The Holidays Are Here!

Hi, everyone! It’s me, Saint. I hope that this finds you all well. Can you believe that 2017 is almost over? Mummy and I have had such a busy year and I’ve enjoyed telling you so much about it all.

Mummy and I have had a busy couple of weeks. Her students were finishing up their finals, and so we were on campus a lot. But we had lots of fun. I think that the students were actually a little sad that they were going on break. I know that they will miss Mummy and me.

Mummy and I are taking a little break of our own. The holidays are here. And we are going to visit my aunt, Mummy’s sister, over our holiday break. I think that Mummy needs a vacation. She loves her students, but they really tire her out! I’m looking forward to our relaxing a bit.

What are you all doing for the holidays? Hopefully, you get to see your friends and families. There is so much to be thankful for. Mummy and I got to do so many amazing things this year. We got to see places we’ve never seen before, like the Appalachian Trail. And we met so many amazing people. I have a lot of new friends now!

Do you guys have any special holiday treats? I always eat very healthily, but Mummy lets me have treats once in a while. Carrots are my favorite! They are sweet just like candy to me. I hope that you all get to enjoy some treats of your own. That’s one of the best things about the holidays. Do you think that Mummy will let me have a few extra carrot sticks?

I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday season. Be safe and I will talk to you all in the new year. Bye for now!

Just Getting Started

Can you become involved in something accidentally? I suppose that it’s possible. When I became involved with BEYOND LIMITS, I honestly didn’t know what I was getting into. At first, I started doing work for the organization as a class project. I first heard about the organization as a freshman at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, when I took my first class with Dr. Jacqui Lowman (Dr. J). I had no idea that it would become as much a part of my life as it is now.

I am now a senior at UMPI, and BEYOND LIMITS has impacted my life in ways that I never thought possible. Sure, it has given me great opportunities for school projects, and it definitely challenged me to think outside of the box. But it has done so much more than that. For me, it has been a journey. As one of the members of home base while Dr. J was out hiking the Appalachian Trail, I have learned and grown so much and I continue to do so.

Probably the biggest thing that I have learned is how to roll with the punches. Dr. J is a big believer in adapting and finding new ways to answer our own questions and come up with creative solutions. When she set out on the hike, no one really knew what to expect. But we all knew that it would be an adventure. And as she started on her journey, I began one as well. I wasn’t sure that managing the hike from here at home would be something that I could do. I was nervous. But I had others to work with. And, slowly, I began to grow more confident. I learned to look to others for support and feedback. I really grew closer to those involved and I truly love working with them.

The biggest thing that I have taken away from working with BEYOND LIMITS is how it really is something that involves everyone, no matter where they come from or what they have been through. Honestly, when I think about the difficulties or challenges that I have faced and continue to face, the message of BEYOND LIMITS fits perfectly. There really is nothing that is impossible. It’s how we accomplish those “impossible” things that just takes a little extra thought and work.

I love that I get to be a part of this amazing team. It’s taught me so much about accountability and asking others for help and input. I’ve learned that you can’t let things that scare you stop you from accomplishing amazing things. I just look at Dr. J and the team out on the trail, and it is truly inspiring. They didn’t know how their portions of the hike were going to go. They just had to trust one another and work together as a single unit. And that is what we at home base got to do and continue to strive for. While Dr. J and her team were out hiking, we were climbing mountains of our own.

The most exciting part about this whole experience is that this is all just the beginning. I’m not reflecting on the whole journey. I’m reflecting on the journey thus far. BEYOND LIMITS is going to continue to inspire and to amaze. I continue to be involved in it because I have to see what happens next. I was asked once why I continue to be involved. And my answer was, “Why would you stop reading a great book halfway?” I want to keep surpassing my own expectations and help others realize their full potentials. This is all just the start of a journey that is going to be the adventure of a lifetime.

And…We’re Live!

Hi, guys! It’s me, Saint. First of all, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that you all had a great holiday and had lots to be thankful for. Mummy and I had a very nice holiday. And we even got some Christmas gift wrapping done. I have so much to be thankful for. We have done so many exciting things this year!

I have to tell you guys about the cool thing we did a few weeks ago. Mummy, six of her students and I did a Facebook Live event! If you follow us on Facebook, you might have even seen us. Mummy and her students talked about BEYOND LIMITS and they got to answer questions from people who were watching. It was really neat. I have to admit that I slept through some of it. Everyone was just sitting around and talking, and it had been a long day. It’s a lot of work being Mummy’s helper. I hope that we do another event soon. Hopefully we all can do something fun and entertaining!

The event seemed to go really well. Mummy was really happy about it and other people seemed to enjoy it, too! Everyone was laughing and having a great time. I love how close everyone has gotten. Just a few years ago, I remember meeting these students for the first time. Now, we have all gotten to know one another and some are even getting ready to graduate. I get to see them pretty much every week. Some even stay until late at night talking to Mummy and me. I think this makes Mummy tired, though. She says she likes her bed. I try to tell her to just take naps during the day like me. I guess she thinks her students wouldn’t like it.

Well, that’s what has been going on lately. We have some exciting plans coming up, so I’ll keep you all posted. Until then, take care. Bye, guys!

Pushing Limits Aside–A Reflection by Melissa Lizotte

I got involved with BEYOND LIMITS without ever setting foot on the Appalachian Trail or even Mount Katahdin, the site of the first BEYOND LIMITS expedition. To this day, I’m still not what many people might call an “avid” hiker. I enjoy the outdoors and always make sure to include physical activity in my daily life. But the only challenging hike I’ve done thus far is in Aroostook State Park in Presque Isle. I was only a high school student when I hiked that trail and at the time I thought it was one of the most daunting mountains that anyone could climb.

Then I began college as an English major at the University of Maine at Presque Isle and realized I had a lot of growing to do as a person. I met Dr. J in her Intro. to Professional Communication and Journalism class during my sophomore year. One semester later, I learned about her July 2015 climb of Katahdin with a group of dedicated volunteers who carried her on their backs to the top. I had no idea that within months Dr. J would recruit my classmates and me for BEYOND LIMITS’ biggest adventure so far: a hike of the AT.

By the time I entered Dr. J’s Evolving Media class in Spring 2016, I had already found many of my niches in academics. I was steadfast in my pursuit of literary fiction and poetry writing and had found a second passion with journalism, particularly with magazine and newspaper freelancing. I was aware of Dr. J’s work ethic and knew that she would come up with a BEYOND LIMITS project that would challenge everyone. On the first day of Evolving Media, she announced that she and a group of volunteers, whom she had yet to recruit, would thru-hike the AT from March to September/early October 2017. I remember feeling motivated to help her achieve that goal and did not hesitate to begin my chosen assignment: researching potential universities, outing clubs, and other recreation groups to recruit trail support volunteers. Trail support volunteers would help hikers with everything from carrying large packs to driving them to rest stops to offering a place to sleep for the night. My list of possible volunteers became much longer than I anticipated, not because I wanted to be the “teacher’s pet.” I thought that BEYOND LIMITS could benefit from having as many options for recruitment as possible. The greatest fulfillment was knowing that my work had the potential to affect many people for the better instead of simply earning me a good grade for the course or turning in an assignment that only a professor and a handful of students would see.

As I took more courses from Dr. J that involved BEYOND LIMITS, I soon realized that any expedition that the team took on was not about her. In fact, the messages of the Katahdin climb and Appalachian Trail Adventure (ATA) have never been about helping someone who cannot walk. Instead, BEYOND LIMITS is about all coming together and pushing themselves physically and/or emotionally further than they thought they could go. That mission was what my classmates and I strived to achieve with whatever work we did during our time with Dr. J.

The semester after Evolving Media, in Dr. J’s upper-level Professional Communication course, she sent everyone a list of various potential volunteers she had contacted that summer. None of those people had responded to her emails. So our job was to first email, then call, various university professors, outing clubs and community recreation groups to promote the opportunity to volunteer for the ATA. I had to call most of my contacts because they did not respond to my initial emails. I probably contacted over 30 people and only recruited a few of them. Many did not have positive reactions when I told them about the hike nor did they stay on the phone long enough for me to completely explain the project. But reaching out to them helped me conquer my fears of talking to people I didn’t know and spread more awareness of BEYOND LIMITS.

Promoting the ATA gave me even more personal passion for the project. I discovered that I, too, was part of the BEYOND LIMITS team and had gone far beyond what I believed to be my limitations. I’m not an outgoing person by nature. Until college, public speaking and participating in class discussions had always made me self-conscious. But because of BEYOND LIMITS, I rid myself of a lot of those fears and realized that my contributions were just as valuable as those for whom speaking aloud comes more naturally. My classmates and I never experienced the physical burdens of hiking a trail like the AT. But all of us felt a connection to BEYOND LIMITS and brought unique perspectives and talents to the ATA. Sometimes we paired up to help one another cover more ground during the research phase. In the Evolving Media class, three students, Monica Hewitt, Ning Sun and me, researched volunteer options. I focused on trail support people while Monica researched opportunities for trail hikers and Ning targeted homebase volunteers. We divided up the states along the AT so that all of us could do more vast research without missing any potential volunteers. Even in the Professional Communication course, all found their own niche despite the fact that we were all contacting potential volunteers. All of us took our own approach to the outreach process and learned how to persevere even when some of the people we contacted did not understand the mission behind the ATA.

Whenever I think about my time with BEYOND LIMITS, I most often remember those team meetings with Dr. J and my classmates. Not everyone always agreed on what was the best way to recruit volunteers or how to promote the ATA to certain audiences. But what I felt as the semesters went on was a growing sense of camaraderie and respect among our group. I knew that I could say my opinions without worrying about the others criticizing me personally and that I would do the same for them in return. Though I was one of the few students who was not a professional communication and journalism (PCJ) major, I never felt that I didn’t belong. BEYOND LIMITS gave me one of many opportunities during college to form bonds with people that I still consider my friends. In many ways I got to “hike” a “trail” with all of them because we started a project that had no clear outcome, but came out on the other side with the satisfaction of knowing that we helped make BEYOND LIMITS’ now completed section hikes of the AT possible. I look forward to keeping in touch with my fellow team members in the coming years and seeing how BEYOND LIMITS inspires their own accomplishments. They have helped me realize that no matter what my goals are, I can move forward despite obstacles and make an impact that reaches far beyond the classroom.

Since Dr. J left for the AT in March, I graduated from UMPI and began a career in media relations while also managing the BEYOND LIMITS Twitter account. But I have realized that I’m still far from achieving all my goals in life. In the future, I want to earn a master’s degree in English and master of fine arts in creative writing so that I could teach those subjects at the college level. The latter degree will help me further develop as a creative writer and produce work that is more suited for publication. I’m always aware of the challenges I will face once I officially pursue those degrees. There are many times when I feel discouraged about how I will even find the courage to go after what many people might call “impossible” goals. But then I remember what BEYOND LIMITS is all about: learning to surround myself with people who believe in CAN instead of CAN’T and getting rid of the barriers that I have too often placed upon myself. I know now that only positive things can happen when all of us dare to take those first difficult steps on our own journeys.

Mummy and I visit OSI

Hi, guys! It’s Saint again! Who’s loving this fall weather? I know I am! The trees are getting so pretty, the weather’s a bit cooler and there are lots of new scents to sniff! Mummy and I have had a pretty busy summer since we got back to take a little break from hiking. We have been meeting with her students (I really missed them!) and even giving some presentations here and there.

I actually wanted to tell you guys about a presentation that Mummy and I gave recently. It was in Caribou, Maine at the Outdoor Sport Institute. We call it OSI. Mummy’s friend Mike was there. He was one of the Sherpas who hiked Katahdin a couple of years ago. He had a class of four gap year students who are taking a semester to take an outdoor adventure class instead of jumping right in to college. Let me see if I can remember their names: Ruslan, McKensi, Libby and Sarah. Yes! I did it!

Mummy gave them a presentation about the Appalachian Trail Adventure. Then, Mummy, Mike and Seth, Mike’s helper, gave a demonstration using the carrier. Mummy got in and Mike and Seth took turns carrying her on their backs. The students got to help by assisting Mummy in getting in and out of the carrier. I watched for a bit. But mostly I sniffed around the room. There were several people and so many good scents to smell!

Mummy and I have some more presentations coming up soon. We’re always busy. But that’s how we like it. It keeps things really interesting. And it’s always fun telling people about BEYOND LIMITS and all of our adventures!

Well, I’d better get going. My dinner is calling my name. I’ll talk to you all again very soon. Bye!

Home for the Summer

Hi, everyone! It’s Saint (Truffles) again! Mummy and I have been hard at work preparing for our next adventure. And classes are about to start up again. But I have a few minutes to catch you guys up on what’s been going on. It’s been a busy summer!
As you probably know, Mummy and I have been home for a good part of the summer. We did two section hikes on the Appalachian Trail, and we decided to come home for a bit to take care of some things here. Some of our equipment needed a little TLC.
I was pretty excited to come home for a little while. When we left home, there was still snow on the ground. And when we came back, summer was here! It was really nice for Mummy and me to see our backyard. I could walk on it without leaving footprints!
Mummy had some people watching over the house while we were gone. But we still managed to have some unexpected visitors. Guys, there were little mice living in our house! I even visited them a few times. They brought their families and they were all so nice! They’re actually my friends now. Our home is so nice, I guess they just wanted to live there, too. Mummy found several cracks in the walls of our basement, so she says that’s how they got in. I don’t blame them. It was cold outside this winter!
Anyway, no one got harmed. The mice ate some of the food in the house. But that’s OK, I’ll share! I think that they have probably all moved out by now. At least, I haven’t seen them around lately. I think that Mummy just didn’t have enough room for them in our house. They probably all went off to find new homes. I think that Mummy’s friend, Al, is going to check out the situation at some point, just to make sure that everyone is safe and has a good home.
Aside from all of that, Mummy and I have been able to catch up with some of her students this summer. They all seemed really happy to see us. They all still look the same. Sometimes I have to sniff to make sure. They are all so impressed by the adventures that we’ve been having. They seem to really love the pictures that we took. Mummy and I take great pictures! You guys should check them out!
Well, it’s getting a little late. I’ve got to get to bed because Mummy and I still have some busy days ahead of us and classes will be starting soon. We’ve got to try to whip those students back into shape for the next semester. I will talk to you all very soon! Bye for now!

Who’s Truffles?

Hi, everyone! It’s Saint. Or should I say Truffles? If you haven’t been in the loop, I now have a trail name! Why Truffles, you ask? Don’t worry, I’ll get to that. Just be patient. I have so much to tell you!

Mummy and I spent 10 days on the Appalachian Trail in June. We made a lot of new friends, and everyone had a great time! And, you should all know that I’ve become quite an avid hiker. I’ve never been so fit before! I hear Mummy brag about me to people and even some of her students have commented on my physique. It’s kind of nice. I worked really hard! Sometimes, and don’t tell anyone, I sneak a few peeks at myself in the mirror.

Now, I know you’re probably wondering about my new trail name. Well, when you are on the Trail, there are so many smells to sniff. I can’t help myself. Everything is so new and green and yummy, I have to take a whiff! I tried to get the others to try it. I guess they didn’t want to get their noses dirty. Anyway, some people said I sounded a bit like a pig sniffing for truffles, and so that’s how I got the nickname. I guess truffles are very tasty mushrooms that grow in the ground. Who knew?!

Some of you are probably wondering where I walk, since Mummy is often being carried. Well, I usually walked in the very back. I could still see Mummy and of course I had to make sure that I was behind her if she needed me. One of the carriers usually walked with me, so I wasn’t lonely. The person who got done carrying Mummy would come to the back to walk with me. I got to know everyone really well this way. Everyone was so nice. And I’m pretty sure everybody wanted to be the one to walk with me. I’m a great hiking companion!

Mummy and I are taking a little break right now and are home in Maine for a bit to take care of some things here. But don’t worry, we’ll be on the road again in a few weeks. I’m so excited. I have the best life ever!

Well, my hands are a little tired from all this writing. I’m still resting up from the hike. But I’ll be talking to you all again soon. Mummy and I have many more adventures up ahead. Bye for now!

Our First Week

Hi, guys! It’s Saint again. Boy, a lot has happened since I last talked to you all! First of all, I’m not in Northern Maine anymore. As a matter of fact, Mummy and I are very far away. Can you guess where we are? Well, if you’ve been following us, then you’ve probably guessed it. We’re on the Appalachian Trail!
We’ve only just started, but I’m already having a great time. The ride down was really long. Mummy drove the whole way! But, luckily, we made a couple of stops along the way. We set out on Mummy’s birthday, and she wanted to see her sister for her birthday. So, we stopped at my aunt’s house in Connecticut. It was really nice to see our family!
We only stayed with Mummy’s sister for a little bit. We had a long drive ahead of us! But we made it to Georgia safely. We travelled through so many states. Who knew Maine was so far north?
Guess what, guys? I’ve finally seen it. I’ve finally seen the Appalachian Trail! It’s so amazing. I’ve walked on it all week. I’m a little tired, but I can’t wait to get back on it! Mummy and I are taking a bit of a break right now, but we are hoping to be back out soon.
Well, I think that’s it for now, guys. It’s been a great first week. I think Mummy’s going to start blogging soon. So, we’re both going to have blogs now! I can’t wait. And I can’t wait to tell you guys more about our adventure. Bye for now!

Make the Most Out of Now

Monica Hewitt

Life is unpredictable. We can’t control it, no matter how hard we try. No matter how much control we think we have, eventually things happen that we couldn’t have predicted or planned for. But that’s when our true characters are brought forth. How do we deal with these situations? Do we go beyond our limits to adjust and accept things as they come?

Continue reading “Make the Most Out of Now”