When your family visits you in your new city

Even though I’m 1,000 miles away from home and could for all intents and purposes be completely here, my family back home in Chicago is still very important to me. I have weekly chats with my dad and have established a pretty consistent phone schedule with both my sister and my dad’s girlfriend—who is a wonderful combination of a friend, confidant, and my future self. Seriously. She IS me in 30 years and I couldn’t be happier about that.

I was so excited when my dad told me that he and his girlfriend were coming for a visit. I missed them terribly, and couldn’t wait to see them. I also wanted to show them all the wonderful things about Maine so that they could (hopefully) understand why I decided to move here.

Wiscasset, ME

I had a few different ideas of how things would go when they were here. My dad especially doesn’t like that I’m so far away, so naturally I prepared for worst-case scenarios like:

  • My dad dragging me back to Chicago kicking and screaming.
  • Everyone being in a bad mood and having a terrible time together.
  • Something in between those extremes.

Family time

Luckily nothing like that happened and we all had a great time together. I showed them a few of my favorite spots like The Portland Head Light, The Holy Donut (obviously), and Bramhall Pub. I also took them to a few places I knew my dad would like such as Len Libby Chocolatier in Scarborough and downtown Kennebunkport. We attended the Rockland Lobster Festival and The Goo Goo Dolls concert in Portland. We also spent a lot of time just hanging out in Portland and enjoying each other’s company. It was a wonderful couple of weeks with them, and I’m so glad the visit went as well as it did.

Goo Goo Dolls, Portland, ME

I knew it would be hard when they left, but I wasn’t expecting to fall apart as much as I did afterwards. I realized later that it was a combination of things that brought me to such an epic meltdown. Isn’t that always how it is? I missed my family, I was feeling insecure in my other relationships, and I was well into my 4th month here which is when things are no longer as new or exciting—it’s just day-to-day living. I also felt guilty for making these two wonderful people sad.

“This is my fault. They’re upset because of me.”

I know that I shouldn’t think that way. It’s good that I have such a great relationship with my dad and his girlfriend—that these people love me so much, but I still felt badly. After all if I had just stayed in Chicago they wouldn’t be upset—but I had to do this. I had to move to Maine and have this adventure.

Kennebunkport, ME

Though they may not totally get why I felt like I had to move, they love me enough to support it. I have no idea how long I’ll be in Maine, or if I’ll ever be living as close as my dad would like, but I know my relationship with him will not suffer because of it. And for the time being he can visit a pretty amazing place, and eat as much lobster as he wants.

What was it like the first time your family visited you in your new city? Did the visit go better or worse than you were expecting?

Learning some of the Maine terms: A Midwesterner’s journey

Throughout my time here I’ve noticed that Mainers talk differently. I’ve gotten used to the Maine accent where they drop the “er” at the end of words and add “ah” instead. For example, lobster becomes lobstah, Bar Harbor is Bah Habah, and so on. But there are also quite a few Maine terms that I’ve learned that I thought I’d share with you as well.

Wicked good. Just another way to say “very good.” I originally thought this was a Bostonian term—not true! In fact Mainers get upset if you even mention that assumption to them. Mainers came up with wicked good, and don’t you forget it!

Wicked

Up to camp. This phrase probably amuses me the most because of how I learned it.  A friend of mine mentioned that they were going “upta camp” one weekend.

“A camp, camp? Like basket weaving, or band camp kind of thing?” I asked.

“No, not that kind of camp.”

“Ok. So a camp sight? Like a tent in the woods kind of camp?” I asked.

“No, like a summer home.”

Ah, I see. In the Midwest we call that a lake house. Everyone knew which lake they were referring to–Lake Michigan. I’m sorry, but if you have indoor plumbing, a full kitchen, and a fireplace you really can’t call that a “camp.”

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Dooryard. A dooryard is the yard around your house–front, back, and sides where you can store all the random items people usually reserve for their shed or basement.

Downeast. This means heading UP the Maine coast beyond Boothbay, not actually down at first. The way the roads are here you have to take the Maine Turnpike UP and then DOWN the coastal roads to get to towns like St. George, Blue Hill, Bar Harbor, etc.

Bean. Also known as L.L. Bean. The headquarters is in Freeport, ME and it’s the place to pick up whatever outdoor/clothing/misc. gear you might need. Since I’m from Chicago “The Bean” also has another meaning for me. It’s the slang term for the Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park aptly nicknamed because it looks like a giant bean.

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The Bean – Chicago, IL

The Loaf. Also known as Sugarloaf Mountain which is the place to go skiing in Maine.

The County. This means Aroostook County—the Northernmost county in Maine which is basically comprised of potatoes and French Canadians. When people say they’re going to “the county” I assume they mean the court house. So when I respond with something like, “Oh, what did you do?” I get a lot of confused looks.

Moxie. This is a Maine pop (err I mean soda) beverage which is…unique. Even Mainers agree that it’s like drinking battery acid, but for some reason they have a special affection for this medicinal-tasting drink.

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The city. To a Mainer this means Portland. When Mainers hear that I live in Portland they’ll exclaim, “Oooh the BIG city!” Sure, a city of 66,000 people is totally a big city. In Illinois if you told someone you live in the city they would know you mean Chicago. There’s no point in calling it “The Big City” because with a population of 3 million people it’s just understood.

Down cellar. Mainers don’t put things “in the basement;” they go “down cellar,” or “down cellah.”

Mainers like to tease. So as much grief as I give them about their oddities they also give me a lot of grief about my accent. I’ll be the first to admit that I do talk like a Chicagoan, and I’m proud of it! I put the letter “A” in places it doesn’t belong, and over-accentuate it when it is there naturally. I’m “sarry” but that’s just how we Midwesterners talk.

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Body issues, body shaming, and learning to love yourself anyway

For today’s post I wanted to talk about something that I feel pretty strongly about: body issues and body shaming. I’ve debated for a long time as to whether or not I should even broach this subject because it’s not quite what my blog is about, and the topic can be a tad controversial. However a reader advised me recently that I should be talking about all of the things I deal with/think about as it may be applicable to someone else. So here goes…

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Like a lot of girls I grew up without having much confidence in myself. Society’s depiction aside of what a woman “should” look like, I also had a female role model growing up who advocated hard for skipping meals, crash dieting, working out until you puke, “closing” the kitchen early in the day, and how going to bed hungry is “good” for you. As an adult I know now that that behavior is insane and unhealthy, but I didn’t know that then.

I struggled with my weight all through my teen years–not as much as some people, but enough to feel affected by it. I gained weight (as one does when they hit about 11-13 years old), and then I would essentially starve myself until I got down to an “acceptable” weight. Even through my early-twenties I had this woman’s voice in my head every time the scale tipped over another pound, or upon biting into a cheeseburger.

“Do you really need that cheeseburger? You’re not doing yourself any favors. No man is ever going to love you if you’re fat.”

Again, insane! But that voice was there antagonizing me—haunting me. I wouldn’t even wear sleeveless shirts out in public because she used to flick my arm fat and make a face any time I did.

Body

Somewhere around the time I turned 22 I adopted the mentality of all things in moderation. Yes, I try to live a healthy lifestyle and I eat a lot of healthy foods, but if I want a cheeseburger I will have it. If I want to eat half a bag of jellybeans and feel my teeth rotting out of my head as I do it, then that’s my choice.

This is also around the time that I started embracing who I was on the inside. As I started feeling more confident about the person I was becoming, I also started feeling more confident in my body. It had to come from within.

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Today I know I’m not perfect, but I no longer care to be. I’m a size 2 with somewhat flabby arms and you know what? I think I look pretty damn good in sleeveless.

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Try trail running and feel yourself soar to new heights

A few weeks ago I checked another item off my Maine bucket list: trail running. It’s pretty much what it sounds like–running along a hiking trail as opposed to hoofing it step by grueling step. I have seen people along various trails running down the mountain like their life depended on it, and who knows maybe it did. I hadn’t gotten to the top of the mountain yet, so what did I know. To me it just looked like fun.

Trail running in Maine

I was a little apprehensive to try trail running since I am clumsy by nature, and the thought of running down a rocky footpath at high speed with no one around seemed just a tad risky. However my Maine experience is about trying new things and doing the things that scare me so I decided to do it within reason: having a buddy (my boyfriend in this case) with me just in case if I did fall someone would actually be there to help.

I learned that trail running is all about being aware. You have to be aware of where you’re stepping, how you’re stepping, of any obstructions in your way, of steep declines, how your body is positioned, and you have to do it all at the same time and at a very high speed. Once you have it all down though, oh man is it incredible!

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It reminded me of this recurring dream I’ve had since I was a kid where I’m running through the forest and as I run faster and faster my feet lift off the ground and I’m soaring over the landscape. First I’m air-running over the trees and as my legs propel faster I get higher and higher until I’m soaring through the clouds. When my legs got tired I would slowly descend to the soft earth. My feet would gently touch the ground and then I was running again rising above the trees.

Trail running through the forest

In real life I wasn’t actually flying, but it felt like I was! I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve had that dream, but as I was running down the mountain that day the dream came back to me instantly. It was an amazing high, and such a great reward after hoofing it all the way up the mountain.

Since then I have been brave enough to try trail running solo and thankfully without incident! It’s now my go-to method of getting down a mountain. It’s fun, fast, and let’s be honest—you look like a badass doing it. Or who knows—maybe people just think I’m running because my life depends on it, and in a way I suppose that’s true.

What terrifying thing have you tried that you ended up loving? Would you ever do it again?

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Absent but not forgotten: Getting back into the blogging groove

Hey everyone! I’m back! Though I didn’t actually leave, I have been absent from the blog scene for a few weeks and I sincerely apologize for that. When I first started blogging I was also following numerous other blogs. I wanted to see how they did it, what they wrote about, and how frequently they posted. Something I decided early on was that I never wanted to be one of those bloggers who just goes silent for weeks on end and you never really know when they’re coming back—if they’re coming back. I hated checking their site every few days and seeing the same post from weeks’ past—never getting an update on their whereabouts or why they were absent. Eventually I stopped following them altogether. As a reader I felt cheated.

“I take time out of my day to check up on your blog, and you can’t even do me the courtesy of updating it or telling me you’re going off the grid for a while?”

Absent

However now that I’m on the other side of it, I am a little more lenient on those bloggers. It’s hard coming up with new content every few days that is fresh and exciting! For me it doesn’t matter if there’s too much going on in my life, or if things are pretty quiet. If I’m in my own head for too long it’s really hard to get out of it. And to you, dear reader, that’s where I’ve been: in my own head.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I’m an introvert by nature, and while I love many aspects to being an introvert there is also a dark side that goes along with it. The fact that I can get so deep in my own head that it sometimes feels like I’m underwater is a characteristic I’ve been fighting against for years. And while I can now lessen the intensity and longevity of my fog, it is something that rears its ugly head from time to time.

Lighthouse

The last few weeks have also been pretty hectic. My boyfriend came out for another visit a couple of weeks ago—the last one for quite a while, and now my dad and his girlfriend are here visiting as well. It’s been wonderful having all these visitors and I have so many stories to tell, but for today I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for following along on my journey this far, and I’ll do my best to consistently post about my Maine journey going forward.

Learning to listen to your gut instincts

I’m a big fan of listening to your gut instinct. It’s the feeling we all have to either jump in or shy away from something for some inexplicable reason. We don’t always know why our gut is telling us to do/not do something so more often than not we choose to ignore it until it becomes something more concrete. The problem with that is our gut instincts need practice, and to be trusted with smaller things before it can be trusted to handle bigger life decisions.

Instincts

I once worked with a woman who trusted her gut with everything no questions asked. I remember one anecdote in particular when she told me that she didn’t take a particular road home one night because of a gut feeling.

“There was just something telling me to take a different road home that night. I didn’t know why and I didn’t question it. I just took a different route.”

There wasn’t an accident or any kind of incident that took place that night on that road, but she still didn’t think it was silly to listen to her gut.

“My gut has been right about everything else so who knows what would’ve happened had I ignored it and taken that route home.”

Lupines

Can everyone have a gut that strong and that right so often? I listen to my gut instincts as often as I can, but there have been times that I’ve ignored it and things have still ended up okay. Was my gut wrong or could the result have been better if I actually listened to it?

I know a lot of people who have fallen out of practice with listening to their gut instincts. I admit that I used to be one of them. It’s especially hard when there is no logic backing it up.

St. George, ME

Whether it’s a belief in God, the universe, or just the power of ourselves you have to admit that there’s something to this gut instinct thing. Everyone at one time or another has felt that gnawing, self-assured voice that yells inexplicably “Yes, this is right, or “No, this is wrong.” Sometimes it asserts itself more meekly—like taking the long way home or running back into your apartment to triple-check that you turned the oven off.

Eventually though your gut will be ready to handle bigger things like deciding which job is going to be the right fit, or where you should live. The question is, are you brave enough to listen to it when it does?

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Climbing my first real mountain by myself

This past weekend I tackled another first on my ever-growing, Maine, to-do list: I climbed my first real mountain completely by myself. When I say “real mountain” what I mean is one that is over 1,000 feet tall. The only other one I had climbed on my own was Bradbury and at a measly 275 feet, I hardly feel like that counts. However, having just come from the flatland of Illinois, I felt like it was a real feat at the time!

Spruce Mountain

I have climbed other real mountains, of course: Pleasant, Pemetic, and Cadillac—but for those at least one other person was there pushing and encouraging me to make it to the top. However Ragged Mountain was my first real mountain that I tackled totally solo.

Ragged Mountain, Rockport, ME

It’s an interesting experience climbing a mountain by yourself. Since there’s no one there to push you, you have to push yourself. There’s no one there to calm your anxieties or make sure you’re all right after tripping and nearly falling on your ass. This totally freaked me out at first.

“What if something happens to me? No one knows I’m up here! I’m going to fall to my death and no one is going to know about it for days!”

Eventually I calmed myself down and remembered that even though I hadn’t done this solo yet, I had done this before. I knew what to do, and how to pace myself. So I did just that.

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I took my time hiking up Ragged Mountain enjoying the views as I went. The beauty of hiking by yourself is that you can go at your own pace. You also don’t have to be embarrassed if you get so winded that you have to lean against a tree panting like a dog until you catch your breath. It’s like the behavior you engage in when you live alone. You’re free to be a hot mess.

Ragged Mountain, Rockport, ME

I made it to the summit in just under two hours. Since I had the mountaintop to myself I wanted to enjoy it for a little while before climbing back down. I sat there looking out over Mirror Lake, Spruce Mountain, and Penobscot Bay for what felt like just a few minutes but ended up being close to 40 minutes. I reveled in the quiet peace this incredible mountain had to offer that I didn’t feel the need to “do” anything. I just sat there letting all my fears, doubts, and worries dissolve and cast off themselves off to the sea. I climbed back down the mountain more self-assured than I’ve ever felt.

Ragged Mountain, Rockport, ME

With each adventure and new experience I tackle here in Maine I’m becoming a stronger and more confident me. I’m stronger than I was yesterday, but not as strong as I will be tomorrow.

What solo adventure did you embark on that made you more a more confident you? What did it feel like when you finally conquered it?

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More adventures with my 105-year-old best friend

Last weekend I thought I had a fabulous idea: I would take my 15-year-old dog (105 in dog years) to the beach for the first time! Since Carm grew up in the Midwest with me, she had never been to a beach before. Also like me, Carm loves to be near the water so naturally I assumed that the Labrador in her would love to be in the water especially on a hot day…boy, was I wrong!

We got to the beach a few hours before sunset, and it seemed like everyone thought that was a good time to bring their pups to the beach, too. There were a few dogs who immediately ran up to Carm trying to sniff and play with her. Most dogs love to be the center of attention, but my pup is not one of them. She couldn’t get away from those dogs fast enough!

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Eventually I got her in the water. At first she really didn’t know what to make of it. Since I can pretty much read her thoughts I think it was something like, “Is this a bath?! This doesn’t seem like a bath. If it’s not a bath, what is THIS?”

She stood in the water for a good half hour almost completely still just taking it all in. She watched the other dogs fetch things in the water, and was mesmerized by the various sailboats and kayaks floating around in the harbor. She didn’t seem to love being in the water, but she didn’t seem to hate it either. As far as repeat adventures go I put it down as a ‘maybe.’

Dog adventures

Not two days later Carm developed yet another infection. This time it was a bladder infection and that combined with 85-degree temperatures and no air-conditioning made my apartment smell like a barn. I called the vet and got Carm on a round of antibiotics, but not before giving me some very enlightening information:

“Old dogs are like old people: they’re prone to infections. So if you take them to an environment they’ve never been exposed to before, chances are they’re going to come into contact with something their bodies aren’t used to dealing with so it’s very easy for them to get an infection.”

Of course! It made sense once she told me that, but it’s something I hadn’t considered before. Dogs are like people. Duh!

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Here I was thinking that I was being such a great human to my dog: taking her on adventures and letting her experience new things which is a good thing under certain conditions. As for having another adventure with the ocean I think we’ll just settle for being near the water instead.

What to do when creativity eludes you

Like most creative people sometimes creativity eludes me. At times it’s right by my side begging me to write, paint, or go out shooting with my camera. When creativity is around I can’t get the ideas down fast enough, the paints to blend quickly enough, or the ISO set fast enough. It’s as if it knows it won’t be around that long so it has to throw all the ideas at me at once.

Creativity

Inevitably creativity (like the fickle friend it is) will leave me again and make me feel stuck. Anyone who has felt the void of creativity knows what I’m talking about. You feel empty, defeated, and like a shell of your former self. It’s a horrible feeling.

Sometimes I wait patiently for it to come back saying to myself, “any day now, any day now…” and other times I will it to come back to me by any means necessary. Here are some of my tried-and-true methods for getting my creativity back:

  • Take a walk. Sometimes you have to physically walk away from whatever creative project is frustrating you. Take a walk around your neighborhood to get some distance and clear your head.
  • Give yourself a different creative task. If I’m frustrated with one form of creativity i.e. writing, I will do something else like playing with my camera. This way I still feel like I’m doing something creative, and I’m getting my mind off my writing.

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  • Wait it out. This doesn’t always work, but sometimes it helps to sit in the same spot without any distractions until my creativity is flowing freely again.
  • Have a dance party. Crank the awesomely bad music you have on your Spotify or Pandora playlist, and dance around your apartment. It helps to let loose and remember not to take yourself so seriously.
  • Become a yogi. I can be pretty inconsistent with my yoga practice, but when I am doing it regularly I feel so much better and more creative. By focusing on your body’s movements and breath you allow your ideas to flow freely again.

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  • Talk through it with someone. Luckily for me I have a few creative friends who know exactly what it feels like to have creativity elude them, too. Talking it through with someone who gets it can help shed light on something you hadn’t considered—like maybe your frustration with creativity stems from the idea that everything you create has to be perfect.

Bottom line: Creativity is a fickle friend and it will sometimes abandon you, but there are ways to bring it back and have it flow freely again. It’s just a matter of finding what works best for you.

How do you get your creativity back? What are some of your tried-and-true methods?

Feed your soul with a solo adventure

I’m a big fan of solo adventures. Yes, it’s amazing to have someone to share experiences with—to tell you where to turn, to grab your hand as you’re about to slip off a mountain, go to a concert with, etc. Shared experiences are awesome and can add so much value to your life and more importantly, your relationship. However, there’s something to be said for going on an adventure completely by yourself.

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  • You notice a hell of a lot more. When you’re on an adventure with somebody else you’re probably talking, laughing, and otherwise enjoying each other’s company. Sure, you still notice the things around you but your primary focus is on the person you’re with. When you’re by yourself you only have to focus on what’s around you.

“Wow! That’s an amazing mountain. I wonder how high that is. I’ll have to look that up later. Oh look, a blueberry stand! I have to stop! I have to! Oooh there’s a lake coming up around the bend!”

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  • You can chose your own path. Do you want to take the easy, highway route or do you want to take the longer, coastal route? It’s completely up to you.
  • You go at your own speed. Want to pull over to take a photo of that amazing view? You can! Want to go a little faster on that trail? You can do that, too!
  • You can leave whenever you want. Do you want to savor the views a little longer, or are you ready to pack it in mid-adventure? Who cares! You’re not on anyone else’s schedule but your own.

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  • You get to clear your head. Without having to keep up a conversation with anyone you’re free to focus on the adventure itself and let your mind wander.
  • You connect with nature (and yourself). There’s nothing quite like being out in nature by yourself. It’s exhilarating and totally empowering to know that you can survive in the wilderness all by yourself. It doesn’t matter if you survive a two-week long trek up the Appalachian Trail or a jaunt up a baby mountain. You did it, and you did it all by yourself.

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  • You get to form your own opinions on your adventure without anyone else’s input. No matter how independent of a thinker you are, if you go on an adventure with somebody else it becomes your shared experience—likes, dislikes, funny moments. It all gets clustered together and formed into one story, but it’s different when you’re by yourself. You only have your experiences, your memories, your thoughts to remember the trip by.

So the next time you’re thinking about going on an adventure but don’t know who to go with, consider going by yourself. Be safe, have fun, but more importantly learn something new about yourself. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.