You can always find somewhere to hike.

Earlier this week, one of my favorite people that I’ve never met based solely on photos and brief interactions, posted a lovely photo and some words on Twitter basically saying that despite not being able to get to the mountains due to life being busy at times, he was thankful to have local trails and preserves to enjoy between mountain visits.  And damn, if that doesn’t speak to my life goal, I don’t know what does.  Never stop exploring, appreciate what is around you, make the best of every situation, and learn to love where you live.

Where I live in Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth metro area) isn’t the prettiest, to me, in terms of natural landscapes but it does have a few redeeming qualities.  First, I’m thankful for local parks in the DFW metro area – they serve the purpose of partially escaping and disconnecting.  Second, I’m fortunate enough to have several worthwhile places that are within a few hours of the metro area by car – within Texas, up to Oklahoma, and up and over to Arkansas.  Third, If I’m feeling adventurous, I am lucky to have an array of majestic places within 12 hours by car that include mountains, forests, desert landscapes, and flowing water.  DFW is a hub for American, which gets me across this great nation at a reasonable rate with many nonstop options.  Dallas is a hub for Southwest, which includes two checked bags for gear, and they’re always offering reasonable rates to many of my favorite destinations.  I feel lucky.  While Texas isn’t my favorite place (and hopefully not my final destination), I am going to continue to embrace the positive aspects and make the most of it while I’m here.

My journey on 52 Hikes With Mike has been about embracing where I live and taking as much of it in as I can.  By participating in the hiking challenge, I managed to branch out and actually learn about the outdoor culture in my area and beyond.  It has awakened a part of me that went dormant years ago and connected me with many like-minded people in just the nine short months so far.  Here’s to many more miles and seeing more trees than people!

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Quest: be happy

I’m on a quest.  A quest to enjoy life as much as I can while in transition to the next phase.  I’m going to do my job, get paid, save, and enjoy every minute I’m not there.  I’m going to adventure throughout Texas as much as I can without breaking the bank.  I’m going to hike every week for an entire year, this year.  I’m going to take my dog to the park almost every day, because it’s good for my brain too.

You can’t change your life if you don’t take steps to change your life.  I am taking steps, and have been for a little while now.  I am spending less, saving more, paying things off faster.  I’m getting more exercise, and committing to do that publicly and privately.  I’m taking better care of myself and I’m being a better part of this relationship that I’m in with my other half.  Self-improvement doesn’t happen overnight, but I’m determined to make it to my 33rd birthday lighter, happier, and healthier.  December 6 is always like my new year.

Hiking in Texas is best in months that aren’t summer – but I’ll make do when it comes time.  I need to love something beyond my pets and partner, to round out life.  Work is out of the question, as it is a means to an end right now, so I need to love the trails, paved paths, and camping I get to do with my limited time and budget.

Last week, on the paved trail near the apartment, I took the dog for a couple of miles.  The temperature was hovering around 28 F, the sky was clear-ish, the trees bare, the grass brown, and there were hardly any other people out.  We hit a spot on the trail by a lake made for a subdivision, gross, but also beautiful.  I saw the brown grasses blowing in the wind, felt the cold air hit my face, and I was taken back to childhood on our property.  I felt like I was in N. Michigan again, felt at home.  I took a minute, inhaled deeply, and couldn’t help but smile.  I walked back toward the parking area, and it was getting dark.  I looked up, through the empty tree branches and found myself smiling uncontrollably.  I was just so happy and so at peace with the world for a moment.  Now, the trail is rarely that dead and the air is rarely that cold – so I appreciate it for what it was as a whole.  People can be inconsiderate and rude, but I’ll just look up and take a deep breath and smile and think this is the best I can do right now and that has to be good enough.

Building up a savings, planning future adventures, keeping abreast with job market in our future city, and talking about it make it real.  Knowing I will not be here forever, makes me happy.  But, since I know I have to be here now, I’m going to make the best of it.  The trail across from the driveway is a nice city park, despite the road noise.  The hikes I’m finding within an hour of the metro area are proving to be very interesting and beautiful.  The fact that I’m disciplined – in both making my personal choices and reactions to other people’s choices – is proving I’m on the right path in terms of thoughts and mindfulness.  Life can be great anywhere, and I have to choose to be happy with what I have.  I can’t sulk and complain – wishing I had more or less – I have to use what I have, plan for the changes I want, and follow through.  If we are ever getting out this state, this town at the very least, than I must make change and choices in favor of the move.  Needs and wants are constantly debated, and when you break things down it’s easy to determine their necessity.

TL;DR: I’m making the best of this place, my resources, and life in general.  I’m going to work towards a goal of leaving this metro area and expanding my skills.

Follow along with my 52 Hikes with Mike blog HERE!  I post each week, after a hike, about the trails.  Hike 1 was yesterday 1/7/17 and it sent me to the clouds with joy and inspiration.

Uppers.

Good things that happened in 2016:

  1. I got a job in February, after being unemployed for 3 months
  2. We took a road trip and explored BEAUTIFUL Northern California and even wandered into Oregon.  I also go to see my best friend after damn near a decade.
  3. We moved into a more affordable, logically laid out, and first level apartment.
  4. We consolidated some of our debts and are saving money!
  5. I got a new job in August with better pay, benefits, and opportunities for growth.
  6. We went to Michigan and got to hang out with friends and family for a week in May.
  7. Many of my dearest friends got married!
  8. Had a successful fall camping trip with friends & family
  9. I had a lovely day date with my bestie Nikki at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens.
  10. I refinished an ugly dresser
  11. We took another trip to visit friends and family in June.
  12. I saw the Dallas Arboretum in July.
  13. I went to Michigan two more times for various weddings and a memorial.
  14. We explored the Ozarks for a day.
  15. I got to go to Bronner’s Christmas store in Frankenmuth.
  16. I got to go out of town for work a few times, which I find exciting.
  17. We saw the Liberal Redneck himself with his two buds in Dallas!
  18. I got to reunite with old coworkers at my previous employer’s xmas party that I crashed.
  19. I got to see my BFF, many Michigan friends, and family for one whole weekend in November and got to celebrate Thanksgiving with them.
  20. I saw snow and went to several antique stores while in Michigan.
  21. My dog is healthy.
  22. Our cats are sorta healthy.
  23. I’m sorta healthy.
  24. My better half is healthy.
  25. Our bills are caught up, our roof doesn’t leak, our heat/ac work, and we have food/water.
  26. I met at least 5 new amazing friends!
  27. Obama named Gold Butte and Bear Ears as National Monuments!

Yeah, the election sucked.  Yeah, all the people who died – famous or not – really sucked.  But, I’m focusing on the good shit…however small, unimportant to others, or irrelevant to the big picture it is.

I worked hard this year to be more mindful of my choices and to be more present in my life. I worked hard to overcome the demons that lurk – not always winning, but coming out ahead in the end.

 

Here’s to 2017, even though it’s an icky odd number.

Nature and life on the brain.

Reading an article about the progression of the public transit (TriMet) in Portland has my brain swirling today.

TriMet MAX turns 30
It’s no secret, I’m in love with Portland, Oregon.  Not for the hipster reasons, not because of Portlandia, no sir!  I’m in love with Portland for these reasons: (in no particular order except number one being the best)

  1. Relative distance to my preferred style of nature (Columbia River Gorge, mountains, forests, other rivers, trails, etc)
  2. Proximity to the Pacific Ocean and Oregon Coast.
  3. It’s near Seattle and all the natural beauty that Washington holds.
  4. It’s less than 10 hours to Northern California and all that majestic beauty 
  5. The city isn’t too big
  6. Public transit is amazing and efficient 
  7. Food and drink culture is lovely – I guess partly due to the hipster crowd 
  8. The city has so much green space
  9. Temperature and weather 
  10. Beautiful architecture – old houses, pretty buildings, neat sculptures
  11. Artsy-fartsy crowd 
  12. Beer and dog friendly
  13. Every time I’ve been there, I’ve felt home

There are bad things, but they really even out with all of the things mentioned above.  The housing market is crazy, jobs are okay but not super great, and traffic can be a nightmare.  Here in Texas, housing is easy breezy and affordable, jobs are okay, and traffic can be a nightmare.

We didn’t make it to Portland in May of 2014 as planned but I think things happened the way to did so we could learn a few things about what we needed and wanted out if life.  Now, we have clear sights on why Texas isn’t our final resting place.  Portland will always be on the top of my list, of our list, but I’m open to anywhere with some natural beauty and a cooler climate.

I am hoping to get a good boost in experience with my current, new, career direction here.  I can’t predict the future, but all plans and savings numbers will point to 2018 as a pivotal year in our next step.

Iced Coffee…hold the HWC.

It’s been too long.

Today I’m getting back on track with – at the very least – tracking my food, avoiding quick food from shitty places, and eating less.

I brought a big ass salad for “lunch” tonight, some grapes as a side, an apple, and sting cheese – I have no desire to eat any of it on account of how bloated I feel from the past week or two.

Part of the 6 Month plan the partner and I set up was for me to be able to run a 5k.  I’m going to start that when the rain isn’t falling… 4 weeks to a mile, then 6 to a 5K so 10 weeks or so total – depending how often I need to repeat.

Part of our immediate financial plan within the 6 Month plan was to reduce spending and save even more than I already was… so, planning meals and eating out less will help with reaching that goal.

I guess I can start staying after at work and using the gym, one good thing about working here.  I hate the gym and working out indoors, but it’s available for free so why not?

I’m on my second 30 oz glass of water for the evening – hydration is something I’ve been lacking and it also keeps me awake… and with the AC not working in our section of the floor, I need ICE COLD water to prevent death.

Anyway, this is the plan… no extremely low carb, no extremely high fat, no extreme anything.  Everything in moderation, which usually means far less sweets and booze.  Sugar really doesn’t work well with my body, and I’m aware of this.  Hopefully, with a reduction in my sugar intake, my body will hate me less.

L(i/o)ving life.

We’re actually contemplating this… this whole, sell/get rid of everything and go live in a tiny cabin in Alaska thing.

PROS:

  1. Rent & utility free
  2. Sharing space with family between 3 dwellings
  3. Can grill again
  4. it’s in ALASKA
  5. Private cabin
  6. Remote location
  7. Good cell reception
  8. Internet capable
  9. Literally in nature, on 30+ acres of forests, creeks, etc.
  10. Have I mentioned it’s free?
  11. Close to a big enough town with all the things we’d need
  12. Forced simplifications

 

CONS:

  1. about an hour from Anchorage and jobs
  2. The private cabin doesn’t have a kitchen, so the main cabin becomes a necessity
  3. Remote location can make travel tricky
  4. Travel to/from Alaska can be expensive
  5. Have to get rid of a lot of our stuff
  6. May have trouble getting out of our lease

 

This whole idea stems from being closer to family, diving into life experiences, saving some money (or at least breaking even more often), and trying something new and extreme.  I’d love to be near my partner’s family, as we are near a bit of mine here and it would be nice to share the love….plus, ALASKA.  The drive there, with pets and stuff would take forever.. but would be so worth it in the end.  We may only have a small window of opportunity right now to get there, too, so if nothing else my partner may go and I may stick out the lease for a bit until they get our cabin fixed up enough for the pets and I.  We had thought of this before, but never to the extent that at least one of us would start the journey and the other would follow.  So much to consider.

Be the light. Seek the light.

DSC_0191

Looking through photos from our recent trip and found this one.  The flower is no larger than a dime and the clovers cover the ground and fallen logs.  It’s pretty, delicate, and a representation of the variety of life that grows.  Something as tiny as a dime grows right below a towering redwood tree.  They grow in harmony and I think – as cheesy as it may be – is a metaphor for how we need to live.  We have to accept that some will tower over others, but we need to continue to reach up for the light.  Even when we have to stretch or go a few days with darkness, we have to keep reaching and growing.  Even the tiniest plant can flower and find the light and be the light for things even smaller.