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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Thirty Love.

There’s not a day that goes by when I’m not acutely aware of how amazing the people in my life are — and how amazing my life is for that matter.  In a cliche way I often want to say how ‘lucky’ I am, but it’s not about luck — its about these people who make my life full, rich, and never ever (ever) dull.  It’s about the honest and sustaining love and appreciation that is grows out of shared experience, maturity, and compassionate relating….oh, and a whole hell of a lot of fun.

fuel sweat grow: celebrating friend love and birthdays #23to30

I can’t begin to count the number of times (sometimes multiple times a day) I’m overwhelmed by all of the amazing souls in my life.  This weekend was a full one, and kicked off early on Friday night with a sweet gathering of friends in Charlottesville to help me celebrate thirty before I make my way down to Charlotte this week.

fuel sweat grow: 30th Birthday #23to30

Two weeks ago I posted about the amazing and inspiring Wonder Women that make up my tribe and have impacted my growth, and of course, two of them brought the theme to life.  Lisa, who made me an amazing (2nd) Wonder Woman crown, cuffs, and personalized stationary, and Anita (the WW behind Maliha Creations) who made this amazing cake, all clad with power and containing some of the best salted caramel filling (and THE best buttercream) that anyone has ever had.

fuel sweat grow: Maliha creations Wonder Woman Birthday cake

Unconditional love is something we all, hopefully, know when we are born.  It’s an expectation of family, good or bad, and something that we all strive to replicate when we cultivate our adult relationships.  It can be hit or miss –  I’ve learned this over time – but the evolution seems to be within ourselves, and as we grow that love in our relationship with ourselves, the external relationships seem to follow suit.   It took me until my late twenties to understand and more fully live this concept, and I’m declaring this the theme of my thirties;- universal, full, unconditional, and boundary-less love of myself and relationships of quality, not quantity.

It has really been in the last 5 years that I’ve learned how to really build my tribe; I’ve learned what I’m looking for (and conversely, what I’m not looking for) in the people and environments I surround myself with.  It has been a process, but I’ve learned (and still am learning) to be unapologetically true to myself and what I want to achieve, living by no one else’s timeline or values.  Thanks to my people, I finally feel the solid ground underneath me that helps to give me the confidence and stability to openly enter this next decade.

Thanks to everyone who made this weekend so special to me — there’s definitely more to come on the details (read: incriminating ridiculous photos) clearly defining why it was so awesome.  I’ve got 4.5 days left of 29, and you better believe I’m going to squeeze out every last drop — but just for the sake of finishing it out strong.  I’m ready for you thirties, I think I might already be in love with you.

Gratitude, Vegetables + Love: Featuring Zoodles [ Day 7 of #23to30 ]

The last 5 years have taught me more than I can fully communicate in the #23to30 chronicles, but these three concepts have proven to be critically important day to day.  When one is missing, the whole day is off balance.70b009db8decb19162818bffee458eea

I’ve always been a vegetable lover – growing up my dad had to have a backyard garden – we ate fresh food, we learned to like all food (mostly) and fast food was not something that came around often.  My mom did have a thing for Dairy Queen, but we all try not to talk about it.

I truly grew up thinking that salad made with home grown produce, and whole wheat pasta sautéd in olive oil with pine nuts, arugula and sun dried tomatoes was a typical tuesday night dinner for all families.  Add avocado? Obviously.   That’s how I learned to cook (and eat); watching my dad cook, acting as his sous chef, and being second in command to conduct the evening assessment of refrigerator contents to determine what meals are actually possible (aka Fridge Disposal Meals).  When my dad would travel I was automatically promoted to head chef, a scenario which my mom was both intrigued and terrified by; but outside of a few small and thankfully contained kitchen fires, I steadily honed my craft.

As an adult I can honestly say that things have only gotten worse, which of course really means exponentially better.  My love for locally grown and organic food has become more obsessive, I live in a town that is focused on locally sourced foods and culinary uniqueness, and I have slowly (but certainly) become more compulsive about cooking and eating clean and delicious food.  That being said, it should come as no surprise that Zoodlers and spiralizers are one of the greatest things to happen to me in the last decade.

fuel sweat grow: zoodles  Anyone who has peeled or sliced zucchini into ribbons knows, these kitchen toys have completely changed the game.  Lately I’ve been loving zoodles sautéed in coconut oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and ultimately topped with browned ground beef and sautéed peppers, carrots, and mushrooms.

fuel sweat grow: zoodles and ground beef

I love this as another grain free option, in addition to spaghetti squash, to create and replicate meals.  Obviously it’s an amazing pasta replacement, but it also works as an amazing addition to scrambled eggs (like below), fajitas, and pretty much anywhere you might want to mix in some greens.fuel sweat grow: scrambled eggs and zoodles

You can definitely expect a series of zoodle heavy recipes to come out of the winter months, so get excited.  You’ll be zoodling before you know it.

While I never really lost touch with my love for vegetables and ‘fridge disposal meals,’ it wasn’t until the last few years that I’ve really focused on creating more in a clean and grain free arena.  The first few months were a little scary, and I missed the meals that I was so used to, but slowly I figured out how to recreate them; how to work with different ingredients, pair different ingredients, and create more flavorful and exciting meals than I ever had before.

This is going to be the winter of amazing meals and I’m inviting you all to dinner, one way or another – so join me with plenty of gratitude, vegetables, and love.

Generosity + Compassion: Creating Impact out of Gratitude

I spend a lot of time focusing in on gratitude; on being thankful for the people, opportunities, and quality of my life – and I should – I’m very fortunate.  However, one thing that can be arguably more important than showing gratitude, is giving to others. Generosity and compassion, the cousins of gratitude, they generate action that speaks louder than any words and have the power to, and have a universally positive impact.  Day 6 of #23to30: generosity pays back ten fold so you can give more – make it part of your growth strategy.

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Sometimes the effort is small; smiling at strangers, holding doors, tipping your barista, walking the dogs at the SPCA in your free time, skipping one mocha a month to donate the few (but impactful) dollars to a great cause.  Show love, receive love, spread love.  It’s easier than it seems, and it doesn’t have to cost a thing.  Other times, the effort is larger; helping a friend in need, mentoring a child (or several), donating to a cause you believe in, giving your time and energy to bring some light to your community (or any community) during a difficult time.  Even the large efforts typically don’t cost anything – and even when they do, the return is greater than you can imagine.

Over the last month our sweet Charlottesville town has been turned upside down, again.  Over the last few years we’ve been slightly unsettled, aware of a lingering dark cloud that could not be explained.  The unknown can often be the biggest threat to security, and it certainly felt that way in our tight community, in this happiest city in the United States.  Despite the darkness, it’s been amazing to see the unity and light that has come from neighbors near and far, the UVa community, and our incredible network of small business owners and clients.  We all feel an ownership and responsibility to protect our sweet home, and that has been so apparent.

During the breaking news in the search for Hannah I followed much of the news from our local NBC29 and Merch Colony, who both provided excellent up to the minute updates.  It was through a comments thread on Merch Colony’s Facebook page that the idea was born to do something (separate to the gallant search efforts this community has participated in), something to bring strength, positive change, and solidarity back into the mix.  At this point, the rest is history, and this event was born out of the generosity of the event sponsors: Sam Spillman from Balanced Chiropractic, Gordon Emery from Charlottesville Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the IX building, and our team at MADabolic Cville.

So here it is my friends, a day of FREE self-defense workshops, open to anyone in the community; anyone who has felt the darkness or been the light here in our beautiful town; anyone who wants to empower themselves or others; just anyone. So join us — all you need to do is sign up here (create an account – takes 30 seconds- and find Saturday October 18th on the schedule to reserve your spot).  We will add more times as needed.  We will be taking donations (mainly items) to benefit the Sexual Assault Resource Agency (S.A.R.A) here in Charlottesville, which is in need of many basic necessities and personal hygiene items for those they help.

Fuel sweat grow: self-defense at IX MADabolic Cville

And as if that wasn’t enough excitement for a little Saturday in October, join us at the United Way (Thomas Jefferson Area) Impact Bash on Saturday night at the Jefferson City Center for a night of guaranteed fun, community, and generous impact right here in Charlottesville.  So much to be grateful for, and even more to be generous with – please join us.

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