Yoga. Yoga with Adriene. In a quest to Find What Feels Good. And in the process, be True to yourself.

What better way to kick off the new year. I attempted to commit to this series last year but wound up choosing my pillow over getting up a bit early each morning. This year, though, the theme of “TRUE” really called to me. I love her yoga series, her daily insights, the new ways of stretching and exploring what is happening in that very moment. Opening my mind and committing to myself for this home practice. It’s a journey. Some days felt better than others.

She had theme words for each day. Day 1 was motive. Motive has root meaning of to move. “We should think of motive as the thing that moves you to act.” What a great thing to ponder as we got started. What if the motivation comes from within? Day 2 was about Trust. I loved her language of “Let’s get real, your time is valuable.” Yes, it is. I’m trusting that the yoga she’s leading me through is the yoga I need, that it’s going to benefit me if I’m open to receiving it, and that it’s going to be worth my time. I trust myself to show up, and to be honest in how I’m feeling both on the mat and off. Days of Stretch and Salve and Floor were amazing, and perfectly timed. My body needed stretched, and nurtured. Deep breathing to work out the snags and tightness. I’m noticing that I’m not tired in the afternoons at work, despite getting up earlier than normal. I’m noticing that I’m breathing more deeply, not only on the mat but throughout my day. Inhaling through the nose. Exhaling through the mouth. Audibly hearing my breath. And then there were days of circulating energy, lighting a fire, and catching some waves. Waves of breath and movement, that is. Kindle day made me ponder how my mindset of getting strong might help my core and muscles, but what is it doing to my spine, my neck and my soul? This day made me consider the “practice of spiraling inward and meeting my appropriate edge.” I love those concepts.

How thick is the veil? Am I able to drop my expectations and just breathe?

I love how she says in Day 10, Detox, “No one expects you to master or jive with every practice. This journey is about spending time with yourself.” How many times do I put the expectation on myself that this workout, this practice, this session is going to be awesome and the best, and then feel like I let myself down if I wasn’t mentally or physically all in? It’s okay to drop those expectations. Not everything has to be a challenge. Some things are just part of the journey.

Open your eyes to the beauty around you, open your mind to the wonders of life, open your heart to those who love you, and always be true to yourself. – Maya Angelou

This practice was soothing and restorative and therapeutic. It built awareness. It made me smile. It made me look inward. I caught a lot of waves. Breath and energy waves, that is. The final day was a beautiful flowing practice, with no audible guidance, simply finding what feels good, flowing in your breath, moving to the soothing music she chose to share. It might be the most amazing, genuine practice I’ve ever experienced.

Some mornings the hardest part was simply getting on the mat, and as the month progressed, some mornings it even felt like a chore. But after each practice, it felt totally worth it. I showed up. Not for the 3 million other subscribers of Yoga with Adriene. But for myself. For my spine. For my spirit. And to kick the new year off right.

And now to continue with TRUE. Every Tuesday for the rest of the year. Thank you, Adriene, for creating such an incredible gift.

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Setting Intentions for 2018


A year ago I explored the idea of why I don’t like setting goals and decided that instead of creating New Year’s Resolutions, I’d try something that seemed less restrictive and wouldn’t engage my borderline neurotic tendencies. Side stepping the pressure and persistent focus on “achieving” that goals often cause for me, I decided instead to define concept areas that I wanted to embrace and cultivate throughout the year. This worked well for me, and so I thought I’d try it again. And behold… My Intentions for 2018. In addition to the ones I named last year (Freedom and Travel, Vitality and Health, Joy and Growth), I created the following:

  1. Intention: Engage / Be Present More. I’m consciously putting down my phone. I’m a pretty good multi-tasker, but scrolling through my newsfeed or messages on my phone while someone is talking to me sends a message that they aren’t as important to me. When I’m with my guy, or my friend, or my mom, or my niece or nephew… when I’m around anyone that’s important to me, and even if they’re not so important to me, I want to be present more. I don’t want to be that person at dinner who is looking at their phone vs the person across from me. I can do better. And my loved ones deserve my attention and interest.


  1. Intention: Give / Do Good Things Together. Instead of just doing year end donations or good deeds during the holiday season, make efforts to do good things throughout the year. And do them together. Small yet significant gestures. Collective impact makes a bigger difference and provides deeper connections through shared experiences.


  1. Intention: Live / Add More Joy. Create a list of date night ideas. Add in some day trip excursions. Plan to meet up with friends more. Find pleasure in the daily, small things. Laugh. A lot. Breathe… Don’t take life too seriously.


  1. Intention: Unwind / Do the Things that Recharge my Soul. I’m not prepping for a big hike this year, but I need to remember that I recharge best when I’m out on a trail or enjoying nature. Trail time, birding, watching the sunsets, exploring. Those are the things I must purposefully make sure I have time carved out for, as they are the very things that nurture and soothe my spirit.


  1. Intention: Embrace and Be / Settle In. I have found that I’m most happy where calm lives. Taking a 180 degree turn from years of past living and continual planning mode, I’m embracing and accepting that there doesn’t need to always be “the next thing” on the horizon. I don’t always have to be striving to be more, to grow more, to push myself. It’s okay to be happy with the simple things, to sit and enjoy the cup of coffee, to say no to the workout planned for the day (confession: this is a struggle for me), and to not always have a trip on the horizon (gasp) even though there are always a plethora of half baked options. Settling into myself, I’m finding happy contentment in the presence and calm.


2017 turned out to be a fantastic year, but I have a feeling that 2018 is going to be even better, and I can’t wait to see what adventures, joy, and amazing experiences are floating this way.

What intentions are you focusing on?

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The 30 Day Walking Challenge

Ten thousand steps, every day, for a whole month. No big deal, right?

Never once did it cross my mind that this challenge was going to be difficult for me to complete. I was wrong.

As one of my “40 in 40” goals, I originally was planning to do this challenge in the spring, thinking it’d be a great way to transition seasons and come out of winter’s hibernation. But then my work threw out a steps challenge as part of our wellness plan that we have every six months. The work challenge was to complete 10,000 steps a day, five days a week, for a total goal of 200,000 steps. I figured if I was already participating in this challenge for work I might as well cross off the whole month, per original plan, and just move the timeline from spring to autumn. No biggie, as we’ve had unseasonably cooler August temperatures, which means I only felt like I was melting into the surface of the earth while logging my steps every few days.

Walking is not my primary means of exercise. I circuit train, do yoga, add in core work, incorporate T25 and P90X3 workouts, box and occasionally jog. This walking challenge was in addition to all my other workouts. Which resulted in me feeling really physically tired for the month. While the extra walking was good for me during stressful days at work when I’d go outside to stroll through the beautifully landscaped cemetery my office sits adjacent to, the obsessive nature of trying to reach 10,000 steps a day created more mental stress than I could have ever imagined. Some days I woke extra early so I could get a jump on the steps, but because I’m not a morning person, more times than not I was out walking in my neighborhood well past bedtime just so I could finish out the day.

While the walking challenge bordered on giving me an obsessive-compulsive diagnosis, I did at least find myself enjoying some natural beauty while out on those walks. The flowers were still in bloom, the goldfinches were flitting around in flocks, the yellow-crowned night herons had juveniles near the pond, the yellow-bellied sapsuckers and red-bellied woodpeckers played chicken with the blue jays, the great blue heron stood stoically on the edge of the water, the Canada Goose with his deformed leg seemed friendly (I affectionately nicknamed him Peg-Leg), a couple of deer crossed my path, the stars shown brightly, and the moon lit my way. There’s always something to see when one is out in nature.

Even so, despite all the natural wonders that are available for discovery, I was so happy when this challenge came to an end. Sure, I’ll still walk, and I’ll probably try to take more walk breaks throughout the day. But the pedometer is staying home.

What about you? Have you ever done a walking challenge like this before? How’d it go for you?

Total Steps in 31 Days: 347,009
Translates to: 173.5 Miles

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40 in 40 Aspirations

Earlier this year I learned that a friend of mine had put together a list of forty things she wanted to do before she reached her fortieth birthday. I fell in love with the concept immediately. The problem was I only had about three months before I turned forty myself, which wasn’t nearly enough time to put together a list, let alone accomplish it. So I decided that I would do a “40 in 40” instead… 40 things I want to accomplish in my 40th year of life.


I brainstormed with my friends and coworkers, and think I even inspired a few to create their own lists… I’ve listened with enthusiasm as they’ve shared their “35 by 35” and “50 by 50” lists. A word of caution – this can be contagious.

More than anything, it creates a focus on things that are important to you. Or things you may forever be putting off, but if they’re on a list like this, may actually stand a chance of being done. And it’s your list… which means the list can also change.


My friend who inspired me went above and beyond, which is what really sparked my desire to do this. With each feat she accomplished, she acknowledged a lesson and through it all, started to find some common themes. Some of the challenges were new, others she hadn’t tried in a long time, some were on the original list, and others were added along the way. Her list brought her lessons and laughs, joy and adventure, health and love.

I’m hoping mine will do the same. I’m a quarter of the way through my 40th year, and am thoroughly enjoying having this list of goals to guide me.

Already Completed

1. Complete a Multi-Day Hike. This was monumental for me, required much planning as it was my first ever outing with through-hiking and backpacking and camping. Four days and 45 miles were completed on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail.

2. Eliminate 40 Things. This included large categories of “clothes” or “DVDs” being one thing, even though there were multiple items in each of those broader areas. I eliminated far beyond the 40 things and it felt good to do a deeper purge.

3. In conjunction with the Eliminate 40 Things was to Purge Items in Storage Bins. Again, I was able to reduce and eliminate, sort and organize, and the cathartic feelings that come from these activities are incredible.

4. Indulge in a Splurge. Deep at my core is a money-saving beast. It’s not that I don’t spend money, but I’m very conscious of it. I have been driving a 16 year old vehicle, which I have had for almost all of its existence. It became apparent that continuing to repair it wasn’t feasible or wise, and after a long and serious mourning process, I made the leap and bought a brand new vehicle complete with the new car smell. I’m slowly warming up to my new little ride, even though I still miss my old trusty friend at times. Here’s to hoping this one lasts me a good 10 years or longer.

5. Create Inspiring Notes or Cards. I love taking photos and it seems people generally like my captures of nature. What better way to share them and than by creating cards with the photos and mailing them out on whims? More than 50 cards are created, ready to be hand-selected for brightening someone’s day.

6. Walk 10,000 Steps a Day for A Month. I wasn’t planning on doing this until the spring, but then my work threw down the challenge of 10,000 steps, 5 days a week, for a month, and I thought “Perfect! Do it now!” This was both addicting and challenging, and forced me to be intentional every day to accomplish those steps. It also meant that some nights I was out walking well after dark in my neighborhood to pick up the last thousand or two clicks.

In Progress throughout the Year:

7. Remember Birthdays. If you’re in my inner circle, you’re getting a real, tangible birthday card this year. I received lots of cards for my 40th birthday, and I loved seeing them all on my buffet table. Receiving mail that isn’t a bill is always uplifting and this year I’m making an effort to physically mail a card to those I love and friends I cherish.

8. Give Proofs of Love. (aka, I love you just as you are, I’m thinking of you, you’re awesome because…). Intentionally giving cards and pick-me-ups to brighten someone’s day. There’s too much negativity and crap in the world. I’m attempting to sprinkle a little happiness in my own way.

9. Learn to Play an Instrument. The best birthday gift I received was a ukulele. I’m feeling proud of the four chords I know already, the child-like strumming I can perform, and the peaceful, enjoyable feelings I have with picking it up and noodling around with it. Here’s to hoping I sound a little more finessed in a few more months….or years.

10. Read or Listen to 12 Books. I’m trying to increase my reading. This is slow going for me, but I’ve finished a couple already and have two more in process with a massive list waiting for me.

11. Do a photo field trip once a quarter. This is to challenge my skills, force myself to use my camera more, provide a theme if required, and to have fun in each season. The first field trip is complete and took me out on a morning stroll along Lawrence’s alleyways.

I created my original list but have already modified it a couple of times. The goals were slotted by each month so it seemed more manageable but I’m already skipping around. The thing is, this is MY list. It’s mine to rearrange, add to, delete, cross off, change, and enjoy.

I’ll post another update on more things completed as the year progresses…. but what are you waiting for? What kinds of things would go on your list? I’d love to know… leave me a comment! And don’t say I didn’t warn you about the contagious nature of a project like this!

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What’s Your Spark?


All other creatures on the planet, from the lowest amoeba to the great blue whale, express all their component elements in a perfect dance with the world around them. Only human beings have unfulfilled lives. Only humans suffer from career discontent. But then again, we are the only inhabitants of the earth that get to decide what we will do with our lives. Since we have the option to choose to be the authors of our destinies, why not do it well?” (The Pathfinder)

Periodically I struggle with feeling like I’m living a mediocre life. It’s not that I don’t like my life, because I do, and I don’t necessarily feel like I’m settling, but rather some days I feel like I’ve become complacent with the routine of life.

I was driving into work the other morning and it struck me how most everyone racing along on their commute probably has their day dictated by a clock and the hours required to sit at a desk. It all felt so…ordinary. So unremarkable. And it made me shudder.


Resignation is a word that can be used to describe the majority of the working class.

It’s not that I dislike my job, because I don’t. I’m really good at it, and some days it’s fulfilling. But I also don’t find it inspiring or soul-sparking. I view it as a means to an end. The end being flexibility for travel and vacations and spending time with the people I love. You see, I have a lot of vacation that accrues every year. A little over 4 weeks. It’s rare to find a place that provides that kind of benefit. But it’s also rare to have been with an agency as long as I have.

Sidenote: Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should continue doing it.
Secondary Sidenote: I hate the word “should”.

Lately I’ve been trying to evaluate if staying at a job that isn’t sparking my soul is worth it if it provides the ability to do the things that do spark my soul – like traveling.


I read an article written by a life coach asking some very poignant questions. The theory is that the responses would help connect you to those things that truly light you up.

  1. What would you do if you had six months to live? This question sent me into spiral thinking. Everyone has the same 24 hours a day. But what do I do with my time? Do I keep a balance? Do I work on projects that ultimately don’t make a difference? Do I make a difference in someone else’s life? We are not guaranteed tomorrow. In fact, we are not guaranteed the next hour, so maybe we all don’t really have those same 24 hours a day. How do you live your life? What would you do if you knew your time was limited? Because ultimately, it is.
  2. What would your 90-year-old self tell you to do? What advice would you receive from the wiser-you? My grandpa, at age 88 and in the final months of his life, looked me in the eye and said “Your golden years are now.” I will never forget that moment. He strongly believed in responsibility and working hard, but he also saw the value in choosing to live life now. At my age. At any age. Enjoy the travels and new experiences and don’t put them off.
  3. What do people thank you for? The life coach poses the idea that the answer to this question might be the key to your area of greatest strength and talents. He says if you are feeling disconnected from your purpose, pay attention to the ways people express gratitude towards you.
  4. What is it time for in your life? Time is a process. It’s continually moving, yet we can’t go backward and change the past, and we can’t warp forward to skip the now. We must go through the summer (my least favorite season) before we reach the fall (my favorite season). What are you learning right now? What is being pressed on your heart?


I have a confession. I love notebooks. I seem to have a collection. I rarely journal and don’t want to waste the beautifully bound pages, so I end up starting a notebook and then moving on to another because I don’t want to mix topics in the same set of sheets. It’s a sickness, I know. I also know some of you relate. I’ve had one particular notebook since December 1997. I know when I got it because it’s signed and dated inside from the person who gave it to me. I’m almost out of pages in it and have been using it up to plan my workouts. Reaching the end of available pages might actually be cause for celebration. Or mourning. But today I flipped to the early pages, curious what else I’d used this notebook for, and found the lines filled in with ideas of attempts at identifying my passions and purpose.

Dreams that lure me away are giving back, volunteering or organizing a relief aid, living in another country, helping those in need or unfortunate. Adventure. Problem solving. Helping others. Being part of something larger.

Those are the words in my own handwriting. I wish I knew what year I wrote them, but it really doesn’t matter. It was true then, and it’s true now.


So I find myself in the process of evaluating my day-to-day. Is what I’m currently doing lining up with the things that spark my inspiration, purpose, and joy? Is it worth staying somewhere if it provides the means to the end? Or do I need to take a leap, and start looking for a way to have soul-sparking days that happen every day, and not just on days when I’ve utilized vacation hours?

If you do not feel yourself growing in your work and your life broadening and deepening, if your task is not a perpetual tonic to you, you have not found your place.” – Orison Swett Marden, founder of Success Magazine


What I do know is this: We are meant to thrive. We are not meant to be in a monotonous rut, going through the motions, feeling uninspired, and leaving our gifts and talents underutilized. The uniqueness of you is meant to be shared with the world – whether that makes a difference to one person, or to a whole country. Figuring out those gifts and talents, and how to best use them, finding your spark, and making that part of your every day… that becomes the challenge.

What are the things that light you up? What causes you to spark? Embrace these things… and do more of them.

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Unicorns Don’t Exist. Neither Do Perfect Hiking Boots.

It can be hard to admit when you’re wrong, or you’ve made a wrong choice. But I’m going to be an adult here, and admit that I’ve chosen poorly. My unicorn of hiking shoes has failed me greatly. After so many attempts to find the “perfect” hiking shoe and finally committing to the Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP boots, I am sad to report that they are simply of the devil. At least, for my feet, they are.

I took my new boots out for a hike a few weekends ago, with the goal of 9 miles over easy terrain with roughly 40 pounds in my pack. I’ve done this trail several times before, and was anticipating a good outing with the new Merrells. After all, my Merrell trail shoes have served me well on this same path many times. It was a much warmer day than it had been, but I assumed it was good conditioning for what Georgia will feel like in June. I set out, happy to be in the forest, and content with my new shoes.

That smile? That was between miles 1 and 2. Before all of the trail fails happened. It was hot out. At mile 2 I realized I forgot my poles, which weren’t needed so much for terrain but for load assistance.

By mile 3 I was really sick of wiping cobwebs off of me and swatting flies. I also started to feel a little twinge in my left foot. Not anything major enough to make me pause, but I remember the thought of “hmmm, I’m only 3 miles in.”

By mile 4 my new hiking shoes started to feel like a tiny version of hell. A bone in my foot was really starting to hurt.

Between miles 5 and 6 I realized I was going be out of water before the loop trail was done, which has never happened before.

Shortly before mile 7 I stopped to switch out my shoes for my old trail shoes, which I’d thankfully brought along, but my feet hurt the rest of the way and I was painfully aware with each step of how little cushioning is really left in my trail shoes.

Around mile 8.5 I took my last swig of water. I have never had this happen before, and thought I had taken plenty with me for the 9 miles. However, I didn’t factor in how much warmer it was than previous times out on this stretch of trail.

And at mile 9 I came out of the woods, tired, hot, thirsty, frustrated, and aching. I was so glad to see my vehicle and drop the 42 lbs off my back.


Some days training hikes just suck. But this led me to another issue: what shoes were going to be “the ones” for the major hike coming up in just a few weeks?

I thankfully had not yet returned the ones I liked and had deemed as the “runner up” in the never ending shoe competition, and so I committed to the Oboz Sawtooth Low non-waterproof shoes, hoping they were going to be magical for me. I started wearing them around town and in my place, getting a feel for them. I bought new insoles for them to help absorb more shock. And I took them with me on my trip to the Canadian Rockies, where I knew I’d wear them multiple days in a row with several shorter day hikes to break them in.

I am superbly happy to finally have found “the shoe” that my feet seem to love. The Oboz worked great for day hiking and wearing long hours in a row, multiple days in a row. My shins felt a little stiff after a pavement day in them, but I also don’t walk on pavement very much, so might have felt this way even with my running shoes on. The shoes have been sufficiently and thoroughly broken in, with carrying mid-weight in my day pack. The real test for them comes in a couple of weekends when I take them out on the same 9 mile hike carrying a 35 pound load. But I’m pretty confident they’ll do great. I’m already committed to them, and feel like we’ve bonded on the many trails in the Rockies. Plus, they’re quite filthy at this point. And even though they aren’t waterproof, they do seem to resist water, up to a certain point. I know I can’t expect non-waterproof boots to keep the moisture out when I’m trekking through 2 feet of snow and the slushiest, muddiest trail I maybe have ever been on. But they dried out quickly baking in the sun, and therefore, I’m comfortable with not having waterproof boots for the upcoming summer hikes.

(above: drying out socks, insoles and shoes after hiking in the snow)

I should have followed my initial instincts. I’ve never had waterproof boots. I’ve never hiked in mid height boots. Why I felt pressure to conform to either of those needs is beyond me. But in the end, I’m just super thrilled I finally have a pair of solid boots that are going to work over a variety of terrain.

Plus, they just look cool. Hike on, friends, hike on.

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The Unicorn of Hiking Shoes

Let me preface this post by saying I am hypersensitive. Bright lights, the tiniest of noises, temperature fluctuations, smells, and the way things feel – they all affect me greatly. I think I’ve always been on the more extreme end of the sensitivity spectrum. Most of the time this sensitivity isn’t a big issue. I kindly ask my coworkers to not use products or eat things that smell strongly. Radios are used with headphones so I can’t hear the minor noises in the background. I wish I could do something about the fluorescent lights in my office, but I’m told my influence only reaches so far.


However, while I can usually keep my sensory issues under reasonable control, this sensitivity has become a huge issue when trying to find the “perfect hiking shoe.” And while there may not be such a thing as a “perfect shoe” I’ve been determined to find one that my feet won’t notice in any negative way. I should also point out that I have normal feet…. there’s nothing weird to work with here… just your run-of-the-mill standard sized 8.5 medium width foot going on.

I’m currently wearing the Merrell Grassbow Air trail shoe (weirdly, in a size 8). I had originally bought a pair over a year ago, and then had one shoe go defective. Merrell promptly sent me a replacement pair and they’ve been working great ever since. (and in the shoe’s defense, they probably weren’t meant to be used on rubber floor mats during kickboxing classes… oops!). The Grassbows are super comfortable and I’ve hiked many many miles in them… but on my longer training hikes with my pack loaded at over 40lbs, my feet have started to feel a little bit tired after 9-10 miles.

I first considered getting a newer, sturdier pair of hiking shoes last November when I was getting ready to go to Zion National Park for some good long day hiking. There are so many things to consider… besides the obvious of fit and feel, there’s low height, mid height, tread, stiffness, waterproof, leather, ventilated, etc. It’s overwhelming.

I went to my favorite store, REI, and tried on lots of pairs, finally settling on the Ahnu Sugarpine mid boot. I brought them home, excited to have them, and started the courting process of bonding with the new boots by wearing them around my dwelling. After just a couple of hours, my feet were tired and angry. Back went the Ahnu boots.

This was about the time of Black Friday sales after Thanksgiving and I saw a super sweet deal on Merrell’s website, so I ordered a pair of Capra Mid Sport Gore-Tex boots to “just try” even though I’d never tried them on. These fit horribly. Back they went. No harm, no foul…. free shipping both directions and a full refund.

Next on the list was the Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP boots. I had stopped into Bass Pro and tried them on, thought they felt okay, so ordered a pair from REI – because I’m a member, and that’s what members do. Plus then I’m not rushed to make a return when they inevitably don’t work out. The Moab 2s arrived and felt… well, okay. They may be a contender. But I still wasn’t sure.


I went online and researched shoes, and saw that the Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boots had outstanding reviews. Against my better judgment, I ordered a pair… from REI, of course. They arrived, and felt… well, awful. I should have known better. Neither Keen nor Salomon shoes have ever felt good to me. Back they went.

In this process I made a trip to REI to try on more shoes. The gal helping me convinced me to give the brand Oboz a try. I mean, they felt pretty good in the store. The toe box seemed abnormally large, but the gal told me that was okay. So I brought home a pair of the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry Hiking Shoes.

I also liked a pair of Oboz Bridger Mid Boots in the store, but at this point was interested in going back to a low boot, so went online to order the low version of the Bridger since the store only had the mid height in stock. The mid height boots felt entirely too stiff to me. I was hopeful for the low. The Bridger shoes arrived, and I sort of liked them. Until I started walking in them. The tongue was so stiff it kept pushing into the top of my foot and felt like a board. I hate the design of tongues like this. Back they went.

If you’ve lost track at this point, this is currently leaving me with the contenders of the Merrell Moab 2 Mid Boot and the Oboz Sawtooth Low boot. Neither of which I’m convinced is still “the one” for me.


In exasperation, I went to my local outdoor store and tried on some more shoes. I really liked the Vasque Inhaller II – but they didn’t have my size. It felt more cushy, and even though it was a mid height, it didn’t feel so stiff. This might be a good option. I went home and ordered a pair in my size online through Amazon. For the first time ever, Amazon failed me, taking entirely too long to ship. I cancelled that order, and ordered the same shoe from Backcountry whom I’ve used before and had free 2-day shipping. Does this count as two pairs or one pair of ordered shoes?

In this process I decided that I should also order a pair of the original Merrell Moab Ventilator Hiking shoes, but in the low version, because I think my hang up with the mid version is that they felt so heavy and clunky. Neither of which I want when I’m going to be doing any sort of hiking, but particularly not on a multi-day hike. Amazon had them on a super cheap clearance since the Moab 2 version just came out. Score.

And while I’m at it, why not just order the Oboz Sawtooth regular shoe (non waterproof) just to round out my obsession? Boom. Ordered. I wondered if the waterproof ones vs the ventilated ones would feel much different. I was hoping there’d be just enough difference that I’d fall in love with the regular ones.

This seems extreme, I know. It is. Even I admit it. It causes me a great deal of stress. It’s almost as bad when I search for a new running shoe. Almost.

But honestly, the hiking shoes are the most important component of the entire hike. I would be really really really happy if I am successful without having any blisters, or super tired feet. I need something cushy, so my shins don’t hurt and my weight plus my pack’s weight is being handled well.

So the final component of my craziness is that I love a bargain. Given that the Merrell Moab 2 Mid shoes felt really good, I couldn’t help but wonder if the original Moab would feel just as good, and thus save me over $50. So of course, I ordered a pair on Amazon.


Within a few days of the online shopping spree, all the newly ordered shoes arrived, which gave me six pairs to line up and decide between. It was a ShoePalooza!!

I’d also like to assure anyone who thinks I might need a mental health diagnosis that shoes seem to be the only area of my life where I have this huge of an internal debate and problem with making a decision. I am super thankful this doesn’t cross over into other areas and I can make decisions like a normal human being on things that ultimately matter. Things like… wine or margarita. Hiking pants, tights or jeans for an outing. Toms or flip flops. The important things.

So by this point, I know you’re asking yourself, “Did she ever make a decision?” And yes, my friends, I finally did. The verdict and the winner of the late great shoe race is…. drumroll….

  • Winner: The Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof
  • Runner Up: Oboz Sawtooth Low Non Waterproof


I think I should party like it’s 1999. I haven’t put in any serious miles with the Moab 2s yet, but I’ve worked out in them a few nights, and worn them for many hours at a time. So far, so good. I think they’re a clear winner, and I think I’m adjusting to the weight of them and the feel of a mid boot. Whew.

Besides, who doesn’t love a boot that’s named “MOAB” which stands for “the Mother of All Boots”?!

Sidenote: Total cost for this insanity? Less than $10 to return the Vasque pair of shoes to Backcountry. Everything else had free shipping, free return shipping, or I could return the items to my local REI.

Keep reading below if you’re in the hiking-boot market and want my quick assessments of some of the versions I tried.

Meanwhile, I think I’m gonna go grab a margarita and celebrate.

  • Oboz Bridger Low Waterproof – these felt pretty good upon initial fitting, but felt really stiff when on hard surfaces. The tongue on this shoe is also not very padded, and felt like it was cutting into the top of the bend of my foot. They’re out.
  • Oboz Sawtooth Low Waterproof – these were the highest contenders for a short period of time, but I decided the toe box was just entirely too wide, and was probably going to leave me with blisters. I like extra room in my toe box, but not thatmuch room.
  • Merrell Moab II Mid Waterproof – these felt comfortable, but a bit clunky and heavy. This could be because I’m not used to mid height boots. They were and still remained one of the highest contenders through this process.
  • Merrell Moab Mid Waterproof (original Moab) – I don’t know what the deal is between the two shoes, but the original version just didn’t feel that great. They hit one of my big toes oddly on the side, and just didn’t feel as comfortable. I read reviews comparing the two versions, and Merrell evidently made quite a few upgrades to the interior of the shoe and the shoe bed for the Moab II release. Back go the original version.
  • Vasque Inhaler II Mid Waterproof – upon initially trying these, I thought I was in love. They felt like a running shoe, they were so cushy, but also provided ankle support. They were also the most expensive pair of shoes I tried. My concerns with these shoes were the following: the side of the foot was a thinner mesh feeling, which would probably be good for ventilation, but might not be good if something sharp poked the side of my foot. I felt like my foot could easily be bruised or injured with the lack of side bracing. The mid sole on the bottom also isn’t protected well and left more open, which probably is how they saved weight on these shoes, but could lead to a faster breakdown of the shoe. And my final concern with the Vasque is that with the level of cushiness they came with, I wondered how well they’d hold up over rugged terrain and carrying 35-40 lbs in my pack over many miles. Given all these concerns, the Vasque went back. Plus, with being the most expensive, I just feel like I can’t enjoy them nearly as much as I would a less expensive pair.
  • Merrell Moab Low Ventilator – these arrived and felt fabulous. However, the toe box felt a little large. My Merrell Grassbow Air shoes are a size 8, but the mid boots and all other boots have been in size 8.5. I ordered another pair from Amazon in the size 8 to compare the toe box sizing. The size 8 arrived and was entirely too tight fitting, which leads me to believe that my size 8 Grassbow Air shoes are a fluke in size, even though they fit wonderfully. Back went both sizes of the Moab Lows.
  • Oboz Sawtooth Low Non Waterproof – I really liked these. And my initial assumption was correct – the waterproof version has a much larger toe box than the non waterproof, making the non waterproof ones a pretty good fit and the runner up in shoe choice.


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Setting Intentions for 2017

Heart Rock Flowers

It’s a whole new year. Another point in time to set some intentions for the next twelve months. I don’t make new year’s resolutions or goals. In fact, I don’t really like goals at all. They make me feel pressured, and imply the use of the word “should” which I strive to avoid using in my vocabulary. I don’t want the phrases of “I should be working on this” or “I should have done that” running through my mind because of a future goal I set forth at the beginning of a year. That only leads to self-disappointment and unnecessary pressure, both of which I try to keep out of my world. And quite frankly, I think setting goals can lead to a rigid way of structuring your path, which may result in missing countless opportunities that arise along the way.

Instead, I like to think about setting intentions and focus areas. Another blogger (ytravelblog.com) whom I follow said it best: “Goals are about striving for a future result. It’s about pressure to perform and get it right. Intentions are about being and creating in this moment.

Clouds in Sky Exploring Tide Pools

Not setting goals doesn’t mean that I don’t take action or have plans to help me stay focused on what I want to do in the next year. But my plan isn’t so limiting that I can’t adapt and go with a new direction if it seems to fit what is best for me in that moment. This living presently is new for me, and I’m loving it but I’m also learning to let go of some of the structure and rigidity that has likely prevented me from enjoying things fully because I wasn’t sure how they fit into the “master plan” for my life. These days, it’s about broad intentions, continuing to say yes to new experiences, connecting with people who bring positivity to my life, and growing as a person. With that said, here’s what I’m focusing on for 2017.

Freedom and Travel. I live my life so that I have the freedom and flexibility to leap at opportunities as they arise. This freedom is vital for my life, and travel is an integral part and absolutely essential for me to maintain my balance and happy. At the beginning of each year I print out a one page calendar of the upcoming year and start to block out dates and draft an overview of where I think I’ll go or where I’d like to go. It doesn’t all happen, of course, but it provides me with a loose enough structure that fuels my enthusiasm and temporarily satisfies my wanderlust.

Love to Travel Observation Point Zion

So what’s on the “loose plan” for this year? Colorado, Banff National Park and Lake Louise in Canada, hiking a few days on the Appalachian Trail, another fall trip to Oregon, Cuba for trip #4, and a slight possibility of Norway mixed in there. I’m sure these things will change as the year progresses, and other things will present themselves as amazing opportunities which I’ll flow with. But having this flexible travel plan makes me incredibly jazzed for what’s to come in the future.

Vitality and Health. I’m currently on the “Road to 40.” Turning this milestone number bothers me not one iota. I firmly believe that age is just a number, and that it’s not the years in your life but rather the life in your years. However, I did set the intention of hitting my birthday feeling the best that I’ve ever felt in my life. I already feel so much better than I did at age 30, but there’s always room for improvement. I’m continuing to eat healthy, changing up my workouts, adding muscle definition, challenging my body in ways that push the limit, and loving that I’m able to do things at “almost-40” that I never could have done 10 years ago.

Running in Valley of Fire SP Boxing

Those pictures above are two of my favorite ones from this past year – I feel like they capture my vitality and health. In the one on the left I am laughing and running like a wild person after several days of hiking in Utah – I am completely happy and blissed out after conquering 11 challenging miles the day before and waking up with the energy and stamina to hike even more. Everyone should be able to race along cliff walls in a state of physical health and wellness. The boxing picture captures my strength and determination. It makes me think of the caption “My Strong Life.” This is my strong life – and my road to 40 is proving that life can get better with age.

Joy and Growth. I believe in living life fully. For the second year in a row I lost a friend to cancer. A year ago I was flying for a weekend visit with my friend, and almost a year to the date, a celebration of life service is taking place for him. Don’t ever put things off until “someday” – find a way to do the things you want to do and share the moments with the people you love. Live your life now, because you never know how much time you have. Find joy in both the small, mundane things, as well as the big, exciting things. Figure out areas of growth that challenge you as a person and expands your evolution as a well-rounded human being.

Til We Meet Again, My Friend Sunset

What does the intention of “joy and growth” mean for me? It means picking up my camera more than I did in 2016, and taking snapshots of things that make me feel thankful for my life. It means spending time with the people I love and appreciating the simple, intimate moments that are shared with others. It means laughing until my sides hurt and my eyes water. It means spending time in nature, listening as the wind blows in the trees and the birds flit about. It means intentionally boosting my second language, which I’ve rapidly lost after not focusing on it for a year. It means going beyond my comfort zone, because that’s where the magic happens. It means following my peace, and being conscious of what is sparking my joy. It means finding ways I can give back and positively contribute to others. And it means that I’ll continue my journey of self-discovery and awareness of what both reflecting on the past and living in the present moment is showing me.

It’s going to be a good year, I can feel it. So I’d like to say, “Hello, 2017. I’m ready for you and I’m excited by you. Listo? ¡Vamonos!!”

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Finding Myself Happy in 2016

Leaf in Water Twilight Forest

As I started to craft this tribute to 2016 and think about moving into the new year, I revisited my thoughts from nearly a year ago. As I was reading them, I found myself in awe. Mostly of the fact that I wrote those phrases at all, because I don’t really remember composing those words. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, because it’s only been in recent months that my memory has finally returned. You see, my biggest health indicator of how the toxic stress of 2015 was impacting me was the loss of my memory. I am ever so thankful to find it has returned to near normal levels.

Kansas Sunset Kansas Sunset 2

Somewhere in November I woke up and realized I was happy. Really happy. Happy with so many different things, but ultimately happy with who I am, where I’m at, how my life looks, what I’m doing. Happy with the realization that I have some of the most incredibly amazing friends. Happy that I can choose to see my family with very little notice because I live within an easy distance of them after living states away for over a decade. Happy to be discovering who I am, as an individual, and to find that I really like this person.

March Blooms Winter Tree

But most of all, it hit me that I’ve let go. The past no longer dominates my mind or plays a key role in my decisions. Somehow I’ve reached the point where I can look back with acceptance and analysis without the emotion impacting my free-thinking.

El Salvador Door Suchitoto Kayaking

And surprisingly, I’ve somehow slid into living in the present. Somewhere in the course of the last half of the year I moved into a present state of no longer looking to the next thing. I seem to have stopped trying to figure out the next move, the next state, the next trip, the next thing. I’m living aware of each day, and following the nudges that arise to allow for spontaneous decisions and adventures. Oh, sure, I’m still forward planning, and living intentionally, but the unsettled beast seems to be tamed for now. It’s a new feeling, and one I’m trying to hold on to.

Kansas Kayaking Devil's Lake Oregon

Present. Mindful. Aware. Such a very different place than where I started the year. Growth happens with reflection and self-exploration, and as cliché as it sounds, time really does provide excellent perspective and healing.

Kansas Sunset Oregon Coast

So, 2016… as we turn the last few pages, I’d say it’s been a good chapter. One that started out with angst and resolve and determination, and is ending with an inner peace and happiness…. laced with wanderlust, of course.

BrCo Kansas Explore


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Traveling Back… to 1937

Letters Letters 2

Usually I write about my travels and adventures. But today, I took a journey without ever leaving my home. You see, I seem to be the designated family historian, and when I opened a box I recently obtained from my grandma, I discovered a treasure trove of letters (along with a few random bullets) and I time hopped back to the era of mid 1937 to early 1942.

I never knew this man, but I have zero doubt that I would have really loved him. He had a zest for life. He traveled. He did what needed to be done, but made time for plenty of fun. He was born in 1919, and grew up poor, on a country farm. He graduated in 1937 from high school and moved to the city. Kansas City, that is. And through his letters, I am able to picture his life, imagine the places he’s traveled to, and feel his exuberance at young adulthood.
Family Farm Young Adult Melvin
Above Photos: The family farm homestead. / Entering Young Adulthood.

On August 1, 1937 he wrote: “Dear Mom, Dad, and Merle… Well, I have finally stayed one night away from home… This certainly is like a mansion. They have three floors and a basement, grounds that cover many acres, and lots of beautiful trees, chairs, lily ponds, and fish ponds…. Last night I sat in the yard and watched a few cars go along. There is a continual string of them. About ten times as many as go by 36. There are two night clubs just a block from here.” I do not know where he was staying, as that’s not specified, but I imagine it was quite different than what he was familiar with. I also have little doubt that he visited those night clubs.

He started working, and was quite the budgeting person. On February 12, 1938 he wrote, “I get paid $30 Tuesday and it really will come in handy and I am just about broke now. You see I have 12 dollars every 4 weeks for room, $14 for board, $4 for lunch, $5 for carfare, $4 for enjoyment, $5 for clothes, and $5 for saving, the rest for incidentals.” Sounds like a pretty good budgeting plan to me!

His letters indicate he was quite the networker, always meeting managers and people in high places of companies he hoped to one day work for. He was a socializer, too, always going somewhere, or meeting new friends. He went to the Golden Gloves Tournament, tennis tournaments, country clubs, met H.G. Wells, went to shows.

He took classes at Rockhurst and the KC Business College. He mentions that tuition to start was $7.50 at Rockhurst, and that he’d later owe another $7.50 for the next semester. In another letter he mentions that tuition was only $40 and books were another $2. In one letter he chastised his younger brother for not working harder on his English classes, even though it wasn’t an easy subject.

In early 1939 he writes that he got another job and will receive $20 salary each week. He was very happy with that pay. The company was Stewart Sand and Material Company, located at 18th and Grant on the 3rd floor of the City National Bank Building. He says that Stewart Sand is the largest company in KC in regards to sand, stone, tile, rocks and that they do a million dollars in business each year. He writes that he “secured the job through my personality.” That made me laugh.

He got a promotion to a new position, and writes on March 4, 1939, “Got paid last Tuesday. Certainly like the larger salary. I continue to like my new position as much as possible. My boss is exceptionally nice and friendly. I am so much happier now. I was almost despondent before when I had my other position and just setting still. Now I am jubilant. I really do believe I got the best position I ever applied for.” People don’t talk like that anymore… despondent, jubilant, best position ever.

He moved boarding locations several times, and writes at one point that it cost $2.20 to have a delivery company move all of his stuff. All he had to do was pack it up. Things sure have changed… I’ve moved 13 times, and can’t even fathom how much money it’s cost me over the years.

Letters 3 Letters 4

If you are familiar at all with your American History, you will know what’s coming. World War II began. We hadn’t entered it yet, but it was only a matter of time.

On May 20, 1941 he writes that he will be enlisting at Ft. Leavenworth and then will report to Oxnard, California, on June 4th. “Oxnard is about 60 miles north of Los Angeles on the coast. Population of town about 9,000. There are 7 other boys from Kansas City going to this same school at this same time.”

June 15, 1941: “Boy, I certainly have been putting in the days. The Air Corps have a system of demerits that are given for various things you do wrong, for instance making your bed, finding dust on the top of your door, being late to a formation, etc. I spend about 2 hours daily making my bed just right and dusting the room and keeping everything in order. If you get over 5 demerits in any one week you are not allowed to go out over the weekend.”

He became a pilot. That same date he writes, “Last week we started flying. They have some pretty nice airplanes. Certainly enjoy flying.

Cockpit of Plane Pilot
Above photos: July 1, 1941. In the cockpit of a Stearman at Oxnard. / July 1, 1941. In front of a Vultee plane at Oxnard.

July 13, 1941. “I made my solo airplane ride last Thursday. Did it quite well, wasn’t scared at all and really liked it. Friday and Saturday made my 2nd and 3rd supervised solos. Starting next Monday I will take a plane out by myself and practice different maneuvers. I have 14 hours in the air now. As yet we haven’t received uniforms here but understand we will soon. The class before us had to buy theirs, cost them $30, but I know we won’t. Sure have enjoyed myself when in L.A. on weekends.”

August 3, 1941. “Now have 49 hours of time in the air. Have been flying 3 hours or more every day last week. I will have my 60 hours check next week and if I successfully pass it will know I will get to the next school. Have been doing acrobatics this last week. Flying upside down, doing slow rolls, that is rolling the plane clear around up and over, loops, that is diving down and then pulling the nose up and coming over on your back. As far as I know there has never been a parachute jump at this school. The planes we fly are almost foolproof and safety is always practiced to the utmost. However, we wear parachutes at all times and they are inspected every 30 days to be sure they are in perfect condition.”

August 9, 1941. “I passed my final army check. I was sure glad to get by it. You have to pass 3 checks with Cal Aero and 3 with the army, by the time you have 60 hours. I have 32 hours solo now. None of the acrobatics are dangerous as long as you have plenty of altitude to go in case you fall out of one into a spin or something. Yesterday after I passed my check I went up to 10,000 feet. That is about as high as these airplanes will go…. I understand they have extended the draft to 2 ½ years. I still think I am much better off here. I was afraid of that extension of the draft, one of the reasons why I joined the Aviation Cadets.”

Echelon Formation
Above Photo: Sept. 15, 1941. Flying an echelon formation.

He moved on to Bakersfield for a few weeks. “Next week we will start flying and have ground school. We will fly BT 13A’s.” On October 24, 1941 he writes, “I have passed all checks ok. I really do like flying more and more. Have been flying formation quite a bit the last two weeks, and it is a lot of fun. We found out yesterday approximately where we would be sent next. I will go to a school that specializes in two motored plans, such as bomber planes. I am expecting to go to Sacramento, but I may either go to Stockton or Victorville Have been getting pretty good grades in ground school. Last week I ranked 5th in the class of 135.

Instrument Panel
Above Photo: He wrote on the back of the picture: “View showing a few of instruments in cockpit of BT13A, ship which I am flying at Bakersfield.”

He moved on to Sacramento, at Mather Field. On November 21, 1941, he writes “I soloed in the planes we fly here last Tuesday. Have 8 hours in these planes now. The plane we fly here is about 20 mph faster. Also the landing wheels come up into the body of the plan after getting off the ground, allowing it to go faster…. We were issued winter flying equipment last week. It is all leather, fur lined, and is the very warmest material possible. I bought most of my uniform when I get to be an officer. I am paying $45 for my blouse and $16 for pants, and $2.75 for flight cap. Sam Brown leather belt $11 and saber chain $2.50. Also have to get various other articles such as poplin shirts, dress shirts, air corps insignia, ties, socks, shoes, a raincoat or officers overcoat. I will get the $150 from the government to pay for it probably about February 15.”

He also met a girl. “I had a very swell Thanksgiving dinner yesterday at some friends of the girl that I go with here in Sacramento. I met the girl when I was up to Yosemite Park last August. She and her parents are very nice and I have been at her house several times for meals. She is a graduate of the University of California.”

November 29, 1941. “Have 21 hours flying time in the airplane that we are flying here. Last week I flew up to Lake Tahoe, up northeast about 100 miles. It is very pretty from the sky, had to get up to 12 to 14,000 feet to get over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Also went down to San Francisco over the ocean a little ways in the airplane. Started formation flying yesterday, and my instructor soloed me after a few minutes as I flew it pretty good as had quite a bit of formation flying at Bakersfield. You see 3 ships fly together, take off and land all together.”

December 7, 1941 is a milestone date in American history. He writes home, “I suppose you heard the news today that Japan has declared war. It’s too bad but I can’t see where she can do too much by herself as long as Germany and Italy are not actively engaged. Time can only tell what will happen…. I do not know nor do I have any idea as to what will happen when I get my commission in January. I hardly believe I will be sent directly into a tactical unit in the Pacific after getting commissioned in view of the little flying time I actually have in comparison to those who graduated before me, many of whom are instructors now. I truly believe almost all of us graduating when I do will be made instructors for some time until we build up our flying time and get more experience… We have been flying all weekend. I took several cross countries aggregating 5 or 600 miles. The planes I fly here are all single motored, but have half as many horsepower as those at basic training. The ones I fly now have 650 hp.”

December 15, 1941. “Today 35 or 40 pursuit planes came in here, which I understand are to be stationed here as protection against the Japanese. They came from the middle west and are the fastest planes in the world, cruising at over 400 miles per hour, and that is really fast. They are to be used for protection.”

He spent Christmas with his girlfriend and her family, saying how nice it was and how much he liked them all. Her father was an electrician with the Pacific Gas & Electric Company, and they had built their home only a couple of years prior. His journal entries state “I can’t get her out of my mind. I am in love with her.”

He was happy.


December 27, 1941. “I still firmly believe, and even more so now, that I would much rather be in the Air Corps making a decent salary and having some sort of position than being a common soldier with no pay and certainly no position, even though I am taking more risk now that we are at war. At least I am seeing the country. In my position as a Lieutenant I will meet and associate with the best class of people wherever I may be, just as I have been as an Aviation Cadet. I know it to be a fact that there is nobody of young men in the world that can compare to the physical and educational or heritage qualities of my classmates here in the Air Corps, unless it be in the Navy Air Corps, which is very similar except they are in the Navy and I am in the Army. I consider the Air Corps to be on par with West Point or better. It looks to me as though this war will take anywhere from 2 to 5 years and I know were I in the draft it would change my entire outlook on life and I would have missed the part of it that I could never enjoy. So, please do not worry about me too much because I am happy and I am enjoying life and going to keep on doing so while I may.... We will be commissioned January 9th, a week from this coming Friday. I do not know where I will be sent nor whether I will be made an instructor or go into a tactical unit after that.”

January 11, 1942. “We had graduation Friday. It certainly feels great to be a second Lieutenant and having all the enlisted men saluting you and everything. My officer’s uniform certainly does look nice if I do say so myself and it feels better, too. There were 155 of us new Lts. We got our travel orders to repost at new stations. 70 of us are going to Long Beach. 4 to Wichita, 11 to Michigan. The other 70 are staying on at Mather Field as instructors. I am going to Long Beach. All of us that are leaving Mather are going into the Ferry Command, which is flying new ships to different parts of the U.S. after they have been built at the airplane factors. I am really the happiest I have ever been in my life as this Ferry Command is the best in the whole army. I expect to take many trips east to New York, going through Kansas City en route. I can hardly wait until I get to Long Beach Tuesday the 13th.”

January 15, 1942. “I understand we are to leave tomorrow to ferry some ships anyplace in the U.S. We never will know where we are going or when. It is quite possible that I may get to fly several thousand miles on this first hop. We fly only during the day time and you are the sole judge of weather conditions and whether you want to fly in unsettled weather or not. After delivering a ship at the end of the trip we catch the first airliner coming back to Long Beach.”


And that was his last letter he ever sent. He never did get to make a several thousand mile journey ferrying an airplane. He died on January 19, 1942, just two days after his last letter, upon takeoff in Selma, Alabama, on his first ferry flight. I imagine his parents received notification of his death before they even received his last letter.


While his death was a tragedy, his short life was well lived. That’s more than a lot of people can say. He worked. He studied. He traveled. He served. He fell in love. He was 22 years old when he died.

He was my great-uncle.

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