Kayak Fishing; A community

With tournament season winding down and winter encroaching upon the nation, we as kayak anglers find ourselves in a momentary, almost uneasy state of tranquility.   9 months of fast paced chaos and determination, fueled by gas station pizza and overly packed campsites and bunkhouses has abruptly dissolved into an abundance of free time and resources.  The road warriors thankful for a few months of rest, but eager to refuel and plan their tournament schedule for 2019.  The newcomers to the sport twiddling their thumbs, jonesing for the next chance at making a name for themselves.

During these few months of down time, we are able to reflect on our season in many regards.  The wins and losses, memories, blessings and tragedies.  For me personally, it is a way to remember why I became a part of this community years ago, and reading the latest posts from fellow anglers reassure me that many of us share the same reasons.

  • We are broken– Having spent three years in this sport, and getting to know more of its members more intimately, there is a common theme; The outdoors is our sanctuary, and fishing is our refuge. We come from all walks of life, and have found peace in the still mornings on the water.   Many of us have relied on this sport to carry us through the traumatic experiences of war, help us on the road to recovery after various addictions, cope with painful loses and the ending of relationships.   Each and every one of us has a past, and our pasts have been intricately woven into a giant blanket of consolation that shelters us and offers understanding and grace in this community.   We are the best versions of ourselves when we are doing what we love, and our sport allows us platforms to share our stories and encourage each other in every area of our lives.

  • We belong– One of the neatest things I’ve noticed about our community is how quickly friends become family. Over the course of my life, I’ve never really felt quite “at home” in large gatherings. I have had to feign interest at many social events and parties, and eventually decided I preferred to go about things alone, until I became a part of this family.  I distinctly remember my first national tournament, and how easily the conversation flowed with each and every person I met, as if I had known them since kindergarten.   I’ve been to local events of 15 anglers to events with over 700, and the air bellows with laughter and is alive with fellowship.   As human beings, we all have this innate, indescribable sense of wanting to belong.  And as I rifle through the relationships I’ve made in this sport, the striking age differences and personality types, it is unmistakable that we belong here.

  • It gives us purpose- Through kayak fishing, we have been able to take part in charity tournaments, volunteer for Heroes on the Water events, help get our nations youth involved in the outdoors, and aid in conservation and preservation of the land and wildlife we respect and cherish.  I’ve witnessed so many clubs, individuals and companies come together, offering aid and relief in our most recent tragedy. I’ve seen anglers selflessly give when other anglers are experiencing loss.   Being able to be part of a movement that does so much GOOD for our world is powerful.  Each and every one of us have people that look up to us daily, whether they be our children or our peers, and we are able to influence lives in every post that we make and every conversation we have.

  • It allows us to satisfy our competitive sides, while staying grounded– I’ve had a rather tenacious, competitive side ever since I was a kid.  Sometimes that hasn’t always brought out the best in me.  But what I’ve been able to learn is that winning actually isn’t everything.   As I recollect my favorite memories this season, only 1 of them involves one of my top tournament finishes, and that isn’t anywhere near the top of my list of favorites.  Strange, right?  Many of these memories include fishing with the friends I’ve made kayak fishing, whether during a tournament or not.  For instance, Andy Moore sharing his last few baits and beckoning anglers over to fish with him when he was on wining fish. The growth I’ve made in this sport is owed solely to my veteran peers, like Andy, being able to witness how they handle themselves while competing.

There was a time where I was known as the girl who would never allow guys to help me load my boat, and I was too proud to accept help from anyone.  Fast forward three years later and I’m asking friends to tow me off the lake after a long day like a damn princess.  I have been able to move past that girl who almost swore off fishing after a horrible performance three years ago at a national tournament, to the woman who just recently had another poor performance but was able to leave the event grateful to have everyone arrive safely home, and thankful for another incredible weekend with my kayak fishing family.   I was able to take the time during the event to fish with friends, share tips, and throw a crankbait my grandpa brought down to me, even though I wasn’t in an area that accommodated crank fishing.   Understanding that we all love to compete, but we love our competitors more.

We have to remember it is all about perspective.   We have anglers just starting out, guys who have made the switch from the glitter boat world, and devote kayak purists who have been in the game for decades.  We have guys and gals that are disappointed with their seasons, not hearing others praising and congratulating them on an incredibly successful year.   That is the beauty of it all.  In our sport, there are blessings radiating out of every corner, we just have to open our eyes and receive them.

Lastly, I want to elaborate on something Elite Pro Dave Lefebre said after our tournament on Lake Erie.  He commended us all on our unique, tight knit relationships, and touched on the rarity of that type of camaraderie in this industry.  Now, I understand the kayak entities don’t necessarily provide the means to make a living in this industry… yet… and perhaps that is why we have managed to uphold our integrity and reputation for so long.  But with increasing interest and sponsors, resulting in larger payouts and more limelight, I pray that we don’t forget the grassroots that paved the progressive path we have found ourselves on.  I hope that we are reminded of that feeling we get as we prepare for our next tournament.  The feeling that is mostly devoid of the merciless, cutthroat tactics often used in the big bass boat world, and filled with eagerness to see friends from all over the country, waiting to greet you with some sarcastic remark, usually reminding you that you somehow still weren’t able to qualify for the NC, but they’re going to start a pity fundraiser to get you there.  (sorry Kittrell 😉 )

To close, I want to give a special thanks to each and every one of the people in this community.  I’ve learned selflessness, humility and kindness from all of you.  You’ve made me a better competitor and more importantly, a better person.  See you all in 2019.   God bless!

*Photo credit to @ICToutdoors and @beardedgloryoutdoors


“She’s good, for a girl”.

The early morning is still, and the bay is teeming with bait.  A bass boat cuts the silence and slowly advances in my direction.  The two men occupying the boat peer up at me from behind buffs and dark glasses, acknowledging me with a slight hand wave after I say good morning.  They continue on to the kayak 40 yards down the bank, and proceed to ask him how the bite has been.  My client shrugs his shoulders and replies, “Caught a few this morning, but she’d know more than I would, she’s the guide.” I feel that ever-too-familiar, perplexed set of eyes on me.  Without looking up, I make a slight hand gesture towards them as I finish rigging a double fluke for my client to throw next.

A mile in my shoes-

That wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time I’m by passed on the water, or ignored in a tackle shop.  It’s like having to adjust to a new school every other weekend.  Feeling the weight of censorious eyes on you.  Starting over, re-introducing and re-proving yourself each time you get on the water.   Pulling out pictures and past experineces until you’re accepted and allowed in the group.  And though I’ve always enjoyed a challenge, over the years these experiences have culminated into an on-going mental battle.

For instance, the days leading up to the Hobie Bass Open, I heavily debated whether or not to compete. Not for fear of failure, rather fear of having great success and having people question whether my success was a result of my boyfriend directing the tournament.   This fear, though slightly outweighed by overwhelming excitement, still managed to share the stage with me as I was handed the 3rd place check.

Then there’s the growing pains of the fishing world, slowly adjusting to women entering an industry dominated by their male counterparts.  I’ve seen tournaments and events where any female who catches a fish, despite the quality, is degradingly “rewarded” with a prize, similar to a participation ribbon.  To add to that segregation, there have been comments made to anglers I placed ahead of in a tournament that they were “beat by a girl”, as if that is also degrading.

Now these issues only pertain to my peers in the fishing community, I also have to deal with the fact that I’m the girl who has grown up hanging out with the guys, which presents its own set of problems.  I’ve dealt with false accusations, rumors and phone calls from girlfriends or wives concerned I’m out on the water or on the camping trip vying for attention from their partners, because it just isn’t possible that I would be out on the water on this sweltering hot summer day just because I like to fish, right?  I have to think about this each time male friends ask to car pool to a tournament, share a cabin on a trip, or calls to simply talk about the bite lately.  I have to consider each individual situation and deem whether or not its appropriate, despite the complete lack of ill intentions.

Sometimes I feel like I constantly have to defend myself and my intentions, to everyone… and that can be exhausting.

Though I’ve practiced certain tactics to prevent self destruction and negative thoughts, these things still manage to slide past the carefully placed barriers and frequent my mind whether I’m tournament fishing or recreational fishing.

 

The exception to the rule –

I feel like it’s getting more difficult to believe there indeed are anomalies in this sport.   Women who defy the odds and load up their boats at 4 am each morning to beat the crowd.  Women who can talk the talk and walk the walk.  Women who desperately want to “fit in” and be accepted as talented anglers, and then there are others who saw this industry as an opportunity to gain fame.

I know I’ve heard many complaints from peers when another female gets a sponsorship or partnership, and I don’t discredit that frustration.   Do the majority of them understand the product or even posses the skills necessary to effectively utilize it? Probably not, but it’s called PRO-motional staff for a reason, and we all know what sells in this industry.  However, when you’re upset that another pond angler in a bikini took your spot or opportunity, think about what that means for me.

Because of that truth, any opportunity or sponsorship I get is automatically attributed to my gender or the fact that on occasion, I smile nice. Because of the majority, I have to work ten times harder than you do to be taken seriously.  I’ve had people who have never shared the water with me rant about the opportunities I’ve had and discredit my talents.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but the stereotype I’m trying to push past is daunting.  Social media does an exceptional job of portraying female anglers one way.  Then there’s YouTube lady angler sensations producing content consisting of guides putting them on fish, and ultimately giving the false impression that females can’t do this on their own.  Marketing campaigns featuring females in unrealistic angling situations doesn’t help my case either. (I mean come on… what angler straddles boats, while awkwardly holding a fishing rod in clothing that isn’t functional?)

After its all said and done, I feel like this mountain I’m trying to climb makes Mt. Everest look like a cake walk.

Fortunately, I’ve always enjoyed climbing.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T Find out what it means to me –

Through the years I’ve learned to almost endure and anticipate these situations, but I’d by lying if I said I’m entirely immune to the ramifications.  Just like everyone else, my pride is vulnerable.  I would love nothing more than to sit here and tell you I’ve handled all of this with class and dignity,  but for the sake of transparency, there have been many times I haven’t. There have been times I’ve lashed out, contemplated quitting the sport, or sat and complained to anyone who had the time to listen.

I cannot tell you how many times in the past I have sat in my garage, re spooling and rigging before a tournament thinking,  “How many more top finishes will I have to have before it’s merely just “accepted” that I belong there?”  “Will they stop thinking that I must have had help from somebody”, “How many times before the thought, “she got lucky”, vanishes?” “When will I be acknowledged as a skilled angler, not just an angler that is good… for a girl?”

I’ve been guilty of being my own worst enemy more times than I’d like to admit. I’ve allowed the comments and gossip act as hindrances to my own personal progress, but with more time in the game, strength and stoicism follows.

My disposition – 

I often straddle the line of wanting to only be recognized as an angler, forfeiting the extra accreditation that comes with being a rarity, and then wanting to continue making strides and setting the bar as a female angler, proving that stereotypes don’t apply to all and odds can be defied.

Many know and try to understand this is a struggle I’ve been fighting for the entirety of my career, and I’ve had to learn to pick my battles and learn when to let things go.  I’ve learned that it’s more important to silently lead by the example I want to set rather than voice my opinions and frustrations on certain matters.

I have learned patience and I have learned grace.

For the sake of assuring this isn’t a redundant pity party, I’m aware that this message doesn’t apply to everyone.  I am beyond grateful to belong to a strong community of anglers and friends who know drive and recognize my authenticity and skill.  I am forever thankful for each and every one of you.

To the rest of the world, I hope I shed some light on some of the aspects of these struggles, without conveying the wrong tone. With experiences, both good and bad, comes growth and wisdom.  We all have individual conflicts we face whether they be in our hobbies or other areas of our lives. It’s easy to fall victim to the things that attempt to bind me to the stereotype of being a female in the outdoors world, but I know well that that isn’t my destiny.  This is what I was born to do, and I’ll continue to push the worlds perceived limitations of what I’m capable of.  Im here to stay.


Behind the scenes: This life we LIVE

“Then, she began to breathe, and live, and every moment took here to place where goodbyes were hard to come by. She was in love, but not in love with someone or something, she was in love with her life. And for the first time, in a long time, everything was inspiring.”  R.M Drake 

I often get questions or raised eyebrows, when people find out what I “do”, or they learn the details regarding my “lifestyle”.  I often get disregarded as “lost” and living out my dreams is commonly mistaken for “Indefinitely searching for something” when in truth, for the first time in my life, the rat race to find happiness ended when I maneuvered my way throw the crowd, and opted for the less traveled side road.

In this process, I’ve allowed my mind to be malleable, while maintaining my core principals and beliefs.  I’ve allowed this life to happen to me, welcoming both the good times and the hardships.  What this journey has taught me, I deemed valuable enough to share with you, in hopes that you may find some inspiration and joy.

Comparison IS the thief of JOY – quite possibly one of the best quotes spoken by a former US president.   Let me dive headfirst into this thought… so often we find ourselves riddled with envy when we look at others, and with everyones best attributes being flaunted on social media, we’ve made it an easy trap to fall victim to.  We want that mans job, that woman’s hair, that couples house, that winning lottery ticket, that kids athletic ability.  What this does, is rob us from the blessings in our own lives.  Each and every one of us has something in life to be eternally grateful for, why is it that we tend to focus more on what we don’t have?  You know that saying, “the grass is greener where you water it”?  Focus on whats right in your life, and use that mentality and positivity to fix what’s wrong in your life.

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with – Choose wisely.  The world is full of people who will lift you up, and people who will suck your soul DRY. You want to take the steps to become more successful?  Look at the people you keep in your life.   What is their message? How do they interact with you? What are their goals?  How are they contributing to your life?  I truly believe that human beings can be one of the best resources on this planet, if we choose to invest wisely in the right ones.

It’s not all kittens and rainbows –  We are very, very skilled when it comes putting our best face on for the public.  People see my pictures, my travels, the many adventures and the big smile peeking out from under a tattered ball cap.  What I am trying to work on this year, is being more transparent.  This is a humbling, vital tool that is necessary when we want to convey our message and be taken seriously.  I have never been the type to spew emotional details about my struggles to even my close friends and family, let alone lay them out on the internet.   However, I don’t want to deceive my audience that my life is the definition of perfection.   It is perfectly imperfect, for me.   I don’t post the pictures of the flat tire in the middle of Albertas wilderness, I post the picture of the sunrise the next day.  I don’t post about the lonely treks across the country where my mind tends to wander to thoughts of friends and family.  I post about what I learned on the journey.  I tend to leave out the details that make my trips less desirable, but I plan on changing that because each and every bump in the road has allowed me to stay grounded and provided an immeasurable opportunity to grow.

Don’t follow the path others think you should be on, follow your own –  This, I see all to often.  The status quo.  The American dream.  That’s all great, but it simply isn’t for everyone.  I cannot begin to tell you the amount of people who called me crazy for quitting my steady job, to pursue a dream.  In doing so, I experienced more uncertainty and took on more risks that I care to admit, but it has ultimately brought me more peace of mind than I could have ever possibly hoped for.   People I encounter tend to comment on how positive I am.  I have received three unanimous post cards this past year at my studio from strangers I’ve met on my travels, saying my attitude on life was infectious, refreshing, and inspiring. This alone has reaffirmed that I made the right choice.  (lets focus on the good message here, not how these strangers took the time to research my pilates studio and write me… #theyallseemedharmless 😉 )

I wanted to keep this post brief, I’ll dive in to a few of these bullet points in later posts I’m sure.  The goal here is to encourage you to whole heartedly follow the path that brings YOU joy.  I’d be lying if I told you that the road I’m on has been level, paved and is lined with rest stops that serve cold beer.  But I’d also be lying if I told you I regret taking it.  There are cold nights away from home when my curious mind starts to dance around thoughts of all the security I previously had, but they are quickly replaced with a smile when I realize that I can say that I do not fear the future, I am at peace with the unknown, and I have relentlessly followed my dreams with no regrets, consequently filling me with a joy that continues to ignite my soul with a fire that no one or nothing can ever put out.   Thank you for reading.

“I have been finding treasures in places I did not want to search. I have been hearing wisdom from tongues I did not want to listen. I have been finding beauty where I did not want to look. And I have learned so much from journeys I did not want to take. Forgive me, O Gracious One; for I have been closing my ears and eyes for too long. I have learned that miracles are only called miracles because they are often witnessed by only those who can can see through all of life’s illusions. I am ready to see what really exists on other side, what exists behind the blinds, and taste all the ugly fruit instead of all that looks right, plump and ripe.”


Perspective – An angler, who happens to be a female.

“Nature has no mercy at all. Nature says, ‘I’m going to snow. If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that’s tough. I am going to snow anyway.’ ” Maya Angelou

“Whoa that dude just caught a musky over there in the kayak!! …… wait…. I think that’s a chick…”

On of the best parts of being a female in this sport is seeing the looks on people’s faces when I take off my ball cap at the boat ramp after stepping out of my kayak from a long day on the water, or when I meet them on the ice at first light and they notice my long blonde braid peeking out from my face mask.

I’m sure many aren’t sure of what to think, and some are very vocal about it. I have had both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.  I’ve been disrespected and I’ve been praised.  I have had obstacles because I am a female, and I’ve had opportunities because I’m a female.  Sadly, most people fail to take me seriously at first, and I believe it is not only due to traditions, but largely because of social media and how most women in the outdoors are portrayed.  The barbie dolls dominate the internet while the practical outdoor women drown in the stereotypes.

 I have fought for many years to prove that I am truly passionate about the sport.  I have pushed myself well out of my comfort zone and faced adversity on many levels trying to tell the world I’m not just a blonde chick who likes to be outside.  It is something I have grown accustomed to, and I wanted to share some insight and thoughts on being a female angler.

To my male counterparts who knowingly or unknowingly stereotype: 

  1. I don’t blame you.  Anytime I am introduced to a fellow lady angler, I catch myself doing the same thing.   In a world where the scantily clad,  “female anglers” are featured provocatively posing with sub par catches, how can anyone not doubt the legitimacy of the rest of the ladies claiming to be true outdoors enthusiasts?   While we are entitled to our suspicions, please keep in mind that though our numbers may be few, there are women out there whose passion for the sport rivals and could possibly trump you own.
  2. I fished a 24 hour, run and gun style kayak tournament last spring against 39 other men, and in that time span, I fished 9 different bodies of water, including a giant reservoir in the middle of the night, I didn’t sleep, I caught 11 different species and came in second place… and I did it alone.  I am usually the first one on the water, and the last one to leave, and the weather plays no role in my decision to fish.
  3. When you think about discriminating, remember, there are also men out there who can’t catch a bass in a 10 acre farm pond but collect pro staffs like Rosie O’donell collects pounds.
  4. I may speak for myself here, but I believe true women of this sport don’t necessarily want extra attention just because they are females.  I remember fishing the Tournament of Champions at Lake Fork, Texas, and one of the directors asked if I’d talk to the camera because I was one of four women, I politely declined and said, “If I win this tournament, heck yeah, give me that spotlight. Until then, I’m just a regular angler.”  When I go to an outdoors event or tournament, I’m not looking for compliments or true love, I’m here to share tips and stories with fellow anglers from all over the country who are cut from the same cloth, and I’m here to compete.

To the men and businesses who lift up and encourage the bikini babes:

  1. Basing a woman’s talent on of the size of her waist and bust typically is not the best method.
  2. I’ve had several companies contact me regarding a “pro staff” if I would pose for a calendar… ha.  You can keep the free flat bill and decal.  I’ll keep my integrity.
  3. Speaking of pro staffs, I met a highly decorated female athlete in Florida who is sponsored by a number of large companies.  We talked fishing for a few minutes, and I learned that her knowledge of the sport was comparable to that of an infant child’s.   Male or female, are these the types of people you want representing your brand?
  4. I have had several comments from several of you keyboard warriors regarding the lack of effort put into making myself look presentable on the water or in the field.  I must be mistaken, I thought we were here for the sport.  I hash tagged #diehardangler, not #dothesewadersmakemelookfat, but again I do appreciate all the time you spend in the dark on the computer letting the real, bold, outdoor women out there know what you think of their wardrobe selection, while they are outside relentlessly LIVING this life.  You will have a much better chance at meeting a girl if you get off of the computer and out of your mothers basement.

To the Bikini Babes: 

  1. I can’t write this without giving you some credit.  I have no doubt that many of you saw this market as a giant opportunity to make money and gain a massive following.  We’ve known ever since Pearl Tobacco Co feature a naked woman on their packaging in 1871 that sex sells, and it sells well.
  2. I also cannot write this without clarifying something.   Wearing a bikini and fishing isn’t something I am condemning.  I get it, its summer, its hot. You spent a lot of time on the treadmill, you’re proud of the way you look, and girl, you should be.   You’re out fishing and happen to be wearing a bikini and hook into a decent fish.   Absolutely, take that picture and share it.  It’s when the focus of the picture shifts from the catch to the female anatomy is when eyebrows are raised, and many question your intentions.
  3. Explain something to me.  What does straddling the side of the boat, staring off into the sunset in a thong bikini, with the caption “I just looooove fishing” do for your image? I can tell you what it doesn’t do, and thats earn the respect of serious and professional anglers in the community.   Don’t you want to be taken seriously? Or is it just about the paycheck…
  4. Lastly, remember your audience.  Though much of your following consists of middle aged, single men and pre pubescent teens, there are also young women who view your page.  While I support encouraging women to be themselves and to be proud of how they look,  I do not support the superficial, sell-your-soul message that some lady anglers portray by posting seductive images that highlight everything that the outdoors is not. What message do you want to send to them?

To the few and far between, the unabating lady angler:

  1.  Let me tell you, my first time fishing tournaments I was a nervous wreck.  I felt like I had something to prove because I knew I had eyes on me.  If a guy zeros, no one notices, but I felt it I did, everyone would attribute it to my gender.  I felt like I needed to do this thing on my own.  I turned down fishing advice from others and I wouldn’t let anyone help me load my kayak on top of my vehicle.   All of that was foolish.   We are in this sport to teach and to learn.  To listen and to be heard.  When a guy offers help, don’t take offense to it.  The majority of the guys in the sport are genuine and are proof that chivalry isn’t dead, and has a place in the outdoors.
  2. Though you probably share the same opinion when it comes to bikini anglers, I would encourage you not to tear them down.  When it comes down to it, they are human beings and are also women in this sport, whether they choose to represent it as we would or not.   There is a much more constructive way to get a message across than hateful comments.  I have found that your voice is the loudest when you choose not to use it in a way that is degrading.
  3. We all strive to be taken seriously.  It is easy to get offended when people doubt your abilities, but allow your actions to prove them wrong.  It may take time to earn the respect of the majority, but isn’t that the fun part?
  4. I hate to break it to you, but the majority of the messages you will receive on social media won’t in fact be about inquiring information on the giant bass you just posted a picture of, but rather your marital status.  Many guys who asks to go fishing with you probably don’t care to hear about your tricks on working a shaky head jig.  Be selective and be careful. Don’t let the attention that comes along with being a rarity in this field get to your head or discourage you.  Stay humble and grounded.
  5. Let’s face it.  We DO get more attention on social media and outdoor companies because we are females.  It’s the raw truth.  Instead of using that as an ego booster, use it as a platform to let your voice be heard.  It is an opportunity for us to not only get free product, but more importantly to let the world know that we are here, and our passion is real.
  6. Lastly, I want to thank you. Thank you for staying true to YOU.  For taking the high road.  For turning down easy money. For defying the odds, and overcoming adversity. For helping me grow the sport and pave the road from young women across the country. You all inspire me, and I pray I continue to lift you up.


Living TV Free

“The more television you watch, the more you see people who seem richer than you. Research shows that you will then overestimate the income of real people, and underestimate the value of your own. So the more television you watch, the more dissatisfied with yourself you become. You’ll also spend more money: By one estimate, you’ll spend an extra four dollars per week for every hour of television you watch. Of course, television is about drama, which means violence, infidelity, and amoral behavior, and you end up overestimating the frequency of these things in real life. You may conclude that the world is less safe than it actually is, and decide that you’d better stay home and watch more television.”

— From Rewire by Richard O’Connor

It all started yesterday morning at the Pilates studio.  I was taking a client through a spine stretch when I heard another client who had just finished a session say, “NO… Christina blah blah blah is getting a divorce?!”

As she sat down, dramatically flipping through the pages of the magazine to learn the lurid details regarding this woman on the cover, whom I later found out was a reality TV star, the entire studio erupted in a fit of gossip and opinions.  Through the confusion and mystery of who this person actually was and why her intimate life mattered to anyone, I decided to write about it.

Now, let me give you some background.   I grew up without TV for the majority of my life (we had 3 channels until I was 9 months old, never actual cable).   Yes, I said it.  No “3rd rock”, “Friends”,  or “Boy meets world”.  I survived my first 18 years of life devoid of Television.  As a matter of fact, not only did I survive, upon moving out, I chose to CONTINUE to live TV free.  Crazy, right?

Let me start by saying, this is not me telling anyone how to live their life or raise their kids. Heaven knows I am NO expert on either of those things.  This is simply a blog meant to inspire thought and maybe cultivate a new perspective on the topic, from someone who has spent her life outside of the box.

I have very vivid memories concerning my childhood.  My younger brother and I spent every waking hour outside, which I believe greatly attributed to my love for the outdoors today.  I remember family game nights, family reading nights, meals together and family camping trips. However, I don’t remember the few Saturdays I spent at friends houses watching cartoons.   Yes, from time to time, I felt “left out”, when the conversation turned to whatever show was popular at the time, but looking back, the pros far outweighed the cons when it came to television.

“Well, there were two things. One, we simply couldn’t afford it, and there was nothing but a bunch of crap on there anyway.  Two, it was a good excuse just to veg out and we weren’t having family quality time.   So we chose not to have it.  It made you guys more creative kids. You built things, played outside, did things kids were supposed to do.  You read so much, we took you to the bookstore, and it caused your dad and I to engage with you guys.  Normally, you’d be watching tv while I made dinner, but the way it worked out you guys were in the kitchen connecting with me.  We had no distraction and no noise in the house, and we were able to focus on one another.  We were young, we didn’t have a lot of money, so we took that money we saved on cable and took you guys to the bookstore.  We did family trips.   I truly believe it was the best decision we ever made as parents. Now we can afford it, and we still don’t want it. We never want it. We read, we talk, we wind down together.  You can end a day without having to sit in front of the TV set.”    –  My Mom, when I called her this morning at 6 am and asked her why they chose not to have TV.  (forgive the rambling thoughts, I woke her up when I called  😉 )

After the conversation with my mom this morning, I sat back and looked around my living room.  It’s quiet, save for the candles cracking on the table.  There are a few bookshelves, and many photographs from my trips littered on the walls.  Aside from commenting on my mallard mount or photographs, the first thing friends say when they enter my home is, “Where’s the television?”

So, here are some ways living TV free has affected me positively.  I would list the negatives, but in all honesty, to date, there are none.

  1. The obvious… I have more time to be productive –  Without the temptation of the television, I’ve cultivated a fairly active lifestyle.  I spend time outdoors and I invest more time into my career.  Without the desire to binge on whatever show I’ve missed on Netflix or the routine date with the couch at 6pm on Wednesdays, I have more freedom and more time to see my family, call a friend or explore a new hobby.
  2. Money in the bank –   I asked a few friends and clients what their monthly cable bill was, and the responses varied anywhere from $70 to $220.  Leaning on the safe average of $100 a month, thats $1200 a year.  That could be a family camping trip or several small outings over the course of that year.   Its fun plex passes, a down payment on a vehicle,  books or money you could invest.  Aside from the obvious, tangible cable bill, theres the advertising.  Sitting in front of the TV is one more way to fall victim to advertisements promising all their products will better your life in one way or another.
  3. It allows you to experience boredom  –  A study was conducted a few years back that found it is entirely beneficial for children to be “bored”.   Enforced solitude is a wonderful spur. Being bored allows for reflection and it fosters creativity.  Even if just for an hour, switching off the television, taking away all distractions from our digital lives, and immersing ourselves in our own thoughts allows us an intimate opportunity to grow.  This is just as important for adults as it is for children.

“Two big initials were cable and TV.  Two separate entities. We never had cable, but we had tv for a very short time.. it was 30 bucks a month we couldn’t afford, and there really wasn’t anything wholesome or good on.  I read a lot, and your mom read a lot to you guys and she drew and painted.   Getting rid of the Tv proved to have zero negative impact on our family, rather positive.  That was the first affirmation that we were good parents from you guys… (chuckles)  parents wait their entire lives to hear they were right on something, and the positive experience you guys had without tv growing up, we heard pretty quick.. I think your freshman year in college in fact. You always like to hear from your kids that they realized you did something right.”  –  My Dad. 

5. It allows you to be PRESENT – One of the things I’ve never quite understood (and its left me out of the majority of conversations the past ten years) is the infatuation with reality TV, and these characters personal lives.  Do we really have an innate yearning to know who John chooses to be his wife and live happily ever after, after a few weeks spent together in a polygamous cesspool of drama and drinks? Haha, maybe its the comedic aspect people are addicted to.  Either way, does it have anything to do with our immediate lives? (Remember, this isn’t a blog intended to tell you how to live, so all the Bachelor/Bachelorette fans can rest easy, and watch on.) I just wonder if taking the time we might spend finding out who gets booted from the island, to call a friend who is going through a real divorce, or a friend who just had twins, or a friend who just lost their father etc, and investing in their lives, could prove to be a mutually rewarding experience.

6. POSITIVE VIBES –  Let us be completely honest… aside from the violence, promiscuity, drug and alcoholism, many of the shows on TV also promote this idea that isn’t realistic. We’ve all heard, “I want a romance like they have in so and so movie”…. We seem to enter into this fantasy world when we watch TV, and temporarily escape the issues in our own lives, only to come back to them with unrealistic expectations.   Aside from that, the news and certain programs can evoke fear.  I’ve heard several people hesitate to leave the safety of their homes because of what they’ve seen on TV.  While we do live in a broken, unnerving world, and the news does an excellent job of highlighting all the horrifying events across the globe, we have to understand and believe that there are also magnanimous and noble acts being committed that often go unreported.  While I’m not saying we should turn a blind eye to the news, I do think we should consider the effects constant negativity has on us.   Does it affect how we treat people? How we parent? How we live?

Again, this is NOT a guide on life, just a collection of my thoughts and an attempt to organize my curious mind.  I’ve only met two other people who have lived their entire lives TV free, and about 10-15 others who chose to live TV free after having it. (none of which regret it)  It could be a fun experience to eliminate the ol box for a month or so, or even just reduce the number of hours you watch it. Who knows what you might experience! Thank you for reading!

 

“People have romantic notions about television. In the highest realms they think it’s some sort of art medium, and it’s not. Others think it’s an entertainment medium, it’s not that either. It’s an advertising medium. It’s a method to deliver advertising like a cigarette is a method to deliver nicotine.”

— Bill Maher


A few simple ways to start the day right

We hear it all the time.  One of my favorite inspirational speakers, Bert Jacobs,  founder of “Life is Good” T-shirt company, says it best.

“Eventually we become conscious of the fact that joy doesn’t come from your circumstances.  It comes from your disposition. Focusing on what’s going right and what you are grateful for, instead of what’s lacking and what’s going wrong, is a very effective strategy for approaching life.”

Let me preface this by saying, this mindset didn’t always come easy for me.  Allow me to be vulnerable for a minute… My late teens and early twenties were full of shallow, artificial friendships.  I was addicted to instant gratification, instead of taking the time to build the foundation for long term happiness.  If I experienced any sort of pain, whether it be related to relationship issues, family emergencies, job related stress or quarrels with friends, I was quick to negate the issue. If I felt lonely, I would send out multiple texts to anyone and everyone, feeding off the replies, just to be affirmed that I had company.  If a boy blew me off, I knew a tight-skirted Saturday night downtown could boost my ego.  I had lost my identity in a mess of reckless actions, selfish tendencies, and facile aspirations. I was too proud to “be hurt”, and I saw crying as a sign of weakness.  Oh how young and foolish I was…

I would love to tell you that this rather puerile, imprudent period of my life only lasted a few months before I came to my senses, but it didn’t.  It took several years of failed relationships, major falling outs with good friends and family, and poor decisions that cost me financially and emotionally before I finally confronted the person in the mirror.  This proved to be a very uncomfortable, trying period in my life, but without it, the growth I’ve experienced would be non-existent.  It was time for an overhaul on my outlook on life.   It was time to get back to who I wanted to be, what I wanted to represent, and how I wanted to live.

It started with a rather painful, raw evaluation of myself.  How did I allocate my time? Who did I surround myself with?  How do I treat friends, family and complete strangers? How have I handled stressful situations? What was the first thing I did when I woke up in the morning? Over the years, I started to re-program my mind, and I watched as things began to change.   Now, when I say thing began to change, I don’t mean the bad times and tough situations just all of a sudden disappear.  In fact, the trials and tribulations (mostly consisting of poor college kid syndrome, car issues and other seemingly trivial things) I experienced in my adolescence didn’t hold a candle to what I’ve been through since.

Having to close the book on a 5 year marriage to a wonderful spouse, whom I still respect and admire tremendously, and trade in the acreage in the country for a small townhouse in the middle of the concrete jungle wasn’t something I had in mind for my late twenties, or ever for that matter.  The urge to relapse into that “quick fix” mode had never been more tempting.  Loneliness and fear loomed ominously overhead as I laid in bed at night, listening to the neighbors yell obscenities to what I’m assuming was the television.  I was forced to revisit the trying times I’d experienced throughout the years, the many mistakes I’d made, and the lessons learned.  I knew coming out on top of this situation was going to require more faith, strength and most importantly patience, and in order to cultivate these things, there were certain things I needed to do, and certain things I needed to avoid doing as not to hinder this process.

  1. DONT- start your morning checking your phone.   Studies show that receiving texts and social media likes trigger an increase in dopamine, which ontrols the “pleasure” systems of the brain.  As a society, we are becoming addicted to this instant gratification process.  The problem is, when we allow the number of likes we receive on a photo to measure our self worth, we fall into a hollow pit, void of substance and purpose.
    1. DO- wake up early, make yourself breakfast and sit with yourself in silence.  Allow yourself the time to channel your thoughts in the right direction.   Each morning, after I start the coffee, I read the Proverb and Psalm of the day, and relate it to areas of my life. If Christianity isn’t your thing, opt for self mediation.   Next, I write down things I am thankful for in my gratitude journal.  Even when the morning happens to be especially difficult, we can always find something to be thankful for, even if its as simple as “the smell of donuts courtesy of Dunkin Donuts located a few hundred yards from my place.”  I mean, who can’t be thankful for the smell of glazed donuts?!  But seriously, by jotting down anything and everything you’re grateful for, a small yet powerful change of mind takes place as the ink begins to fill the blank pages.
  2. DONT- Feel like you have to have total control over the situation at hand, or your life.  This only increases anxiety and stress, and most often sets you up for failure.  When we have the desire to be in control, we aren’t as able to “roll with the punches”, and lifes many curveballs can render us helpless.
    1. DO- Give it all up. Whether it be to the big man upstairs, or just something or someone bigger than ourselves.  There is an awesome, liberating and calming sensation that blankets you after you truly give up all your worries, fears and doubts.  **Please don’t mistake this with relinquishing all responsibility and thinking someone else is just going to step in and take care of you.  I mean accepting and making peace with the fact that we are not in total control of this life, therefore, we understand that the unexpected happens, whether we want it to or not, and worrying and stressing over it only takes away the valuable time and effort that could be spent redirecting your thoughts and coming up with a solution.
  3. DONT- Put up walls to shelter yourself from the pain, and isolate yourself from those who love you. The tough exterior, and robot-like actions we think will help us heal, only prevents us from facing the situation, and holds us back from experiencing the real joy that life presents us.  When you deny yourself the ability to “feel” you’re not only doing yourself a disservice in the long run, but you’re allowing yourself to remain “broken”, indefinitely.
    1. DO- Be vulnerable.  If you would have told me 5 years ago that I would at one time suggest this, I’d tell you that you must be off your rocker.  For someone who is inherently stubborn and proud, this was a tough pill for me to swallow, but its allowed me the most growth, spiritually and emotionally.   Accepting that we live in a broken world, and that we are in dire need of grace and forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s necessary if we want to experience that growth.  Life is never kittens and rainbows, and that is OK.  None of us have it all together, and that’s OK also.
  4. DONT- Deny forgiveness from those who have hurt you, or think you are “too good” to need forgiveness from them.
    1. DO- GIVE AND BE FORGIVEN.  Forgiveness, along with kindness, is perhaps the most freeing, yet difficult concept for we as human beings to master.  It requires that we set aside our self entitled pride, and reflect inwards.  It is mandatory that we allow OUR OWN ugliness  to be revealed to ourselves, rather than focusing on that of others.  Grant forgiveness without expecting it in return.  Things have a funny way of working out if you practice this forgotten art.
  5. DONT-  Surround yourself with people and things who do not support your progress and growth.  Yes, “friends” and sometimes family will be lost, but if the track you are on is mentally, spiritually and physically “healthy”,  the right people will encourage your journey.  Keep in mind, when you begin to thrive, jealously and envy will rear their ugly heads and your best and worst critics will be revealed to you.
    1. DO- Choose who you put in your life wisely, and choose how you spend your time wisely.    Devote your time and give back to those who have praised you at your best, and loved you at your worst.  Have coffee with your grandmother and take your grandfather fishing if they are still with you on this earth.  Make dinner for your parents. Go see your best friend.  Sometimes we are guilty of making our lives “too busy”.  (Yes, I have been very guilty of this one)
  6. DONT- be taken prisoner by negative thoughts.  Pity, envy, anger, resentment, fear, and bitterness work like roots that grow from the heart and devastate the mind and body.  Negativity not only affects you, but the people you’re around, and what’s worse, is it’s contagious.
    1. DO- Be the positive cure.  There is something to be said about someone who can maintain a good attitude despite his or her circumstances or surrounding. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”  A simple smile has the power to change someones day.  Imagine what a smile accompanied by a positive attitude could do.
  7. DONT- Rely on another person for your happiness.  Not only does this prevent you from being able to genuinely know yourself, it sets that person up for failure by creating unrealistic expectations.  Expecting a spouse, friend, family member or partner to be responsible for our happiness is ultimately detrimental to the relationship.
    1. DO- Learn how to find your own joy, and cling tightly to what you’ve made of yourself.  When you are able to sit with yourself in silence, take yourself out to dinner or to a movie, it doesn’t mean you more than likely have 34 cats roaming around your home and the highlight of your day is yelling at small children whose kick ball lands in your yard.  Rather, it means you have learned to love yourself. You have grown to understand that though you are flawed and imperfect, you are worth something… and that in itself is something I hope and pray each and every person on this planet can come to know one day.

That being said, I do not claim to have life figured out, nor do I think all of my days will be easy.  I haven’t completely mastered all of these things, and I still fall captive to an occasional negative thought.  However, I do know that I’m in a much better place, and I have gained a better understanding of myself and a better control over my mind because of this outlook.  Like starting an exercise routine or a new hobby, these things take devotion and patience in order to have success.

Looking back at my mistakes and my costly decisions, its tough to resist the urge to find a way to travel back in time, find my younger self, and smack her upside the head with a 2×4 multiple times in hopes of preventing myself from making them. However, I know each and every one of them served a purpose, and shaped me into the woman I’ve grown to be.  I know not of what my future holds, but instead of fearing the unknown, I choose to embrace it.  Instead of being paralyzed by the difficult days that we all have, I choose to channel my thoughts in a positive direction.  Even the darkest clouds have a silver lining, we just have to be open minded enough to see it.

It’s just a start, but I hope that one or two of the things on this list can be the light for others when their world has gone black.  Thank you for reading.

“There’s a sunrise and sunset every day. You can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.” – Cheryl Strayed


The power of optimism.

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I am a devoted believer in the power of optimism, and my belief that optimism and your disposition dictate how you fare through unfortunate circumstances and life’s many mountains. These are just a collection of various thoughts and tips I’ve learned to cultivate optimism.

I’ve experienced and witnessed many trials.. Many of which I wish id have handled differently.. But the beauty is we get second chances.

I believe in positivity, and I do put trust into the inherent good in others.

Constantly, I hear that those are foolish beliefs. Unrealistic. Idealistic.

We all have critics, but we are our own worst critics. Cynicism is not constructive… It’s the opposite.

You are one choice away from drastically changing your life, and many small choices away from changing how you view the world.

I believe in the world Id like to see, and I won’t apologize for that.

We may feel that we are insignificant, and our world is too big for us to make a difference.. But I’ve personally seen how soul-smashingly impactful a simple act of kindness, and a positive attitude can be.
find a reason to smile, and smile often.

Anxiety and negativity are like a weighted vest when you’re swimming in a pool of your own sub consciousness.

Cling to those positive thoughts, and positive people. They’ll help keep your head above the water, and your mind clear.

3 years ago, I started a gratitude journal. I’ve filled hundreds of pages with things as simple as “I’m grateful for the way the sun warms patches of the carpet in the living room” to things as heavy as “the folks who have given their lives so that I may have mine”. You’d be surprised at how writing down what you’re grateful for slowly morphs your mind, and alters your perspective.

Optimism is a movement, and it IS life changing. People can feed off of your optimism. The can feel your energy. Your attitude can change the direction of a conversation. Be the type of person you’d like to run into on the road when you’re down and out. Love deeply, forgive easily, smile every chance you get.


BANFF… positively BA.

Making the absolute most of 2 days in Alberta’s best. 

img_1913Maybe it was the 500 billion pictures of BANFF’s alpine wonders that caught my attention.  I had been to Ontario on several occasions to chase toothy critters that lurked in the deep cabbage beds of remote, fly in lakes.  However, I hadn’t ventured to the western part of Canada, and it had been on my mind for some time.   I needed to redefine what “glacial blue” meant to me.

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Like all of my trips, there is usually little planning involved.  I take advantage of last minute round trip airfare, and plan to pack all my food and figure out my lodging (this most always turns out to be my tent or an SUV) when I get there.  I flew into Calgary, and rented a small SUV to make the drive to BANFF, which was 1.5 hours north west.   I had two fully days to experience all that BANFF had to offer.  Spoiler alert… you need WAY more time.  However, I did my best to get in what I could, and make an adventure out of the whole deal.

Fly fishing the Bow River

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I stopped at a local fly shop just outside the park to purchase my license and get the scoop on the fishing scene.  The guys at the corner were more than helpful.  They pointed out a few areas, and let me know what trails were closed due to high bear activity.  They sent me on my way with a hand full of green drakes, bear spray and confidence.   I was told to walk behind the hospital in BANFF, where I could find a little place that rented canoes and kayaks.  From there, I could paddle up river to a few prime fishing locations, and the dry fly bite would produce, and produce it did.

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