a field trip with Phoebe

I found this quote a few weeks ago and it made me curious…

Ever wonder where you’d end up if you took your dog for a walk and never once pulled back on the leash? ~Robert Brault

Living in a city neighborhood this is a practical impossiblity. Too much traffic, too many other dogs, and lots of little kids. Let’s face it, my dog’s size can be intimidating. What if I could try this somewhere else? Somewhere less crowded during this time of year.

Phoebe loves the car! Whenever we begin our walk to the park she always stops by the car…just in case. She gives it a smell, looks at me, then looks back at the car, and we march on. Imagine her surprise when I opened the car door! Without a moments hesitation she stepped right in and sat down. Today we were taking a field trip, a field trip to the Evanston lakeshore.

For the half hour drive to the lake, Phoebe happily propped her head out the window, jowls flapping in the breeze. As we arrived, parked the car and made our way to the beach, once again, she sat. She seemed to need a moment to look at and take in all of the open space. Little did she know I was not going to pull back on the leash. Today she would walk me. Since she was a puppy, Phoebe has loved sand, water and open space. I could tell she was pleased with our destination! She finally stood up, put her nose to the sand and we were off.

We moved back and forth, over here and over there, around in a circle until we stood close enough to the lapping water. Phoebe froze – looking, smelling, listening and then she began to slowly tiptoe in. I was surprised because the water at the lake is still very cold. She managed to walk in up to her belly.

imageAs I continued to follow her lead, there were many sights that caught our attention – another dog running along the beach, some artwork in the sand, an opening in some boulders along the shore and the big watermelon boat already out for the summer. We spent many long pauses because Phoebe likes to study things.
I was happy in my choice of footwear for this guided walk. It turned out to be the perfect day to wear a pair of boots, because our hike took us through water, sand, grass, crushed gravel, cement, and atop some small boulders.

The natural path along the Evanston Lakeshore leads north to Northwestern University’s Campus. There has been a lot of construction on the campus for the last three years, closing parts of this path. I was happy to see the path reopened. There are two new buildings and a sailing center at the south end of campus overlooking Lake Michigan. They are all beautiful and seem to complement the lakescape. At the end of the walkway, looking to the south – a great view of the Chicago skyline. We continued to the north end of campus and the soccer field, Phoebe paused once when she could hear a flute by the Music building.

When it was time to turn around, we walked back through the open grassy field that runs along the lakeshore. As luck would have it the clouds began to break and the sun came out! We moved in a southward zigzag pattern, from smell to smell. I was still letting her guide us in a roaming kind of walk.  As we approached the car, Phoebe seemed happy to reach a familiar destination. I poured out some water and she had a nice long drink!

What a great 4 mile walk! What an awesome walking partner! I had a lot of fun letting Phoebe walk me for a change.image


wild and finding a way back to the feminist trail

  “I walked and I walked, my mind shifting into a primal gear that was void of anything but forward motion, and I walked until walking became unbearable, until I believed I couldn’t walk even one more step.
And then I ran.”    Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

For anyone currently snowbound, housebound, or bored-bound, read this book and take your mind on an adventure;  an eleven hundred mile, solo hiking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail with Cheryl Strayed.

What an excellent story about journeys – the physical, mental and spiritual kind, the woman versus nature kind, and the mother/daughter relationship kind.

From the perspective of a twenty-six year old, the author recounts her own contemporary, odyssey-like passage into adulthood after her mother dies. She captures the human spirit of a lost, wounded-strong, stupid-smart, solo hiker and all along the way she struggles with being an imperfect-perfect woman. With each step, she fights to discover, embrace and become her true female self. Daily, her survival is threatened by the obstacles of baggage she carries – the weight of her backpack which she nicknames “monster,” and the inner trappings of her own doubts and fears.

From the first page, I found it difficult to put the book down. I was on the trail with her, listening to her thoughts and feeling all of her discomforts. I knew all to well some of her emotions as I remembered trying to figure out the meaning of life as a young woman in my twenties and beyond.

The writing is ‘over the top’ good. So good, that sometimes I had to close the book because I needed a rest!  By the end of the book, I can confess (without apology) that I never want to hike the PCT trail from Mexico to California, Oregon, Canada or anywhere in between! (Maybe I would try a small portion – but that’s it.) The vivid descriptions of the scenery and the deserted and desolate mood of the wilderness got deep inside my head. Respect… for nature, for the power of the universe and for Cheryl’s story made a great impression me.

The book is inspiring. Cheryl is the Billie Jean King of today, and her backpack is the Bobby Riggs “monster” laughably trying to hold women back. Billie Jean conquered fear and doubt on a tennis court – in prime time on national TV in front of millions. She showed us what it could look like to be a strong woman. Her strength inspired girls and women for generations to come.

I think Cheryl Strayed has picked up where BJK left off. With each step she reminds us of our power to define ourselves. When all we can do sometimes is to go forward, we realize that moving ahead is strength in itself. In millions of steps, she conquers the past and present encumbrances of all women by showing us a what a modern day, powerful woman could look like.

I can’t help but think…that’s a good thing for the next generation of girls.

“Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”
Cheryl Strayed

One of my favorite pictures is this photo of a young protester carrying a “girls are strong” sign. This photo was taken during an ERA march demanding equal rights for women in Tacoma, WA, 1982. Perhaps I like it because the girl seems to be skipping (or running) with a determined look on her face. With a sign that appears to have been written by her and a shirt stating “The ERA is for my future” she is, in some ways, a symbolic reminder that fighting for civil rights, whether it’s based on gende

walktalk -the meaning

“What does it mean?” you ask.

“What do YOU think?” I say


To begin, if I had to describe walking in 15 words or less, here is what I would say –

walking is an activity that is full of…

health benefits















and then I talk about it all, in this blog – with you.

What words would you add to the list?


time to make a plan

Here is something I never thought I would say in public, much less to the world via a blog…but, I need to “rearrange” about 5 pounds. Yes, I need to replace, reorganize, reshape 5 pounds of unwanted adipose tissue (which has built up around my middle) with 5 pounds of lean, mean, calorie burning muscle. I’m tired already!

The 30 year old inside my head is jumping up and down right now. She looks forward to the two-hour bouts of outdoor activities this calorie burn has required from the past – hours on a bike trail, sets and sets of tennis or badminton, finding a weight room to get strong and “feel the burn” in my muscles.

While the 50-something year old in my head says “slow down sister…remember that torn achilles tendon you sustained the last time you went all out in a set of competitive tennis? Yup, you were out of commission for 6 months. Then there was the last 4 hour bike ride you completed – the one where you ended up in physical therapy for three months because of a carpal tunnel injury. OK. I get the point. We have to do things differently now.”

Damn aging, makes things more complicated. Well, it sure beats the alternative.

If you want to work with me, the overall goal is to shed/or exchange 1- 2 pounds of body weight per week. I’ll provide two levels of intensity – beginner (use resource below) and intermediate (work at my level). We will reassess in one month.

OK, how will I/you do this? What are my/your goals? (Work with me by rewriting these sentences, replacing my specifics with yours.)

My goal is to lose 5 pounds in one month, by increasing my walk workouts and adding strength and flexibility work to my routine.

Your goal is____________________________________________________________.

Here is a good resource to help determine a beginning level. (You are ready to begin at this level if you have been or are able to walk for two or three 10 minute bouts per day.)

There are three steps I/you will take to do this…

  • If I look at my workouts from the last month, I notice I am walking two miles on most days of the week. This is no longer working as maintenance for me. I need to progressively increase the intensity and duration of my walks – I need to walk farther, faster or maybe walk an additional time during the day. This will increase my calorie burn. (Set your goal here.)
  • I need to include some type of strength and flexibility training 2-3 days a week. (This means some additional stretching, and resistance work) I’m thinking about including some  yoga/pilates exercises. (Set your goal here)
  • I need to monitor the calories in – make better food choices, until I get back on track. I may have to dig out my Livestrong myplate app for a little help. (Set your goal here)

I feel like this is a very attainable  SMART plan. Together, we have one month to achieve our goal.

Before we begin, make sure to take some baseline measurements – step on the scale to find weight and BMI, measure your waist circumference, or check your heart rate while exercising. You can also use a pedometer to take a walk and measure the current amount of steps you get. Monitor your calorie intake for a day or two to see the amount your taking in. Please feel free to comment with tips or questions.

Here we go, on the road with…



Have you heard…Apparently there is a new “wonder drug” out there.

“No, tell me more.”

It is touted as something able to prevent and treat more than 40 chronic diseases.

“That’s amazing, but drugs are so expensive, and sometimes my insurance makes it difficult to get what I need.”

Not this wonder drug. It’s available to everyone and there is no cost.

“Well, if it’s free and readily available, how do I know it will work, I’m not crazy about trying something new.”

Research  indicates when compared with traditional drug therapies in heart disease and diabetes, this wonder drug was just as effective as prescription medications.

“OK. But it must be like a trial experiment, do I have to travel to the Mayo clinic or somewhere far away to get it?”

Nope. This wonder drug fits easily into a person’s everyday life. Just open your front door to get access.

“If it’s so good, I know my politicians will argue about it forever. It will take years to get it into the public’s hands.”

Actually, public officials have begun embracing it because of the benefits for their neighborhoods and communities.

“So, what about side effects, there must be a long, scary list.

Sure there are side effects – improved mood, improved blood pressure and blood sugar levels, weight control, stress and anxiety relief, reduced risk of osteoporosis, helps prevent demetia, tones up the body, boosts vitamin D, and gives you energy, and this is just the short list.”

“You’ve got my attention…what is this wonder drug?”

Surprise! The “wonder drug” is called walking.

Can I have his job when I grow up? Please? I used to think that all the time when I was a lil girl. Now I'm in Med school ;)


Dear January 2014,

You’re leaving, out the door from wherever you came until I see you next year. I can’t say this has been the happiest time we’ve ever spent together – but, I guess it’s better to be together than not! As a guest, I would have to put you in the semi-rude category. Every time I wanted to step out the door, there you were. Like a jealous lover, threatening my outdoor walks with wind chills and negative integers. C’mon Jan, everyone needs their own space.

Can we discuss how you randomly dumped your big feet of snow here and there, all over our walkways and roads, without a concern for rush hour times or salt trucks? Yeah, always at the worst possible time, we tripped over your big fat lumpy piles, and slid across those random tracks you left. I mean really, pick up after yourself!

How about all that time you spent flirting with our distant records? Did that warm your arctic soul? Here in Chicago, your flirtatious dramas stole the headlines away from politics and murders. Who knew you needed so much attention? Then, you tried to shut us down by freezing our metra tracks and closing our schools, but life went on. Chicago smugly became Chiberia, adopting and accepting you with unconquerable spirit and open frozen arms. Apparently, this bored you to icy frozen tears, which you flooded us with, one unsuspecting night. To cheer yourself, you invited your distant cousin for a visit… Polar Vortex, twice.  You got us. Frostbite was unacceptable graft. We hunkered down inside our homes while Polar Vortex spilled in from the North Pole; eating up all that was left of our urban hospitality. Snapping selfies around our distressed city, the two of you blew through our empty streets like villainous tourists.

I’m exhausted January. You’re leaving and I couldn’t be happier. I’m tired of wearing two pairs of sox, boots, spikes, layers and layers of clothing, scarves and mittens and gloves just to go walk outdoors. You know, your bone-chilling demeanor hasn’t defeated me – only made me stronger. I will keep going outdoors because I know February is on it’s way. I see the little red hearts in the store windows. I see February’s  best friend dawning on the horizon. Sunshine – a shy, warm guest who everyone always wants to see more of.

Besides, February is the perfect guest. Staying a short time and never wearing out her welcome.

Good riddance January.



It’s seems as though it’s been snowing straight for a week.

Chicago is silently, stealthily getting buried under feet of snow. Tomorrow…the big chill comes with temperatures “the big windy” hasn’t seen in 20 years. They say the daytime high will be something close to -6 with a windchill of -13. Brrrr. People are heeding the weather advisories by sheltering in place –  with netflix binge-ing and crocks of comfort food. Yay! We can stay in our pajamas all day long. There is no better excuse.

But what about the walking? What about the habit?

Some of us… have one of these…

Let's go

and this Saint Bernard will beg, snuggle, sit on me, whatever it takes..with a look of “let’s go Mom, we really need to get out for a walk.” She absolutely loves the winter and totally transfers that joy to me. There is no way I can deny her a walk, and when I think about it, I realize she gets me going and out the door. Even when it means I may spend a half hour putting on boots, scarves, mittens and snow pants over my “lounging around the house clothes”, I do it. Isn’t it funny…dogs train us to their habits. They just think “walk”. There is no interference thinking like “it’s too cold, it’s too snowy, what will I wear? I’m too tired right now etc.”

While my dog helps me on most days, there are some days I really need more motivation to keep up my habit.

Recently, I came across an interesting blog – What happens to our brains when we exercise and why it makes us happier.  The science to support what is chemically happening within our brains and why it is so important to try and create a pattern of exercise can be incentive enough for me. Within the post were some very good tips about how to get into a consistent exercise habit. I found these tips prompted me to make a plan so that I would look forward to walking. Staying in a positive mindset meant I didn’t have to spend extra time and energy doing battle with negative thoughts.

Laying out my workout clothes the night before, logging my progress (which is what I do on dailymile), and starting out small – very small, has helped me move through these past few months. I would also add (because I’m a former teacher, of course) it helps to have a goal in mind. To get going on this, I found an awesome link to a template for making a habit. (oops! teacher in me – again.) Since I am a visual learner, there is no doubt visuals help keep me focused, plus, it doesn’t hurt when the template is humorous and good for a laugh.

So, with all of this in mind, I’m out for a walk – on this frigid, snowy, blowy Chicago day.

So  true!