AskAnnamarie Blog

Healthy Living for Real People

August 2018

Have you ever been on a flight and heard the flight attendant give instructions? There are many. I’d like to talk about two of them in particular as I find them to be quite profound in life as well as air travel.

  1. “Fasten your seat belts as you may encounter turbulence until we reach a comfortable altitude.”
  2. “In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. … If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.”

Let me tell you why I find these so profound.

The first is quite simple. We all know that life is messy. For me it’s about staying in the moment while looking forward. I attended a conference this weekend that reminded me of this. Sometimes life is a struggle, but if we stay the course, it will even out. Hang on and don’t falter in whatever it is you are striving for.

The second is about taking care of yourself. It’s up to you to take care of you. Only you know what your true needs and desires are. In order for us to take care of everyone and everything else, we must first take care of ourselves.

My father is a wise man and has instilled this principle in us over time by impressing upon us the need for self care. I am the mother of a busy family with a great, supportive husband, four beautiful teenaged children, and two businesses. If I don't care for me first, how can I care for the others?

It's your turn to focus on you, before you take care of everyone else. And one of the best ways you can help yourself is to make your body as well as you can be. We all have many stresses in our lives these days, with family, work, school, errands, bills, travel and so much more.

YOU ARE WORTH IT!!! DO IT FOR YOURSELF and then everyone else.

I’d love to hear from you and how I can help you focus on your wellness.

July 2018

Challenge completed…

I did it… well almost. I was a little shy in riding the distance of the 200 miles in the month of June as I set out. I am celebrating my accomplishment of riding 165 miles even though it was a little short. This is still big for me. I am not sure I mentioned this in my earlier post, but I had not ridden my bike in several years before this. I had intended to warm up to it but it rained for the two full weeks prior to June 1st.

I persevered through as much as I could. I rode 16 days with a minimum of just under 7 miles and the maximum of just over 15 each time with most of them at or just over 10 miles. I am thrilled with this. Each of my daughters joined me a time or two and I saw parts of our quaint little town that I had never seen before. I mostly stayed in the parks though. I rode farther on my bicycle this past month than I ever imagined I would in a single month.

As I did with the running challenge a few years ago, I feel stronger than before. I ride with more confidence. I am hopeful to make the leap onto the bigger road.

I love that this is something I can do with my family. This weekend, I went for a ride with my 87 year old dad. It was short, but sweet. The photo at the top is dad.

June 4

I talked last time about the running challenge that Joe and I participated in 3 years ago. We both felt so strong, confident, more fit, and amazing after completing that challenge and knew I wanted to do something again in the future.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what I would come across to peak interest. I toyed with riding my bicycle, swimming, or hiking long distance but had no plan.
This spring I came across the one I knew was right for me. The Great Cycle Challenge. I have already started it. I will ride 200 miles during the month of June, challenge myself and raise awareness and funds to fight

I plan to ride this month and maybe beyond. You can follow my progress on Facebook and/or support me here: greatcyclechallenge.com/Riders/AnnamarieJakubielski

The Power of Challenges

April 17

A few years ago, Joe and I learned about a challenge that neither one of us were prepared for, yet we got excited and decided to make a go of it.

We ran a 5K a day for 50 consecutive days. While we had both run a 5K here or there previously, we found neither of us were conditioned to go that distance for that many days. All the running articles I had read prior to that said that one should not run for more than a few days at a time without a break of some sort. This would allow your muscles to recover and in a perfect world, they were probably right. We did it anyway.

At first, it was more difficult than we expected. We didn’t give up. We pushed through. Some days we ran together. Most days we didn’t. I’ll further explain my journey.
I decided midway through that I should start a detox. This made going that distance a little more difficult. I walked those 7 days, but I always went the distance. While my time was never a worthy record, it was worth every minute of every day I ran. By the time I got to the end of the challenge, I found it to be a wonderful experience, a great place to ‘go’ and I learned a whole lot.

Here are some of the things I learned.

  • There is always time to run, even a slow runner like me can go the distance. It’s not about time, at least it isn’t for me. My time did improve by about 8 minutes.
  • Be prepared. I have four children and this challenge was during the summer and I prefer to sleep in during the summer rather than get up early, much less to run. This meant I had to fit the 35-45 minutes into my time around the summer time activities. I kept a bag with my shoes and running clothes in the car. I’ve run while they are in the dentist chair, getting a hair cut, at the pool, while my car was being serviced, in many parks, University of Maryland, Virginia Beach UNC Wilmington, and so much more.
  • Food is fuel - as i mentioned, in the middle of this challenge I was inspired to detox and what a difference it made in my recovery. I was still sore but much less. I learned how to fuel my body with whole, real food. It ate clean proteins, lots of vegetables, some fruit and probably 80 oz of water per day for me. BTW, I still eat this way.
  • Supplements can help - one supplement in particular i credit to the faster recovery. as part of my detox, i amped up my intake of the antioxidant/anti inflammatory supplement called OPC-3. combining this supplement with the proper food help bring the inflammation in my calves down to a quiet discomfort instead of the screaming tightness i had been experiencing.
  • My body is so strong. and exercise is a great way to relieve stress and take away the blues.
  • Diet and lifestyle changes dramatically change quality of life.

Guess what I did on days 51-54? Yep, I ran a 5K. It had become a habit. I get my exercise in other forms these days and I found a new challenge for this summer. I’ll tell you about it in a later blog.

Challenges are a great way to push yourself to the next level. This challenge was the what I needed to change my body, and lifestyle, creating a healthier me. And I love feeling good, looking good, and being healthy.

If you or anyone you know is struggling to make healthy lifestyle changes, I understand your fears. You have to love and believe in yourself. AskAnnamarie and I’ll do what I can to help you succeed in your challenges.

Gratitude is my on my mind today and for so many reasons. Several years ago Oprah had a guest author who spoke of her book on abundance. Part of the author's approach included becoming aware of and writing in a gratitude journal, just a few things that one might be thankful for each day. I did this for a long time and it did help me to recognize all the good around me. I do not journal it in the same way today. I do take the time each week/month to reflect on those things and people I am grateful for, and why, and get a good sense of the power that lies in it. I am also reminded that it is all from God. What might you find yourself grateful for today? Here’s an article on the power of gratitude and it’s positive influence over you.

What is Gratitude and What Is Its Role in Positive Psychology?

Sharing is caring. "Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude." ― Ralph Waldo Emerson There is a variety of things that can conjure positive feelings of appreciation, or gratitude.

Gratitude

April 10

I love Kale!

April 2

Yep, I can hardly believe it myself. Although I’ve not ever snubbed kale officially, I am surprised at how much I now like it. One of the biggest reasons is because of the way it makes me feel. And I’ve been testing this for a few weeks now, so I can say with some certainty that it is the kale.

I made a kale salad, recipe will be on bottom, about 6 weeks ago for a pot luck luncheon at my friend and mentor’s home. She is also my weight loss coach and trainer in business. So, when I prepare a dish, in my mind, I must choose wisely and want to make it extra good for us to share. When I arrived, I was feeling sluggish and tired. It had been a long week prior to the luncheon and I was beat. I finally sat down to the potluck and heaped a large portion of my kale salad on my plate along with some other scrumptious choices from our lunch. Almost immediately, I was feeling energized and clear headed. I figured I just needed food in general.

Fast forward a week or so later. My family had the benefits of leftover kale salad upon my return and my husband and 13 year old daughter found it and enjoyed it in the fridge. They liked it so much they asked me to make more. I obliged. I packed it for lunch one day while out on appointments and found the same feelings of energy and clarity come over me upon eating it. I have since enjoyed this salad several times. I almost always have it made for us to enjoy at home and to go.

I wanted to know why this little salad was packing such a great powerful rush for me… I did some research.

Of all the super healthy greens, kale is the king.

It is definitely one of the healthiest and most nutritious plant foods in existence and when prepared well is, in my opinion, delicious.

Kale is being called “the new beef”, “the queen of greens” and “a nutritional powerhouse.” Here are ten great benefits of adding more kale to your diet:

1. Kale is low in calorie, high in fiber and has zero fat. - One cup of kale has only 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat. It is great for aiding in digestion and elimination with its great fiber content. It’s also filled with so many nutrients, vitamins, folate and magnesium as well as those listed below.

2. Kale is high in iron. - Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef. Iron is essential for good health, such as the formation of hemoglobin and enzymes, transporting oxygen to various parts of the body, cell growth, proper liver function and more.

3. Kale is high in Vitamin K. - Eating a diet high in Vitamin K can help protect against various cancers. It is also necessary for a wide variety of bodily functions including normal bone health and blood clotting. Also increased levels of vitamin K can help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Kale is filled with powerful antioxidants. - Antioxidants, such as carotenoids and flavonoids help protect against various cancers.

5. Kale is a great anti-inflammatory food. - One cup of kale is filled with 10% of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acids, which help, fight against arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders.

6. Kale is great for cardiovascular support. - Eating more kale can help lower cholesterol levels.

7. Kale is high in Vitamin A. - Vitamin A is great for your vision, your skin as well as helping to prevent lung and oral cavity cancers.

8. Kale is high in Vitamin C. - This is very helpful for your immune system, your metabolism and your hydration.

9. Kale is high in calcium. - Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk, which aids in preventing bone loss, preventing osteoporosis and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Vitamin C is also helpful to maintain cartilage and joint flexibility.

10. Kale is a great detox food. - Kale is filled with fiber and sulfur, both great for detoxifying your body and keeping your liver healthy. mindbodygreen.com

Recipe I make:

March 15, 2018

It's Spring! The evening hours are lighter longer. This often brings out the natural inclination in us to ready our homes to renew our surroundings. We might clean windows, change curtains, clean dryer vent, dust underneath those hard to reach places, wash walls, you get it… deep clean. This gives our home a fresh start as we let the fresh air in. I want you to consider doing the same spring cleaning for your body. It can start with a 21-Day Challenge.

This is something that I have done for a few years now. By participating in the TLS 21-Day Challenge I feel better, have more energy, lose body fat and simply have fun enjoying life with vim, vigor and zest! It can begin with a detox or a change in diet.

Some of the benefits of TLS 21-Day Challenge and detoxifying are:

  • Flushes out harmful toxins from the body.
  • Improves the immune system.
  • Capacity to metabolize stored fat improves.
  • Reduces the risk of recurring chronic diseases.
  • Improves mental clarity.
  • Helps in making better decisions and also increases the power of analysis.
  • Burn unwanted fat.
  • Reset your palate to continue to make healthy food choices.

Are you ready to renew your body this spring? Take the Weight Loss Profile below to help us identify how we can work together.

828 699-6996 Call/TextTake Weight Loss Profile

February 22, 2018

Before and After… a little bit of how

The above photos were taken about 8 years apart. It didn’t take us 8 years to lose the 125 pounds of collective fat, just that long to take the picture. It took us about 2 years to get from here to there. We use a lifestyle approach to weight loss and now weight management.

There are four parts to living this lifestyle. It is diet. Not in that four letter word that most folks think of as a temporary way to eat, but the sensible way we approach eating. We have learned, and teach, that we have to fuel our bodies with good food. Now having said that, I'd like to share some of our everyday meals with you.

February 8, 2018

With Valentines Day right around the corner, I wanted to remind you that I love you. 💕My hope is that you love you, too. One must love thy self. It is one of the two great commandments given to us.

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

For me, that means taking time for myself, doing things I love to do. This does not take away from my family, instead, it gives more of me.

It starts with YOU! How can you show love of neighbor by your example of self love today?

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Email me: info@AskAnnamarie.com

February 15, 2018

Time is the most important gift we have to share with the ones we love.

I have two teenage daughters at home and am always looking for ways to connect with each of them before they grow up and fly away... and they will. I thought I'd share the list I found.

10 MOM AND TEEN DAUGHTER DATES TO EXPERIENCE

#1 Concert

# 2 Romantic “Teenager” Movie

#3 Appetizers and Desserts Only

#4 Bowling

#5 Mani/Pedis

#6 Afternoon of Shopping

#7 Escape Room

#8 Flea Market/Junkstock Event

#9 Stage Play

#10 Pottery

Bonus and personal favorite:

#11 Hike or Scenic Ride

7 Foods High in Calcium

By: Debbie Lui

Many of us know that calcium is an essential nutrient but, according to a recent review study, most adults do not meet their daily recommended calcium intake. ¹ While supplementation is always an option, the best way to meet your daily needs is through a diet that incorporates high-calcium foods! We’ve rounded up our 7 favorite foods high in calcium below.

It plays a major role in nerve function, muscle contraction, blood clotting as well as building and keeping our bones strong. Nowadays, people are becoming more health-conscious and pay more attention to what they are eating. While dairy is well-known for its calcium content, not all of us include dairy in our diets which leaves us to wonder what other foods are high in calcium. If that sounds like you, check out this list and the following TLS recipes that incorporate our favorite foods high in calcium!

7 Foods High in Calcium

Tofu

Calcium Content: 800mg per cup

Tofu is made from soybeans which are a great source of calcium, especially for thoe living a plant-based lifestyle! If you are on a high calcium diet, firm tofu could be your best choice since because firm tofu has more calcium than regular soft tofu. Tofu has a bland taste which makes it perfect for recipes since it can be easily combined with other flavorful ingredients! In addition, it is a low-calorie and low- sodium food as well and is an ideal ingredient for weight loss diet!

Almond

Calcium Content: 65mg in a cup

Along with many other types of nuts, almonds pack a lot of nutrition into a small bite! They can be served as snacks, added to smoothies, or served as a crust or topping for your favorite dishes. With its rise in popularity, almond milk has become another way to use almonds as a way to get more calcium. It’s a great milk alternative and can be used in place of milk in your most beloved recipes! Whichever way you prefer your almonds, you can enjoy its nutritional values and health benefits as long as you skip options with added sugars.

Okra

Calcium Content: 200mg in 10 Okra

Okra is one of our favorite go-to vegetables as a food high in calcium. It is a good choice for those who are vegetarian or currently on a detox plan since it offers fiber and nutriends to boot! Okra tastes delicious in various cooking methods, so don’t be afraid to broil, roast, or experiment with your favorite okra dish today!

Figs

Calcium Content: 240mg in a cup

Dark, leafy greens aren’t the only foods high in calcium! Fruits such as figs are also a good source of this essential nutrient. About half a cup of dried figs contain 120mg of calcium, which is almost as much as the calcium content in half cup of milk! Fresh and dried figs can be found very easily in the market, but watch out for the added sugar if you choose the dried option. We love figs on their own but if you are looking for something savory to go with your salad, try adding fresh figs!

Canned Sardine

Calcium Content: 460mg in a can

Besides calcium, canned sardine also is abundant in vitamin B12 and vitamin D, which are beneficial to nerve and skeletal system. If you are looking for a protein source that is also high in calcium, canned sardine is one of your choices. Overall it is very easy to prepare and is a perfect ingredient for your salad or sandwich. For a healthier option, always remember to choose canned sardine in water over sardine in oil.

Sesame

Calcium Content: 975mg in 100g of sesame

Many people are surprised to find that sesame is one of the high-calcium foods, although sesame is usually used for garnishes or seasoning, it can be a great ingredient for a drink like smoothies. Check out our earlier blog post on chocolate sesame smoothie recipe, all you need to do is to blend sesame seeds, skim milk, frozen banana and TLS nutrition shake all together to make a drink. Adding calcium into your diet can be just as easy as this!

Chia Seeds

Calcium Content: 631mg in 100g sesame

Everyone is talking about the super food—chia seeds lately. What is so special about these little seeds? You may find it surprised that chia seeds actually contain five times more calcium than milk! 100 grams of chia seeds contain 631mg of calcium! For those who are vegetarian, it is also a great source for complete protein and omega-3 fatty acids! You can simply add soaked chia seeds in your salad or drinks such as lemon water or shakes!

Did You Know?

Calcium alone is not enough to build strong bone

If you think that calcium is all you need to maintain good bones, you might need to learn more about calcium.

Calcium alone cannot do the job, it needs vitamin D to aid in bone absorption. Vitamin D plays a critical role in maintaining bone health. This is why we often see milk is fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D takes an important role in encouraging greater calcium absorption into the blood and minimize calcium loss in urine when our bodies are low in calcium. A great source of vitamin D directly forms the sunshine, and food sources of vitamin D include tuna, salmon, liver and egg yolk.²

Exercise helps in preventing osteoporosis.

We know that exercise brings numerous health benefits, and it is good for our cardiovascular system, metabolism, moods and emotion as well as our bone strength. Weight-bearing exercises such as jogging, weightlifting, hiking, or dancing are great activities for making our bone stronger. It is because when we exercise, it puts strain and stress on our bones which causes the bones to retain; and the cells within the bone respond by making the bone stronger and denser.²

Besides dairy products, there are many foods high in calcium! The above-recommended food items are great for anyone who is looking for more food choices to increase their calcium intake in their diets. These food items are very easy to find at the supermarket, and most of them can be found all year long. Be creative with these food items, try adding them to your favorite dishes or drinks. You may create a very special recipe of your own, and most importantly, you can get the calcium you need in your diet! Don’t forget that vitamin D and exercise are needed along together to build healthy and strong bones.
Resources:

  1. Balk, E. M. et al. “Global Dietary Calcium Intake among Adults: A Systematic Review.” Osteoporosis International 28.12 (2017): 3315–3324. PMC. Web. 7 June 2018.
  2. School of Public Health, Harvard T.H.Chan. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/calcium-and-milk/calcium-full-story/ on June 7th

January 26, 2018

4 Motivation Killers to Remove From Your Life
There’s nothing better than those days, weeks, months when you feel completely motivated to get things done. You’re ready to hit the gym daily, you feel passionate about work, you’re up early every day – that’s motivation. But, then there are other times where you just don’t feel like working out, work feels completely blah and you just want to sleep in – that’s when motivation is lacking. So what causes it to lapse? What can you do to make sure you’ve always got that get up and go feeling? Here’s a look the culprits that kill motivation and how to remove them from your life.
4 Motivation Killers to Remove From Your Life
#1. Negativity in the world. Social media, the internet and television make it pretty tough to ignore all the negativity in the world, but sometimes we have to make it our own mission to rid ourselves of all that noise. Taking time off from mainstream news, the web and social media is essential to making sure we have a balanced perspective on what’s happening in the world around us. Work on keeping it positive and letting the negative go unheard and unseen every once in a while.
#2. Fear of the unknown. When you’re embarking on something new – like heading to the gym for the first time in a long time or thinking it’s time to really step up your game at work, it’s easy to get off track because of fear. Rather than facing it and just going for it, fear gets the better of us and the next thing we know is we’re skipping a workout here and there or settling for complacency rather than getting exactly what we want. Sometimes you just have to face fear head on and literally remove it from your life – say goodbye, pull yourself up and go all in. That’s what it takes.

#3. Complacency. This is one of the worst culprits out there, when you find yourself willing to settle because you just don’t feel like making the move or taking the action to go for it. Sometimes moving the needle from where you’re currently at to where you want to be means baby steps. And, even though baby steps seem insignificant, they really aren’t – because that’s exactly what you need to get started. Let’s say you want to run a marathon, but you haven’t been running in years. You can’t expect yourself to hop out of bed and simply go straight to an 18 mile training run, right? You need to start small and build up. Maybe the first week, you run a mile every couple of days, then two, three and so on. Looking back, if you’d never run that first mile you wouldn’t find yourself crossing the finish line on race day. Make sense?
#4. Past mistakes. You’re much too focused on the past and on the future rather than the right now. Here’s the thing: you may have been able to do certain things better when you were younger or you may see yourself differently in the future, but where you can actually affect change is in the present. It’s so important to pay attention to what you can do today to better yourself for the future or to heal problems from the past – so stop living in an alternate time frame and use today to be the best you can be.
Are you trying to find your motivation in this New Year? What are your personal mantras to help you stay focused on how to achieve your passions and keep yourself motivated along the way? Reach out with your feedback on Facebook AskAnnamarie

July 2018

What Are Antioxidants?

By: Tayler Glenn

“Antioxidants” is just one of those health and wellness buzzwords that we hear getting thrown around a lot, but what are antioxidants, really?  We know that foods high in antioxidants are good for us, and we’ve heard that they can benefit our skin and ward off signs of aging.  Overall, they sound great! But, why? What are these compounds, and how do you get more of them into your daily diet?

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are nutrients that have the ability to prevent or slow oxidative damage throughout the body, and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of different substances that can act as antioxidants! The most familiar ones are:

  •  Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Beta-Carotene and other carotenoids
  • Selenium
  • Manganese
  • Glutathione
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols and Polyphenols
  • Phytoestrogens

and many more! Using the term “antioxidant” to refer to specific substances is misleading since it’s really a chemical property. More precisely, the term refers to the ability to act as an electron donor.

Another big misconception is that antioxidants are interchangeable, but they aren’t. Each one has unique behaviors and properties with each family of substances playing different roles. No single substance can do the work of the whole crowd which makes it important to get a wide range in your diet!

What Are Free Radicals?

These free radicals that antioxidants do such a good job of protecting us from, what are those? When cells use oxygen they naturally generate a byproduct which can cause cellular damage called free radicals!  This byproduct is naturally produced by our bodies but, in most cases, the number of free radicals is far higher than the number of naturally occurring antioxidants. The body needs a certain balance between free radicals and antioxidants. When this balance is disrupted, it can lead to oxidative stress. This means it’s important to supply our bodies with the antioxidants it needs!

How Do I Get More Antioxidants?

The vitamins and minerals that have antioxidant properties are essential nutrients. This means you need them for other aspects of your healthy lifestyle as well and should be eating them regularly regardless. Antioxidant-rich foods include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruits
  • Berries
  • Beans + Nuts
  • Apples
  • Red wine
  • Green tea
  • Broccoli
  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet potatoes

Plus, many more which you can find on our top-10 list here! Too many people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. If you smoke, diet regularly or live in a polluted city, you would probably benefit from increasing your antioxidant intake, but how? Here are 3 easy ways to do it:

1. Pay Attention to Prep

The ways in which you prepare and cook your fruits and vegetables can really affect the nutrients your body is able to pull from them. Eating most raw veggies maximizes antioxidant intake, but there are other options if you prefer a different preparation method. The most important tips include:

  • Don’t peel the veggies
  • Minimize chopping
  • Don’t soak in water before cooking
  • Cook quickly on high heat, not slow-and-low
  • Don’t cook in copper pots
  • Steaming helps retain more of the natural nutrients

2.  Add Herbs and Spices

Fruits + veggies aren’t the only sources of antioxidants! Especially if you prefer your produce cooked, adding the right herbs and spices is a great way to add some of those nutrients you lost in the prep stage.

Double the impact of your spices by swapping the salt for turmeric! This spice, in particular, is high in antioxidants, but most popular herbs such as thyme, basil, and rosemary are good options. Don’t be afraid to get creative and sprinkle those antioxidant-packed herbs and spices into yogurt for a tasty dip or into oil and vinegar for summer salad dressings!

3. Snack Smart!

We all know that mini bag of Doritos isn’t helping anyone, but there’s a vast number of healthy swaps when you’re looking for antioxidant replacements! Opting for nuts and seeds as a healthy snack will keep you going between meals while also providing those sought-after antioxidants. Brazil nuts are a key source of selenium, while almonds and sunflower seeds are great sources of vitamin E.

For those of you who need an excuse for a daily chocolate fix, try pairing those nuts with a polyphenol-rich dark chocolate! It does have to be dark chocolate (or cacao) and a couple of squares a day should be enough to get the boost you need.

What are your favorite ways to include antioxidant-rich foods in your healthy diet?

June 27, 2018

I love to hike, especially around western North Carolina. It also brings me back to my

childhood because when I was a child my dad would take me along with my six siblings, two dogs, and of course, my mother out for a long hike through the heavily wooded area behind our home in the small town I grew up in, Swansea, Massachusetts. We’d hike what seemed to be for miles, (it was probably a mile), to the 'big rock'. We grumbled, we whined about it but in the end, we always enjoyed ourselves.
The whining seemed to stop once we passed the magical trailhead and hit the trail. It was as if the aroma of the forest around us, the crushed leaves and rich soil beneath our feet would transform us. We laughed, we played, we talked with one another all along the way. The big rock seemed enormous and dad often had some historical or other interesting point to make about who met here and what it meant to the folks before us.

What a gift he gave us by encouraging us to look up and outside of our little world and selves.

Now I'm grown and have a family of my own and we do the same thing with them. Often times Joe and I hear the same grumbles and whines, but I know the time we spent together builds deep roots to each other and the world around us.

It's been a while since we've been out in the woods, too long. At least one of our children has requests to go hiking regularly. I know we will get out there this week for sure.

What a blessing we have in the world around us and in each other.

Forest, here we come.

Here are a few shots from one of our favorite local photographers and avid hiker, Jared Kay.