Kayaking in Northern California

Folsom Lake, Folsom, California

I spent most of my 52 years growing up in Southern California. When I was in my late 30’s I decided to move my husband and our two young children, ages 8 and 9, to Northern California, near the Sacramento area.

My reasoning was twofold…my husband had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a few years earlier and I knew the cooler weather and better air quality would be best for him. I also wanted to trade in Southern California concrete and freeways for Northern California trees and open spaces.

I’ve never regretted it! It’s a beautiful area, with biking and hiking trails everywhere you look. Folsom Lake is a short drive away. The American River is also about a 20 minute drive, where they hold a yearly ‘mini’ triathlon that includes a 6 mile run, a 12 mile bike ride and a 6 mile paddle down the American River. There are also numerous trail runs held every year by local towns and by running retail stores. I’m more involved in outdoor activities more now at age 52 than ever before.

And here’s why:

The Folsom Lake nature preserve is only accessible by kayak. I bought 2 kayaks when we first moved to Northern California, mostly because I wanted something that was a minimal investment, little to no upkeep, and no gas or registration fees. Also something that I could load and unload myself.

Just like everything else I do however, loading kayaks onto my Dodge Durango was pretty much trial and error the first time (it didn’t occur to me to Google it first 🤷🏻‍♀️). I’m 4’11 so it’s not an easy feat to get each 35lb kayak securely onto the top of a full-sized SUV!

On my first attempt I had tied both kayaks to the top of the Durango (or so I thought), with my kids and husband along with me for the ride. Not more than 5 minutes into the trip I made a turn and heard a thunk. Still driving, I could see from the corner of my eye the whole assembly sliding off the top of the car and swing down the passenger’s side of the SUV.

Luckily they were still loosely attached onto the top of the car by a single tie down, so at least they didn’t fall to the ground! I was able to safely pull over, unload everything on the side of the road, then try to re-load it all while everyone waited in the car. I promptly returned home, humiliated, and we decided to try again another time.

PSA…when tying kayaks to the roof of ANY vehicle, be sure to TIE THEM TO THE ROOF RACK AS WELL AS THE KAYAK RACK! I realized my error was to secure the kayaks to just the kayak rack, which was NOT clamped tightly enough to the rails of my car rack. Consequently the whole kayak assembly is what proceeded to slide off the roof of my car while I was driving.

I made the next few trips by myself until I was confident that I had figured out how to tie secure the kayaks properly. And it was definitely worth it:

A sunrise trip with two of my kayaking sisters
Tunnel to enter into the wildlife preserve on Folsom Lake

2019 was the first (and thankfully only) year so far that the local lakes were so low on water that the only way to access the wildlife preserve on Folsom Lake was to cross the main body of the lake, then get out and walk your kayak into the preserve. The water was too low for anything to float on it 🙁. I’m hoping the water doesn’t get that low again any time soon.

There are many, many kayaks to choose from if you’re looking to buy your first one. I went with something lower priced, light weight and good for beginners, which was an Emotion Glide kayak (now called Lifetime kayaks). I knew I would be almost exclusively on lakes and wanted something good for still water.

Of course you could get much higher end kayaks for substantially more money. I remember one morning I was on the lake, digging in with my paddles trying to generate some speed (and breathing a little heavy, not going to lie), while a lovely older gentleman sped silently past me in his long, lean, sleek kayak, working half as hard but covering twice as much distance. -Goals!

So if you’re just starting your kayaking adventures my advice would be to do your research first to decide what kayak would best suit your needs and your price range.

As far as loading it onto your vehicle – GOOGLE IT! There are plenty of good YouTube tutorials about loading and safely securing your water craft.

Besides that, just grab yourself a backpack, a towel, sunscreen, plenty of water and maybe a snack, then GO!

There are plenty of us fellow kayakers out there who would be more than willing to offer help if you need it, and smiles and waves as you cruise on by.

Leave a comment if you’re a kayaking enthusiast, if you’re looking into them, or if you have any questions!

As always, thank you for reading my blog 😊

Sometimes It’s Okay to Feel Bad

Yesterday I went to the gym, feeling good about the workout because I knew I could do it. Throw a bar over my head 15 times, then do some single-under (haven’t mastered the double-under yet) – I was looking forward to it!

Except when I got to the gym and tried throwing that bar over my head. 15 times. I went into it with an expectation that the ‘prescribed’ weight was fairly light, I knew I could get it off the ground and up to my shoulders. But unfortunately that wasn’t the workout, the workout involved yanking it up from the ground and throwing it directly over my head all in one motion. 

And that I could not do. Not even once.

So I stripped the bar and added a lighter weight. Still couldn’t do it. So I stripped that weight and added the smallest weight I could before having just an empty bar. I was finally able to handle that one, but I was bummed that it didn’t go the way I had expected it to. At all.

Disappointed, I left the gym and went home to get ready for work, only to discover that my dog had gotten on the counter while I was at the gym, and had eaten the cornbread that I was planning on having with my lunch that day. And then, when I went to change my clothes, I pulled my sweatshirt off over my head and got my hair caught on the zipper, yanking out a good chunk of it. 

By that point it was only 6:30am and my day was off to a REALLY bad start! I wasn’t in full-fledged self pity mode yet, but I was definitely staring at the possibility.

Later on at work, in an attempt to make myself feel better, I decided to take a break and drive to Starbucks for my favorite coffee (blonde vanilla latte with two pumps of caramel please and thank you). And then when I got back to work to drink it, I realized they had forgotten all the flavoring and it was basically just a coffee with steamed milk (wah-wah).

Normally this would have sent me straight into a full, grown-ass-woman pout for the rest of the day – which is NOT pretty! 

But recently, I’ve started studying a lot about feelings, and how much power we actually have over them. As an experiment I asked a few people on Facebook what they did for a ‘pick me up’ when they were feeling down, or when things weren’t going their way.

Their answers were all a little different, but ALL involved doing something that didn’t address the actual problem. Instead, they chose something that allowed them to AVOID THE BAD FEELING ALTOGETHER. Whether that was bingeing on Netflix (a common answer), or indulging in food, alcohol or online shopping.

We just want to do something that will make us feel better right now. We hide in something comfortable to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

Rather than deal with the uncomfortable feelings, we choose to hide from them. What we want is something that will make us feel better right now, so we hide in something comfortable to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

Have you ever done this? And does it really serve us? Do we consider the long term effects of eating all that candy or carbs? Do we consider the long term effects of drinking that alcohol? Do we consider the long term effects of that cigarette, or too much online shopping? Are we really willing to pay – in the long term – for the effects of all those habits just to avoid whatever uncomfortable, TEMPORARY, feeling we’re having right now?

Here’s something to consider…why not just let ourselves feel bad? Who says we’re meant to be happy 24/7?? Well, besides the internet, tv and radio. Every day. All day 😦 

But, just maybe, we’re not here on earth to be happy all. the. time. That without the bad, we wouldn’t know what good IS. Without sad we wouldn’t know what happy is. 

“If we only experienced positive emotion all the time, we wouldn’t even know it was positive. We wouldn’t be able to distinguish beauty without knowing what ugly is.”

-Brooke Castillo
The Life Coach School

One thing I realized about my no good, really bad day is that it was all brought on by my expectations on how the day SHOULD have gone.  In my mind I SHOULD have been able to lift that weight, I SHOULD have been able to enjoy the cornbread (did I mention it wasn’t just cornbread, but HONEY cornbread!!?), there SHOULD have been sweet creaminess in my coffee!

Without me having those expectations, would my day really have been that bad? I mean: #1 I still had a good workout. #2. I still had another box of cornbread I could make. #3. I still took a break from work and had a nice, hot coffee.

Eventually, I just accepted the fact that my day was obviously not meant to follow the expectations I had set out for it! And instead of fighting that reality, or feeling sorry for myself, I thanked God and the Universe for showing me a bad day so I could truly appreciate my good days…how many coffees, before that one, were just fine? How many times have I PR’d at the gym that I’ve only been going to for 4 months (3 PR’s btw!). How many times have I taken off my sweatshirt without ripping out my hair with the zipper? (Honestly that had never even happened to me before that day).

Your feelings alone can’t hurt you, only your reaction to them can.

So maybe the next time you’re feeling disappointed, sad, frustrated, or even scared, instead of reaching for something to mask that feeling, something to make you feel better right now, just acknowledge it. Your feelings alone can’t hurt you, only your reaction to them can.

Learn to look at the feeling objectively, maybe even with a little curiosity…What triggered you into feeling that way? Did something (or someone??) not meet an expectation that you set for it? Or for them? Did something not go the way you felt it should, or expected it to? 

If you’re feeling bad, or sad or scared, it’s alright to just accept that it’s just the way you’re feeling for the moment. It’s temporary, there is no need to hurry and move away from it or hide. Realize it for what it is, that whatever you’re feeling is OKAY, because you’re human. Make your peace with it, and then keep moving on. Just like good feelings, bad feelings end too.

It’s going to be okay my friend 🙂

Thank you for reading my little blog 🙂 

Quick tip for giving wilted veggies new life

I don’t know if you’re like me, but when I buy stalks of kale, romaine or spinach greens at the store, I feel like I’ve doomed them for a direct trip into the trash can 😦 It seems like they wilt after just a couple of days and certainly don’t look appetizing.

In order to try and save some of the money I had been (literally) throwing away on fresh produce I gave this a try: If the lettuce has ‘stalks’ or stems, like the varieties mentioned above, pour a few inches of cold water into a large cup or smaller bowl. Cut the bottoms of the veggie stems about an inch, and place them in the vessel:

Give them a good 15 to 30 minutes, and then end up looking like this:

Much happier veggies!! The downside is that you really have to COMMIT to using them afterwards, because you obviously won’t be able to repeat this too often before the veggies give up the ghost altogether. Also, if you leave them in the water too long, they go completely to the other side of appetizing and start losing their color and texture 😦 So no procrastinating! Be thankful that you’ve given your veggies (and wallet) a boost and use them to bless your body, like they were originally intended.

Thank you for reading my little blog 🙂

My Love/Hate Relationship With “Running”

When I get read to go for a run, my mind conjures up fond memories of my feet rhythmically hitting the pavement, my favorite music loud in my ears, wind in my hair, cool air on my face, my mind not stressing about anything, just being.

And then I actually go running…or, more accurately, “running”. I do have my favorite music in my ears, and my feet are certainly hitting the pavement, but I’m not loving it. I can’t catch my breath, my heart is beating faster than I feel might be safe, my mind is trying to convince me to stop at every step, (a lot of times it wins), and I am completely UN-COM-FOR-TA-BLE.

But, after I’m finished, I end up feeling great and suddenly I love running again!

“Running is nothing more than a series of arguments between the part of your brain that wants to stop and the part that wants to keep going.”
— Unknown

When I was about 20 years younger, and ran often, I was pretty good at it! I would run ten miles on a weekend regularly. Then I had 3 kids, dogs, mom responsibilities, and my running fell by the wayside. I’ve picked it up and dropped it several times throughout the years, but I’ve never worked at getting my running back to the level it used to be.

Technically I know how to run. I know I should start out slowish, get a nice pace, don’t “outrun” my breath, don’t overthink it, and just put one foot in front of the other. Easy enough, right?! Instead I start out way too fast, can’t catch my breath, overthink EVERYTHING, and keep giving myself permission to quit. I know it would probably help to start over from the beginning and train to run the correct way, but instead I just keep trying to contain myself at the beginning of each run, and next thing I know I’m speeding up, breathing too fast, and the cycle starts all over again.

So, in a nutshell, my “running” currently sucks. But, the most important thing I can do about that, is keep showing up. Last year, even though I knew I couldn’t run 6 miles consecutively, I still signed up for a 1/2 marathon in Yosemite. I decided to view it as an adventure, and not just a run. I remember all of the runners were shuttled up to the top of a mountain at roughly 6am. I was tired, freezing, intimidated, and I had to go to the bathroom about 15 times before the start. But once the run started I felt AMAZING! The views were so beautiful and the people so nice and supportive! I will admit I struggled a lot of the way, I stopped and started, stopped and started. But eventually I finished it – THIRTEEN FREAKIN’ MILES!! I don’t even remember how long it took, maybe 3 hours? But it was such an awesome experience!

Since then I have signed up for several 10k’s, but I try to stick mostly to trail runs . Running on a road to me just gets so monotonous. I admire anyone who can run or walk miles on a road or a treadmill, it takes a lot of patience! But I look forward to running on trails because: 1) The scenery can’t be beat and 2) Trying not to roll an ankle or trip and face plant (all of which I’ve done) forces me to keep my eyes focused on the ground and my mind engaged on the run. It involves shifting my steps from jogging, to jumping and side-stepping rocks, tree roots and other obstacles. I spend so much time concentrating on my steps and the path that 6 miles is done before I know it! And since I’m definitely not going for speed, I can stop a few times and catch some beautiful scenery, like this:

And this:

And this:

The views alone are worth all the effort! There’s something so peaceful and satisfying about just being still for a moment in the quiet awesomeness of nature.

So maybe you’re struggling with something you don’t feel you’re good at, or you’re frustrated with? Or maybe you’ve been wanting to try something new but are intimidated? My suggestion is: keep! showing! up! Put in the effort and you WILL get better! Just make sure to give yourself some grace, no self-judging, and acknowledge your victories (even the small ones)! I know I will keep running until I get better at it. And even if I don’t end up running as far or as long as I want, for now, I will definitely remember to enjoy the journey!

Thank you for reading my little blog 🙂

It’s Not Personal, It’s Science

Do you love your body? Do you hate your body? Do you tolerate your body? Many of us judge ourselves based on what we see in the mirror…maybe our skin is too light, or too dark, has too many spots, or is saggy, dry or oily. Maybe our legs are too short, too long, too thick, or too skinny. Maybe we get upset at the way we look in jeans, a tank top, shorts or (Lord help us) a bathing suit.

Day to day we go through our lives judging ourselves by what we look like on the outside, when – you guys! On the inside, there is absolute MAGIC going on!

The number of cells in our bodies number in the TENS OF TRILLIONS, which is amazing on its own when you realize we all started from just ONE! The human eye is made up of more than 20 separate structures with MILLIONS of nerve endings. Google how the eye works one day when you’re bored, it’s so complicated it’s amazing that it even works. And I could spend all day long talking about the human brain. It’s the original master computer, and even after thousands of years man can’t replicate it. It generates its own electricity ya’ll!!

Then we have our muscle structure. It takes almost 100 muscles just to walk…from your abs, to the muscles in your hips, your glutes, your thighs, your calves, your shins, not even to mention the ligaments and tendons. Plus your nervous systems and the signals your brain has to coordinate, send and receive!

So my challenge for you this week is to simply move your body. Go for a walk…if you can only walk down the street and back, do it. If you can jog down the street and back, or around the block? Do that. If you’re not able to do either, then move what you can move…your arms, your torso, your fingers, your neck. And instead of concentrating on how uncomfortable you are, or how much you feel like people are judging you, or what you’re missing on Netflix, I challenge you to not think at all. Just feel. Feel how your stomach flexes so you can move your hip, which helps swing your leg forward, and causes your knee to bend, and your foot roll so you can propel your body. Feel how yours arms automatically swing in opposition for balance. Feel how your heart knows it needs to start pumping faster and harder (even if it’s just a little) because it’s AUTOMATICALLY responding to the demand of the rest of your body. You don’t even have to tell it to!!

You guys we are walking, talking, miraculous wonders of the universe! Whether you believe in creation or evolution, we are the smartest, most evolved species on the planet. Doctors spend YEARS studying the human body, they may never know what it’s fully capable of. And we’re reducing it all down to what we look like in a pair of jeans or a bathing suit??

I say we take that back. Check yourself throughout the day, if you catch yourself having a negative thought about the outside of your body, go inside. Your heart is pumping automatically. Your eyes are looking around and processing all the images automatically. We chew and swallow and process nutrients automatically. You guys our bodies ARE AMAZING! I propose that we commit to understanding it better, and begin showing it the respect that it is due.

Thank you for reading my little blog 🙂

Vicki

Transitions and Letting Go

One thing I’ve learned about getting older, is that it comes with a whole lot of having to say Goodbye…to old habits, to old friends, to family members, and let me just say that I don’t like it.

No sir, not one bit.

When we have to say goodbye to someone special who has passed away there’s obviously nothing we can do about it, they’re gone and it’s out of our hands. We can only hurt, grieve, and mourn our loss, but then we have to continue moving on through our lives without their physical presence.

But what about having to say goodbye to someone that is still living? Like saying goodbye to our children as they strike out on their own? Or a parent, or grandparent, or a spouse that has been affected by disease and who is technically no longer ‘there’ mentally, but is still with us physically? Or a former friend or partner that we had to walk away from, or who walked away from us. How do you grieve for someone or something that is still physically here? How do you get closure from that??

There is a Buddhist parable called “Sallatha Sutta: The Arrow”. You can read a full version of the text here, but a (severely) paraphrased version would be: Imagine a person has been shot by an arrow. It causes them pain, so in grief and anger they beat their chest and become distressed. Because of their response to the first arrow they are now feeling ‘two pains, one physical and one mental’. It’s the same as being shot by two arrows, only the second arrow is one they shot at themselves.

We have every right to feel pain over losing someone, whether physically, mentally or emotionally (or all three), or transitioning to a new season in our lives that we didn’t necessarily choose (hello fellow empty nesters, or simply growing older!). Maybe the person or relationship we had to leave was hurting us in some way, or was unhealthy. We cannot ‘un-shoot’ that first arrow, it was out of our control and it’s natural to feel angry and hurt because of it. But we MUST stop shooting ourselves with the second one.

Sometimes holding onto that grief, or that anger or that hurt feels ‘safe’ because it’s familiar. And maybe some of us have honestly held that space for so long that even the pain of being in it is less scary than the uncertainty of letting it go. In that way, holding onto past pain seems to serve us.

But that is a false perception. The reality is that holding on to pain and hurt is holding us back from happiness. It’s keeping us stuck, walking in an endless circle of resentment and anger. Friend, we HAVE. TO. LET. IT. GO! For our own future happiness, and for the sake of those who love us. We deserve so much more! We deserve to be free of that pain and that anger, and I assure you it is 100% possible to exist outside of it! WE are the only ones being hurt by holding on, and WE are the only ones who can let it go.

How to let go of pain may look different for each of us…maybe journal the shit out of it. Write it all out, get a notebook, pour out a stream of consciousness onto the pages and then tear them up, or burn them, but don’t re-read them! Don’t go back.

There are an unlimited amount of positive books, blogs and podcasts to turn to…anything by Rachel Hollis, or Brooke Castillo, Tony Robbins or Jenna Kutcher. Go for walks, work it out in the gym, color, paint, create, talk to a professional (this is the 21st century, there is no shame in seeking help), meditate, or even join a group of like-minded positive people. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it. (If you need inspiration on how to commit to your healing check out my prior blog Committing to Commit.).

Like they say, the time is going to pass anyway. Would you rather spend it holding onto past hurts that no longer serve you? By resisting and resenting change that is inevitable? Or will you let go of that second arrow, and spend your time discovering the whole world of possibilities that lay in front of you? Thankfully, that choice is up to you.

Thank you for reading my little blog 🙂

Vicki

You are Enough. Right now. Just as you are.

So I’m probably not the first ’empty nester’ to start examining their life’s journey, trying to figure out who I am and how I got to Here. It’s probably a bit of a cliche by now in fact, but it’s all new to me so I’m going to put into words what I’ve figured out up to this point.

When I was a kid I unknowingly trained myself to become invisible. Being visible did not always lead to good things, and sometimes those ‘things’ were downright not good. So I learned to be quiet, avoid eye contact, and keep a very low profile.

I think that we all pick up behaviors when we’re younger that we use to survive, to help us navigate an adult world when that world is scary or uncertain. The problem is how do we let go of those behaviors when we’re adults and those behaviors no longer serve us? Especially if that world is all we’ve ever known?

I have finally figured out how to stop looking at life through the eyes of a scared, self-conscious, intimidated child. I’m a big girl now, but I discovered recently that I’ve never entirely let go of that old narrative, even after raising my own, wonderful, independent children. I’ve held on to it all of these years, because I never knew that I could let it go. That it no longer had to be a part of who I was!

I have no idea if you’ve ever felt the same way. If, at whatever stage you are in your life right now, you might still be carrying around your old narratives, your old insecurities. But, just in case you are, let me be the first one to tell you, NONE OF IT WAS YOUR FAULT. YOU WERE JUST A CHILD, AND YOU ARE WORTHY…of love, of attention, of security, of good things and happy days, of being SEEN! Don’t wait for someone to give it to you, take it!! It’s yours, and you have every right to it.

Okay, there, that’s all I wanted to say. Please know that you are worthy and you are loved and you are special.

Thank you for reading my little blog 🙂