Hunting for Quality of Life

Do you seek “me time” where you can just shut out the nuisance noise of the world and find solace, curiosity or beauty? My boyfriend will say he needs to get out in the woods. Hunting is his quality time.

The thing I need most to escape is psoriasis and the accompanying anxiety.

A country road winds through the mountains.
On the road to quality of life.

It’s not a just skin-deep challenge. The inflammation is something I feel inside too and that stresses me out. Of course, stress leads to more inflammation and tension. It’s an anxiety vicious cycle. I don’t relate this to throw a pity party, but to relate some pointers for any challenge in life:

  • Confront your problem, don’t let anyone else minimize it.
  • If something is no longer working for you, do something different.
  • For a chronic problem or condition, find the things that give you every day joy and fill your days with those things too

What does psoriasis have to do with recreation and the outdoors? A lot. When it first presented, I was a tween and swimming competitively. A chronic skin condition is no fun when you already feel gangly and awkward. Fortunately, I had some topical medications to ease the symptoms and pain. My enjoyment of sports was not curtailed and I went on to play field hockey and lacrosse.

I love running, but lately I was having real trouble with movement. I did not want to run or go to the gym. My skin was so extensively covered, it hurt to move. Plus, once I got warmed up, it seemed the legions interfered with temperature regulation and I would give up.

I actually skipped training for a long-distance bike ride that took place in October. It was a century and I love the route. Sigh. Why would I let this condition interfere?

Woman standing in autumn sunshine
Self-portrait the day after I started a new medication.

For years, the psoriasis was under control with a FDA-approved drug you may see advertised on TV. Its effectiveness went from miracle drug to dud. Once it waned to the point where I was 50% covered in psoriasis, it was time to throw in the towel.

It had impeded my physical abilities and hampered my quality of life. It was time to pursue something new. First, I needed a 30-day washout period for the old drug to leave my system and the effects to be recorded. Then, I went to get the new prescription, a drug that is also advertised on TV. Well, there was a snafu that delayed the specialty Rx and my skin got even worse. Finally, it was dispensed and after one week, I could feel my skin again. We had been hunting in Georgia and I was having a little trouble with the hike.

After two-and-half weeks, I’m feeling so much better, inside and out. My anxiety has eased and I feel ready to return to the gym. Last weekend, we had gone duck hunting and I felt so good. I could sit comfortably for hours.

Leaves changing color in the fall.
Getting outside is the best medicine.

Let me repeat, I was comfortable for hours. A chronic condition sometimes results in aggravating or even constant pain, which I had experienced for a couple of months before the new medicine took effect.

I am regaining quality of life. I can sit in peace, whether sitting at my desk working or sitting in the woods thinking. Even when I am in pain, I still focus on the things that give me quality of life: cooking, dogs, walks, cycling, breathing in life.

The Sage Leopard

Plan Your Life to Enjoy It

You only get one life, so don’t let it get away from you. There is that old cliché that life happens while you are making other plans, but I truly believe you need to plan your life. After all, when things happen, you still get to do more with your life if you plan a good amount of it. And those are the things you get to choose.

Kayaking is one of my favorite activities
Kayaking is one of my favorite activities

Think about it: I bet you have a business plan where you work, a retirement plan (or plans for a retirement plan), vacation plans and plans to spend the holidays with family. You probably have a shopping list and a to-do list. A meal plan, perhaps? A workout plan. Maybe you are really on the ball and planned a garden. You catch my drift. What are your plans this week? I don’t mean where you need to be at what time for some event or obligation. What are you planning for at home to enjoy yourself? Have you ever scheduled a break for yourself? Say, 8:00-9:00 p.m. Tuesday ______ fill in the blank.

Baking is as much fun as a party to me
Baking is as much fun as a party to me

Read magazines, do yoga/meditate, scroll through Pinterest, listen to music, etc. I’m serious. How many weeknights get filled with mindless TV watching? Want to take your dog to a state park but never do? Plan it. Put it on the calendar and then do it. If something comes up for that day, remember you already have plans with your dog.

One of our dogs really loves road trips so we take him on vacation when we can
One of our dogs really loves road trips so we take him on vacation when we can

Been wanting to do a girls night out, maybe one of those wine and painting shindigs? Well, pick a date, book a reservation and send out some invitations. Use Hobnob or another easy invitations by text apps. What else should you be planning? Maybe a relationship? In scuba diving, there is a simple practice for safety: plan your dive and dive the plan. This way you and your dive buddy are operating on the same page. With this basis, you can easily stick together and feel comfortable as the dive progresses.

Divers have a plan before they enter the water
Divers have a plan before they enter the water

If a need arises for a change in plan, you might just more easily communicate each other because you entered the water confidently with an understanding. It’s probably a good idea in everyday living within a relationship to run status checks on the relationship plan. What is the plan? A good relationship doesn’t run on autopilot. How do you frame out what you want so your life doesn’t run on autopilot? I like the structure of lists and calendars. I love the Evernote app and how I can access it easily by phone or laptop. I’m also low tech and use chalkboards and graph paper to plot out my plans, both business and personal. I’m thinking about making a dreamboard, but in the meantime using Evernote for a virtual dreamboard to pin images and write notes for big and little ideas.

Seeing the world with fresh eyes each time I clip in on my road bike
Seeing the world with fresh eyes each time I clip in on my road bike

I need to find a quiet space, with no TV blaring or appliances running, and open that dreamboard. There I can decide what should be in my life and what I can delete. Go ahead and plan your life to know you are doing what you really want and not letting life just happen. Often, just the process of focusing on things you love feels great! Just closing my eyes to let my mind’s eye wander to those places is enjoyable. For me its being outdoors – on a kayak, in the garden, walking the dog, riding my bike, sitting on a beach, cooking dinner, baking something for a party or drinking coffee before dawn while listening to mockingbirds. Sometimes when life is passing by, it is a good idea to build these things we love back into our schedules. This is what I mean with the Sage Leopard motto of Reclaim Your Quality Time, Craft Your Own Happiness.

My dog did not much care for his travel crate
My dog did not much care for his travel crate

Cheers,

The Sage Leopard

Quality Time is a Step Away, Online or Outside

Am I the only one who uses Pinterest for therapy? A friend told me she doesn’t have any hobbies to pin and therefore doesn’t really get the platform. I explained you can just pick categories of things that make you happy, label them as boards and pin to them. My categories include cooking & baking, gardening ideas, “Jeeps for Keeps,” decor, and “Higgins,” which is a collection of beautiful dog pictures that remind me of The Sage Leopard.

Ladybug landing
Ladybug landing
A new patio tomato plant awaits true springtime
A new patio tomato plant awaits true springtime

During a particularly stressful time a couple of years ago, I would find myself scrolling through Pinterest during my lunch break and getting little dopamine surges when coming across things I loved: Lilly Pulitzer prints, cute dogs, cool Jeeps, etc. To be sure, these scrolling excursions were virtual and represented vicarious enjoyment, e.g., ooh, how much fun it would be to drive that Jeep. Or that one, etc.

I love Pinterest, but an even more satisfying way to bring on the dopamine is to step outside. Think about how much your perspective changes after walking the dog around the block. Or, stepping out to clip some herbs. I feel an amazing satisfaction just from placing a cherry tomato plant on the patio.

Moon rising over palm tree
Moon rising over palm tree
Armadillo guarding planter with sage (and basil seedlings)
Armadillo guarding planter with sage (and basil seedlings)

Recently, I was heading out for a girls’ night and still felt a little tense from the work day. I stepped outside into the garden to play with The Sage Leopard. In short order, a ladybug landed on me. I looked up to notice the moon rising. Awash in a newly restored calm, I headed back toward the house and found myself smiling at an armadillo, who reminded me how Texas changed me.

The Sage Leopard

 

Reclaiming Quality Time at the Table

cooking Velata style at the table
cooking Velata style at the table

We tend to settle into routines that become our life, routines we might not even like so much anymore. I love cooking and typically start dinner by putting garlic and olive oil in a pan. Soon enough a voice calls out from the livingroom to commend the scent. The aroma misleads one into thinking dinner is almost on the table.

But, it is just the start of the cooking process. Historically, I find myself alone at the stove, smiling at the veggies in the sauté pan, mushrooms in another pot, meat in the oven, veggies on the chopping board. I hold my wine glass aloft and breath in the bouquet and aforementioned garlic aroma. Looking down at the array of food cooking on different burners, I ask myself, “Why?” This is a lot of work with a lot of pans. Wait a minute, this is fine some of the time, but all the time? Plus, I don’t get to see my boyfriend until I bring the completed meal to the table.

I reflect back to amazing meals we have shared on the patio with a Lodge hibachi. We sat there taking in the sunset, wrapping Korean BBQ in sesame leaves and dipping the wraps in sauces. What if we could capture that sensory and visual interaction of all that, but indoors, without charcoal?!

picking peppers to grill
picking peppers to grill

Recently, a friend told me she was buying a Velata raclette grill from another friend and began to describe how you can cook at the kitchen table with this electric grill. I remarked this reminded me of Korean BBQ and she said the raclette grill has its origins in Europe and yes, melting cheese. My mind raced from one potential recipe to the next.

crafting breakfast together with Velata on a weekend morning
crafting breakfast together with Velata on a weekend morning

Grilled Halloumi cheese over grilled romaine and veggies? What about a grilled cheese sandwich with rosemary ham lunchmeat served with cornichons? Don’t just serve food – make each meal an event, an experience. I already embrace that philosophy and practice, and visualized how this grill could realize the vision even further.

I decided to put a Velata raclette grill on my kitchen table and proceeded to start making meals right there. I started on a Friday night by placing sausage on one side of the grill and veggies on the other: asparagus, red onion, peppers, etc. I put an aged Gouda and some feta cheese in the little raclette pans.

eggs in the Velata raclette pans are so easy
eggs in the Velata raclette pans are so easy

We sat at the table watching everything cook while sipping on craft beer. We pulled off what was ready to eat and enjoyed. We were hooked.

The next morning I made eggs in the raclette pans and cooked pancakes on the grill. Then I found out about the Velata crepe maker. Oh, what a wonderful journey we have begun!

The Sage Leopard