Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Intention to Live Mindfully

My Fiance and I had a bit of a therapy session tonight.  This psychoanalysis stemmed from me once again moaning on falling short of my own standards and aspirations for good habits.  My frustrations have gone on for years, not understanding how I lost so many of my mindful habits over the years.  This is probably a typical frustration as people reach the later years of early adulthood and start to get busier jobs and more responsibilities but I always blamed Connecticut.  "This just isn't my scene where I can live comfortably"  "The culture is so centered around work it's taken over my life".  And while those may be true to some extent the more James indulged my long winding paths of causal analysis the more it really centered around this: I am a creature of habits and some of those habits are preventing me from living mindfully.

What do I mean by living mindfully?
This doesn't mean my ability to focus on something.  I can certainly stay focused at work all day(even if not always productive), I can certainly stay focused while I'm on my weekly bike ride and I can certainly stay focused when I'm looking at my phone checking my email, Instagram, Facebook, Hangouts, Twitter (and repeat).  But sometimes we can be focused on the wrong things and we forget how to just be present and focus on forming any new habits, taking in & reacting to new information or making personal engagements. 

With the next year focused on weddings and wedding planning and building a life together I don't want this negativity hanging over my head. So we're making a vow to remove some of our dependency on habits that don't fulfill us and replace them with the habits that we want, breaking the spells on dependency.

Here were my revelations on the 5 things preventing me from living mindfully:

  1. The Morning routine - I'm not focused on waking up the mind and body to prepare for the day but only focused on eating my breakfast and sitting in my comfy chair keeping my brain shut off for as long as I can until I absolutely have to get ready for work.  This seemed relaxing for the longest time but I seldom leave myself any chance to vary this routine - take a walk, go to the gym, ride my bike to work, read a book, do some Yoga, SOMETHING.  All it takes is 10-15 minutes to waken up some more senses before breakfast and coffee. 
  2. Chewing gum - I always say chewing gum helps me focus. But no, it's only the fact that when I'm not chewing gum all I can think about is chewing gum so of course I can't focus! 
  3. Letting the urgency at work carry on into out of work - I can't settle myself down long enough to think about what to cook or do around the house.  I find meditation in bike rides because it perpetuates this sense of fast paced urgency but steals all my senses for a new task that isn't work(nothing wrong with that though).
  4. Looking at my phone
  5. Looking at my phone
Yep, root of all evil = the iPhone.  Most of the times of "good habits" I seem to look so fondly back on I did not have this handy and distracting device.  In fact, the main thing that perpetuates #1 and #3 is also looking at my phone.  What do I do in the morning while I'm enjoying my breakfast and coffee for an hour and a half - LOOK AT MY PHONE.  What am I doing that perpetuates the sense of urgency and pace I have at work? - Being able to check my email constantly and actually checking it constantly.

So, over the next year I'm setting an intention.  If I can open up more space in my life for mindfulness by reducing dependency on these, it can only enhance opportunities for fulfilling and enriching habits and possitivity to enter into it.  Or who knows, maybe I'm wrong and I just have ADD...

Cheers to living mindfully - more to come...


Monday, August 14, 2017

The Saugatuck

"The Saugatuck" is my weekly meditation.  The Saugatuck is the longest standing ride in my repertoire of bike routes.  I do it every week.  When I don't do it I feel empty, antsy and agitated (even if I've done a totally different ride).  I could liken it to an obsession.  But, very little else comes close to recapturing my mental clarity than this 20 mile loop.

Why you ask?  Or if you didn't ask..let me tell you why anyway!

I think we can all agree there are many forms of meditation.  All meditation is is the act of something that brings you great focus and peace, just done in repetition long enough that it becomes a natural  way to bring your mind into zen.

First of all, the drive.  There's nothing like leaving the noise and bustle of southern Connecticut and Fairfield county.  Winding your car up and up curvy roads, rolling hills and charming farms and then finishing with the narrow twists and turn that wind along the breathtaking Saugatuck reservoir.  I drive like I'm flying.  I'm flying fast and the stresses and worries are blown out the window along with the sound of my Pandora shuffle and my terrible singing to it.

Second of all, the spot.  If you've ridden long enough you know that the choice of where to ride is only as important as the choice of where to start and therefore to end (and celebrate) the ride.  Here, we can sit on the trunks of our cars and sip our post ride beer in peace while looking off towards the distant water through the trees.  And should the mood strike us, we can walk down the trail to the water and sit on the rocks until the full moon comes up and reflect its bright light down on the water.  Magnificent.

Third of all, the ride.  This ride is like a song.  It's a beautiful orchestration of uphills and downhills.  It's got a long steady climb to start..but not the kind that has you digging your heals down but rather the one where you can (with practice) find that perfect gear and pedal smooth and efficient up to the top and around the corner and still have energy for the 15 miles you haven't pedaled yet.  It winds through town and small bustles of life. It curves through residential streets and down a long section of horse pastures.  There's a section of short and sharp rollers where there's not a house in site for a couple miles.  Lastly, it returns to civilization and sends you sailing down a hill that is that perfect grade where you feel like you're flying but not quite so steep to where you're terrified.   Sometimes I feel like sticking my arms out but my mind is so absolutely focused on every dip and crack in the road that I have space to focus on doing very little else.

And that I think is the point after all.   Cycling takes so many senses.  You must be aware of your gear, keep an ear and eye for obstacles, manage each pedal stroke and position yourself just right.  When you find a route that you can do without even thinking about what turn to take or what road to follow then you can use every single one of your senses to do all of those things.  And on top of that you get beauty and a treasure of different terrain to train on...it's something to truly be thankful for.

Here's to hoping you find your weekly meditation, whatever it might be.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


What inspires you?

I'm not sure we get asked this enough.  I think we get asked about goals and accomplishments and personal development..but really if we're to motivate ourselves towards any of these things we really have to ask ourselves...what inspires you?

Inspiration as defined by Google: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. 

That's a pretty un-inspiring definition..but I guess it very simply conveys the point.  For if we are "mentally stimulated" then we should be able to reach levels of high performance, a sense of purpose and accomplishment, right?

I think we live our lives mostly just wanting to support ourselves, our family and at the end of the day hopefully leave a lasting impression on those around us in life.  We're all just trying to be happy and healthy at the end of the day.  At least I know when I speak for myself this is generally true.  I live to work hard, eat well and go outside and play.  I work hard because it's what I was taught to do. I eat well because it makes me feel good and I go outside and play because it fulfills me.

But inspiration...that's different..that's what gets you going..that's what makes you work hard. That's what makes you focus..that's what ideally should fuel decisions and actions every day.

So what inspires me?

The truth of the matter is, I haven't thought about this much before.  But I think it could be: I'm inspired by the unknown.  Now this is also what terrifies me (and probably most people) but let me elaborate...  I'm inspired every day by knowing that there are challenges out there I haven't met, that there are people out there I haven't learned from yet, that there are opportunities to achieve accomplishments I didn't even think were possible and that impact more than just myself.  I love a challenge, because I am addicted to the drug of accomplishment.  I like bringing a smile to the faces of others who also cherish in this.  I like celebrating it with them.  I really like all of this.

The only question left now is...what challenges are worth accepting?

Thanks for indulging in some winter time dialogue in place of riding season...here's to a speedy return of spring (despite what the groundhog says)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Contagiousness of a Bicycle

If there's one thing most people know about me it's that I like bikes.  Biking, cycling, riding, cruising, road, mountain, townies..pretty much anything and everything related to bikes.  It's hard not to know this because I talk about it all the time.  My house is filled with bicycle decor and a pretty significant amount of my time on most Summer weekends is spent on one of my two wheeled friends.

Why do I love it?  I think that's best demonstrated by putting you on your own saddle, strapping a helmet on your head and pushing you off down the road so you can feel the wind in your hair, smell the fresh air and experience the sense of flight for yourself.  :)

But for one thing I think that bicycles are works of art.  They are truly beautiful human powered machines.  The sleekness of how one aerodynamic tube curves into another, the colors artfully displayed to go with it and the powerfully stiff and fast geometry of the wheels and tires, the way when you sit on a perfectly fit bike it feels like the most natural position your body is meant to be in.  I could go on..

I hope just by reading this I've enlightened or sparked some sense of excitement and curiosity in you, perhaps fueled by a deeply tucked away childhood memory.  Cycling does, in my mind, excite that dormant youthfulness that we tend to lose as we grow older.

If there is one happy side effect of my obsession it has been the people that I've recruited with my contagious love of cycling.  I think the count is up to 6 or 7 people that have taken to adopting a bike under my watch.  Not that I'm taking 100% of the credit but if I am even the catalyst or activity encourager I'm grateful for the chance to be even that.

This past weekend was my latest recruit.  I was visiting a long time friend who just moved to San Francisco.  (Meet Lisa! ..and her new friend Margot!).  She had been wanting to get a bike and escape the dull bus ride to work.  While I was in town naturally the conversation about bikes came up (it just does when you're with me) and we decided one afternoon to just go have a look.  We visited Huckleberry Bikes a fashionable local shop in San Fran and a after a couple hours, a few test rides and many questions Lisa had herself a new bike(Margot).  She was fully equipped and happy!  She even rode it home and nearly beat me in my Uber.  So happy to see the big smile on her face as she rode up!

Lisa's happy with her new purchase!

Perhaps the greatest reward was getting to wave her goodbye on her first bike commute to work.  Knowing that she was going to get a few miles of that bliss every day for as long as she can stand it, is the best joy I could have hoped to have a role in imparting on my short visit.  

Lisa leaving on her first commute to work by bike!
This week I decided to commute the 15 miles to and from work in her honor..and I can say it will probably become a more frequent habit this Summer with the extra daylight.  

For love of the bike.

All this talk..I'm not sure why I'm still sitting here..time to go ride!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Forks Over Knives, Feet Over Pedals

A crisp, bright morning; so fresh and bright that you can’t help but take a big breath in, outstretch your arms and greet the morning with a gusto that you don’t normally have when the alarm goes off at 6am on a weekday.  

This is why I live for the weekends.  This is why I ride.

This past weekend I chose to live for the weekend in Hudson Valley NY for a 56 mile destination ride.  The Farm to Fork Fondo.  A beautiful marriage of my appreciation for food from the ground and the blissful challenge of conquering miles and miles of rolling hills and beautiful scenery on two wheels.

The Farm to Fork Fondo is held in a handful of locations in New England.  It’s an organized ride where all the rest stops are at local farms who hand prepare special treats for you to enjoy using their crops’ ingredients.  This one was held at a Pennings Farm and cidery in Warwick, NY.

The scenery was breath taking.  Parts reminded me of Arkansas and the early morning 30 mile rides I used to take by myself every Saturday where I’d get out of town, come home exhausted and then shuffle up to the farmers market with my roommate for some fresh finds.  Only this ride combined the two into one. Brilliant! 

At the start, off we went in a pack of 500, boosted along by the prospect of sticking with the pack and using the energy and draft of the group to get over those first jutting and challenging hills.  But after a while somehow the pack always spreads out and often times you find yourself completely isolated on the quiet farm land roads.  

The first 15 miles were a quick 15.6 mph pace.  I realized right away I didn't lube my bike fully (rookie mistake).  That would hurt me and my pace in the long run.   The first stop was a small shaded farm on a hillside down a quiet dirt road.  They were boisterous and excited, handing out apple and strawberry turnovers, claiming they were “so fresh they could talk back to you”.   

 On down the road another 15 miles, pace dropping a bit, we stopped at an apple farm.  They served straight up apples and peanut butter, apple cakes and crumbles.  I am told they were delicious but I couldn’t stomach the desserty stuff, I stuck to the fresh apples & PB.  Amazing!

Just a quick 5 miles later we stopped at a creamery. So glad they weren't serving milk and ice cream on a hot day.  They were serving pizza and crackers with a fresh block of cheese that looked like a butternut squash.  

Another 8-10 miles, one big climb up Mt. Eve and arrived at a winery.  They had mini quiches and samples of local alcoholic cider.  The best part was a little girl handing out rags that were soaked in ice water..ahhhh..

The last and final stop was a local market and garden center serving apple cider doughnuts and strawberry rhubarb pie.   James enjoyed it J

The last and final stop was about 7-8 miles from the end (SO NOT THE 5 MILES they advertised when we were leaving the rest stop)  I was exhausted, bonking, ready to be done, getting hangry.   Once I crossed the line I immediately was happy again.  I got my cowbell medal and slowly carried my bike up the hill and headed straight for celebratory fresh cider and a plate full of goodies. 

The long drive home had me nodding off and on.  A long day in the sun and a nice glass of cider will do that to you.   But I will finish by saying this:  I do have a renewed appreciation for the simple yet challenging life of farmers.  We don’t often think of where our food comes from, but when you put smiling faces to it and taste the creations they produce (especially when they are well earned creations) it’s really hard to venture too far from the local produce aisle..though I still do J.    
Till we meet again – story time is over.


Monday, June 20, 2016

4 Years Later....

She speaks!

Yes, after 4 years I have unlocked this time capsule.  I have cracked open the lid to take a look at where I left it; forgotten and gathering dust..only to find that everything is EXACTLY THE SAME!

It's crazy how cyclical life is.  Just last week I completed my SIXTH year of that horrendous 53 mile bike ride I spoke of in my last post.  I ate the exact same muffins for breakfast and refueled with the very same energy balls.  I only slightly changed things up with some maple syrup packets instead of honey..woah there!

But while I'm glad to see some of the things that brought me joy 4 years ago making their way back into my life again, things have also evolved, been accomplished, grown and changed shapes since my last post.  And in the name of recapturing life's joyous habits, it feels like it's time to take this blog for a spin again, and see what else it inspires me to create.

Stay tuned..

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quiche of the Week Club

Well I survived the ride!  Just goes to show things are never live up to the hype you create in your head.  There was a lot of climbing (3,000 ft overall) and some really great parts where I really got in my groove and then some parts where I barely had the strength to keep the pedals turning.  This is why I love cycling - it's not nearly as miserable as running.  If I have nothing in me, unless I'm no a big hill..I can coast...magical coasting..
This is the terrain I conquered:
The first half was challenging but went by pretty quickly in my head - really glad some of those biggest climbs were in the beginning while I was fresh.  There were some hills towards the end (mile 45) that were pretty brutal.  Not to mention that the finish was up a short STEEP hill..I did not like that very much..
I attribute my success immensely to the home made fuel (eaten at regular intervals before I was hungry) + Honey Stinger energy gels.  They also had oranges and bananas at the rest stops which were excellent fuel sources as well.  Also, my night before routine I did a lot of stretching, took and epsom salt bath and coated my neck and back with Tiger Balm (yum).

So lately, I've been a little into crust-less quiches.  My friend, Cassy, knows (and is the one who taught me the skills).  Ever since I joined a local CSA(Community Supported Agriculture) I get a lot of veggies and eggs.  The most efficient way to use a lot of these ingredients so that they don't go to waste (besides making salads and hard boiled eggs) is quiches.  You can put anything in a quiche and it will taste great (well okay maybe not anything).  And they are great to eat throughout the week for breakfast and/or lunches.
I call this week's creation "Too many Veggies, not enough Egg".  I was on the last 4 of my eggs..but it still worked!  This time I also decided to put the veggies in uncooked instead of sauteeing them first and I really like it because they are still crunchy.  (asparagus, tomatoes and spring mix lettuce).  I think if I'm making a Kale/Chard quiche I will continue to cook those down a bit so I can fit more in the quiche.
Bon Ape tit!
If it would stop raining in CT, that would be great Mother Nature, thank you..