Search results for

try that with matt kindness

Tune in Today

Try that with Matt No. 1: Random Acts of Kindness

August 23, 2016

Try that with Matt

My brother is a strong presence – in my life, in other people’s lives, in his work life, with his friends, with his kids, with my kids – he’s a big dude with a big heart and a loud voice. As I’ve grown older, and he’s gotten older, and major changes have rolled ashore and back out into the great big ocean again, our relationship has evolved. At some point my memories of him as the broad behemoth who wrapped blankets over my head and farted on me as I struggled and screamed under the smothering conditions, eroded a bit and I actually started seeing him as more of a friend. Being grownups isn’t necessarily the most comfortable hat for either of us to wear, and I think there’s a comfort in keeping someone so close who reminds you of your more-distant-than-you’d-like past as a dumb kid, but also supports you as an adult.

Siblings

Anyway, after our stint on the Appalachian Trail back in April, and the series of blog posts that followed, I think a passion for this platform began sprouting deep inside my big brother. He was more interested in the topics (this post in particular) and we started chatting a lot about adulting topics like happiness and contentment and satisfying the urge to explore and stretch yourself.

From these conversations, an idea was born. We would choose one challenge every month and try something we’d never tried before. We would dwell in the enticing space outside of our comfort zones at least once every 30 days. Some of our ideas are physically demanding, others are mentally demanding, but all are new to us in some capacity.

MeMatt1

August was the inaugural month for the “Try that with Matt” series, and we agreed to kick things off with something that had been on both of our minds: positivity. We challenged each other to pull off 10 random acts of kindness (RAOK) in 10 days. There were no hard and fast rules. Just two handfuls of happiness distributed as we saw fit.

If you didn’t see this video, you should. She inspired us. My friend Kelly has done my hair for years. She never tells me what I owe her and I always give her what I think is fair, and she thinks is too much. One day she told me she took the money from my last hair appointment and donated it, anonymously, to a mother in need from “two mothers who wanted to help”. THAT inspired me. That same friend took her two children a few times every week throughout the summer to a local facility to be peers for a severely autistic classmate of her son. Now THAT is what you teach your kids. THAT is the example you set. THAT inspires me. So many people are sheepishly, quietly trying to change this world, or at least make it a little happier, one day and one deed at a time. It isn’t all bad. It isn’t all violence and loss. We wanted to be a part of that movement.

Here’s how it shaped up …

MATT
*Written by Matt.

BOUQUET 2

Act No. 1. Special delivery.
The kids and I took flowers out to my mom. They were super pumped. My daughter picked them out, in Gram’s favorite color, of course. Mom was so surprised and happy we stopped out. I swear, the kids were just as excited as she was. It made me feel good, like I was doing something right, seeing them so hype about making someone else’s day. They helped with most of my acts of kindness.

Act No. 2. Bought fundraiser tickets.
Young guy, little older than my son, was out selling fundraiser tickets for his traveling soccer team. I had watched him and noticed the little guy hadn’t been very successful. He was a shy kid, so we made conversation and purchased some tickets and wished him luck on the season.

Act No. 3. Stopped to help.
A guy ran out of gas right by our neighborhood. Amazing how many people went around him and didn’t think twice. I jumped out of my truck, offered to push his car to the closest parking lot or run down and get gas for him. He assured me he was fine, his wife was in route to save the day. (Perhaps some other superwoman …) I think a lot of times we assume help is coming for people, but we should all be inclined to at least check and make sure.

Act No. 4. Moved mattresses.
I helped a friend pick up some mattresses. They didn’t have access to a truck and needed a hand so I tossed my hat in the ring and said I would take care of it. Life is busy for everyone, especially if you have young active kids. If you have the resources and someone else doesn’t, it never hurts to give a bit of your time. In this case, someone needed a box truck and I just so happen to have one, albeit one that tried to kill me years ago on a trip back from Iowa, but we’ve worked out the kinks and it was nice to help a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile.

Act No. 5. Treated a stranger.
Kids and I went for a frozen treat one Friday night and we decided to pay for the person behind us. As the gentlemen drove past with I will assume his wife and kid, he gave us a thumbs up out the window as we patiently waited to destroy a few milkshakes ourselves. We gave a wave and a thumbs up in return and I said hopefully that made his day and he does something nice for someone else. Kids thought he probably would because he was happy.

Act No. 6. Cashed in a good deed.
Back to school shopping was in full swing and I had already taken a day and tackled Kohl’s with the kids and cashed in some Kohl’s cash (free money, what!?) Well, a few days after we crushed it a coworker was heading out with her two princesses and Kohls was one of their stops. I had a 30 percent coupon and, like a boss, active Kohl’s cash burning a hole in my wallet. I passed them on so she could tear it up with her girls. We all know kids are costly and every little bit counts. This person kills it as a coworker and always does stuff for others. It felt good to put a smile on her face.

Act No. 7. Went for a wash.
Took the car through the carwash and paid for the person behind us (or to the side, or God knows where because the place was stupid packed). The kid that took my card was all about it though and you like to think that when you do a RAOK like this the people caught in the middle get some enjoyment as well and makes them think of doing something nice.

Act No. 8. Turned over the keys.
Kid was selling a car and couldn’t get rid of it and I like to buy and sell some things, so I gave him some green for his beater and the plan was to get it flipped. Later that day I was talking to another buddy and told him about my latest purchase and he was telling me about a guy that he knew that was having a run of bad luck and trying to get on his feet. The guy had a couple of kids, he was a hard worker, made mistakes as a kid that had cost him a good stretch of his freedom … I agreed to sell my buddy the car for what I paid and he was going to surprise this guy and give it to him so he had wheels for he and his kids. That was a no brainier and shows you there is so much good in the world; good, loving people. But all we focus on as humans is negative bullshit. The news is crap. Why not report 28 minutes on all of the positive stuff that happens daily and save the last 2 minutes for the sad, selfish bullshit instead of vice versa.

Act No. 9. Dogwatch.
Took care of Desperately Seeking Superwoman’s dog for the weekend. Yeah, I counted it. Made me feel good for a minute until I went to let the dog out and they had no chips in the pantry. Stay stocked up Biscuits!

Act No. 10. Meal on me.
Picked up a tab at dinner for a random patron and asked the waiter to have them pay it forward. He was all about it and the kids just sat and smiled. It just feels good to do something for someone that isn’t expecting it and you don’t get to see the reaction. You just hope they in turn do something good for someone else.

****

COURTNEY

LoveLetter

Act No. 1. Love letter.
I’m obsessed with the site,The World Needs More Love Letters. I logged on, picked the story that tugged the most violently at my heartstrings (a 13-year-old boy who was wondering why God chose for him to live through a tough illness in this case) and pulled out stationery. Stationery. When was the last time you used stationery to write words to pick up another soul? I did on that day. And I put an actual stamp on it and put it in the actual mailbox.

Act No. 2. Donuts for all.
Let’s be real. For men and women in the workforce, donuts on Friday are like a sitz bath after a 32-hour labor and delivery. Candy after a trip to the dentist. I like to sit them somewhere and see how long it takes for someone to find them. Who will open the brown box? Who will be most excited? Great social experiment all around.

Act No. 3. Sympathetic ear.
I stumbled upon a coworker in the midst of an emotional meltdown. I’d never met this particular coworker in person before, but it became very clear, very quickly, that this woman was in need of a good cry. Do you know why it was so easy for me to recognize this scenario? Because I have been in that seat, fighting those tiny burning needles behind my eyelids and sensing a trail of tear-induced snot marching it’s way out of my nasal canal. I have been there! Who hasn’t? Sometimes the shit hits the fan and you can’t get a win to save your life and you just need someone to give you permission to open up the dam and let it out. I don’t think it was an accident I ended up in her office.

Act No. 3. Garden goodie.
My niece loves zucchini bread. I baked up two loaves for her to enjoy. It took no more than an hour to do and I even threw in an extra loaf for my crew.

Act No. 4. Passed along some pages.
I have a girlfriend who I adore to no end. She’s been working through some major life stuff for a few months now. I logged on and had a copy of Miracles Now by Gabrielle Bernstein sent to her doorstep with a note, “A bit of inspiration for a girl who inspires me.” A great book is best shared with those who really need it.

Act No. 5. Blog crush kudos.
I understand, as a writer, how humbling a creative profession can be at times. You put things out into the world and sometimes get tough criticism back or, worse yet, hear nothing at all. It’s brutal and totally self-inflicted. So, I took some time to email a few of my favorite bloggers, who I don’t think have a huge following just yet, to let them know how much their words mean to me.

Act No. 6. Spread good luck.
Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck. You’ve heard it. I took two handfuls of pennies and flung them about in high-traffic areas.

Act No. 7. Pat on the back.
One of my favorite people on the planet is my college roommate Ashlie. She recently adopted two children and, I tell ya, watching her parent them brings more joy than watching myself masterfully manipulate my own little turkeys into doing something good. She’s good at it. Like really, crazy, stupid good at it. So I told her she was. I don’t praise my mommy friends enough from the trenches.

Act No. 8. Lunch for the lady.
Hank’s folks stopped by around dinner time so I packed up some leftovers for his mom to take for lunch the next day. She’s been a nurse for more than 30 years and gives so much of herself to strangers. Caregivers often focus so much on others they neglect themselves. It made me feel good knowing she had one less thing to worry about the next day.

Act No. 9. Make the hole.
This was likely the girls’ favorite good deed. On Thursday nights, the main road to our neighborhood is a traffic jam due due to food truck event that takes place at a popular intersection. As it started to break loose a bit and we were going to get moving, a firetruck, parked in the station, flipped it’s lights on. I slammed on my brakes to let them out right in front of us. The girls cheered in celebration of this one. I told them it was an honor to help heroes.

Act No. 10. Take a timeout.
I have a buddy at the gym. He’s likely in his late 70s and a bit difficult to understand some times. He knows my workout schedule. On Mondays I stay home and do yoga. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I run. On Wednesdays and Fridays, I do weights. He knows this. If I’m missing one day, he checks in with me the next. I always humor him with brief chatter. But during this challenge, I planted my feet, looked him in the eyes and spent a good 10 minutes working through children and grandchildren, recent vacations and his work life. We pass by hundreds of people every day. How many do we really see? That day I saw him.

We learned that it is possible to be competitive over good deeds; as we would occasionally compare our handy work. We also confirmed something that wasn’t exactly surprising. I like to plan things, while Matt is more of a freestyler. I had sat down and brainstormed a few things I really wanted to do over the 10 days. They were things I’d already had in mind and this was the perfect excuse to pull the trigger. Also, I would defer to emotional expressions of love and respect, while Matt’s go-to was lessening someone else’s burden in some way. There was no wrong, it was all right.

It crosses all of our minds more times than we realize to do good – to take something from someone’s full hands, or pick up the check or stop and listen … really listen. What woke me up was just how easy it was to actually do it. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or plan ahead. Just allow the time to comfort someone in need. Be human when someone needs it most. Be the hugger. Be the listener. Be the voice of compassion. Join the army of men, women and children spreading love in this world. Random or otherwise, let’s make kindness routine.

Try That With Matt

Try That with Matt. Sloppy sailors.

August 15, 2017

Remember in my last post, when I mentioned I was saying “yes” more than “no” these days? Well, a few weeks back, I found myself chin-deep in the e-coli-infested waters of a Lake Michigan river, beer koozie still in hand, the result of one such verbal agreement.

Matt, Hank and I recently went north to cruise around Traverse City, Michigan, for a kayak bar crawl with The General (you remember him), his wife, Tara, and her friend, Jill, his sisters, Angie and Andrea, their spouses, Lee and Kevin, his cousin, Matt (who we called “Cousin Matt”), and his cousin’s roommate, Alex. Now that I’ve introduced the entire cast of the Mickey Mouse Club … What’s a kayak bar crawl, you ask? Well, it’s exactly what you would think; a sloppy parade of paddlers (think Yale heavyweight crew 20 years outta school after getting into Pappy’s moonshine) work their way through the river, and eventually lake, pulling themselves ashore every so many feet to take down a beer or two.

What could possibly go wrong?

It’s been months since I posted a Try That with Matt, and since this was certainly a new adventure, and we did it together, it seemed like a good time to invite the gentle giant back onto the blog. You’ll forgive us both if the details are a little fuzzy.

**COURT**

The morning of the crawl, we woke up at a decent hour. Matt took off for a long bike ride and Hank and I decided to make the most of our kidless Saturday and trotted off for a quick 3-mile run. (That’s not what you thought I was going to say? Sorry to disappoint, ya perv.) It was a cloudy, lovely morning, with nothing pestering us aside from the sporadic assaults from tiny extended families of black bugs swarming our sweaty heads along the beach, which was closed due to high e-coli readings in the water. There we were, trotting along just like all those fit couples you see on the side of the road on Saturday mornings pretending not to hate jogging.

After a quick shower, I suited up. A bathing suit, running shorts and a black tank top. Tara dropped off a few cups of Pink Panty Droppers and went to gather her gear. I sipped the electric lemonade, eventually feeling it surge through my plumbing, burning it’s way into my gut and sending sparks through my fingertips. This day was about to get sloppy. I knew it. My fingertips knew it.

We drove to Hull Park and assembled our crew at a long table outside of The Filling Station. Ninety percent sober, we all chatted semi-politely and sipped our foamy glasses of beer. Some of the gals snapped open-eyed selfies at the other end of the bench. The General, Tara, and his sister, Andrea, told us what to expect by recounting highlights from the year before.

The volume of the table escalated a bit. We were making our move to the water. “Here! You need to eat something,” Hank said, shoving a small square of pizza into my hand. “Do I have time to pee?” I asked. He shrugged. I folded the petite pie into my mouth like a true lady and dashed to the potty.

I caught up to the group at the launch pad. One by one, The General and Matt were pulling people’s kayaks down into the water, holding the back as they climbed in and shoving them off. I settled into my vessel, placed a can of Summer Shandy in my koozie, and dipped my paddles into the dark, seemingly boundless water.

I am no Magellan, OK. I am not a great navigator, and in fact, I have no idea how I found the grocery store before Google Maps. And finding my way around a vast body of water? Yeah … no. But I can follow. And so I did. I followed like the newborn kayak captain I am; swerving and grazing my knuckles painfully along the curved rim of my boat, while The General yelled out instructions about which direction the letters on my paddles should be pointing toward and how my elbows should be bent. About 20 minutes after we started our voyage, our seasoned leader gestured to a 20-foot clearing in the treeline and we swarmed to the sand, threw our legs over the side and made our way up a hill to our second watering hole of the day, Right Brain Brewery.

I had two tasty cherry beers before it was time to shove off. Getting back into our kayaks, Cousin Matt flipped his and fell into the water. He handled it well, but me being me, I laughed until my tears filled the bottom rims of my sunnies. I just love it so much when people fall down. I’m also a big believer in karma.

I remember the first time I really biffed while drinking. Not to say this was the first time ever, but it was the spark to the dynamite fuse. A fuse that’s been slowly burning now for years. It was my 23rd birthday. The cops had been to the apartment to shut down a super-heated game of Catchphrase earlier in the evening, so we decided to head to my favorite piano bar. After sucking down red jello shots through a syringe like a Hoover and screaming Livin’ on a Prayer like a boss, my then-boyfriend Hank signaled it was time to go home. I can’t remember if I got on my sister-in-law’s back or she got on mine, but I do know both of us went down in a sketchy Indianapolis alley hard enough that I had gravel embedded in my knee caps for two days.

The seal was broken. I could write a book about the many falls of drunk Courtney since that night. I fell through an open door at an 80s bar, and then slipped on a spilled drink on the dance floor of that same bar a few years later … twice. Just a month ago, at the New Kids on the Block concert, I fell into the row ahead of me and took out five chairs and a 40-something mom. Security came over. I acted like I didn’t know what she was talking about.

Trust me when I say I’m not bragging here. I’m not really embarrassed though, either. I think it’s less a loss of my motor skills, and more a perfect recipe of my mama’s grace, deep, paralyzing belly laughs and the release of inhibition. My legs just go … like Bambi or April the Giraffe’s baby after it dropped. It all sounds very Betty Ford, but I don’t really dip my beak enough for any real concern, I promise. I share all of this not to let you sniff my dirty laundry, but rather to set the scene. (Also, I just know Matt is going to call me out.)

Back on the water …

We paddled for a little less than a half an hour (honestly this is a guess. I lost all concept of time after the Pink Panty Droppers), and it felt effortless. A subtle current and delay in execution took me right into a low hanging tree branch just minutes before we approached our next stop, Rare Bird Brewery. I was still kind of giggling about it when I felt the bottom of my kayak hit the lake bed and start sliding onto shore. I went to step out and realized I wasn’t going to get all the way upright. It a very brief conversation with myself, that went something like …

“Oh, shit. You’re not standing up on your leg parts. You’re sitting in the water. The water feels good. Get out of the water quickly because it’s full of poison e-coli!” [Laughter, laughter, laughter.]

My left leg was bent, my butt crouching down, resting on top of my left ankle. My right foot was still straddling the slope of my boat. I was laughing too hard to get any power underneath me, so Hank came and helped me get to my feet. He pulled Chili Pepper (my kayak) up the hill while I leaned against him giggling like a stoned teenager.

I was sloshing as I shuffled down the small town street. A sloppy string of water followed me as I made my way into the restroom at the brewery and forcefully peeled my shorts down to tinkle. It felt like we lingered at this stop. A lot of people were ready for food. I was ready for food, but I didn’t realize it just yet.

We walked to another bar in town, 7 Monks Taproom. Here, along with another round of beers, Hank ordered the best drunk meal I have ever had in my life. Honestly. Roast beef sliders and pretzel bites. Food porn if I’ve ever seen it. We stayed back a few minutes to lick our plates. Then it was time to catch up to our crew.

I approached the top of the slope, our kayaks waiting down below. My tummy was full and my mind was back with my petite patties and doughy delights and I just didn’t even realize I was starting to slide. Maybe it was less of a slide and more of a tumble. Anyway, I fell a bit down the hill. Nothing of note, but of course, Matt saw. I heard my brother’s booming laugh, a throwback to every misstep I’d taken in my youth, just behind me. I came to a stop. “Jeezus,” he boomed. But I wasn’t concerned. I’d done worse and I knew we were settling in for the homestretch. He tried to pick me up and shove me into my boat, but my stomach seized from muted cackles. I succumb to a second collapse, letting my heavy lower limbs just settle on the tiny pebbles in the water beneath me. My beasty brother hovered over me, more satisfied than a pig in a port-a-potty. My loving husband looked on, thinking of just how fortunate he truly is.

The distance between the last brewery we went to and where we pulled our kayaks out is a bit cloudy for me. I remember Matt and The General getting too close and The General ending up in the water. So, at least he got e-coli too. I remember passing apartments. I remember the late afternoon sun dancing on the ripples just before me and how mesmerized I was by the twinkles. And then we came out from the river and onto Lake Michigan. The current forcibly rocked Chili Pepper back and forth. The kayak would dip into the side of a slight wave, and then correct itself. A few drops of Summer Shandy splashed against the aluminum in the bottom of the can as I focused on driving my paddles in to reach the shore.

I didn’t really want it to be over.

Some of the guys turned around and went back the way we came to pick up the trucks, getting growlers at Mackinaw Brewing Company along the way. I rode back to the campground with the ladies.

After we pulled into the State Park, I proceeded to sit at Andrea’s campsite and have a 30-minute conversation with her sons about how their pirate ships from the mini golf course down the road were made of real, reclaimed pirate wood from the bottom of the ocean before returning to my own camper and eating a pound of Mackinac Island mint chocolate fudge, like a starved little lab rat given sugar for the first time in months. I watched The Great British Baking Show and ate my fudge and cut chunks of colby off a block of cheese with a butter knife. There. Now you know.

I was rocked to sleep by the gentle waves of Matt wedging himself into the bottom bunk of our camper sometime in the early hours of the morning. The next day, there was no jogging. Powerade. But no jogging.

**MATT**

The morning of the paddle crawl, I woke up on the bottom bunk in the back of Biscuits and Gravy’s travel trailer. Nothing like Biscuits making pancakes and setting off the smoke alarm first thing in the morning. It took me back to my youth, when, bless my mother’s heart, the sound of the blaring smoke detector was our family dinner bell. This hazy scene was just further confirmation, along with her comfort cotton panties, that my sister is my mom. (The cakes and sausage were delicious, sis!)

After our well-done griddle cakes, I thought I would take advantage of the kidless weekend and hit a trail that went through town and down to the lake for a nice long bike ride. What a great way to start the day; no phone, just my bike. The weather was beautiful. I got to see some of the big sailboats heading out on the lake while the water was smooth as glass. I felt so good being alone, getting some exercise in and taking in the beauty of the day before the shit show kicked off.

When I returned to the trailer, everyone was getting ready – loading little coolers, putting the kayaks in the truck, etc. I woke up ready, naturally, so when Tara was walking around with a pitcher of Pink Panty Droppers to kick off the day, I figured, “Why not? I’m on vacation.” For those of you who haven’t had a dropper, it’s one of those drinks that just lights you up. I knew it was going to be a good day when Court had one as well. My thought: “She is totally falling out of her kayak today.”

We dropped our party barges off at the launch point and hit a local brewhouse to pregame. While having some laughs and reminiscing, The General’s sister, Angie, raised her fist and declared she was, “#kokomohard”. And thus, the day’s catchphrase was born. See, a few years back, a tornado in the town of Kokomo prompted a #kokomostrong movement, which is completely appropriate for uniting a disheartened community. I would imagine #kokomohard is a rally cry for something much, much different. But #kokomohard is what we were, for the next 6 hours at least.

It was time to hit the water and head off to our first stop. It was just about a 20-minute paddle across the lake to a path on the side of a hill that lead up to a cool little brewery with a salon in the front. The boy hairdressers wore really short shorts, I can tell you that. Gave my big ass a chuckle before I grabbed a beer. Thanks, boys!

After a few drinks on the patio, it was time to head back down the hill and load up. Surely, I thought, there was no way Court was going to make it back into her kayak. But I was wrong. It was Cousin Matt who ate shit here. Like the champ he is, he loaded his wet ass right back up and hit the water. It’s the name. We’re just resilient animals.

The next stop was probably a 35-minute paddle back across the lake and down the channel to a spot where we had to de-kayak and pull them across a damned up area. We planned to hit two bars here, making it our longest stop by far. Needless to say, when we left we were all feeling really good. … and let the show begin.

Our kayaks were waiting for us at the bottom of a hill. It was here, on dry land with no damn good excuse, that Court decided to eat shit. She just went down, like a fainting goat. But it doesn’t stop there. After she gathered herself, I was loading her into her kayak and … yup, she started to fall again. She didn’t try to catch herself. She didn’t try to fight it. She just accepted her fate and sat down in the water. And there she stayed, laughing hysterically, for a minute or so. “Jesus Christ, pull it together!” I said, which just made us laugh more.

Once we all got our happy asses upright and in our kayaks, The General (whose real name is Rod, by the way) and I decided it would be fun – because we are 12 – to race to see who could hit everyone in our group with our kayaks first. It was close. We were neck and neck. I’d bump someone. He’d bump someone. His sister, who thought we were coming to mess with her, saw us closing in and started paddling for her life. I hit the gas to lock in the win, but my paddle snapped in half. No worries. I smashed the broken ends back together and dug in.

Rod was just ahead of me, at an angle, getting ready to hit his sis’s kayak and get the “W”. But I was just hitting full speed. I came in hot and rammed him, sending him into the water along with his kayak. Checkmate, Sucker.

We came out onto the lake, our final challenge of the day before half our group would get picked up. The big lake is choppy, which makes for a challenge. Last year, at this point almost everyone flipped. It was like the Beaches of Normandy out there; People dragging their overturned ships behind their battered bodies. But not this year. We took the waves at a solid 45 and brought it home.

About half of us carried our kayaks back to the channel and went to another breeery to grab growlers before we headed back where we started that morning. We washed up on the shore some time later, feeling good, with tired arms. My buddy Kevin cranked up the stereo in my truck and showed us his sweet moves at the boat launch. Picture a grown ass man doing “The Sprain” from Saved by the Bell, with a group of other grown ass men standing around cheering. Cool, right?

After 8 hours of paddling and pints, I came back to the campsite to survey the damage. You can imagine, the crowd was sparse. I sat down at the campfire for a nightcap and some tunes with Kevin. Tara told me Biscuits got into a fight with some fudge and the fudge won. She was down for the night. As was Gravy. I stayed up late enough to keep Kevin’s volume to a reasonable level so our fellow campers could drift off to sleep. As I gracefully wedged myself into the bottom bunk of the trailer, I closed my eyes and chuckled. It was a successful day on the water, with lots of laughs at other people’s expense and some great beer. That’s what #kokomohard is all about.

Want to read more of my adventures with my big brother? Check out Try that with Matt …
Meditation
Filth Filters
Class Clownin

Wellness

Livin la Vida Vegan Day 14 (food and gratitude)

September 30, 2017

Holy hot dogs made of carrots, batman! We made it to Day 14 of the Livin la Vida Vegan 14-Day Challenge. I doubt that anyone is half as excited as my husband and children, who are anxious to get the flour-coated gluten balls off their plates.

It’s an interesting day because it’s the day before race day and the last day of this crazy adventure. I’m very aware of my body today, I guess is what I’m saying. How does it feel … How will it feel in the morning … Was this smart … Will this pay off … Will I have enough gas in the tank come morning? I’m not quite sure what the ole’ girl has in ‘er.

7:30 a.m.
I gave myself a splash of the Califa this morning, against my better judgment, and went about blending up the same smoothie as yesterday. The spirulina gets less noticeable every day, but I need to find a way to get the chocolate protein powder completely out of the equation. Baby steps. I have to keep reminding myself that the work doesn’t end just because the jumpstart is over. Sunday can be vegan. Monday can be vegan. (Tomorrow is definitely not going to be vegan.)

12:30 p.m.
I picked up my race packet and grabbed lunch at an adorable diner downtown with a friend from work. There were so many vegan options, I was pleasantly surprised. I opted for this insane veggie panini (hold the havarti) and kettle chips. Big, meaty mushrooms and thin strips of zucchini and tomatoes … it was fire! The chips weren’t bad, either.

It’s interesting, you’d think it would be so hard to go out, but truly it’s just a matter of leaving off a few things here and there. And honestly, as heavy as they sauce and suffocate things with cheese these days, I find they actually taste better without all of the fixins on occasion.

5 p.m.
I ate celery and almond butter for no good reason.

6 p.m.
Every Friday night we have dinner with my folks, then come back to our house and play three hands of euchre. We have an ongoing tally: Boys: 204, Granny Panties 157. It’s always a big deal … Where are we going to go? What sounds good? It’s a tradition rooted in food and an ultra-competitive card game. Tonight we went to a local place with a huge menu. I assumed there would be something to bring us home on this thing.

There wasn’t much. Hank got a veggie wrap that looked less than awesome (and he reported tasted as such) and I got veggie tacos. They had a pound of black beans on each tortilla (blech) topped with a corn relish and sliced underripe avocadoes. It came with, what else, a side scoop of black beans. Not the coolest way to go out, but I did the job. We were fed.

I stared at my mom’s pulled pork sandwich like a little girl outside a bridal shop.

8 p.m.
A vegan everything cookie to silence my screaming internal sugar demon and some ginger kombucha. For the record, just so everyone is crystal clear on the matter, my father believes that the Standard American Diet, paired with exercise is really what people need … none of this microbiome, gut health mumbo jumbo the kids keep yapping about. Write it down, somebody. We’re all going to regret shooting apple cider vinegar and gagging down tubs of sauerkraut one day.

9:50 p.m.
I feel like a half an almond butter sandwich is a smart choice right now. I don’t think I got enough protein tonight and I’m nervous about my plant-powered 13 in the morning. I’m just going to sit here and think about it until I get up and make it.

It was the right call.

10 p.m.
So … final thoughts on this whole thing. I guess the most common thing people ask is, “Do you regret doing this?” No. I learn something every time I try one of these challenges, and I think that, even though I didn’t lose 20 pounds in 14 days, which, let’s be honest, I was secretly hoping would happen, I did change my mentality a bit. And big change often starts with “a bit”.

I’m sleeping like a dead man, my head fog is gone and I move easier when I exercise. In truth, I doubt 14 days is sufficient for something like this, though I suspect I knew that all along. It was a convenient, manageable chunk of time, but now, on the other side of it, the ending feels abrupt, premature. But I’m sitting here, fingers on the keys, focusing on all the wins.

I can remember, not that long ago, staring at my Pinterest boards for hours trying to come up with Meatless Monday ideas. I’ve known for some time that less meat, less dairy, less animal fat, is better, but I’ve really lagged on the execution. Now, I know that this house won’t crumble without a deep freezer full of the cast of Babe chillin’ in it. I know we will eat our tofu lettuce wraps and carry on.

Every day, for 14 days, more than 500 people stopped by to see what we ate, how it went over and how we were feeling about the whole thing. That just blows my mind. From your time here on these pages, whether you’d been to the blog before or not, I can only hope you garnered a laugh and an actionable takeaway. Maybe that was a product recommendation (likely from Costco, let’s be honest) or a recipe to try. Whatever it was, I pray that our experiment sparked one of your own.

If you’re a veteran vegan or a newbie or considering a change or just a supportive friend, I thank you for spending some of your day with me and, of course, I invite you to stick around for the regular DSS chatter on life, love and losing my shit on a daily basis. Your interest and advice has been one of the greatest pearls from this whole experience. Every text, every email, every instant message, every private message, every comment, every shared pin, every everything. Your kindness was an unexpected, beautiful byproduct of dipping our toes into the vegan pool. I feel humbled and encouraged.

As for us? Well, tomorrow is Vegas, not vegan. I plan to chase the half marathon with donuts and a tub of cookies, none of which I will apologize for. Then we have a fun dinner with friends on the books for the evening and I plan to wear maternity pants and just get into bed with all the foods. All of them.

But after that, we’ll see. I finished my meal plan for next week and it’s all meat- and dairy-free for me. These other yahoos will have to sort things out for themselves. Of course, I do 90 percent of the cooking, so it could get interesting.

Good night, sweet friends, old and new. It’s time for me to turn in. Tomorrow seems like a great day for a run, doesn’t it?

Wanderlust

Biscuits back on the AT, Miles 6.2 – 14.3

April 26, 2017

Morning came.

That’s right … By the grace of God, the sun rose sheepishly above the trees just beyond the pavilion and each of us had all of our limbs, and a pulse and a different theory about the headlights from the night before. It’s funny, in those startling moments when the lights crept in and filled the thin fabric walls of the tent, no one had uttered a word. But now, come dawn and the promise of another day, we were discovering that each of us had been awake. And each of us had entertained our own demented impending plot twist. (Granted, some more dramatic than others.)

After a few minutes of lingering in the sticky, sour-smelling warmth of our sleeping space, we emerged, one by one, out onto the cement carpet. When you’re frozen, everything feels hard, unyielding. I turned my face toward the morning sun, which was doing everything in its power to heat the pavilion where our dewy gear laid about on high picnic tables, and sipped my coffee. Maybe if I imagine a beach … if I focus on each stream of light, I can fabricate warmth, I thought.

My mind was weaker than my coffee.

History told us that movement is truly the only cure for numbness, and my lifeless extremities were screaming, demanding, I take my first steps. When we left Hickory Flats, we had just over 8 miles ahead of us. It was our third day on the trail and the first time we would walk without rain.

As our frigid, pathetic parade made its way down the path and past the white blazes, my fingers and toes slowly came back to me. I can’t say for sure, but it seems as if almost every morning on the AT begins with an incline. I see it as Mother Nature’s bitch slap to your lungs, heart and legs, and a great way to get the blood pumping. This ridiculously crisp morning was no different. As I put one heavy foot in front of the other, I felt my internal temperature rise and sweat start to gather under the lining of my wool cap. One extreme to the other. Perfect.

Not long into our walk, we came to a breath-taking babbling stream. It was the kind people write poems about. The current made the water twinkle and wink beneath my feet. I stood on a rock and looked down to chaperone the elements’ dance. As the guys went about attaching hoses and filling water bladders, I observed the incoming traffic. It was a busy morning at the stream, as thru-hikers who stayed at nearby Stover Creek Shelter came by in pairs to fill up.

A pair from South Africa stopped first. The one had just finished a temporary position as an auditor in New York and hit up his buddy, who was currently residing in Canada, to try the trail before he had to return. They’d made this plan just two weeks ago on a whim and the idea that it “looked neat”. My eyes were wide with astonishment and jealousy. Next came a cavalcade of lively, starry eyed youngsters. Most of them just two or three days into their attempt to cover the entire AT, optimism clung to their faces like shiny makeup. They were high on the newness of their endeavor … the buzz of this temporary and rugged minimalism. I got it. I was rooting for them. We indulged their chatter about breakfast and trail legs before parting.

The warmer I got, the more I relished this dry, sunny day. We came to a crossing with a wide log, and I decided to express the turn in my mood through the universal language of dance. I hopped up, Gravy and Just Matt behind me, The General already across, and started recreating one of my favorite scenes from the iconic, never-to-be-forgotten chick flick, Dirty Dancing. “Heeeeeeey, hey, baby! I wanna know-oh …”. I gingerly maneuvered back and forth with the necessary pep to really sell it. “Do you have your phone out, Matt? Are you getting this?” I asked, like a 6 year old attempting her first cartwheel. “No.” he said. Flame completely extinguished, I dismounted the log on the other side. “Dick.” I whispered to myself but also, I kind of thought, loud enough to reach The General’s ears. But the face I found when I looked up was not that of our dear old family friend, like I’d been expecting. It was a stranger. Dressed in neon yellow. A stranger who had been waiting for our group to cross and witnessed my Baby moment in all its glory.

The boys had a field day with that one.

Whatever. My performance was on point, and everybody knew it.

We stopped at The Hawk Mountain Shelter for breakfast. Hank and I whipped up some oatmeal while Just Matt raised the waterline in the privy. The General sipped on a mug of hazelnut instant coffee as we chatted about the logistics of ick spreading on the AT. See, hikers’ hygiene isn’t exactly a gold standard out there, and if one person gets sick, and they stay in a shelter, and what comes with a sickness comes out inside the three walls, chances are someone else is going to come into contact with that mess. Then they get sick and the gift goes on, and on and on. I remember talk of a nasty strain of the stomach flu going around the Tennessee and North Carolina sections when we went out last year. Nasty stuff. I stood down on the ground, out of the shelter that morning. I mean, I only had so much toilet paper and tolerance for bodily functions behind tree trunks.

It was windy, but a beautiful day to walk in the woods. The temperature seemed to rise with the mountains’ inclines, causing me to peel off layers, and drop as the wind whipped through, bringing my hood back up to intercept the chill. We stopped for lunch at a clearing along an access road called Coopers Gap. The strong breeze bullied my empty mayonnaise packets as I pulled my jacket up around my face to shield my skin.

The magical thing about being out on the AT is the diverse landscapes. You never know when you turn a corner or come to the top of a mountain what you’re going to find on the other side. After several miles of pretty-but-predictable mountainside woods, we came upon a Secret Garden-style labyrinth of lush greenery. The trunks of the trees twisted and jutted up against each other, flirting, mingling. The roots rose out of the ground, each set forming an enchanting wooden helix. The verdant leaves were a deeper hue than any of the growth we’d seen up to this point, drawing our eyes upward with their rich, emerald presence. The sunlight poked through keyhole openings of various shapes in the canopy covering this charming section.

We worked our way through the maze, admiring its intricacies, until we came upon a clearing. Below us, a stream rushed across perfectly distributed stones. It was picturesque, perfect. This was Justus Creek, where we would be camping tonight. It was a pleasant upgrade from the cement slab we merely tolerated the night before. We crossed the water and marched our way up a steep elevation to the campsites; six flattened planes on the side of the mountain. We picked our square and went about setting up. The sun was bathing us in luxurious heat now. A branch that died months, maybe years, ago cracked and fell about 4 feet from our spot on the ledge. A good sign, indeed.

I changed into my sandals, grabbed a mug full of red wine and my notebook, and ventured back down to the steps beside the stream. I sat to collect some thoughts, the comforting soundtrack of the stream in the background fueling my recollection. This, I thought, is why we do this. This is the prize.

I felt silent inside. Clear. Calm. For perhaps the first time in months.

“Where’s your dog?” an approaching thru-hiker inquired.
“Me? Oh, um … I don’t have a dog.”
“Oh, sorry! You look just like this other girl on the trail. She has a dog.”

I wish I was a thru-hiker out here with a disciplined, friendly pup, I thought to myself. But no. I am a suburban mom with a corporate job and an old bitch of a dog who whines at the wind and drags her butt on my carpet. Close, but not quite there. They moved on and I disappeared again into my stream of consciousness.

I loved to listen to the waves of wind crashing through the forest. The tops of the trees, still barren from winter, would rub together like a group of bucks locking antlers, generating the most peculiar sounds.

About 20 minutes later, a young woman and older gentleman approached the stream. She was wearing a blue raincoat and coaching her adorable little shepherd dog, Maggie, across the rocks.

“Hi there,” I greeted.
“Hi!”
“You must be the other me,” I joked. She just looked at me indulging my eye contact out of sheer kindness. “A couple that came along earlier mistaked me for you. We must look similar.”
“Oh!” she sighed, and smiled.
“You look tired. Come a long way today?”
“Kind of. We go pretty slow because my dad has bad knees. We stopped for breakfast at the Hickory Flats Cemetery, but didn’t linger.”
“We stayed there last night.”
“You did? Was there a young guy there?”
“Actually, yeah!”
“Well, he was still there. He kept packing and unpacking his gear.”
“He was doing that when we were there!”
“Yeah, I teach mentally challenged kids and that’s a huge sign that something’s going on. My instinct was to move on, and my instinct is usually pretty dead on.”

Oh. My. Lanta.

I knew it. I knew there was a Stephen King vibe coming off that lil fella. I would say 98 percent of the people you meet on the trail are a delight, but the other 2 percent are scary AF, my friends.

Biscuits No. 2 walked up the trail to the campsites, my mind like the exploding car behind the badass in an action film in her wake, still reeling at her observation. I sat for a few more minutes, until the sun touched the top of the treeline and threatened to disappear completely. I walked back up to have dinner with Gravy. And maybe two more mugs of wine. And maybe a chewable melatonin.

My entire body was a pool of content, peaceful jelly. I was on the side of a mountain with some of my favorite people on the planet, dulled by a few mild sedatives and downright jubilant. We sat, the four of us, chatting and giggling. Just Matt from his sleeping bag inside the tent. The General balancing in his squatty, collapsible chair. Gravy and I perched on a log dressed in an inch of dirt. Our faces were pink from wind and early spring rays, and the blush that comes from sipping a cheap red blend dispensed from a bladder that once lived inside a box.

The boys were having the same argument they’d been having for three days now: What do you call a group of bears. We’ll call it 45 bears, for good measure. We asked Ridgerunner Lydia, who guessed a pack. I, too, guessed a pack. Herd was thrown out there as a suggestion. Still, the debate raged on for the entirety of our time in Georgia, and via text all the way back to the Midwest. (The answer is actually a sloth, in case your curiosity is killing you.)

A tiny mouse scurried by and earned a huge reaction from our group. People always shudder when I mention the critters known to make their way into the shelters and campsites. But truth be told, they didn’t bother me much, because they weren’t much of a bother. This little guy was the first true wildlife we’d seen up close, and he was gone as fast as he’s arrived.

He was turning in and, after a walk down the trail for a potty break and tooth brushing, so were we. I nestled in next to my husband. “Do you hear the water?” he asked, a few minutes after we’d settled. I did. And that was the last thought I had before I drifted off.

Read about Springer Mountain + Miles 28.3-30.7

Read about Miles 0-6.2

Mindfulness

Drop the damn bananas

July 21, 2016

What if I just let go?
What if I dropped all the weight, right here, right now?
What if I managed to slip away?

Like the majority of my fellow estimated 152 million bloggers pounding the keys somewhere in the world right now, this particular platform is not my primary source of income. [I’ll pause here so you can recover from that shock. We good? OK.] Yes, I have an honest-to-goodness 9-to-5 job in the corporate world. You know, the one. Where women wear smart skirt suits with white tennis shoes and everyone keeps a carpal tunnel brace in their top drawer for days when it’s damp outside. This is just my side gig. My alter ego.

One of the perks of my big girl job is that I get to do a lot of writing and a lot of editing. One of my favorite people to work with is my main man Dr. Dave. You know that dance you do when engaging in a conversation with a hyper-intelligent human being … When you nod on the outside and say things like, “How interesting,” and “Huh. Really?” but inside your brain is like an Amazing Race contestant frantically trying to put the puzzle together? But then, like Steve drawing the final hint on Blue’s Clues (I will never acknowledge Joe), it’s all there. Bam! You get it. And it’s genius. Life-altering even. It’s the type of exchange that’s worth the work because the thought changes you. It expands and alters the makeup of your brain. That’s my entire relationship reading and listening to Dr. Dave. The guy has this gift for inspiring and shaking cores and soothing souls. Sometimes he takes a straight path to deliver his message, but often he invites you along on a series of unexpected U-turns and gravel paths before delivering you to the promise land. To the epiphany. Yeah … he’s one of those people.

Recently, Dr. Dave shared one of his favorite metaphors. It seems that some time ago, in a small village in India, there was an obnoxious monkey population. The primates were so numerous, in fact, the townspeople decided to round them all up and take them to a lovely little monkey farm in the country somewhere, where they would have a better life and live out the rest of their monkey days. To catch them, the people would place a bunch of bananas inside an upside-down bamboo cage with fairly narrow bars. The animals would approach the cage, see the fruit, reach in and grab the banana. With their hands clenched tightly around the fruit, the monkeys couldn’t remove their arm from the cage. The harder and longer they would try, the louder their screams would get. This attracted more curious monkeys who would repeat the same imprisoning process. And thus the animals were had.

Of course the monkeys could have escaped easily if they would have just let go of the fruit. If they’d just drop the damn banana they would be free to go swing with their posse through the mossy trees and throw poo like little jungle punks. But they just couldn’t. They were panicking. They were frozen with fear. They were reacting. They were trapped. Then Dr. Dave went on to define what constitutes a banana for us – that being the feelings or actions or situations in your life that elicit a strong mental or physical response. Probably detrimental. Likely toxic. Definitely negative.

Holding Onto Bananas

After reading Dr. Dave’s piece, I spent nearly my entire 3-mile run the next morning thinking about my bananas; The toxic things that I cling to and the response they trigger in me. The noxious notions that infiltrate my thoughts and ridiculous requests I place on myself.

I hold onto sugar.
Boo hoo, I know. But truly I’ve long battled some sweet, sticky food addiction demons. Growing up, treats and large meals were a mark of celebration. I, in turn, have carried this tradition on to my own family. Frozen yogurt, brownies, greasy gyros from our favorite place … it all adds up to a slippery equation of food + happy = reward. And who doesn’t want to be rewarded? Like, all the time. The problem is I’ve come to a place where those little white granules (perhaps the poop of angels, I hypothesize) now own me. They control me. They take me so high and then drop me on my head. But no matter how many times I tell myself – usually in the haze of a sugar-induced hangover – that I am done, I end up following the syrupy trail right back to the honey pot.

I hold onto perfection.
Real talk for a second. I started an entire blog based on this concept. Based on the pursuit of a perfect balance between all of the parts of myself that battle for time and attention. I want to see the world. I want to stop screaming at my daughters. I want to cook with ingredients I pluck from an organic raised garden bed. I want to kill it at work. I want to be perfect at this blog where I write about my pursuit of perfection. With my body, with my habits, with my profession, with my parenting, I hold onto these unrealistic expectations for myself so tightly that I don’t even know what a feeling of perfection would smell, taste, look or feel like at this point even if I somehow managed to reach it. Sometimes I think it’s just easier to keep looking past where we are rather than live contently in all the messy, dirty, imperfect bits of ourselves. Defining yourself as a work in progress is the ideal guise for an existence riddled with rough edges.

I hold onto fear.
This is a huge one for me. I’ve talked about my anxiety and I’ve talked about my struggles with parenting in this violent world here before, but truly, the terror I live with runs crazy-deep. I attribute at least some of this to the fact that I am a prisoner of push notifications. My job requires me to be online for the majority of the day. My phone, my laptop, my desktop, my television, whatever it is, there’s some horrifying news alert popping up on it. Flashes of events that point to the demise of character and kindness and sanity and love for humanity flood my newsfeed and thus, my mind. In one of my more recent social media-induced meltdowns, my brother (you remember Just Matt) told me to get a grip and remember they’re just leaving out the good stuff.

My thought of the day for you regarding the world we live in … You’re better off not watching the news. It will make you a happier person. Something negative happens and they beat it to death to keep you tuned in. Try shutting it off. The world is full of wonderful people, so many caring and selfless things happen on a daily basis, but that isn’t what anyone focuses on. All any of us can do is help one another and love one another and raise our kids that way and to not let a few bad people keep them from loving every minute of the short life we all get. The kids and I will sometimes pick up a bill in a restaurant for someone. They love it and you have to think that it makes that person’s heart happy and makes them want to pass that feeling along to someone else. Bad things have happened since man was created and always will, but at the end of the day people are good, that just isn’t news. The positives far outweigh the negatives on a daily basis, but just like the evening news, we tend to focus 28 minutes on all of the negative and just set aside the last 2 minutes to talk about how a stranger donated an organ for some child they don’t even know so they can live a happy normal life and love their friends and family. So shut off the crazy people on the news and focus on all the awesome people you are surrounded by on a daily basis, like me for starters.

– he wrote

And he’s right. I know he’s right. But then I go to sleep and have vivid dreams of nuclear attacks and running through crazed streets grasping my sobbing children and all the horrible things the dark parts of our brain push aside during the daylight hours. And I wake up drenched in sweat and succumb to the fear. How can I protect them? What would I do if …? Why is the world so broken? I feel helpless and small and scared to death.

I hold onto my routine.
Ask anyone who’s close to me and they will tell you I live and die by my meticulous schedule. They’ll also tell you it’s annoying AF. Almost any hour of the day I can tell you where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing with about 80 percent accuracy. Any deviation from this cadence requires additional planning to compensate appropriately. Any unplanned deviation has the potential to send me spiraling downward … smoking engine, towering flames, the whole scene. The thing is, it annoys me, too! I swear it does. But it’s a survival mechanism. Unfortunately, to conquer the Everest that is training for a half marathon, dressing and getting 3 children ready to go, working a full day, making dinner, doing baths, menu planning, meditating and getting a semi-decent amount of sleep, only, mind you, to wake up and do the whole damn thing over the next morning, requires a solid plan. Otherwise the wheels just fall right off the wagon. But there’s certainly a strong argument for a little more flexibility. A little less rushing along and a little more “in the moment”. But if I’m really honest, even when I’m cutting loose and playing along with the pull of the universe, I’m still calculating the time lost and required compensations in my head. Maybe that’s just being a mom. Maybe that’s just me as a mom. Maybe I’m a total psycho who needs drugs and liquor.

Free Bird

It’s brutal holding onto these bananas. They’re rotten. And honestly, it’s exhausting. So much of my energy is pumped into fueling these cyclical habits that positively drain me. So, what would happen if I just dropped them? If I let go and pulled my arm back out of the cage? Would I be free? Could escaping anxiety and shedding all that extra weight really be that simple? That obvious? Something I could have just done 5 years ago? Am I held by a trap I set out for myself? I don’t know …

If only bananas weren’t so sweet. You know how I like my sugar.