CHAPTER 24: Spend a Moment Every Day Thinking of Someone to Thank!

Spend a moment every day thinking of someone to thank. Sounds easy doesn’t it? We say thank you to the server at the restaurant and we even leave a tip to show our appreciation! We say thank you to the clerk that helps us find what we are looking for in the store, the person who services our car, and on it goes. But, as I read though this chapter, being thankful at the moment, is one thing, being grateful and having a heart of gratitude are two different things.

You might be thinking, “Well, that’s sometimes hard to do Barbara! Someone scratched my car in the parking lot. A phone call made me late for an appointment! My kids have me running in all directions, my boss is a jerk and I didn’t get enough sleep last night!” Sometimes it’s easy to let the momentary irritations take center stage so that our feeling of gratitude go out the window. So how then do we get our mind and hearts centered on our sense of gratitude?

Our author asks that we  try to begin our day thinking of someone to thank, and when we do that, many people will come to mind. Those closest to us, who we may sometimes take for granted, and those who we encounter as we progress through our day. He suggests that thanking a “higher power”, or in my case, God, for the gift of life itself or for the beauty of nature brings a sense of peace.

As you go about your day and travel throughout the community, make a mental note of those who extend themselves in a helpful manner and then take the time to thank them!  Try to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts of gratitude.

Allow me to quote Richard Carlson. “What this exercise reminds me to do is to focus on the good in my life.” He continues, “It may seem like an awfully simple suggestion, but it really works! If you wake up in the morning with gratitude on your mind, it’s pretty difficult, in fact almost impossible, to feel anything but peace.”

I would like to add one more ingredient to his simple recipe. Try ending each day with a moment of gratitude. Instead of counting sheep, count your blessings. There have to be a few that come to mind. Some people keep a gratitude journal and some work their thoughts of gratitude into their prayers.

As we continue to journey on the Don’t Sweat Adventure, we are learning and practicing methods that will put us on a path to a less stressful existence; a path of peace of mind while putting chaos aside. We are learning to choose to think and react differently. We are “letting others have the glory”, realizing that ” life isn’t fair”, and asking ourselves “will this matter a year from now”. In our new toolbox we are replacing our negative thinking with thoughts that focus on gratitude for our blessings and for those people who add value to our lives with their kindness and willingness to help us when we need it.

Last weekend I attended a women’s retreat; part of a of the “Ladies of the Lake” rejuvenation weekends, that allows the attendees to rest, relax, and rejuvenate, while reconnecting with friends and spirituality. While there are scheduled activities to participate in, each person decides what she wants to engage in, and if the whole weekend is spent reading, writing, knitting, walking around the lake or resting on a bed, that’s okay too! An added bonus is that all our meals were prepared! We were pampered with manicures, pedicures, massages, and a “mocktail reception”. But most of us attend to further our spiritual journey and to learn how our existence, our struggles and achievements, our life experiences are a common thread that winds through each of us. It is a supportive, caring environment to nurture who we are and to appreciate what makes us special. Our theme this time was centered around the book, “The Cup of Our Life“, by author, Joyce Rupp. The retreat organizers had 25 totally different mugs created by a local potter to give to each lady, that represents how our lives are uniquely individual. We discussed the Empty Cup, The Cluttered Cup, The Cup of Boundaries, The Cup Filled, The Chipped Cup, and the Cup of Blessing as we closed out our weekend. The take away from this weekend for me was, that I discovered that I am still a work in progress; a beautiful soul seeking to become the best she can be. There are many who I will meet on my journey in this life, who will give something of themself that touches me in a positive and joyful way. . . and that is something to be grateful for!

 THIS WEEKS ADVENTURE ASSIGNMENT

Spend a moment every day in gratitude!

 

 

CHAPTER 23 ~ Experiment With Your Back Burner

 

Simmering on the back burner

Another tool in our Stress Less tool belt is learning the technique to “experiment with your back burner”. I will admit that I never heard of this particular method as a way to solve a problem, without really thinking about it that is. Reading further through this short chapter, I learned that you can almost “trick” your mind into finding resolution to a problem or situation, while keeping busy with something else. Ingenious! Our author’s analogy is to imagine a the back burner of a stove, with a pot of ingredients simmering away and getting tastier by the minute, while you are busy doing something else. “Often”, he states, “the less you interfere, the better the result.” If we imagine that our mind has a back burner, or a special compartment where we can keep our list of problems, facts, variables and solutions, and let them “simmer” a while, you will eventually (and with less stress) find the solution or conclusion to what’s bugging you.

I have found that some problems and issues cannot be resolved over night, especially if they involve others, like our children, parents, co-workers, etc. You get the idea. Sometime you just have to occupy or distract yourself with something else while the back burner of your brain does the work. You know that you will revisit the situation or whatever is troubling you, but for the moment you can give it a rest. I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “I’ll have to sleep on it.” Not only are they using the back burner, but they are avoiding making a decision in haste, that can be costly in more ways than one!

I have found this to be true for me when I am trying to recall something. A person’s name for instance. Sometimes I go through the alphabet letter by letter, (sometimes adding a vowel after the consonant) and if I can’t remember by the time I get to the letter “Z”, I say, “ah, screw it, it will come to me later.” and…it usually does. Recall can be tricky sometimes if we try too hard to remember. Words may fail us, faces perplex us, and the all too familiar will elude us, but only temporarily!

Using the back burner is not permission to procrastinate or to put off the inevitable. Dr. Carlson explains, “while you do want to put your problems on your back burner, you don’t want to turn the burner off. Instead, you want to gently hold the problem in your mind without actively analyzing it.”

Okay, I can do this and perhaps I have been doing this without conscientiously knowing what I was doing, or that there was such a technique! A simple method that will help solve problems and will greatly reduce the stress and effort in your life! Isn’t that why we are here and practicing the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff philosophy; to stress less and enjoy life more?

The Butterfly Effect

THIS WEEKS ADVENTURE ASSIGNMENT 

First, locate your back burner. Second, the next time an issue, problem or situation arrises that requires resolution or a decision, put the back burner to use. Third, let it simmer. Fourth, bring it off the back burner and ask yourself if you have figured it out. Last, report back here during this next week with a progress report. I am anxious to see if this technique has been useful and beneficial to you!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all you Irish (or Irish for today) and we’ll meet again right here next week!

Stress Less,

Barb

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Chapter 22: “Life Isn’t an Emergency”

 

Winter never ends

Winter is a time to rest and restore, for Springtime will be here soon enough.

Life isn’t an emergency, but there are emergencies in life and we need to differenciate between the two. I’ve come to the realization that I’m not a blogger, at least not in the true sense of the word. I am a hobby-blogger and yes, I just made that up. I don’t blog daily and I don’t blog for money. If I did, I wouldn’t have a crumb to eat in the house. So what is a hobby-blogger? A hobby-blogger is a person who has spurts of  inspiration, but not a desire to do the necessary work of a professional blogger. A hobby-blogger likes to write and share information, comment on other blogs and in general blogs as the spirit moves her. Thus, my one month hiatus from blogging. As I look back at my 2 plus year history in blogging, I have seen an ebb and flow and I have watched the tide come and go…

Life isn’t an emergency and neither is my writing or blogging. I don’t approach it in that manner. I approach it as an enjoyable pastime not a job. So this particular chapter is apropo for me and the timing is perfect! Remember the “In Basket” from Chapter 6? (No, well go back and re- read it.) My in basket will always be full, but it’s my out basket that is more important to me. What am I taking out and sharing and what part of myself am I giving to others? That’s what is important, and more importantly, that is what’s rewarding!

Our author points out that “We take our own goals so seriously that we forget to have FUN along the way, and we forget to cut ourselves some slack.”

1slack

 adjective \ˈslak\

: not stretched or held in a tight position

: not busy : lacking the expected or desired activity

: doing something poorly because you are not putting enough care or effort into it.

I have my own deffinition: slack/verb.  CUTTING ONESELF A BREAK!

I’m not slacking off, but mearly allowing an adjustment in my approach to life and my priorities. I’ve taken myself off the clock and redefined my goals. I hope I’m not #3 in the above deffinition according to Webster.

Only 22 chapters into our adventure together and I realized that the urgency or emergency of weekly blogging, posting on Facebook and constant Twitter-ing was adding pressure to my days and creating a no fun atmosphere.

Me: “Dr. I’m so stressed. I spend hours online keeping up with all the social media. Then I have to rush through my mail, my  bookwork, housework, together time with my spouse and kids. I’ve lost track of my friends from church and I feel guilty and miserable about almost everything. I just feel that my life is out of control!”

Dr.: “So Barbara, why do you allow these things to take priority in your life?”

Me: Pause and sigh…”I, I don’t know. I thought that I was staying young, keeping up and increasing my skills.” I suppose that I think that it’s important to do it all.” “Am I wrong?” Sigh...

Dr.: “Are you?” (Damn Dr.’s, always turning their questions back to you to search for the answers!) “I guess I’m not wrong, but maybe just going in the wrong direction.” “For me that is.” “I shouldn’t compare myself to others, and then feel like a failure”. “A tired, stressed out failure…”

Dr.: “Precisely!”

Me: “That’s it?” “You are agreeing with me?” “You don’t have anyhing else to offer?”

Dr.: “Barbara, you have so clearly stated what’s wrong, and you have prescribed the solution to your problem.” “Life isn’t an emergency.” “Your life is how you make it.” “Create your emergencies, or create your joy.” “It’s up to you!”

Me: Sigh of relief…“I guess all I had to do was give myself permission to slack.” “Give myself permission to enjoy my hobby-blogging?”

Dr.: “Go for it, and make good memories along the way!”

Well, there you have it. Life isn’t an emergency after all…

~ THIS WEEKS ADVENTURE ASSIGNMENT~

SLACK, AND DO IT WITH GUSTO!

I might be back next week, or maybe not. I might be banging on my congas or learning a new song to play. I might bake those fattening cookies, stay in my jammies or pull something else off my back burner. It’s my choice and it’s your’s too!

 

 

CHAPTER 21: Imagine Yourself at Your Own Funeral

YOUR NAME HERE

Imagine yourself at your own funeral. YIKES! What a thought to start my day, and to return to the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff Adventure blog! Tho’ I have to ponder that maybe beginning at the end is a good place to start. So close your eyes and picture yourself floating above your grave, or Urn, or your choice of venue for eternal rest, and take in the view. During your service, do you see your friends, family and co-workers gathered around, dressed in dark clothes, dark sunglasses, sniffing back running noses and wiping the tears away while holding each other for support? Good. You were a beloved person in their lives. Or, were you merely a blimp on the radar, not having really lived life; keeping to yourself and happily minding your own business while ignoring the opportunities around you to serve and make a difference?  Did you sweat over too many “small stuffs?” Did you just say “Bah Humbug?”

I am going to take a little poetic license here and assume my readers are of the mind that we transition from our human form on earth to our spirit form in heaven or other level of being. Our energy here in our mortal bodies transcends to yet a new beginning and hopefully, we take something valuable from our experiences here on earth and put them to better use in the hereafter! Like the angel, Clarence, in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, maybe we have to earn our wings???

Chapter 21 is a brief chapter that offers a grand look into the past and into the future. Dr. Carlson states that “Imagining yourself at your own funeral allows you to look back at your life while you still have the chance to make some important changes.” While we are probably squeamish about visualizing our own death, “the process of doing so will remind you of the kind of person you want to be and the priorities that are most important to you.”

You can open your eyes now. So there you have it. Short and sweet, or maybe not so sweet. What I want you to take away from this exercise is the fact that you still have the time, chance, and opportunity to make some important changes. Changes that will impact your health, your well-being, relationships, and your ability to adapt and change for the good! What changes are you willing to make so that you will be that dear departed, beloved soul?

 

Pillow poetry

 THIS WEEKS ADVENTURE ASSIGNMENT

Imagine yourself at your own funeral ~ Now write your obituary

PS: I totally flunked the last chapter, but I did manage to write some lovely thoughts on my Christmas cards! Happy New Year and see you next week…

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Once your curiosity is satisfied, and are ready to begin, then move to the first post on May 1st.

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CHAPTER 20: Write a Heartfelt Letter…once a week

I know it’s been a while…

Write a heartfelt letter. What a great idea! I love to write, but not everyone does. Does texting count? Texting is only one way of how so many of us communicate these days. We have broadened our reach, but narrowed the intimacy that comes with a hand written or typed personal letter. We  post our thoughts and photos, opinions, politics and passions on Facebook. We post our interests to Pinterest, but, what about sitting down and writing an old-fashioned, thought-filled, letter? A letter that shows that you are thinking about another person. A letter that recalls the wonderful moments that you have shared over time. Our “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff” author, suggests that you can write a letter to someone you don’t even know, but someone whom you admire, and (here is the best part)… you don’t even have to mail it! 

“The purpose of the letter is very simple: to express love and gratitude.” says Dr. Carlson. 

When Richard Carlson was alive and writing the Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff series, and when his philosophy was just taking off, we were in a different world. Seven years have passed since his untimely death, and in that time the internet has taken off, offering new social websites, with new means of communication that are being hatched each day. We can go faster and further than ever before and in the blink of an eye, we press the send button and into the cloud it goes!

With all that technology at our fingertips, I realized that this is what makes this week’s adventure so important. We  actually have to sit down and compose our thoughts, feelings and emotions, putting them onto paper (or into MS office). We can use our PC, laptop, tablet or notebook. What ever your means, written or typed, it is your choice. I’ll be honest, with so many fonts available, my Macbook makes reading my writing much easier for others than my hand written scribble. What matters MOST is the sentiment; honest, authentic, with a dash of love and gratitude thrown in for good measure!

Dr. Carlson wrote or co-authored over 20 books. His life’s purpose was to help people slow down, overcome stress and enjoy life more. So, for my first letter, I am writing to him (in heaven).

Dear Dr. Carlson,

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Barb and I have created a blog to keep your legacy alive by sharing your book and Don’t Sweat strategies (including some of my own thoughts and experiences), with others. I’m  writing to you because I’m glad that you felt it important enough to write about your methods to make my life better. With each chapter, I am practicing those steps that bring me closer to my goal of stressing less and enjoying life more. I grateful that you shared your life’s passion with so many!  

Best regards,

Barb Roberts

PS: I’m looking forward to reading more of your works!

So there it is. Simple and from the heart.

The Butterfly Effect
The Butterfly Effect

 THIS WEEKS ADVENTURE ASSIGNMENT

Find a moment to write a heartfelt letter to someone who means the world to you, or write a note to someone who you would like to recapture a friendship with. It’s totally up to you who you decide to write to, but the act of sitting down to write  (or email) helps to fill YOUR life with gratitude and will certainly brighten someone’s day! Excuse yourself if you can’t manage to write one letter each week, but try to get a letter out there as frequently as possible. This is a great time of year to start letter writing, so make it a new resolution! Your letter will create another “butterfly effect”. You may have started something… just imagine getting a letter back!

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CHAPTER 19: Lower Your Tolerance to Stress

STRESSED OUT!

 

Lower your tolerance to stress…easier said than done. I thought that we are supposed to raise our tolerance to stress! You know, take on more and handle more. This is a very appropriate time of year to identify the stressors in your life and to practice techniques that are designed to help you lower your tolerance to stress. As we move through the holidays and into a bright new year, I am looking forward to increasing my knowledge and insight about not sweating the small stuff, enjoying life more and stressing less!

There are days when I feel that I can handle a lot of stress, then there are days that I can come to a boil in an instant. Some things are easier to tolerate, while others cause an immediate reaction that may not be so pretty. So what does the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff philosophy recommend? What can I learn in chapter 19 that will help put stress in its place?

First let’s make a list of what our stressors are. Mine may be different from yours and we might have a few in common. Pull out a piece of paper and pen and let’s do this together. If you want to make this a more fun and less stressful exercise, use different colored ink or colored pencils to color code your stress items. Red might be high stress and black might be the everyday common stress. This is not a scientific project, but might help pinpoint what priority you are giving stress in your life.

Here goes…

  1. Work – My work consists of handling our business bookkeeping and record keeping, interacting with customers, employees and family.
  2. Family – Everything from a divorced adult son and all its complications, a daughter with serious health conditions and her upcoming wedding, an aging mother in law and all her issues, to my wonderful husband with whom I work and manage our businesses and his active never-ending outdoor activities while attempting not to piss me off!
  3. Writing, blogging, playing guitar and singing – Yes, even these relaxing activities can add a layer of stress as I try to satisfy my personal goals and engage my  creative side. These things are to be my pleasure, but sometimes they become like another job.
  4.  Technology - Keeping up with smart phones, computer software, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, on and on…Constantly  being connected is stressful and an imposition.
  5. Pets – Our dogs drive me crazy and often need as much attention as a 2-year-old. They have their own unique way of making their wants and needs known, plus my husband I have to plan our outings and vacations around pet needs :-(

I’ll stop at 5 because that is enough for this blog post. There may be more, but I’m sure that they fall somewhere in the categories above.

Dr. Carlson points out: “What you want to start doing is noticing your stress early, before it gets out of hand. When you feel your mind moving too quickly, it’s time to back off and regain your bearings. You’ll find that when you catch yourself getting too stressed out – early, before it gets out of control – your stress will be like the proverbial snowball rolling down the hill. When it’s small, it’s manageable and easy to control. Once it gathers momentum, however, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to stop.”

Do we want our emotions and stress rolling and gaining momentum like a snowball? Do we want to heap on more stress to see if we can “handle” it? So, what can we do to learn to lower our tolerance to stress? First learn to recognize it, as pointed out in the paragraph above. Next, back away from it (if possible), take a walk, get a glass of water, make a cup of coffee, do some “Planking” and “reevaluate what’s important rather than power through everything on your list.”

Look for alternatives. Are there some items that you can delegate to others? For example, is there another person, who can throw in a load of wash, pick up some groceries, or run an errand? Can you take one item off your list and move it to another day to get done? Can you unplug from technology for a day or half of a day and amuse your brain with something that diverts your attention and even makes you laugh? By lowering your tolerance to stress, by using the strategies to break the cycle, you will (hopefully) find that you are becoming more effective tackling those stressful items or situations and will be stressing less in the long run.

The Butterfly Effect

STRESS LESS

THIS WEEKS ADVENTURE ASSIGNMENT

Lower your tolerance to stress by making a list of your stressors. Get in touch with what is really stressing you out and what importance you have given it (or them). Next, be conscious of what is stressing you and back away until you can evaluate how best to handle it, thereby taking the pressure off at the moment. Practice, practice, practice.

I look forward to your comments and insight as we continue on our path to stress less and enjoy life more!

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LABOR OF LOVE

It’s been a labor of love and a long time coming. One of my goals has been to bring things “off the backburner”  and to work on those projects that are near and dear to my heart, allowing me to create and inspire!

So here it is, a children’s Christmas book that I wrote in 2007!

The Christmas Tree Angel

The Chrismas Tree Angel

Talk about sitting on the backburner…

The book is published in e-book format and will be available in many e-book retail outlets including Barne & Noble.

You never know until you put yourself out there, what the possibilities will be and what avenues of opportunity will open up for you. I hope that you consider what things are on your backburner and realize it’s time to cook ‘em up and bring your creation to the table, so to speak. It’s time to consider what is near and dear to you, a hobby, learning a new skill, travel, volunteerism, back to school? Whatever you’ve put off, put aside, put other priorities in its place, it’s time to do your inner work! Make time for you and your dreams and  goals!

I will be working on the Don’t Sweat Adventure and getting back on track so we can continue to progress towards our less stressed, enjoyable life!

Stress Less,

Barb

 

THE “MAINE” EVENT, or No Moose For You!

THE “MAINE” EVENT

A WOMAN’S PERSPECTIVE OF GROUSE HUNTING IN THE NORTH MAINE WOODS

Departure: We left for our ruffed grouse hunting trip on Wednesday, October 23rd, at six AM. One Ford F150 truck and one Chevy Suburban, each fully stocked and loaded for our trip to the upper region of Northwest Maine. As I said, fully loaded including three adults, five kennels and five “chopping at the bit” hunting dogs! Bindi, Peiper, Buddy, Bell and Sam all knew they were going on a hunting adventure. Dogs are intuitive like that and our seasoned Bindi put on her cool and relaxed demeanor so as to save her energy and excitement for the real thing! My husband, Allan, and I are in the Suburban and our friend (and dentist) Dale is in the truck. We drove approximately six hours from our home in NEPA to our first stop and overnight respite at Dale’s family cottage/camp on Sebago Lake, Maine, just outside of Portland. It was a really nice trip. We enjoyed the scenery along the way, our husband/wife chatter and pauses of silence taking in our own thoughts of the moment. Once we arrived at Sebago Lake, we found the cottage/camp, built in the early 1800′s, was rustic yet quite practical; offering all the amenities that one could need for a “campy” stay. The main floor of the cottage offered a kitchen with an old wood stove, indoor plumbing, including a sink, toilet and shower, a parlor with fireplace, and master bedroom. There were windows everywhere providing picturesque views of the lake and woods. Outside, the lovely porch offered a restful place for us to sit and gaze at the lake, unwinding from the trip with a cocktail or glass of wine. Upstairs, the loft-like quarters was set up bunk style to accommodate family and friends. I envisioned that in days past, there were squealing children who would be delighted to entertain themselves in the surrounding wooded areas, flanking the pristine waters of the lake! I could very well imagine evening campfires to entertain the mix of “well-embibed” adults, over active children and begrudging teens sentenced to a week’s vacation with their parents, moodily missing their social lives at home. I found the whole area to be very enchanting and very much like the old camps of the Adirondack Mountains. I heard the call of the Loons and honking of geese as I drifted off to sleep, or tried to drift off to sleep - my man snoring heavily by my side!

First Night: Our night was a bit chilly in the seasonal cottage, even with the wood burning stove cooking away the night’s damp, autumn air. By morning, I found myself thinking that I didn’t want to leave. I was at home there and thought it the perfect place to decompress from the stresses of our restaurant and catering businesses, our flaky tenants and their problems, family affairs, and so on. I thought that I would be just as happy and content to stay at the cottage all by myself, like Thoreau on his Walden pond, writing and taking in all the splendor of God’s creation and my relationship with nature. I guess that will have to wait until next year as we were bound for Maine and the Ross Lake Camps! I can’t even begin to pronounce the real name of the lake, Chemquasabamticook, but I’m sure it has its origin in a Native American culture that has all but vanished. Lake I can’t pronounce is now simple called Ross Lake.

 

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”
- Henry David Thoreau -

Day 1: The drive north from Sebago Lake to our destination was about six hours, not including a stop for breakfast and one “necessary visit” for both humans and canines. As we ventured further north, the scenery became less suburban and more wilderness. The forests thickened and the roads varied from paved, to dirt, to gravel. Logging trucks, going way too fast for road conditions, were our competition for the trail and we saw few other vehicles venturing on our wilderness highway. Occasionally, we would come to an area where we could see tall mountain ranges in the five thousand foot plus, elevation. Yes, we were climbing north all right, through the Alagash region on Northern Maine. The creeks and rivers flowed pretty fast as we had been told this had been a very wet year in Maine. Soon we passed over the St. John River. A wide, rapidly flowing river, coursing over boulders that I imagined contained anywhere from class three to class five rapids!

Onward we traveled with mile after mile of thick evergreen forests with only a few hardwoods scattered within. There was no view to speak of, only walls of bushy green and fallen timber decaying on the ground. I was beginning to realize what wilderness is truly like. You have to experience this for yourself, because seeing it depicted in movies or watching the Learning and National Geographic channels just doesn’t do it justice.

We had made good time and arrived at our camp at about 1:30 PM. We found our messages, along with other guest instructions, posted to the lodge door, as our hosts were out guiding other hunters to their targeted areas or trapping beavers. We then went to our cabins, unloaded our gear and the guys quickly set out to get in an afternoon hunting and exploring the vastness of the Alagash region while the sun was still burning though a cloudy sky.

There is a catalogue type atlas call the Gazetteer. It is the Bible of this wilderness region. It has page after page of roads and connector roads that is your only guide to navigating this area. Lose it and you might never see civilization again! It shows wilderness areas, lakes and streams, but does not show everything, so it’s best to stick to the main “thoroughfares”!  I wish to thank our camp owners, Andrea and Don for placing large wooden arrows, painted bright orange, at almost every intersection to guide us safely back to camp! “Streets” are marked mostly with letters and numbers used by the logging industry, but an occasional name, like Bruno’s Road will appear.  I wondered who Bruno was; obviously a person of such fame and stature as to have a road named after him or her…I don’t assume anything out here.

With the men out searching for the ever elusive ruffed grouse, I was busy making our cabin as cozy as possible. Dale was housed in a less amenity filled cabin, so ours became the place to gather…which was fine. Our cabin had a double sink but no running water. Instead we were provided 3-gallon jugs that had to be lugged uphill 150 yards from the porch of the lodge to our abode each time we needed a refill. A propane wall unit provided heat and a propane range provided a place to cook. We also had enough cooking items to prepare our breakfasts or Sunday Brunch. There was a table to seat 4, a double bunk on one side of the room and one single bed on the opposite side. The camp provided one sheet, and one pillow. We brought our own sleeping bags and our bed pillows from home. We also hauled in enough food and beverages for our breakfasts, bagged lunches and snacks. All of our creature comforts were covered and this was by no means was roughing it!

Alcohol, did I mention booze? We brought enough libations for ourselves and to share with our fellow campers. (Our Pottstown, PA, locally brewed, Yuengling Lager is not available in Maine. I bet that we could have sold our six bottles for $50.00 bucks a piece! Evidentially, Yuengling Lager is famous in all parts of our country) My guys thought it best to trade some of the coveted beer for information on sacred hunting grounds. Everyone seemed in fine spirits…no pun intended.

Our dinners were provided by our camp co-owner, cook and host, Don, whom I will say managed to put on one tasty meal each evening, including dessert! One night we had scallops wrapped in bacon for an appetizer and a birthday cake for one of the campers! How thoughtful. Each evening, we were notified by the ringing of the camp bell between 6:30 and 7 PM, that “dinner is served”. On our first night dining in the lodge, we got acquainted with the other camp residents who also chose the meal plan. Most campers we learned do not. I can’t figure this out because it is one of the best parts of the day. A generous, tasty home cooked meal, around a table of fellowship with newfound friends. Hauling in enough food for all three meals is too much work and too much to pack for us, so we will always opt for the meal plan! This is also a vacation for me, so not preparing just one meal a day is HEAVEN!

Most nights we had about eight to ten other guests to dine and share stories with. We were making new friends and I was learning to speak Maine; trading my hard “R’s” for “Awhs” and dragging out my vowels in some sort of melodious fashion. I found it interesting in my new surroundings. I could feel my tension melting away like the heavy frost thawing from our roof each morning.

The camp lodge is also home to our hosts and they share  their amenities, including Dish TV, a warm wood stove to keep you toasty, and a place to just hang out while watching football and enjoying a brew…but bring your own. There is no Sunday hunting, so we had a day to rest and a much-needed rest for the dogs. The decor of the lodge I would describe as rustic warmth, with hunting trophies (and by trophies I mean mounted moose and deer heads, antlers of all sizes, and pelts of woodland critters clinging to the walls) with a dash of  “Sea World” mixed in. Framing and documenting their life adventures together, are photographs of years spent deep-sea fishing combined with deep-woods hunting. What started out as a young couple, living the island dream, Don and Andrea have carved out a life for themselves that most people would not dream of undertaking for a second. From the romantic, tropical warmth of ocean waters in Key West, they trekked into another world to see their vision of owning and operating a wilderness hunting camp take its form. Now in its twelfth season, Ross Lake Camps has become the premier camp for all of the outdoor activities that this region has to offer.

DAYS 2 & 3 –  Back to hunting: Some of our fellow campers were there to go “birdin”, (please eliminate the hard “R” in bird) which is their form of bird (grouse or woodcock) hunting. They drive along the gravel roads in their trucks, or park and walk the roads. They then shoot at the grouse having landed on the dirt roads to peck and swallow at a bit of gravel to aid in the digestion of their meal. The birds get shot on the ground and never take flight. These hunters do not use dogs and see no need for them. They don’t want to spoil the breast meat with pellets. We’ve been told that there are two classifications of bird hunters here in Maine, and mostly, the hunting is done on the road. That is the Class One hunter. Not very sporting from our perspective, as our type of bird hunter (Class Two) enjoys employing the nose of a good bird dog, the anticipation of the point, the flush and killing its target while the bird takes flight to another part of the woods or soars to a tree. Then there is the retrieval of the bird by the dog that triumphantly brings it to you for a “good dog” and a pat on the head.  Job well done!  Sounds a bit more challenging and exciting wouldn’t you agree? The odds are greatly in favor of the bird, unless you are a skillful shooter. The two men that I am with are all of that and more! On one occasion we stumbled upon a visiting hunter from Quebec, Canada. He was hunting the roads of course, also putting him into the category of a Class One hunter.  To each his own, there’s plenty here for everyone.

It was a bit odd, but soon I became familiar with the hearing the sounds of the French language over the radio airways. While we were out driving from one hunting cover to the next, ninety percent of the radio stations broadcast in French! Of course, why not? We are on the border of French Canada. Bonjour Mes Amis! At times I would take a time out from the miles of stomping through the muck and mire and would sit and read contentedly in the comfort and heat of the Suburban. I found it reassuring to hear radio stations coming through loud and clear no matter the country or Provence of their origin! I played a little game in my head remembering my single year of French taken in the eighth grade, just to see if I could pick out a word or two. I was successful, because I could pick out a word or two. Tres Bien!

Some of the other guests were there not to hunt but to trap beaver, and boy oh boy the woods there are FULL of beavers and their dams. Their damn dams flood the access roads and make navigation a bit treacherous at times. Our camp owners routinely trap the varmints to keep the roadways clear of water, or should I say ponds. The added bonus is selling the pelts and storing the meat for the cold winter months. I know what you are thinking, but don’t frown on cooking game for food. There are hundreds of recipes for preparing game into healthy, appetizing and flavorful meals. Don’t knock it until you try it! BBQ goose is one of my favorites as well as duck with cherry sauce and spicy pheasant fingers that give buffalo chicken wings a run for their money!

I want to mention here that I was a first time hunting camp, camper (bet you couldn’t guess), in a place (no world) that is predominately dominated by men. I’m not sure if my presence here is appreciated or merely tolerated because this is man territory! The last bastion of testosterone infused woods where manly men can get away from the little woman, the old ball and chain so to speak, and do manly things like shitting in the woods, killing animals with guns, drinking beer until you float, swap hunting stories of who did what and where, and how many times and with what kind of gun, ammo, etc., you get the idea. If I had a penny for every time that I heard the f-bomb, I would have left camp a very wealthy women, but as osmosis would have it, I can know swear like any seasoned hunter! I do hope that Andrea enjoyed a little female companionship and conversation, and that she remembers that not all of God’s creatures have fur or a five-day beard!

Andrea is a whole other story and “hunting package” in and of herself. Don credits her to “talking him into” the purchase of the camp and the inspiration and vision that has brought them to this point. She can fish and I mean “REEL” in BIG fish, hunt, guide, trap, and skin just about anything. I admire her spunk, tenacity, knowledge and skill, but I wouldn’t switch jobs with her. The afternoon that I met her she was skinning a beaver with three to go. She and Don share the camp’s hunting, guiding and routine management duties, and I will say this profession and life is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard work and it is almost year ’round. The camp runs on propane, gasoline, grit and determination. Your sweat is your equity and your ability to produce what your clientele is here for is your reputation and livelihood. With the nearest town about two hours away, the mass quantity of supplies needed to operate the camp, have to be trucked in! No convenient Dollar General here, no mini marts attached to gas stations. No deliveries from UPS, FedEx or USPS. Don’t even think about venturing out without a full tank of gas and more stored on board and you better have some compressed air and plugs for your tires too!

Day 4 -  Sunday Day of rest: No Sunday hunting so we slept in a little bit, cooked a nice brunch and later watched football in the lodge. We were supposed to go Muskie fishing on the St. John, but the weather was too bitter and cloudy for a good trip; coupled with three people snuggled in a twelve-foot aluminum boat, I think we would have froze our asses off!

Day 5 – Last day to hunt: The men are off hunting and I’ve decided to remain at the base camp and enjoy the solitude. After cleaning up the breakfast dishes, sweeping the dirt and leaves from the floor, and putting the dirty laundry in our garbage bag/hamper, I had a day planned to read, write, play my guitar and just be. The hunting season was barely under way with winter  just around the corner, literally. As I wrote this, it was snowing. . .sideways! Maine winters are notoriously brutal and once the snow accumulates, these wilderness camps are accessible only by “sleds”, better known to us city folk as snowmobiles. I thought that I was a country gal until I landed here. I am not. I am pretty sure that I am pampered person by these remote standards and conditions. Like I said, not for the faint of heart.

I noticed that I was getting a bit chilly, even with my flannel shirt and hunting socks on. I looked at the thermostat and it’s fifty degrees, or maybe lower because that is the lowest setting on the thermostat, so I cranked up the propane heater! I enjoyed watching the snow falling outside, sipping some hot Constant Comment tea and happy not to be out trudging away on the wilderness roads and hunting cover. The next thing I knew, the gently falling flakes turned into a snow squall with bits of sleet thrown in for good measure. The horizontal snow and icy rain pelted the cabin windows. Soon after this squall blew through, two wet and very cold hunters returned to change their wet clothes for dry before returning to the woods for more hunting. I made them each a hot cup of cocoa and bid them adiue. I remained in the cozy cabin, happy, dry and warm.

Did I mention that this was a very wet year here in Northern Maine? Wet is an understatement. The terrain in northern Maine is a twisty mess of downed trees, matted undergrowth, rocks, moss and soggy bogs; a sloppy, slippery, muddy muck of earth that was of no delight to me. It was a challenge to trek even a few feet without the likelihood of falling on your keister! When we did find ourselves on dry land I sent up a silent prayer of gratitude to God for “Terra- Firma.” Dressed in my jeans and flannel shirt, two pairs of socks, rubber Muck boots, and accessorized in Filson chaps, a blaze orange sweatshirt and hat, I am THE girl to photograph for the cover of Maine’s Hunting & Trapping Guide Book. No need for makeup, a hair blower, curling iron, jewelry or perfume here. Just a good moisturizer, lip balm and gloves and you’re set for Project Runway! In fact, using any item that required over usage of electricity (provided by gas-powered generators of course) was prohibited. So off I went looking and smelling like a man. It didn’t matter much because the dogs with their wet, mud caked fur keep the air quite pungent, but not as pungent as the outhouse, or what seasoned campers refer to as, the “shitter.”

The shitter: There are two outhouses behind our cabin that I shared with about twelve to fifteen men on any given day. The shitters are cold, damp, and smelly beyond anything imaginable. At night I would take my flashlight so as not to fall in. If that happened, I would just have to be shot and put out of my misery and embarrassment.  They could then mount my head on the wall in the lodge with the other critters. Each time I had the “urge” I had to pep talk myself into venturing into the putrid smelling, freezing, turd filled, deep, wooden hole from hell. There was never any toilet paper in there, because as most women know, men use one roll per visit, so I took my own TP, as well as a few sheets of paper towel to sit on, the Clorox wipes from the kitchen, and then I would hold my breath! “Get in, do your business, and get out girl!” No reading material needed. To be perfectly honest and to be perfectly frank, I tried to pee out in the bushes or behind trees as much as possible. I looked around at my surroundings, selecting just the right spot for my private “necessary visit“.

“Hell, I do it all the time when I am following behind my hunters, so why not here in camp? The men do it, so why not me? I’ve learned the art of squatting, or the near squat, and find it quite liberating! At times like these a penis would come in handy!”

Camp surroundings and amenities: There are about ten cabins. Most are on trailers with wheels. I haven’t asked about the need for these mobile cabins, but I figure like with everything else up here, that there is a logical and practical explanation. I only hope that we don’t get hitched up and carted away in the middle of the night! We are in what I call the honeymoon cottage. Others sleep as many as ten or twelve, but that is just unacceptable to this girl. As you stroll around the compound, I mean campground, you will see that there are more shitters, there is the lovely lodge, the generator house, The shed that houses the freezers and my favorite. . . . the shower shed. Yes, I forgot to mention the shower shed.

Shower Shed: Our hosts call it the shower house. It is not a house. It’s a shed. Once you navigate around the swamp leading up to the shed and gingerly teeter on the 4 X 3/4 inch plywood planks, (the only thing keeping you from a watery grave), you have arrived at a piece of Camp Heaven; a toasty warm room with a gravity fed shower heated by, you guessed it, propane! Awe. . . hot and cold running water, a sink with running water and a mirror! My husband and I venture down to the shower shed each evening after dinner and before our bedtime card game. We pack our jammies, socks and underwear, sweat shirts, toiletries and shower shoes (AKA flip-flops) towels and wash cloths. We then enjoy the hot, steamy luxury of this spa in the woods! At home we have a day spa called “The Woodhouse Day Spa”. It has nothing on the shower shed.  In my exhausted, but invigorated body, the sweat and grime from walking and climbing my way through the Maine woods is melting away. I ignore that someone has left HIS abandoned underwear in the corner on the floor. I’ll overlook the foamy remnants of blue shaving cream on the edge of the sink or the petrified glob of toothpaste, because this woman just had a hot shower!

On our way back from the shower shed, we glance at the skinned beavers hanging from the rafters of the “skinners shed” and wonder if that’s tomorrow’s dinner? We note the gentle glow of propane lanterns from each cabin’s windows. We hear the laughter and conversations of the day’s hunting adventures around the campfire. We hear beer cans being crushed in the hands (or on the foreheads) of the mighty huntsmen. I take a deep breath and exhale the smoky air as I trip on a protruding root. . . F’ N roots!

It’s 9PM, sweet dreams, it’s time for bed!

Day 5: Day five and I haven’t seen a moose! This camp caters primarily to moose hunts for goodness sakes. Everyone here has seen a moose, even several moose, or is it mooses? Why not me? We went everywhere our hosts said to travel and they guaranteed that we would run into a moose; nada, zilch, nothing. Just one moose God, just let me see one moose!

I am a lucky and deeply appreciated woman. My husband loves my company and we are best friends. He said he would rather be here with me (his favorite person) tagging along during his hunting than with any one else in the world. Awe…isn’t that nice? Sorry Dale.

I guess that’s what has made this whole Maine adventure worthwhile. I had been someplace that I had never been before. I saw things and experienced things that I would never have experienced.  I made new friends. I learned a lot. I can now speak Maine!

DAY 6:  5AM and homeward bound. Two and one half hours of dark, wilderness road before we were greeted by civilization. Six more hours in Maine.

Please God, just one moose!

Bye bye Barb. Better luck next time!

 

CHAPTER 18 – Allow Yourself To Be Bored

Allow yourself to be bored…allow yourself to be bored. Hmmm, is this even a possibility for me? I’m already feeling guilty because in my mind, being busy and being productive is key to my purpose, my income, my interaction in the community and my desire to not be bored. BUT, in this chapter, we’re supposed to practice being bored so that we can find peace. Brilliant! That is a mantra of the Don’t Sweat Adventure so I will persevere in order to attain my goal of attaining inner peace and stressing less.

I like and can relate to the paragraph that states that much of our anxiety and inner struggle(s) stems from our busy, overactive minds always needing something to entertain them, something to focus on  and always wondering “What’s next?” That’s me alright. It is so unbelievably impossible for me to sit in any room in my house and not find something that needs my attention. Dishes in the sink? Laundry that needs to be put away? Filing? Bill paying? A dusty lampshade? Leaves to rake? Something to stain or paint?  Email to read and answer. I can even busy myself arranging things for my family to do! For example, I can look at my husband relaxing on the couch and come up with a “to do” list that he could never get done. I can interrupt his quiet time to interject my suggestions and ask, “Don’t you have something better to do?”  How can he be wasting his time doing nothing? Simply, he’s blest with inner peace and I am not. I can take it one step futher. I can observe people in various work situations and (in my mind) could instruct them on how to do their job better. I might be in a waiting room for an appointment and strike up a conversation with some poor unsuspecting person to make my observations known about the inefficiency of the office personnel, so that I might obtain their agreement for my keen sense of productivity and order.

This is nuts and it certainly is stressful! I create my own little stressors. :-(

Richard Carlson describes that,

The beauty of doing nothing is that it teaches you to clear your mind and relax. It allows your mind the freedom to “not know,” for a brief period of time. Just like your body, your mind needs an occasional break from its hectic routine. When you allow your mind to take a break, it comes back stronger, sharper,more focused and creative.

I’ve never learned the art of meditation but I imagine that what he is suggesting is similar, but without a chant. By just being, just letting yourself be in your surroundings, breathing, relaxing and clearing your mind is what we need to practice not only for this week, but as we continue to work our way through the chapters of this book and the chapters of our lives…

 

ClickHere: 5 Ways To Meditate For Beginners

 

So here goes. Repeat after me. I (state your name) do solemnly swear. Do solemnly swear, to..to sit still. To sit still. To breath and relax. To breath and relax. To enjoy my quiet time. To enjoy my quiet time. And. And. Not anticipate what will happen next. Not anticipate what will happen next.

BINGO!

Try this for a few moments each day. No TV. No radio. No computer, notebook, cell phone. No distractions. PERIOD. Find a quiet, kid free, people free, pet free zone and zone out! Ahhh, now doesn’t that feel better?

My husband and I are about to go take a break and venture into the deep woods of Maine, so that my husband can do some upland hunting and so that I can be unplugged, literally, from anything that uses power. Like our government, I will be on shut down. My plan is to take pictures, do some reading, writing, play my guitar and learn to be bored. I hope that I will get really good at it. I hope to send a progress report, but I think I have to drive about 40 miles to civilization. Maybe by the time I return and get caught up on everything, our government will still be running, the mail will be stacked up and the bills, email, and voicemail messages won’t seem so overwhelming. Perhaps my brain will have had the mental break that it needed to come back stronger, sharper, more focused and creative!

Stress Less,

Barb

 

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CHAPTER 17: SURRENDER, to the fact that life isn’t fair.

1sur·ren·der

 

 verb \sə-ˈren-dər\

: to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc., because you know that you will not win or succeed

: to give the control or use of (something) to someone else

: to allow something (such as a habit or desire) to influence or control you

:  to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand

 :  to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another

:  to give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner:  to give (oneself) over to something (as an influence)

Thank you Webster!

I wanted to be clear about the definition of surrender when writing this week’s post that deals with life not being fair. The very act of submission or surrendering our will and control, over that to which we find difficult to accept, is step one in this life lesson. From the moment the cord is cut each of us has a different path to travel on. Our life’s journey is somewhat out of our hands as children, but as we mature, it is our ability to accept and meet our challenges that defines who we are as a person.
Our author, Richard Carlson, makes the following observation:
We know it’s not “life’s job” to make everything perfect, it’s our own challenge. Surrendering to this fact also keeps us from feeling sorry for others because we are reminded that everyone is dealt a different hand, and everyone has unique strengths and challenges. He continues, The fact that life isn’t fair doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything in our power to improve our own lives or the world as a whole. To the contrary, it suggests that we should.

 

It’s a fine line between surrendering to the emotional feeling that life cannot be fair for everyone, and the ability to make life just a little bit better for someone else or for yourself. From those emotions we develop compassion…”and compassion is a heartfelt emotion that delivers loving-kindness to everyone it touches.”

 

Personally, I’ve had my share of “life isn’t fair” moments these past few weeks. It seems that I’m under some sort of black cloud and that everything that can break, has, that everything that will cost money to fix, will, and that “everything” is delaying progress towards the goals for myself and my family. What gives? Why? Why now? Who knows?… Really, “is it EVERYTHING“? Certainly not. It is what it is, and by surrendering to this fact we’re looking for alternative avenues to move beyond the hurdles and towards the light. Onward to the goal… Keep moving, keep moving Barb!

 

The next time, when you are feeling that life isn’t fair or when you are letting pity get the best of you, ask yourself “what can I do to make it better, what can I do to help?” This perspective leads to action and the action you take will bring you one step closer toward the inner peace you are seeking. As we are discovering in our adventure, there is a layering of strategies that are designed to help us, “help ourselves” as we stress less and enjoy life more! This is our inner work and it continues…
The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect

THIS WEEKS ADVENTURE ASSIGNMENT
Listen to the news, as awful as it is, and think about what you are seeing and hearing. What do you have control over and what can you surrender too? What action step(s) can you take to improve just one thing. Just one, and remember “The Butterfly Effect” (Posted  on June 30,2013). Make it a good, no make it a GREAT week!

Hello and welcome! If you are new to this blog site, or to The Don’t Sweat Adventure, please click here. Once your curiosity is satisfied, and are ready to begin, then move to the first post on May 1st.

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