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Taking a moment to be thankful

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Does this view look familiar? Sometimes we just need to look up!  Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer

Does this view look familiar? Sometimes we just need to look up! Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer

While walking the dog at a lake near my house this past weekend, I stopped for a moment, in awe of a huge flock of geese flying overhead. There were at least 200 geese in this enormous V, each taking a turn flying at the back and then making their way to somewhere in the middle of the V. I watched, mesmerized until they disappearing into the southern horizon.

As I head into a busy Thanksgiving week, playing bumper cars with carts at the grocery store, circling the mall a hundred and one times before finding a parking spot, or working to make all my writing deadlines, it’s hard to stop and think about being thankful.

But as I was walking the dog, witnessing one of the most miraculous behaviors in the animal world, I realized how incredibly thankful I am to live in Northern Colorado. The beauty of nature surrounds us every day. Glance up at a telephone pole and you’re likely to see a raptor sitting, head cocked, ready to grab an oblivious prairie dog. Foxes trot through our small towns, as do coyotes, deer and even the occasional elk.

Northern Colorado is truly one of the most visually stunning places in the world. During this time of year the shockingly white Rocky Mountains rise up against a brilliantly blue sky. When I take a moment and look up, these mountains never cease to take my breath away.

That’s the point, really. We have to pause, just for a second, and look around in order to be thankful. I hope you can take some time during this busy holiday week to look around, just for moment and take in the beauty of Northern Colorado.

Written by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer

November 22nd, 2010 at 10:30 am

Lifelong learning, lifelong happiness

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Sometimes, it feels as if there are not enough hours in the day. I particularly feel this way after a long day at work, or a busy weekend full of housework and errands. And when this happens, I usually find myself lounging on the couch for hours watching the television. I’m glad to have some rest, but still feeling slightly unproductive. Though I can be running around for what seems like all day, when I finally get free time I sometimes wish I did something for me, something I truly enjoy. It’s a feeling that I desire that I am not sure HGTV completely provides.

Here in Fort Collins, we have so many opportunities to pursue our interests. And it is well worth taking advantage of these opportunities. Doing a quick Google search on “benefits of hobbies” generates tons of articles, all praising the positive aspects of pursuing our interests. You can probably imagine what the list might be: hobbies reduce stress, lower blood pressure, stimulate brain activity and thus improving memory and concentration, and simply just have general health benefits. And there are many things you can do to receive these benefits, whether you enjoy nature, art, music, or crafts.

For me, I feel like I am improving myself every time that I learn something. The knowledge that comes from even the smallest things, like learning about a new animal in one of our natural areas, make me feel like I have accomplished something. It is important to always be challenging ourselves to do new things, and learn new things. Working your mind is not just about being healthy; it is about feeling enriched personally. So when you think about your “me time,” when you do get it, what do you do that is really for you? And let’s be clear, checking email does not really count as a hobby, though it can keep you in touch with friends and family. Doing what you love is essential, and being able to use your time outside of work to explore those things that you love is very rewarding.

On March 1, the City of Fort Collins released the Spring 2010 Recreator, a comprehensive guide to recreational activities in Fort Collins. Here you will find ways to engage in whatever it is you love, from sports to arts to cooking to pretty much anything else you can think of. Special programs are available for youth and seniors as well. At the moment the Recreator is only available online, but you can begin signing up for classes on March 11.

While the Recreator will give you more than enough classes and activities to fill your time, there are many other opportunities to suit your needs throughout Fort Collins. It is all a matter of looking and asking. Art galleries and studios often hold their own classes (the Center for Fine Art Photography, for example, holds regular workshops and the Colorado Coalition of the Arts has a lecture series). Depending upon your interests, you can call up a group associated with your field and it is likely that they will have class, workshops, lectures, and events available (Try the Northern Colorado Writers Studio if you’re literary or the Gardens on Spring Creek if you are into cultivating). With just a little research, you can find groups that love the same things as you do. This is another way that we can be enriched by our hobbies: through community interaction.

I know the couch is tempting, and at times it is even necessary for a bit of relaxation. But we all need something that is our own, something that improves us and enhances us. What will you do to get out and explore your hobbies in Fort Collins? Spread the word about great classes and activities to get everyone involved!

An Apple a Day: Medicine for the Body and Soul

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An Apple a Day...

An Apple a Day...

Every morning I throw an apple into my bag for a midday snack, and I am always reminded of that old phrase, “An apple a day….,” but in reality I just like the taste of apples. I never really think about the health of my one serving of fruit, its vitamins or its nutrients.  In truth, while I am aware of things that are deemed “healthy,” I never stop to think about what it really means to be healthy, and the amount of work that sometimes goes into the health industry. Health can improve life in many more ways than by generically “being good for you.” In fact when you think about it, so many of the great things in our lives come from staying physically healthy.

Dr. Simon Turner

Dr. Simon Turner

If anyone knows what hard work health can be, it is Dr. Simon Turner. His career is focused on working with sheep to reach the goal of what he calls “benefitting human health and ending suffering.” It sounds far-fetched, but the technology is very real. Because sheep have similar bone structures to human beings, Dr. Turner can use them to test techniques and devises that help with human orthopedic problems. His research has improved treatments for injuries, osteoporosis, and even cancerous bone.

What strikes me most about Dr. Turner and his work is his focus on human suffering. His work helps to ease physical pain, but really it does much more. Imagine what it must feel like to be debilitated by injury, always stuck in bed or on the couch, then finally being able to get up painlessly and enjoy a jog in the fresh summer air. Or what a big step it must be for a patient in a long battle with cancer to learn that their bones are disease free. Wounds are just as mental as they are physical, and the ability of research to battle difficult health issues has wonderful emotional side effects.

Dr. Turner will be explaining how his work serves the health of others, and how that work fits into a long historical relationship between animals and science, at Beet Street’s Science Cafe tonight. His talk will begin at 6:00pm at Stonehouse Grille, but be sure to come at 5:30pm if you would like to grab some food, drink, and a little social time beforehand.

Riverbend Ponds Natural Area- Fort Collins

Riverbend Ponds Natural Area- Fort Collins

Now, we can’t simply rely on doctors and researchers to make all medical miracles happen. There are so many little things that we do in our day to day lives that can nurture our bodies and souls. Just taking a stroll around one of Fort Collins’ gorgeous natural areas will put your mind as ease and get you in tune to the outdoors after working hard all day. Besides being a great physical exercise, walking has been shown to memory and even brighten your mood To double your positive mind/body vibes, take a friend with you. They will enjoy the benefits while you both build a stronger relationship. Locally grown produce gives you many of the the nutrients you need without any chemicals or additives, and when you pick it up at the Farmer’s Market over the weekend you also know that you are supporting your community (and we know that giving has great spiritual benefits as well). You probably do many of these things unconsciously. But I think that being aware of ourselves, of our minds and bodies, gives us more opportunities to take care of them.

As silly as it may seem, taking a bite of that apple really does make me feel better. I may not see the effects, or even think about it every day. But I am sure my body is affected, and so is my soul.

If you are looking for more Fort Collins events that boost your health, check these out:
Six Day Races at the CSU Oval
Nutritional Health Series at the Library
Preserving the Summer Harvest at the Gardens at Spring Creek
Free classes at Old Town Yoga
This week’s classes and festivals at Whole Foods Market
Fort Collins Parks and Trails