few moments to take in the views. A single bird floats birdpast me, basking in the sunlight.

I jump in my car and head north to Bayfield. It is the first time I’m seeing crowds of any sorts. Main Street is full so I park on a side street next to Silver Waves Jewelry. I pop in, hoping to purchase a bracelet I had seen at a holiday sale last December. It has already sold. My heart dips a little until I learn she’ll remake a similar one for me. A custom bracelet—seems like the perfect trinket to wear as a reminder of today.

roadclosedNext up, one last power walk above the well-known Sea Caves. My husband mentions a shortcut that may or may not involve parking illegally on a road named after his favorite home improvement store. Accurate directions including, just go to the end, are my guide. Turns out the town road is closed before I get to the end, but given my poor sense of direction, I figure I have to be closer to the caves than if I drive to the trail head. Turns out that my poor sense of direction is still strong. Pretty sure I clocked more miles on that town road than if I had just hiked the trail. But, before long I’m hearing the deep bass of frigid Lake Superior water pushing up against the sandstone caves before succumbing to the wall of stone and heading back out to sea. seacavesStanding above the caves, I can’t help but question when the caves might finally accept defeat and collapse under the power of this majestic beauty. Lucky for me, it isn’t today.

 

I hop back in the Subaru determined to make one final stop before the day is done. As I approach Cornucopia, I see the ship graveyard next to the green shed. I turn right into the parking lot and head into Halvorson Fisheries for some smoked fish. Within minutes, I’m leaving, armed with Lake Superior Trout for dinner, poor man’s lobster and the most beautiful piece of Brown Sugar Smoked Lake Superior Trout. I fill up my water bottle at the artesian well and plop on the sandy beach. I remove my shoes and run my feet through the white washed sand. Sitting hear alone on the beach, I can’t help but fill mom in on all that’s happened to me this past year. In this moment of quiet reflection, I know she’s listening.

IMG_1760Once done refueling on my savory and salt-infused snack, I make my way back to the car feeling more relaxed than I have in ages. I know some people have judges me for living a simpler life. They don’t understand why I’m not more aggressive in my professional life or pursuing life in the big city. The pressure to do more is always there. And I admit, I’m human. At times, I find myself equating my worth with job titles, mortgages and zip codes. But, today I’m reminded of all of the reasons I’ve chosen to live a simpler life. Simpler doesn’t mean less fulfilling, less meaningful, or less important. It isn’t for everyone. But, it certainly suits me. Any lingering doubts are quickly smacked down when I arrive home.

MothersonMy son grabs my hand and pulls me down the trail to throw sticks in our lake. Afterwards, we head up to collect eggs and grill supper. We top off the evening with a game of baseball, biking up and down country road and a single two-handed hug that makes me feel like the richest woman on the planet.

Some people travel the world to find what matters. For me, a simple day in the woods in a place I’m lucky enough to call home is enough.