Last weekend I caught a break in the torrential downpours occurring for days on end and wandered into a nearby woodland. The quest was simple, to see what I could see. I was not disappointed! All the rain had kept the general public away for the weekend and the woods were a vibrant green. On top of that, the birds and wildlife were taking advantage of the break in the weather as well. Still looking for my first snake of the year but this was a solid trip.
It was a good little adventure. Come on along with me on a bit of a wet and slick ridge climb!
Next weekend, I’m heading into the woods on my first bushcraft/minimalist camping trip of the season. I’ll be taking the camera with me to be sure. I’m super excited about the trip as I’ve had to cancel three times previously. If all goes well, I’ll be in the woods for two straight days.
More to come!
I wanted to make a quick post to let people know about my newest project. I’ve decided to start a Youtube channel focusing on getting out into the woods and wild. I call them my homemade adventures. At the turn of the new year I decided I wanted to do something like this and so started thinking and planning as to what it would look like. What did I want to cover? What was the focus of the channel?
I knew I wanted to focus on my lifelong love of being in the woods. I call it “getting in my dirt time.” It keeps me sane. “Shinrin-Yoku” or forest bathing as it is becoming to be known.
I decided I would also focus on bushcraft, foraging, nature awareness and observation. In addition, I couldn’t forget my love of rock hounding, fossil collecting and getting out there and “finding something.” I wanted to share those experiences with people. As I practiced and tried out ideas I came to discover I just really, really enjoy making videos.
So, welcome to Yoteden Off Trail! My plan is to have a video at least once a week at the minimum. The first video is below and there is, most certainly, more to come!
I made a mistake.
I should have been writing about my last few months. It’s only now, coming out on the other side that I realize this mistake. I guess that’s how mistakes work, right? Maybe that’s just called wisdom?
Shortly after putting out my RPG ruleset in the last post, I had a flare up concerning my Post Concussive Syndrome. The key point being it did not involve any kind of physical impact. Instead, it involved a nasty combination of lack of sleep, stress and a cognition exercise. One minute I was taking a cognition test to help out a graduate student in my department and the next I’m headed home with a massive migraine and concussion symptoms. Once home, I slept for ten hours and felt marginally better afterwards. It took days to really come all the way out of it.
Needless to say, there was concern and so after consulting my doctor I was referred to a neurologist for the first time in over 12 years. The referral took a long time and in that time there was a lot of other stressors, a battle with depression and, it so happened, a lot of other medical visits. (I’d not had a primary care physician in a LONG time.) With those weeks and months behind me, I can say I know exactly where my personal health stands (and then some!) On top of that there was the constant barrage of work and family and this constant concern and stress that cognitively, I was getting worse.
Why I didn’t set myself down to write about this as I was going through it, I have no idea. Maybe I was worried I would sound too whiny? It could have also been the depression. The sense that no one really cares anyway so why right about it? (More on this in future posts, I hope.) I’m not really sure why. I just didn’t “feel” it and I didn’t feel like forcing myself. Looking back, I realize I should have forced myself. Remember, it’s only called wisdom if you learn from your mistakes!
The neurologist visit came along in early July. It was actually a pretty simple visit. No imaging needed. After hearing my story and my history my doctor looked at me for a quiet second and said, “Alright, we’re going to have a long talk about this.”
“First of all, you have Post Concussive Syndrome. It’s chronic. It’s not going away and it’s not going to get better. The problem is you know all of this but you’re not taking steps to take care of it.” He assured me that my event in May was normal for an individual with PCS, mainly due to the lack of sleep prior to the event. He asked if I thought I had migraines. I played it off, he called me on it and I had to admit, “Yeah, I guess I’m having migraines.”
We talked about depression, anxiety, feeling exhausted at the end of the day, concern over waning executive functions. In the end, he made me feel better. He also helped me get focused on the fact that I need to, immediately, begin taking care of it. I have to simply face the fact and the truth that I have this issue. It was likened to someone having a chronically sprained ankle and saying, “Oh, I can keep running. It’s fine…” We talked strategies and I walked out of the office in a turbulent mix of “Whew, not as bad as I thought,” and “Crap, I really DO have a disability.”
This took me weeks to process. One of the first things he recommended was quitting caffeine. More on this later but I did it. Make no mistake, it was hell. However, last Friday was the first time in over 25 years I had awoken, felt good and didn’t have a craving for coffee. I’ve also been following the holy triad of PCS; sleep, hydration and moderate exercise. It’s taken weeks but I’m actually starting to notice a significant difference.
With all of this has been a slow and steady building of the desire to write again. But it wasn’t quite time yet. I kept thinking it was time but my digital trashcan was being continually filled up with rough drafts and half-baked ideas. It was close but not yet.
There were a few more things I had to do first.
(To be continued)
I just wanted to boost the signal from my game blog. I was able to finally accomplish the goal of getting my roleplaying game rules finished. The rules are called the Chronicles RPG Core Set. They’re focused on a more narrative style of play with only a moderate crunch in terms of modifiers and numbers. I’ll be putting up all sorts of examples over the weeks to come as well as adventures, etc.
So, if you are into that sort of thing and would like to know more, head on over to Yoteden’s Gametime and grab yourself a copy of the rules. They’re free and remain that way for as long as I have anything to say about it!
Thanks and more to come soon!
Before we get into the quest I wanted to take a moment to discuss the review process I’ll be using. At first I had thought I would write a post for each experience and leave it at that. However, I quickly realized that I should use the different elements I’ve already been using to help me classify a soda from good to “Meh.”
For these reviews and posts I’m looking for something that goes a little further than “going to get some ice cream.” I want to take it into something more along the lines of wine or cigar tasting, more experiential. I also plan on being pretty tough.
As I don’t intend to be drinking chocolate sodas regularly (my health is too important for that) it should be something special, a treat for all the senses. A good chocolate soda is a rarity these days and if you find one, it needs to be enjoyed. Not just for what it is but for WHERE it is and WHAT is happening as you do.
I am also a realist and know that I live in a bit of a chocolate soda wasteland. My only hope is to find a diamond in the rough and hopefully the discomforts inflicted on me will be humorous and educational for you!
So, let’s look at what I have to start.
This post is an introduction to a project I have wanted to do for over five years. I’ve talked about it quite a bit and finally, this year, it’s happening. I hope you enjoy the ride.
Here in the Midwest we are just a few days away from Springtime. I have a ritual I perform every year about this time in which I summon the warm breeze and sunlight of Spring. I do not sacrifice a calf or make odd, occult markings and chant. No, no, no, my ritual is simple yet powerful.
I get a chocolate soda.
“A what? What is this? You put chocolate syrup in a Sprite or something? That’s gross.”
No, I’m talking about a treat that throws back to old-time soda fountains and ice cream shoppes. A place where soda jerks mixed up delicious springtime and summertime drinks. It goes by many names and from my research (yes, I’ve done actual research) in soda jerk lingo, this favorite ice cream treat could be called an egg cream float or a black and white soda. And in Springtime they are particularly delicious as it reminds me that the cold winds are receding and warmer, sun-filled days lie ahead!
However, this ritual has become more and more difficult to do over the years as knowledge of what a chocolate soda is and how to make it has slipped away due to time and the convenience of bottled and canned soda. I find this all very odd considering the simple ingredients involved and how delicious the final outcome to be. And no, in case you are still making a weird face, it does not involve an egg.
Over the past year, I’ve worked with several ideas and tools to manage my issues of anxiety, depression and distraction brought on by my mTBIs. I’ve written about my bullet journal, my daily practice and the book that worked like a “key in a lock” for all of it. One of the most recent tools, and perhaps one of the more practical, was a simple sentence I heard from my wife.
We were discussing the ideas of mindfulness, staying in the present and battling anxiety. She brought up information she had been given in a leadership workshop and said, “Did you know there have been studies done which show the brain cannot contain thoughts of anxiety and gratitude at the same time?”
I immediately began chewing on this and coupling it with my current practice. I decided to put that statement to the test as soon as possible.
One of my biggest issues had been that shortly after settling into my breathing, my environment and the simple truth of the present moment, my heart would take off and wave upon wave of anxiety would hit me. Little panic attacks would shock through my system and I’d get hit with a flood of adrenaline. I’ve written about this previously and how it refused to stop. Though recently I had been able to work with the anxiety, it still arose occasionally.
I also had found that I could be in a quiet, relaxed state of mind and anxious thoughts would still skitter across my awareness, like mice scurrying in the corner of your eye. Occasionally, I would unwittingly latch on to one of those thoughts and found myself taken for a ride.
However, now I had been given a new tool! If anxiety and gratefulness basically had some sort of oil and water combination in the brain, I could use that to my advantage. Basically, the same as offering a chew toy to a dog that is chewing on your shoe. “No, no, bad brain. If you’re going to chew on something chew on this.”
The moment I began to become aware of my anxiety or a thought based more on depression, I would immediately find one or two things I was grateful for in that moment. If I could not find something immediate, I could easily find something from my life or my family. I would then focus on the grateful thought instead of the anxious one.
I coupled this with the information I read a few days later. You can retrain your brain based on how you respond to a situation. You have two choices, Love or Fear. Your brain will wire itself accordingly. If you have been wiring your brain with Fear based responses (which a good chunk of the population has been doing for decades) then it will continue along those neural pathways you have built.
However, thanks to recent research, the brain retains a plasticity and, if like me, you realize your mistakes you can begin to rewire things. Like your own personal brain garden you can begin retraining neural tendrils and vines that have grown closer together due to anxiety. You can redirect them to move apart and reconnect through gratitude, Love and optimism. Just like a garden, it won’t happen quickly. You will have rainy days, tangled roots and pests but it will happen.
And so I began applying all of this, joining it with my mindfulness practice, my meditations. Whenever I found myself thinking an anxious thought or letting myself rush to quickly towards the future, I’d drop back. I’d think about one thing I was grateful. If that didn’t replace the anxiety, I’d find something else. It didn’t have to be complicated. It could be as simple as feeling the wind on my face, being able to climb stairs, being able to read, having a comfortable work chair. Anything. I focused on my blessings.
In my bullet journal I created a gratitude journal where I listed the top two things every day that I was thankful for having. Some days I’ve written, “A warm bed,””Amazing sunset,” or “Time with family over a board game.” Other times it was, “Grateful for a safely built dishwasher that didn’t catch fire.”
Currently, my strategies are working. It’s been like the anxiety has had the rug pulled out from underneath it. It has no traction and slides away. It’s not perfect, of course. It still comes back. When it does I simply meet it with more gratitude. It slides away again. At work, I noticed my days moving faster. I’ve noticed things going smoothly, or, at least my reaction to them has changed.
I was retraining my brain.
I still have reactions that are the old way of thinking. Just yesterday, at work, I fell down the yucky rabbit hole of frustration, anxiety and anger. However, instead of sitting in it I did something else. I left my desk. I took a brief walk outside. I got back to the present. I didn’t scold myself for getting angry but instead started focusing on what I was the most grateful for in my life. I realized I was allowing myself to get too invested in my work. I sat and watched nature around me, watched the wind in the trees and repeated how grateful I was. Things calmed down quickly.
The difference between that and what might have been a year ago? Before, I would have allowed it to tank my day. I would have gone home exhausted and distraught. Now? The whole thing took 20 minutes and I was able to get back into my day, get things done and go home in a good mindset.
And the first thing when I got back to my desk? I sat down and took a moment to be grateful for having a job that allowed me to go for a brief walk. I have had more than a few where that could not have been an option.
And today? Today I simply start all over again.
Just me and my brain garden.
Here are some other links that have helpful information:
Remember that post a few weeks ago where I said my subjects were going to be a bit random? You do? Oh, good!
I’ve been working with organizational systems for almost ten years now. I’ve been through a ton of them! It’s been a quest of mine to find one flexible enough to work for all the different things I need, both with varied projects I work with and some of the struggles I have with my TBIs (traumatic brain injuries.) I’ve found something which is working quite well and it’s called a Bullet Journal.
I’m writing up a longer post that goes into more detail as to the TBIs, other issues and why I Bullet Journal. However, that post has managed to be quite revealing, personal as well as cathartic and, of course, taking a bit more time than I thought it would. As part of it, I wanted to include my monthly bullet journal organization for March and talk a bit more about my current process. Time has once again slid by, it’s the first of March, and, instead of waiting, I’ve decided to just make two posts.
For now, here is my March monthly spread and some of the other pages that make up what I do each month. I’ve picked all of these up from looking over Instagram, Facebook, blogs and websites. I’ll put a few at the bottom of the post and a larger list on the other post coming out soon.
For each month, a regular bullet journal will have simply the page on the left for the calendar items, dates indexed down the left hand side. What I found, however, is that I needed to widen things out and create a separate spread for my work dates. After some playing around I opted to go this route to see how it works out. This way, when planning, I have my personal dates as well as my work dates all in one glance.
You could easily switch out something else for “Work” to adapt the system if you needed a secondary calendar of any sort. In addition, on the far right, I put a section for “future stuff” that might come up for April or May as well as general goals I might have for the month itself. The Future Items may be too small but we’ll see how it goes.
Next up is something I began last month as a test and it has become a major player for daily improvement. To be honest, I wasn’t quite ready for the subtle impact it would have on me. The Gratitude Journal has two lines for each day which are filled out, hopefully, at the end of the day. Gratitude journals sometimes have three, others have five. Two seemed to be a perfect number for me and so I adopted it here.
Sitting down to focus on two things in gratitude from the day has helped me to shift a mindset that’s been stuck for several decades. Some days I forget but when I go to do my daily review in the morning, I always go back and fill in the gap. This takes no more than five minutes and the mental/emotional rewards are worth every second.
Finally, another investment I started near the end of February; a memories page. Again, this was something I did as a test and within a week realized I loved it. At the end of February I was quite pleased with my little page that summed up all the fun, memorable things which occurred during the month. It also gives me a chance to make doodles, sketches and to flex my creative muscles a bit.
So, I’ve added it as well for March.
The rest of the journal is either old or new collections (pages marked specifically for different subjects or projects) or my daily pages which list what was needed to be done, what got done and other things about the day I might want to remember.
More to come and the larger bullet journal post is right around the corner!
There are a TON of resources, articles, images, Pins on Pinterest, etc if you want to spend numerous hours digesting all the ways you can modify the bullet journal. Below is a handful, in my opinion, of the best!
- The Bullet Journal Page (Start here!)
- Boho Berry has a lot of great inspiration for turning a bullet journal into something that is yours.
- Decade Thirty is another good site for Bullet journals and handwriting
- Tiny Ray of Sunshine
- Bullet Journal Junkies Facebook Group.
With the February weather opening a nice window of sunny Spring-like weather over the weekend I took my wife and daughter on a long hike into the Hoosier National Forest along Lake Monroe. This was a particularly special event for me. All my life I’ve typically gone into the woods alone. Due to my wife’s past fitness level, she had never been able to go with me this far down a trail. This year was different because several months ago my wife started a fitness/weight loss program and stuck with it. The result? I was getting to share my hiking and nature experiences and knowledge with her. For the first time in our relationship, we were going on a day long hike.
Besides completing the trip, we had three goals. I wanted to have more than just a small hike. I wanted an afternoon and into the evening kind of day on the trail. It had been since December that I had gotten into the woods and I wanted a full day to reset my nature batteries! The first goal was to stop at mid-point, have lunch and just settle down for a bit to enjoy the energy. Since we were in a National forest we were going for a quick fire, some high quality hot-dogs and s’mores. A classic choice for sure.
The second was to try out our hammocks. My wife had purchased an ENO Singlenest for me as a Christmas gift two years ago. Though comfortable, it was not well suited for my height. At Valentine’s Day, she surprised me with a Doublenest hammock and then gleefully claimed the Singlenest as her own. For this trip I’d be showing her how to set the Singlenest up with the straps and she would get her first chance to try it out. I would try out my Doublenest and maybe catch a nap!
Finally, several Bald Eagles had been seen in the area we would be in and so our third and final goal was to hopefully see one of those majestic birds once we got to the lake’s edge. Not much else we could do there except put ourselves in the right spot and keep our fingers crossed.
I’m not sure why I’m writing this.
My muse has been quite certain about the fact I’m supposed to write something here and has been very annoyed I’ve not been listening. You can tell your muse is annoyed when the idea she’s sent you becomes a constant, nagging and repetitive thought in your mind no matter how much you try to ignore it. Matter of fact, the more you ignore it, the worse it gets! At this point, I’m only really writing this in the hopes of getting some sleep. (Don’t tell my muse!)