“The world will be saved by the western woman." — Dali Lama
Consider this a manifesto. When I think about the women I know and love, women who are smart, confident and willing to take risks, I think of women who love books and the outdoors. From the depths of my soul I believe that bringing together these three things will save the world.
We build relationships.
When women get together over books and shared adventures, powerful bonds are forged — quickly. We connect deeply and share our passions, challenges and ups and downs. The only way any of us can be successful is with the support of others. Although it’s certainly possible to build relationships in the woods (or mountains, rivers, meadows, oceans) with men, doing it with just women is different.
We prove that femininity is a strength.
We discover we are the heroines of our own stories while in nature, and we begin to understand how that heroine can show up in other parts of our lives. Whether it's hiking, skiing, climbing, biking or running, women just do things differently than men and it's wonderful to share that in a community of other women. We can celebrate and share our fantastic differences together, and find our own path to strength through the power of shared outdoor experiences.
We foster epic conversations.
There's nothing like solving the world’s biggest problems while hiking together up a big hill or sitting at a bonfire next to a woman you just met (but somehow inherently trust). Whether it’s talking over that idea for a new nonprofit you want to start, hearing new perspectives on a struggle you’re facing, or sharing painful or hilarious stories — no one “gets it” like the women who have fought that mountain/river/trail/rainstorm right next to you.
We embrace risk on our own terms.
Traditionally feminine characteristics like nurturing, care, consideration and patience show up in some really interesting ways on the trail. There’s less competition, less judgment and more willingness to set aside our egos and the outdated stereotypes we have both about ourselves and others. Outdoors and over books, women tend to be less worried about getting to the finish line and more concerned with learning new things and enjoying the journey (and each other’s company) along the way.
We believe that doing something “like a girl” is AWESOME.
Physically, emotionally, and intellectually, we’re climbing, hiking, skiing, camping, paddling and leading “like a girl” — and that’s a beautiful thing. When it’s just women out on the trail having an adventure together, we’re constantly reminded of how strong we are as women, and how doing things “like a girl” means doing it in our own way, on our own terms.
We cultivate leadership.
Outdoor adventures paired with the right book can teach women incredible leadership skills. What better way for women to help each other develop confidence, lateral thinking and world-conquering management skills than hiking a rugged trail together while teasing out the nuances of Cheryl Sandber's Lean In? One of the best ways to mentor a young woman is to invite her on a women-only outdoor adventure. Watch how she’s inspired by being around a group of confident, strong female role models. She’ll come away knowing that she is capable of anything.
We inspire each other.
When we see other women summiting mountains or carrying a 40-pound pack for 23 miles or doing anything we haven’t yet tried, it becomes easier to picture ourselves doing it. Excuses and fear evaporate. Many of us have spent our whole lives admiring men's abilities and accomplishments, but there’s something powerful and relatable about being inspired by the women around you.
We practice inclusiveness.
Young, old, married, divorced, gay, straight, professionals, stay-at-home moms, introverted, extroverted, experienced woodswomen and “girly girls:” On an outdoor adventure, we’re all in this together. Our trips often require a level of teamwork that we don’t get to experience in our regular lives. Working with all women doesn’t mean the bar is lower because it’s “just women” — instead it means that the only bar is how far we’re willing to challenge each other. Everyone has their role to play.
Power is not one size fits all.
Power should be considered a core feminine quality. All-women adventures allows us the unique experience to share in the joint understanding of what it means to be a powerful woman — and then bring those behaviors and mindsets back into our daily lives. What women truly need is to embrace our unique traits as a gender and not always feel the necessity to hide them. It often takes sharing a life-changing experience with a group of women for us to remember how powerful it can be to be female.
We’re laying the foundation for future generations.
We live in a world where outdoor activities are dominated by men — watch a typical ski movie or open a mountain bike magazine and you'll notice the lack of female role models. By pursuing enjoyable and challenging activities with other women, and encouraging each other to climb higher, we can be role models for our daughters, sisters and nieces. We want to foster a future in which our daughters don't feel like outsiders, and where we all (men included) inspire each other to succeed in our chosen pursuits.
When I first came up with the idea of Outdoor Book Club, I had a very specific target audience in mind: women like me: Mid-to-late 30s and 40s, women who, in their younger days, were pretty bad ass. Women who remembered what it was like to be adventurous, to take risks, to know the triumph of getting out of their comfort zones. Women who flirted with men they didn't know, drank drinks with scary sounding names, women who swam naked at night on the beach.
Where have these women gone?
We're sitting on the sidelines of suburban soccer games and our lives. We're waiting for meaning and fulfillment in the carpool lane at the local elementary school. We've grown up (and out) from our adventurous selves. We've started families, got respectable jobs and now spend our days trying to be amazing and thin and beautiful and smart and funny and kind and perfect, all the time.
All that pressure keeps us quiet. It keeps us pinned down to lives where meaning and satisfaction and a sense of purpose is always just out of reach. It makes us small and scared and unwilling to take risks. And scariest of all, that pressure dribbles down and does the same things to our kids.
When did we decide leaving our kids for a weekend would ruin them?
When did a soccer game or a neighbor kid's birthday party come to overrule time spent with other women, bonding, growing, learning from each other? Learning how to take risks, learning how to love the outdoors again, remember what it was like to fail at something hard over and over again, until finally, through hard work and persistence, you succeed?
It's when we quietly started using them as an excuse to play small. It's when we stopped letting them have their own lives, their own secrets, their own existences beyond their mothers.
Your kids do not need you as much as you think they do.
One day they will grow up and move on and not need you any more, and that is kind of AWESOME (sad too, but that's not the point I'm making here). Your kids are on LOAN to you; they have always belonged more to the world than to you. Your most important job is to love them enough to prepare them with the grace and grit they need to thrive in a world that won't give a crap about their insecurities. They will be better people if you're NOT there every second of their lives, cheering them on and making them feel entitled to your (and thus the world's) constant love and attention. How do you think our grandmothers grew up to be the strong, wise, awesome women they are today? Certainly not because their mothers came to every quilting bee, I can tell you that.
You are a grown-ass woman
Which is why I'm not going to patronize you and assume you don't know the difference between taking care of yourself and neglecting your kids. There is a balance, and I trust you to find it. You'll make mistakes, and we all know it's part of the process.
There is so much beauty, so much adventure in you. There is so much about you that I want to know more about — that's great that you love your kids, but what I really want to know about is why you ran away from home that one time in high school, or how you fell in love with a drummer, or what it's like to live with a chronically ill husband. Everyone loves their kids. What I want to know about is your pain, about how I can help, how you want to be better today than you were yesterday. I want to know about who you are at your core. I can't get that while sitting next to you on a folding chair at a band concert; it needs to happen on a ridgeline or next to a surging river or around a campfire under starry skies.
In junior high I was a huge fan of the hair band Motley Crue. They had this song called "Girl Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" and I think about this song every time a woman tells me she feels guilty for asking her husband or the grandparents to watch her kids while she goes away for the weekend. I want to sing this song to my girlfriends trapped in their minivans, clutching thier ziplock bags filled with sliced oranges:
We could sail away
Or catch a freight train
Or a rocketship into outer space
Nothin' left to do...
Girl, don't go away mad;
Girl, just go away.
I'm telling you point blank: Girl, don't go away mad — at yourself, your husband, your bank account, your boss or whatever it is that's keeping you away from adventure. Girl, just go away — to a rocketship, a hiking trip with your college girlfriends or a writer's retreat across the state line.
When you get back, tell your kids stories. Talk about the struggles you overcame and the people you bonded with. That will be worth a hell of a lot more than the two hours you spent standing in the cold while they ran up and down the field. And how much more relaxed will you be because you've stepped away from your everyday life, you can put all that day-to-day bullshit and anxiety into some perspective?
There will be time for concerts and games and cleaning the house (I'm also looking at you, Ms. No Kids But Chained To My Job). I get emails from older women all the time who want so badly to go on adventures, but their doctors say it's just not a good idea. You think you have time, but you don't. The outdoors is calling you. Find that girl you used to be and bring her to life once again; there's a campfire and a starry sky that have your name written all over them.
One of my favorite trips/workshops to lead is intro to backpacking. I love getting outside with women who are open to trying new things, including getting outside and having an adventure. One of the first questions women always ask is "what should I wear?"
That's a really good question, because bringing the wrong clothes can mean the difference between loving backpacking and hating it. So to save you a lot of misery, I'm hear to tell you exactly what to bring on your backpacking trip.
Rule #1: Cotton is your enemy
Whether it's socks, underwear or jeans, stay away from anything that's 100% cotton (except for maybe your bandana). It holds water (read: sweat) close to your skin, making you feel cold and clammy plus encouraging bacteria growth.
So that means bringing synthetic blends. For me, that usually means bringing one or more of the wicking shirts I've gathered over the years from various 5ks and adventure races. Another good place to look for good backpacking clothes is in your workout clothes drawer. Many yoga pants, capris and even sports shirts are made of good wicking material.
Rule #2: Don't overpack
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see newbies making — bringing way too much, and thus overloading their pack and making it too heavy to carry enjoyably. Check your list, make sure you have everything you need, then leave the extra clothes at home. No one cares if you stink on the trail (in fact, getting dirty is part of the fun).
So without further ado, here's a list of backpacking clothing to bring on your next trip:
Convertible pants — these are pants where you can zip off the bottom third of your pants when the weather gets hot (and zip them back on at night when it gets cool)
Hiking shorts — for those days when you know it's going to be nice and warm.
Wicking t-shirts — You'll be surprised at how quickly these shirts dry out after a rainstorm or even just lots of sweat.
Long-sleeve wicking shirt — This shirt is going to serve a dual purpose: it will keep you warm if the weather is cooler, and it will serve as your sleeping clothes at night.
Fleece — This will keep you warm around the campfire. The good news is there are lots of different kinds of fleeces, with varying degrees of warmth (and packability).
Puffy vest — If you're doing spring, fall or winter camping, bring your whole puffy jacket to make sure you don't get cold, but in the summer months, a puffy vest is perfect. It's generally worth it to pay a little bit more for vests that are more packable.
Synthetic underwear — Underwear is one of the few things that I will risk overpacking. Wearing dirty underwear is not only gross, it's unsanitary, so throw in 1-2 more pairs than what you think you'll need.
Sports bra — How long a woman wears the same bra is a matter of personal preference (and time of year), so I'll let you decide how many you want to bring. The fewer the hooks, the better.
Synthetic socks — Again, pay a little bit more for some good hiking socks to help you avoid blisters and keep your feet dry and warm. A good rule of thumb is to pack 1 pair of socks for every two days you'll be out, but I'll also say that, like underwear, having an extra pair of socks never killed anyone.
Fleece gloves — I like the convertible gloves that allow you to have access to your fingers when you're trying to set up your tent or start a fire. It might be worth paying a little extra for these as well, since it's likely you'll end up using your gloves when breaking down firewood or grabbing a hot pot.
Hiking boots or sturdy shoes — I read recently that most thru-hikers don't wear hiking boots anymore; a good pair of athletic shoes are lighter and dry out faster when they get wet. This probably depends more on what type of hiking you're doing: if you're going to be going uphill or over lots of rocky, ankle-turning terrain, you're probably going to want to go with a good hiking boot. Your local outdoors outfitter will have some good advice as to how to fit & buy hiking boots.
Flip flops — Most newbies don't realize the pure pleasure of peeling off your hiking boots and socks at the end of a long day backpacking, and slipping your toes into a pair of sandals while you prepare your dinner or just sit around relaxing. Your trip will be so much better if your feet get some time to breathe at the end of each day.
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I was a voracious reader as a kid. I'd hide books in textbooks, under the covers, in my bunk at camp. My parents actually had to take my books away from me in order to get me to do my homework, complete chores and even to go to sleep. All that reading about girls who were out there living their lives, having adventures beyond my boring life in the suburbs no doubt influenced the fact that I now make my living reading books and leading women outdoors. So here are seven girls and one boy protagonists who I could not get enough of as a kid.
1. Ramona Quimby
“She was not a slowpoke grownup. She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next.”
Beverly Cleary was the first author I read religiously, and Ramona Quimby, with all her flaws, was the first protagonist I ever saw myself in. We even looked alike, with the same straight brown hair cut chin length, the same skinny legs and arms. I remember being inspired to finally lose my temper by Ramona's declaration of a bad word (spoiler alert: it was "guts") after a lifetime of always trying to be the good girl.
2. Pippi Longstocking
“Don't you worry about me. I'll always come out on top.”
The Queen Goddess of Badassery, Pippi Longstocking had no parents and a horse that lived on her front porch. Author Astrid Lindgren inspired generations of upstart young women with a heroine who was at once both vulnerable and brave, setting the tone for who I wanted to be as a young woman.
3. Harriet the Spy
“Sometimes you have to lie. But to yourself you must always tell the truth.”
While the generation before me was inspired by Nancy Drew, I was a Harriet girl all the way. I even had a notebook that I'd carry around with me, hiding in bushes and behind seats on the school bus, scribbling away at my observations of people (which didn't win me any friends, by the way).
4. Sam Gribley
“I must say this now about that first fire. It was magic. Out of dead tinder and grass and sticks came a live warm light. It cracked and snapped and smoked and filled the woods with brightness. It lighted the trees and made them warm and friendly. It stood tall and bright and held back the night.”
Who among us hasn't dreamed of running away from home and living in the woods? Sam Gribley gets the lone distinction of being the only boy on the list, but he was still a sort of heroine of mine. Written by Jean Craighead George and published 1959, My Side of the Mountain taught me everything I needed to know about courage and independence while also inspiring me to make Dandelion Fritters and feed them to my family (they were not impressed).
5. Julie (from Julie of the Wolves)
"Somewhere in this cosmos was Miyax; and the very life in her body, its spark and warmth, depended upon these wolves for survival. And she was not so sure they would help."
It was not until I started writing this blog post that I realized that My Side of the Mountain and Julie of the Wolves was written by the same author — hooray for Jean Craighead George! Another heroine who survived out in the harsh natural world by herself, Miyax/Julie made friends with wolves and survived on her wits and intelligence. A powerful story of conflict between two identities and two sets of traditions, I loved this story from the very beginning.
6. Becky Thatcher
“Maybe not, maybe not. Cheer up, Becky, and let's go on trying.”
Becky was not just Tom Sawyer's first love; she was mine too. I immediately fell into my first girl crush with this girl's blonde braids and surly attitude. Becky is probably the most "lady-like" of all my inspirational girl heroines, but I loved how she taught Tom that his showing off and his "boy tricks" wouldn't work, and if he wanted to win her, it would have to be with something more serious. I clearly remember wishing that Mark Twain had written a book about Becky, adding depth to her character and giving us more insight into her sheltered life.
“Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it's unbelievable...”
Ronald Dahl's Matilda was magical and loved books — and I wanted nothing more than to be her, Wormwood parents and all. In fact, she's something of a feminist icon for me, as she flat-out rejected her parents' insistence that she be "seen and not heard," or that she was stupid and unworthy. Although I clearly remember wishing Miss Honey would grow a bit more of a backbone, I loved Matilda and everything she stood for.
8. Laura Ingalls Wilder
“Laura felt a warmth inside her. It was very small, but it was strong. It was steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and it burned very low but no winds could make it flicker because it would not give up.”
The Little House on the Prairie books convinced me that I had been born in the wrong century. I wanted badly to eat maple syrup drizzled on snow and wished that my own father played the fiddle (instead of softball). My favorite of the series was the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, but I devoured all of the books in the series as quickly as possible. Later, when I discovered the TV series, I remember thinking it seemed like a totally different Laura.
Who were your favorite literary girl heroines growing up? Leave a comment below.
Sleeping Bear Dunes isn't the only place in Michigan for travel adventure. Here are some of the top destinations for those looking for a more lively vacation.
Hike cabin to cabin in the Porcupine Mountains
If you're looking for an easy transition between being a hiker and becoming a backpacker, consider reserving some of the rustic cabins or even one or more of the yurts available in the Porcupine Mountains. There's no running water or electricity, but they do provide some nice shelter beyond a tent. For inspiration, check out what these folks ended up doing for a six-day trip.
Be a spectator at the AuSable River Canoe Marathon
2015 will be the 68th year of this historic race, this non-stop canoe race starts at night with a thrilling LeMans-style running-start to the river in Grayling and ends 120 miles later near the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda, MI. Only professional paddlers should compete in the race, but being a spectator is the next best thing. Fans can cheer and route for the teams, keeping the paddlers alert and giving them a boost of morale and adrenaline. Diehard spectators follow the race from Grayling to Oscoda, and stay up all night! Spectators should be prepared for all kinds of weather conditions, bugs, traffic and thousands of other fans. Please read the Spectator Guide to help you prepare for your all night adventure.
Ride the zip line at Boyne
Want to experience a new perspective on the same hills and valleys that provided Ernest Hemingway with the inspiration for the Nick Adams stories nearly 100 years ago? Located along high ridges and over scenic valleys just outside of Boyne City, Wildwood Rush will strap you in and then let you fly through the forest canopy on over 7,000 feet of zip lines, cross five suspended sky bridges and enjoy the amazing views of Lake Charlevoix from six tree-top platforms.
Backpack Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
Leave Sleeping Bear Dunes to the crowds (or when you have relatives in town) — All of my favorite outdoorswomen (as well as Backpacker Magazine) swear by Nordhouse Dunes. You can pick your campsites when out in the wilderness, but if you want water & bathrooms for $9 a night, there are somewhat developed sites at Lake Michigan Recreation Area, adjacent to the wilderness (first come, first serve).
Ride The Michigander
Named one of the "Top 10 Multi-Day Rides in America" by Bicycling Magazine, The Michigander combines beautiful trails, Great Lakes beaches, lighthouses, rivers, virgin white pines, and a healthy serving of brewpubs. It's a perfect Pure Michigan route. An ideal ride for mountain and hybrid bikes on rails-to-trails riding (also includes route for roadies). Check website for route. Two-day and six-day options in 2015. Sponsored by Michigan Trails and Greenway Alliance.
Take a sled dog ride
This is definitely on my bucket list, and when I saw that Snowy Plains Sled Dogs offers a romantic dinner for two by dogsled, I had my anniversary gift nailed (shh — don't tell my husband!).
Camp & paddle on a multi-day kayak expedition
Guided trips are some of the best ways to see Michigan's beautiful natural scenery by water. Paddling Michigan offers kayak expeditions that include paddling around Pictured Rocks and Grand Island; canoe trips can be made down the Escanaba and Michigamme rivers.
Jump off a cliff (and into Lake Superior) at Black Rocks!
Black Rocks is one of Marquette’s coolest attractions, where cliff diving into the frigid Lake Superior is a true rush — or wait until the middle of August when the water reaches a balmy 60 degrees. Brrr! To get to Black Rocks, park at one of the parking lots near the tip of Presque Isle and head towards the lake, going east. In a few hundred yards you find a 15-foot cliff that drops straight down into Lake Superior. Show up on a sunny summer day in and you’ll likely share the cliff with tourists and college students.
Visit the Michigan Icefest
One of winter’s newest silent sports, ice climbing combines challenge and adventure. With miles of sandstone cliffs lined with hundreds of frozen waterfalls, Michigan is home to some of the best ice climbing spots in the country. Frozen waterfalls range from 20 to 210 feet tall, where you can take in in the scenic landscape that only a Michigan winter provides. The Michigan Icefest is the best place to hone your skills and meet other ice climbers.
Where else can you find adventure in Michigan? Leave a comment below.
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It's February, it's cold, it's time to turn up the heat a bit on your to-read list. But not just any trashy old erotic paperback will do — you want something that will warm up your brain as well as — ahem, other parts of your body. Here are some books that will keep you warm all winter long while stimulating your intellect as well as your passion.
By Mary Roach
For you sexy science nerds out there. Can a person think herself to orgasm? Why doesn't Viagra help women-or, for that matter, pandas? Can a dead man get an erection? Is vaginal orgasm a myth? Mary Roach shows us how and why sexual arousal and orgasm-two of the most complex, delightful, and amazing scientific phenomena on earth-can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to make the bedroom a more satisfying place. — From Amazon.com
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair
By Pablo Neruda
Could “Neruda” be Spanish for “Swoon?" That's exactly what could happen once you start reading this beautiful collection of poems published in 1924 when Neruda was 19 (trust me, he was a much better poet than you were at that age). His most famous line: “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.” Yes.
Red, Hot and Holy
By Sera Beak
With a rare combination of audacious wit, scholarly acumen, and tender vulnerability—vibrantly mixed with red wine, rock songs, tattoos, and erotic encounters—Sera candidly chronicles the highs and lows of her mystical journey. From the innocence of her childhood crush on God; through a whirlwind of torrid liaisons and bitter break-ups with Christianity, Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism, and the New Age; and finally into committed monogamy with her own Red Hot and Holy Goddess, Sera shares transformative insights, encouraging us all to trust our unique path and ignite our own spiritual love affair. — From Amazon.com
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Sexual Fantasies
By Nancy Friday
I first read Nancy Friday in junior high when I found my mother's copy of Men In Love on the book shelf, and whoa mama, that book taught me just about everything I needed to know about sex (the book collected men's sexual fantasies). In Women on Top, Friday collects detailed sexual fantasies from over 150 contemporary women from diverse backgrounds. Based on intimate personal interviews and letters, this book updates the conversation opened in her earlier works on women's sexual fantasies, detailing how women's erotic lives have changed over the past few decades-and remained the same.
The Soul of Sex: Cultivating Life as an Act of Love
By Thomas Moore
Known for his international best seller Care of the Soul, this book delves into a subject much more controversial, but with an intelligence and historical perspective that I haven't seen since.
Thomas Moore wants us to think more deeply about the spiritual implications of everyday life. Which is to say that this is serious stuff — no sexy beach reading here. What does interest former Catholic monk are the historical, philosophical, religious, and psychological aspects of sexuality that people tend not to consider. "We have a habit of talking about sex as merely physical, and yet nothing has more soul," Moore begins. This wide-ranging meditation moves from the history of the word "orgasm" to the mythic presence of Marilyn Monroe. Those willing to follow Moore's mind as it courses through these subjects will find it a fascinating journey, one that ends by stimulating their own thinking about the relationship between sex and the spirit.
Another book that was formative for me , and very highly recommended.
By Diana Gabaldon
Unrivaled storytelling. Unforgettable characters. Rich historical detail. Plenty of steamy sex scenes. These are the hallmarks of Diana Gabaldon’s work. Some my question whether this book is "smart," but her novels have earned the praise of critics and captured the hearts of millions of fans. Here is the story that introduced us to two remarkable characters, Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser, in a spellbinding novel of passion and history that combines exhilarating adventure with a love story for the ages.
A very strange thing happened when I read this book. It all started with a terrible cold, which was bad for my productivity (from a business-running standpoint) but good for allowing me to get in some much-needed reading time. So I spent a good part of the afternoon lying on the couch, nestled among between the tissues and the humidifier. And about 3-4 chapters in to this story about a woman who is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease, I started to feel like I was the one with Alzheimer’s. My phone somehow seemed harder to operate. Getting up to make myself a cup of tea required more effort. That’s the kind of effect this book had on me.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova is a novel (and soon-to-be-released movie with Julianne Moore) about Harvard psychology professor Alice Howland who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease just before her 50th birthday. Alice is your typical high-achieving academic: she works really, really hard, and takes great pride in her extremely high intellect (about one extremely narrow topic — linguistics). Her husband John, also a Harvard academic but in biology, leads a similar life.
The book starts with Alice's small bouts of forgetfulness: she can't remember what an item on her written to-do list is about; soon after she forgets a word during a professional presentation she’s giving at Stanford. She waves off the memory lapses as a symptom of impending menopause. But then the little things begin to pile up and get worse — like when Alice becomes disoriented while running a familiar route — and it isn’t long before Alice discovers the truth: it’s not menopause that’s causing the forgetfulness but Alzheimer’s.
Overall, I feel like the book is well written. It's told in first person, from Alice's viewpoint, but also skillfully pulls in the lives and perspectives of her husband and three children, Lydia, Anna and Tom (and to a lesser extent, Howland’s dead mother and sister, through flashbacks).
Alice’s story is told over a period of three years, where the reader gets an up-close-and-personal view of what it’s like for Alice as the Alzheimer’s begins to take over in terrifying detail: believing a rug is a hole in the middle of the floor, entering someone else’s house and removing all the dishes, not being able to remember where the bathroom is located.
Towards the end of the book I felt like the narrative lost a bit of its momentum, and even became a little preachy (Alice's speech at a conference had me skipping over whole sentences). I wished the author would have dug a little deeper at the emotions and confusion surrounding Alice’s downward spiral. The most compelling character in the book was Alice's husband, John; I wish Genova would have worked harder to show us his emotions about having a wife diagnosed with this devastating disease. But overall it was a worthy (and fast — always a bonus) read, and I’d recommend it to anyone, especially those who are dealing with a relative suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
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One night I recently mentioned to my husband how my dentist wanted me to replace some fillings. I hate the dentist, always have, and so out of habit I started to use my old standby metaphor of how I'd rather go ice fishing than go to the dentist.
But before the words made it out of my mouth I suddenly stopped myself — because I realized in one surprising instant that I really did want to go ice fishing.
I am not the person I was a year ago.
The idea that I could consider ice fishing an enjoyable, or interesting, or even tolerable activity would have been unthinkable a year ago. Last January, being even a little bit physically uncomfortable was a nonstarter for me. Cold? NO WAY. Wet? Nuh-uh, not no how.
It's not like I was a mousy, pink-loving, spa-living, scared of everything kind of girl. After all, I joined the Army, survived a divorce, then navigated single motherhood without killing myself or my kids. I ran on the treadmill and lifted weights several times a week. I was a survivor.
But "outdoorsy"? No, I was not outdoorsy.
So what changed?
What changed was I made the decision to take a risk. I came up with an idea — the concept of Outdoor Book Club — that I knew would change the world. But I also knew that idea would require me to show up in the world in a much different way than what I was used to. I would have to learn to find my way in the woods, how to put a kayak on the top of my car without help, how to lead other women out of their comfort zones and into the starry night of their own adventures.
Here's what didn't change: I have always valued experiences over things. I'm an INFJ on the Myers Briggs scale, which means I tend to be introverted but deeply committed to seeking out a meaningful life that has a positive impact on others. So the fact that I had to learn how to backpack, how to mountain bike, how to lead women out into the wilderness to discover how truly strong and amazing they could be? That became a mission I could get behind.
So I sought out the experts, and learned by doing. These days, I spend my days seeking out adventure. Whether that's calling up the editor of the local paper to see if she wants to write an article about my company, or talking with my sixteen year old daughter about her college options (which is actually pretty scary for me), I'm always trying to push myself to risk just a little bit more.
Often that means hanging out with women who were just like me, women who know there's more to life than just work and zoning out in front of the TV or internet. I help them move past their fear and into a zone of bliss called self-discovery. I help them discover that they are capable, strong, amazing, and best of all, KICK ASS.
Never could I have imagined the changes that lay in store for me
This change has also showed up in my own life in some unexpected ways, and here are four areas of my life that have completed changed since I've become more adventurous:
1. I've lost weight — effortlessly
About 15 years ago, after my first child was born, I was tipping the scales at the heaviest weight I'd ever been, and was sick and tired. I decided to change my lifestyle using the fairly draconian fitness and diet program. I won't lie, it was a TON of work. Cardio, weight-lifting, complete diet overhaul. I became lean and strong and lost 20 pounds of fat in eight weeks. Eight long, hard, ABSOLUTELY BANANAS weeks.
But a person can work out like crazy and obsess about food only for so long. Fortunately, I've found something more sustainable: going outside and having fun. Today I walk my dogs, ride my bike in the woods, cross-country ski for date night, hike with friends, kayak first thing in the morning — whatever it takes to get outside and move. Although I may have a slightly unhealthy relationship with pizza and wine, it turns out that when you're physically active as part of a dedicated spiritual and mental daily regimen, achieving a healthy weight comes naturally. I may not have the 7% body fat of my post draconian-fitness days, but I'm also a lot more accepting and appreciative of my body and what it can do.
2. I attracted an amazing love into my life
I remember a moment less than five years ago after my first husband left me. It was 3 a.m., I couldn't sleep and was staring out the kitchen window at the snow, despairing at the mess my life had become, with one thought running rampant through my broken heart: no one is ever going to love me again.
It was an incredibly difficult journey back from that point, one that included an eventual divorce and a shit ton of emotional work on my own insecurities and flaws, but the transformation has been life-changing. Two years after splitting from my ex, I met Mike, who eventually became my husband. He was (and continues to be) impressed by my passion for life, my curiosity, my ability to decide to do something and then do it. He has enriched my life in so many ways that there was no other option than to marry him. Today I take risks, both physical and emotional, with him that I NEVER would've taken in my previous life. Adventure can show up in your life in some really crazy ways.
3. My confidence has skyrocketed
Perhaps as a direct result of the improvements in my weight and my relationship, or maybe the other way around, my ability to own who I am as a woman feels like coming home. I still have anxious days, but that's more of a function of what's going on in my life right at this moment (blending five kids into a new family). I finally wrote that book I've been meaning to write (I also have a novel that I'll someday finish). Today I spend my days saying what I mean, asking for what I want and generally enjoying being happy and strong.
4. I make money that is all my own
Last year I started Outdoor Book Club, and though it's barely been a year, the financial freedom that comes with owning your own business feels incredible. I'm working my ass off to market and sell the trips and workshops that I offer, and have some big plans for this company in the future. When I spend money that I make doing what I love, it's an act of strength and power so enormous that I feel invincible. In fact, it feels so good to own my own business I'm passionate about helping other women launch their own successful businesses.
Here's how I define adventure
Eleanor Roosevelt once said “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” That sums up exactly how I live my life — whether that's deciding which book I'm going to read next, or the goals I'm going to set for the next 20 years.
The weight loss, the relationships (I didn't even mention my new network of strong women who bring joy and strength to my life in a myriad of ways), the confidence and the money have all shown up since I made a conscious decision to seek out adventure, wherever it may be hiding. Now instead of living a life of constant struggle and self-doubt, I live a life that I'm proud to have built on my own.
Let me know in the comments if adventure has changed your life, or maybe some ideas of how it will in the future. If you're still figuring out how to find more adventure, stay tuned. If you want to lead a more adventurous life, I've got some great tips and guidance coming up soon.
In the meantime, I have an ice fishing trip I need to plan. :)
Want to add more adventure to your life? Take the plunge, or leap, or spin or whatever it is you do and join us for an adventure weekend that will change the way you see the world.
It's that time of year again — time for 111 million people to turn on the TV and zone out for several hours watching grown men chase a cowhide ball around on some fake grass. Looking for an escape from all that testosterone? If you can't join me at the local trampoline park (yep, that's where I'll be headed post-meditation trip weekend — it's going to be great!), curl up with one of these decidedly feminine books that have been on my Amazon wishlist for awhile:
Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.
Red Hot and Holy by Sera Beak
With a rare combination of audacious wit, scholarly acumen, and tender vulnerability-vibrantly mixed with red wine, rock songs, tattoos, and erotic encounters-Sera candidly chronicles the highs and lows of her mystical journey. From the innocence of her childhood crush on God; through a whirlwind of torrid liaisons and bitter break-ups with Christianity, Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism, and the New Age; and finally into committed monogamy with her own red hot and holy Goddess, Sera shares transformative insights, encouraging us all to trust our unique path and ignite our own spiritual love affair.
Clutterfree with Kids: Change your thinking. Discover new habits. Free your home by Joshua Becker
Because I have five of them. FIVE.
Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl Wudunn
Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part. Throughout much of the world, the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population. Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it’s also the best strategy for fighting poverty.
Also worth mentioning here from the same authors: A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself. Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease. How to Build a Girl is a funny, poignant, and heartbreakingly evocative story of self-discovery and invention, as only Caitlin Moran could tell it.
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like "Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend," "Plain Girl Versus the Demon" and "The Robots Will Kill Us All" Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous, Yes Please is full of words to live by.
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
Exuberant, moving, and keenly observed, Not That Kind of Girl is a series of dispatches from the frontlines of the struggle that is growing up. Dunham illuminates the experiences that are part of making one’s way in the world: falling in love, feeling alone, being ten pounds overweight despite eating only health food, having to prove yourself in a room full of men twice your age, finding true love, and most of all, having the guts to believe that your story is one that deserves to be told.
Also, because although I don't always agree with everything Dunham says or does, I always love her style.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.
It's hard to find time to read, but it's hard to deny the benefits of sitting down with a good book and losing yourself for awhile. Here are some books that will grab you from the beginning, keep you reading and that you'll actually want finish because they're so damn good:
Wolf Hall: A Novel by Hilary Mantel
History buffs will love this telling of Thomas Cromwell's early career, written in first person (anyone who saw Showtime's series The Tudors will recognize the story). Funny and sarcastic, Wolf Hall is the first book in a trilogy, so there's more where that came from.
Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer
I love me some memoir, and Dederer's detailing of a modern mom & yoga struggles hit close to home. The book could have been cheesy had the author let it, but in the end it's a beautifully honest book that will likely motivate you to live a better life.
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Fans of the BBC phenomenal show Sherlock will get their fix with this series of books based on the idea that Sherlock Holmes had a brilliant and bold 15-year-old girl as his apprentice. Both smart and adventurous, you'll finish the book hungry for more.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan
This super short read dishes up (see what I did there?) 60 smart rules for healthy eating. It's a book you can comfortably zoom through in an evening or two, and one you can keep coming back to time and again for really great advice.
Kind of Cruel by Sophie Hannah
When Amber Hewerdine consults a hypnotherapist as a desperate last resort, she doesn't expect that anything much will change.
She doesn't expect it to help with her chronic insomnia. She doesn't expect to hear herself, under hypnosis, saying words that mean nothing to her: 'Kind, cruel, kind of cruel' - words she has seen somewhere before, if only she could remember where. She doesn't expect to be arrested two hours later, as a result of having spoken those words out loud, in connection with the brutal murder of Katharine Allen, a woman she's never heard of... Sophie Hannah’s trademark dark, twisty plot will keep readers guessing until the very end.
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
Set in the 1930s, full of alluring descriptions, and featuring a headstrong lead character, this is a literary novel that is also full of scandal, sex, and secrets. Fifteen-year-old Thea Atwell has been banished from her Florida family and sent to an exclusive equestrienne boarding school located high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Homeschooled along with her fraternal twin, Thea had lived an overprotected and insular existence until the tragic incident that triggered her ouster from the family. Thrust into a complicated social milieu of southern debutantes and their rigid pecking order based on money, lineage, and looks, Thea (a not always likable protagonist) struggles with overwhelming feelings of guilt and homesickness as well as the challenge of fitting into her new school. But she also begins to feel her power, both because she knows she is beautiful and because she is an expert rider. Some readers will be put off by the book’s deliberate pacing and explicit sex scenes, but others will be held in thrall by the world so vividly and sensually rendered in a novel that is as sophisticated in its writing as it is in its themes.
Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett
Amy Gallup is an aging novelist and writing instructor living in Escondido, California, with her dog, Alphonse. One New Year’s morning she shuffles out to her backyard garden and is wholly unprepared for what happens next: Amy falls down. A simple accident, as a result of which something happens, and then something else, and then a number of different things, all as unpredictable as an eight-ball break. This novel explores the role that accident plays in all our lives. “You turn a corner and beasts break into arias, gunfire erupts, waking a hundred families, starting a hundred different conversations. You crack your head open and three thousand miles away a stranger with Asperger’s jump-starts your career.” We are all like Amy. We are all wholly unprepared for what happens next. Also, there’s a basset hound.
What other book recommendations can you make for busy women? Leave them in the comments below.
Jill Hinton Wolfe,
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