More than Muscle Memory

I am back in the saddle, literally. And damn, it feels great.

It’s been a couple years since I rode horses regularly.  Work, family, my health, finances—ahh, life– all contributed to keeping me out of the barn.

But, I woke too many mornings during this no-horse phase, wishing I was riding. And I kept practicing my two-point position on my bike. Clearly, I wasn’t through with a hobby (an addiction?) I had practiced most of my adult life.

Why is it that some girls never outgrow their love-of-horses-phase-of-life?

After 4 lessons in two weeks, I am in. 100%.

Barn basics quickly came back: brushing, tacking, mounting, handling, riding (walk-trot-canter-low jumps) and yes, a little nerves. As my trainer J says, the muscle memory was still there. And in each lesson, that memory and confidence was a bit stronger. I certainly couldn’t pick up a brand new sport this quickly.

After several visits, I realize it is more than the horses, the lift I get from riding that brought me back. I think I also relished going back to a familiar place for the mental memories I have of the barn, the people, the friends I have made. I feel welcome, like it’s been days since I have been there, not a year.

Resuming riding is also a short reminder of cliché’s—life is short, time goes fast, etc etc.

If there is something you love to do, DO IT. If you want to try something new, make the time now for yourself, your interests, yourself. The joy it might bring is worth it.

The journey continues.

C

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Anatomy of a Bike Ride

Recently I was riding my bike before work—a morning far too beautiful to spend in the gym. Suddenly, I realized I was aware of only my music, my heartbeat, and my hard but steady breathing. It was as if I was riding with blinders on, totally unaware of the landscape, houses, or traffic on either side of me. I was literally going through the motions, just trying to complete my ride.

I was riding like a machine, but this workout was only accomplishing the caloric burn-off goal. No joy. Stress, supposedly released through the pedals. But shoulders to my ears said otherwise.

Breathe out. Phewwww. I slowed up slightly, came back to the reality of what I was doing, then continued moving forward.

I thought about how our weekend rides with friends are much more relaxing, longer, and fun. We ride but can talk, laugh, stop for a few photos. Yes, this ride was shorter in distance, time, and purpose…. but it should be enjoyed too.

Becoming AWARE of my thoughts, my ride, my motions, my morning, my job, my conversations, my night, it makes them all much more real. So busy, it is easy to forget to live the minutes, the details. Sometimes it takes a moment like on my bike to remember that.

Some times we all want to pass fast. Now, without thinking. But when we continually move too quickly we can miss the subtle moments, the quiet ones, some critical ones. We become sloppy, often unaware of the larger picture, thinking only of the task or situation right in front of us.

We should remember that it’s the single moments that make up our life, not just the motions. The Blur.

The journey continues.

C

Tuesday, Bluesday

IMGP4519Over the last couple months, I realized that Tuesday is the hardest day of the week for me to focus.

I used to think it was Monday that I dreaded. I muddled through Sunday night: I double-checked the upcoming family and work schedule, sorted through weekend emails, planned the week. But by Monday morning, I found I am often invigorated to start the work week. It’s usually filled with calls, meetings, travel, a few social gatherings.

Then Tuesday hits. Blah. I finally realized there was a negative Tuesday power in my routine. The work week isn’t half over, my energy is sapped. And why, why are there are more Tuesday problems than ANY other day in the week? That is my drag day, filling spare moments in the kitchen, longing to flatline that stress.

I decided–let’s change it! To conquer my Bluesday, I am going to try to change up how I approach that day. I am going to schedule time to work with a friend or at the library, meet someone for lunch, specifically work on a fun, new project, set aside time to write or take pictures, vary my exercise routine. Today’s visit to the dentist does not count.

Hopefully this positive attitude will spike the Tuesday mood, flow into Wednesday and the rest of the week. I think the key to successfully working solo most of the time is figuring the triggers to anti-productive, negative attitudes and behavior. Then change it.

What tricks do you have to break up the week?

The journey continues.

C

Winter Inspiration for Fun

A few weeks ago—before our deep freeze– we had the PERFECT Illinois winter snowy day. That day I cross country skied and shot the pictures I posted on this blog a couple weeks ago. My 16 year old son Ronan and his friends sledded all that afternoon.  I was secretly smiling that the boys adventures . Are you ever too old to sled?

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My 3 kids so long ago, with one of our Aussie, playing in the snow

“There were a lot of kids there. I feel like the parents were looking at all of us weird, since we were older,” Ronan said when he got home, after he said how much fun they had. And how tired they were.

“No way,” I replied. “I remember when we used to take all of you sledding when you were younger.

“ I would watch all the older kids on the hills, playing, having fun. I was so glad that they were having a blast outside, rather than watching TV or playing video games. That they still let themselves be kids.”

So, one simple idea for me this year is to find time to have more fun. Step away from the screens and daily responsibilities, just to let loose and laugh.

C

6 Simple Ways to Maintain Balance (or Sanity) this Holiday Season

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Walking Zoe & Cali last week

Many of you know that my dad passed away this year. I have to count on 3 hands my friends who are also celebrating their first holidays with one fewer parent. It isn’t easy, this “Year of Firsts”. As we move through December, I know I will need to find some time to step away from the myriad of activities and stress that comes with the holiday season.

Even in a normal year, the end of year pressures can be great. Here are 6 easy ideas to try for a 30-60 minute inexpensive escape.

  1. Spend an hour alone in a coffee shop, with NO electronic media unless you need music to distract from other patrons. Write, read, stare out the window.
  2. Go for a winter walk. 
  3. Practice yoga.  According to The Mayo Clinic, yoga helps to relieve stress, find focus, and improve flexibility.  Ironically, I just got an offer today to sign up for a free 21-day session on Wanderlust, starting in January.   Feel free to join up, if you want to start a yoga practice at home.
  4. If you only have 5-10 minutes to spare, meditation offers many similar benefits. If you think you can’t meditate, all the more reason you should try it. (I was one of those people; I can’t sit still!) Simply sit or lay quietly, close your eyes, hands facing up to accept more energy from around you. TRY to clear your mind, but if a thought wanders in, accept it and let it flow on. Start to breathe deeper—to your belly and collar bones. A really informative post about the benefits of meditation can be found on the Live and Dare website.
  5. Pay it forward. Whether you work with an organization or do a simple gesture to a stranger, your spirit will soar.
  6. Dance party–turn up your music to your favorite song and move those feet! Or just sing along. If you are by yourself, no one will ever know if you have no rhythm or sing off-key.

You are not alone in stress or loss this year. Know that it is okay to say NO to attending events. Every party, gathering, obligation does not require a yes response. Not overloading is the key to enjoying the next 30 days.

C

P.S.  Dogs encourage you to go out and walk all year round.  There are many of shelter dogs and organizations willing to help match you with your perfect Furrever friend this holiday season.

Conquering Men’s Uninvited Advances

Thank you, Donald Trump. Yes, thank you. Since that video of you surfaced talking about “grabbing her pussy” and the myriad of similar follow-up accusations, the conversation of how women are treated, taunted, poked, and prodded with bodies and eyes has become an open conversation.

Women are angry. Women are vocal. Girls and women like myself are talking about acts that happened to us years or a recent month past. We are admitting to ourselves things we might have buried or denied happened (TOO MANY TIMES) to us.

Trump’s misogynistic behavior has brought to front of my mind harmful words and hurtful ongoing occurrences that have impacted my body image, my eating habits, my relationships with others, my thoughts on sex, fashion, and the world around me since I was a child.

I planned to include some of these events in this post. However, after I wrote them all out, I am so furious and disgusted—and even a little ashamed though I did NOTHING to deserve these slivers of my history—at things that were done and said to me growing up that I have chosen to not include any specifics. Taken singly, they may not seem overwhelming. But collectively they have been staggering to my psyche.

They simmer in my brain, clog my throat with bile, frustrate my soul, and cannot heal that wounded child who stays hidden in my heart. Until now, when viewed all together on paper, they boil over and transform me. Stronger. Purified, like the jack pine tree pine cones that only burst during wildfires. Birth.

I am buoyed up by the women who surround me. Also, by those who have shared their revelations on TV and in the papers this week. I hope that we can gather those memories, pile them high only to light afire, then stomp over them in a dance of fury. These occurrences are part of our histories, our being, but they cannot control us. We will then kick them aside and embrace a new reality of acceptance of ourselves. And other women, with the knowledge that many we know have been forced upon and exposed to, verbally and physically.

I hope that this dialogue continues. I hope that this language of rape, of overpowering, of taking what IS NOT WANTED continues. I hope  it whispers breaths of anger and NO into our daughters, our friends, our silent neighbors, our families. And those tentacles of anger and hope reach into other countries, where women have far less freedom to say NO than here.

C

Weekend Photography Fun

Last Sunday was an incredibly beautiful autumn day in the Chicago suburbs.  With a few absolutely free hours, a bike, and my Pentax K-3, it was time for a workout and then some mind release.  What a way to get lost, while finding myself, biking in Lakewood Forest Preserve.

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Love testing the photography “rules” of shooting into the sun, unusual angles, etc.

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I HATE being lost. But, can you see the teeny path I followed to the silo?