What I’ve Learned From A Year of Dedicated Blogging
I started my blog as a fun hobby. In the first few years, I only made a couple of posts. I knew I wanted to do more, especially since I was making the investment in paying for hosting. Letting my blog sit there seemed like a waste of money.
It wasn’t until my circumstances changed that I decided to dedicate time specifically to blogging. My health had taken a turn for the worse, I had to quit working. I was struggling with accepting my new life and the depression that came with significant change. I knew I needed to fill the void of work with a new hobby.
Blogging seemed like the perfect way to occupy my mind and fill my time with something positive. Since I stopped taking professional portraits for other people, I reminded myself that I could still be a photographer, only, I would be taking images for myself. I decided to challenge myself with something I have always wanted to do, a 52 project. It was a lot of fun and I love the way my images turned out. From there, it became easier to blog about things.
With the end of school nearing, I decided to add another challenge to my blogging, vlogging. This took my blogs to a new level, as I had videos to go along with my writing. I initially started vlogging for fun and as a challenge to warm me up to what I really wanted to do. I wanted to do a video series on the challenges of severe, life-threatening allergies. Along with this, I will have accompanying blogs that detail in writing the facts that go along with my videos.
Over the past 5 years of health struggles, I have done an extremely large amount of research. Some of the things I researched had little to no information and I had to really dig in order to learn. It was so hard to gain footing in the world of severe allergies. Not many people are allergic to nearly the entire world, and there isn’t a handbook that goes along with it.
I knew that I wanted to help people and make their journey a little easier, by sharing my story and experiences. I wanted to help someone avoid some of the mistakes I’d made in the beginning, or maybe find a new way to help them cope now.
I realized that I had found the purpose of my blog. I guess you could say I found my niche. This information isn’t only helpful for those with severe allergies. It is beneficial for everyone. I tell people that I am the canary in the coal mine. If my health takes a dive because of my sensitivity to chemicals, then It can’t be very safe for other people either. Even if they’re not having a life-threatening reaction to it. Toxic chemicals are not beneficial to anyone.
Holistic health and nutrition can benefit everyone live a healthier, more meaningful life. Living life without toxic chemicals reduces the risk of having cancer, heart disease, eczema, diabetes, and more.
I love sharing what I’ve learned with others. Blogging gives me a platform so I don’t have to drive my friends and family crazy by constantly talking about the latest medical article I’ve been reading. It allows me to share my photography. It allows me to be creative and give me an outlet for my lack of ability to work. Hopefully, someone out there will appreciate and enjoy my ramblings and my photography.
After a year of dedicated creating every month, I can definitely say that blogging is something I enjoy and will continue to do. Thank you for those of you who have commented, shared, liked and followed me over this last year. I have loved hearing that you enjoyed something I shared. Hopefully, I’ll have more fun things for you in this coming year!
When I was researching the area for things to do, I saw Norberg Trail as one of the highlights. It looked breathtakingly beautiful. With the rain and our busy schedule, we didn’t get the chance to check it out. On our last night there, I decided that I would wake up early the next morning and head out alone.
I woke up and hit snooze once or twice. Half of me wanted to say forget it and sleep in. The other half knew I’d be mad at myself later for being lazy. So I rolled out of bed, packed up and drove to the bathrooms for a shower. Then I set out for my hike!
I felt a bit excited about going alone, as though this was a secret adventure. Part of me felt guilty for leaving everyone behind, but they all wanted to sleep in any way. I felt nervous anticipation as I pulled into the parking spot. Would it be as beautiful as I had hoped? I do have a tendency to romanticize destinations.
Thankfully, it was as peaceful and lovely as I had imagined. Walking the short trail to the lake was relatively easy. There were rocks embedded in the ground to navigate, but it wasn’t as bad as Kawishiwi Falls. The view of the lake through the pines was delightful. The fresh air invigorated my senses. I was ready for a good hike around the lake.
Before I left, I checked out the map on the sign and I knew there was a loop around the lake. Down near the water, I could see a trail going off to the right. I knew there was another trail further up near the parking lot, but I thought it was the one that led to the other lakes. I set off to the right since it seemed to be a clear beaten path.
Everywhere around me was the wonder of creation. It was hard to resist stopping frequently and photographing the lovely ferns, trees, moss, mushrooms, and plants. I noticed that there were a lot of mosquitos, so I tried to keep moving.
Every so often, there was a fallen tree across the path. At a few spots, the path was impassable and had to be trekked around. It seemed that many had done so before. I wondered if some of the damage was from recent storms, but on further inspection, it appeared that they were all felled by beaver.
As I got further along the trail, it became more difficult to find the path on some of the roundabout excursions. I didn’t want to disturb any plants or animals, so I tried to be careful where I stepped. I had once been attacked by a swarm of bees as a child when a friend stepped on a ground hive. The emergency room doctor told me that I would most likely be allergic to bees after that since I had around 40 stings all over my body. Stepping on a hive alone in the middle of the woods was not an appealing idea of a way to start my day.
There came several times where I couldn’t find the trail. I didn’t know if I had gone off completely or if it was so wild that it was simply difficult to see the path. Perhaps others had given up and returned the way they had come? I found it hard to believe that everyone had given up and not continued along. Periodically I found a trail again, much to my relief, but the majority of it was off-road.
I was swarmed by mosquitoes and I didn’t want to stop for long anywhere. I kept my hood up on my sweatshirt to protect my head and neck despite the rising temperature. I kept forging forward, stopping only at completely impassable spots. I backtracked often, climbed deeper into the woods many times and went up and down steep hills. I often contemplated giving up and going back, but I’m not a quitter. I think I also held hope that at some point it would get easier.
I did eventually get on the trail again near the very end. It was wide and looked extremely easy to hike on. Later, while reviewing the map, I found that the trail I went on was not mapped. The trail I thought led to the other lakes was the main trail. It made a very wide loop around the lake, far from the water, which is why I didn’t stumble on it till the very end.
The lake wasn’t very large, but the path I took was not easy, so it took a considerable amount of time. My entire journey was a little over an hour and a half but it felt much longer. I thought I had been out there for at least three hours. I estimate the other trail might take someone 30-45 minutes. By the time I got back to the van, I was relieved. I was proud of myself for waking up early to exercise and for continuing around the whole lake. I went on an adventure and survived. The quote “Get Lost In the Woods” has a whole new meaning.
Even though I got lost and eaten alive by mosquitos, I don’t regret my journey. Staying on the trail might have been easier, faster and with a lot fewer mosquitos, but the images I got while going off trail are some of my favorite from the trip. I got to see nature in its wild state. I found beauty that I probably would not have seen, had I gone the other way.
After arriving back at the campsite, we packed up to head home. Poor Cat was having anxiety attacks because she was afraid everything wouldn’t fit. I had her walk away, but she hid just around the corner and came running back when we tried to put stuff in. Cat is an excellent organizer. When I go shopping, she makes everything nice, neat and perfect in the cart. It drives her crazy when everything is out of order.
I had OCD as a child, so I understand the anxiety that having something out of place causes. I remember having to wash and rinse my glass a certain amount of times. It used to drive my Dad crazy, maybe because I was wasting water. As an adult, I get that. As someone with OCD, I HAD to do it or I felt anxiety creeping up on me, making me feel like the world would end.
Years later, my Dad told me- You know, the glass washing thing you used to do is not a bad idea, it helps cool the glass down so the water is nice and cold when you drink it. I don’t know if he was just being nice, but it meant the world to me that he was trying to understand and connect.
Once I developed allergies to the entire world, OCD began to creep back in my life. I remember a day when my Mom asked me for a box of tissues and I almost didn’t let her have it because then I would have an uneven number of tissue boxes.
Later that night, as I replayed the event over and over in my head (Yaaay anxiety), I was trying to figure out why I was acting so crazy. I mean, it was tissues. Not sharing was selfish. I didn’t really care about the tissues. I love my Mom and I enjoy giving her things. I couldn’t have an uneven number of tissue boxes though. Yes, I admit I was a bit slow to come to the realization that the OCD might be back.
Now that I know what my food allergies are, the OCD isn’t as bad. I would say it’s almost non-existent most days. Although a messy house always makes me feel freaked out. I’m not saying my house is spotless, it’s usually a mess. There is a tipping scale that makes me freak out though. If the kitchen is messy, I can’t breathe. The kitchen must be clean.
When I have a large amount of exposure to allergens close together, also known as a full bucket, the OCD comes creeping or slamming back. Bad exposure makes the volume of OCD turn up high. I clean and clean and clean. Although it’s nice to get some cleaning done, the panic that happens in my head is never fun. I’m always thankful to get back to normal after an allergy flush or detox.
Anyway, back to camping! We got everything into the van and Cat managed the rest of the time packing with her outward OCD volume turned down. I’m sure inside it was still high, but I’m proud of her for gaining control.
On the way home, we stopped at a thrift store in Cloquet. Cat got some anime(manga? Or anime? I can never get those two straight.) and Cupcake got another book. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. Nate drove the first half and I drove the remainder. We unpacked and enjoyed the rest of our day in the comfort that only home can bring.
I woke up to the sun making glowing shadows on the roof of our tent as it passed through the leaves on the trees. Already I could feel the sun warming the chilly air.
Since it was so lovely, we thought it would be a perfect day to explore Grand Marais. We had a fun day checking out all of the little shops. I would have loved to have stopped at every shop, but there just wasn’t enough time!
I got an amethyst bracelet at a rock store, Loony’s Northwoods Emporium. Each child got to pick out a rock of their choice. We also visited Ely’s Old Fashioned Candy where we got a bunch of rare (for us) treats. I was thrilled to be able to visit Jim Brandenberg’s Art gallery. At the local Goodwill, Cupcake and I got a few books, Princess got a few sweaters and a cute pair of sandals. Nate found 4 packs of kinetic sand for 99 cents. Mr. Awesome found a toy airplane.
In between two cute shops (Mealey’s Gift & Sauna Shops), there was a well-maintained flower garden with a waterfall and fish pond hiding in the corner. It reminded me of the fish pond my Grandpa used to have in his backyard.
On the recommendation of the receptionist at the Brandenburg gallery, we decided to visit Kawishiwi Falls. Since we still had some 5 Week Workout Challenge days left, I thought it was a great idea! Plus, getting to explore another waterfall sounded like a lot of fun.
The hike was quite beautiful. It was a short 1.5-mile hike. There were large boulders everywhere. Birch trees grew on and around the large rocks, their roots hugging them like cozy pillows. Planks made paths through the low ground where it probably gets muddy when it rains.
Climbing the last hill before the falls, we could hear the roar of the water as it tumbled down the rocks. Once at the top, the view was breathtaking. If we didn’t have the little ones, getting closer to the water might have been a neat area to explore.
After our hike, we went back into town to see the local farmer’s market. It was in the town’s park and slightly larger than our farmer’s market. There was a lot of stands set up selling a large variety of goods. For people who didn’t have cash, they had a stand set up selling wooden chips to pay vendors. We saw candles, kombucha, fermented foods, jams, fruits, veggies, live music, maple syrup, carved wooden spoons, handmade bath and beauty products, a stand advertising the U of M dental school, and more! It was almost like a small fair!
The kids found a painted rock and hid it for someone else to find. We’re always excited to find rocks. This one had a fish on one side and said Ely Rocks FB on the back.
After the Farmer’s Market, we picked up some tent sealer to make sure our tent was leakproof. The forecast predicted rain on Wednesday and we wanted to be sure we were dry. While there I found a cute mug that has a moose on it and the words Ely, MN. I like useful souvenirs. It was another fun day of vacation!
Have you been to Ely, Minnesota? What’s your favorite thing to do there?
5 Week Workout Challenge: Week 5, Day 1
After getting sick, we missed week 5 of our workout challenge. Rather than give up, I thought it would be best to try again. I’m using the old proverb, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I don’t like to give up. I’m the type of person who will tackle a goal over and over until it’s accomplished.
We set up a playdate with some friends at Schaar’s Bluff. It was a beautiful day. The weather was perfect, there were a few fluffy clouds in the sky and a mild breeze to cool us off. We enjoyed exploring the trails and seeing the wildlife.
We walked to the park to let the kids play for a little while. I think my favorite part about play dates is having another adult to talk to, for a little while. Being surrounded by children 24/7, it can get lonely. Usually, when Nate gets home he’s too tired to do much else except sleep.
I know that someday the time when my children are little and dependent on me will pass. Someday, I’ll miss these days terribly. Having a teenager, I already know how fast little ones can grow. So I’m soaking up as much time with my children as I can. Someday, I’ll have the rest of my life for adult talk.
Lately, Nate has been watching The Great British Baking Show. While I was on my walk, he was inspired to bake. He decided to make me a gift of a gluten free, corn free, chocolate cake.
While the cake was cooling, we made a trip to visit my Grandfather. He was doing amazingly well! Talking, wide awake and joking around. It made me so happy to see him so well!
After visiting Grandpa, we made a trip to Gander Mountain. They’re all closing and having sales as a result. We got some lures for fishing and a few new work shirts for Nate. Princess was especially fond of all of the lures. She picked out so many we had to put two-thirds back! She is really excited to try fishing!
After dinner, we gave our cake a try. It was so beautiful, I couldn’t wait to eat it. Before I even sat down, I took a bite and immediately turned around to hide my puckered lips. Nate asked me how it was. I think I gave him an “Mmmmm!” as I gulped down some water.
I waited for Nate to take a bite of his own before commenting. I laughed as he grimaced. He told me he thought he forgot the sugar. It wasn’t horrible, but the cocoa powder was really bitter without any sweetener. I can’t help but laugh at the memory. It was so sweet of him to make a cake.
Has a goal ever gotten away from you? Did you pick back up and continue?
A Park With Beautiful Rolling Hills and River Views
5 Week Workout Challenge: Week 4, Day 4 Afton State Park
It was early on Saturday morning when Nate playfully tried to wake me up. He told me he’d already gotten the kids out of bed and they were getting breakfast. We were going for a walk! He had picked the spot and did all of the work to get everyone ready. He even made my morning tea. What a wonderful way to start the day!
It was a beautiful day for hiking. The high was 81 with a cool breeze. When we started out, it was still in the lower 70’s. The drive there was scenic and peaceful. The park was packed with people.
This was my first time to the park, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a little worried seeing how packed all of the parking lots were. I didn’t realize it was such a popular destination. Thankfully, we were able to find a spot to park.
Heading down the trail, we encountered some beautiful views of the hills surrounding the river valley. I was easily able to see why this was such a popular park.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten our bug spray. The mosquitos were huge and the lower we descended into the valley, the more gnats and mosquitoes there were. We tried to walk fast and mostly kept to the center of the trail to avoid them.
Once we got down to the beach, the breeze kept the insects away and we were able to relax. The kids enjoyed checking out the dock and then searching for agates and rocks to skip. We watched the boats zoom past and we thought about how fun it must be to tour the river from the water.
Heading back, the bugs weren’t as bad. Maybe it was because it was a little later in the day and a bit warmer. Heading up the trail was a bit more difficult for me, but the rest of the family wasn’t fazed. They jumped up the steps like mountain goats. I lagged behind, tired and struggling to keep up.
Later that night, I ended up in bed sick. Perhaps Princess’ fever wasn’t allergy related after all, and she had passed a virus to me. I spent the next week bedridden.
For some reason, I always get the sickest in our family. Over the years, I’ve learned holistic remedies to heal faster and keep from getting as ill as I used to. I also don’t get sick as often as I used to, thankfully.
Have you been to Afton State Park? What is your favorite area?
5 Week Workout Challenge: Week 4, Day 3 Night With Nate
We got some new nail polish called Ella and Mila that is low on the toxicity scale. It’s the least toxic I’ve been able to find that is also affordable and works well. Cat painted Princess’ and my toes and put cute little feather decals on too.
After running around with the kids all day and Nate’s long work days, it can be hard for us to find time alone. I thought it would be fun to join him for a night-time walk before bed.
It was a beautiful, warm night. Being as hot as it was, I wore my pajamas on our walk. My pj’s were cute matching shorts and a t-shirt, acceptable for wearing in public. I personally wouldn’t be comfortable during the daytime, but I didn’t think we would be seeing many people. As it turned out, since it was such a warm night, there were a lot of people out taking walks.
Nate and I walked up to a gas station where he got something to drink. In the harsh lights, I felt awkward in my little PJ shorts, but I tried to play it off like it didn’t bother me.
As we walked back toward home, I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. Beyond the trees, I could see occasional flashes of lightning. The storm looked like it had passed us over for the night.
We met a man out walking who asked us if our power was out. It turns out, that half the city was without power. We chatted with him for a little while before heading the last couple blocks home. Fortunately, our power was unaffected.
Unfortunately, poor Princess had a small fever and had been asking for me while we were gone. Cat said she had been doing mostly well but had only gotten hot shortly before we got home. Poor kiddo was either sick with a virus or was having an allergic reaction to something mildly corny she ate earlier in the day.
What do you do for alone time when money and time are short? Do you enjoy taking walks at night, or do you prefer going in the daytime?
5 Week Workout Challenge: Week 4, Day 2
Historic Fort Snelling
Today we visited Fort Snelling. My parents, my sisters Shannon and Liz and Liz’s boyfriend Jimmy had a lot of fun! We’ve been here many times and every time I find something new to enjoy.
Although I’ve always visited Fort Snelling as a tourist, my Dad visited as a child, before it was restored as a historic landmark. When he was a child, his uncle and cousins lived here!
Fort Snelling has always been one of my sister Liz’s favorite places. Since she was a child, she’s always loved the cannon blast. That might be because, when she was little, my Dad used to tell her that they set it off just for her.
After hearing the cannons go off, we went to get root beer and cream soda for the non-allergy people. Then, we practiced walking on stilts. My Dad was the best, to everyone’s amazement.
We checked out some of the usual buildings, like the tower and the schoolhouse, but my favorite was the medical rooms. There were some new displays that I haven’t seen before. I especially got a kick out of the weather diary. The climate here was judged “the most excessive among all military posts in The United States.”
Liz, Jimmy and the kids had great fun making star wands in the arts and crafts building. Liz has always excelled in making a four-sided star. In usual tradition, she gave her star to the youngest in our family, Princess. Jimmy was kind enough to give his star to Mr. Awesome.
After we were done for the day, we cooled off inside the gift shop and art gallery area before heading to our cars. This year’s exhibit was a display of beautiful photography by Paul Kitagaki. Accompanying the portraits were moving stories of families and people who had lived through the Japanese internment. There was also a fascinating display of old clocks.
Later that night, we met up with my friend Joleen and her son Drake for fireworks at our local golf course. It was a lovely evening. The fireworks were beautiful and seemed to be right on top of us. It was the perfect finish to a fun day.
Have you been to Fort Snelling? What is your favorite part? What historic sites are near your home? I’d love to hear about it, share a link to your blog post in the comments!
5 Week Workout Challenge: Week 4, Day 1
I’ve been having an argument with myself over if I should post this workout video or not. I’ve been feeling a bit self-conscious. I’ve edited the video, put it on private on youtube, and there it has sat. Buuut, I can’t seem to post the next video until I post this one.
You see, I am not a body builder. I am not super fit. I don’t have an amazing body. I have a normal, soft, squishy, cuddly body. I am ok with that. In fact, I am more than ok, I love my body. I’m not obsessed with myself or anything, I’m just comfortable with who I am. I’m thankful for all of the things my body has done for me and all of the journey’s we’ve been on together.
I don’t need big muscles, rock hard abs, a butt you could bounce a quarter off of, thighs that could crack a nut. Instead, I have a lap that is soft and great for sitting on for stories. I have a tummy that makes an awesome pillow for snuggle time. My butt is comfortable to sit on, unlike my skinny days. My arms are big enough to hold all of those I love. I don’t need much more than that.
So why am I doing a 5 week workout challenge? My goal is not to have a super model body. My goal is to get a moderate level of exercise so that my body is healthy, regardless of its size or amount of squishyness. My goal is to inspire others to move their bodies and get healthy too. My goal is to show that you don’t have to be perfect or even strive for perfection to exercise.
Getting daily exercise doesn’t have to be boring or grueling. There are so many ways to exercise! Walking, hiking, jogging, running, dancing, rock climbing, pilates, trampoline, swimming, biking, I could go on and on. Find something that YOU love and do it!
Although I feel confident about how I feel about my body, for myself and for my family, it’s a different thing to expose oneself to the world. Seeing myself on video, and my not so perfect body, I worry not about what others might say as much as how my children would feel if they saw others saying bad things about me. I’ve seen some cruel things said online about a lot of different topics. My heart hurts for those that the comments are aimed at.
Ultimately, I’ve decided to be brave and post this video regardless of what anyone else might think. Should anyone say anything mean, I will let it roll off my back. The only opinions that matter to me are of those I love and of myself.
Do you ever feel self-conscious about your body? Do you worry about strangers making rude comments? How do you handle that kind of situation?
4 Year Old Adventure
5 Week Workout Challenge: Week 3, Day 4
The big kids went to the drive in with Grandma and Grandpa, so Princess and I decided to go on an adventure. We went on a walk downtown and along the river. It was the perfect evening for a walk and we had a lot of fun!
Princess LOVES going for walks. She is a little outdoors girl. If we could live outside, she would be so happy. One of her favorite activities is camping. She’s always asking me when we can go play outside together. I let her lead us on this 4-year-old adventure.
I’m naturally a home body. I love hiding inside. I’m always looking for ways to motivate myself to go outdoors more because the outdoors are beautiful and they always make me feel closer to God. Doing this exercise challenge has been a great way to do that. I do love to explore new places too, but it’s nice to have a little girl who pushes me to do so.
I hope we’ve been inspiring you to get outdoors too if you are naturally a home body like me. Exercise doesn’t have to be gruesome and horrible. Getting outside, exploring the world and all of the wonders that God created for us to enjoy is fun and exciting. The person who moves slowly on the trail is still moving faster than the person at home on their couch. So get out there and get some fresh air!
Have we motivated you to get outside this week? Do your kids love to go outside as much as my little outdoor girl?
5 Week Workout Challenge: Week 3, Day 3
2nd Convention Day, Covered Bridge Park
The second day of the “Don’t Give Up!” convention was great! I felt bad for the people next to us because the kids had to get up and go the bathroom in alternating shifts. I suppose that’s typical with kids. Since my kids are all getting older, they sit pretty well except for the bathroom breaks.
After the convention, Princess wanted to go all the way to the top of the parking ramp. I brought us up and parked the van so the kids could take in the view. It was a beautiful and windy day in Rochester.
On the way home, we stopped in Zumbrota to see the covered bridge. I have always wanted to go check it out. It’s really beautiful and in great shape! I’m so glad we got a chance to visit!
We took a walk along the creek and then stopped at an amazing wooden park. It reminded me of a park that used to be in Burnsville called Skyland. It was torn down to put in a modern park several years ago, which has always made me sad. I loved playing at Skyland when I was younger. I’m really glad the children had the chance to enjoy this park. They want to come back every time there is a convention.
Have you been to the covered bridge in Zumbrota or do you have one near where you live? I’d love to hear about it or see your pictures!
UPDATE: I made a typo! It turns out that it was advertised as the only remaining “original” covered bridge in the state. There are other “non-original” covered bridges. I did find a list of all of the covered bridges, check it out! http://www.dalejtravis.com/cblist/cbmn.htm