Wednesday, August 16, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 23

Hopefully you enjoyed yesterday's prompt about a story I'm grateful for that taught me how to be way more prepared in the outdoors. Happy Wednesday, the week is now half-way over! I feel as if the start of this week dragged on painfully slow and now we're on that final slope to the finish. I'm stoked for the next few days. All-things on the social life front are looking pretty spectacular till I head to bed on Sunday night. From birthday dinners, family time, catching up with best friends, greasily working on both my newly-purchased classic motorcycle and project car (hobby things!), to diving head-first into my training for my upcoming backpacking trip. I also can't wait to thrive in some quality relaxing me time. I'm also strongly considering taking a distant trip next weekend to get away and do some hiking. We'll see. Needless to say, there's a lot to look forward to happening very soon. Let's get to gratitude prompt number 23.

Day 23: What Season Are You Grateful For? 

The answer is obvious if you're been reading these gratitude prompts on my blog the past twenty-three days, but now there's an actual question that focuses on it! I'm so, so, so grateful for fall. And i'm unbelievably excited for it to arrive here in just a couple weeks. I guess the official autumnal equinox or start of this glorious season is September 22. 

I'm grateful for the season of fall for a latitude of reasons. It's the main part of the year when I strive get outside as much as possible to hike and camp. Let's just put this out on the table, fall is the ideal time for any kind of outdoor activity. No crowds, cooler temperatures, explosive colors and no mosquitos. That sounds perfect to me. A few of my backpacking friends and I are already trying to get a few weekends jotted down on our calendars for adventures near and far. I'm aching to get back up to Governor Thompson State Park located within northern Wisconsin in the mighty Peshtigo River State Forest (pictured atop) and head even further north to Craig Lake State Park in the UP of Michigan. I took a memorable backpacking trip there in the fall of 2013 and I've been really wanting to go back there for years. It's the most-remote, hardest-to-access state park in Michigan. Some of the greatest hikes around Milwaukee are just ming-blowing when the fall colors take over? Ever been to the Schlitz Audubon Center in late October? Wow. 

The traditions and social happenings that take place during the fall months are easily some of the most enjoyable too. From weekly gatherings at friends' houses to watch the Packers games, group dinners, weddings, drives, camping trips, game and movie nights, meets at coffee shops, chili cook-offs and more. I looked at my schedule planner this morning and I've got almost every weekend from now until middle November booked with some kind of social amazement scribbled down. I'm pumped. Mmhmm. 

Fall's overall relaxing mood is something I crave too. It feels like everything slows down to this breathable, calm pace. I can't wait to on a weekend morning, wake up, throw on jeans and a flannel or hoodie, and walk around the neighborhood with a thermos of tea in-hand, the leaves brushing around on the ground and falling from the trees. I can't wait to get in my car or on my motorcycle and go for a ride when the temperatures drop and the sun sets. I can't wait to sit in a local coffee shop in front of a big window, with an engaging book and read for hours while sipping on something pumpkin flavored. Not to forget, the sunsets that fill the sky during fall are jaw-dropping.

AND...AND my favorite holiday of Halloween happens in the fall! Costume parties, scary movie evenings, carving pumpkins, haunted houses, decorations galore and consuming pounds of candy corn.


On the iPod...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 22

How's your Tuesday going? Hopefully it's the very best. I continue to enjoyably soak up this new morning ritual I have of journaling while sitting at the table for breakfast before heading out to work. Starting off a new, fresh day by reflecting, refocusing and writing away is wonderful. Try it, yo! Last night I stepped-up my training regimen for my upcoming backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park come October. After a solid session rock climbing, I was craving some exhausting cardio. When I got home, I threw on my 50lb weight vest and went for an hour walk through the neighborhood at upbeat pace. What made this late evening workout even better? I got to chat on the phone with a great friend  the entire time about all things life. Prompt number 22 cues a good response today, so let's do it.

Day 22: What Story Are You Grateful For? 

I can't help but think back to my very first time doing a solo backpacking trip. Which was both so memorably fun but also a bit of a disaster filled with  mistakes. It was during the winter of 2014 and I had just recently reacquired a strong thirst for the outdoors and nature. I was transitioning between careers and when I wasn't working or hanging out, I was pretty much always hiking or camping somewhere. Literally every weekend, outside as much as possible.

I decided that I wanted to break out of my comfort zone and really test myself by planning a winter backpacking trip to the northern Wisconsin/Michigan Upper Peninsula (da Yoop/UP!) border in the vast Menominee River State Recreation Area. I wasn't able to get an extra day off work and it was quite a drive to reach the trailhead so I drove up very early on a February, Saturday morning. When I got out of the car it was 18 degrees. I had done plenty of summer and a little bit of fall camping but this would be my first time fully-exposed to the elements of winter. I was a ecstatic though, I had all of my outdoor gear (or so I thought) and tons of energy. I strapped on my snowshoes, loaded up my pack and hiked a few hours out into wilderness. Shortly before sunset, I reached a flat ridge above the Menominee River, that was bustling below. Across the river, I could see northern Michigan. It was such a cool sight. I was straight exhausted though, underestimating how difficult it is to snowshoe through knee-deep snow with the a heavy pack (of course I over-packed) on your back. Mistake number one, make sure you're in the best physical shape you can be before taking on such endeavor. 

Mistake number two, do not haul two, one-gallon jugs of water in the backcountry when it's below freezing. The water had completely froze by the time I pitched my tent and I was left with two solid-ice plastic milk jugs to haul back with me to my car the next afternoon (idiot, Robby, idiot move). Mistake number three, sure you have the right gear. At this time of my life when I was getting more into the outdoors, my twenty-four year-old self  made a foolish assumption that the majority of my cheapo fall and summer camping/hiking gear would suffice in the cold. Wrong, wrong, dead wrong. The only thing that did? My brand-new, three-season, expensive backpacking tent. I didn't have waterproof boots, a down sleeping bag rated to below-zero, down jackets and outer shells, a footprint for my tent or a sleeping pad. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, looking at my watch and it was around 2AM. I grabbed my thermometer, squinted and read the temperature had reached close to -14. Why did I wake up? My feet were numb and I couldn't move them. I stripped my damp socks off and shining a headlamp on them, it seemed like frost bite had started. In a slight panic (which you should never do) I desperately grabbed as much warm clothing as I could and one of those silver, reflective emergency blankets you see on sale at gas stations, and wrapped it around my feet.

I eventually regained feeling in my feet and was able to get back to sleep, but at the same time I felt like a complete moron. Temperatures were in the low single digits the next crisp morning but it was incredibly quiet, beautiful and serene. The sky the most genuine shade of rich blue ever. Up until this overnight, I had never experienced raw wilderness at its unleashed max power. The prior night was filled with billions of stars above, the crashing sounds of the icy river and waterfalls below my tent, and frequent howling of wolves off in the distance. I wasn't scared though, rather just stuck in this constant amazement. Being able to wake up, unzip your tent and see Northern Michigan  across the water out my vestibule is a vision I will never forget. I'm grateful that I have a story to tell like this, because it made me realize a lot of the stupid, amateur mistakes I made. You can bet since that fist solo backpacking trip that I've gone out and dropped serious cash on real outdoor gear for all sorts of different activities and conditions. I'd rather not run into those same mishaps in the backcountry again. I revisit this story often, smile and laugh.


On the iPod...(because I love the meaning behind this song)


Monday, August 14, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 21

Wow it's already 2pm! I'm taking my lunch (and finishing this post I wrote this AM) right now because my productivity at work today has been through the roof and it's… only Monday? I'm either going to blame it on all the strong coffee I've had today or the fact that at breakfast this morning, I bought my plane tickets to Colorado. Colorado! I'm going backpacking in Rocky Mount National Park this coming October. Stay tuned for a blog post about that trip itinerary soon. 

So it's a new week! Hopefully you all had a great weekend. Last night my dad, two younger brothers and I went to see the Sunday night short track races at legendary Slinger Speedway. It's Americana at its finest. It's very loud, very enjoyable and it's a family tradition we do every year. Again, stressing the importance and gratitude of traditions. Around 11pm last night when I got back home, I went for a walk the neighborhood to cap-off the solid weekend. It was so relaxing, and right before I went to bed I pulled out my weekly planner that I have and starting filling the empty day's agendas with all sorts of fun stuff planned for the next upcoming days. I'm looking forward to a fresh week. My gut tells me it's going to be a good, memorable one :). Emojis are okay to use right? Mmhmm. Onwards to day 21 of this '30 Days of Gratitude' prompt. Nine more to go! 

Day 21: What small thing that you use daily are you grateful for? 

Today's prompt I thought was pretty clever and my response was easy- a journal. I catch myself always writing about something. Whether it be a little reminder note on recycled scratch paper, a to-do list at work I make every morning, a post on this blog or a full-blown series of paragraphs in my own journal. I find the greatest satisfaction and joy in writing. To me, it's the most therapeutic and calming way to take whatever's going on in your head and heart, and analyze it through paper and pen. I almost always have a journal with me. There's my travel journal, weathered and battered that comes with me on every outdoor adventure, then my own personal journal that gets its pages scribed and filled up pretty quickly, there's even a tiny notebook in my car I occasionally use at stoplights or if I'm stuck in traffic. Writing is a powerful addiction, and I'm glad I do it

I seriously started getting into writing during the summer of 2007, when I went on a youth mission trip through our local church to a village called San Jose El Tesoro, in Guatemala's Yalpemech region. Every night, I would write a few pages about what we did, what I saw, and how I felt about this unfiltered, raw exposure to life in third-world Guatemala. It was an incredible, incredible trip, and at seventeen years old- it lit my spark for traveling. As the years went by I kept up journaling, on trips near and far, but it was mainly solely about travel writing. Then in, 2011 when I lived in Vietnam for four months in college, one of my best friends with me at the time, Gabe, always had this pocket-size journal that he would carry around with him. He'd write down reflections, conversations with people familiar and strangers, doodles of things he saw-  he did this all the time. Gabe would also accidentally leave it behind at nearly every bar or restaurant that we went to haha. It was purely inspiring seeing how engaged Gabe was with his little diary-style journal. Then in 2013, I decided to give it a shot and went out to my local book store to buy a new journal. I committed that I'd write in it as much as humanly possible. Four years later, today I still find myself writing almost daily. I'll fill the pages with triumphant things, quotes I like, rants, recollections, reflections, raves, song lyrics that struck a note personally, ideas, lists, trip plans and the every-so-often scrapbook-esque memento taped in on a blank page. You know that cliche question of "If you had to grab one thing out of your home if it was on fire, what would it be?" Yep, you bet it'd be my journal.

Writing really helps me. I always encourage other people to start writing in a journal or if they've slacked away from it- get back at it. Pronto. You get a chance to see just how much you've grown and changed for the better when you go back to journals from years ago and reminisce. Plus, that feeling of scribbling the last possible word on a page and having to go buy a new, clean-slate journal is a reward like no other. So try it out, go buy a journal, sit down and just write about what's on your mind, or draw some crazy sketch of something in front of you, or make a list of places you want to visit this fall or brainstorm a series of steps you can follow to make yourself happier, whatever it is- just, write.


On the iPod...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 20

Good morning and happy Sunday to all of you! First, I want to wish a big thank you to everyone who has been following along  on my blog with these '30 Days of Gratitude' prompts. The number of people reading each post continues to rise, day after day, and I've been really enjoying everyone reaching out to tell me they're own unique reply to the prompt. It's been quite inspiring. The replies I had people message or tell to me, from yesterday's prompt were awesome. Last night, I went with five of my friends I rock climb with to a microbrew on Milwaukee's East Side that opened up just shy of a year ago. It's called Good City and their beer is absolutely delicious. We all sat in front of one of the big, open garage doors, talking and laughing all night. You can surely bet that after four of their dark, strong porters I was thoroughly enjoying my Saturday evening. This AM, I happily yelled out to my Amazon Echo "Alexa, play the Dave Matthews Band station on Pandora," started cooking breakfast and sat down to write this post. Another perfect morning in Shorewood with a sweet day planned ahead.

Pour yourself out a cup of coffee and let's look at today's prompt.

Day 20: What Knowledge Are You Grateful For?

We all have something we know a ton about and are proud of that wealthy bank of knowledge stored away above in our head. Maybe you have an extensive recollection of what exactly goes into brewing the best batch of homemade beer, or you know how to memorize a monologue for an upcoming play or you can sit down and explain the entire history of the Civil War. Maybe you know what exact exercises one needs to do to regain strength in a damaged joint, or you know how to sail a sailboat in high winds, or you can tell what all entails designing, coding and publishing an app for a smart phone or website layout. Whatever it is, we all have this giant batch knowledge about some niche thing that we find fascinating or of up-most importance to us. It's super cool, I think.

For me, it's cars, my knowledge about cars. I'm a huge car geek and I'm not ashamed of it at all. I'm grateful that I know the history of cars, how they work, how to drive them to their limits, how to fix them if something goes wrong and how to buy a car. One of my most treasured things to do, is work on my car.

I've been obsessed with cars since I was a young child, when my mom would push me out in a stroller to the corner or Range Line and Brown Deer Road to watch cars go by. I remember getting Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars as rewards for potty training and you guess correctly that I had one of those cliche city road rugs in my bedroom growing up. I remember reading more car magazines like 'Car and Driver' or 'Motor Trend'  in middle school than actual books required for English class. My middle school friends and I would sit around and compare 0-60mph times and top speeds of cars, because when you're eleven years old, those were the only two things that mattered. I also remember before getting my license, sneaking my parents car out of the garage and driving around the neighborhood. Sorry but not sorry haha, consider it early practice. In high school, I worked jobs at a big Toyota dealership and then a used, European luxury car dealership as a detailer. Then I got my 2001 Chevrolet Camaro after finishing sophomore year of high school, that was and still is my pride and join. Some 16 years later I still have it, and I'm damn proud I do.

Since getting my license, I've made a super strong effort to learn as much as I can about cars and what it takes to keep them in tip-top mechanical shape. I've watched YouTube videos, had friends show me how to work on stuff, read how-to guides in magazines and books and just straight-up gone into fixing something purely trial-and-error. I figure if it all comes apart, it can be put back together again like Legos right? Right. Well, maybe. It started with simply changing out burnt-out light bulbs and oil changes to now, installing exhaust systems and doing body work and at the moment- replacing the entire suspension on a car. I love it. It's always a constant challenge that you have to complete, because well, then you're car-less. I think it's crucial for us to have some kind of a DIY mindset. Take it into your own hands and fix it, rather than paying someone an astronomical amount to do so. Sure, some stuff I just cannot do in my own driveway because I lack the tools, a lift, or it's just too dangerous to do on an amateur level, but I'd confidently say 80-90% of the work that gets done on my two cars, I do on my own. It saves me a HUGE amount of money and time. Yesterday, I took the entire front bumper off my Saab station wagon to replace a broken headlight ballast, repaired some slight-rust forming and changed out the batteries in my remote. It only took me a few hours and a fraction of what a dealership would charge you. It's fun to just experiment and take apart your car, to see all that goes into making those wheels spin. Later this afternoon, I'll be deep underneath my Camaro replacing suspension parts, with a Leinenkugel Summer Shandy in one hand.

But my knowledge isn't just for me. I tremendously love sharing my knowledge of cars with my friends, family and strangers. I've gone with people to buy cars, driven half-way across town in the middle of night to help someone change her flat tire, I've cleaned and hand-waxed other people's cars, replaced batteries. There's a reason I keep a tool kit in the back of my own ride. I love explaining/showing to people how to fix something or how something works on a car, because it helps them out.

So think about what set of knowledge you have to be grateful for, and share it with the world.

Have a perfect Sunday and cheers,

On the iPod...


Saturday, August 12, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 19

Hah, you know what sucks about adulting? Not being able to sleep in on weekends as late as you used to do when you were a youth. I fell asleep around 11pm the night before and hoped to sleep in, well, till at least 10am...nope that'd didn't happen and rarely does anymore. Wide awake at 7am, hey-o. But the plus side is that I've got a full Saturday ahead of me to enjoy. I got invited out to breakfast with three of my best friends at a joint in downtown Milwaukee called "Brunch." Three cups of coffee, blueberry banana pancakes, a flight of bacon (yes you read that  right) and all sorts of catching up, laughing and chatting. That's an appreciated way to start my weekend. I'm grateful for mornings like this one. Last night I decided to actually stay in and do a "Me Night." Turns out tonight is going to be the night filled with beer-y festivities and good people. A night to myself was very much needed after this past week as by Friday afternoon I was quickly running out of steam. I got home, made dinner and dedicated some time to some reflecting and refocusing. Temperatures crept down into the upper 40s last night and I had every single window open in my apartment. I sat at the table in front of my bay windows and kept writing away in my journal. Writing continues to be a hugely beneficial way to just relax and take whatever is storming around in your head and dissect it.

Have you ever had someone important in your life give you advice that really stands out to you, opens your eyes and then you immediately jot it down? Maybe you put it on a post-it-note that gets slapped to your front door or folded in your wallet, forcing you to always look or penned in on a page your journal. I talk with one of my best friends, Dan who now lives in Washington D.C., every week. It's something on my schedule I really look forward. For some eleven years now, since early high school, he's had my back. He's been ridiculously supportive, not afraid to call me out if I'm acting foolish or rash, encouraged and pushed me to do whatever it takes to be the best version of myself. I'm incredibly lucky to have him as a best friend. Anyway, we were talking a few days ago and he said this to me:
"Now is the time to take control, not to let it go. Escapism is the coward's way out. The weak person's way out. You are not a weak person so don't act like one." 
This piece of advice is golden. Pure, especially relevant gold. Reflect on that. 

On to today's prompt.

Day 19: What Book Are You Grateful For?

My favorite book is "Into the Wild" by adventure Jon Krakauer who also wrote "Into Thin Air," an intense recollection about the mountaineering disaster on Everest that happened in 1997. When I dive into a Krakauer book, I cannot put it down. I find myself rereading "Into the Wild," whenever I'm in need of a wanderlust inspiration boost. The first copy I bought of it, I picked up at a bootleg book store in Hoi Ann, Vietnam back in 2011. I remember paying under $1 USD for it and not being able to read some lines because the original paperback, was raggedly duplicated with a copy machine haha. When I returned to the states, I bought a proper, genuine version of it. The book today that I'm grateful of, is Paulo Coehlo's "The Alchemist.' One of my best friends, Chadd, recommended I read it as a pick-me-up. So I went last night and bought it at Barnes and Noble, poured my self a mug of tea, took a hot epsom salt bath and started reading it in the tub. Treat yo self.. I'm only about forty pages into it but I'm hooked. I've never had a book, this early in the game suck me in like this. It's like these pages are just clicking and so many times already, I've stopped, gone back and re-read a line of text and pondered about it. A few lines I adore?
"It's this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That's the world's greatest lie."
"Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own."
"It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting."
Gosh this book is good! I'm going to hammer-out some more pages before tonight's fun. I hope you have a perfect Saturday.