Monday, June 20, 2016

A visit to Mackinac Island

Good morning!  Do you remember when I was complaining about how cold it was in northern Michigan last January? Well, this is the time when I need someone to remind me of that time because this weekend was very hot in northern Michigan with temps near 100.  I guess perhaps I’m a bit of a diva (okay, no comments, please! J) because fluctuations in temperatures really seem to affect me, mostly my RA.  Nonetheless, it was a beautiful weekend in the north woods!

On Friday, I took a group of my students on an adventure to Mackinac Island.  It was my first time there and I was overwhelmed with the beauty.  For those of you that aren’t familiar with this glorious piece of heaven on earth, I suggest you google it, because my words won’t do it justice. Going to Mackinac Island has been on my ‘bucket list” for quite some time, and many people are surprised that I had never been there, especially since it is only a couple of hours drive from my home. My reasons for never visiting, however, had nothing to do with distance, but rather, it was my weight that kept me from the experience.

There are no motor vehicles allowed on the island, and the only way to get around is a horse-drawn taxi/carriage, bicycle, or on foot. None of those options would have been feasible, or pleasant, for someone weighing 400 pounds. Even riding the ferry across Lake Huron would have been difficult before I began my journey, and visiting the island was just one of many things on my “gosh, I really wish I could do, but I know I can’t” list that was my reality not that long ago. Oh, how grateful I am that God helped me dismantle that list! 

It was a picture-perfect, sunny and warm, northern Michigan day. We took a bus for a couple hours before arriving in Mackinaw City to board the ferry. I’m not sure who was more excited: me or my students. The majority of them had been there before, so I’m guessing it was me! We had tickets for the early morning ferry that went UNDER the Mackinac Bridge. The ferry ride alone was magnificent and the bridge is majestic and magnificent. I marveled at the ability of human beings to create this 5-mile structure to connect the northern and lower peninsulas (some 50 years ago, nonetheless) over the 300+ deep waters of Lakes Michigan and Huron. If humans can do that, how could we doubt for a minute what marvelous things GOD can and will do in our lives?

We were met at the island with a horse-drawn carriage ready to take us for a tour of the island. Getting up on that carriage was difficult at my current size; it would have been impossible a few years ago. I could barely do it now. The carriage took our group around the island, past the grand hotel, through the state park, down the streets of downtown brimming with fudge shops and stores, and past the Arch rock. All around were breath-taking views of the glistening waters, vibrant wildflowers, and historical architecture. Truly beautiful!  After visiting the fort, we had several hours to explore the island on our own and eat lunch. It was an awesome day spent with great people.  And, I almost forgot: I came across a yard sale on Mackinac Island where I purchased my only souvenir: A girl’s guide to diva hood!  I have a magnet, I think! 

Later in the afternoon, some of my students and I stopped for lunch. Being on a wellness journey means that I have to make good choices, even on adventures and outings. Fortunately, my group was supportive. Before deciding which of the dozens of caf├ęs, we stopped and previewed the menu to be sure there were options that would fit with my eating plan. I had brought a small container of homemade, almost zero calorie, salad dressing with me, as well as some fruit and yogurt, so I would have NO EXCUSE to stray off plan. We found a great place where my pals could order sandwiches and home-made potato chips and I could get a nice salad.  It was great….and a reminder to me that YES…YES…YES….I could stay on track, regardless of where I am.  Could I have just said… “What the heck, you’re on a sort of vacation, why not eat a burger and fries, Theresa?”  Yup, but after 5 ½ years without even a bite of such things…why, oh why, would I even consider it, when there are ways for me to stay focused?  Made no sense to me not to order the salad. Giving in to a burger on the island would have led to giving in to a carton of popcorn at the movie or a cupcake at a birthday party. There is always an excuse.

Later in the afternoon, as we walked through the downtown tourist area, the smell of fudge filled the air. I think I heard someone say that there are 16 fudge stores on the island and aroma, blended with salt water taffy, fine chocolates, and an assortment of flavored popcorns was overpowering at times.  One of my group members asked me how I could resist?  The answer is simple: I, meaning Theresa, can’t, but God’s grace can! I simply explained that ability to walk and take in the smell of horse manure (not pleasant but symbolic) and lilacs, both of which is in abundance on the island, was more powerful than fudge, and I know that as a food addict, I couldn’t eat just a bite of fudge; it would have been the whole slab.  The ability to walk and move and get on-and-off the carriage; to be able to experience the sights and sounds; to be present to see and feel and smell and enjoy is more powerful and meaningful than the smell of fudge or sweets.  That day….and every day… boils down to this: asking myself what I want more. In this case….it was to be able to enjoy this gorgeous island and walk the 5+ miles we logged that day. Fudge (or whatever your vice is) lasts only a few minutes; the memory of this day will last a lifetime (long after my RA and neuropathy limit my mobility).
My friends, my message today is simple: So many people take an experience like I had this past weekend for granted.  People take trips every day. They get on a ferry boat without thinking about whether they can fit through a turnstile or climb the stairs to the top level. They go to a restaurant without worrying about whether they have booths or chairs that will hold them. They look at tourist magazines and plan their next outing without worrying about whether they can physically do it.  They never give things a second thought; they simply make plans and enjoy all that life has to offer.

 I, on the other hand, and many of you, have missed out on many things like this because of weight. I would have never been able to do this a few years ago; nor would I try.  I also never imagined that it would have ever been possible….and yet….it was!  It can be possible for you too…..but only if you take the necessary steps to make it happen.  Today….right now… I encourage you to spend a few minutes thinking about something that you always wanted to do….but can’t….because of addiction, fear, weight, anxiety…..whatever…..and for a few minutes, try to imagine how wonderful it would (and will) feel to be FREE….truly free… embrace life; to see new things; to visit beautiful places, and feel truly alive. It boils down to this….for you and for me: WHAT do you want more?  That donut? That cigarette? That drink? That negative thinking?  For me….it certainly isn’t Mackinac Island fudge!