My office

My office is different than most people’s. In my office there is the rustle of a breeze blowing through the leaves on the trees. I have the trickle of a stream or roar of a river. The dawn chorus is my soundtrack with foxes and black bears as my visitors.

In my office, I restore trails. I build stone steps and walls. I construct fences and drains. I make the wilderness more accessible to families so that more children can fall in love with the outdoors as I once did.

After a day in my office, I can go home with a smile on my face. I’m tired and sore and dirty, but I can see the work I completed. I can feel the pride of knowing that hundreds of people are going to benefit from what I did, even if they never realize it themselves.

Only six months?

Six months ago, I loaded up the little Blue Traveler and set out to change my life… To learn new things, find a new me, find a new home and a new career.

I left in March, and I can’t believe it’s already been six months… I have one more to go… just four more weeks until the adventure with ACE comes to a close. But that’s not where this path ends.

I didn’t find a new me… but I found my voice, I found my strength, and I found that I don’t have to be afraid that my life is passing before my eyes. My biggest fear upon joining this program was that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with the other members, who are all 10-15 years younger than myself. The only thing that my age has held me back from however is the ability to extend my term since ACE will no longer receive any additional funding for me.

I have had the opportunity to travel all over the Southeast and even out to California. I knew I wanted to work outside, but it wasn’t until I actually started the work that I realized just how fulfilling it would be. I step back from each project with a sense of accomplishment. Sure, I may have only affected one small section of trail, but it’s tangible and visible. I’m blissfully tired at the end of the days. I sleep better, I eat better, I breathe better and because of all of this feel a thousand times better.

Between the work, hiking, sleep, and limited stress, I’ve gotten in better shape than I’ve been in thirteen years.

Never have I felt such gut wrenching anxiety than the prospect of being trapped back in the hole that is Florida. I can’t go back. Keep your fingers collectively crossed for me that I can secure the job that I just applied for, that I can find a place for my family to move up to, and that all of this wasn’t just a temporary escape from a soul crushing fate.

Looking for a sign

It’s difficult to write when it’s hot. All you can focus on is how stifling you feel. That’s how Caribou is at the moment. Because the weather is kind of temperate, and the place is old, no one messes with the AC. Oh well. I finished submitting my time sheets and I’m heading out for the day.

Last weekend was pretty dismal for me. I was lonely, and depressed. Missing my mom, my family, familiarity in general… I drove up to the top of Mount Pisgah all alone to think about things and ended up sitting there eating my amazing French Onion Soup (go get some) and crying the whole time.

I sat out in the rocking chairs over looking the blue rolling mountains and asked for some sort of sign that I was on the right path. That I’m doing the right thing.

Well flash forward to this week… Dream of dreams came true and I found myself scheduled to work on top of Mount Mitchell. My absolute favorite place ever. It’s partially nostalgic, and partially sheer majesty… I commented to my crew mates that it would be a dream come true to be able to work seasonally at the Mitchell Park.

Our project partner wanted us all to appreciate the work we were doing so he wanted everyone to hike up to the summit for a good view of everything. Because of my pace, I wound up hiking to the top alone, which is fine for me. As I turn one of the corners, there carved into the sand is the word MOM with a heart around it.

I stood there for a moment, staring at the message from the universe with a smile on my face. Thanks for the reassurance… I kind of needed it.

Not quite full yet

I may have had brothers and a sister, but because of our age difference, I grew up as an only child. I didn’t go to college and didn’t really room with other people. 

I  knew that housing here was hostel style, but that didn’t really sink in. For those of you that don’t know, that means cramming as many bunk beds in a room that will fit. 

There are 8 beds in my room. Four people are currently on projects working and four of us just arrived yesterday. I thought it was going to be a big adjustment. But so far none of it is. 

The four girls I’ve met yesterday are extremely nice and easy to get along with.  The shared bathroom IS an adjustment, but will only be a problem if I get up and desperately have to urinate in the morning. 

All in all, being adaptable is a great thing. Stepping outside of your comfort zone… is a good experience. And doing something to better yourself can bee greatly rewarding. 

How??

So… today’s the 1st… of December… When the hell did this happen? Time moves far too quickly, which I suppose should be a blessing considering all of the things I’m looking forward to, but it also means I have to get my rear end in gear.

Though for my month’s hiatus… I did accomplish something.

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_winner

For those not familiar with NanoWrimo – November is NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. You take up the challenge to work on a first draft for a novel and churn out at least 50k words.

Granted, I’m no where near complete, and now I’m bouncing around between three different books at the same time, but isn’t that how the creative process works?

There is no time for slacking off. I MAY be able to finish out a draft of all THREE books before I leave so I can put them in Nikki’s hands and say have a blast tearing them apart over the next six months. I’ll handle any revisions upon my return.

Before the holidays, I WILL get over to the parking garage at USF once a week to tackle the stairs for an hour in the evening. AFTER the holidays my goal is three times a week before heading home. Running just doesn’t seem to be helping, besides, let’s face it, I’m not going to be running on the trails during this outing, I’m going to be climbing and working.

 

Another piece

I’m excited to announce that I have picked up another little bit of my equipment. The Static V sleeping pad. I’m part of a wonderful group on facebook, the Appalachian Trail Women’s Group and I asked for a consensus. about eighty percent of my responses came back to try this one – so I did.

No sale, but not overly expensive to begin with. I’m 5’5″ and was worried about the size. I read the reviews and decided to stick with the medium. It seems to be a great fit. Granted… I’m SO not used to laying so flat. I usually have a pillow between my knees or under them, so I may have to spend the weight and pick up a couple of small pillows.

 

20160921_210727I tested it out with my sleeping bag and they’re pretty comfy together. They both pack down nice and quick. So far, so good. I’ll even be able to use them both on the A.T.20160921_210816

Like my yellow toenail in the pictures? Oops.

 

Lots to do

There’s always a lot to do. It’s a never ending cycle. But I’m on a time crunch now – so I had to make a list.

There are things around the house that I need to have done. Things to prepare, tie up loose ends and all.

I need to get all of my gear together. While ACE provides you a tent, room, and board and living stipend, I need to bring a multi day backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and work clothes. I will have to put these things together slowly and get them ready so I’m not breaking the bank for it.

Then there’s insurance. Bleh…. I have had to put in my resignation at my job, so I will not have insurance through them. Which means I need to pick up some of my own from somewhere. I don’t fancy the thought of insurance shopping, but it has to be done.

Get married. Yeah, yeah… I know I’ve said a few things about marriage, and my plans on it, and everything else. But here’s how our lives have played out. I have an incredible partner, that believes I should take an opportunity that will not JUST take me away from him for six months, but leave him in the care of my son which he has no technical legal right to. And he’s encouraging this to happen. He wants me to follow my dreams and he wants to help me do it – no questions asked. No conditions placed. We’ve overcome every obstacle and have ended up stronger for it. I think it’s about time I put some of the same trust and faith in him.

I have parties to plan, holidays to spend, and then comes the next step. The step toward seeing so many of my dreams come true.