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.

Tiny Dog Camp, a Rest Day + Wednesday Chaos

Today was a day that seemed both endless and unstoppable.  It was so chaotic that I lost total bearing of myself and my surroundings.  I didn’t finish my coffee; I spent a solid 5 minutes midday trying to remember what I was looking for (the answer was a post-it to remind me of the very important thing I then couldn’t recall); I fell off my rocker at work; and then, as if that weren’t enough, the unthinkable happened — I forgot to pick my Bug up from day camp.  I failed tiny dog pick up 101, and if we’re being totally honest, that’s a pretty low bar.

fuel sweat grow: BugSays
note: this is the little peanut. but this is NOT a picture from tiny camp. she does not get tied up. really ever.

For the past two years I have joked about, and feared, the possibility that this day might come, and low and behold, here it is.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it would land on a day that tipped the scales of chaos — who would forget their dog on a normal day? Wait…lets not tempt fate.  The good news is that I didn’t forget her ENTIRELY,  I was just late, and she didn’t have to spend the night.

That all being said, this evening didn’t exactly go as planned, and I got an unexpected and much needed rest night for my body.

So far this week my sweat schedule has been MAD (pretty literally), and I can feel my body desperately craving a little lovin’.  Here’s the week spelled out, end to end.

Monday : Run + MADabolic

Tuesday: MADabolic

Wednesday: REST ❤

Thursday: Run + Stretch class at truPilates

Friday: Run + Bodyweight circuit (to be posted)

Saturday: Monkey Gym Infused Pilates at truPilates

Sunday: MADabolic + downtown run

fuel sweat grow: MADabolic

So, in the spirit of putting the day behind me and moving on, I’m saying hello to tomorrow.  You, Thursday, have all the makings of an amazing day and I’m excited to meet you.   While chaos has been a main theme around here lately, it’s all for the better.  There are some pretty exciting things coming up for me, for MAD (cville) and projects beyond my current scope.  There’s no time like the present, so you better believe I’m going to try and squeeze every last drop out of what time I do have.

Academia, Siblings + What Drives Me Forward

I can’t tell you how many times over the past 7 years I’ve wished I were back in college, if for nothing else just to have a little break from the ‘real’ world.  There’s something to be said for existing in the academic bubble, away from the 8-5, and with every opportunity to actually learn before having to execute.  Organizing books, binders, notes, and the structure of each syllabus was like my own personal drug.  The stimulation and fulfillment that comes from being constantly engaged in intellectual conversation, ideation, and exchange  — I lived for that.   That was the love part of my relationship with school, but like any relationship, we had our issues.

On the other side, was the hurry up and wait.  The tedious nature of step by step learning and credit accumulation that felt like a slow march towards paralysis for me.  In my post graduate life I’ve learned the most by surrounding myself with people that are smarter than me, from my own trials, and the baptism by fire way of life that defined my early twenties.   I am impatient at best, and more likely to take something apart to find out how it works than to consult the instructions, or read a book about how someone [I’ve never heard of] has decided it should be done, despite having never done it — you know, whatever the ‘it’ happens to be.

That being said, the reality is that despite my mid-college belief that I was destined for a PhD, I never would have made it.   I am not cut out for it on any level, but my brother was.

In my family, when it comes to rankings of academic prowess and raw natural intellect of siblings, I finish in a very distant second place — out of two.  This is not to say that I’m stupid — that’s not my point.  My brother is far and beyond the most academically oriented, and stupidly smart person I’ve ever known.  His ability to capture ideas, retain information, and systematically memorize anything he’s ever seen, heard, read, or thought makes even the most gifted ‘normal’ people default to a state of perpetual humility.  I know, because I’ve been one of those people.

When we were younger I struggled to appreciate what he taught me and what a privilege it was to live in the wake of his genius.  And yes, I mean the wake.  Every teacher he ever had would rave of his brilliance, the (what I then thought was insufferable) way he could dismiss and intellectually dominate a debate with an adult 40 years his senior, and his exhaustive reading list [including the Russian literature he taught himself to read when he was bored in high school honors english].  I rolled up on a three year delay, fully prepared to be the disappointing non-genius little sister.  I developed my own flare, but I was always jealous of how much smarter he was.

I wasn’t the smart one, but I was the gritty one; the one that learned to work just a little bit harder for everything.  I knew my strengths, and I used every last one of them to grow into my own.  I may not have his same IQ, but you better believe that I learned from his and I absorbed everything that I possibly could from the intellectual crumbs he left behind.  I learned from his strengths, and took notes on how to develop my own weaknesses.  We grew into our own people, and our personality differences merged with our experiences to really define our adult selves.

fuel sweat grow: things you want

I had always hated writing because he was so (and yes, that should be a capital SO) amazing at it, and in comparison I was marginal at best.   I started to write more in college because, well, I had to, and he was the only person I trusted to proof read…and still is if what I’m doing is important enough.

Ryan found his home in academia, which I don’t think surprised many of us…at all.  He thrives in the hyper focused, idea ruminating, slow-and-steady environment that it provides.  I, on the other hand, gravitated towards business, another obvious and predictable path if you know anything about our family  [or if you’ve been paying attention at all].   Despite having never left his niche, my brother was a huge contributor to the path that led me here.  The strengths I developed and the skills I learned through compensating for my relative weaknesses are what drive me every day.  I learned the value of being the underdog, the resiliency it takes to not give up, and just how critical it is for me to be pushed by people that are smarter and more accomplished than I am at each stage in my life.

I still crave development from more accomplished, intellectually superior, humble leaders — and I’ve been lucky enough to have tremendous mentors that fit that description along the way.    The growth that comes from being surrounded by people smarter than me pushes me to reach beyond my limits and to achieve more than I ever initially assume is possible.  I always need the brass ring to reach for, and I owe that to my brother.

fuel sweat grow: work hard stay humble

Last Friday my brother defended his dissertation.  After eight years and two masters degrees he finally, officially, has his PhD.  He’s humble and understated (almost to a fault) and is without a doubt the best of us all — and not just because he’s smarter than us all combined (though it doesn’t hurt).  Congrats Ry, you definitely deserve all the praise in the world.

Understanding the Root of it All

Some days are just those days.  Sometimes there’s a significant reason, and sometimes there isn’t.  I think that’s the most bothersome piece of all — feeling off but not having an exact enough reason to really deal with it.

Growing up when I had these sorts of days and would go to my dad I always ended up in the same cyclical conversation about what was actually wrong.  ‘Val, I’m a fixer. I fix problems, but I don’t understand the problem, so I don’t know how to fix it. I need to understand the root cause.’  Well, no kidding. If I knew exactly what the problem was, I’d probably solve it my damn self and wouldn’t be wasting your time (no offense, dad).  Sometimes I don’t have a root cause.  Sometimes I’m dealing with a global cause conspiracy and it would take more time to solve the mystery than it takes to open a bottle of wine and have a solo dance party in my underwear, or get lost in a syndicate marathon of Felicity or Grey’s Anatomy.  (For the record, I highly recommend the former if you can talk yourself into it.  It’s much more emotionally liberating.)

On Monday, sitting at my desk around 10am, I felt the strange calm of silence and an unbreakable feeling that something wasn’t right.  Somewhere, something is out of balance, and I’m not sure if it’s internal or external, but I’m certain that it’s there.  Something must be in retrograde, or some moon must be waxing full in the near future, but regardless of what the ‘root’ cause is necessarily, I sprung a small leak.  Little by little I’ve been losing my own power all week (or longer?).

Today was the longest day of all.  The longest hours, the most meetings, and the largest amount of mind-numbing conversations that inspired me to quickly develop a mental project plan for a mandatory common-sense university curriculum to distribute widely and use as a requirement to be allowed to use a phone or email to communicate with other able persons.  At 4pm I knew I wasn’t going to make it to work out.  Not even the 7:30pm class – half because I wasn’t getting out any time soon, and half because ALL I wanted to do was go home and open a bottle of wine.

So wine I had.  And I had my first moment of coming home to this house that has felt new and ‘strange’ for almost two months now.  There’s something about finally identifying something as a refuge from all the noise — from all life’s other instabilities — and that, I think, will make all the difference.

In a large part I think my uneasiness is the result of change.  Change is hard – always.  No matter what, it’s going to be a struggle to adapt, especially as we get older and have more habits or hangups about our own routines and comfort.  The changing of seasons, of the familiar, and of ourselves is constant — so constant in fact sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of ourselves.

Tonight I’m settling in to this bottle of wine and calling it a night.  But tomorrow, tomorrow’s a different story.  Tomorrow is the day that I dig up the roots — I think it’s time.  It’s a get-shit-done and create stability sort of a day, and you better believe I’m ready for it.

fuel sweat grow

The one thing I can usually count on from myself is my limit.  Good or bad I always reach a limit – the end of what I know I can reasonably handle. Sometimes it’s a visible limit, and sometimes it’s one that I have to work to keep inside, but I know when it’s there.  Effective tomorrow I’m done with search and discovery; I’m done with the mundane; and I’m done with the things that nag on me just enough to interfere with my happiness.

So here’s to this wednesday, and the next two days of opportunity.  Here’s to problem solving, task completing, and peace finding at the end of a long week.  Here’s to doing things because they feel good, and they create momentum — and most importantly, to the things that contribute to the growing sense of home amidst the chaos of an ever-changing world (and the wine that makes that possible).

Maybe it’s not so much about actually identifying a root cause for instability.  Maybe it’s about really growing the roots that anchor you to your world – because without them it sure is hard to feel solid.

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