Healthy Living in the North

Moving and eating well on road trips

Lasalle Lake is pictured. There's a floating dock in the lake, and forest and mountains in the background.

The view of Lasalle Lake — a beautiful way to break up the trip between Prince George and Valemount!

Even though it feels like summer is flying by, it’s only mid-August, and there’s still plenty of summer-road-trip time before the weather turns! I love me a road trip: the conversation that arises from being in a car with someone for hours; the tunes and the awful, off-key karaoke; and all of the stops along the way!

Those stops are generally for any combination of food, scenery, or a bio-break, but there’s also a great health benefit. After hours of sitting, it’s important to move! The same concerns that you hear around sedentary workplaces and lifestyles apply to long-distance travel. While it’s great to get to your destination ASAP, sitting less and moving more is always a good choice.

Admittedly, I’m not great at making the kinds of stops that make for positive heath impacts, but my wife loves to get out and enjoy the scenery. Recently, before heading home to Prince George from Valemount, she asked a local if there was a good lake to stop at on our route home. He told us to check out Lasalle Lake, and it was gorgeous! On top of enjoying a stunning view, stopping gave us a chance to get some steps in (time that we counted towards the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week), have a stretch, and take a swim before carrying on. That stop added a nice “bonus” memory to the trip too! And it was as easy as asking someone, followed by a quick search on Google Maps. Just remember to always choose a location that suits your fitness level.

I also find planning to stop at an outdoor location challenges us to pack a lunch in a cooler, which usually ends up being healthier than the fast food options on the side of the highway. We usually do sandwiches, but sometimes we treat ourselves to a little meat and cheese board (nom-nom-nom!). Regardless of how healthy we pack, we always feel less rushed and enjoy our food more when we’ve found a nice spot to relax. As the primary driver, I always feel more refreshed and in a better headspace for driving too.

Do you have a favourite place to stop between destinations? What’s in your picnic basket when you stop for lunch? Let me know in the comments below, and safe travels!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

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Youth speak out about mental health

One of the graphics used during the Youth Mental Health campaign. This one says, "How do you take care of your mental health?" There is a silhouette of the side view of a head with a plant growing in it.

We asked youth how they take care of their mental health, and they gave us thoughtful, practical, and useful tips.

We asked — you delivered! During our recent Youth Mental Health campaign (held on Northern Health’s Facebook and Instagram accounts), youth and those who care for them followed along and engaged with energy and enthusiasm. We want to share some of the great ways people are taking care of their mental health. Thanks to all who participated!

Your comments – here’s what you said about how you take care of your mental health:

Communicating

“Communicating how I’m feeling – the good, the not so good, and the downright difficult.”

“Journaling, talking, finding a therapist, daily logs.”

“Reaching out when I know it’s necessary, so I don’t stagnate in a depressed state.”

“Talk to someone – so I don’t feel alone.”

“Express myself and my emotions.”

Goal-setting and planning ahead

“Meet your obligations – regardless of how you feel.”

“I always make it to work and school on time every day. Seems small, but it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something small every day.”

“Keeping a list of daily to-do tasks (and check them off): showers, medication, guitar, stretching.”

“Plan what I’m going to do after class, and build a routine that works for you!”

Connecting – to people, culture, nature, and animals

“Spend time with goofy people in my life, or people who are generally happy makes me feel better in the long run too.”

“Spending time with dogs — walking them brings them joy which makes me feel good. The exercise also boosts my mood even though it’s not something I like doing.”

“Keep family and friends around who I can talk with honestly and will be open with me. FaceTime, call, visit – connect however you like, but please reach out.”

“Connect to culture, pray or help those in need.”

“Having an amazing social support network that I am an equally supportive person to my friends too.”

Self-Care  

“Not put everyone else before myself. No matter how much you love your peers, you are your number one priority.”

“Make a conscious effort not to isolate.”

“Listen to your mind, body, and heart – if you feel overwhelmed or stressed, respect that or take a break if things are frustrating.”

“Look at my scars and credit myself for what I have gone through and survived. I didn’t give up and it was the best decision I ever made because I would have missed out on the best year of my life so far.”

“Validate my own feelings. What I’m feeling in the moment doesn’t define the entirety of my life or being. It’s not realistic to be happy all the time.”

“SLEEP!”

Invite activity into your day!

“Going to the gym. Exercise keeps me focused, happy and healthy. When I have a stressful day or feel pressure from university, I head to the gym to sweat it out.”

“Stretching, yoga, meditation, team sports – it all helps.”

“Listen to calming music, practice gratitude, draw, read, write, go for a drive, take a bath.”

“Get a new hobby.”

“Cleaning and organizing (a drawer, bathroom, inside of car).”

Treatment/Recovery Work

“Visiting my psychiatrist, therapist, clinician regularly.”

“Mood tracking and keeping thoughts positive.”

“Sticking to my recovery plan (medication regime, activity, sleep, social connections).”

“Taking my medication at a designated time every day to make sure I don’t forget.”

“Keep a journal or notebook so I can keep track of symptoms and possible triggers.”

“Be aware of mood and warning signs of relapse so I am able to take a step back and use some of my tools before it gets worse.”

Other bits of wisdom:

“Different things work for different people.”

“Remember that other people care.”

“Spend time with people who uplift you.”

“Over the years, I’ve tried everything to “fix” myself. I have changed my perspective and realized I don’t need fixing. I was just sick, but not in a way that is easy to diagnose or explain to a friend. After I accepted my mental illness, I retried some of the strategies such as journaling, being more active whether that be walking my dog or going to the gym, eating better and sticking to a routine.”

“Limit screen time.”

The campaign’s toolkit can be found on our website.

Stacie Weich

About Stacie Weich

Stacie Weich is the Regional Mental Wellness and Prevention of Substance Harms Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. A passion for people and wellness has driven her to pursue a career in mental health and substance use. The first 10 years of her career were spent at a non-profit in Quesnel. Shen then moved to Prince George to join Northern Health in 2008. Stacie has fulfilled many roles under the mental health and substance use umbrella since then (EPI, ED, NYTC, COAST, AADP, YCOS). In her off time Stacie enjoys spending time with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs, and other family and friends in beautiful northern BC!

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So Long Summer (But it’s not all that bad!)

Creek

The view along Kleanza Creek hiking trail near Terrace, B.C.

I have to admit. I’m a fall kind of guy. Sure, the dog days of summer are good, but growing up in Revelstoke, BC, I always looked forward to the mountains getting a fresh dusting of snow and the Kokanee spawning in the local creeks. Some of my fondest memories are hiking through the woods on a crisp fall morning with a couple friends.

I’m sure that many people living in northern British Columbia share a similar memory.

Now, I know this can be a busy time of year, school has started and there’s still a few projects around the house to finish up before winter gets here. However, why not spare some time to explore your local waking and hiking trails. The days are cooler and hints of color are starting to show in the trees. Salmon are spawning and there’s still abundant wildlife to be seen. Northern British Columbia has a lot of diversity and the outdoors can be spectacular this time of year.

Hiking may be a popular summertime activity, but there’s no reason why it can’t be enjoyed through the fall and into the early winter. Eventually hiking can become snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, but that’s another blog post.

However, there are some things to consider before heading out on your favorite trail.

  • Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  • Northern BC is bear country. Be bear aware, especially if you’re in an area where salmon are spawning.
  • Remember that the days are getting shorter this time of year. Make sure you take that into account when planning your hikes so you can be off the trail before it gets dark
  • Be prepared. While the days might still be warm and pleasant, nights are getting cooler. Pack some warm clothing, an emergency blanket, flashlight, signalling device and fire starter with you.
  • Hunting season is underway, be aware that hunters may be sharing the outdoors with you.
  • Take your camera or smartphone; this time of year can be great for photos.

One of my fondest memories from growing up in Revelstoke was watching the snowline on the mountains get lower and lower as fall waned and winter approached. When it was about halfway half way down the mountains, a few friends and I would go hiking and meet the snow. It became a fall ritual.

20160922-reg-hiking-1

This is an old picture from waaay back on one of those trips to reach the snow!!! Taken at Mt. Revelstoke National Park.

To be honest I still watch the snow creeping down the mountains here in Terrace. I still laugh at an old memory of a snowball fight that pitted my friends Richard and Ken against me and another friend on one of those hikes. What sticks out most from that day was Richard nailing Ken at point blank range with a snowball that was actually meant for Jim or I. But I guess you had to be there!

Go ahead, get out there and embrace fall in northern British Columbia. You just might create some wonderful new memories with your friends and family.

Northern Health is sponsoring a great way to get to know (or share!) your community’s healthy features – The Great Northern Scavenger Hunt! Answering clues gets you out in your community and a chance to win great prizes.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Just stop and play

Mother and child walking in forest

“Outdoor active time builds confidence, autonomy and resilience, and helps children develop skills and solve problems while giving them the opportunity to learn their own interests and limits.”

With our busy lives and commitments to our children to be sure their everyday needs are met, we often forget to just stop and play with our children.

Today is a chance for us to look at the benefits of outdoor play. I want to encourage all caregivers to connect with their children outside, no matter what the weather forecast says! If it’s raining, put on your rubber boots and play in the rain and splash in the puddles. If the sun is poking through, slap on the sunscreen and go outside and play.

Encourage fun, self-directed, free-range play!

Today, children are often scheduled with structured activities such as hockey and soccer practices and piano lessons. Equally important to these scheduled opportunities is the free time for children to dream and explore their own limits. This outdoor active time builds confidence, autonomy and resilience and helps children develop skills and solve problems while giving them the opportunity to learn their own interests and limits.

Play – how much is the right amount?

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 180 minutes (3 hours) of daily physical activity for children ages 3-4 at any level of intensity. The guidelines then change for children ages 5 and up to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous play per day.

Unfortunately, only 14% of children are meeting these guidelines. This drops to only 5% who are meeting the guidelines for children aged 12-17.

How to play?

Reduce screen time. Unplug and play. Make playing and exploring our neighbourhoods the reward rather than more screen time. Let’s embrace the beauty of living in the north! Everything is so accessible and nature is all around us. And it’s free! This may mean letting the child take the lead. You may get a glimpse into what the world looks like through your child’s eyes: spending time bent over exploring the colour in the rocks or examining pussy willows that you revisit later as they become leaves throughout the spring.

The benefits of play are across the board

The most obvious is that it is fun, but play also helps release tension, develops imagination, and allows for problem-solving and mastering new concepts. Play builds self-esteem, leadership skills, and reduces anxiety. Playing socially builds on co-operation and sharing as well as increases our children’s ability to resolve conflict. Outdoor play helps with gross motor skills, which build strong hearts, muscles and bones. Being active everyday as a child helps develop a lifelong habit of daily exercise as an adult.

Finally, be a good role model. Live an active life and rediscover the fun and freedom of outside play. While encouraging the whole family to “wear the gear,” wear your helmet when biking or skateboarding together. Turn your cell off. Make play a priority. Set aside time every day for free play and a chance to connect and have fun with your child today.

Reflect back to your own childhood playtime. I want to encourage everyone to build those same quality experiences for our children today! Let’s get everyone outside and active, having fun while promoting safe, active outdoor play.

Sandra Sasaki

About Sandra Sasaki

Sandra is the Children’s First Manager. In this role, she supports local committees and groups in Prince George, Quesnel, the Robson Valley and Mackenzie to work together to assess, identify and plan for the unique needs of young children. Sandra has lived and worked most of her life in Prince George where she and her husband are active members of the community. She enjoys weightlifting and working out at the gym, painting, skiing, camping, and fishing. Most of all, she enjoys spending time with her family as she is the proud mother of three daughters and a grandmother of seven. (Sandra no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Go with the flow!

Boy with toy bow and arrow

When we were young, imaginative play could transport us to faraway lands! When’s the last time your leisure activities have had that effect on you?

In the past, I’ve written about tobacco reduction and tobacco free sports. However, this time I’m going back to my old recreation therapist days to talk about “going with the flow.”

Let me start by telling you a little story:

When I was a young boy, my friends and I had great imaginations. We spent hours in the woods, having grand adventures! Sticks became swords, and danger lurked behind every tree. Dragons and thieves ran amok, but they were no match for us, the brave knights of the realm.

Back then, we went wherever our minds would take us. The outside world faded away as our imaginary world took over. We became so involved in our games that we would be oblivious to people around us, especially adults who had no place in our kingdoms.

Often, we would forget the time and come home late for dinner, much to the dismay of our mothers. Not that it really bothered us that much. After all, great knights on an epic quest shouldn’t have to stop having fun because of a little thing called dinner!

So what do knights, dragons, and kingdoms have to do with leisure? To an adult, probably not much, unless you’re into Dungeons & Dragons. However, what’s important is the idea that leisure activities you take part in should enable you to become totally absorbed in the experience.

Now, about going with the flow.

Meaningful leisure experiences can result your mind entering what has be described as a state of “flow.” The concept of flow was developed by a psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He described it as a rare state of consciousness where you pay complete attention to what you’re doing and forget about everything else.

This state of flow is characterized by a few things, such as:

  • Losing complete track of time.
  • Becoming so involved in what we’re doing that the outside world fades away.
  • Experiencing enough of a challenge to keep us completely involved and interested in the activity.

Getting into a state of flow can do wonders for your mental and physical health. Flow can help deal with the stressors that we all experience on a daily basis. It takes us to a place where you can just be in the moment. Entering a state of flow silences the noise of the outside world.

Sometimes, getting into a state of flow takes a bit of effort. However, it can be helpful to look at your past. Can you remember a time when you experienced the sensation of flow?

  • What were you doing?
  • How did you feel?
  • Did the experience have a positive effect on your emotional state?
  • Is this something you could do now?
  • Is there another activity that could result in the same sensation?

I wanted to talk about the idea of flow because this time of year can be very stressful. Christmas activities fill our calendars and presents need to be bought. Every now and then, we feel just as busy and tired as Santa’s elves. If there’s a time where we could use a bit of flow now and then, this can be it!

Just remember, there are, of course, times when you need to be paying attention to what is happening around you.

However, in those moments where you can get into a state of flow, go with it!

Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play -Heraclitus (Greek Philosopher)

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Foodie Friday: Sports drinks: To drink or not to drink?

Pitcher of homemade sports drink.

Sports drinks are only recommended for very specific purposes. When you are being active this year, go with water! If your situation requires a sports drink, try making your own with Rebecca’s recipe!

As the days warm and the trees turn green, more and more of us are starting our summer activities. For some of us, that includes things like running, cycling, soccer, football, and other sports. I also see more people drinking sports drinks at this time of year. When should we drink these? When should we not?

The primary purpose of sports drinks is to replace water and electrolytes (sodium, potassium) that are lost when we exercise vigorously for a prolonged length of time. You don’t need a sports drink unless you are a heavy sweater or you are working out for a long time in the heat. Think marathon runner or construction worker on a hot roof all day!

So what should you drink after being active this spring or summer? Water is the best choice!

What’s wrong with sports drinks? They contain a lot of sugar and salt! Powerade® and Gatorade® contain approximately 14 tsp of sugar in their regular 946 ml containers and approximately 400 mg of salt. That’s a lot of extra calories and salt that you don’t need.

So what should we do when engaging in sports? First, drink water before you start! Afterwards, have a snack with some carbs and protein to refuel and repair your muscles. Try some chocolate milk, peanut butter and a banana, or some tuna and crackers.

If you’re going to use sports drinks for vigorous exercise or during periods when you are feeling unwell, try making your own sports drinks!

Nancy Clark’s Homemade Sports Drink

Recipe courtesy of Nancy Clark, RD

Yield: 1 quart (approximately 1 litre)

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • ¼ cup orange juice (not concentrate) plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 ½ cups cold water

Instructions:

  1. In the bottom of a pitcher, dissolve the sugar and salt in the hot water.
  2. Add the juice and the remaining water; chill.
Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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An autumn walk

dog; autumn; walk

Nature’s show to entertain us on our walks.

October is my favourite month of the year – hands down. It may have something to do with it being my birthday month, but I think it’s more about the fall colours, sweaters and boots coming out of the closet, and the furnace having kicked in. It gives me a really cozy feeling inside and I just love it!

I recently got a dog (“Abby”) and this has made me really appreciate October even more – something I didn’t think was really possible!

As a responsibility to Abby, I make an effort to walk her twice a day. Yes, it is hard to keep this commitment to her, but I prioritize it and they may not always be the best walks, but she is strapped to a leash twice each day and taken off the property. As we are losing daylight, this is becoming harder, too, but we persevere. Some days, we are able to find or make time for a good long walk and a way to take it onto the local trails. It’s more exciting for both of us when we can make this happen.

autumn; landscape

Event he best high-definition TV can’t fully capture the feeling of autumn!

Initially, the walks were about keeping her happy, entertained, and exercised. The surprising by-product is that I am happier and exercised, too. The only thing that is suffering is my PVR because I don’t have as much time to watch TV in the evenings any more (oh, darn!). If I’m on dog-walking duty, not a day goes by that I don’t get at least 10,000 steps in. Moreover, I’m getting the chance to really appreciate the full beauty of fall.

I am not suggesting that everyone needs a dog to be more active because owning any pet is a huge responsibility. But, what about grabbing a non-furry friend for a walk? Nature is giving us a spectacular show at this time of the year. Even the best high-definition TV can’t capture the full show. And, while looking at the amazing colours around us, you may not notice that your feet are hitting the pavement a little more than usual.

What is your favourite thing about fall?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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NH Stories: Fundraising for Terry Fox in northern BC

Jim Terrion is a housekeeper at the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George. In this video, he (with the assistance of a translator) shares his story of fundraising for the Terry Fox Foundation. As of the 2014 Terry Fox Run, Jim has surpassed his goal for this year ($610,000) and is well on his way towards his goal of $1 million.

Do you know of an NH staff member who has gone above and beyond? Share your story with us in the comments below.

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Every move counts

A treadmill acting as a clothes hanger is unplugged and unused.

The unplugged treadmill, gathering clothes, a blanket, and dust.

Our modern world is heavily weighted against movement and exercise. It’s so bad that terms like sitting disease are now a normal part of conversation.

My level of activity decreased significantly after I got my first car. Before that time, I either walked to where I was going or, at the very least, walked to the bus stop. Eventually, I began to cycle to work. Going into Glasgow and getting to the hospital (where I worked at the time) meant taking two or three separate buses. The distance cycled was around 15 miles, there and back. None of this was done out of a sense of maintaining my well-being, but rather out of necessity. The positive side effect was that I was very healthy, in spite of my addiction to tobacco, which has since been kicked.

Now, if I walk, it is a planned activity. I suspect that this is the case for most people. Winter weather tends to discourage me from walking – too cold! Unfortunately, I also find that when I plan to walk, it often falls off my agenda. I even have a treadmill that doesn’t get enough action. And before you ask: yes, I do know better.

The trouble seems to be that exercise is difficult to schedule into our busy lives, despite how vital it is to our health. Exercise does more than just help the body, it has also been shown to help fight depression and releases chemicals that make us feel good. Great for fighting the winter blues!

One tip that I find helpful: make activity part of what you’re already doing so that it works within your schedule. For instance, yard work and household chores can be done quickly to simulate exercise, parking the car a distance from your destination can help you log some extra steps, and getting together with a few friends for an indoor winter walk can help make activity more convenient.

The evidence shows that adults need 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, but don’t just play the numbers game as that can be discouraging. Instead, try to start moving slowly and then keep moving every day. If you are stuck in the office, or behind the wheel and don’t think you can do it, try standing up (or pulling over) and walking about for a few moments every hour. Before long, you’ll start feeling better and you’ll want to be moving more. Remember, every move counts.

What tips do you have sticking to an active schedule? How do you stay active around the office?

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Infographic: Every move counts!

It’s August – the sun is out, the weather is warm, and the days are longer. What better time to find ways to fit physical activity into your day?

Physical activity is about moving your body in a way that feels good for you today. How we move our bodies and how much we move our bodies can contribute to our health today and in the future. Check out our infographic below to learn about moving your body for your health today!

infographic, physical activity

Move for your health!

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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