September 2017 was AWESOME! I can’t believe how quickly the month flew by. For the first time ever, I am taking four solid weeks of vacation. And that vacation started mid-September. I could definitely get used to a lifestyle without full-time work. Here’s the September “greatest hits list.”
Outdoor adventure was my September motto. And since nature is deeply connected to my happiness level, the month was extraordinary.
On the Water
I started the month off with one of my favorite master naturalist projects – kayaking on the Powhatan Creek – in which we document flora and fauna. Although my identification skills are weak, I enjoy being out on the water with fun-loving naturalists.
In mid-September I returned to the water…this time we searched for Atlantic sturgeon on the James River. Sturgeons are prehistoric 100-pound fish, once thought to be extinct, that have returned to the river ecosystem. My second sturgeon trip, I was once again JINXED. While we didn’t witness any breaching sturgeons, who can complain about spending a morning on the water?
In the Mountains
I had a great time in the Shenandoah mountains, joining my friends at the Virginia Master Naturalist conference. Aside from the lumpy bunk beds at the 4H Center, the weekend was filled with the delight of laughter. We began our adventure with a visit to Skyline Caverns, followed by a tour of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. The Institute, a closed campus that is generally not open to the public, provided insights into endangered animal breeding programs, veterinary medicine, forest management, and control of invasive species. The next morning I joined the ecological tour of Shenandoah River State Park. But here I ran into car problems! (I resolved the battery problem eventually …thanks to help from park rangers, Honda roadside assistance, a tow truck, and the dealership.) On our return home, we opted for some local flavor at the Shenandoah Valley Apple Harvest Festival.
Eagles and Bats…Oh My!
I witnessed a double eagle release, and what a privilege it was! If you get the opportunity to watch an eagle being released into the wild, GO! It’s a breathtaking moment of joy watching a rehabilitated eagle return to flight…and freedom. The eagle release was courtesy of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, in partnership with York River State Park.
Because I just don’t have enough going on … I’m currently researching introducing a bat monitoring project to my Virginia Master Naturalists chapter. Why bats you ask? Because they play an important ecological role in nature and their population has been decimated due to White Nose Syndrome. Did you know that a single little brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in a single hour? If conditions are favorable, I’ll lead the effort to bring this project to our chapter.
Hanging with Friends and Learning New Skills
I had a great time hanging out with friends this last month. I enjoyed a couple of weekend visits to Busch Gardens’ Bier Fest, even dancing a polka with a very reluctant friend. Another evening was spent walking around Colonial Williamsburg with friends, and enjoying a drink afterwards. A surprise visit by Liberty the dog made the evening about as perfect as it can get. Over the past few years, I’ve carved out time to make and keep good friends, which has added so much richness to my life.
And speaking of carving, the final week of September was reserved for wood embellishment class at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. I really enjoyed the experience and picked up some new carving, burning and finishing skills. My goal is to squeeze some time into my busy schedule to hone my wood turning and carving skills. I just have way too many interests and passions … and not enough time!
Getting a Bit Sidetracked on the Health Front
On the diet front, I had less control…and discipline. The food at the conference and the Campbell School was not the tastiest and there weren’t a lot of low-carb options. And while I packed along some of my own food, it wasn’t enough to cover all the meals. And of course, today is weigh-in day. But since I just returned from a less-than-disciplined week in North Carolina, I opted to stay off the scale. Without a doubt, my body is screaming at me to stick to the Whole30 concept as much as possible. I feel a lot better when I eat better. Later this week, I travel to Wisconsin to visit family. Again I’ll have to work extra hard to limit the “bad stuff.”
While I’ve been a bit sidetracked on my personal diet goals, I successfully launched my first Healthy 7 weekly menu. As I continue to build a portfolio of menus, I am reinforcing my own decision to plan ahead and prepare nutritious meals on weekends. Hopefully, the menus will help others develop a healthier lifestyle too.
I am thoroughly enjoying vacation, but at the same time, I cannot believe how busy I am. And there’s so much more I want to be doing! I always wondered why some retirees say they are busier in retirement than they were when they were working. Well, I’m getting a glimpse of that feeling right now. The difference is that I’m busy doing things I WANT to do. I love my career, but so far, I am not missing trudging my way into the office five days a week. Two more full weeks of vacation! YIPPEE!!!
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