Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the only focus of my writing, which for today is for the trip I just took to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where for as much as it proved to be a major letdown overall, there were also a number of diamonds in the rough to be grateful for.

At the top of that gratitude list is a place my partner Chris and I visited called Kitch-Iti-Kipi. A natural spring in the middle of a lake, truly in the middle of nowhere really, where you board this floating raft with an open center, and have to pull yourself by a big wheel out into the center of crystal-clear, aqua-colored water, to see incredibly huge fish swimming 48 feet below around the bubbling spring in year-round 40-degree temperature. It truly was a spectacle.

A close second to Kitch-Iti-Kipi of something to be grateful for during this trip would be our visit to Fayette Historic State Park. Fayette was the site of an industrial community that manufactured charcoal pig iron between 1867 and 1891. The town has been reconstructed into a living museum in modern days, showing what life was like in the late 19th century. It was most fascinating and humbling in comparison to some of the modern amenities most Americans enjoy these days.

Coming in third would be a visit to Tahquamenon Falls State Park. While it came late in a very long and exhausting day, and was only a quick blip on the radar of overall time spent there, I personally took two mini hikes to both the bases of the lower falls and the upper falls. Both required some physical agility to get there on foot, which honestly took a lot out of a body already running quite low on every level at that point, but still extremely worth it. Considered the largest falls in Michigan to view and a mini-Niagara Falls of sorts, I was quite captivated by the mist of each hitting my face, especially as the rain fell upon me at the same time.

Just behind my visit to Tahquamenon Falls were visits to two separate military forts now turned into museums. The first being Fort Michililmackinac in Mackinaw City, and the second being Fort Mackinaw on Mackinaw Island. While I’ve never been much of a military history buff, seeing how day-to-day life was for the soldiers there behind the huge looming walls of both was certainly deeply interesting to say the least, as much as the views from the top of both were breathtaking.

While I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted to for what comes in fifth on my list of gratitude during this trip, I still enjoyed my brief visit to the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, a resort that’s been able to maintain both its old school charm and air of upper-crustiness for well over a century and a half now. Made even more popular by the 1980 film “Somewhere In Time” with Christopher Reeve, you have to actually pay $10 to take a walk around the property and sit on its famed long porch overlooking the water, the longest of any hotel in the United States. I made sure there to grab an espresso and sit on one of its rocking chairs while taking in the view and to walk amongst its luxurious gardens, fountains, and pools as well. Interesting fact, after 6pm there every day, all men must wear a jacket and tie, and all women must be in a dress!

Some notable mentions that also brought some gratitude in the midst of great physical pain and frustration were a game of mini-golf at Animal Tracks in Mackinaw City, dinner in the same city at The Chippewa Room, a boat trip through the Soo Locks, a visit to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point, and two meals at this cool little breakfast joint in St. Ignace called Java Joes that truly was quite eclectic on every level, including its owners.

Sadly, while physical pains and heavy bodily discomforts robbed me much of being present and able to enjoy these things to the fullest, I’m still thankful to have experienced them to the extent I did. Hopefully, there will be a day again to experience them to a greater extent that will bring me even greater gratitude, something I find is crucial to keep focusing on, to remain positive and upbeat, in a world that often feels anything but.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude always becomes the main focus of my writing, which for today is for an action I took that I never thought I’d take again due to all my long-standing health issues, that being to join a gym and actually work out again.

I haven’t been a member of any gym since 2013. I stopped going back then because of all the Fibromyalgia pains and sciatica and well a bunch of other life debilitating health issues too. It honestly just became too painful to go, especially on the physical level, but even on the mental and emotional level as well. Being so limited on what I could do at a gym, I just felt like it became a waste of time and money.

While I rarely missed going to the gym over the years after that, mostly because of how bad I felt in my body, I never stopped hoping I’d get back to it one day. Then, one day, just a few weeks ago now, I was talking to a friend named Jym, who told me he had just accepted a full-time position at one of the local branches of the YMCA. He suggested I check out his location sometime. Even though plenty of others have suggested I do that with their gyms in past years, I never felt the desire to do so, until that very moment. I don’t know why I felt different this time, but I did. So, a few days later, I decided to check out the JCC YMCA that Jym worked at.

Being that I don’t have any income coming in, I knew I couldn’t afford any expensive gym membership. If you can believe it, one of the last gyms I belonged to in Weymouth, Massachusetts, had a membership fee that was close to $100 a month!!! Thankfully, YMCA’s are not known for being that expensive, but even better, have been known to work with low income-based people on the monthly membership fee. So, I came prepared with my 2019 taxes and explained why I didn’t have any income. I was probably more forthcoming than most would have been in my shoes and talked about the long path of pain and suffering I’ve been on. A few days later I received a very warm and welcoming call from a woman named Chris who had my membership application in front of her.

We spoke at length about the struggles I’ve had and why I hadn’t been a part of any gym for a long time. She was truly kind and understanding to all my issues, which made me very thankful. At first, she attempted to see if qualified under any of their health programs, such as for those who have things like diabetes or cancer. Sadly, I didn’t qualify under any of them, but she told me not to lose hope and that she’d get back to me. Later that afternoon, I received another call from her with great news. They were able to do my membership for $15/month, something that was most definitely doable in my current circumstances of life! When the call ended, she let me know that my membership would be active that afternoon and I thanked her profusely for helping me so much. The real test came next though.

For someone like me, someone with chronic health issues that tend to be quite debilitating at times, the hard part is overcoming the ego and actually getting in the car to go to the gym. I’m grateful to report I successfully did that the very next day. After getting my membership card at the front desk and thanking Sue, a pretty amazing long-standing employee at this location who made me feel so very welcomed from the moment I met her, I locked my things up in a locker and headed into the Wellness center. There in front of me loomed all the equipment I hadn’t seen for so many years. I felt somewhat overwhelmed and maybe even a little nervous. I immediately headed over to the cardio machines and located the one piece of equipment I had last remembered using back in 2013, that being a Stairmaster.

A Stairmaster is really just a conveyor belt of stairs that rotate around at varying speeds. I used to really enjoy using this machine, mostly for the number of endorphins it created every time I utlizied it. So, I hopped on the machine hoping for the best, and quickly overcame the learning curve of how to use the 2020 version of it. Twenty-seven minutes later I had achieved something I never thought would be possible again. I had climbed 100 flights of stairs, the same amount I used to climb back in the day! I can’t even express how good I felt after that. I finished my workout that day with some light upper body strength-building and headed home in a pretty incredible mood. I’d return the next day, and another a few days after that, accomplishing three workouts in one week!

You have no idea how good it feels to be working out again. Even better, my body seems to be responding much better than I thought it would. I’m extremely grateful for this and am taking this as a sign that my health is improving. While I know this may seem like such a silly thing to be so grateful for, especially if happen to be someone without any major health issues, for a guy like me, who’s been on the physical exertion sidelines for so long now, achieving what I did in my first week at the YMCA is something most definitely to be grateful for.

So, thank you Jym, Sue, and Chris, for making this possible. And thank you God for allowing this as well. I truly do have an immense amount of gratitude now for all of you on this Grateful Heart Monday.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude is always the main focus of this weekly series in my writing, which for today I want to offer that for a woman named Barbara who provided me a much-needed reminder of why I should keep writing.

I know I’ve discussed this a number of times prior in my writings, but I think it’s always important to highlight anyone who reaches out to me personally and lets me know how much they appreciate my life musings, of which Barbara is the most recent.

After publishing the article titled “Are You In Touch With The Little Kid Within You?” a few weeks ago, I received a comment directly on my blog shortly thereafter, as well as a friendship request on Facebook from a friendly woman named Barbara who let me know she was a regular reader of my blog and a fellow recovering alcoholic. To have met one of my subscribers and a fellow recovering alcoholic was plenty a blessing already. But it was what Barbara said next that totally made my day. She told me I had a way of putting into words what she has felt since childhood and could really relate to me. Hearing that meant the world to me!

It has always been my goal from the very beginning of me writing to the world that I could write in such a way where readers could easily relate to their own spiritual journeys in life, almost as if either they had walked in my shoes or vice versa, I in theirs. Far too often I’ve struggled reading many other people’s online musings because they were written in such a way that felt far above my level of understanding. So, to hear my writing was very relatable to was a blessing indeed.

Regardless, knowing anyone appreciates my writing in general and regularly follows me is truly a gift. Honestly, on far too many days, I don’t feel like I’m anyone special and could easily be forgotten if I suddenly passed away. Writing in this blog has been an outlet for much of that insecure voice and has often helped me to overcome it, to express myself, all my pain, my life’s sufferings, the blessings I’ve received, and all the spiritual growth I’ve made. Knowing anyone has related to the any of this and has enjoyed following my articles is something that has helped me to keep going at times, especially on those days where my mind has tried to convince me I’m a nobody and to give up just like my parents did.

So, thank you Barbara. Thank you for providing me a much-needed reminder of how I’m appreciated, especially during a time in life that often feels way more difficult because of this ongoing pandemic. I’m truly grateful for you on this Grateful Heart Monday!

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson