My Book!!

One opportunity that the blog has brought me is the co-authoring of a guidebook, Paddling Southern Maine! It is something in which I take a lot of pride! My writing partner, Sandy Moore, and I have created a book with 54 amazing trips that are within about an hour of Portland! Our motto as we wrote the book was wanting to 'get people to spend the day on the water and not in their cars!'

If you want more information on our book please click on the image of the book below.

Sandy and I are available to attend/present various functions/events. Please email me at for more information!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Runaround Pond & Tenny River, First Paddling Adventures of 2020

Welcome to the 2020 Paddling Season!!   

It is a very strange time in our history.  Very few things seem 'normal' given what is going on in the world.  Fortunately we live in a state where our governor has said that boating/paddling is still allowed, as long as people are being socially distant.  I am grateful for that!  

We are also being reminded to make sure we are practicing SELF CARE.  For those of us who paddle, we know that being on the water is one of THE best ways to take care of ourselves!   I had some fun with photoshopping some images recently and am sharing this one with you... both as a TRUTH and as a little promotion of our book, Paddling Southern Maine.  There are 54 places where you can paddle to practice Self Care! 

Of before you even think about getting out on the water this year, you MUST think about safety.  
Safety, even without this pandemic, while being on the water is so important!  
This time of year the water temps are still VERY COLD.  While it is so tempting, I would discourage people without much experience on the water to hold off a bit before getting out there.  Inexperience can lead to an increased chance of mistakes and accidents.. and with the water temps being so low, accidents are less forgiving than they are in warmer temps. 
If you are getting out on the water, please remember these safety practices: 
If you have a wetsuit/drysuit, wear it.  
Go to places with which you have much familiarity. 
Let people know where you are going and what time you think you will get off the water. 
Wear something that has your emergency information on it.  (I wear a dog take I got form roadID). 
Follow all the other safety considerations/practices!  
And, of course... practice social distancing.   This seems like a no brainer when we are out on the water because it is easy to spread out, but please also think about it in relation to parking areas.  A couple weeks ago, when I went to Tenny, I had stopped by the boat launch off Gambo Road in Windham to paddle the Presumpscot.  This launch is also near a parking lot for the Eastern Trail... the parking lot for the trail was PACKED to the point where people were parking along the roads.  (Please don't do that! That's what will get the state to change their minds on allowing us access to these trails!). The parking lot for the boat launch was also busy.  I decided to go elsewhere because I did not want to be part of the risk of shutting down our access. 
Ok... That is the kickoff to the 2020 season... 
Now.. for some  photos and stories from my first two paddles of the season!  

    Runaround Pond, Durham and Tenny River, Raymond.  
(Click on those links for previous  posts with directions! 

This post will simply share some photos and narratives, but have no fear, I will be posting new places, with directions throughout the season! But because we are still early on in this season, I am sticking to places that I am very familiar with - it's just smarter! 

Runaround Pond Recreation area.  This is a place that has some trails, some picnic tables, and is a popular fishing spot.  So it was pretty busy on Sunday April 19th.  

There was no ice on this body of water!

And the Turtles were out getting some sun! 

I saw a couple of ospreys.  

These birds... not sure what kind, weer also very plentiful along the edges of the water.  

Turtles on grass, turtles on logs, turtles swimming... everywhere! 

I first saw this heron when it landed above me in a tree.  I looked up and had a spectacular view. but before I could snap a photo it flew away.  

I was tempted to take out near this bridge and portage to the other side, but did not... someday! 

I don't want to preach.. but this family... nobody was wearing a pfd, not even the young boy.  Again, the more we do to follow rules/laws, good safety sense, the more we will be able to keep having access to our waterways.  

There were a lot of people paddling today.  I usually see 2-3 other people, Sunday I saw probably 20 other people on the water!

The gorge!

Tenny River
BEcause the normal Boat Launch was still pretty frozen, I decided to launch near the culvert.  I had to go down an embankment , but it was totally doable.  

 I went through the tunnel and out to Crescent Lake...

Over in the background of this photo, up and towards the right is the boat launch off 85.  As you can see it was pretty frozen. 

The ice was breaking up, but still covered much of this part of the lake...  so I headed back to Tenny River and out to Panther Pond.   (The order of the following pics are a bit off!) 

The water is so clear! 

The sun was being hidden by the clouds.  (I got out later than I should.  This day started out sunny and clouded in!) 

The ice was still here... and it was cool to see how it was melting - the edges that were above the water formed cone shaped stalagmites/stalagtites (I don't know which drip down from the top vs up from the bottom!) It was neat! 

Just my sticker... my heart feels so much better while kayaking!!! 

Again.. be safe out there!  On and off the water! 

Friday, November 8, 2019

Plug the Drain

This post is going to be different than other posts I share here, more personal...

As you know I usually post about kayaking, sharing my paddling adventures with you all and hoping that you get to have the experiences or something similar.

This season my posts have been limited... Bear with me as I explain a bit about the reasoning for that... 

Some of you know the story of how kayaking became such a huge part of my life... it started on the west branch of the Penobscot River, north of Millinocket.  My mom was the first in our family to kayak.  She had kayaked with one of her friends and then decided she wanted a kayak of her own.  She ended up getting a pair of kayaks and she taught me... I loved the time we spent together on the river.  Those times are sacred to me.

My mom died in 2009 and I inherited her kayak.  I brought the red kayak to southern Maine, started finding places to paddle and started this blog... which led to the book... and more adventures!  Kayaking is one of those things where the more you do it the more you want to do it... at least that's how it has been for me....

Kayaking has always been something special to me.  It had become the ONE thing in my life I could count on... to help me feel grounded when everything else seems to be a mess... relationship stress...job stress...more job stress... tension....grief... job stress.... Kayaking has ALWAYS helped... once on the water I felt IT... not far from shore  my brain would switch... from being an assistant principal... from being a friend... a sister ... a daughter... a writer... to being a being a photographer... to being able to be in the moment... to finding the beauty in spiderwebs in the branches of a dead tree... and perhaps most importantly... to be in a place where I was not worrying...

I would feel my shoulders drop... as my body relaxed... Watching the vegetation along the shore change from grass to cattails to rocky outcrops... spotting the tiniest of turtles on a log on the other side of the river... I could see the details with such clarity and see how the pieces fit into the bigger picture....the big beautiful made sense... blue skies... clouds... the slightest movement would catch my eye... moving leaves... birds flitting in bushes... dragonflies balancing on the most narrow piece of grass peering at me as I notice their delicate wings and tiny hairs on their legs...I got to look through the water and see the smallest fish swimming in schools, darting about...  I could see the reflections and find peace... I understood tranquility...

I could sit in my kayak for hours ... all of my senses were intensified... being in the moment...  and I felt happy, at peace... hopeful... I felt like no matter what was going on outside of my kayaking bubble I could get through it... that it would all be okay.. somehow.

In my kayak... I wasn't problem solving... at least not consciously... I wasn't feeling responsible for the safety and well being of my students and staff... I wasn't struggling to focus.. I wasn't overwhelmed... I wasn't afraid of what this country is becoming... of the hate that is probably not new but  now condoned and openly spewed with its only intention being to show people have power to harm other people...  I wasn't worried about how I could sustain myself to be able to effectively perform my job...a  career that offers joy and pain, happiness and secondary trauma...

In my kayak I could breathe without the weight of the world on my shoulders...

And after kayaking, after being on the water... the problems and worries that waited for me at the launch site seemed smaller...more manageable....

Kayaking refueled me... inspired me... soothed me...

Until it didn't.

My life is good.  I have no right to complain about it. I go on great adventures.  I find beauty in things.  I have family and friends who love me...I have THE most amazing dog.... My life is good... I KNOW, all too well, that other people's lives are more difficult than mine...  but there are elements of my life that are hard.  My hard is different than how other people's lives are hard.  And knowing this is one of the reasons it has not been easy for me to talk about my 'hard.'

I have ANXIETY.  Not the kind you feel when you are about to have a difficult conversation with someone you love... the kind that makes it hard to breathe sometimes... the kind that makes it hard to face the day... the kind that makes staying in bed the only thing that sounds appealing... the kind where you cannot identify WHY it is happening and figure out a way to fix it... the kind where you beat yourself up for feeling the way you feel because you know your 'hard' is not as hard as other people's hard... the kind where sometimes you cry... the kind where you know something is very wrong and you try to talk yourself into being okay...and other days where you know you can't handle the day and you talk yourself into being sick...manifesting headaches or stomach aches where you are too sick to go to work...

...the kind where you wonder if you will ever feel like you again...

I know the moment I recognized what I was feeling was not okay... that something was wrong....  It was while I had two weeks off... ironically.  Most people think that educators have the entire summer off.  I get about two full weeks off in the summer plus some long weekends.  During my vacation this summer I went kayaking and camping in northern Maine, in Rangely and in Weld... and it was beautiful... all of it... absolutely beautiful... and I truly enjoyed elements of those trips... 

You may have noticed I haven't posted about those specific kayaking places here on the blog....

Why? Because it didn't feel the same.  I have some good pics to share and information for all of you... places I think you will also enjoy... I will get there... to be able to post them... but I am not there yet... because I don't feel like I can share them with you without  truly appreciating the beauty in those locations.... and for now I associate those places with the catalyst for identifying my anxiety... (Which I know is something to appreciate, recognizing it helped me get help... but for now... it still feels hard....)

While on the water in Rangeley Lake, a place where I had so looked forward to paddling... I was on edge... I had a friend with me who I adore.  She was sharing things about her job and the more she shared the more I could feel my body tensing... I didn't know why at the time... now I know it wasn't that I didn't want to listen to her... but talking about her job made me think about mine... The next day  I  went to Sandy River Ponds...just me and Gladys... and while on the water I was already thinking/worrying about having to return to work after my vacation was over.... the next day...On Upper Cupsuptic Gladys wouldn't settle... and I got so mad at her.  She was just being a dog that had to go to the bathroom... and I didn't recognize that until after I had already spoken harshly to her ... and after we stopped  and she went to the bathroom she settled down... I felt awful for not reading her very clear signals... mad at myself for not being in tune with her...and was so unsettled myself.... On Webb lake in Weld, it was better... it was a beautiful morning...truly spectacular... and I was able to enjoy it more than the trips in Rangeley. but also knew something was different...I was not relaxed... I was... nervous... or something...

After vacation I was supposed to go back to work.... and I couldn't.  The day I was supposed to go back... I couldn't... for people who have not experienced anxiety you will not understand that statement.  I woke up... didn't want to get up... spent A LOT of time trying to convince myself that I could get up and go to work... that it was okay, just like any other day... except it wasn't.  After a couple of hours of A LOT of self talk I had showered and had breakfast... I could feel my heart beating I could feel the tension in my body... and I was upset that the self talk wasn't helping which made all the physical symptoms feel worse... I was afraid of going in, afraid of not going in...afraid of getting there and freaking out and needing to leave for no 'good' reason.... by late morning I gave myself permission to stay home for that day, but knew I needed to do something.

I called my doctor... well that isn't quite true... I emailed her... I asked her, via email, if she could prescribe something for me, to help me feel better, to feel less crazy... thankfully she is a good doctor and told me to get my ass in to see her.  I knew she wouldn't prescribe something to me without seeing me... but I wasn't ready to say it out loud to anyone... I wasn't ready to say I AM NOT OKAY. 

I was not ready to say "I am anxious all the time.  I feel like I am crawling out of my skin.  I feel like I can feel every beat of my heart and it may explode... I feel like nothing is right in the world.  I feel afraid, afraid that I can't fix things, that I can't help people because I am not okay... I feel like I cannot fall apart because I am one of the people who put other people back together.   I am working hard to be okay, I am being active, but it is not working.  It is not helping.  I am eating bad food because I am stressed and that's what I do.  I have gained back many of the pounds I had worked to get rid of...I can't watch tv because 45 is slowly killing the humanity that has can I return to work where I have students who are immigrants and make them feel safe when the news headlines tell of parents being detained after dropping off their kids at school......I feel like bad things are going to happen.... I am afraid I will always be afraid... I am afraid I will never feel better... I am scared."

Saying all of that out loud... well... that would make it real.  And it was already all too real.

In between scheduling the appointment and going to see my doctor I went to work for very short amounts of time and prioritized concrete tasks so I could see progress... and assign myself things I could do from home.... I talked to my principal and the other assistant principal.  I told them I was not okay, that I was going to get some help and would do the best I could in the meantime... they were VERY supportive and for that I will always be grateful.  They have continued to be supportive. They helped me make a plan to ease into things and take care of myself...

Other than those two coworkers, my doctor , and one friend ...I didn't say anything to anyone...  I wasn't ready.  It was my burden to carry... and it felt like a big big burden.

At my doctor's appointment... I was able to tell her I was scared because kayaking didn't work.  She asked what I meant and I explained how kayaking ALWAYS made everything better... and it wasn't working.

The truth is... I was terrified.  Terrified that it was broken forever.  That kayaking would no longer work... or help... or make me feel a connection to my mom, a connection to myself....... and what that would mean...
At my appointment my doctor was great.

I told her since making the appointment I was able to look back and see that my anxiety symptoms had really started in the spring... there was a lot going on at that time... I faced some old demons.. took some professional risks that helped me grow but were taxing...  I was able to share other things that had happened ... SO many things, SO many factors, but even though I could identify all the things... identifying them didn't help...

Usually, the way my brain works, when I am stressed or anxious, it is like the thoughts in my head are all swirling around and around... so fast that I can't see any of them but somehow at the same time I  can see all of them.... then eventually the swirling slows and the thoughts begin to settle and then, then I can see what is at the root of things...  once I identify what is bothering me I am able to work on it and make things better.... I find the problem and I then find the solution.

This time... the thoughts were not slowing down, not settling, just swirling and swirling and feeling worse and worse... I  hadn't been able to make sense of any of it. 

My doctor said all the things to me that  I would say to someone...  that feeling that way is not okay... that it IS okay and necessary to get help... that if it was any other medical condition I would have gone in sooner....

And then she explained Anxiety to me in a way that made sense...

She drew a bathtub on that piece of paper that covers patient tables... she drew a line across and said  this is a bathtub and this is the line where we would consider the level of serotonin in the 'normal' range.  she said sometimes our bodies have stuff happen, stress etc, and our levels of serotonin drops... and drew a line well below the other line... she said it sounds like my levels were low... She said in most cases doctors tell patients to do  more of the things they enjoy to help those levels increase and stay stable... to be outside... to be active... be with people who fill up our cups so to speak... she knew I was already doing those things... really trying to do those things.  I had been outside A LOT... staying active....being with people who are positive... I was continuing to do all the right things except eating well... (food is and always has been my go-to soother... ) She said sometimes when people are doing all the things to maintain the serotonin levels and it isn't working it is a chemical thing... that the plug in the tub has been pulled and is draining faster than it can be replenished.  So... she said.  "We need to plug the drain."

We need to plug the drain. .. when the stuff that is supposed to fill us up melts away before we can benefit from it.... we have to plug the drain...

I don't like taking meds.  Even for a headache.  I prefer to 'wait it out'... to drink a lot of water and wait.  But... I wanted to feel better, NEEDED to feel better... wanted to make this stop... and waiting this out was something I knew would only make things we talked about meds.

There are a lot of options out there for medication for anxiety/depression and for people with combinations of both.... meds.  Anxiety.  Me?

Stigma.... I admit the stigma piece entered my mind.

What would people think? There would be judgment from other people.  Here she is posting all this happy stuff and underneath she is a mess.  Her life isn't that good after all. (Even though I know my life is good and those things I post and share are real and how I feel in the moment....)  The assistant principal of the year for the state of Maine has anxiety? How can someone whose own life is a mess be in a role where she is responsible for so many other people? for taking care of so many other people? (Even though I knew how hard I worked and how much I care and how well I had done at holding it together, holding other people up...making sure others were getting the help they needed...)  I knew it couldn't be all rainbows and unicorns...(It is never all rainbows and unicorns.) 

And there was my own judgment...and guilt...  C'mon Bennett... get it together.  You have students whose lives have legit things to be upset about.  In comparison your life is smooth sailing... you have find moments of joy.... you have amazing people around you.... you have a very good life, a life you are proud of.... AND you didn't need to take anxiety meds when your mom was dying... if you can get through that you can get through this... unless... unless your mom's death didn't matter as much to you...are you saying this is bigger than losing your mom? (Of course it isn't worse or bigger than losing my mom.... but...)   Maybe you are just being dramatic... suck it up cupcake... you just aren't tough enough or strong enough to do what you do... maybe you are a farce...

We are so very cruel to ourselves when we are at our most vulnerable.  Would I let my friends talk about themselves like that? No.  Would I let my students? Hell no.

If a student was in front of me sharing any of this...about how they were feeling... I would insist they go see a social worker and their doctor.  Not necessarily to get medication, but to go talk about it, to recognize it... and I would tell them if it was diabetes they would take insulin, no questions asked...

So... I had to look in the mirror... and give myself permission to not be okay... to be someone who needs help... to be someone who can be vulnerable... knowing that being sensitive and soft does not make me weak... (something I was reminded of very recently by one of my incredible students.)

So... in August I started taking meds for anxiety.  Hi. My name is Kim.  I have anxiety.  


I am  feeling better, not perfect, not completely like myself, but better.  I can go to work and function pretty well... but the hard stuff feels harder...the heavy stuff is heavier....  My energy is lower than normal.  I am quicker to be brought to tears than I usually am... I am more sensitive... I feel lonely at times... but I am better.   I am giving myself permission to take care of myself, to step back when I need to...

I know it is a process... and I have to be patient.  I am researching/reading about secondary trauma... the difference between empathy and compassion and how people can experience fatigue in both areas... for me these are major contributors to my anxiety...(It has taken me a while to be able to articulate it in that way, but it is so helpful now that I have...) 

The last kayaking trip I had done before starting meds was with FitMaine,.  I co hosted the event,  and it was hard...  Gladys would not settle...  She was so unsettled that I became VERY anxious... and really did not enjoy that trip... so since that trip I had not gone out on the water....because I feared the magic might be gone... and that...well that was not okay.

But I still wanted to be outside and be instead of kayaking... I started doing some hiking... which has been really fun. I can't believe I have said hiking is fun, but it is... even with the huffing and puffing to get my ass up those mountains.  (Granted my highest elevation gain thus far is only 1000 feet and the longest distance has been 5.6 miles... but I have claimed hiker as part of my identity...but not going to change my alter ego to MaineHikerGirl !!)

I have surprised myself with my level of enjoyment in hiking... through hiking I have been able to identify something important about it as it relates to my job...and my stress.  When I get to certain points in a hike I can look and see how far I have come.  The photo at the top of this post...That is from Mt. Willard in NH.  The road you can see is the same road we had parked on... I climbed that mountain.... and it is gratifying...

I recently gave a speech at the assistant principals conference as I finish out my year of being Maine's AP of the year... in my speech I talked about helping a friend paint her living room.  Here is an excerpt:

"A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday night, I went to a friend’s house to help her paint the walls in her kitchen and living room.  It had been the kind of  week at work where all I wanted to do was to go home that night, take my dog for a long walk, and interact with people as little as possible.  But…
I had promised my friend I would help.  So I got to her house and greeted  the others who were part of this painting party.  My friend suggested we each choose a wall. 

I figured I had made enough decisions that day so I waited… and by default I became responsible for painting the accent wall! My friend had done all of the taping…my least favorite part… so  all I had to do was paint.  For some reason Karate Kid’s ‘Wax on…wax off’ repeated in my head as I pushed the roller up and down the wall… 

It was kind of nice, therapeutic even,  to be doing something repetitive, something that required very little thinking and where the ‘high stakes’ involved were the outlets I needed to avoid… I mean, worst case scenario - I get a little paint on the outlet!  That felt pretty manageable as far as high stakes go…

And before I knew it I had finished a coat of paint. 

Seeing that ONE coat of paint changing the color and tone of that room was incredibly gratifying.  Probably WAY more gratifying than it should have been… but…again, it had been one of THOSE weeks… and there, at my friend’s house I could SEE my work… I could see progress… I could see the areas of imperfection, areas that would need some attention, but overall  I could SEE a difference in such a short amount of time. I could see that it was going in the right direction.   By the time the second coat was on I felt pretty accomplished… the difference between the pale sky blue wall and the new color ‘clarified butter’ wall was quite dramatic.

When I left my friend’s house that night  after painting, my friend thanked me for coming over and  helping her with this project.  I told her I was really glad I had come and thanked her for inviting me.  My expression of gratitude was not just reciprocating warm pleasantries… I really was grateful.  I was reminded  how much I do, we do, as assistant principals each day… the decisions we make ...the conversations we have ,the investigating, the following up, the emails and calls and interruptions…the fights, the hard conversations… and how every single thing we do in a day causes change on some level, every day we are contributing to our school and our culture… and while it feels like we are tasked with painting the accent wall with the smallest of detail brushes when we know a roller would make it go faster, we keep painting with the detail brush….and know change is happening…

 I was reminded that night that Sometimes we need to step back to see how far we have come, how far our students have come. How much of those walls we have painted."

Hiking is a way for me to step back and see progress... granted it isn't progress related to my job, but it is helping me reframe some things... 

And... I have REALLY GOOD news... 

On a SPECTACULAR October day... I went kayaking.  Another FitMaine adventure I had promised to cohost in Fryeburg on the Old Saco River... I was nervous that it would feel like it was something I had to do or get through because of how it had felt in the previous trips..... But...  it didn't feel like the trips this summer... it felt like me again... 

I found me on the river that day...and while I wouldn't say I was okay... I would say I knew I was going to be okay... for the first time in a long time... I knew that...

I think it helped that the weather and foliage was absolutely perfect!!!  But... I found IT again... that peace...that relaxation... that connection... and I am so relieved.... and grateful....

The next day I went kayaking again, with Gladys... and we did great together.  She was calm and relaxed.... Perhaps she had been unsettled because she could sense how unsettled I had been?She is a very smart dog. 

I know that feeling good about kayaking doesn't mean my anxiety is cured... it definitely isn't.  But... it is better... I am acknowledging it... recognizing the physical signs in my body when anxiety is increasing... I continue to do the things that fill me up... hoping to get one more kayaking trip (at least!)  before calling it a season...  And I am giving myself permission to step back and away when I need to...  because... as they tell us all on airplanes... we gotta get our own oxygen mask on before we can help others...

Thanks for reading... this is a LONG post... I hope that people can talk more openly about anxiety/depression and hope that the stigma goes away.  My experience is just that, mine...I am not an expert...  everyone's journey is different and anxiety manifests itself in everyone differently.

Please don't neglect yourself... if you are struggling, get help.  If someone tells you they are struggling... support them, without judgment... and check in on them to see if they are okay.  

I promise I will post the paddling adventures from this summer so you have even more places to explore!  (seeing new  paddling pics from the summer will help us all get through the winter!)

In the meantime... don't forget to breathe... and find joy... even if only in fleeting moments... Life is an adventure... and we got this... one step at a time.

Before signing off... here are some paddling and hiking pics!  The first one was taken by Johnna Major during the Fitmaine trip in October - and I am in the pic if you look closely enough!!!   The other pics are mine.  (I should mention the water levels were much lower in the Old Saco River in the fall and we had one place that was a bit to navigate because the water was moving quickly between rocks... It was easy enough to get out and walk through that area, but was a challenging area to paddle through!) 

Do you see me?

I mean... c'mon... look at that view!
Kezar Pond with the White Mountains in the background. 

My girl... Presumpscot River, Westbrook
(where water levels have also lowered due to the dam more paddling through the tunnel!!!) 

Look at this girl...

And some hiking pics! 

 Zeland Falls, NH

Sebattus Mountain, Lovell, ME

Megunticook, Camden Hills State Park

Many thanks to my hiking guru, Wendy (Who Gladys adores!) for sharing her knowledge and encouraging me to hike and embrace my inner hiker! 

Bald Pate Mountain, Bridgton, ME

Thursday, August 8, 2019

A Summer Adventure!

I have not blogged in a while, but I have been paddling!!!  

I will blog about these places soon, but here is a preview of my last couple of weeks! 

First Up... Katahdin... the West Branch of the Penobscot River.  My heart! 

Back to Back River!  Fun with the seals!  

Gladys at Height of Land! 

Rangeley Lake! 

Quills Hill

Upper Cupsuptic Lake

Sandy River Ponds


Webb Lake, in Weld! 

It was a great adventure!  
I am excited to tell you more, but this thing called 'work' is getting in the way!!!! 

I hope you are out paddling!