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Outfits Not Just Clothes ...
Habits to Ditch in 2017
By Bernadette Ulsamer

Usually New Year’s resolutions run along the line of adopting better habits, like exercising more, eating healthier foods, or taking up a new hobby or craft. While all of these are noble pursuits, the start of 2017 is also a good time to take stock of the habits and behaviors that could be holding you back. So, in addition to resolving to start better practices, here are four habits to kick to the curb this year.
  Judging Others. I come from a long-line of ‘judgers’ who are more than happy to point out all of my mistakes. I’m just as guilty of passing judgement and voicing it, from pointing out my husband’s misuse of punctuation, to bad-mouthing a crooked parking job. This year, I’m making a concerted effort to stop judging, because in the grand scheme of things, no one is keeping score. Plus, sarcastic comments about other people’s screw-ups are just plain rude.
  Judging Yourself. I used to joke that the negative voice inside my head was my best friend, because at the drop of a hat I can give you a rundown of at least 10 things about myself that are ‘wrong’. From the size of my pores, to the number of times I went flat singing hymns at church. As this year begins, I’ve resolved to stop berating myself, especially about things no one else seems to notice. There are no medals given out for the cleanest house, or the most organized sock drawer.
  Sweating the Small Stuff. This goes right in line with the judgement behavior above. With so much minutiae to keep track of in modern life, it can be difficult to sort through what matters and what we think matters. Getting caught up and angry about the little things is a very easy trap to fall into, especially since it’s hard to distinguish between what we want and what we actually need in order to make us happy, productive people. Of course, details are important to an extent, but not being able to see the forest for the trees serves no one’s best interest. Prioritizing the needs over wants, is definitely a place to start in order to let go of what truly does not matter in the long run.
  Confusing Venting with Outright Complaining. Sure, we all need to let off some steam and voice our frustration to a friendly ear, but often ongoing venting (especially in the workplace) can create a culture of complaining. In my office, it seems there’s a daily unofficial grumble session around 3 o’clock by the coffee pots with the same cast of characters whose complaints don’t ever seem to change. Misery does love company, but what good does it do wallow? Instead of just talking about a problem, why not start seeking out solutions? Instead of getting caught up in the complaints, talk about ways to make things better.  As my husband likes to remind me, you can’t complain about something and fix it at the same time.
  The thing that connects all of these bad habits is negativity. There seems to be a lot of negative energy in the world as of late. I’m not saying we should all strive to be bright sunshiney people in 2017. We certainly don’t want (or need) negativity to be front and center in our lives. I sure don’t! So, as this year unfolds, think about ways to reverse your negatively-charged habits, or at the very least try to make them a less prominent part of your daily life.

 

Five Hundred Miles on the Camino Frances
By Al Sever
 

Every person I've talked to who has watched the movie, The Way, wants to walk the ancient pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago from France into Spain. Starting in the small town of Saint Jean Pied de Port In France, one walks the old Pilgrimage trail over the Pyrenees and through the Basque countryside and mountains of Galicia of northern Spain to the holy city of Santiago de Campostella. My lady friend, Sandy, and I watched the movie in 2013, and as soon as we found an inexpensive flight to Spain, we were on our Way.
  Campostella says it all—Field of Stars! While the Camino has been a Christian pilgrimage for over 1,200 years, it was a pilgrimage for the Roman Soldiers to their God, Mercury, and before that a pilgrimage of the Druids to their Gods. In addition, many people sincerely believe it is called the Field of Stars because it was one of the first places where a UFO landed to meet humans.
  There are numerous Pilgrimages to Santiago, but the Camino Frances from Saint Jean is the truly magical way. For several thousand years, Pilgrims of various religions walked from northern France, the Swiss Alps, the German provinces, and the monarchies of Eastern Europe on ancient trails that all converged in Saint Jean to then start the climb on the military route through the passes of the Pyrenees. From San Jean, they will walk almost 500 miles to reach the mystical Field of Stars and the traditional burial place of the Apostle Saint James. Many pilgrims follow the Druids route and continue walking another 3 days to Finnisterre where all souls must gather prior to leaving the earth.
  When one considers those religious backgrounds, you can only wonder just who will be your companions walking the Camino. Sandy and I left Pennsylvania in May and spent 33 days wandering along the 500 miles of the Camino Frances. We met very few religious fanatics, however—generally we met many happy hikers, drinking and singing as they partied their way for on the Camino. Most are unable to walk the entire Camino in one year due to limited vacation time, so many people we met were only walking a portion of the Camino, planning to finish in 3 or 4 vacations. I don't know how many different nationalities we met on the walk, but one evening at supper, we shared our table with hikers from 11 different countries. Not sure what we talked about due to language differences, but in all of my pictures everyone at the supper tables are laughing.
  The trail is long, but not especially difficult. Every day you will be walking up hill and then drastically drop down hillsides, losing your altitude in several short descents. After calculating the elevations, walking from San Jean to Santiago is doing Mount Everest on the Installment Plan. Walking the roughly 500 miles, you will have climbed over 11,000 Meters in elevation: Mount Everest is less than 9,000 meters high.
  One of our biggest disappointments was in a small town two days from Santiago when we looked into the night sky and saw the moon above us—we thought we must have climbed uphill much higher than the moon by then! Whenever someone asked if I was tired of trudging up the hills of the Camino, I always told them that if Neil Armstrong could walk to the moon, I could walk to Santiago.
  We walked up mountains—I beat Sandy's rented horse by 45 minutes walking up the steepest mountainside while I was carrying a backpack—the flat treeless plains, miles of narrow winding paths through vineyards, muddy forest trails, city streets, tiny villages and modern highways. Each morning brought a new adventure since we had no idea how far we would walk, how many hills we would climb, or where we would stop for the night.
  We always stayed in the Pilgrim Albergues, the traditional municipal or religious hostels, catering to the needs of weary walkers for over 1200 years. Usually bunk beds in communal areas with modern bathrooms for $5 to $9 a night and some with gigantic Pilgrim meals in the evening with unlimited wine for another $9. Not all charged a fee, there were many religious or municipal Hospederias, which usually gently reminded us that we were eating and sleeping for free because of donations made by pilgrims on the previous day. Of course, being aware we did not have to pay anything, we always donated $20 for the next day's pilgrims.
  There were a few days when most albergues were full, and we thought we would be sleeping in the woods. But we always found a place with two empty bunks or mats on the floor—and often, we ended up close to old friends from Germany and Denmark who had started with us hundreds of miles back in France. And that is what the Camino was to us--friends. It was a rare evening when we found a couple of bunks and then looked around without recognizing someone we had met somewhere along the Way.
The most memorable places we stayed were the three Hospitals—not medical facilities but named for the word, ‘hospitality’. Basic facilities, without bunks but with a kitchen, we slept on the floor in a big room with 20 or 30 other walkers. We seemed to stumble into one of these special places just when the weather turned bad or when we were very tired. Each of those places made us feel so welcome…and so humble. Those places were run by volunteers from all over the world who had walked the Camino before and years later returned to serve Pilgrims as a Hospitalero for 2 or 3 weeks. They cooked the meals and cleaned the building for people that they had never met who needed a dry roof over their heads and some hot food before disappearing early the next morning. And no matter where one spent the night, and no matter what the morning weather was, it was a firm rule that one was out the door no later than 0800. The place must be cleaned and made ready for the group of Pilgrims who would trickle in that afternoon and evening. But of course, the rules were ignored for anyone sick or injured. Those hikers stayed for free until able to continue their private pilgrimage.
  We stayed in 800-year-old monasteries and new modern buildings. One night might be spent with 200 people sleeping in a few large open rooms and the next night in a village municipal albergue with eight people sharing four bunk beds in a tiny room over a local municipal bar. Every place was clean and friendly but honestly, they all blur together as unimportant. But what was important?
  Ah—the friends! I can close my eyes and still hear the low soft musical voice, traveling for a kilometer through the hillsides, of the tiny young woman from Slovenia who sang all day while she walked along side of her husband; the 85 year old Japanese gentleman with his 79 year old wife, both carrying big packs along the mountain trails; the blind guy from Finland with his seeing eye dog accompanied by his patient wife pushing a baby carriage with two young kids in it for 500 miles; our friends from Romania who disappeared along the way; the Americans from Oregon who were attempting to find faith in their religion again ; the Mexicans who walked 500 miles in the same clothes and shoes, they wore on the plane flying to Spain. Never heard an argument or an unkind word--we were all in this together. And how did we ever manage to end up drinking wine all evening with 19 old friends in Santiago when we all finished? Never thought we knew that many people!
  But what did we all learn? Most people who walked with us claimed they realized their possessions possessed them and would now change how they lived. A friend from France swore he was going to throw away almost everything in his apartment in Paris when he returned, others said they were walking just to think about their unsatisfactory lives. A common theme was that "I'm not happy doing what I am doing back home and I must change". Not sure what it all meant to me...but I left the dog tags I wore for 31 months of combat in Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos hanging on the Cross of iron along the Camino. The famous Cruz de Ferro, a religious site that goes back to the druids is located on the highest elevation on the entire Camino. Only a small iron cross-mounted on top of a 10-meter-high pole surrounded by a small hill of stones. It is traditional for each walker to bring a stone from home and add it to the pile--an offering to the gods for a special purpose. Don't believe any other hiker left military Dog Tags hanging on the cross, but after all, it really is the site of the Roman soldier’s shrine to their God of War and just another pagan site stolen by the Christians. As an old soldier, I think my dog tags have a good home.
  Do it again. Yes, I did it alone in 2016. But walked all of the way to Finisterre this time. In 2017, I intend to walk the Camino Portuguese and the Camino Norte.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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