Category Archives: Cream & Sugar

India. Oh India.

It was utterly crazy and completely incredible. Overwhelming and intense in some moments, connected and inspiring in others.

We sat around at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib and talked politics with a Sikh leader and chatted with a group of middle school girls eager to practice their English with Americans. We came within feet of the Dalai Lama and felt the power of his compassion wash over the crowd of people awaiting his teaching. We met amazing person after amazing person.

I absolutely loved it.

 

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I know many of you are eagerly awaiting photos from me and I promise that I am ON it. I am back in my office and plugging away at the pages-long to-do list that I left behind. But I ask your patience just a little longer and feel compelled to just put it out there that emailing me six times a day will not, in fact, speed up my process. Well intentioned, I know, but still not particularly helpful. Deep breaths…your photos are coming! And I am as eager as you are to share them with you!

Thank you for being patient!!

 

August has arrived suddenly and I admit that it took me somewhat by surprise. July was full of visitors and adventures and truly felt like summer in all its splendor, complete with campfires and good food and the ringing laughter of friends. The days have been long and I’ve gloried in late evening runs in the forest as the shadows stretch taut in golden light that has seemed to hover, reluctant to yield to the night.

In summers past, I’ve slowly bowed under the weight of my workload grown heavy and bursting with the wedding season, eventually supplanting the woodsy runs and evenings on the deck with extended  hours at my computer, not realizing that creativity requires rest and fuel to thrive. I vowed that this year would be different, that I would discipline myself to protect the stores of energy required to flourish, to create, to offer my loved ones and my clients the best I have to give. It’s been a struggle at times, counterintuitive to step away from work to be more productive, to set aside guilt (and perhaps a bit of ego?) at allowing my work day to end after eight or ten hours rather than twelve or fifteen. It’s the dirty little secret about entrepreneurship that goes largely unspoken: that there is always more work to do and it is up to you, and you alone, as business owner to draw the line. That part of responsible and sustainable entrepreneurship rests on the ability to draw that line and step away so that day after day it is possible to truly show up and do your best work.

So this summer, when a long lost friend came back into my life after more than twenty years, I relished our hours of conversation over good food and great beer and a few ice cream cones without guilt. When our dear friends made the eight hour drive from their home to ours to spend a long weekend “glamping” in our backyard to introduce their daughter to the joys of sleeping in a tent, I closed my office door and opened myself to the cool coastal breeze and the hilarity of a toddler discovering the wider world. When the opportunity to  lay my own head down beneath the veil of a tent wall beside the roar of a rushing river and in the shadow of a glorious mountain came, it was without hesitation that I grabbed my journal and my camera and the hand of that amazing man I married and we set out for Baxter to soak in white water and scramble on Katahdin.

August has arrived suddenly and I admit that I am feeling the very first fleeting twinges of craving the crisp air of fall, despite last year’s long winter. Soon the leaves will start to show yellow at their tips and the pumpkins still green on their vines will deepen into burnt orange. The bikes and skateboards littering our neighbors’ yards will get stowed as the kids head back to school and our attention will return to the routines we shrugged off during our summer fling with the fleeting warmth. Soon the summer will end and another autumn will begin and the cycle will continue to its next season, unyielding.

But not yet.

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Our guide from the Kennebec…

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Showing Lisa around Maine…complete with lobster rolls at the Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster, ice cream custard from Mainely Custard, and a stop at the Harbor Fish Market before she headed home!

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Justin ran the Bear Brook trail marathon…which was somewhere around 29 mi rather than the traditional 26.2…technically an ultra, right?
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Seriously…those red curls. ‘Nuff said.
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Justin and I met while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail back in 2003. While he completed the more than 2,000 mile trek and had his moment on Mt. Katahdin, I had to end my hike short of the summit. She’s a glorious mountain and we had a phenomenal hike up after a day spent paddling on the Penobscot and camping by the river.

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“I have created fire!”

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In my book, there is simply nothing in the world so glorious as waking to the sound and sights of misty moving water. Nothing.

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It might not be the end of a thru-hike for us, but the sign is still pretty cool! Especially knowing that approximately 1,800 miles south of where we were standing is a little A.T. shelter where we once said hello for the very first time, not realizing that we’d just changed the trajectory of our lives.

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Go, my friends, and soak in the last of the summer sun!!!

 

Seek The Joy

“Seek the Joy”

I read the bumper sticker on the car in front of me with mingled annoyance and longing. I’d love to go out and “seek the joy”, I thought, but some of us have responsibilities and can’t just spend all of our time playing. Harrumph. We have errands to run. Toilet paper to buy and such. Growl, grumpy growl. You know, work to do. And work, by definition, isn’t supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be work. So there. {Insert juvenile tongue-sticking-out here}

 

Or not.

 

While I have a bit of irritation with such buzz-phrases as “seek the joy” and “follow your passion” {I mean, c’mon…yeah, yeah, yeah, but what does that MEAN??}, admittedly, there can be a nugget of good sense and applicability tucked into the cliche. Maybe there really is a bit more joy, a touch more fun, to be sought in the mundane realities of day-to-day living.

Dan Harris released his book 10% Happier  earlier this year. While I haven’t read it and in this case am not referring to meditation practice, the title, the idea, of being 10% happier really struck me. What if I could infuse just a tiny bit, any percentage at all, more happiness into my life by simply looking for small, incremental shifts in how I do things? What if I spent the $3 and five minutes it takes to buy a Starbucks latte when it comes time to do errands? I know this isn’t much to most people, but stopping for coffee first sort of turns “errand-running” into “jaunt around town”…something about that warm “cuppa” really feels like a huge treat to me and if I decide to begin with that, I find myself actually looking forward to errands! And every single day, some portion of my workday either doesn’t require a computer at all or simply requires word processing and a precise view of color calibration isn’t necessary. What if, instead of going through the usual motions and doing them at my desk, I grouped those tasks and did them outside? What if I even grouped them into things to be done on the deck and things to be done at the beach?  I live in coastal Maine for crying out loud…there is simply NOWHERE better in the summer and I am a five minute drive from our local beach.

So “Operation: Squeeze the Joy” has been declared and is officially underway.

No more going through the motions. No task left unquestioned. How can we squeeze a little more fun into this? House cleaning? Turn the music up first, even if it’s just a 10 minute sweep and dishes. Walking Tess? We do it together and take the time to hold hands, point out the neighborhood peonies, and growing gardens, and fresh coats of paint. An unexpected Saturday off? No more catching up on laundry or mindlessly checking off the to-do list…pull out the map, look for a state park or a mountain or a whitewater river and jump in the car and head toward it.

Campfires beat out television any day of the week.

There is something in this that is simple mindfulness, basic “awakeness”- an awareness of what is at hand and a slowing down long enough to notice, to ask ourselves if it can be better, more joyful, more engaging, more rewarding, more compassionate, no matter how menial. There is something to the old Gretchen Rubin quote, “The days are long, but the years are short” that is just plain ol’ true…the days slip away and it’s so easy for one to blur into the next until years have gone by, a lifetime has gone by. I want to pause and notice where I can, to make real effort in that direction every single day. But I know that some days will just fly, just blur because I am merely human. I want that blur to be a happy one, a contented one, a meaningful one.

I think that begins with Operation: Squeeze the Joy.

 

Join me, won’t you? How do you squeeze more fun into your day to day? I can use all the help and suggestions you have, so please share!

 

 

 

In the last month, I’ve flown over 8,000 miles, taken up two new sports (muay thai and Brazilian jiujitsu!), got a spanky new tattoo, finished my first real knitting project, and spring finally came to Maine after a long, cold winter! While I did a less-than-stellar job at documenting ALL of it as I went along, I thought I’d share a few bits and pieces…

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Have you ever heard of a holz hausen? It’s a method for stacking firewood in a beehive shape. We were intrigued after admiring the cylindrical stacks of a home we pass all summer long on our way to the farmer’s market. After googling our little brains out, we {and by “we” of course, you do realize I mean “Justin” right?} got started!

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In the midst of our holz hausen intrigues, I ran off and got a lovely new tattoo! Scott at Sanctuary Tattoo in Portland did an absolutely phenomenal job bringing to life my convoluted vision…he is a true artist in every sense! I’m ridiculously in love with it, if that’s not weird to admit out loud?

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And then I made not one, but TWO trips to Texas…there was family and work and play involved, and my brother and I snuck off one afternoon for a quick beer at the famous Floores Country Store

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No trip to Texas would be complete without at least some of my Mom’s menagerie making an appearance…you know how I love the fur-babies!

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I maintain that there is not a THING wrong with the classic white wine spritzer…especially not when it’s 90+ degrees outside!

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My mom snagged this shot of my brother, Mat, and I!

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I got off the plane from Texas to discover that while I was away, the wasteland of mud that was the Maine I’d left behind and gone through a transformation, bursting forth with life and color! I was delighted, also, to find that the many families of chipmunks that we harbor (c’mon…how can anyone resist those adorable cheeks!?!?!?) had left a few of the tulip bulbs I’d purchased at last fall’s Common Ground Fair uneaten! Huzzah!

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Don’t you love that yellow-green that happens in spring? SO bright!!!!

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Gratuitious shot of a favorite nook in our house…this image serves no purpose whatsoever.

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Between trips, Justin and I participated in the Trail Running Festival at Pineland Farms!We both have longer races coming up later in the year and this event had distances that worked perfectly with where we are in our training schedules! I ran the 10k on Saturday and Justin ran the 25k on Sunday. What a fantastic event! Seriously, if you are into this kind of thing, check out next year’s race, you won’t be sorry!

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While I was doing the 10k, there was also the “canicross 5k” where people could bring their dogs along for the run! I was so glad Justin snagged some shots of the dogs…HILARIOUS!!!! Please note the absence of a certain fluffy orange and white dog…we would definitely end up carrying her for the last 4.5k and, well, that just gets embarrassing.

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Our efforts were rewarded with water bottles…

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…and BEER! Yay for races that give you beer as an incentive!

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Justin’s training partner, Kevin, was doing this race as well, so he had a partner in crime to get into trouble with over the course of his 16 mi or so! Don’t you love how shaggy his hair is? I love it…it gets totally crazy sometimes which makes me super jealous, and it just fits Justin’s sense of humor so well. He keeps playing with the idea of shaving the top so that it’s an extreme mullet and then walking around downtown Portland asking strangers for directions…don’t think he won’t do it folks, simply for his own amusement.

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And what on earth would be the point of all that running if not ICE CREAM?!?!? Tis the season….

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In other news, we recently decided we needed a living room on our back deck. The warm months here are fleeting and we are initiating a plan of “sneaky fun” this year wherein we squeeze extra joy and fun into every moment possible (such as doing non-computer work on the deck in the sunshine rather than holed up inside my office!)…we think this is a brilliant plan and have purchased new patio furniture to prove it.

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Speaking of orange and white fluffy dogs…enjoy the fluff while it’s there…someone’s getting her summer shave next week!

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Aaaaand, we finish where we started…this time with the completed holz hausen! {It turns out, as we later discovered, that it’s actually NOT the best way to season wood, so we’ve added another cord stacked in the traditional manner, in case you were considering building one of these beauties yourself!}

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Good times, y’all!

Be Still.

Such a simple directive, right? Be still. Be still. Be still.

So why is it so crazy hard to do?

Between grocery lists and household tasks and emails to answer and goals to reach, the chatter in my brain is constant and unceasing. It keeps me in never-ending motion as I rush from one thing to the next, updating Facebook in the checkout line, scribbling writing ideas in my journal while I wait for images to upload, saving my phone conversations for multi-tasking car rides.

Be still.

I am a better me when I cultivate stillness. I am more patient, more forgiving, more productive, more focused. I am a better listener, a better wife, a better friend. I am happier and more grateful.

I am more PRESENT.

When I imagine being still, I immediately think of meditation. Of sitting in unmoving silence and focusing on the rhythm of my breath. Which is amazing and which I am unswervingly convinced has enormous merit as I have worked to establish a meditation practice that works for me over the past several months.

But what if stillness doesn’t always look still?

I am never EVER more still than when I look upon a river. From a raft or a kayak or the river bank, the sight and roar of thousands of gallons of water tumbling over rock and riverbed quiets me. My frenetic mind stills to crystal clear focus as the irresistible current sweeps aside worry and stress and the ever-beeping demands of emails and texts and social media. It washes me clean of the “shoulds” and “supposed tos” and “not good enoughs” and “but what ifs.”

It wakes me up and opens my eyes and fills my heart beyond the reach of distraction. It tunes me in to the primeval  pulse of life and death and existence and refuses to let me shy away, to retreat into the mundane.

The call of the mountains, the rustle of the trees, the roar of the river, the thunder on the hills. It’s a different stillness than I find on my meditation cushion, but a stillness nonetheless.

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