Grounding Out with Connections: Friends + Lyrical

The major hope of starting off the day with an intention is to take aim at a positive direction and focus on being present in the moment — not the one before, and not anticipating the one after.  Some days it works, and some days it doesn’t, but I have to believe that even the latter days are better off than they would have been if the first moment started off with hope and warmth.

fuel sweat grow: life

The last few days have been chaotic, for sure — I can’t seem to find a dull moment — but starting off with a little more intention, and winding down at the end – far from any part of the day really helped the struggles in the middle be quickly forgotten.

Of course there was wine, and amazing food — but they seemed pretty trivial in comparison to the great conversation with a good friend… though the combination of the three is, of course, unbeatable.  No matter what life brings, or where it inevitable goes I have always found that the greatest escapes from life seem to come in the forms of great friends, conversation, and when it’s a really amazing night, music.

fuel sweat grow: Ten Charlottesville Sushi

Dinner  at Ten was the prelude to an amazing Kate Voegele show at The Southern.  Kate is awesome.  I came across her music maybe 5 years ago completely by mistake (or good fortune?) and she quickly made her way onto my iPod’s top 25 most played.  She writes her songs, which I love, and they all tell stories that connect and inspire .  Each album, for me, has a different associated time period, life stage, and perspective on growth that is immediately triggered and brings the memories to life whenever I hear one of the songs.  I love that.  The good memories, and the bad; the bittersweet and the empowering.  I love them all.

IMG_8970This was the first stop on Kate’s tour, debuting her new EP (that you absolutely need to go buy here).  I actually met her a few years back (in what feels like my former life) at a LXM Pro game in Philly, and I can attest to her being pretty awesome.  I say that, somewhat, because in the 5 short minutes I talked to her (after a year of knowing her music) I decided it was true, but largely also because she married a fellow Wahoo (Cavaliers, respect) and I happen to know him to be legit.

Kate’s husband Brett is one of the founders of Lacrosse the Nations, and you can find him, just like Kate, traveling all around the world, basically promoting human connection.  Both of their lives, and talents, are focused on finding meaning in the stories of people they may not know, or have any real reason to know; they take time to relate (through song, sport, or simple existence) and give back to the world through all the heart and soul they put into their work.  Fundamentally, and for what I believe to be good reason, I feel like that deserves the sort of immediate respect that isn’t usually granted to strangers you’ve only knows for 5 minutes.  On Wednesday night I went to experience that connection in person, and for myself; I stood with great friends, in my favorite town and this current life that sometimes feels so distant from the past, finding connection with the stories of this essential stranger.

I went to bed full on the re-connection to my past selves, not for the sake of dwelling, but more to connect to their impact on the present, and that feels like a pretty important thing these days.  Remembering the past, only to find more value and purpose in the present — I can dig that.

I don’t know exactly what tomorrow is going to look like (though my planner does have some pretty positive insight), but today, where I stand right now — that’s what matters — and from this vantage point, it’s a pretty great place to be.

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Wine, Apples, Brunch + More: #23to30 Days 4 & 5

This weekend brought Day 4&5 of my #23to30 chronicles, and marked a solid October weekend of both amazing friends and the first convincingly crisp fall air.

Day 4 landed on Saturday, and it kicked off with an abrupt wake up call that was the second to last day of cardio week intervals at MAD Cville. Saturdays, when I’m in Charlottesville, typically always involve taking and teaching the interval, and this week was no different.  While there are some moments when I first wake up that I reconsider this scheduling decision, I have to say it’s by far my favorite day of the week with our community, packing classes with clients from all week-day time slots, always adding a fresh dynamic to the morning.

After class, the second week of patronizing Brazo’s Tacos, the new pop-up taco spot in IX (In the Al Dente space) brought both fuel and happiness into my life, perfectly timed right before what turned into a marathon day of errands and chores.

Thankfully the day ended with some much needed wine with a few of my favorite people, a finale that inspired this #23to30 philosophy for the day:

fuel sweat grow: #23to30 Day 4

All of these things are absolutely true, and just further support the notion that wine = happiness, and since happiness is the basic goal, wine is the foundation for life and prosperity.

Today, Sunday, brings day 5 of the chronicles, and if it’s possible, was end to end one of the best Sunday’s in a long while.  Wake up, grind out a durability interval at MAD, finally have coffee, eat an amazing brunch at the Guptas (the patron saints of Cherry Hill) and then go apple picking with some of the MAD folks? Yes please.

[grain free paleo pumpkin waffles, egg + asparagus fritata, bacon, coffee....brunch perfection]
[grain free paleo pumpkin waffles, egg + asparagus fritata, bacon, coffee….brunch perfection]
Apple Picking at Carter Mountain Orchard with the MAD crew
Apple Picking at Carter Mountain Orchard with the MAD crew

I’ll have to circle back on the specifics of the day because there are many moments worth sharing, but the main focus was enjoying moments with friends; the beauty that we’re lucky to have in our backyards, and all of the subtle thrills of Charlottesville life.   I could write about this all day, and as much as I want to, I also want to keep to the point —  and that is that sometimes it’s important to just take a break for the people and things that are right in front of you — the ones that give content to your life, everyday.

fuel sweat grow: get excited

 

There’s so much to be so grateful for, and positively overwhelmed with, so take a time to make room and celebrate all of the little things that make up your big happy life.  They add up, and more importantly, so do the relationships, making the difference between simply having a life to having an amazing quality of life….and that deserves a little enthusiasm.

My Tribe: Wonder Women + The Countdown to Thirty

Two weeks ago one of our first ever MADville clients, and a pretty freaking awesome professor at UVa, Lisa, made/gave me this Wonder Woman mug for my coffee, of course personalized with my name on it.

fuel sweat grow: Wonder Woman VAL

If you know Lisa, you know that in addition to being an amazing super woman/mom/human who makes her family’s clothes and works out at MAD Cville almost every day at 6am, she’s also the now incredibly renowned and cutting edge Professor at UVa who teaches the Game of Thrones course that caused so much chatter this past summer.  (I mean it…you can check out more about it in these articles from the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone...and even Perez Hilton. There are more, but I think this sampling proves my point.)

Aside from just loving Lisa for all of her unique badassery, I also love her as a part of this amazing tribe of strong, brilliant, and driven women that I’ve been so lucky to surround myself with, and this coffee mug symbolizes that in so many ways.  I’m so grateful for all my Wonder Women.

fuel sweat grow: Wonder Woman

Today is the first day of my Birthday month, which I love, but there’s a slightly different vibe this year.  This year marks year thirty of my life — which I’ve realized I’m much more comfortable spelling out than showing in digits.  While I do feel the full weight of the manufactured milestone that thirty signifies, when think back to 25 and realize that it was just 5 years ago, I feel both slightly exhausted by the multiple life evolutions that I’ve gone through in that short time, and liberated from the weight and struggle of ‘the twenties.’

When I turned 25 I remember telling myself that at thirty I wanted to look better, feel better, and be better than I was at that moment in time.  In the last 5 years I’ve pushed myself, I’ve grown, I’ve built things that I’ve loved and things that I haven’t, but I’ve learned from every moment of it.  I’ve put myself out there, I’ve confronted fears and learned more about loving myself for what pieces of my experience I own.  I’ve walked knowingly into conflict, stood toe to toe with ignorance, and I’ve embraced more vulnerability than I thought my anxiety (or mind) would allow me to.   I not only survived it all, but I’m better for it.  I’m the better version of my 25 year old self that I committed to, and while the road was certainly more challenging than I may have ‘hoped’ for, it got me here, and I am better than fine.

My birthday is the 23rd, and in this final 22 day stretch to the next decade, I’m going to share the top lessons from the last 5 years of growing into adult hood in my own countdown to thirty.

So today on Day 1 of my #23to30 push I’m appreciating the strong women – the peers and role models – who inspire me, empower me, and fill my heart up with the courage and self-assurance to push my goals forward. In a world where competition and insecurity are so prevalent, it’s important to celebrate the soul connections of those who make you better, love you, and not only support what you’ve accomplished to date but also what you’re building towards – flaws and all.  We all need each other, and there’s something so amazingly beautiful about the possibilities when we all work together to create a collective legacy that goes beyond our ‘portfolio’ of work, to bring the power and influence to empower the next generation of women.

So to my own Wonder Women, near and far, thanks for being exactly who/what you are, and for being a part of my own development over the last 5, 10, and 29.99 years.  You’re everything.

Peace Driven Anxiety & Labor Day Weekend

This was my view this past weekend as I sat on the porch checking in on work.  The only real noise came from birds, a calm in the air emanated through the fog, and there was no where to be with any sort of urgency.

fuel sweat grow: #takethelake maine wedding

It was beautiful, calm, and so far from my norm that I started to actually get peace driven anxiety.  I officially fail vacation.

The good news is that I managed to rein it all in and march on like a normal(ish) person thanks to the incredible surprise gift of wifi and was able to check in virtually to the happenings in Charleston and Charlottesville.  I’m not going to say I wasn’t sad to be missing out on what looked like some amazing packed classes of my favorite people, followed by the first UVa Football game in Charlottesville and beach trips in Charleston, but I had something a little more rare waiting for me in the afternoon — one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever seen (pinterest wedding boards included).

fuel sweat grow: #takethelake Wedding in Weld

The wedding was held on a beautiful property in Weld, Maine, recently purchased by Linda Bean (of L.L.Bean), with the ceremony looking over the lake and the reception in an incredibly beautiful and newly renovated barn…that was almost immediately filled with 140 screaming, dancing, and laughing people.

fuel sweat grow: Wedding in Weld #takethelake

The wedding details and decor were gorgeous, and even more impressively, were largely created and arranged by the Bride’s family members.  I have always known Emily to be artsy (exceptionally amazing at cookie design), but I had no idea that it was such a strong family gift.

fuel sweat grow: #takethelake Wedding in Weld

In addition to this being a beautiful wedding for two beautiful people, it was also a mini-reunion with one of my very favorite people from college.  I met Laura while we were both undergrads at UVa, and she quickly became my workout, healthy eating, and too-many-selfie taking friend who was a constant in the rest of my college career.

fuel sweat grow: weld wedding selfie

After graduating from UVa we both moved to Philadelphia, Laura to go to med school and me to return for my first job in my hometown.  Over the next three years I got to meet her growing friend group from medical school, which included her brother Daniel (groom) and his now wife, Emily.  Amazing people all around, and the faces that can be seen in a majority of the pictures from my early – mid 20’s.

All in all this was one of the most beautiful and rustic weddings I have ever been to, and was complimented nicely with the high energy, major love, and complete involvement of both families and all of their friends.  And there’s not much that can top that.

The remainder of the long weekend was wrapped up back in Belgrade Lakes, in the kitchen with my Aunt, making a pretty awesome Monday night dinner before what turned out to be the worst / longest travel day of my life on Tuesday.  More on that later 🙂

Thanks to the Spectors and Godbouts, and all that fall in between, for making the #takethelake #spectorwedding such a beautiful experience.  And, of course, many happy years to Emily and Daniel as they grow their own arm of the family.

Weekend Lesson: Drinks > Organizational Bins

I love organization.  I’m not sure if it helps or hurts that I have a compulsive organizational purchasing addiction… but I’m starting to believe it might be the latter.

My main goal this weekend was to finish unpacking and organizing my house to reinstate my sanity, and hopefully reduce my overall sense of anxiety.   The big things are always easy to get set up – furniture, TVs, books….major and limited quantity items (including all things kitchen).  They get packed most systematically, and are easy to unpack — giving the first senses of home in a new and strange place.  It’s the little stuff – like ALL the clothes and jewelry – that linger causing complete and total chaos when I can’t find what I’m looking for.

Somewhere along the way I began compulsively buying organizational bins, organizers, hangers, milk crates, office supplies, and pretty much anything that can hold many smaller things, or breed the idea that if you own them, things will magically be organized and minimalistic. I own no less than about 20 Ball Jars, and I don’t really know why.

Just a few of the jars in my life. Barney Butter just an accessory.

Friday night was the start to my weekend of re-org, and despite not having a hammer to hang my wall art, I still managed to get the ball rolling with some minor furniture moving and office file thinning.  A productive start.  By Saturday afternoon I was in full neurotic force.  Drawers were pulled out, corners were vacuumed, papers and all the ‘non-essential’ items were thrown out.  Empowered with my sense of increasing accomplishment, I made a list of other errands I’ve been putting off  — which included finally picking out new glasses, and making some returns.  A great plan — until I realized that one of the items was actually from HomeGoods, the perpetual black hole for my existence and the source of my growing addiction.  I’m pretty sure if there were a HomeGoods loyalty program I would hold platinum VIP status — but there’s not, so I’m more likely to end up in HomeGoods anonymous (or living on the street in a ‘reclaimed’ fort made of bins and milk crates).

fuel sweat grow: office organization

Once I walk through the doors I lose complete sense of time, space, and all things rational.  I know it’s wrong, but I just can’t help myself.  Do I need another cutting board? No, but what if someday I do?  More file boxes? I mean, it is tax season; I’m certain that somehow they would actually end up saving me money.  And pillows?  Don’t get me started on pillows.  After 5 minutes I was nearly comatose, slowly and numbly walking down the isles, mentally fitting all of my things into new organizational structures and re-setting the general color scheme of my life.  And then it happened.

My phone went off, bringing me back to the full reality that it was 6pm on a Saturday and I was buying bins.  I stared at my phone in disbelief for about ten seconds, and then, as if out of a movie, I made a grown-up (that’s stretching it) and rational decision to let go of the cart and walk away.  I walked out of HomeGoods without putting anything in my cart  – not a thing.  It was both liberating and terrifying.  As I walked (read: ran) out the door I knew I had to keep moving forward – blinders on.

The ladies of craft night had come together to celebrate a birthday – a plan that I had somehow forgotten amidst my organizational craze, and I was going to be late. I became fully aware of how badly I needed to interact with other human beings, away from responsibility, work, and anything more serious than college basketball and laughter filled stories about life’s little ironies.

Fuel sweat grow: Jackelope Jacks
Angry Orchard Cider on Draft @ Jackelope Jacks

Granted, we were only out for a couple of hours, and god knows I can’t stay out for any period of time after the double digits, but we had a few good drinks and a lot of great conversation.  Not everything can be planned and organized into bins — ‘everything’ being life, and all of the good, bad, and funny that it includes.  I needed these drinks to save me from HomeGoods, a night of compulsive closet-organization, and most of all, from myself.  And it worked.

Today I was able to pick up where I left off, sans HomeGoods, and made some serious progress with my to-do list.  I still have more to do, but I’m not going to sweat it.  I don’t need any more bins or random house wares, just a few focused hours to finish things off, and a good number of breaks with friends and laughter to remind me what’s really important when I forget.

Beauty in Ordinary Things; Love for People Who Make us Whole.

I don’t know for sure what the meaning of life is – life doesn’t come with built in guarantees, a guide book, or ways to predict what’s coming next.  It’s a pop quiz all the time. And while there’s no way to anticipate the challenges, sometimes it’s also difficult to anticipate all of the good (unknown) things that could be on the horizon.  Or just right in front of you – in the now.

beauty in ordinary things

If we were all able to constantly be aware of all the good things we really have in our lives — if we were able to see beauty in all of the ordinary things, and people, we take for granted — life would be a lot easier.  Thankfully, there are days that manage to raise our awareness for us.

Several weekends ago I was lucky enough to be reminded — and in a way that sourced all my gratitude and love through an assortment of challenging, inspiring, hilarious, and raw moments.

Sometimes we just need a night with friends to really remember we’re alive.

UDAY 40

A good friend of mine turned 40 a few months ago, and had made sure his birthday party was inked into my planner far, far in advance.  It was not your average birthday party, or a huge production, but rather a really small dinner in the basement wine cellar – Treble – of Keswick, one of the most renowned vineyards in the area (which is saying something). It was perfection.

Treble

There was something about being in the cellar, separated from all other distractions, stresses and demands.  It was also the company — 10 people with different realities, pasts, and contributions to the conversation — that took thoughts deeper, and also made them lighter.  Laughter was ever-present –even through the sentiment and the sweet tears of toasts and tributes.

We spend so much time working – trying to meet deadlines and fit more into our packed schedules – stressing out about squeezing a workout in before or after our regularly scheduled workloads, and striving to be everything to everyone.  The problem is, we don’t always take the time to appreciate the moment.  (Or maybe you do… but I needed a refresher.)

We rarely take conscious moments to not to worry about how many emails we have waiting, when we’re going to fit in our next workout, and even (dare I say it…) how clean we are eating.  There has to be a balance.  80/20 is reasonable, but 95/5 is not.

I really think that our personal sanity, and our ability to appreciate others, is in direct proportion to our ability to cut ourselves some slack every once in a while — to take a damn break from the grind to remember what it feels like to love and be loved — whatever that may mean.

This particular night it was so thick in the air that it was impossible to ignore.  There was love — the love of great friends, of families formed, and of life, wholly.   I needed it.  I needed it all, and that includes the break from life structure and the complete and utterly worthwhile embrace of this rich and beautiful dinner:

I started with the sweet potato bisque – no doubt (and thankfully) made with the heaviest cream in town.  Amazing.

Butternut Squash

I also got a few other shots of the amazing menu options from  my plate neighbors, Mindy + Dar,  since they were (unfortunately for them) within reach of my camera shot.

That being said, here is the quail that was offered as an appetizer, and was apparently awesome.

Quail

For the main course I chose a Butternut Squash Linguini (literal strands of butternut squash) with grilled eggplant, roasted almonds, fresh ricotta and pepperonata.

butternut squash linguini My friendly neighbors chose the braised beef option, over creamy risotto, which I’m still craving,

braised beef

and the grilled salmon, which I think speaks for it’s own awesomeness.

salmon

And of course, there was dessert.  A peanut butter chocolate ganache bar, and baked apples with vanilla bean ice cream (so classic).

peanut butter truffle

apple pie

So, the food was amazing.  Really amazing.  But it still paled in comparison to the weight of the evening, and the impact of appreciating moments solely existing to celebrate life.   There is so much beauty in ordinary things, and the people who are unknowingly the salt of our lives.   If I can dare make a guess, the meaning of life might just exist in those moments of awareness and gratitude — and in the love we have for the people that share those moments with us.

So, thank you to my beautiful and amazing friends that made that night possible, in whatever role, and to  those who bring beauty into my life every day without the comfort and lure of a fully stocked wine cellar and an evening escape from all the noise.

Oh, and also to these fools that are soul brothers on a level none of us may fully understand, but still makes us laugh.

Dar Uday