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Why I Get Up in the Morning: Another Gratefulness Post

Why Do I Get Up in the Morning on a snowy background.
That’s mostly melted snow on my windshield but you get the idea!

I haven’t done a gratefulness post in several weeks. It’s not that I haven’t been able to think of any good reason to get up in the morning, though. The last few weeks have been awash with reasons to be happy and joyful. I could just say I’ve been busy, but that’s just an excuse. Maybe I’ve gotten out of the habit? Maybe I just haven’t had a good picture to share? Or maybe I just haven’t had anything exciting enough to share?

I have been busy though and I have gotten out of the habit of writing on certain days. The holiday’s have thrown me off my stride, but I’m slowly getting back on track. I seriously can’t believe that we’re already twenty days into January. My youngest son just reminded me that he’ll be nineteen in less than two months. That can’t be possible. We were just celebrating his 18th a few weeks ago.

I know. It’s cliché to talk about time moving so quickly, but jeepers, people! Stop the planet!

I should probably get to the answer to the question. Why DO I get up in the morning?

I’m grateful to be able to drive up to a mountaintop and watch the storm come in!

The news told me all week that a big storm was coming. We’d get rain, they said, lots of it. And probably snow too! They lied or they were wrong, which leads me to a whole other line of thought. But no matter, I still got to drive up and see the clouds come in.

I got up early, packed some stuff, and headed up the mountain Southwest of us to see if I could get a hike in before it really started to come down. It was beautiful. Standing there on the hillside, the cold air making my nose run. I should have brought my cool Russian hat my son got me last year!

Picture of a dead pinion pine.
Alien Antlers

It was bright and sunny when we started but the clouds started to pour over the hills and into our little canyon as we walked, taking funny pictures and sharing stories about how the plants got there and why this dead tree was laying there…ok, those were my stories, but they were funny and that could have been a giant prehistoric or alien elk antler, you never know.

A few flakes of snow started to blow across the canyon, and I started to get excited. Then it got colder! And by the time we got back to the truck, it was coming down nicely. I mean, those of you that live in places where it really snows all winter probably wouldn’t call this snowfall, but to desert dwellers, any storm is an event. The possibility of rain is nice and when there’s snow in the forecast we get pretty wound up.

Picture of me in the snow.
These are January snowflakes
so I can eat them.

We sat in the truck watching the flakes fall and the wind blow them around in the bed a while. They floated down and melted on my windshield and hood. It was pretty. When they started to pile up on the edges of the windows, I made my exit!

Gratefulness Abounds

We added another thing to be grateful for when we headed down the mountain again into the lower desert for some hot soup to warm our fingers! Mmm…Panera…

If you’re curious where we were, it’s called the Cahuilla Tewanet Scenic Overlook. There are lots of signs to read and the short trail is beautifully maintained. No bathrooms or picnic area, but it’s a nice place to stop for a few minutes.


Oh wow! My last gratefulness post was over a month ago! And it was about being outside too.
Why Do I Get Up in the Morning? Hiking in the Desert

Why do I Get Up in the Morning? Hiking the Desert

Desert rocks and hiking boots.

Gratitude for Hiking in the Desert with Friends

I’ll happily drag my butt out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and head out with my backpack long before the sun comes up, just to get to a beautiful day hike in the desert. This hike wasn’t too far from home, only an hour’s drive or so, but it was worth the time.

I’ve been to Amboy Crater several times with different people and I highly recommend it as a day trip if you’re in the area, or as a stop off the freeway if you’re passing through. There are bathrooms and a picnic area, plenty of parking, all paved, but no water at the trail head, so be sure to bring plenty of your own.

What made that crazy trail in the clouds?

It’s about a three-mile walk, round trip. Most of the trail is an easy slope up across the open desert until you get up to the base of the cinder cone. You can stop there and go back if you’re not up for a rocky climb. The view is spectacular from the top, so climb if you can. You will not be disappointed.

A word of caution about hiking the desert (from me and now all the new signs): Do not go out here on a hot day. People have recently died doing it. I’m not sure what would make anyone think it would be a good idea to get out of the car and go for a walk in the desert sun on a day over 100 degrees, but let’s all take a lesson from them and not.

Walking on the edge of the cinder cone.
On top of the world!

Personally, I wouldn’t even try this hike on a warm day because I’m not a fan of heat at all. There is NO shade anywhere on this hike. The day we went, it was 65 degrees with a high thin cloud or two…and I was still a bit warm in my flannel shirt and jeans. I got a little sunburned too, but with the red hair and fair skin, that’s expected!

I love hiking anywhere, especially with friends.

Something about a long walk lends itself to deeper conversations. Maybe it’s the length of time you’re together, or the fact that we aren’t sitting face to face with each other, but I feel like we get to the more serious topics, we open ourselves up more when we’re walking.

When you’re at a restaurant or a coffee shop, your time is limited. They want their table for other customers and there’s only so much coffee you can drink (believe it or not). There are other people around that can overhear your conversation. And a lunch date is generally a prescribed time, so we usually have other things we’re doing that day.

But a hike? You know you’re going to be there all day. Walking in the woods, along a lake, or out in the desert, a conversation gets long and involved between the views and discoveries, the bird sightings, and trail dog pettings. It feels natural to bare your soul and get advice along the trail.

Winter is the best time of year for desert exploring on foot. The days may be shorter, but I can typically hike all day in the cooler weather without getting overheated, so I’m happy. As Spring approaches, I get a chance to watch the green shoots come up and then the flowers. Once the heat gets over 90 on the desert floor, I head back up to the mountains and into the trees until Fall returns.

When I lived in the city, and my kids were little, we’d walk everywhere. One day we even had a “Walk As Far as You Can” day, where we packed a backpack and headed down the main street until our feet gave up and we had to call Dad to come pick us up. We only got about six miles from home, but the boys loved seeing their hometown up close and personal.

Now that my kids are grown, I’ve had to reach out and find new people to go hiking with. I just can’t walk alone! I’ve heard it’s a great meditation, but I just can’t seem to do it. When I do, I’m nervous, my cell phone clutched in my hand. I imagine myself walking a trail alone, taking a break and making some notes in my journal while I rest, maybe talking with some fellow hikers, but I don’t. I worry the whole time I’m out and rush back home. Strange. I don’t even know exactly what I worry about. It just doesn’t feel comfortable.

A friend of mine says this isn’t hiking, it’s walking, but I beg to differ. It’s a trail, I’m wearing my hiking boots, and there are no houses or streets. It’s hiking. Mostly easy day hiking, but hiking, nonetheless.

Do you go hiking? Do you go alone or in groups? Am I the only one that chatters on and on the whole time we’re out there?

Want to read more of my gratitude posts?

Why Do I Get Up in the Morning? Episode #11

Why Do I Get Up in the Morning? Episode #10

Or…start at the beginning! Why Do I Get Up in the Morning? Episode #1

Why do I Get up in the Morning? Cake!

This one will be short.

Why do I get up in the morning?

Breakfast cake!

The best part of a birthday or holiday is that there is usually leftover pie or cake and, for the next couple of days, there is a breakfast treat!

There is nothing in the world like a hot cup of coffee and big piece of cake or pie.

How do you like the look of my birthday cake? The recipe? Sure!

Best Chocolate Cake – Handle the Heat

My version uses a cup of strong coffee instead of espresso powder and coconut oil. I don’t like frosting much, so I fill between the layers with cherry pie filling I make from frozen cherries cut in half instead of canned. AND this time I sprinkled it with powdered sugar. Next time I’m going to sprinkle it with chopped almonds, too!

Gotta go! The cake calls me!

Why do I get up in the Morning? Books!

Books!
That’s why I get up
so damn early in the morning!

Years ago, when my children were small, I developed a habit I still carry with me. It’s grown with time and I still wonder what I’ll do with it. I read books.

I used to wake up every morning, get a cup of coffee, and turn on the tv. I’d watch the news usually. Then I had children. I’d get them a “cup of coffee,” a sippy cup of warm milk with a touch of chocolate syrup in it, and they’d snuggle down on the couch with me and allow me a precious moment to have my coffee and wake up.

As they grew and started sleeping past the crack of dawn, I still rose early so that I could see my husband off to work and grab a bit of peace before the chaos. I’d sit on the couch with my coffee and watch an hour of tv, checking my email and then adding social media while it droned in the background.

In high school and college, I read a lot, mostly horror and sci-fi novels, but some classics for school. As I got older, I stopped making time for reading and with kids…well…I thought I’d never have the peace and quiet I needed to read again.

One day it dawned on me. What if I stopped turning on the tv when I got up in the morning and picked up a book? It started with about fifteen minutes of reading a day, in the wee quiet hours of the morning. I’d stumble out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and plop myself down with my current read. The moment the kids were up, reading time was over.

As the kids got older, I could read for at least an hour every morning before I needed to start my day. It was a great way to get my mind right. The kids almost always woke up to find me still in the corner of the couch, flipping pages.

These days, I’m typically in my place reading by 5am. I have a whole shelf dedicated to my TBR pile, and don’t allow myself to overflow it. No more space means I must hold off on ordering new books! I’ve kept a reading journal for years, making note of what I’ve read, title, author, and genre, when I read it, and how long it took me to read it. I spend about two hours a morning reading each day. And since we’re down to one “child” in the house that goes to college and works, I have started to build more time into the afternoon to read.

What will I do with all this information? I have no idea. I read a hefty amount of non-fiction: history, science, sociology, etc. I read classic literature and popular fiction. In the past, I think it has helped me think more clearly. Reading has given me a lot of peace, like meditation, it’s good “selfcare” for me. Homeschooling my sons was easier reading about education styles, history of education, and child development books. And now I’m starting to blog more about what I’m reading.

Who knows where I’ll go with it or what it will bring me in the future? Reading is the same as life. The outcome isn’t important. It’s the process; experiencing the moment. I read where my heart takes me and enjoy the time I spend in my books, taking what I need with me and leaving the rest.

Books: Another fine reason to get up in the morning.

Why Do I Get Up in the Morning – Episode 9

You might think that I know exactly what my Monday post will be about each week, but you’re so wrong. Like the rest of my life, I have a basic structure and a set of principles to guide me in general, but I let things fall as they may (as much as possible). It’s a system that has taken me most of my life to develop and accept, but it has certainly served me well.

The basic structure of the Monday post is that on Sunday I go through my pictures (I take a lot of pictures…of everything) and think about my week. Then I sit with my computer for thirty minutes and see what comes up.

The principle I follow here is “positivity.” What has triggered a sense of happiness, peace, or joy? What reason did I have this week to smile?

This week it was snow. And not JUST snow, my feet in snow. The sound of fresh snow as I take a that first step onto it and it crunches and compacts beneath my feet.

I grew up in Southern California. Snow is a foreign concept to us southern coastal types. Now that I think about it, cold in general is a bizarre notion to us. Dressing warm means the heavy sweatshirt and possibly socks.

The first time I remember experiencing snow was when my Mom moved away, and I went up to visit her. I was about twenty years old and had flown up to see her. It was snowy cold at the airport, but not spectacular, nothing beautiful. It was when we arrived at her house and stepped out of the car and onto the snow-covered grass. My foot sunk into the inch of snow with a quiet crunch that I could feel in my shoes. I stopped immediately and listened as I purposefully sunk my other foot into the snow. It was a sound I had never heard before, and I was fascinated.

Where I live now, it snows about once a year. The first time there was enough snow on the ground to perform the crunch, I ran out with my children and took video of them experiencing it themselves. I was excited to say the least and to my joy, so were they. To this day, every time it snows, I’m excited to go out and feel it again. I usually take a quick video of a step or two to send to my mom.

I don’t know why it makes me smile. It just does. Maybe if I lived where it snows heavily all winter every year, I’d grow weary of it, but I don’t. It’s still new to me every time. The quiet rural air muffled even more by a blanket of soft snow. The crisp feel of the icy air in my nose. I stand on the porch ready to take my first step into frosty white. Heel first… a rolling crunch…it’s just so strange. It’s not a true crunch. Can you feel it? It’s more of a rough sliding, compacting of fluffy ice.

This week, as I drove home from a visit with my mom, I stopped at a roadside rest area covered in snow. It was 17 degrees outside and all I had on was a hoodie, jeans, and tennis shoes. I shivered as I ran to the bathroom and was ready to run straight back to the truck, but there before me was a big patch of untrodden snow. All alone on the side of the road, not a soul in sight, surrounded by snowy hills and huge trees, I smiled and took that step…crunch…ahh…so satisfying.

How does a sound transport one so quickly? I can see myself at 90 years old, my grown grandchildren taking me out of the home for a picnic, but I make them stop at patch of new snow just so I can feel it again. I hope they know why.

Why Do I Get Up In The Morning? – Episode Eight

There are days when I wish I had more friends to invite to a party. Wouldn’t it be nice, I think to myself as I sip a glass of whiskey, if this porch and house were filled with people? Maybe.

Then I look around me. There aren’t many of us here every week, but the feelings fill the room. A couple of us are here every weekend, some come occasionally, some stay for an hour, and some stay well into the night.

We are fortunate to live in a place where an “outdoor livingroom” can be a thing, and we’ve used it to our advantage. Just about every week we cook, we drink, laugh, and talk out there. We share stories, listen to music, shoot pool and keep a tally of winners and losers. “You marked that one down, right?!” is often heard yelled across the patio as the winner goes to pull another home brew from the keg and the loser reaches for the rack to set up the next game.

There is only one rule on Friday nights, “No bullshit.” This is the place we leave the outside world’s shit behind. We may talk politics, but we do not fight about it. You may bring your kids, but we don’t share opinions about parenting choices…unless we are asked for them. Fighting with your spouse or girlfriend? Leave it outside. There have been a few flare-ups. Even good friends disagree, but it passes quickly because we are all the type that forgive and forget offenses.

This is the time and place to celebrate simply being alive. Come if you want, or don’t. Bring a friend, or not. Bring food, or not. We’re all here to relax and enjoy each other’s company for a few hours.

The night starts with food, proceeds through games and beer, and then people start trickling out the door. It usually ends with the last of us laying on the couch snoring. It’s a wild bunch.

Would it be more fun to have a larger group of people? Possibly, for a time. But this small group of neighbors is irreplaceable. I can’t imagine the week without them.

Halloween Hangover

Halloween has come and gone this year, and I hardly noticed. Has that which used to be my favorite holiday, lost its charm for me? I didn’t even buy a bag of trick-or-treat candy to eat like I have the last couple of years. What has changed? Has the spirit of Halloween deserted me forever?

I loved Halloween as a kid because I got to dress up, it was a chance to be someone else for a day. It also gave me a reason to invite people over for a party. My mom worked hard on costume parties and they were always fun.

As a young adult, I worked the Haunt at Knott’s Berry Farm. I was a part of a “world famous event” and looked forward to the creativity I got to use in my lighting, planning, and leading my crew, not to mention the money for all that overtime!

As a parent, it was a chance to share my childhood rituals with my young family and create some new ones. Every year, a few days before Halloween, we’d scour the thrift stores for ideas and grab up a few things to craft the perfect crazy costumes.

There were years that I’d decorate my house to show it off in all its glory, using my creative mind and acquired Haunt skills. There were parties to host, trick-or-treating, and fun adventures with other families.

When we moved to the rural desert, decorating took a backseat. I didn’t see the point of doing all that work if no one but us sees it. I didn’t miss it. I had other things to do. For a few years in a row, we’d gather up a costume and drive to my Grandpa’s house, picking up pumpkins to carve on the way. We’d spend the whole day decorating the front of his house with him, carving pumpkins, and trying to save some candy for trick-or-treaters. When the sun set, they’d wander the streets door to door to get all the candy they could. I loved hearing people’s comments about their crazy costumes, my kids laughing and playing, and the groans about “paying their taxes” at the end of the night. For those that don’t know, your kids owe you a couple pieces of that candy! I mean, I drove you here and helped with the costume! Where’s my peanut butter cup?!

This year was the quietest Halloween yet. There is only one kid home these days and he worked that night. My husband was brewing beer way into the evening. And me? I spent some time with a book and my journal, among other things. It wasn’t sad, nothing lacking, just peaceful.

If you had told me that some day I’d be home doing “nothing” on Halloween, I’d have been sad to imagine it, but experiencing it was something altogether different. Everything comes in cycles and that’s why I get up in the morning, because I’m aware that I’m on the peaceful side of the Halloween experience cycle and that the busy and wild side will come back around someday. There will be Halloween parties with new friends, my kids will have kids to take trick-or-treating.

I was proud of myself this week. Instead of feeling a twinge of sad and jerking back to avoid it, I leaned in to get a closer look at what was bothering me. I reminisced about the past instead of resenting my present, and I looked forward to the future instead of worrying about uncertainty.

Why Do I Get Up In The Morning – Episode 6

What the heck?! Where have I been? Was there NOTHING to be joyful about? Nothing to share? No reason at all to get up in the morning?!

(That’s me, creating drama!) No, nothing like that at all. I’m just inconsistent with my writing habits. In fact, inconsistency is my mantra, my whole being wrapped up in one fine word! So here I am starting up again, picking up where I left off and waving a big hello to you. I’ll wrap you up in a big hug and sit down next to you, maybe under a tree on a park bench, or across from you in a restaurant over tacos.

Sheesh…I just scanned back and realized that I haven’t talked to you since late August. Two whole months! Instead of boring you with a long list of what I’ve been up too, because honestly, it’s a lot and pretty wild and crazy and…oh who am I kidding?! I’m talking to friends here! You know me. The wildest I get is maybe one too many glasses of tequila and a very loud game of pool on the back porch, but that’s what life is for!

I’ll just pick one thing that I’m extremely proud of at this very moment and tell you about it. My oldest son is off on another adventure today. He’s packing up his car and heading out into the world again. This time, he has a new job in a new state and a new car. And he’s very excited (and I know probably pretty nervous too).

The “pandemic” brought him back to us back in April. He had two jobs, one online and one at an airport, but when the airport laid him off and he wasn’t sure what was going to happen next, he decided that it was probably best just to head home for a bit and regroup. I’ll admit…I kinda pushed in that direction. I was worried and wanted as much of my family together as possible. I’m not always as strong and cool as I make myself out to be. Control is my go-to when I’m not sure of the outcomes, and I grab for anything I can. So here we are, six months later, and after a long and strenuous job search, he’s found work and is on his way.

Me? I’m not so much worried about him leaving as I was in the past. I know he’s a more than capable adult. I just know I will miss him terribly. I realized earlier this week that I was pretending like the day wasn’t coming, just going through the week like usual. I hate dwelling on what’s coming. I hate mooning over “This the last workday. This is the last grocery trip. This is the last beer we share.” Just typing that makes me choke up…stupid to sit and ruin those “lasts” so I pretend they aren’t. It’s ridiculous anyway. He’s not dying or moving to another planet. All kids grow up and move out. Sentimentality is not my strong suit. My husband on the other hand…poor guy.

While I wish he loved the desert as much as we do or could find work closer so that he could be here on weekends to visit, I’m happy that he loves adventure and follows his own heart. I’m happy that he’s not afraid to try new things and create his own world. I’m proud that we’ve created a strong enough foundation for him that he just jumps without worrying about what he’s leaving behind. I wish I were more like him. I think he’s going to love it there once he gets settled and I have a feeling he’ll find some new friends there.

One more thing before I go! His brother is not far behind him. He’s on his way to University in January and when I looked on the map I found that they’ll be only six hours apart. They’ll be able to spend some weekends together camping and hiking, maybe even racing sometime. I know they’re crazy different people and that they each have their own worlds to create, but something about knowing they at least have each other close enough to visit if they want to makes this Mom heart happy.

See you next week!

Really. I promise.

Why I Get Up – Episode 5

This Cat

Abraham De Lacy…Giuseppe Casey…Thomas O’ Malley. Abe for short. I think I’ve seen the Aristocats a hundred times. It’s still one of my favorite Disney movies. When we found some kittens “free to a good home” and saw one was orange, I HAD to have him even though we were there for his calico sister. I took them both. When I got out of the truck with a kitten in each hand, my husband just rolled his eyes. “They were practically giving them away!” I squealed; a phrase used often around here when any of us has succumbed to the “buy me” feeling.”

Once, he went missing for a whole week. I thought for sure he was lost to coyotes, like Chairman Meow before him. But one morning there was a loud meowing at the front door and when we opened it, an orange streak went straight for the water bowl. He was skinny and smelled like cars. My guess is he got locked in the closest neighbor’s garage and came running home as soon as he escaped.

A year later, his sister went missing. Lucy never came back. I assume she was coyote food. It happens. Outside animals need to be smart, fast, or big, otherwise they end up being someone else’s food. That sounds like good words to live by these days.

Abe, aka Mr. McFuzzbutt, is my constant companion. He wakes me up in the morning, follows me to the bathroom, leads me to the living room with his incessant meows to his food bowl, which is usually full of food. It’s as if he honestly needs an audience to eat his breakfast properly. I get my coffee and my book and sit down next to my husband to read while he attempts to sit in my lap and then settles at my feet after a bit.

He loves to drop live mice on my youngest son’s bed in the middle of the night. Jake has learned to meow at Abe when he feels him jump on the bed. If he meows back, he rolls over and goes back to sleep. If he doesn’t, he sits up to catch whatever Abe has brought him.

He scratches at the door if I lock him out. He sheds something fierce. He naps next to me. He follows me around the yard with Chili, his dog sister. He has recently been hunted by a large pack of quail, pounced on and chased by the dog, and dive bombed by hummingbirds. He has scratched me good when I didn’t deserve it and relaxed in my arms or on my shoulder, complaining about how cruel I am to him.

My favorite trick is when he sits on the freezer where his food bowl is and meows for me to fill it up. Like all cats, half full is unacceptable. If no one comes, he scoots the bowl around with is paw. If that doesn’t work, he knocks it off onto the floor making a big noise. And when you come to feed him, he’s curled up politely waiting for you to do the right thing.

I am a cat person. My dog, as much as I love her, annoys me. Dogs are always begging for love, giving you sad looks when you’re not nice to them, and running up to you like you’re the coolest. Have some self-respect, animal!

Cats want to be around you but not too close unless they want to, but then they don’t. They go missing and come back. They pretty much take care of themselves. And I love their “I don’t care” attitude. That’s why I loved Thomas O’Mally in the Aristocats. He was smooth and aloof…but a lover.

My kind of babe.

Why I Get Up in the Morning – Episode 4

I love my own Hobbit feet!

I didn’t write anything last week. It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of anything to get up in the morning for, I just didn’t make time to sit and think about it.

I usually spend an hour each Sunday mapping out the coming week, not that I have so much to do that I need to plan. I draw up the weeks calendar in my journal and work out what things I want to get done and when. It’s fun for me and reminds me that I do accomplish things throughout the week, even if I rarely leave the house these days. Last Sunday, I did not make that plan and it showed.

I’ve been a housewife and Mom for 20 years. ALL my “work” is self-imposed. No one has asked me to do it. No one is watching to be sure I did. If I don’t do it…the only person that knows is me. When the kids were little, there was lots that HAD to do to keep up. Kids need clean clothes, food…attention! Those days have been over for awhile now. My sons are grown and, for reasons you all are probably struggling with as well, live here more like roommates right now, so my responsibilities have shrunk considerably but I still have things I want to get done.

I used to think that if I didn’t have to go to work all these hours, I’d have so much energy to do the projects I want to do. If I didn’t have kids to care for, I’d write a book, paint the house, or make a quilt. It turns out that even if you have all the time in the world, something gets in the way. My attitude and laziness is my nemesis. I’m like an eight-year-old child. “I’m bored and my friends can’t play!”

So last week, I dropped everything and chilled…or at least tried to…stupid summer. I watched tv shows, read, laid still on the floor with the dog, made cookies, and harassed my sons while they tried to play video games. It was a good week, but I got very little done. Productivity was out the window. That’s my story for not making time for this little exercise in gratitude and I’m sticking to it.

But you know what? I’m grateful that I can take the week off from most of my responsibilities when I want to. Why do I get up in the morning? Because I’m damn lucky to have nothing serious to worry about and that I can pretty much spend my days the way I want to. Because I have a husband that works hard at a job that he’s not always happy with so that I can. Because my kids are grown and self-sufficient and I’m not needed as much anymore. Because I’m retired!

Just as a side note, I came on here planning on telling you that I get up in the morning because tacos exist. They are wonderful and any day that I get my butt out of bed could be a perfect day for tacos, but my thoughts went in a different direction as I typed. Probably because I had plenty of tacos yesterday.

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