Tuesday, August 29, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 29

Let's get into today's prompt. It's a long one, but that's because it's my last written prompt. Number 30 is a video. The text below is golden and hopefully inspiring. Enjoy.

Day 29: What is different today than a year ago that you are grateful for?

Everything right now in my life is different than where they were exactly a year ago. In so many good ways. One thing I take pride in is that I can recognize when I'm feeling stagnant, not growing and not happy. I set very high bars and standards for myself and if I'm not at them, things need to change ASAP. The past couple years for me have been constantly moving. Moving from job to job, career field to career field, city to city, state to state, apartment to apartment. I'd think I'd be stationary with a new job, new city and new apartment, ready to settle down, but then shortly after I'd get feelings of regret and "Mmm this isn't right for me." For example, last August around this time, I was working in a parks and recreation job that I really liked but there was zero challenge and room for growth. Discouraging, yes absolutely. I was also living around thirty minutes away, out in the sticks, from any of my friends and family. Having a social life with a job that never gave you weekends off and required you to work usually until six or seven in the evening and holidays, was impossible. Living a tiring drive away from any close fun also made having a social life, impossible. I was becoming unhappy and caught myself in it. 

I remember the day I emailed my landlord telling them I wasn't going to renew my lease and the day I spent after a a rough afternoon at work struggling with a disaster of an accounting system at one of the state parks, stepping up my job search and applying to like ten jobs in one night. Then I started going in for interviews and looking at new apartments come late winter/early spring. There was this glimmer of hope that the end of a rough chapter was ending and the start of a new, better one was beginning to light. I decided to go back to my roots of what I went to school for- journalism, advertising and public relations, and set a goal for myself that I had to find a job that allowed me to write full-time. I just so happened to find an editorial gig in something automotive-related, nailed the interviews and writing tests and started on June 6. I've been at the magazine almost three months now and I'm unbelievably happy, excited to use my talents and degree, proud and relieved. Weeks before my first day at the journalism job, I moved into a charming, new apartment in an awesome neighborhood and for the first time in all the leases I've had- this feels like home. Cue a sigh, cue a smile. My social life is back exactly where I want it to be. Just about all of my best friends are only about a ten minute drive from my front door and going out no longer happens only on Friday or Saturday night for a few, unfulfilling short hours. I also get to spend way more time with my family now since they're just up the road from me. It's such a great feeling all-around.

August 29, 2017 is miles ahead better than August 29, 2016. Despite a few bumps, ruts and wounds- for the first time since I graduated college I can confidently say that I've got my life pieced together and I'm rocking it (or if I want to be brash, I feel like I finally have my shit together). Life is too short to worry about unstable jobs where you're busting hard to make minimal pay, jobs that have overly cocky managers screaming down at you, jobs that don't challenge you or help unleash your fullest potential. It's not worth the time or effort to care about and want someone around who doesn't appreciate you, cheats and accuses then cowardly vanishes rather than sticking with you to work things out. Now is the perfect chance to stop engaging in activities or habits that feel forced or you're not quite married to and don't benefit you in any way whatsoever. You have to pause and question if these habits are going to improve you as a person down the line. It took me awhile to realize all of this and accept it but my gosh I'm grateful I did. Now is the time for aiming sky-high for meaningful, appropriately-fitting jobs where you will shine bright at and own. Now is the time to associate with genuine, quality faces that love you for who you are, support you and want to be there with and encourage you every single step along the way. Now is the time to dump all of your energy and passion (and maybe money) into your hobbies, making it so that you just crave doing that particular skill or craft you fancy, over and over again. 

In 2013, I was in a bad, depressing slump. I hated my job, wasn't in the greatest health, rarely saw my friends and family as much as I wanted to and was loosing interest in many of my hobbies. I felt horrible. That was a dark time. I struggled through it way longer than I should because I failed to recognize how bad it really was and wasn't driven to find an out. Then one day, it clicked and I stopped everything in a desperate effort to better myself and just be happier. Big sacrifices were made but in the end, it was worth it. I used to commute a minimum of four hours a day to my job in Chicago. Key word: minimum. I did this for two and a half years and it was terrible. I met an inspiring friend on the train (Amtrak's Hiawatha, 6:15am going into the Chi, 5:08pm out back to the Mil. Every f*in day.) named Dan Emmons or 'Gatsby' I'd call him. After I decided to cut ties with that dark chapter and go down a new, better path, he said to me:
"The best decision you ever made, was to get off that train."
Take that quote, think about it and maybe apply it to your own life if you feel as if you're struggling. When you're on a set of rails going downhill and you're not happy, get off that train.


On the iPod...


Thursday, August 24, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 28

How's your week going? Can you believe that August is almost over? Unreal, but I'm ready for a fresh month, bring it on. My week has been surprisingly busy outside of work, it's like I haven't been back at my apartment at all since Sunday night. Here's an important question, have you treated yo self lately? I went and got a long deep tissue, hot-stone massage a few nights ago and it was wonderful. So was the walk afterwards through the neighborhood at sunset with a friend and her adorable dog. It's also been a recent wave of huge triumphant success on the DIY front. I fixed a few things on my car, started a woodworking project, changed out the locks on my apartment for $30 (sorry landlord, I'll do it myself instead of paying you $200) and the front suspension upgrade on my aging Camaro was finally finished last night with the help of one of my best friends, Mark. We may have battled with a torque wrench and a snapped socket but we won. We capped off the evening with a raging bonfire and cold craft beer. What's been the worst thing to happen this week? My doctor told me to put the kibosh on rock climbing for awhile as there's a strong probable chance some more cartilage broke off in my right knee. Great..... annnnnnd off to buy a kayak for the meantime!

Day 28: What Fear Are You Grateful For?

Well, this one took me a few minutes to ponder about. Thankfully my coffee maker was brewing at the same time. We all have something we're afraid of. Big fears, little fears, realistic fears, ridiculous fears. For example, I'm terrified of open water. I love being on a boat, kayaking, swimming in a pool- but as soon as I'm forced into some body of water where I can't see anything below me, I freak out. It sucks, because I hope to someday fully conquer that fear. A month ago while up in Door County, I jumped off a sailboat into the lake and didn't feel as scared as had thought. It was a relief. 

True fact, up until about three years ago, I used to be deathly afraid of dogs. Absolutely scared. When I'd be around one or if one would come up to me, I would almost retreat in panic. Why? I remember getting bit and scratched in the middle of night by a babysitter's dog when I was super little. And for whatever reason that experience haunted me for ages. When I got into my adulting years, I realized it was just a stupid, unnecessary thing to be afraid of. Then, during the summer of 2014 while working at a YMCA camp as the Activities Director (Gosh  loved that job), I had a phone interview for a seasonal job out in beautiful Granby, Colorado at YMCA of the Rockies- Snow Mountain Ranch. At the end of the interview I remember being asked "Do you have any interest in working on our dog sledding team?" Without hesitation I immediately answered with "Yes, absolutely!" Even though at the time I was still nervous around dogs. But hey, why not give it a chance....maybe this opportunity that I couldn't pass up, will erase that fear, I thought to myself. 

Yep. That was a really, really, really good decision to commit to that. When I arrived at SMR (Snow Mountain Ranch) in October, after a few weeks of getting settled in and once November rolled in, a few of us had our orientation for this YMCA's dog sledding program. Head musher and Chaplin, Steve Peterson would take families, guests and kids on dog sledding rides throughout the ranch lands. What an amazing experience to provide. Steve taught us all about dogsledding 101, the handling and care of the dogs, how and when they're fed, how to call them, break-up bad behavior, safety risks and considerations, how to operate the sled and the history behind this spirited sport. I also oversaw the riding logistics and grooming of the trails. Nothing beats heading out at 6am, in below-zero temperatures at sunrise to smooth the trails that weave through the woods, up and down hills, on a big snowmobile pulling a roller. It was tranquility like none other. We got to learn all the dogs' names and personalities, from Glacier to Yukon, to Eli, Anna (my favorite) and Tip. All twenty something full-size Alaskan huskies and even three rambunctious puppies-Moose, Aspen and Juniper. Twice a week, from December till March we'd run dogsledding programs at the ranch. It was the best part of my sixth months I spent working and living in Colorado. It was the quintessential demonstration of why teamwork and having faith is important. I'd go back there and a heartbeat and do it all over again. I'm grateful I decided to face that fear of dogs head-on and come out on top not scared anymore. Now I'm desperately trying to figure out how I can have a dog in my flat in Shorewood. Hmmm.

On the iPod...


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 27

How was your Monday? Did you look up at the solar eclipse? Here in Wisconsin we had, well, a full sky of clouds and I didn't get a chance to see the spectacle above in its full mighty. Our publishing company houses an array of diverse, niche publications under one roof, including "Astronomy" and "Discover" magazines, that are both rich in all-things science and awesome. So of course we had to have fun at the office today to mark this rare phenomenon. How? After staring up, hoping for a glimpse at the eclipse, an ice cream truck showed up and parked out front our office entrance. Free ice cream! Yes! However I am super jealous of all you cool cats that got to see the eclipse without a lame obstruction. We're coming into the home stretch of these gratitude prompts with less than a handful to go. Continued thanks to the hundreds of people that keep looking at these gratitude posts, day after day. I hope it inspires you and strikes up some reflection. Let's get to the prompt.

Day 27: What Simple Gesture Are You Grateful For?

Today's prompt asks what simple gesture you're grateful for. This was neat subject to think about. Yeah I'm a big fan of the typical, solid 'handshake-lean-in-pat-on-the-back' gesture when you greet one another...but a good hug is easily one of the best things in the world

Hugs are powerful, very, very powerful. A few years back in 2015 at one of my friend's weddings, I gave a toast and talked for a minute or so about the true importance of a hug. So i found that 'speech' I had jotted down in my journal and pulled a few lines from it for this response.

Why do I love hugs? Because they're suited for any kind of situation or emotion that you're faced with. You could be astronomically happy and receive a hug out of congratulations, lost or worried and receive a hug out of reassurance, seeing a familiar face for the first time in ages and you're ecstatic, or sad and broken and receive a hug that gifts you that needed feeling of comfort and protection. You feel safe in the arms of someone who appreciates you. A hug can last for a few seconds or minutes on end, the length of a hug doesn't dictate its strength. You might be laughing when you hug each other, softly speaking of words of affirmation, or just allowing someone to cry on your shoulder quietly. I'm 27, and yes while I usually do feel and strive to exhibit a confident, strong character- there are times that I just really need hug. And when it happens, to me it's like this instant pick-me-up, feel better remedy. Regardless of the scenario. I'm never, ever ashamed or embarrassed to ask my best friends and family members for a hug and you shouldn't be either. In return, when asked by someone important for a hug, always answer back with open arms. That person asking you may inexplicably need it, and that is your chance to be their supporting, loving hero.

So yeah, go give somebody a hug today and when you do, thank them.


On the iPod...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 26

it's Sunday, I just finished cooking up a stomach-filling breakfast and I've got the Ja Rule station playing on Pandora. Don't judge haha...late 90s/early 2000s hip-hop is legendary. By the way, Ja Rule, where are you? Please return to the scene and deliver. How's your weekend been thus far? Mine has been absolutely splendid. It's been loaded with hanging out with best friends and diving-deep into my hobbies. Yesterday, I finished re-doing and upgrading all the suspension on the front of my project car (I'm convinced I can fix anything now haha), did some serious planning and research for my upcoming Colorado trip (so flippin' stocked), steined-it-up at the beer garden and then spent the evening watching the Packers preseason game with a bunch of folks in Bay View.

Thanks to everyone again, who continues to follow my blog and reach out to me with all sorts of compliments and feedback. Love you all. The goal of these posts is to encourage and spark thoughts and reflection of what important aspects in your life you should really appreciate. Let's get to the gratitude prompt for the day:

Day 26: What Piece of Art Are You Most Grateful For?

Okay, to me, a map is art. Hands-down. I really like maps and keep a box of them in my gear closet. On the walls in my apartment are various photos printed out from trips I've taken, a series of picture frames with vintage national park postcards, various rustic/antique metal signs I've had gifted to me over the years and two paintings of trees hanging up in my bedroom. But the piece of art I have that I'm incredibly grateful for is my map of Iceland, seen above at the top of this post.

Back in the fall (start of winter for them) of 2016 before I picked up my rental 4x4 in Keflavík, I bought this big, detailed map of Iceland to use over the course of the next two weeks. I'd be driving thousands of miles, across the entire country, exploring its vast, intriguing, wild terrain. From venturing to the far east fjords, up to the northern most point of the island, out and about in national parks, in the volcanic Mývatn areas, navigating through Reykjavik and cruising around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula on the east- this map was like my bible for the two-weeks I was there. I never once used a GPS or smart phone, solely just relying on this big map, my guidebook, street signs, word of mouth and a compass that occasionally sat perched atop the Suzuki's dashboard. I never, ever got lost driving around in Iceland. I treated this map like a brick of prized gold. It showed me where the nearest gas stations were, off-road 4x4 detours that took me through even more scenic, adrenaline-filled terrain, and I was able to plan out each day's itinerary by laying out the map and connecting the dots. Oh the tedious, yet doable challenge of trying to navigate your way on a paper map, shifting gears, and gawking at all the scenery out each window. 

This past Christmas, my mom surprised me like no other, when I opened up a wrapped gift certificate to get my Iceland map custom framed. It was a gesture that meant so, so, so much to me. I couldn't believe it. When I went to the framing shop, and the owner wanted to see what he'd be working with, I proudly laid the map out on the drafting table and smiled. I picked out the type of glass it'd be sitting behind and a clean, wooden outer frame. A week later, I got a call and sped to the shop to see the finished result. He brought it out of the back workshop, took it out of the protective foam sheet and my jaw-dropped. There it was, my beloved map, behind glass like a museum piece. I just couldn't stop shaking my head in disbelief and awe. I took it home carefully and hung it up on the wall in my apartment's living room. What's the best about this map, is that it's been used, weathered and abused. Through the glass, you can see wrinkles, hash marks of pen, slight tears at some of the fold-line intersections. I enjoy staring at this map and tracing with my finger the exact route I drove across Iceland, sharing stories and showing friends and family where I went. I'm very grateful for this ragged paper map that guided me through the best adventure I've ever gone on. I often honestly find myself too, standing quietly in front of the map just taking it in, reminiscing and dreaming of a return. 

Oh- I watched the mountaineering film "Meru" on Friday night. WOW. Now all I want to do is pack up my bags and go travel. Thankfully, my core group of backpacking companions and I, just gave the green-light to a trip to Perrot State Park on the western side of Wisco for a weekend in September. Yesssssss. 

Have a great day and cheers,

On the iPod...


Friday, August 18, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 25

Hey it's Friday! Another long week done and gone! What are you all up this weekend? Hopefully fun and exciting things. Try to get outside and soak up some nature too, it's good for you. I'm thinking about on Sunday morning waking up early and hiking some of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail up in the lush Kettle Moraine State Forest. That sounds like a dream. I'm also sooooo looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow, the past few nights have rewarded me with an exhausting severe lack of sleep, even with aiding melatonin pills before bed. So let's get to the twenty-fifth prompt in this writing challenge. The response will be somewhat short because it's Friday night and I want to go enjoy it with some pretty cool people.

Day 25: What Moment This Week Are You Most Grateful For?

Yesterday evening about thirty of us went and booked a banquet room at an awesome restaurant in Wauwatosa for one of my best friend's birthday. Delicious beer, cheesecake, pizzas galore, pasta, garlic bread, salads, more delicious beer- all in the company of some of the most important people in my life. That's a good way to bring a week to a close. Anyways, after desert, a friend came up and she asked how my new job was. I started telling her all about it and she smiled and answered back "Yay! I love it, you look so happy!" It was so nice to hear someone genuinely acknowledge how glad I am to have this new journalism job at the magazine, and be excited for and with me. She made me feel appreciated.Melissa has seen me go through all sorts of life changes since I've known her and to embellish that support she gave me last night, is something I'm grateful for.

Truthfully, this new professional chapter has been the best thing to happen to me in nearly four years. It took me a few years, bouncing between different jobs and career fields, moving places, trying out different professional-y doors that opened. It was exhausting, physically, emotionally, mentally and financially. Earlier this spring I was in a dead-end rut at my last job. It was fun yes, but the pay was horrendously embarrassing and not challenging at all. I needed to land a writing gig, something I was good at and confident at. Some job where I could use what I went to four years of college for, to make that B.A. in Advertising and PR worthy. Now I'm the Assistant Editor at Scale Auto Magazine, writing about, editing, taking and processing photos of model and die-cast cars. I can combine my passion for the automobile with my love of writing, make a good salary with benefits, and have a social life (something I did not have at my last parks and recreation job). I'm so proud of myself right now. I take incredible pride in my job at the magazine. I want to create the best content for it and share it with our niche hobby audience of readers. We just came out with our digital eMagazine which you can read for free! There are two stories in there by yours truly, one about a Porsche hypercar and the other a Ford Fiesta rallycross race car. I also shot the majority of the photos in it, too. We also wrapped up our upcoming October issue which hits newsstands and bookstores in juts a few weeks. Before that? It's mailed around the world to all of our subscribers. It's a truly a good-feels-chills moment, to hold the finished printed version in my own hands, it makes me so, so, grateful for this career I just started. And grateful for everyone who has supported me through it. The best people in life help you and ride with you through it all, they don't just give-up or disappear completely on you when you're working hard to grow into the best version of yourself. You know who else I'm grateful for? Maya Angelou. My journal is filled with her quotes and she was a insanely impressive writer. I'll leave you with this quote, it's one of my favorites by her. She's pure brilliance.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


On the iPod...(here's more quality underground hip-hop for ya)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 24

Last night I left my window open in my bedroom and at just after 5am this morning, I woke up to a chilly breeze blowing in and the sound of rain falling outside. Having gotten absolutely zero sleep the night before, I reset my 5:45am alarm for a later 6:30am wakeup in a bid to get some more Zs. But I couldn't fall asleep again, rather it was relaxing to the fullest extent, to just lay there quietly snug under my comforter and fill my ears with that blissful noise out my window. Mmhmm. Falllllll-ish. Can all mornings could be like this? The weekend is almost here and I'm so excited. Yesterday evening was spent at my friend Nick's shop, hanging out and working on my newly-purchased classic 1981 Honda CB650 motorcycle. Before moving onto today's prompt response, I just have to say how grateful I am to have good friends who share a common hobby and passion. They're easily some of the best, most fun, supportive and loyal people I have in my life. Plus we can all geek out.

Day 24: What Family Member Are You Grateful For Today? 

Every single person in my family I have gigantic appreciation for, like my two-time cancer-beating champion strong mother who I wrote about in a past post. But this post I want to dedicate to my dad. He's the greatest role model I have. This morning on my commute into work, slaving through rush hour traffic and running on maybe...maybe three hours of sleep (that's even an optimistic guess), my dad called me up to check-in on me. Ask how my job was, about the motorcycle I just bought, how I was holding up with a recent struggle I've been fighting through, what my plans were for the weekend and to excitedly tell me about his shopping trip to Costco later today. He also reminded me again, to buy a new phone as my blue aging, front camera-less, overheating cracked iPhone is about to explode. Hooray for procrastination.

The thing I love about my dad the most and am hugely grateful for, is that he constantly gives me the most worthy, thought-out, genuine and honest advice ever. Every time I'm feeling unsure about something, lost, confused or doubtful, I have a conversation with him and walk away feeling relieved, reassured or more confident with whatever next step I planned to take is. He's pushed me through some of the hardest and biggest transitions in life, to help me rise up on top and while he may not always agree with whatever decision I make, he always supports me. Imagine telling your father, "Hey dad, I'm leaving a well-paying journalism job, moving out of my apartment, getting rid of a bunch of stuff and starting a seasonal, contracted environmental education teaching job at a YMCA camp where I'll live in community housing and make maybe $200 a week." That conversation happened in the fall of 2013 and while the initial reception wasn't the warmest, he understood and saw that that move I wanted to make happen, was going to be the best for me and help me figure out who I am and what I really want in life. So he bent over backwards to help me take that leap of faith. Through all sorts of jobs, places I've lived, dabbing in and out of hobbies, relationships, health issues, travels and adventures, Papa Robb has had my back and been the voice of reason and love. I would not be who I am, where I am, doing what I do if it had not been for him being there for me. From hospital trips and teaching me how to drive stick-shift at age fourteen on his brand-new sports car, to moving me out to Colorado and the endless list of epic concerts we've seen.

He's the one who got me into cars when I was younger, filled my music library with the best tunes, encouraged me to try out new activities and step-out of my comfort zone and grow. Sure, we don't agree on politics or who is the better driver, but we have a father-son bond that makes me smile. I love going hiking with him, seeing movies, grabbing lunch, joking about stuff or just sitting by him at the house with a cup of coffee looking out our big glass windows at the snow falling in our backyard while The Doors or The Beatles play on the stereo.

Thanks dad, I love you.


On the iPod...


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. 


Friday, August 11, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 18

I am so glad it's Friday. So, so, so, so glad. It's been a crazy (good kind of) busy week at work and I'm stoked for 4pm to hit and dive into an easy, deadline-less freedom for a few days. I can't help but daydream right now of going out and staying out late tonight with my best friends, sleeping in then waking up without hearing an alarm clock tomorrow morning, lazying around my apartment in sweatpants, cooking a big breakfast, opening all my windows and sipping hot coffee with music playing followed by a walk around Shorewood. That's pure Saturday morning bliss. What's on your schedule for the weekend? Hopefully all sorts of fun stuff. I just went through my cherished daily planner notebook I blogged about a few days ago and smiled when all I saw for the next few days are the names of the amazing people I get to spend time and talk with,  quality me time and enjoyable hobby-front things I'll have a chance to tackle. Now that I finally for the first time in almost four years, have a job that gives me off on weekends, my appreciation from 4pm Friday afternoon till 8am Monday morning has grown incredibly. I can finally build social life outside of work, something that since this past June 6, wasn't possible. It's for sure been one of those weeks though, where I'm just craving the loving company of my friends plus a few cold Deschutes Black Butte Porters or Lakefront IPAs, key word- craving. Liquid encouragement, right? Right.

Also, I'm seriously thinking about getting another tattoo. Very, very, very soon. It's either going to be another tree or something nature related. Maybe a cairn?

Day 18: What Tradition Are You Grateful For?

There are only 136 days until Christmas! Turns out there's a website that tracks that, shocker, right? Anyways, I can't wait for Xmas. I could care less about getting any kind of materialistic gift, hey Mom and Dad I really do mean it when I answer with "I don't need or want anything" when you prod me for gift ideas the last few weeks of December. The only gifts I need every Christmas are the opportunities to spend time with all of my friends and family members. Period. Those are the real, valuable presents. Skiing, ugly sweater parties, egg nog with Bailey's Irish Cream, Christmas music (yes I start listening as soon as I devour the last piece of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner) and just no set-schedule whatsoever.  I'm pretty sure last time I checked, that I have five company holidays off around both Christmas and New Years (and Turkey day too!). Oh that will be such an epic, jolly few weeks of celebrating. Traditions are of paramount importance in our family and they come out in full-force during the holidays, especially Christmas. Every Christmas, our family traditions range from watching the classic, hilarious "Christmas Vacation" to going to mass Christmas Eve where my mother sings the most beautiful sounds I've ever heard. True fact and no shame- the one thing that makes me cry is hearing my mom sing. My dad every year cooks up this monstrous breakfast-for-dinner meal, otherwise known as heaven and then later on Christmas Day our dining room is the place of a very nice, formal family dinner. A laughter-filled game of "Lord of the Rings" Monopoly or Apples to Apples comes after. 

But the most important tradition to me, the one, immaculate tradition grateful for is when my father reads "The Night Before Christmas" to us all before bed. He's done it every, single, year since I've been born. We've used the same pop-up book of Clement Clarke Moore's story, though we're on I think our third or second replacement because, well...Santa gets a little tired after pulling a tab to make him fly up the chimney and he gets stuck. But it's the most sentimental thing to experience. We all sit in front of him in our living room, lights dimmed with our tree lit-up in color and ornaments and hear him narrate. He'll quiz us on what line is next or the order of the reindeer. On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer....and that's all I know without resorting to Google. It's a simple, easy and sweet tradition that I look forward to every December 24. It's a tradition that means so much to my dad, so, so much. We never ask for a chance to read it because that's his thing he proudly does. It's a tradition I cannot wait to proudly do when I have my own family and kids. When we decorate our tree every year, after all the ornaments are up, broken ornaments swept from the floor, lights glowing, train circling around the bottom (I mean come on, you have to have a train)- my dad waits till we're all done and does another little tradition that I can see in his face year, after year, that he gets a sense of pride and happiness from. He quietly strings strands of tinsel on the tree. Just him, no one else in the room. It gives me the chills when I watch it. He told he his dad, once did it too when he was younger. It's honestly probably my favorite thing to watch, every Christmas.  


On the iPod...(because Dave Matthews Band always wins)


Thursday, August 10, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 17

There was a prompt 17 all ready and scheduled to be posted yesterday (Wednesday) but sometimes computers just, well, suck. So that post I finished somehow disappeared and isn't in my drafts folder on here. Lame. But hey, more writing isn't bad. I should be able to piece together a response at breakfast now before I get to my rainy commute. And go!

Day 17: What Touch Are You Grateful For Today? 

Work at the magazine the past four days has been intense. We're in between two deadlines for upcoming issues, I've been red-penning (editing) all sorts of submissions, shooting and editing photos in our studio and finalizing kits (different feature pieces of the magazine) to send-off to our art department. It's busy, busy, busy but it's the kind of busy I so enjoy. The prompt from yesterday brings calm to the storm. What touch am I grateful for? The touch of all the ridiculous holds on a rock wall. I started climbing three and a half years ago and it's since been one of the smartest life decisions I've made to engage in. Growing up, I sucked at pretty much all-things traditional sports. I can't catch or throw and my coordination is embarrassing haha. Rock climbing gave me this relief expression of "Finally, I have a sport I can actually get good at and be proud of."

When I started getting into climbing seriously, buying gear, a membership and dedicating myself to the sport- I was hooked. I use climbing, indoors and outdoors, as an escape from the daily grind, a chance to push myself physically and it's an open door to a whole new batch of best friendships. I think climbing is the best most incredible stress reliever. It's hard to explain through the punching of keys on a keyboard- but when you set your mind to finishing a hard route, breathing, focusing and going slow it's such a rewarding feeling when you grab that finishing hold at the top. I hit the climbing gym last night after work. There was a 5.10+ route at the gym with a set of petite, crimpy, finger-destroying black holds that I on-sighted (climb clean without falling for the very first time without any prior attempts or advice). And if you're not up-to-par on climbing lingo, I did this on an auto-belay which means that if one does get tired or falls, you come right down immediately rather than sitting their in the same spot if someone is belaying you. So in essence, an auto-belay throws a bit more challenge at you because you have to climb perfectly and efficiently otherwise you're done. When I clipped-in to my harness, chalked-up and started climbing, a familiar song came on over the gym's stereo and I instantly felt in my fullest, pure element of focus as I made my way delicately up the wall. I always tell people that when you're in the zone, 150% focused on your climb and you're climbing to a good song playing in your ears, it's like everything else in the world just takes a pause while you're roped-in. You'e slowly making your way up the wall in almost a synchronized dance motion. I killed the route and when I came back down from the top on my two-feet, I un-clipped, sat down to drink some water and quietly thought to myself... "That was solid." Climbing is a morale booster, a self-esteem builder. It's a skill-set and hobby I take so seriously. It's an activity I can set achievable goals and know right away if I'm behind, at them or ahead. There's always room for improvement with climbing and the self-motivation to get better, and better, and better at it fuels me. Climbing has changed my life for the better, it's something I will never, ever give up or stop doing. And I'm beyond grateful for getting into it during the spring of 2014, the amazing loyal friendships it's provided me with, the giant amount of confidence I've acquired from it and making this sport a life-long passion. Now I just need to keep buying more climbing gear...and figure out where to put it all in my apartment.


On the iPod...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 16

I've been changing up a lot of things in my daily routine lately and the resulting feels have been remarkable. I'm proud of myself for it. For example, I've been consciously making a strong effort to distance myself from my phone and it's been incredibly relieving. As the night comes to a close, I plug in my phone to charge in a completely different room away from my bed.  Try it out. It just feels healthy to go to sleep and wake up without having that urge to grab it right away and inundate myself with whatever social media nonsense I could have possibly missed overnight. Don't worry best friends and family, I set-up my phone so that if there's an emergency in the middle of the night I'll be able to hear a few of you call. I've also been going on walks almost every day after work, taking advantage of this cool, new neighborhood I live in. Biking to places around me rather than wasting the gas. I've been reading more, writing more, erasing my kitchen and pantry of crappy, sugar-filled food. I gave up drinking for a month, had a few beers this past weekend and now am leaning back towards forfeiting that again. My daily water intake has jumped and I'm dedicating time each day to just sitting down, by myself and taking some 'Me Time' to reflect on things. I've been getting out with my best friends and family more, going for a walk on my lunch break daily, toying with my car hobby often, rock climbing harder. I've been meal prepping more and pushing myself at work to be the best I can be. But the most important action I've been taking, is stopping and looking at myself in the mirror, quietly, to realize and remind myself of own, great self-worth. That there are a lot of people who do really appreciate and love me for who I am and what I do for them. 

You can't just say you'll make life changes and then not follow through or commit to them. That's just not how that works in your inhibiting yourself from actually growing..

Day 16: What About Your Body Are You Most Grateful For? 

I strive to be fully transparent, forward and honest. So this prompt really got me reflective. It's a topic that I take personally and am actually a bit self-conscious of. It's kind of an open-ended question that could be boom...easily answered by saying this body part or that. But I'm grateful for my entire body, the exact way it is. Well, if my two-surgery-done right knee would be flawless that'd be ideal, but the way I am right, now, I'm grateful for it. 

Yes, I'm skinny, quite skinny to be honest. Not by choice but that's just how I am. Growing up I remember getting made fun of for being too skinny, whether it be in gym class, at the pool or even at summer camp. As I've gotten older, the making fun of eventually stopped to some point though there are still times today where I'll have relatives, friends or coworkers point it out or bring it up as a concern. There's a clear, distinct line between talking about it in a joking manner or not. For example, a few of my best friends have labeled me in our growing friend group the nickname of "Skinny Dude." I'm 100% okay with them saying that because they're purely just having joking fun and they're loyal, respect me for who I am and know that I am in fact, self-conscious about it. The phrases or words that literally make me cringe and shut-down instantly are when I hear "You're too skinny" or "Why are you so thin?" or "You're just skin and bones" or "You need to put some weight and bulk-up." And when I get asked the questions like "Have you lost weight, are you okay?" or "Are you eating?". My self-esteem and confidence immediately collapses, like a switch getting flipped. I'm not anorexic and I get massively offended when people ask me if I am. There are times, that my weight does change, fluctuating by as much as 15-20lbs depending on how busy I am, what activities I'm doing or if I'm just stressed out with life. I always eat, always. Have you ever seen me at breakfast time? It's my favorite meal of the day and I can easily eat four big pancakes, a bowl of fruit, two servings of cereal, toast, eggs, juice and coffee all in one sitting- effortlessly. I can also destroy a large bucket of movie theater, butter popcorn in like ten minutes. The truth is, I was born with a ridiculously high metabolism and burn off a lot of what I eat at each meal. I work out every day, whether it be biking, hiking, rock climbing, and you can bet that after almost every workout, I'm eating some kind of red meat and downing a whey protein shake. But even that doesn't help. I've just learned to live with it and accept it.

A few years ago, I dropped from 165 pounds down to 148lbs in less than a month. I remember going in and out of the clinic, seeing my doctor and having all sorts of blood work and tests done. Nothing was out of the norm and the eventual conclusion was that I have this thing called 'hyperthyroidism' which in easy translation means an extremely over--active thyroid that at times can cause rapid, sudden weight loss. I understood what I was told and continued about my daily life. Yes, it sucks horribly to have to get rid of all your clothes that don't fit you and even today, if I put on something that I bought recently that did fit me and it doesn't now fit me due to a sudden decrease in weight- I get bummed down and discouraged. It really, really, sucks. I keep an eye on my weight on a weekly basis, this up and down poundage isn't going to change anytime soon but I just have to be aware when it gets to that dangerously low level. This past fall, when I was in Iceland for two-weeks, I lost about 12 pounds. I was doing a huge amount of hiking and walking, and I was eating all the glorious food Iceland had to offer (the best lobster and hot dogs ever), but again, just being active with that high metabolism caused that weight drop. Yeah, would it be nice to have more defined muscles? Sure but I'm content and satisfied with me being toned the way I am, right now. But I don't need big, bulbous arms, pecs or a six-pack to be happy or compensate.

So yes, this is something I'm aware of and do struggle with day after day, but I push forward. I'd rather be who I am right now, the me I'm grateful for- in shape, active, eating healthy and able to constantly partake in my hobbies that I take so much pride in, like rock climbing, skiing, backpacking and hiking without feeling weak, sluggish or exhausted. And I'm proud of that.


On the iPod...