Tag Archives: adventure

Relaxing in the Poconos

When a dear friend invited me to spend the weekend at their cabin in the Pocono Mountains, I didn’t hesitate to accept. While I spent a few days in the Adirondacks last summer, this would be a far different experience. I wasn’t staying in a hotel across the street from a Dunkin Donuts. I was going to be staying in a cabin that wasn’t near some well-known franchise. I was going camping. In the mountains.

Can’t say I’m a big fan of camping. The only time I’ve slept in a tent, roughing it, was when I was 18 and in Mexico on a mission trip with my church. It was an eye-opening experience that was fulfilling and heartwarming, but it was also a long, hot and sweaty two weeks.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to let my past hangups deter me from what sounded like a welcome respite from my busy workweek. No traffic. No schedule. No deadlines. A time to slow down, which I just don’t do that often.

After getting off of work Friday night, I loaded up my Pomeranian, Lina into my SUV and we hit the road. She was dressed appropriately in her adorable “Happy Camper” dress.

An hour into our drive, we stopped in Buttzville at the infamous Hot Dog Johnny’s that my friend recommended we stop at on the way. Unfortunately, they only accepted cash, so we took a selfie and left. I’ll have to revisit the place sometime and sip on birch beer served in a frosted mug while I feast on a hot dog.


I was a little disappointed that we didn’t arrive until after dark since I was eager to soak it all in. But I was thrilled to stay up and visit with my friends for a bit before turning in for the night.

Best night of sleep I’ve had in a long time. I fell asleep within minutes. That never happens.

I woke up refreshed and ready for a 9am plyojam workout with my friend. But I did take a few minutes to appreciate the gorgeous view from the deck before heading out. The thin trees were like nature’s version of a filter overlaying the view of the lake.


We walked the trail along the lake to get to the fitness center. It was scenic and peaceful. Unlike our workout. I had no idea what plyojam was. Found out quickly. It was a cross between zumba and weighted exercises that made me think of the bootcamp I used to go to. But it was an abridged version with short reps of a set of exercises that cycled through a song until we moved on to the next set.


Afterwards we sat on the balcony, gazing over the water and drank the green juice that my friend and her husband blend and drink on a daily basis. Needless to say I was ready for a nap after that workout! But that would have to wait.

Lina and I took a long walk along the lake enjoying the scenery. She was just as happy as I was to have a new place to leisurely explore.


Later on we sat on the dock enjoying homemade margaritas while we waited for the rain to move in. It may have been the margaritas and Shiner Bock beer that prompted us to sit underneath the umbrella during the rainstorm, but it was well worth it. Once the storm began to pass, a vibrant rainbow appeared on the other side of the lake, with a second, more faint one framing it. It was breathtaking.



Sunday was even more low-key, with more time spent on the dock with an excursion out on the boat for a few hours. Such a quiet and tranquil place to drop the anchor, hang out, soak up the sun and play cards.



It was the most relaxing weekend I’ve had in quite some time.  I have to say, I totally fell in love with the mountains, which is something I never thought I’d say.  There’s a peace and serenity there I have never felt before.
Pure bliss y’all. ❤️

Running Philadelphia: Back on My Feet 5-Miler

     The Stroehmann Back on My Feet 5-Miler fell on the same day as the Bearathon in Waco, which is the half marathon I have ran for the past two years. I was a little disappointed to not be running it again this year. The race, known as the “Toughest Half in Texas,” raises money for student scholarships, which is a great cause to run for especially for alumni.
This BoMF 5-Miler raises money for a great cause as well. I had read about BoMF a few years ago when I started running. The basic premise for this non-profit is to utilize running to help transform the lives of people who are homeless. It all starts with running and then they progress to getting jobs, homes and a new life.

     I can certainly relate to the transformative power of running and fitness, which, as I’ve written in my first blog post, has been instrumental in my own recovery. I was thrilled to get the opportunity to give back in a small way to the local chapter. My friend Maria’s daughter is the Executive Director, so she is very supportive and encourages others, such as myself, to be as well.

     After attending the annual fundraising event Back on My Feet Bash with Maria in October, I signed up for the 5-Miler.


     As I usually do on race days, I woke up at 4:30am to have a small amount of caffeine and start my race day ritual. I’m not a morning person. I don’t even like running or practicing yoga in the mornings. I’m pretty sure these races are scheduled so early so participants aren’t thinking. They’re just running. I don’t start really thinking clearly until after the first mile or so, which is about the same time my body has really warmed up.

     Despite the early hour, I was filled with excitement and anxiety before the race.  I was excited to be running in a new city, but felt anxious not knowing what to wear. I didn’t want to get too hot while running, yet I didn’t want to be so cold that I had a hard time functioning before I warmed up. I decided at the last minute to go with three layers instead of two once I stepped out of the car and felt how cold it was.



     Most of the time when I run a race, I have two goals: 1) finish and 2) don’t be last. I run for the sake of running, which for me includes intervals of walking when it’s longer than a 5K. But after two years of running races, I decided that I wanted to push myself harder, which meant running the entire race and pick up my pace.

     I really had to dig deep to get through the last mile. My legs and feet were worn out from running so hard. I kept repeating to myself “finish strong” like my baby sister told me to when I first started running. I was thrilled and relieved to see the finish line!

     Running the streets of Philadelphia was interesting and felt like I was getting short tour of the historical city on foot. My favorite part of the route being the start/finish line was within view of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I love that place inside and out!

     Once I had a banana and water and rested for a few minutes, I made my way over to run the Rocky Steps that lead up to the museum since I was so close. Thought that would be a perfect place to take a post-race photo!

     After running up the steps, which left me a little out of breath and even more fatigued, I gazed out to enjoy the view of the city and take a picture.


     Just as I finished taking another picture, my phone rang. It was my Maria.
“Denita, where are you? Your name is being called out right now! You got third place in your age group! Come get your medal!”

     “What? Okay. I’ll be there in a minute!”

     Getting a medal is not something I even remotely expected. So I ran down the steps and crossed a few roads faster than I ran the race to get to the award ceremony and picked up my medal.


     It was awesome getting a medal, espcially since this was my first time to run in Philly! I proudly wore it to The Bishop’s Collar, where we ate and I had my usual post-race mimosas! By this point my runner’s high had worn off and I was ready to crash.

     At one point Maria looked at me and said, “I know that this is probably like asking a a mother who just gave birth if she wants to have another child, but do you think you think you’ll run it again next year?”

     “Absolutely!”

     In the meantime, I’m already training and looking forward to my next adventure in running, which is the half-marathon portion of the Jersey Marathon on April 30th. Just hope it’s a little bit warmer this time!

Thanking Jersey

It’s that time of year where so many posts, tweets, articles, pictures are all about “Thankful for…” What am I thankful for? To answer such a seemingly commercialized sentiment, yet edibly relevant given that I’m spending this Thanksgiving in Jersey makes me feel like I’m about to dive into a chick-flickesque monologue. One that would end with the ever stereotypical dramatic surround sound that cues the audience to applaud.   
But this is real life and real life doesn’t really come with a soundtrack (unless of course you count wearing earbuds listening to Pandora, or as I’ve learned since living up here that the honking of horns starts to sound like a chaotic symphony while driving in daily traffic, but oddly hypnotic).

Remarkably for me this will be the first Thanksgiving (after 41 years) that I won’t be spending with my family in Texas, which feels foreign. While I have largely assimilated and settled into life up here on the East Coast (winter weather withstanding that statement, although I have started accumulating the necessary gear for the cold, like a warm coat).

The idea of not being in Texas eating my mom’s cornbread dressing, mustardy potato salad, pumpkin bread surrounded by my family makes me feel like I’m an alien displaced from my homeland. (“E.T. phone home” comes to mind.) Needless to say I’m looking forward to all of those special people, moments and recipes (and definitely some brisket) during Christmas! I’m sending a list of special requests before I even fly out, which I’m sure mom will appreciate.

I won’t even mention the annual Black Friday shopping with my sisters where we wear matching shirts and live on caffeine… It seems impossible that so many shenanigans, adventures, adrenaline rushes and laughter happen. Sober. In one night. But they do. How often can you pass out on the benches (from pulling an all-nighter) in the indoor playground at the mall and not get arrested? Or at least get a stern talking to? But I am still getting a matching shirt this year, which is a super cute “Black Friday Shopping Team” baseball T. Although mine this year should say, “My sisters went Black Friday shopping and all I got was this T-shirt.”

While I make light of it, I was incredibly touched that they’re still including me (and I will probably Facetime them while they’re out and about like Sheldon did on the “Big Bang Theory”, although I won’t be doing it for scientific purposes). It was very heartwarming to read the messages from them about how they were getting me one and having dad ship it to me.

 That being said, I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for the little things like random “I love you” text messages from my little nephew, conversations via phone or text message, special packages (of a baseball T, pics my nephews have drawn for me or an inspirational book from my sister) from my family in Texas that are big things and make me feel connected to them. Because even though I’m far away, they’re never far from my thoughts or heart.

I’m thankful for my friends in Texas who have stayed connected and supportive, especially one who listens to all of my ups and downs and has been a constant source of support and encouragement while I’ve experienced more changes than I thought possible in such a short period of time.

I’m thankful for my lil pom who always wags her tail when I come home even after long days. She is a constant source of love, comfort and at times, amusement because of her quirky little personality. 

I’m thankful for the numerous people of all ages (too many to list individually, but they’re significant nonetheless) that I’ve met up here who have welcomed and accepted me with open arms and enveloped me in warmth and kindness. My family here.

I’ve thankful for the extraordinary experiences and adventures I’ve had, sights I’ve seen and memories I’ve made through exploring this area, which was terra incognita before I moved here. The camera on my phone has been well used and my storage is bursting with beautiful and captivating images of all kinds. I love capturing these moments and sharing them!

I’m thankful for the unexpected opportunities that I’ve been blessed with. While my life up here isn’t at all what I envisioned it to be when I left Texas 6 month ago, I am still in awe at times at what I am fortunate to be a part of and do personally and professionally. There’s a quote displayed in large font on the top of the wall at the yoga studio where I practice that sums it all up: “Until you spread your wings, you have no idea how far you can fly.”

Thank you Jersey for letting this Texas girl spread my wings and fly!

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!
❤️

Exploring Gettysburg 

Visiting Gettysburg is not something I ever expected to do. I remember reading about it in school, but quite frankly, it never seemed real to me. Like a lot of other historical places that I’ve seen and visited since I moved to the east coast, it never felt tangible. Just words, stories and pictures… I never connected to history the way I did with English. Words are tangible. I can touch them on a page and directly connect to them; or I create them when I write.

The opportunity to visit Gettysburg came up when I was invited by my dear friend (and former EMS mentor) who serves as a family escort to attend the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Once the service ended on Sunday, we dropped off luggage, changed and headed to Gettysburg, which was only about 30 minutes away from where we were staying the night. Since my friend was driving, I googled the battlefield and tour information.

As we made our way into Gettysburg, I started to feel uneasy and a sense of eeriness enveloped me. I had the same visceral reaction that I had when I visited Pearl Harbor back in my 20’s. There was this unexpected aura and sorrow that lingered in the air the entire time we were there.

The first place we stopped had just sent out its last tour for the day, but suggested another place that did a sunset tour. We thought that would be perfect! We’d see the sunset on the battlefield that would surely offset the tragic events and loss of thousands of lives that had occurred on this land during the Civil War.

While we waited for the tour to begin, I couldn’t help but pose with the Abraham Lincoln statue that was outside of the building, along with a placard of his famous speech that he gave from Gettysburg.

Despite the cold, we decided to ride on the top of the double-decker tour bus so we’d have the best possible view.  This was my first experience on one of these buses.  Felt like any minute it could turn into something out of National Lampoon’s.  

We sat across the aisle from two members of the Atlanta Pipes & Drums who were also in town for the Memorial Weekend and conversed with them for a bit until we left the visitors center.
Can’t say enough about the tour guide, who presented a program that was insightful, interesting and provided comic relief at different intervals. As we drove along we roughly followed the progress of the 3 days of gruesome and treacherous battle that occurred July 1-3, 1863.

It was startling to see how many of the original buildings and homes that were still standing and being utilized. Our guide would periodically point out the holes in buildings that were from the battle. There has been a resurgence in efforts to preserve the history and reclaim the land of the battlefield.

Our “tour” ended when we stopped at the top of Little Round Top to gaze upon the vast battlefield as the sun was setting. Provided a beautiful and enchanting image of the landscape where so much life was lost that lingered in the memory long after we departed from Gettysburg.

Exploring Jersey: Long Beach Island

Life has gotten pretty busy since I’ve started to settle in to life up here in Jersey. Especially since I’m writing and trying to find a job.  But I did have the opportunity last Saturday to drive down the shore with one of my writer friends to Long Beach Island for paddle board yoga.
While I was over the moon about trying paddle board yoga, I had so many questions! How do you paddle board? What happens if I fall off? Will I be in deep water? What if the board drifts away before I get to it? Will I be able to get back on the board? What do I wear? Yoga pants? Bikini? What’s it like to practice yoga wet? Will I slip off of the board?
Despite some questions and reservations, I put on my bikini and made the hour drive with my friend. Once we arrived at the location I started feeling more nervous than excited. But I still wanted to do it.  
There was a group paddling in, so we had to wait for them before we could do anything. The light blue boards looked pretty big, had an anchor tied to them and had a special yoga mat top.  
After the instructor introduced herself, and gave us a brief demo on how to move on the board so that we were balanced and how to actually use he paddle, we headed to our meeting spot. I volunteered to go first. Sitting on my knees I started paddling. I was all over the place, but started to figure it out pretty quickly. The only adjustment I made was to sit on the board, because it put too much pressure on my knees to stay in the position. I would’ve stood up, but our instructor said it was pretty windy, and she wouldn’t recommend doing so since we were new.  
Paddling out took longer than I expected and made me wonder if I’d still have energy for an hour of yoga. It took several minutes for the others to paddle out, but the instructor swooped right in to where I was at. She hopped off of her board and connected us while she relocated me and put the anchor from my board down.  
Once we were all lined up, we started our practice in a seated position. We were instructed to close our eyes, which I reluctantly did one eyelid at a time. I thought she was crazy for asking us to do that. We were 100 feet from the shore, on a paddle board. I felt exposed and vulnerable. And scared. I had to force myself to trust that I would be fine and nothing would happen.  
As soon as I let go of that fear that something bad might happen like falling off of my board, or a bird pooping on me, it was liberating and peaceful. Feeling the heat of the sun and the wind on my skin as I heard it blowing, along with hearing the movement of the water around me was surreal. I felt like I was deeply connected with the world and not just the people I was practicing with. 
Standing up on the board was a little unnerving at first. We started with sun salutations. It couldn’t have been a more perfect setting.  
We went into familiar poses as well as a few new ones that I didn’t even know that I could do. It was exhilarating to accomplish these poses on a board that was sometimes wobbly from the water, wind and my own sometimes unstable balance. There was a few times I thought I might fall off, but I would slowly adjust or back off of a pose until I was stable again.  

  

I felt like it was a huge achievement that I made it through the entire hour without falling off of the board!   
Afterwards we sat on the beach at LBI, which had a different feel and look from the other places on the shore that I’ve gone to. But I still enjoyed it! Love the sand, sun and salt water!
Along the way we picked up some chocolate and marshmallow fudge at Country Kettle Fudge since I’d been told it was a must since I was going to LBI. They hand stirred it with large wooden spoons in these big barrels right there in the store! It was so good, that I ate every bite of it!
The last stop on LBI was the Barnegat Lighthouse, aka “Old Barney.” It was the first time I’d been to a lighthouse. My friend wasn’t interested in climbing to the top since she had already done it years ago. I was a little disappointed, but once I got up a few flights of stairs, I totally understood. And realized she was the smartest one of us both.  
My heart was beating so hard and was labored and loud. I started regretting my lack of running the past few weeks. My life flashed before my eyes a few times… I wondered why lighthouses don’t have elevators. That would be a great upgrade and much appreciated!
Hitting the halfway mark was by far the biggest relief and motivator! I looked forward to reaching the top of each section of yellow metal stairs, where there would be a sign that noted how many steps you’d climbed and how many left to go. There was also be signs sharing the history of the lighthouse that you could read while you caught your breath, which I thought was very considerate.  
At the top I took a moment (probably a full minute or two or more) to catch my breath. I was worn out!   
I stepped outside and was blown away by the view and the wind! I walked all the way around taking it all in and taking pictures. I lingered a bit because it was breathtaking and I also wasn’t quite ready to go down those 217 stairs!  
Didn’t have trouble sleeping that night!

Exploring Jersey: Aerial and Acro Yoga

One of the ladies in my writers group thought I might be interested in trying out Aerial Yoga. I’ll admit, I had never heard of it before and probably looked at her dumbfounded when she mentioned it to me. I asked her to repeat what it was called. Twice. 

Once I got home I googled it. It is a thing! I kind of felt stupid that I had never heard of it. I’ve been practicing yoga off and on for several years now.  I started while I was recovering from PTSD, because it’s it’s very healing for the mind, body and spirit.  But I had never taken it to this level. Literally.

Aerial Yoga uses a silk hammock (or swing) that hangs from the ceiling to help support your body as you go into various poses. There’s an eloquence and grace to this type of practice, maybe so not much when I’m doing it since I’m like a bull in a china closet most of the time.  

My friend showed me a few poses to warm up with and get comfortable. Boy, was I awkward at first (which isn’t really new since I seem to be a little awkward in general). Wasn’t quite sure what to do with this fabric dangling in front of me. Do I run and jump on it and go “weeeee,” while I’m flying in the air?  Because that’s what I wanted to do, but I didn’t. I’d save that for another day.

We started out by straddling the fabric and moving our bodies and fabric until we were in a cocoon. Couldn’t see anyone. The only sounds I heard were from our instructor verbally guiding us and the It felt isolating, yet peaceful. As we progressed into more advanced moves & poses, I kept having this sinking feeling in my stomach that I was going to fall on my head and not be able to catch myself, and someone would have to call 911.  

During the second week of classes, I began to relax and feel more comfortable. Even letting out a “weeee!” as I was wrapped up in the hammock swinging, which made our instructor chuckle. Even though it was a level 2 class, we went into some more advanced moves. When our instructor asked if anyone knew what “flipping the bird” meant, I said, “probably not in this context,” which made him laugh. Again.

Flipping the bird was pretty cool. Started out by sitting on the floor, gripping the silk with both hands and pulling my body up and over the silk, doing a back flip and landing with my stomach/hips on the silk. I got it in my first attempt. Although it probably wasn’t very pretty since it felt like my legs were flailing around to kick over. But I did it!   

While I thoroughly enjoyed the Aerial Yoga, I absolutely fell in love with Acro Yoga! It was like cheerleading for adults! But without the pom poms and megaphones.  

The class began with all of us sitting in a circle, which felt like a huddle before a game. We all introduced ourselves and stretched. The stunting started out with bases on the ground, feet in the air. Flyers, pressed their hip bones onto the base’s feet and went flying.  We were quite simply playing airplane, like I did with my nephews, but for the first time ever, I was a flyer. It was so awesome!   

The other stunts grew more complex and challenging. Most of them, I had no idea what I was doing. But the bases and spotters were very gracious and informative, verbally and physically guiding through the moves. Some of the moves where I’d flip upside down felt a little disorienting. Couldn’t tell where I was. I felt like I was underwater and not quite sure of how or where I was positioned. But it was so exhilarating! The biggest adrenaline rush I have ever felt practicing yoga or any other fitness activity, which is perfect for me since I’m such a thrill seeker.  While I get an intense adrenaline rush, I also have to slow down and move into poses with a gentility that does not come natural to me. 

 I had no idea my body was capable of doing the things I’ve been able to do in Acro Yoga. Can’t wait to see what else I can accomplish! There will definitely be more Aerial and Acro Yoga classes in my future!
Namaste y’all! 🙏❤️

Exploring New York

As we drove north through Jersey en route to upstate New York, I started to see the urban industrial side of the state. Quite a contrast to the softer side of Jersey that I’ve been exposed to so far with the beaches and the country side that is almost an emerald green color and very plush.  
Crossing the NJ/NY state line was a first for me. We got on a stretch of highway called the New York State Thruway (which made me wonder why they didn’t just spell it out, perhaps it was a budget thing). Along the way we passed through the exit for Woodstock! Yes, that Woodstock! Peace, love & rock-n-roll! Made me want to throw up a peace sign. Thought that would be silly, so I checked in on FB and used the ✌️emoticon instead.  

Saw the Albany skyline as well! And passed over the Eerie Canal as we drove over the Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge, which please don’t ask me to pronounce because I would have no clue how to say the last name that starts with a “K”.   
After about 4 hours of driving we made it to a mountainous region called the Adirondacks, which is yet another word I struggle with to pronounce for some reason, the same way I struggle with pronouncing the word “rural”. And I grew up in a rural area! I referred to it as the country just so I wouldn’t have to say the “r”

word.  
I may have oohed and awed more than I’d like to admit driving through the mountains. And I’m pretty sure I used “wow” countless times the entire weekend! 
But what caught my eye immediately as we approached it was the brightest blue (almost a cobalt blue) body of water I’ve ever seen, with the exception of the Mediterranean Sea. It was breathtaking and serene at the same time. It was a portion of the 32-mile long Lake George and it was intoxicating!
Of course we had to pull off to take a few pictures!
Once we arrived and settled into our room in Ticonderoga, we drove around to explore the town. Drove out to see Fort Ticonderoga, which was closed.  
As we drove back to our room, saw a waterfall nestled downhill in the Municipal Park that fed into the short La Chute River. Had to stop and walk around, climb up the rocks and explore the park, which also had a small monument honoring French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, who joined with the natives to fight the Battle of Ticonderoga 
The next morning, got up to take a trail ride through the mountains on horseback. Halfway there, got a flat tire. In the mountains! I’ve learned that’s a terribly inconvenient place for that to happen. No shoulder to pull off on and the area we were in had nothing but Private Roads, which is where we pulled off.    
I had a little experience changing a tire. Started to get to work and Lo and behold, the property owners pulled up. And we were blocking the driveway. I had already pulled out all of the tools and in the process of getting the spare off of the back. Fortunately the dad, his 2 college age sons & their friend were willing to lend a hand or hands in this case. Grateful they offered to help and were incredibly friendly and chatty while they worked.
Only took an extra hour to get to the stables, which I was hoping wouldn’t make us have to wait too long to ride. Luckily it didn’t. I was a little nervous. Haven’t rode a horse in about 20 years. So the young female guide gave me a horse for beginners and told me to step in the stirrup & throw my leg over like I would a bicycle (and I thought a really, really wide and hairy bicycle).  
The hour long trail ride wasn’t quite as scenic as the website led us to believe, but it was peaceful and quiet, except for the lady behind me that kept verbally scolding her horse for stopping and trying to plants and trees constantly.  
There was a few times that my horse slipped on rocks and gave me a queasy feeling. I pictured he horse collapsing like a one of those vintage, wooden collapsible horse toys that I had played with as a kid doll me scrambling to fall in a way that I wouldn’t get hurt. Started to wonder why horse shoes didn’t have rubber traction on them like tennis shoes. But I don’t know much about horse shoes or horses, so maybe that was normal.   
Once we took a touristy pic on the horse, dismounted and headed to Hague for a late lunch. Had wanted to do a little shopping for a souvenir there too, but discovered they only had two shops. And they were out of my price range, but I did buy 2 postcards to send to my nephews.  
After a few hours of rest, went to dinner at a local BBQ place in Ticonderoga. Disappointed in how slow the service was, but enjoyed the deli-thin slices of brisket. Had a nice flavor.  
Sunday we decided to head to Vermont, which I wrote about in a previous post.
Upon returning to Ticonderoga, we didn’t have time to tour the fort. Instead we checked out the Ticonderoga Fire Hall

of Flame Museum. It has quite an impressive collection, including a firetruck in the midst of a large room full of records, (including a ledger from the 1800’s), photographs, equipment & #gear that the volunteer firefighters there have worn over the years! ❤️🚒
Our last stop was Mount Defiance. Oh my goodness! What a view! You can see Vermont, Lake Champlain and Fort Ticonderoga, which must have been having a reenactment, because you could hear cannons being fired and see smoke.  
After climbing around the top of mountain and soaking it all in, we started making our way back to Jersey! 
 3 states in 3 days!   Whew!   What a weekend y’all!