Author Archives: crochetvirtuosa

When Times Are Tough

Part of the reason for my extended absence from this blog was life circumstances.  On the past 1.5 years, a lot has happened in my life.  I walked through it all with the help of some close friends.  I walked in the corridors of hospitals.  I walked around the parking lot of hospitals.  I walked on sidewalks near hospitals.  Sense a theme?

The good part was that my first grandchild was born almost exactly 1 year ago!  She is a delight!  I take care of her at least 1 day each week and some weeks I have her full time.  I am so blessed to have all of my children residing in the St. Louis area.  That goes double for a grandchild.  She wears me out, but she’s worth it.  And, I am so happy to be able to help my son and daughter in law with their wish to keep baby out of day care for at least her first year of life.  One year and counting.

The bad news was my mom’s deteriorating health.  She finally passed away in April, 2017 after a rough year or so.  She had 94 healthy years and about 6 months that weren’t so healthy.  While mom was going through her issues, I was staying near.  Anyone who has done that knows how tiring, both physically and emotionally, that can be.  I made 4 trips to the nursing home the last day of her life.  She was lucid (mostly) til the end.

Did I ever tell you that mom walked EVERY day of her life after she retired as a registered nurse?  As she told me – and anyone who would listen – “You can’t stay healthy sitting on the sofa watching TV”.  Even in the NH after recovering from her second broken hip, she still got up and walked herself to the bathroom!

With the help of my good friends and the encouragement of my husband, I was able to get in a walk every day!  That makes ALL the difference in my life, both physically and emotionally.  No way I can maintain an even keel without the kind of physical exertion I get from walking and dancing.  There is no way I would have gotten through all those rough days without Kris and Sal.

And Liz, always wagging her tail, eagerly awaiting her next walk.

(The picture above shows mom on the left, sitting on a bench at a small spring at Rockwood Reservation, Summer 2015.  Thanks, Kris.)

Hot And Heavy

The heat index today is over 100 degrees F.  The air is hot and heavy.  But, the trails at Castlewood are amazingly enticing, even on such a day.  I can’t resist.  Nor can my 14 year old pooch, Liz.  She is a trooper even tho’ the vet has limited her walks in the heat to a mere 2 miles.  Well, who said I was going to walk that far?

Despite the heat and humidity, the likelihood of plenty of insects, and the long day I’d already had, Kris and I headed, with Liz, to Castlewood.  We are always on the lookout for deer and other friendly wildlife.

Castlewood State Park is bounded on 2 sides by the Meramec River and there are at least 2 creeks running though the park.  One of the ‘creek trails’ is a nice round trip of not more than 1.5 miles.  At about the farthest point from the car, one must ‘ford’ the creek.  In this heat, there is not much creek.  But, ford it we did.  There is a small stream and several pools along our route.  One pool is home to lots of minnows and some nice, fat pollywogs this time of year.  Today, there was a nice sized turtle sitting on a log in the shade that covers this small pool.  The minute Mr. T(urtle) took one look at us, he dove in the water.  But we saw him.  Not sure if he dines on pollywogs, but if so, he was likely on the hunt.

We got a pretty late start on our walk today, which helped with the heat.  It also minimizes the number of other walkers and especially the bikes.  We like to share the trails but bikes can be hazardous to us.  More on that another time.  Today, the bikers were both courteous and friendly.

So, please don’t let the heat keep you from walking.  Just take a water bottle, find a shaded walk, slower your speed, and shorten your walk if needed.  Better to walk less than not at all!

Plate Me UP, Scotty

I have recently been tracking my food intake and exercise via a new app.  I’m old enough that this whole app thing is a bit intimidating.  But, how bad could I go wrong, right?

I checked out a few, settled on My Plate (Livestrong), went to the itunes store, and downloaded the thing, thinking I would need a 500 page User’s Manual to figure it out.  Not so!  It is quite straightforward and simple – even for me!  And, it has a huge ‘library’ of foods with calories counted for me.  It also has a huge library of exercise options.  Further, you can customize the calories and exercises by inputting your own data which becomes part of the library.

So far, I have tracked all of my eating and exercising for about two weeks.  It’s nice for me to have the visual right there in front of me when it’s 10:30 PM and I think I need a snack.  Now, I don’t need one if I don’t have calories left to consume.  ‘

This tracking thing keeps me mindful of what I eat.  And, darn it if I don’t avoid eating at least one thing every day just cuz I don’t wanna log it in.  Really.  Really!  This might be a minor miracle.  Further, in this app, the exercise you log in is captured as calories so it effects your bottom calorie line.  So, if I have consumed 980 calories (of 1200) before dinner, but I took a 30 minute brisk walk, I get 238 (walking) calories deducted from my calorie total so I get an adjusted calorie count to that point of only 742, leaving me 458 calories for dinner.  If I actually lose a few pounds along the way, I will know it’s because of this app.

BTW, I am not a fan of those wrist trackers.  Maybe you are.  But everyone I know who wears them has issues.  Some don’t count stairs.  Some don’t count dance steps.  The calorie counts are all over the place.  All that just annoys me.  I briefly wore a pedometer, but got rid of it when I routinely had racked up 6000 steps by 3 PM each day – with my main walk still ahead of me.  I like the notion of tracking, but I do not want to be a slave to the thing on my wrist or hanging off the hem of my shirt.  But, that’s just me……

*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you’ll get back 100% of your former life – your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It’s from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.

 

After The Flood

The Meramec River and the Big River flooded a great deal of farm land and residential areas late in 2016.  It was one of the worst floods in many years.  We were cut off from many of our favorite walking trails.  Even after the waters subsided, the trails were a mess – smelly, muddy, buggy, littered with debris.  It took quite a bit of perseverance to find some great places to walk during and after the floods.  Here are some we found:

Creve Coeur Memorial Park – not the lake, but in the park above and just to the east of the lake.  The trail around the lake itself is fine to walk but I have trouble competing with bikes, strollers, skaters, etc.  We discovered several great trails on the bluffs above the lake and have enjoyed investigating them.  Bikes are allowed but the trails are mostly soil/mulch with some rock with quite a lot of twists and turns.  If you are looking for a difficult workout, there is a staircase that takes one from lake level up the bluff.  Going down is fine.  Back up is a pretty good challenge.  However, we especially enjoy the true trails through the woods.

Phantom Forest/Bittersweet Grove – This is a fairly small but fairly challenging couple of adjoined parks tucked between subdivisions on Barrett Station Road between Daugherty Ferry and Manchester Roads.  What a gem!  This short walk is perfect for that after work period when you only have a limited time before the sun goes down.  The Moore Family donated the Phantom Forest acreage that is hilly and rugged, heavily wooded, and often wet.  Mr. Moore drew a comic strip character called the Phantom, hence the name.  Attached at the back of Phantom Forest is the entrance to Bittersweet Grove, another small, fairly rugged couple of acres.  There is a side trail that goes down to the creek and allows for a bit more trail time.  Both are lovely pieces of land that now belong to all of us.

*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you’ll get back 100% of your former life – your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It’s from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.

I’ve Been Away, But I’m Back!

While I was missing in action – an awfully long time – I hope you kept walking.  I did!  I had a bunch of family members with health issues and, since there’s only one of me, I was spread pretty thin.  And, just over one year ago, my first grandchild was born.  That was a joyous event!  Since I share childcare responsibilities for her on an ongoing basis, I am busier than ever.  Not complaining!  Through it all, I walked almost every day.

While my mother was hospitalized and while she was moved from her apartment to a nursing home, I walked.  The week she passed away (in April, 2017), I walked.  When my husband had a health scare and a brief hospitalization, I walked.  The day after my own eye surgery (two surgeries in 3 days!), I walked.

So, no excuses.  I walked around the inside of the hospital and nursing home on bad weather days and around the outside of those facilities when the weather allowed.  I packed my walking shoes every day and had full intent of using them.

I also am blessed with two great friends who are also avid walkers.  These gals calmly altered their walking schedules to help me meet my walking goals each day, knowing full well how helpful it is to me for stress reduction and to get good sleep.

Those crises are past.  Healing is occurring.  Friendships and walking continue.  Now, I am able to help one of those friends through a difficult time, listening to the venting while we walk.  What goes around comes around, don’t ya’ know?  And lucky for me that it does.

In future blog posts, I’ll share with you some new walking trails we have discovered.  Some new favorites and some we’ll avoid.  Most all good, tho’.  You can’t keep up down!

*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you’ll get back 100% of your former life – your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It’s from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.

Horses and People

There aren’t too many places in the St. Louis area where you can walk and see horses lazing in a paddock.  But, there is one within a few minutes drive from my house and it’s a treat!  Longview Park was a private family estate not too long ago.  I would drive by and imagine how sweet life must be for the folks that owned this prime piece of real estate, complete with a huge paddock.

Little did I know the treat that was hidden from the view of passersby.  There is a small but lovely pond on this property.  The family donated (I think) this estate for the public to enjoy.  Now, the family house is a meeting location.  There is a playground and picnic area beside the barn which houses horses that are used for equine therapy.  A sidewalk runs about a city block around this property and a few houses near it.  Awaiting those on foot is the pretty pond at the bottom of a paved walk.  There are benches, a fountain, two ‘observation’ decks, and some mulch trails that cut through the stand of woods that hide the pool from the street.  Many of the trees are labeled and the area is partially landscaped and partly ‘natural’.

While one walks around the exterior of the park and its nearby neighbors, it’s easy to forget that the pond awaits you.  Once inside the park, the trail travels steadily downhill to the ‘funnel’ where the pond is.  The walk in the ‘funnel’ is nicely shaded, wide enough for traffic in both directions, and offers occasional seating and several foot bridges.

This has become our go-to walking destination when frequent rains have muddied the trails at Castlewood and other parks with trails we prefer to walk.

 

 

 

Forest 44 Conservation Area

Why did I not know about this wonderful place?  I’ve lived just a few minutes from this location near the intersection of I-44 and MO 141 for most of my life!  It’s not a park but a Conservation Area.  What’s the difference?  Not completely sure but their literature states that citizens can take berries, mushrooms, and other items from the CA while such things may not be removed from parks in Missouri.

The trails at this ‘park’ are mostly hilly and rocky.  The trails are limited to foot traffic, dogs on leash, and horses.  No bikes or other means of transport.  While you can hear the I-44 traffic from one or two of the trails, it’s not distracting.  There is plenty of horse poop to step around and some small streams to cross.  The signage is not terribly informative and can be a bit misleading.  But, there is a nice variety of trails here and I think we’ll spend the rest of this year exploring all of them.

Forest 44 CA abuts the Beaumont Scout area and a shooting range and is across I-44 from Lone Elk Park and Tyson Research Park.  There are also two commercial stables whose horses and riders use this CA.  I am a bit familiar with horses so I know to yield to them, especially when my dog is present.  One does not want to spook a horse and my dog thinks they are really big dogs who should want to play with her.  Nothing doin’!

I debated even mentioning this location with my readers as it’s quite a gem and I like the idea that it is mostly undiscovered.  But, this is not the front page of the NY Times!  We can all keep a secret, right?  If you want to explore a local treasure, check out this place.  I can’t wait to discover every inch of it.

I’VE BEEN MIA – IN ACTION!

I haven’t written an article here in months – maybe a year.  A lot has happened in the past year and I’ve been busy.

MIL passed away.  A wonderful trip to Australia.  My son married and our first grandchild will be here soon.  My mom has had some health issues.  Life has been happening!

And, during all the above and the millions of large and small things I (and you) do every day, I have been walking.  I have walked almost every day of the past year.  I’ve walked around my neighborhood, my city, my country and I’ve walked in Australia.  I was fortunate to visit Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, and Port Douglas.  And, I walked in all of those cities.  I even walked around the airport between flights to make the wait time go faster.  Airports are so frustrating.  If I didn’t want to be detained by TSA, I had to keep my cool through all the delays and passport clearance silliness.

Anyway, I think I’m back!  I’ve been thinking of article topics lately which is a clear sign to myself that I need to get writing.  Today, I walked with my friend Kris at a park not far from home.  We have branched out to search out other parks and trails.  I’ll share those with you in the next few days.

As for now, my dog is just happy that she gets walked most days and I certainly sleep better if I’ve walked.  I am also still dancing – sometimes dancing and walking in the same day!  For a preview of local walking trails I’ll be writing about, you can check into Castlewood State Park, Emmeneggar Park (Kirkwood, MO), Overlook Trail at Al Foster Park, and a mystery park I’ll share with you soon.

Rockwood Reservation

spring at rockwood 0815

This lovely little spring is near the main road at Rockwood Reservation in St. Louis County not too far from my home.  This lovely park is full of trails to walk amid dense woods, gentle streams, and rocky hills.  It was once the location of a variety of things – ammunition production and storage in huge concrete bunkers as well as kilns used to produce bricks.  Now, it’s mostly used by hikers and bikers and for picnics.  It’s only about 25 miles west of the St. Louis Arch.  When you’re there, it’s hard to believe that you are only a couple miles from a major interstate highway and Six Flags as well as numerous houses and businesses.  Nearby is a fun tiny train that runs in the village of Glencoe, carrying kids and their adults on several miles of track overlooking the lazy Meramec River.

My friend Kris and I walk at Glencoe often.  We have walked at Rockwood several times but the trails are a bit hazardous for us, especially with the dog who may decide to take a slightly different route than me and topple me down a hillside.  But, in our last trip there, we discovered this lovely spring.  My mom loves the sound of running water, so I knew I had to show her this tiny treasure.

Mom is almost 93 years old and lives independently.  On Easter this year, she fell and broke her hip.  The next day she had a hip replacement.  Only a couple of weeks later, she was back to her normal schedule, albeit with a walker now since she has some problems with dizziness.  Still, she walks every day!  She takes only one regular medication, loves the St. Louis Cardinals, and keeps her candy jar full of chocolate for visiting family.

Since there is no parking near this spring, I knew it would take more than one of me to get mom to it.  No walkers allowed on roadside trails!  So, my good friend Kris (who took these pictures) kindly agreed to join us on this outing to be my mom’s other daughter.  Off we went.  Pulled over to the side of the road.  Got mom out on my arm and slowly walked over the grassy, rocky, uneven ground to the nice bench (a bit high) next to the spring.  Helped mom up onto the bench.  And, enjoyed the lovely morning.

mom and me at spring 0815

In case you can’t tell, I’m the one in the shorts!  Mom and I are the same height but her feet wouldn’t reach the ground.  Kinda looks like a 5 year old with her feet dangling!

Mom loved the peaceful setting and the gentle sound of the water bubbling up from the rock face behind us into the little pool.  There was a lot of watercress in the cold water and a few unknown creatures in addition tot he water striders.  We think they were crawdads (crayfish) or tadpoles.  They were very active but teeny, tiny.

We enjoyed the site for a while as Kris left her shoes by the bench and waded around in the cold, cold water.  After a while, we had to get mom back for lunch.  Kris got the car turned around, we loaded mom in, and off we went – back to normalcy, boredom, our regular lives.  This brief visit was a joy!

Walk The Dog…

walk dog praying 0615

My dog loves to walk more than she wants to eat.  She knows all the cues to indicate I’m getting ready to go for a walk, including recognizing the bleep on my phone of the text message from my walking buddy Kris when it’s time to head out.  I love taking her for walks too.  But, at about 10 years of age and with a full length black fur coat, she is no longer able to walk the three or more miles I can do in the heat of the day.  Her vet has limited her to less than two miles and her own deteriorating endurance for the heat and humidity of a St. Louis summer mean that she misses out on most of my walks these days.

We have a fenced back yard, but if she is allowed to run freely without the presence of a human, she’ll jump the fence and be gone.  So, on days when I can’t take her walking, I take her outside to ‘play’.  That’s a new word for her and she loves it!  She sprints to the back fence line to flush out the critters who thought they were safe in the shade of the bushes and vines there.  Birds fly, squirrels and rabbits speed off in all directions, and some sort of critters head underground so Lizzie can sniff and dig trying to find them.  She tries to jump up the trees to play with the squirrels or maybe fly with the blue jays.  She sniffs, snorts, and generally makes a real nuisance of herself to these critters who thought the back yard was their domain.

Sadly, after less than ten minutes of this vigorous play time, she’s done.  She’s happy to head back inside the house to plop herself down on the A/C register and deprive the rest of us of the cold air.  It’s clear that she is no longer up to that three mile walk in the woods in this kind of weather.

This marks a milestone in our lives with this dog.  She is now or soon will be ten years old.  We adopted her in August, 2005 when she was 12-15 weeks old.  I wanted a dog to motivate me to walk even on days when I didn’t want to.  And, that she’s done.  She still exhibits puppy-like behavior a lot of the time, but it’s clear that she is ‘sundowning’ each evening and showing her age.  This breed (flat coated retriever) typically lives 11-14 years according to the vet.  It’s hard to think of this family member being so ‘elderly’.

A good friend had to put down her beloved Max this past weekend.  He suffered from bad arthritis, could no longer go on his beloved walks, and had difficulty squatting to ‘take care of business’ in the yard.  I received a tearful call from my friend asking my opinion since Max still seems happy much of the time.  I’ve been down this road before.  My beloved Jasmine, a cockerpoo who was totally ‘my’ dog, became ill in 2004, shortly before I was due to be away from home for about a month then moving to a new house.  I couldn’t put a sick, old dog through a month away from her own home and routine and then move her to a strange, new home.  It became clear to me that although she had some quality of life, it was time for me to be the mom and make the tough decision.  I truly feel it’s better to preserve some of the dog’s dignity, not waiting until the poor animal is completely devoid of quality of life, before helping her on to whatever comes next (doggie heaven).

While Lizzie misses her walks and I miss walking her, I believe that once the weather is cooler, she can resume longer walks.  When she can’t, she’ll still be with us as long as she is a happy mutt.  When she is no longer happy and/or healthy and is suffering from loss of her dignity, the tough decisions will be made.  But, we will honor her by rescuing another dog who loves to walk, who will keep me motivated and moving, who will be loved as a valuable member of the family.

And, I will think of Lizzie in doggie heaven with Jasmine who also loved her walks.  Jasmine was my very first walking buddy more than 15 years ago.  She motivated me, loved me, and loved her walks in any kind of weather.  Her ‘niece’ Lizzie is much the same kind of dog.  If we are really fortunate, we’ll rescue yet another dog who will love to walk and want to keep ‘mom’ motivated.  Jasmine and Lizzie will never be forgotten.  Their faith in me will never be taken for granted.  They will move over a bit to allow another dog to come into our hearts.

I love the old AA prayer which I can only paraphrase here:

Oh God, please let me be the person my dog thinks I am.

I wish I was as good as my dog thinks I am!