Alex and I lost Sutton yesterday. The grief we are experiencing is still raw, as the loss was unexpected and too soon. We were laying with him when he passed, which was bitter sweet. I’m so glad we were there. As I sit in my study this morning, I wanted to write down some thoughts about this chunk of our lives that, in some ways, disappeared yesterday. So I decided to write it in the form of a note to Sutton.

Dear Sutton or “Shbeing,”

We had the privilege of adopting you over 8 years ago. You were a little over 2 years old when fate brought us together. We adopted you in Lake Zurich, IL, a fairly forgettable city, except for you. At the time, we still had Champ and Finn, our two golden retrievers. Champ was up in age and having considerable physical troubles so we wanted to have a friend for Finn, as we didn’t know how much longer Champ would be with us.

I’ll always remember two things the day we adopted you. The first was how beautiful you were. Yeah, I know you never bragged about your good looks, but those who met you will back me up on this. First, you were so big. I’ll admit that I was quite intimidated when I first approached you. And your beautiful white, brown, black markings…just beautiful. The second thing I’ll never forget was how the woman who was fostering you cried when you got in our truck. I distincly remember her saying, “He’s just such a special dog.” She was sure right. You were special.

That said, your split personality took some getting used to. Yes Sutton, you had a split personality. Our first couple of months in Delavan were memorable, if not a bit worrisome. You were extremely barky (this never stopped) and were VERY territorial of ANYTHING walking within 40 yards of our property (never stopped). I remember being concerned at the thought of taking you to CO that summer, as we hoped you woudn’t act similarly in Grand Lake where there would be tons of people walking around daily. Our fears dissolved when we realized that you were a tedd bear as soon as you drove away from our home. You showed everyone love while they oohed and aahed over you. You were arguably the most popular dog in Grand Lake in the summer for years. And definitely a “Gentle Giant.”

You were such a lover. You know you’re buddy Niles, one of our cats will miss you. You and he were such buddies, although I’d say you tolerated him well sometimes when he’d annoy you. Of course Fraser, our other cat will miss you too. I must tell you that Axel, your neighbor dog friend sat by the fence last night staring toward your trolley, seemingly waiting for you to come outside. And your two girlfriend dogs next door will miss you as well. We will certainly miss seeing you out on the trolley toward the back of our house standing guard or mayby just talking with Axel and your girlfriends. Probably a bit of both.

Sutton I want you thank your for enriching our lives. I know we treated you like a king during our time together, but we were the lucky ones. I hope I never forget the following things about you: (1) The way you would nonchalantly mosey into the kitchen with those sad eyes whenever anyone took the plastic wrap off of a piece of sliced cheese; (2) Your “I want to go outside” dance (Click HERE to watch); (3) Your fear of bad weather; (4) Your dislike of the postman; and (5) Your love of people and other animals.

Thanks again for the enriching our lives!

Sunday wrapped up my 3rd week social distancing. Alex and I haven’t traveled anywhere since March 28th.

Still spending alot of time getting caught up and with working remotely. I’m not near as envious of people who work remotely now that I’m doing it. I am learning how to better divide my work and personal life though. Alex and I have been drinking coffee at David’s Speakeasy (my basement study) and Paul’s Porch Coffeehouse (our enclosed back porch). And then she, and Fraser have been meeting me at my office (David’s Speakeasy after 430 pm) at lunch as well.

Decided to use Instacart.com to have my groceries delivered. Was supposed to receive our first order ($132) this past Sunday, but they never came. Emailed my shopper and he sent me a picture of my groceries sitting by my front door (see below)


HOWEVER, anyone that has been to my house or knows the address and enters it into Google Maps will see that the image below is a picture of my front porch:

Soo, unfortunately I did not receive my groceries and haven’t received any contact from Instacart since. Yesterday I contacted my bank and filed a dispute so there’s that:)

Anyway, that is frustrating, but it’s nothing and I’m still grateful for many things (job, wife, technology, pets, family) and I’ll get some groceries sooner or later (not sure it will be from Instacart). Maybe the people at the other house above needed them more than us.

Just finished my 2nd week of social distancing. How did I fare? Well, within the last week, I’ve taken three 2.6-mile walks from my property and visited the grocery store once. I’ve been getting out of bed at around 7 am to eat breakfast, meditate, read a bit, and work (from home). I normally go to bed between 10:30 – 11 pm.

TWO IMPRESSIONS FROM WK2:

First, working from home is not what I thought. I’ve always imagined that working from home would be nice and easy, as one could sit in their pajamas, drink coffee all day, and work at a leisurely pace. This isn’t exactly how it’s worked for me. To begin with, I’ve found it hard to manage the boundaries of work and leisure. At first, I found myself working pretty much all day into the evening. A great deal of my job takes place on a computer so it is easy to see how the worlds of leisure and work could be blurred. By the end of this past week, I had to split locations of work and leisure. For me that meant doing work in my basement study and then transitioning to my living room for leisure. At least my surroundings for work and leisure were different. We’ll see how I fare with this arrangement in the coming weeks.

Impression #2: Fear is a real and hard emotion to regulate. I’ve never considered myself an overly obsessive type of person. Moreover, I’ve tried over the past two weeks to watch/read what I thought was a low-level of news surrounding COVID-19. But let’s face it, the Pandemic news is EVERYWHERE. And I get it on one level: we have to get the word out in order to respond in ways that will result in minimizing the horrid effect of the virus.

But the news coverage coupled with the death of a family friend (click HERE) due to COVID-19 resulted in a surprisingly strange and eery trip to the grocery store on Saturday. Alex and I had not planned to go to the grocery store till this coming Wednesday, but severe weather intervened. Sutton, our St. Pyreneese, is scared of thunder and lightening and we had run out of benadryl. So I ended up going out to the grocery store for benadryl and other things.

Now in our family, I’m the grocery shopper most of the time, so I’d “been there and done that” numerous times, but this 30-minute shopping spree suddenly took on a really weird vibe. Unbenonst to me, I became ubra-sensitve to touching just about everything. And halfway through my 30-minute spree, I was sweating nervously for some reason.

I’m probably not doing a good job of describing how weird of an experience it was so you’ll just have to trust me. TRANSLATION: So surprising how strange and distressing a normal event such as grocery shopping could be. We will see what SDWK#3 holds.

Thought it might be cathartic to document my experience of social distancing (S.D.). Maybe I’ll learn something, right?

Honestly, the fact that I’ve spent the overwhelming majority of the past week at home hasn’t really proved unique. It sorta feels like a really lousy spring break or the beginning of a semester break. However, that’s not even true because I worked my ass off this past week trying to transition to working remotely. However, thinking how this is going to be the norm for the time being HAS BEEN weird.

I’ve unfortunately been thinking too much about scarcity in regards to food and such. We’ve stocked on food items (maybe 2 or so weeks worth) and are going to only venture out to the store once per week at most (that’s the plan). Still the scarcity thing is always somewhere in the “back of my head.” Just being honest.

I’ve made it a goal to walk everyday as long as it’s not raining. And let me tell you, this is hard for me. It’s SOO much easier to simply sit and do work all day (I’ve got plenty of that) or surf the Internet. But I plan to work hard to maintain this one, as it’s really important for my health.

Another goal I have while S.D’ing is to complete tasks around our home. And wow, have I got alot of those:) LOTS of spring cleaning to do. The garage, our shack (an outbuilding on our property that has become THE #1 place to store any and everything), basement, etc. Yesterday, I worked on our back porch and my basement study. I figured my study should be a priority since I’m going to be working from there a minimum of 5 days per week.

For good or bad, smart or stupid, I’m not watching or reading news services, as doing so tends to freak me out. I normally logon to cnn.com once per day. Honestly all the COVID-19 numbers (#’s contracted virus, # dead due to virus, etc.) just packs on the anxiety. But hey, if that works for you then great! I’m gonna pass.

Anyway, this is the end of my first week S.Ding. I’ll post on Sundays each week. I’m not trying to build a brand or anything; rather just writing it down for myself.

This has been a really weird and busy week. Not going to go into detail, as I think you know what I’m talking about.

Anyway last weekend I got back out to Ottawa Lake Campground. However, this time I spent two nights there. It was good weather (a bit cold) and I got some really beautiful sunset pictures.

I hiked some of the Eagle Segment of the Ice Age Trail and found it mostly dry.

I cooked some pretty simple meals over these two days. Using my 2-burner Coleman stove, I made some beef stew for dinner and eggs and sausage for breakfast. I love my coleman 2-burner stove.

I brought my same sleeping setup (Coleman cot with air matress and 10-degree Magellan Sleeping bag). I slept well and warm.

Altogether it was a nice weekend at Ottawa Lake.

Sunset at Ottawa Lake Campground

I spent another night winter camping at Ottawa Lake Campground. I arrived at the campground around noon and secured a nice site overlooking Ottawa Lake. The nice weather had brought out numerous tent and RV campers so it wasn’t near as quiet as it was in January. Got some exercise walking around the campground and then prepared my dinner. I then sat out in front of the lake and watched the sunset. It was goregous! Check out the pics below

My campsite turned out really nice and I spent a couple of hours by the fire. The termperature hovered around 32 so it wasn’t too bad with my new sleeping bag. And I stayed really comfortable with my Coleman air matress (I’m not roughing it).

Last weekend I spent another night at the Ottawa Lake Campground. You may be wondering “Why don’t you go to another site?” Well, Ottawa Lake is the only winter campsite in the Kettle Moraine-Southern Unit, which is 25 minutes from my house. Pretty convenient.

I arrived on Saturday early afternoon and looked for a campsite. First learning experience: should have brought a snow shovel. There were very few sites plowed. And the one’s that were plowed had reservation tags (more on that in a bit). I finally settled on the one below:

The snow was about 6″ deep so I had to clear a space for my tent, chair, and a space on at least one side of the picnic bench (for cooking). I also had to park at the edge of the campsite, which meant I had to lug my stuff a fair distance. Here’s what It looked like after I finished:

After getting everything settled, I took my usual 40-minute walk around the campsite. Turned out I was one of only 2 campers in the campground ao all the reservation receipts were old, which means I could have had a much better site. I decided this was okay, as it gave me alot of experience for winter camping.

For dinner I could a curried veggie dish with some ham. It was really good and easy to prepare. I also used my new Stanley French Press for coffee. While it’s nice and makes a good cup of coffee, I believe I will stay with the pourover for overnight camping, as it is less cleanup. I’ll use the Stanley French Press for day hikes.

Another learning experience: need to bring a better firestarter. The firestick I used didn’t work well in the cold temps. And the matches I brought only worked on a regular striking surface. I will be purchasing some Strike anywhere matches and some other firestarting apparatus. My bic lighter did the job, but I need some secondary options.

I used my new sleeping equipment (10-degree sleeping bag, Coleman air mattress). They worked great and I slept well. Temperatures dipped into the high 30’a so I stayed warm. The tent also held up well to the evening snow.

The next morning I took another 40-minute stroll around the campground and prepared ham and eggs for breakfast. Good stuff!

All in all, it was an excellent trip. Last learning experience: I feel like I should camp am minumum two nights as one evening is alot of work considering the setup. I’ll have to think more about that. Below are the remaining pictures I took:

In December, I spent another nice night at the Ottawa Lake campground. I arrived Saturday evening and checked into a really nice campsite next to Ottawa Lake. After setting up my campsite, I hiked the Scuppernong Springs Trail, which was really nice (see some pics below). I returned to my campsite and prepared some dinner (steak sandwich) and started the campfire. It was a beautiful night, especially the sunset (see pics). I went to bed around 8:30 pm and watched some of Jacky Ryan’s Season 2. Drifted off to sleep at about 11 pm.

I slept warm all night (temp was about 34). I need to find an alternative to my current sleeping cot. I simply turn too much during the night.

Lots of wind overnight. Guess that’s what happens when you camp next to a large body of water. My Coleman Sundome performed great. Pretty loud though.

Saturday morning I ate granola and yogurt for breakfast. I then hiked about 3.5 miles of the Ice Age Trail (scuppernong segment). It was a very nice hike, including a visit to Shelter 1 – “Kewaskum Shelter.”

This past weekend I finally got out to Ottawa Lake campground for an overnight camping adventure. I’ve unsuccessfully attempted to camp out there 3 times in 2019. Twice I was rained out and snowed out the other.

I arrived at the campground on Saturday at 2:30 pm, set up camp and walked around the campground. Ottawa Lake Campground is a large facility with a beach and day area, as well as numerous campsites for tents and RV’s. Beautiful area to camp.

My campsite was in a valley of sorts but had a distant view of Ottawa Lake. After a long and nice walk, I cooked up some supper (Red Beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage) and made coffee. LEARNING EXPERIENCE: my Coleman 1-Burner Table Top Butane Stove does not work well in temps around the mid-30’s. Luckily my Coleman Peak 1 worked or I would have been eating a lot of granola over the next 24 hours.

I finished cooking my dinner and sipped my coffee while watching the night approach. At about 8 pm, the temperature was 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Weather.com promised a low temperature of 24 degrees so this would definitely be the coldest camping I’ve done thus far. So what was my sleeping kit for the evening? See below:

-Sleeping cot about 30″ off the ground
-2″ air mattress
-Coleman 40 degree sleeping bag
-Acrylic blanket
-Wool blanket

I normally go to bed once my fire goes out so I ended up calling it a night around 10 pm. After using the facilities (a tree) one last time, I climbed into bed with my temperature gauge reading 34 degrees. I watched a Thich Nhat Hanh documentary for a bit (Thanks Netflix downloads) and fell asleep.

I woked up twice during the night. The first time was a bathroom call. I’ve read where you shouldn’t “hold it” during the night when winter camping because your body uses a lot of energy keeping itself warm. After using the facilities again, I got back into the tent at around midnight and it was pretty cold. My second awakening was due to an animal walking by my tent. I say they walked by my tent because the noise it was making (click HERE) started rather faint then increased and receeded again. It was definitely a raccoon coming to my camp to clean up any trash or food left out (sorry, buddy). Checking my watch and temperature gauge, it was 2 am and 26 degrees. I stayed warm the whole night. I didn’t wake up with my teeth chattering or body shaking. LEARNING EXPERIENCE: I think I need to purchase an air matress as I’m a side sleeper and toss and turn alot. The cot is nice but doesn’t work well with my turning all the time. The other thing is that a sleeping bag doesn’t work that well for turning. May look into a synthetic down quilt.

Got up early Sunday morning. I ate some breakfast (yogurt and granola) and hiked the Scuppernong Orange Loop, which was really nice. I returned to my campsite, packed up and headed home around 1:30 pm. All in all, it was a great time.

This is the third installment of the five essentials to beginning a successful meditation practice. To me, this is the most important:

Let go of expectations.

I speak with people when they start meditating and hear things like “I don’t think I’m doing it right” or “I wasn’t able to meditate like others.” Each person’s practice is exactly that: personal to him or her. Yes, there are some commonalities or things that every person should be doing during their practice, but a good part of it is unique.

When asked by others “How will I know if I’m meditating correctly,” Sarah McLean says “When you approach meditation without expectations, without trying “too hard” or attempting to control your experience, and with a sense of ease and welcome for whatever experiences arise, then you are doing it right.”

I like when McLean talks about approaching one’s meditation practice with a “sense of ease and welcome for whatever experiences arise…” This is key. Remember that the main ingredient in cultivating one’s practice is to simply create and set aside a time and place to sit. EVERYTHING else should be approached with a sense of ease and welcome for whatever emerges. Maybe this morning your 5 minutes was filled with constant thoughts. That’s ok. And maybe Tuesday morning was similar and that’s also okay. Our lives aren’t static so why should we believe that our experiences during meditation will be identical each day. The important thing is that we create and maintain the 5 minutes each day. Approach everything else with gentleness, curiosity, and acceptance to whatever arises.

I know this is difficult. We have been socialized to expect results. We spend a couple of days sitting for five minutes and become frustrated when we aren’t floating on air. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. Take your seat each day with curiosity, gentleness, and acceptance and see what happens.

And as always, come sit and meditate with me on Monday and Friday at Yoga Hohm.