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Making the move to Whitefish, Montana… and to a new blog!

Hi everyone… I know I’ve been slacking on the blog front lately, but it’s for good reason—I promise! I am SO proud to introduce a new website that Sean and I have created together: TwoSticksAndABoard.com! Two sticks—that’s me, on skis! The board is Sean, of course.

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The Mollie Shambeau Show has served me well these past three years… but it’s time to move in the direction my life is taking me. Life isn’t The Mollie Shambeau Show anymore—life is about Sean and I both, taking on adventures and exploring life together. My personality and writing style (and budding photography skills, I must say!) are still the same—and I will carry them with me on this new venture.

I’m proud to present our first post on the new website, all about the fact that after years of striving for this goal, Sean and I are finally moving to Whitefish, Montana: http://www.twosticksandaboard.com/2013/03/whitefish-montana/

I hope that those of you who are subscribers will subscribe to this new blog. I’ve been out of blogging for the past few months, trying to figure out this collaboration and what it meant for me. Eventually this URL will redirect to the new site, but I wanted to tell you all first. I’m proud to say I’m 100% excited on where this will take us… hopefully you’ll come along for the ride?

Thanks, as always, for your support of all we do!

XOXO,
Mollie

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Lole White Yoga in the Utah State Capitol

There are times in our lives when we get to experience something that is bigger than ourselves. Bigger than our body, our mind, and our own spirit. Lole White Yoga at the Utah State Capitol last night was one of those things. What an incredible event to participate in! There was something so dynamic between a yoga session, in white, dedicated to peace, with a setting that—although beautiful in its own right—houses such a contrasting, stressful atmosphere most days. I felt as if the whole time we were infusing peaceful energy into the offices, conference rooms and great halls of the Capitol, and at the same time, into ourselves. At one point, the instructor Elena Brower told us to do just that—I remember she said something like, “The energy will be so powerful in here tomorrow when they get to work, they won’t know what to do with it!”

Here’s a photo of the venue before we started:

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Elena was a refreshing instructor, and I felt fortunate to be able to take a class from her. Her practice went smoothly and she was funny, her tone was gentle, and she was respectful of silence when silence was necessary. And, one of the BEST parts about this event was the view skyward. The dome of the capitol is literally painted like a sky. If only every ceiling of every yoga studio could be so intricate and peaceful! I usually don’t have my eyes open in Savasana (the final resting pose where you lay on your back and soak up all the goodness of your practice), but I couldn’t keep them closed for this one!

IMG_8104 copy WEBAnd while we yoga’ed inside, outside was slick and icy (yes, that sheen is actually ice!).

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Thank you to the entire Lole team for making this event possible! For more information on Lole’s White Yoga Tour, click here! Here we are sporting our new Lole white tanks… such a fun group!

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The “Sunday Market,” redefined

On our first morning of exploring, Sean and I went to the Karakol Livestock Market, one of the largest livestock markets in Central Asia. The sun was barely up and there was a slight blue tint to the world as the daylight was breaking. I felt it necessary to edit these photos in black and white, because truly, I felt as if we’d taken a step back in time. Couple that with the fact that we were still experiencing culture shock in a big way and you have a formula for an intense first day.

Activity starts in the wee hours of the morning, and people from all over the region, including some who travel down from Kazakstan, come to this market specifically for live animals–sheep, horses, cows, etc. And although Karakol is the country’s third largest city, it is still operating in some instances like it did many years ago with basic bartering of goods and in this case, animals.

They come to the market early, some with the intent to sell and be out, some wanting to buy, and then resell later in the day to someone else for a higher price. Essentially, if you want the best prices, you go early and buy livestock and then sell it for a higher price at some point throughout the day. There are some men who make most of their living using this technique. Our guide from CBT Karakol, Azamat, was very knowledgable on the market although he didn’t accompany us into the thick of it (and after going in and nearly getting trampled by cows and run over by car tires and smashed in crowds of people, we see why!).

I love this photo where you can see this girl has worn a fashionable coat, boots and perhaps a dress or skirt to the livestock market.

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The women’s investment in their looks–even at times like this–just blows me away. They’re are so many beautiful women here… And not that I didn’t expect it, but as I said before its just crazy with the dichotomy of fancy clothes with the run down architecture. Another guide of ours, Kas, put it best when he said,”I think it’s in our blood [as nomadic people] to always operate as if we will be moving tomorrow.” When he said that, everything really clicked and made sense for me.

Putting the day’s earnings into the trunk of a car…

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You can’t see it here, but Sean’s jacket is bright yellow. Can we say, “sore thumb”?!

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I wish I had a better photo that truly captures the magnitude of what this market is… there were so many people!IMG_0024

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As the eagle flies…

This is Talgar and his 9-year-old Golden Eagle, Tumara.

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Talgar is one of only about 50 remaining Eagle Men in Kyrgyzstan. Yes, you read correctly; the job title is actually Eagle Man. Talgar is an Eagle Man by trade, a tradition passed down in his family for generations. Years ago, a village’s Eagle Man was treated like a king. To be able to hunt with one’s eagle meant that one could potentially bring in enough game for an entire village.

Today, with the advent of grocery stores and meat markets, eagle men are less relevant. But yet, Talgar is humbled and honored to practice this age-old tradition of his forefathers and make a living for his family from the hunting and tourist attraction aspects of what he does.

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At the age of 12, Talgar had been training alongside his father–also an Eagle Man–as one of only side children in the family who was interested in the trade. Some local sheepherders told him that there was a nest of eagles in the mountains nearby. He found the nest and watched it for three days to see the types of food the mother would bring to her young. After the mother brought a fox to the nest, Talgar knew the offspring would be strong, and it was time to capture one of the eagles for training. He brought the eagle home and trained her, rewarding her as she captured prey, showing the eagle its role.

What’s interesting is that eagles will only answer to one master in their entire lifetime. Also, it’s important to speak and act toward the eagle with respect and kindness, because if you make the eagle mad or feel as if she is not worthy, she will turn her back on her master and never listen to him again!

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Talgar says that Tumara has given him a purpose in life. He is also proud that one of his sons is showing an interest in someday carrying on the family tradition of becoming an Eagle Man.

One of the benefits to meeting this interesting man is the opportunity to hold the eagle. As in many situations like this, Sean was quick to offer up the opportunity to me! I was nervous–even though Tumara only weighs six pounds, you can tell she is vicious when she wants to be. Nearby chickens in a chicken coop were squawking uncontrollably when the eagle’s face mask was off… Clearly she rules the household!

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Our first days in Kyrgyzstan: Culture shock and awe

Merry Christmas, everyone! We hope today brings you mountains of joy and good times with family. Over here on the other side of the world, Christmas isn’t so popular in a country that’s approximately 80% Muslim… but rest assured we’re counting our blessings this holiday season—we are so grateful to be able to experience Kyrgyzstan’s dynamic culture.

Before I start sharing our photos, I want to address a common question: Where is Kyrgyzstan? Allow me to enlighten. It’s a country in central Asia bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan,Tajikistan and China. If you’re one of the many that thought Kazakhstan was a made-up place for the movie, Borat, you will be surprised to know it exists, and it’s actually a very large country… right above Kyrgyzstan. The main influences in Kyrgyzstan are the Kazaks and the Russians on the northern side around Bishkek and Karakol (where we are currently), and the Uzbeks in the southern region around Osh (where we’re headed on the 31st).

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Now that we’ve got our geography lesson down for the day, here are a few photos we’re ready to share…

Me, in Bishkek’s city square, happy to be off airplanes and out of airports.

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These huge trees line most of the main roads in Kyrgyzstan. We don’t know exactly why the bottom of the trunks are white, but it makes for good reflectors when you’re driving at night.

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The Kyrgyz flag, painted on the side of a hill. The symbol on their flag is called a түндүк, or tündük, which is the name for the crown of a yurt—the country’s traditional architectural structure. The forty rays shooting out from the sun represent the 40 tribes of Kyrgyzstan that united against the Mongols in the ancient epic, “Manas.” (It’s longer than Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey!)IMG_5246

Breathtaking mountains in every direction…

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In the fishing villages of the Issyk Kul region of Kyrgyzstan, locals sell their wares (typically fish, honey and jams) on the side of the road.IMG_5280

In traditional Kyrgyz culture, the donkey is viewed as a “free animal,” meaning that when people need it, they can use it and when they’re finished, they turn the donkey out to the streets. This boy is using the donkey to pull his cart through the streets of one of the northeastern villages.
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The Russian influence from years past is abundant in the larger cities and villages. Even this car pays homage to old military vehicles.IMG_5376

These red rocks—called Jety-Orguz, or Seven Bulls—are found in a canyon just outside Karakol… similar to what we see in Zion, the abundance of iron in the rock gives them their red-orange color. When we saw them, the sun was just rising over the mountains, and they seemed to glow! You may count seven, or eight or more “bulls” shown here, but seven is a holy number in this region, thus it was named Seven Bulls.
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It’s a common game to ask people How Many Bulls Can You See? when they visit the Seven Bulls… as shown here, grafitied on the side of a deserted building nearby.

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Deserted Russian buildings and businesses still haunt even the deepest canyons of Kyrgyzstan.

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The 36-hour Endeavor

When I left off, I was saying how we didn’t have any TV entertainment for the whole 10 hour flight… Yeah that was horrible. I don’t consider myself a TV addict or anything… We don’t even have cable at home. But seriously? I hadn’t even packed a book because I was banking on having movies! Oh well– three games of Scrabble, 1 game of Settlers of Catan and lots of staring at the TV screen willing it to work later, we made it. True to airport form, Moscow’s was stifling hot, and again, I found myself stripped down to my tank top while everyone around me was in their fur coats. I must have hot blood or something…

We arrived in Moscow at 8:30am and our flight to Kyrgyzstan didn’t leave till 10:55pm. Carry the two… yep that’s over 14 hours in an airport. There was no Delta lounge– only business class lounges that cost $50/person for three hours. We found an “oasis” with carpet where people were sleeping on the floor and decided that it looked to be the most comfortable place around (for free!). Lucky for me, I’d packed my Thermarest in my carryon… That was an incredible asset because I didn’t have to lay on the floor. When I was done, Sean caught some sleep too.

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Russian trinkets:

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Again… It was a lot of waiting. Waiting. Waiting. I think for this trip in particular, knowing what we knew about the country and how risky it is to get sick (sterile, quality medical care is hard to come by and the risk of HIV is high with needles being reused, etc.) we both freaked ourselves out a little bit… and we had 14 hours to dwell on it! This is by far the most foreign place Sean or I have ever been and I think that’s working against us in some respects. But, when it comes to food (especially after our Cook Island food poisoning in 2010) it is always good to be wary.

Oh, and maybe this is common in a lot of European airports (?) but there is a ton of smoking in the F terminal in Moscow. They have designated areas, but there nothing to enclose them. You stand inside this yellow duct tape square on the ground but your nonsmoking friend is hanging out a few steps away. I guess it keeps them somewhat segregated from us nonsmokers but still– I think I take for granted Smoke-Free America.

Finally, our flight took off and we slept most of the way. Upon arrival, we got our bags (which all arrived–no gaping holes thank God) and walked out of the security area to a PACKED waiting area. People were nearly on top of each other at the barrier waiting for friends and loved ones to arrive. Taxi drivers were eager to give us a ride (its a very common profession here to drive taxi) but we had prehired a young man named Kas and his brother in law Ulan to drive us the six hours (yep– six more hours of travel!) to Karakol, the country’s third largest city set deep in the mountains. Kas found us (how could you miss us with our bright clothing, really?) and we were relieved to speak to someone who spoke our language. As it was still dark, they drove us into Bishkek and we waited out the light in a small sweets shop and drank some coffee and asked a million questions about life on this side of the world. Everyone (including the ladies at the sweets shop) is so interested in us and what we’re doing here. Obviously, not many Americans hit up this side of the world on a regular basis.

Once the light came, we took a tour of the city and stopped to see some local monuments. The guards who stand to guard the flag in the city square were changing ranks and it was cool to see them switch. Again, these are all iPhone photos as Internet isn’t reliable and I’m blogging from my phone! More photos from our real camera will come soon.

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Then, we were off. Kas and Ulan were so kind to stop along the way for us to shoot photos. It was very Romania-esque with the crazy drivers passing whenever they feel like it. Basically, if you want to drive here you just buy a license and start- no drivers education required. One of the biggest surprises for me was the dichotomy on how people spend their money. On one hand, they have high standards of dress. The women all have beautiful coats with fur around the collars– some in full fur coats. Lots of boots, many with high heels. Lovely scarves and chic hats– it’s so fun to people watch! On the other hand, structurally speaking, it seems that people here do not invest in buildings and mechanics as everything is “run down” by American standards. Still, things are livable and the country is on the upswing, but we were speaking with an Australian we met who works here and he mentioned that mentality too, how many Kyrgys people don’t even have “repairs” in their business plan as they’ll run the structure into the ground before they invest in sustainability. Commerce is picking up though, especially after the two recent revolutions. It’s exciting to speak with people like Kas who are on the other end of the spectrum, running reliable, tourism-based businesses and doing well for themselves. This country has a long way to go, but still has come a long way from where it used to be!

By the end of the drive, Sean and I were exhausted from all the travel and despite protests for tea time from our sweet guesthouse caretaker Jamilia, we excused ourselves and went straight to sleep. It was 7:00pm! Dad– I think we beat you this time! The feeling of being horizontal and closing my eyes was amazing–I was grateful we made it in one piece.

And so it begins… (with a gaping hole)

(Note: Normally I would post pictures but we haven’t found good Internet yet. I will when I can– believe me, we have a TON already!)

Holy crap that took forever. I have never spent so much time traveling to get somewhere in all my life. Let me start at the beginning with the first half of the story…

Sean and I left Waupaca first thing on Wednesday morning in a rental car we’d picked up from Appleton the night before. We had a smooth drive down to O’Hare in Chicago and flew soon thereafter to New York for an overnight layover. We stayed at the Hampton Inn JFK (pretty decent hotel with nice shuttles). Before we’d even arrived at the hotel though, we noticed that my ski bag–my BRAND NEW ski bag, mind you–had a gaping hole in it. Like, it looked like an animal had attacked it or something. Completely unsalvageable for a trip like this.

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In fact an animal had not attacked it–the baggage people at JFK so kindly decided to shove it down the regular baggage carousel rather than use the oversize baggage door for my clearly oversized baggage. It got stuck and BAM gaping hole happened. So, after dinner we headed back to JFK where the kind folks at Delta refunded the $250 for the ski bag, plus a $100 voucher for our trouble and we were off in a cab to Emilio’s Ski Shop on Queens Blvd. where he had a couple versions of the same bag in stock. We left my mangled bag with Emilio, in hopes some kid will enjoy it for what it is, and I left with a brand spankin’ new GREEN ski bag. Thanks Delta, for making a crappy situation less crappy! Oh, and by this point, The Great Gombu (read: a cold) had officially found me again, somehow, and I was a coughing, sneezing mess. Luckily with all the running around I had time to pick up enough cold medicines to last me a lifetime (or at least a trip to Kyrgyzstan).

The next morning we took the shuttle to the airport and lugged all of our baggage into the line for Aeroflot Airlines. While everyone else stood there in their fur coats and cozy sweaters and scarves (very stylish and very Russian), I had stripped down to my tank top for fear I was literally on fire–I was sweating so bad! No good trip starts without a good sweat, right?

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Somehow, we made it through the process without having to pay $150 for our fifth bag full of ski gear for the local communities of Kyrgyzstan–probably a bonus from the Universe for our ski bag troubles the night before. Once through security, we had a little downtime before our flight, during which time we met Matt and his wife, who were serving time with the Peace Corps in–yep you guessed it–Kyrgyzstan. It was really nice to talk to them about their experience in the country and tips for how to get around. And we asked a TON of questions. When we asked about what to eat, they told us to always order a dish called Lagman (it’s like Pad Thai)– if we did that, we’d be OK. Also, they prepared us for what will be a starch overload–noodles, bread, more noodles and more bread. Good thing we’re totally OK with that.

And at last, we boarded the plane and took off on a ten hour flight into the great unknown, headed for Kyrgyzstan, via Moscow. And to our dismay, we happened to be sitting in one of the five rows of seats in which the personal TV entertainments systems WEREN’T WORKING. Seriously, that actually happened.

Thank God for travel scrabble…

Part two (the 36 hour endeavor) coming soon!

The Next Busby Adventure: Kyrgyzstan

Not a day goes by without Sean and I questioning why we decided to take a trip to Kyrgyzstan. We knew we wanted to take a backcountry ski/snowboard expedition to Asia, and it would have been so easy to go someplace like Japan—but easy isn’t always the route we take. One thing is for sure: Kyrgyzstan won’t be “easy.”

Located in central Asia below Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan was known a few years back for the revolution they were going through. Today, the country is the first democratic nation in central Asia (perhaps the only?), and although they are still figuring things out we’ve heard incredible things from the folks we’ve spoke to who’ve traveled there, and skied there.

As always, our trip incorporates an element of outreach. We are bringing over ski/snowboard goodies to give to the local villagers to promote winter sports, as well as things (Osprey Packs, Goal Zero, Adventure Medical Kits, Spark R&D etc.) for backcountry guides, as we will be helping them understand avalanche awareness and safe backcountry travel techniques.

Here’s me, waiting in line for Aeroflot Airlines with the mountain of Osprey bags:

Kyrgyzstan Expedition

Once we set our sights on the destination (the country is 95% mountainous—what more could we ask for?) Sean went about contacting every person he could find that had traveled to Kyrgyzstan. He has gathered so much information for this trip and we feel so fortunate to be hooked up with the “right crowd” rather than go at it on our own. Although I’m sure there will be questionable parts, aren’t there always when you travel internationally? We feel informed and smart about the folks we’re traveling with and the families—yes, families—we’re staying with.

Today, we have a 12.5 hour flight from JFK to Moscow and then another four hour flight to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Not sure how we’ll pass the 10 hour layover we have in Moscow, but hopefully I can provide another update then.

As always, it will be an adventure we’ll never forget. Stay tuned!

Actively pursuing the balance

I get this a lot: Your life is so interesting! You’re so lucky that you get to travel and do all these cool things! The answer is yes. I feel extremely fortunate for my job and my lifestyle and the ability to be mobile. I’ve been in California for the past week, and just last night, flew to Portland for some meetings in the Pacific Northwest. When I return to California, Sean and I will spend Thanksgiving in southern Utah, and then head back home for a week or so before the first Riding On Insulin camp of the season hits and BAM! Back to Portland, off to Southern California again, and then flying to Wisconsin before the holidays.

Fortunate, yes. Perfectly balanced? No.

This past week has been a whirlwind of emailing, to-do-list-crossing-off, and to-do-list-creation. I have so many ideas and things to do that I am consistently finding myself overwhemled. Better to be overwhelmed than with not enough options, but STILL. It gets hard.

I wanted to write about this today, because as I was stepping into the shower at my hotel here, I started thinking about my whole room—they’d put me in a handicap accessible room. There are bars all over the bathroom, and a wide walkway to the bed. I actually called down to reception and told them I didn’t need this big of a room if they had a King size bed somewhere else.

But this room has a purpose. There is always someone who has it harder than me. Always. WAY harder in most cases. Take yesterday for example. It was World Diabetes Day. A “celebration” that spreads awareness for one of the most manageable diseases out there, and yet still one of the most debilitating diseases when it comes to lifestyle. Do you count every single carb that passes your lips? Do you know the ratio of insulin you should have versus carbs? Do you have to think about how exercise has an effect on the hormones in your body? (Many of you from the T1D community might have said yes, as a parent or PWD yourself!) But to the rest of you? No. You don’t. You don’t have to do any of those things if you don’t want to, and I don’t either. I don’t need this handicap room, but it has proven to be my necessary reminder.

No matter how hard my BioChemistry, Microbiology and Anatomy/Physiology gets… no matter how many long days of school, work and life I put in, there is always someone else who has to work harder to do the same things I do. Always.

So am I fortunate? Yes, I am. I’m actively pursuing a life balance where I remember that when times get tough. Being able to balance the travel with school and work—making sure I’m giving attention where attention is due. And oh yeah—I’m married! I have a relationship with a man I love that requires attention and gratitude. And perhaps it’s those relationships that matter the most. Don’t forget the people you life with… and don’t forget the friends who support you. When you think about someone randomly, send them a text saying you did. Sit down and have coffee with a friend. Share your frustrations and your fears. We are not in this alone, and in times when it really gets hard to push forward, you need someone to lean on.

And above all else? When you need help, ask for it. To me, I consistently ask God, the universe, life forces—whatever you want to call it—because I believe I have them by my side through this journey. I ask them constantly… it’s just a matter of remembering that they do answer, and they are helping. I am so grateful for that assistance.

Lots of big thoughts for this lovely Thursday morning, huh? Hope your brain didn’t explode with inspiration. And if it did, just pick up the pieces, put them back in, and strive for that balance. Remember you’re fortunate to have what you do, you’re not alone, and life doesn’t have to be so hard… ask for help when you need it!

Finding Balance

Warding off The Great Gombu

It strikes in the blink of an eye; one minute you’re fine, and the next, you’ve got a sore throat worth complaining about. Before you know it, your head feels like it’s being compressed between two bookends and your voice sounds like you’ve been addicted to cigarettes for 30 years. (Or, if you’re a FRIENDS fan, you might be like Phoebe and enjoy having that new, sexy deep voice. Watch that episode here for a good laugh!) The Great Gombu is in full swing, and if you haven’t contracted the common-cold-of-2012, then it’s probably stalking you and waiting for the most inconvenient time to strike. DON’T LET IT GETCHA!

As I sit here with my nose plugged with Kleenex, I encourage you to ward off The Great Gombu at all expense, especially if you’ve got holiday travel plans on the horizon. I am, by no means, a medical professional (although I do consider myself extremely wise on many subjects), but I want to tell you what I’ve been doing to get rid of a cold. Use this information at your own risk. I repeat—I AM NOT A DOCTOR. Just a really smart blogger with an interest in feeling better.

  • Step 1: I’m attempting to de-stress. Do you work on the weekends even if you’re not required to? Yeah. Me too. This weekend, I made a concerted effort to NOT work, and it’s something I’m going to keep trying to implement into my life. We all need time off, even when we whole-heartedly love our jobs. Take time out for family, for exercise and healthy eating. This is easier said than done, so remember that it will take practice and diligence to get in the habit of not checking emails on the weekend. The iPhone can be a horrible instigator.
  • Step 2: I drink Emergen-C when I’m feeling crappy. This stuff is packed with vitamins that amp up your immune system. I could list them all here, or I could just tell you I drink this instead of orange juice because it has less sugar and more good stuff. (I like the orange flavor best.)
  • Step 3: I take mushroom pills. Brittany heard I got The Gombu, and immediately told me about these mushroom pills that have been helping her ward it off for weeks. Even when she’s not feeling sick, she takes one per day for preventative purposes. You should consult a doctor before committing to these (again, I’m not a doctor!)… but I will be keeping these in my repertoire, especially while traveling to make sure I stay on top of my game.
  • Step 4: I take IB Profen liberally. After years of depending on DayQuil for situations like this, I realized I didn’t have to be spending all that money on the name-brand pills when IB Profen does the trick. As an anti-inflammatory medicine, it makes the world feel a little less like things are closing in on you. That compression I was feeling in my skull was averted with a regimen of IB Profen.
  • Step 5: When things get extreme (which they did for me), pull out your over-the-counter arsenal. Two medicines that I use are Mucinex (it gets the phlegm moving) and Tylenol Cold Nightime. The Mucinex is my daytime drug of choice, and I take the Tylenol to help me sleep at night, which is KEY when you’re coughing up a storm.

Obviously, you need to strike a fine balance between all these things for fear of over-dosing in your quest to feel better. Consult a doctor and use common sense. Now if you excuse me, I’m off to blow my nose, pop some IB, and continue to battle The Great Gombu. What tips do you have to get rid of a cold, especially while traveling?

 

 

Goal Zero: Lighting up the devastation from Hurricane Sandy

If you’re a regular reader, you know that the majority of my posts center on the things in my life that I find inspirational. Today’s post is about a company Sean and I wholeheartedly believe in, doing something for the better good—for hurricane relief on the east coast. In light of the darkness many families are experiencing, Goal Zero is going the extra mile to help victims of Hurricane Sandy keep the lights on the same way we operate devices in the Travel Queen: With solar power.

For starters, Goal Zero is just a cool company. When you walk through their eco-conscious doors, a rock climbing wall greets you on your right, while solar charging stations for electronic devices await you in the waiting area. Their employees are light-hearted, socially and environmentally conscious, and incredibly educated on the benefits of solar power. During a time when mainstream media reports on “Green Company” after “Green Company” tanking during troubling economic times, Goal Zero is booming—and why? Because they make solid products. And, because they’re just good people. When rumors started to spread about the effects of Hurricane Sandy, the Goal Zero crew made a conscious decision to help people keep the lights on by providing hurricane relief in the best way they know how.

From November 1 to Monday, November 15, Goal Zero is implementing “You Buy One, We Give One.” They are keeping track of purchases of their products from participating retailers and their online store (found here!), and matching the same amount, dollar for dollar in the form of Goal Zero products to the hurricane relief efforts. And they’re not just shipping their products into the abyss; Four GZ employees are currently out on the East Coast, doling out the goods and lending a hand on the ground, where help is needed most.

An article from The Examiner on Nov. 2nd, President and CEO of Goal Zero, Joe Atkin said, “Not only are we going to deliver power to people in need, we’re also giving the opportunity for everyone, everywhere to be a power of good by contributing to the relief effort. You will be contributing to products that help run lights, enable communication, and give vital power needed to operate medical saving devices.”

As I said: Not only is this a great cause, but this is a great company, with exceptional products. Sean and I use a Yeti 1250 to power everything in our Travel Queen, and we frequently use their smaller solar panels to power our electronics in the backcountry. If you’ve been contemplating jumping on the solar power bandwagon, today is your day. If you’ve never considered solar but want to help those on the East Coast, this is a great way to help those folks AND help the environment AND your electric bill—we can all do our part. Every little bit counts.

My thoughts and well-wishes go out to everyone feeling the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

For more information on Goal Zero and campaign, visit their website by clicking here.

The Art of Asking for Help

So today, I want to talk about how important it is to ask for help. There have been a few instances in my life lately where asking for help has led to joy, success, and relief. Sadly, I think it’s something we hesitate to do, whether because of pride or some other demon we deal with. Asking for help can have a bad rep. We feel we’re incapable, unworthy, or unfit to do what we’re doing if we ask someone else to assist us. Well you know what? Maybe we are unfit to be doing it ourselves. That’s why we need to lean on someone else to get through whatever it is we’re doing.

We can’t all be good at everything. THANK GOD FOR DIVERSITY, am I right?

Back in July, I came to terms with the fact that I had a 100-mile road bike ride to train for. I had a mere THREE MONTHS to train for something that most of my friends had been working on since March. Just before I resolved I could never get to my desired physical level, I emailed my JDRF Ride coach, Joe—asking for that little thing called “help.”

The following day, he responded with a foolproof training plan. A plan that was manageable, allowed me to rest, allowed me to travel for two weeks in August without worry, and allowed for wiggle room. He listed out the plan (three rides per week, growing in length up to Death Valley) and said, “Don’t worry if you can’t do all the rides prescribed above. Use the schedule as an ‘outline’ and follow its overall intent… it’s a pretty easy concept when you approach it this way!” Here’s Coach Joe—doesn’t he just look like a rockstar?

It was easy. And I would have never (even using Google) come up with it myself. I don’t have the training, nor the experience to pluck something like that out of my brain at this point in my life. Without asking for help, I might not have trained as well as I did—I might not have finished that 100 miles in Death Valley.

The second instance deals with Organic Chemistry. Remember that whole “grad school thing” I decided to do? Well, a few weeks ago the time came for the Organic Chemistry proctored final exam. I knew it was coming up, and I started Googling forums, trying to find tips on how to study for it. I came across a number of posts about this online tutor named Janci (left)—the reviews raved about her and how she “saves” people from failing the class. OK—you read one review like that, you think, “Wow, she must be a good tutor.” You read two reviews like that and you think, “Hmm… how much does she cost per hour?” You read three reviews like that and you think, “OMG I NEED HER.” I emailed Janci at Bright Idea Tutoring and scheduled a Skype session that night.

I kid you not: The reviews didn’t even do her justice. She is a God-send of the chemistry world. If every class was taught like Janci teaches, the world would be a smarter place! Her explanations are logical and well-thought out. Plus, she’s not a totally lame chemistry nerd like you’d think a Chem tutor would be—she’s really nice, has a sense of humor, and takes things at your pace, making sure you understand the concept. There were a few times when she would be drawing something on her white board and she’d say something like, “And this covalent bond is so cool because…” and I thought to myself It is so wonderful that she thinks this is cool, because I feel the exact opposite about that covalent bond. 

Imagine if Mollie Busby was tutoring Organic Chemistry—the world would fail and there would be no more studies of the wonder of carbon-carbon triple bonds and stereoisomers and blah blah blah! Here’s Janci… doesn’t she just look super nice, like you’d want to listen to her thoughts on stereoisomers and covalent bonds?

Case in point: We aren’t all good at everything. We don’t all think the same things are cool in life. Diversity is a good thing. Thus, asking for help is KEY to getting through things that seem difficult. If you’re having a hard time—reach out! Get help. It will make your world a happier place.

Happy Wednesday!

 

We are the Outsiders

Today is your last chance to enter the Often Wander bracelet giveaway! Click here for more info. Enter by midnight!

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Sometimes, when you live a life on-the-go, people ask you how it’s even possible. How do Sean and I travel around the world, invest in a 1977 motor home, make a nonprofit viable, stay sane and financially fit—AND foster our relationship through it all? The answer is simple: We just do. That’s the life we want. We’re not your suburban sit-in-an-office-all-day type of couple. If that’s you, then that’s great! But the reality for us is that compared to the majority of people working the daily grind, we are the outsiders. And that’s how we intend to keep it.

I love this song by NEEDTOBREATHE called “The Outsiders” because it’s all about not living your life by someone else’s standards. Maybe a life on the go would make you tired, stressed, and motivated to punch your husband in the face—OK! Not for you! Live your life for you, stop keeping track of what other people think, and own up to your decisions and your goals. Remember when you were 13 and nothing mattered more in life than going to the mall on Saturday with your friends and spending $20 on a new plastic, see-through backpack from The Deb? (No? Just me?) Yeah. Life is short—it seems like I was 13 just yesterday, but in reality, that was 13 years ago! I’m 26—and I’m not getting any younger, yo.

Passion, compassion and a touch of crazy

You know you had a good weekend if your heart clenches up just thinking about it.

340+ people from the type 1 diabetes community gathered in Death Valley (the same locale that reached the highest recorded temp in the world this year) to ride 100 miles on road bikes through the desert, from the aptly-named Furnace Creek to the equally aptly-named Jubilee Pass and back. Sounds simple, but the Ride to Cure diabetes in Death Valley is about so much more than 100 miles. For starters, no one just signs up. As you may know (and perhaps you fell victim to my pleading!) we all fundraise to attend this event—anywhere from $2,000 to $50,000+ each for the JDRF, an industry leader in diabetes research. Yep, there was an older gentleman who raised over $50,000 to be there this weekend. Let that sink in—he raised $50,000 for a BIKE RIDE IN THE HOTTEST PLACE ON EARTH. And why?

Why do we do it? Why is the JDRF Ride to Cure diabetes in Death Valley so special year after year? I believe I’ve pinpointed it. It’s a mix of passion, compassion, and a touch of crazy.

The passion that people have for this JDRF Ride to Cure is palpable. The love of cycling aside, everyone at this event is incredibly invested in the cause we support, whether their child has type 1 diabetes, their sibling/mom/dad/cousin/coworker’s child/monkey’s uncle—everyone has a connection, directly or not. And as Sean said during his Friday evening address to the crowd: We’re all family. We’re connected by this ugly disease, and we have to stick together and fight for a cure, and for more technology to make life easier for those we love. Here’s where compassion comes in—there is so much love at this event. It reminds us all why we’ve been working so hard and terrorizing our Facebook friends so often to donate. This past weekend was it. The support you feel among “strangers” is indescribable. Working toward a common goal binds us together… remembering those we’ve lost to T1D, like Jesse, binds us together, and we honor those who’ve passed by riding silently through Mile 23. It’s Jesse, making his mark again (he passed on Feb. 3rd, so 2-3). This keeps our focus on the real, tangible reasons we ride. And to comment on the heat, my temperature gauge topped out at 98-degrees for the day. It may sound hot, but you know what? Compared to 125-degrees off the pavement last time? I’ll take 98 degrees any day. That’s where the crazy comes in. We’re all just a little bit crazy for dragging our cycling gear and volunteering to ride 100+ miles in the hottest location on the planet.

But that’s what makes the Ride to Cure diabetes in Death Valley awesome.

To those who went above and beyond their goals this weekend—be that fundraising, riding, or otherwise, I commend you. However you trained for this ride and however your ride ended up, you have so much to be proud of. The hard part was getting there—this weekend was just a celebration… a victory lap, if you will. For me? After sagging in 2010 after 76 miles, finishing was my target. With critical guidance from my coach, Joe Brady, I’m proud to say I trained myself hard and I met that goal—and you know what? When the winds blew in around mile 85 and my behind felt like hamburger meat, my legs felt strong and I rode through to the finish line with an amazing team from Western Wisconsin behind me (and they were incredibly talented smack talkers, I might add). I firmly believe if I had ridden this ride at home in Utah by myself, I could not have finished. The camaraderie was crucial to my success. So to Coach Joe, and my team: Michelle, Michelle, Amy, Mark, and Tim—thank you for helping me achieve my goal. To Sean: Thank you for coming along, inspiring the crowd and volunteering your time at the rest stop. You are amazing and I love that you support what I do with a smile on your face.

And to Jesse? It’s because of you that I’m out there riding my bike. I know you were there on Saturday, and I’ll say this: The cold wind you blew at us halfway up Jubilee Pass when I screamed to the sky asking for it didn’t go unnoticed! GODSPEED JESSE.

Sean and I, at lunch with friends before the big day.

The view for the first few miles

Yep, this is me. And even in black and white you can appreciate my bike short tan—it looks like I’m wearing knee-high panty hose.

Michelle (Jesse’s mom)—my smack talking mentor. (Look at that calf muscle!)

In mountain culture, they say that crows are the souls of those who’ve passed, watching over us. Needless to say, there were a lot of crows out on the ride Saturday—I don’t believe that’s a coincidence.

Saddling up for Mile 23—a silent mile.

Around 11:30, we arrived at the halfway marker—Jubilee Pass. Michelle and Michelle and I used to work at BRAVA together in Madison (before I met Sean).

Dressed to impress with sunscreen slopped all over my face. This is mile 70.

My team:

103.5 miles later… here I am with a smile on my face. Sean: I ride for you, and I love you!

Bloggy Bootcamp Las Vegas: So. Freaking. Awesome.

So many of you have probably considered blogging at some point in your life. Perhaps you have some opinions you think the world needs to hear. Or maybe your overbearing mom in Arizona is begging you to post pictures of her grandchildren. OR, maybe you just think you’re awesome and the world should know your opinons about life, love and the adventures you have with your husband and your Weimaraner. (Which is totally valid.)

Well, little do you know—there is a tribe of women in this world who are really “working” the blogging sector and making their livlihood from this business. I’ve always said that my blog will be a success in my lifetime (meaning, putting money into our savings account while simultaneously funding my education and funding the non-existant shopping budget I currently have). I am proud to say that I have a newfound gumption after spending a day with the SITS gals at Bloggy Bootcamp Las Vegas.

This event is amazing. The energy in the room is palpable. Each speaker that Tiffany Romero and Fran Banducci (the event organizers) hand selected for this event was SPOT ON with what I needed to hear in regards to my online potential. A lot of people in real life (as opposed to internet life—because I have one of each) think that I’m CRAZY for thinking I can make something of this, but you know what? When you get in a room of women who believe, it’s like magic. Pure magic with fairy dust floating around in the air, sunshine, rainbows, kittens and puppies. (WHAT. Is that not what magic looks like to you?)

Bloggy Bootcamp is a program under the overarching community called SITS. SITS is a community of women bloggers, and the acronym stands for The Secret to Success is Support. They embody the philosophy is when one person in our online community does well, we all do well—that girl raises the standards that all of us now work toward, which is a good thing. There were so many incredible women at this retreat at the South Point hotel in Vegas… from those who hadn’t even started their blog, to those who are making six-figures from their online commitment. And everyone in the room had the same goal—to stick together as women in the online community. It’s like finding a huge tribe of support in one room. Here are some highlights from the Bloggy Bootcamp Las Vegas.

The South Point Hotel, beckoning me with its glare in the morning Las Vegas sunshine.

bloggy bootcamp vegas SITS (4)

This is Tina Herold of Wigged Out. She spoke about her participation with “Warriors In Pink.” As a 6-year cancer survivor, Tina is an advocate through Ford’s Warriors in Pink program and speaks out about surviving breast cancer and how she runs a wig fitting business currently. Also worth nothing: I was lucky enough to win a Warriors in Pink raffle prize (Woohoo for winning free stuff! That never happens!).

bloggy bootcamp vegas SITS (3)

Love these custom canvas boards from Jewel Kade

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Trina Finton was one of the morning speakers who talked about the best tools to make your blogging life easier. I valued her tips, apps and websites for optimizing your blog and making sure you work smarter, not harder.

bloggy bootcamp vegas SITS (1)

Huge thank you to Maggie from Freezer Meals for Us—how cute and organized is this idea for conferences? I have a stack of business cards that is so unmanageable right now—if I had only brought a ring and a hole punch… imagine the possibilities.

This is Tiffany (left) and Fran (right)—the faces behind SITS. They were everything I’d imagined and more. Tiffany’s camp-director-personality is SO in line with how I act on a daisy basis, and I appreciate how Fran is her emotional compliment. Tiffany is loud and proud and Fran is more subdued but equally as powerful in her role. They make an incredible duo—and I love how this photo captures their personalities.

Life advice and life lessons…

On the left here is Laurie Turk, the incredibly successful founder of Tip Junkie. This woman knows what a business model is like the back of her hand. Her tips were INVALUABLE. She spoke first in the morning, and after her hour-long presentation, I was officially convinced I had earned my $99 conference fee. The day just got better from there. On the right is Gigi Ross from Kludgy Mom. Gigi is also an incredibly savvy business woman and I really related to her on a freelance level, as that’s a reality in my life.

This is Danielle Liss—cat-lover and legal whizz in the blogosphere. She provided eye-opening information about the legal concerns as a blogger. Moral of the story—always take and use your own pictures!

And this is my new BFF Liz Jayne Liu (yep, I went there). Liz is a blogger at Flourish In Progress, and if you want my honest opinion, I’ll give it: Liz. Is. Awesome. She’s like my modern-day Dooce with less mom-focus (although she is a mom) and more of a hard-rock, tatto-loving, thug-life edge. Yes, I just said thug life on The Mollie Shambeau Show. And you’re probably all LOOK AT HER DON’T YOU WANT TO JUST BOTTLE HER UP AND KEEP HER IN YOUR POCKET FOR A RAINY DAY. Yes. Liz is not only adorable, and pocket size, but her demeanor and her positive message really resonated with me, about always challenging yourself to become better, braver, and to stay on the lookout for things that compliment the most unique, honest, authentic YOU. Who cares what the haters think? Really, in the end: Do what makes you happy. And for that moment… or, er…. hour? Liz’s story made me happy. I plan to read her blog on a regular basis, which by default makes me part of her gang.

Speaking of the haters… I love this quote:

And then, as I was reflecting on all this amazing, female you rah rah awesomeness on yesterday morning, I was greeted by this gorgeous sunrise over Lake Las Vegas. Life is good. Make it a great week, everyone!

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Salt Lake Power Yoga—a new favorite studio!

So if you’ve ever done yoga before, you might agree that one of the hardest parts is keeping your thoughts, worries and inhibitions OUT of your head while you’re trying to focus. I find this task particularly difficult. I hear all the time how I should focus on my breathing if I’m get distracted, but lets be honest—that can last 30 seconds until a thought creeps in my head again. I go back and forth but sometimes my thoughts are too abundant, or I’m checking out my neighbor’s yoga outfit, or the flies in the studio are flocking to my sweaty body and SMACK. Yes. I murder flies in yoga class.

But, I’m happy to report I’m making progress on my focus—and all it took was the right music!

Last week, I caught a morning yoga class at a new studio in Salt Lake called Salt Lake Power Yoga. I have to tell you: This was one of my most favorite classes I’ve ever taken. The instructor, Jen, announced before class that she was particularly in love with her playlist—she said she hoped we like it too. I was skeptical—what did she mean? It wasn’t long before I got it: She played actual music. It was the first time I’d taken a class with an actual playlist. Think: John Lennon—Imagine, Cyndi Lauper—Time After Time, Moby, Bob Marley—sounds pretty varied, but you guys: It was JUST WHAT I NEEDED. I was more focused during that class than I’ve ever been before. The music effectively silenced my thoughts. And although there weren’t any flies in the studio—if there had been, they would have lived to see another day.

Plus, our view from the studio wasn’t so bad either:

I appreciated that everything about SLC Power Yoga was vibrant and welcoming. The standout wall in the studio:

Salt Lake Power Yoga

The door heading into the building…

The lobby…

The whole experience was awesome. I asked Jen to share her playlist, which I immediately downloaded on Spotify. Check it out:

 

Bike Prom

You know what? Theme parties never go out of style. As someone who spent the greater part of her childhood playing “dress up,” I still love costuming and being silly as much as I did back then—I just wish I’d kept all my costumes. You can’t imagine how many times I wish I had my cutoff denim vest, or those silver sequined bell-bottoms…

Anyway.

I’m so proud to say it’s that time of year again: The bi-annual theme party. First, there was a “Ninjas vs. Pirates” party… followed by a “Superheroes that Didn’t Make It” party. And, you may remember the epic “People of Walmart” party from last spring (Click here to experience its glory). This season, we are proud bring you: BIKE PROM, 2012—where your own interpretation is the name of the game. No need to go out and shop for a bicycle—just use a bit of imagination! There were so many varied, creative takes on “Bike Prom,” that I have to share a few.

I will start with Sean and I. We based our costumes off what Google told us to do. We discovered that at most bike proms, people’s outfits have a hipster feel. Sean opted for his already appropriate glasses, a tuxedo dress shirt, denim capris, Toms shoes, a bow tie and messenger cap. I brought out a feathered headband, patterned tights, checkered scarf, some short Frye boots, a strapless dress, and I popped the lenses out of an old pair of Brittany’s sunglasses. Voila! Hispter chic:

We incorporated aspects of the “Bike” part, too; Sean wore fingerless bike gloves and I wore spandex underneath my dress (which was actually enjoyable because remember—I love spandex, in any capacity). We also splurged on a butanier and corsage. It made the “prom” bit more legit.

Russ and Britt—who were crowned King and Queen—went classic with a twist. Britt rocked a mohawk and a long gown. Russ’ tux was a smokin’ deal that he bought for $40 online. It came with brown pants, brown jacket, brown shirt, brown vest, and a brown bow tie—because why go monochromatic if you can’t go all out?

It seems most people went either creative-bike-prom, or simply classic prom… here, you’ll see some serious bikers on the left, and more classic prom ensembles on the right.

Other notable ensembles were the combos—classy jacket, shirt, and bowtie with bike shorts. Or, the suit with a cutoff South Park tee underneath (midriff optional). Or, one of my personal favorites (far right): The Chaperone. Complete with a bible in hand, she sported a conservative lacy dress, shawl, knee-high panty hose (you can see the tops of them) with sandals and a slip that showed beneath the hem of her dress—SO AWESOME. She and her husband walked around the party with a flashlight and a tape measure to make sure all dresses were appropriate lengths and gave out demerits for any rule breakers.

Don’t you ever wish you could go back to prom without having to actually attend a high school prom and be a chaperone? Yeah. Us, too. It was awesome.

An Autumn Hike

A few weekends ago, Sean and I took Daisy for a hike in a canyon outside Salt Lake. Although the fall colors weren’t quite in full, firey bloom with reds and oranges, the yellows were in abundance. There’s something about seeing a pink tongue hang out of your dogs mouth as she dashes back and forth on the trail, sniffing everything in sight and hunting imaginary sounds in the forest… it’s unadulterated happiness—at its best!

The perfect autumn afternoon…

Hunting. Always.

Still hunting. Alert. So persistant.

 

Peak Diaries: The Travel Queen (trailer)

You guys, in the past two weeks, Sean has logged over 70 hours (easily), sitting with his face pressed against his MacBook Pro putting together the trailer for our Travel Queen adventure. I’m so proud to post it up today! Last week, you got the official tour. This week, you get the Trailer: a preview of the webisodes to come that take a peek into what life was like on the road for 32 days, driving from Utah to Alaska and back, running on Waste Vegetable Oil and Solar Power.

I hope this makes you smile. If it does, please SHARE THIS and spread the love of adventure!

Peak Diaries: The Travel Queen (trailer) from PowderLines.Com on Vimeo.

Me, Myself and Muse—My Radiolab Epiphany (thanks, Elizabeth Gilbert)

There are moments when an idea comes to me for a blog post and if I don’t write it down that SECOND, I lose it. BAM! Gone. There are also times when I log onto my computer, head to Facebook (by accident, right?) and before I know it, I’ve got 20 tabs pulled up with 15 different ideas for blog design, blog money-making tips, new haircuts, different Riding On Insulin venues, photos from some girl’s wedding who I don’t even know, and People of Walmart (just for fun). If I’m not careful, I can lose 30 minutes of my life like <snaps fingers> THAT. And even though I’ve done some serious brainstorming, it’s impossible to sift through all the ideas and organize them.

Then today, I had an epiphany.

As I drove into Salt Lake City, I was listening to RadioLab on NPR called “Me, Myself and Muse.” It was all about making a deal with yourself when most of you doesn’t want to do what you need to do. On the show, Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) talked about how to muster up the energy to be creative at times when it seems impossible. After her first book, one might wonder how she could ever top it. Eat Pray Love was HUGE (and still is), and they made a movie from it with JULIA ROBERTS. I mean, if Julia Roberts plays you in a movie you can probably just stop there and call it a day, right?

Not for Gilbert. She says that creativity is a gift. The next book will come—but it will come when she’s ready and able to write it. She’s actually had an idea in her head, and she talks to it like it’s a living, breathing being. She tells it, “Hey, I don’t have time to write you at this very moment, but please hold off until March. I promise I will be with you in March—I’ll be all yours.” That is her way of harnessing her creativity instead of going crazy over it—she talks to her ideas. 

Romans called it Genius, Greeks called it Muse… whatever it is, that mystical “being” or “gift” is an Aha! moment for creative people. Gilbert fosters a relationship with that “thing” and you know what? I believe it. When I heard that, I was like OH MY GOD THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I NEED TO DO. Talk to myself more. (Make people think I’m crazy BUT I’M NOT.) I need to harness my creative energy even more than I already do—imagine the possibilities!

Gilbert referenced an interview she did as a young journalist with an artist who got a song idea in the middle of 8-lane Los Angeles traffic. He was so frustrated at not being in the right “space” to harness the idea that he told it (yes, he was talking to his Muse), “I like what you’ve got here, but if it’s really important, please come back to me when I’m at my desk and in the right space to pursue this.” It’s like when someone asks you a work-related question on your day off—it’s so easy to answer them, and help them, and do work on your day off, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere… even with Muse.

Gilbert was so inspired by that—she pointed out that you have to respect ideas as they come. Respect and honor them for what they are, and if you’re really passionate about it but honest that you cannot handle it yet, it will come back to you. It will be yours… just not right this second. Just talk to it, tell it what’s up, and if it’s meant to be, it will be. Right after she finished Eat Pray Love, she couldn’t seem to find a title that worked. It was the last piece of the puzzle and she wrote an email to some friends and said something along the lines of, “My f*&$-ing book won’t tell me its name! Please help!” One of her friends wrote back, “Well it’s not going to tell you its name if you talk to it like that.”

Genius.

She had a quick conversation with Muse… told it she thought it was wonderful and it was worth bringing into the world (pet the kitty) but she couldn’t do that if she didn’t know its name. The next day, Eat Pray Love was born.

BAM. That’s is how it’s done.

Source: coffeeandyoga.tumblr.com via Elizabeth on Pinterest

Stoked on life (and yams)

A few weeks ago, I had an intuitive reading with a dear friend of mine from Madison, named Laura. [A psychic? Really?] I prefer to call it an intuitive reading—but yes, really. There are no crystal balls, she doesn’t analyze coffee grounds … none of the hooplah you heard about in the cheesy movies. [Why would you do that? How do you know she's for real?] How else do you expect me to find blogging material without doing something unexpected once and a while? And to the second question, I don’t know. I feel. Feelings are all you have to reference, and if she’s taught me anything it’s to trust my instincts.

Settle down… I’m not going off the deep end. Just hear me out, and as always, believe what you want about the whole situation—I’m just telling a story because THAT’S WHAT I DO.

I’ve been seeing Laura for readings on and off over the past few years. When I first met her, I was a confused 23-year-old who was writing a story about a hair salon owner. Laura—the owner of Onusara Salon—was my subject, and my boss had prepped me for the interview by confiding that Laura did readings and hair styling. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was nervous for the interview, and nervous about the fact she would tune into my shortcomings. I had just gotten my first job out of college at a women’s magazine, lost that job when the company went under, and then restarted the magazine with four other amazing women. The work was hard, the days were long, and I loved it. And yet, I was completely and utterly unhappy with all other aspects of my life. I had steadily gained weight since getting out of college; I wasn’t making time to go to the gym (even though I lived in the same building as the gym—you had to be pretty talented to avoid it). To make matters worse, I was looking for love around every corner and finding one disappointment after another. All I did was look for prince charming. Could that be him? Or that guy? Or THAT GUY? No, no, no.

One of the first things that Laura told me was that before that partner could come into my life, I had to learn to love myself. He was coming, and he would love me no matter what I looked like. She even told me it would all happen really fast. (Which was an understatement.) But before him, I had to be my first priority.

At first, I thought it was bogus. I had tons of friends and an amazing job! I was using my college degree! My closet was brimming with amazing clothes! And yet, those exclamation points masked what I knew deep down. I cringed every time I looked in the mirror… I longed for the days when I fit into ALL my clothes in my closet, and not just the most recent larger sizes I’d purchased… I wished I could be completely, 100% happy.

So, I set out to make a change. On January 1st of 2011, my roommate, Jenna, and I made resolutions to make 2011 about self-change. We each created lists and goals and I accepted my own challenge with a vengeance. The start to 2011 wasn’t about finding love or finding new clothes… it was about finding myself again, and loving myself no matter what weight I was.

I won’t go into what happened next, other than to say internal changed happened and wouldn’t you know… love came into my life like a whirlwind. Sure enough—even at my heaviest weight—Sean came into my life when I least expected it… and he loved me for exactly who I was. This “self-love” idea is still something I work on actively. Part of my discovery process after that New Year’s resolution was starting this blog—and now look at me… with regular readers! Who would have thought?

Over the past few years, Laura has taught me a great deal about how to get in touch with myself, my world, and my role in it. I wouldn’t say she has guided me on my path—but rather she has guided me in the right direction. Finding the path was all me.

Now, back to our reading a few weeks ago…

I’ve always known my Grandma Em has always been a driving force by my side since she passed away when I was young. She’s the instinct that tells me to sit up straight and mind my manners… and to not wear sweatpants to the grocery store (even if I really really want to). Laura mentioned to me during the reading that my Grandma was shaking her head and waving her finger at me about our eatings habits over the summer… with all the traveling, I admitted our diet hadn’t been stellar. Laura encouraged me to heed my Grandma’s warning and make a concerted effort to cook more and to eat better with Sean. So last week, I signed up for Bountiful Baskets—a food coop that you can register for weekly and get a big box of organic (or nonorganic) produce for anywhere from $15-$25. It forces you to be creative, to use your resources and to make the most of what you have. It feels good to be back on track food-wise!

For more information on Laura’s services, check out her website at Soul2SoulReadings.com. If what I’ve said here resonates with you, take a chance and give her a call—she can do readings from anywhere in the world. If my story here does not resonate with you then not to worry—this post ends with a recipe that will DEFINITELY interest you! (Unless you don’t like yams. In that case, thanks for hangin’ in there.)

This week’s produce project? Ten yams. What does a girl do with TEN YAMS FOR TWO PEOPLE ? I freaked out for minute, and then Britt reminded me I could make baked sweet potato fries—with yams! This is quite possibly the easiest and most delicious (and nutritious) way to eat “french fries” and not feel horrible afterward. And you know who’s recipe it is? Paula Dean, herself. I made these the other night and I kid you not, Sean and I were moaning with each bite as if we’d never tasted more delicious sweet potato fries. Happy Wednesday!

Paula Deen’s Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil, for tossing
  • 5 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch long slices, then 1/4-wide inch strips, using a crinkle cut knife (I obviously didn’t have one of these—a plain knife works fine!)
  • 1 tablespoon House Seasoning (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Line a sheet tray with parchment. In a large bowl toss sweet potatoes with just enough oil to coat. Sprinkle with House Seasoning and paprika. Spread sweet potatoes in single layer on prepared baking sheet, being sure not to overcrowd. Bake until sweet potatoes are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Per Serving: Calories: 273; Fat: 9.5g (Saturated Fat: 1g); Protein: 4g; Carbohydrates: 44g; Sugar: 9g; Fiber 7g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 1,670mg

House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder

 

One year later…

One year ago, I put on the most gorgeous dress I’ve ever worn, gathered with 250 of my favorite people in the world, walked down the aisle with my Dad in the garden I grew up in, and married the love of my life.

Photo Credit: Leah Aubrey Photography

Whew! It’s funny how fast the time goes during that first year. Whenever we would tell people we got married a few months before, they would smile a knowing smile and say, “Oh! Newlyweds!” Yes… we were newlyweds. And sometimes their knowing smile was right—I won’t say these past 12 months have been easy. We’re just like any other couple figuring out how everything works, with the highs and the lows and the everywhere in-betweens. And yet, the one thing about being married is that you’ve given your entire self to your spouse in a way you’ve never given before. There were contracts signed, our families and friends were watching, and it was a choice we made together with all of our hearts. I couldn’t be more proud of the husband I chose, and who chose me to be his wife one year ago. Although I won’t say it was easy, I will say I have been completely, one-hundred percent in love with the partner I’ve been given. He has made me the happiest version of myself, and I am so grateful to have him as a permanent fixture in my life.

And being married to Sean does have its funny moments… The Mollie Shambeau Show veterans might remember the Man Code I was working on breaking early on in our relationship. When it comes to toothpaste rolling, some things never change. Is it obvious which is mine?

I swear to God, he squeezes it like his only mission in life to extract paste from that tube with a much force as possible—[thumps chest twice] MAN NEED TOOTH PASTE. TOOTH PASTE NOW.

Or there are mornings like today, and I wake up to find a homemmade stink bug trap in our kitchen:

I appreciate the fact that it says, “CAUTION,” and if I miss the Sharpie text, there are paperclips over the top to alert me that something is amis inside this Goldfish container.

I always knew Sean was “the one” because the first time I took him to hear The Lucas Cates Band play in Madison, he danced with me like no one was watching. He wasn’t (and still isn’t) embarrassed to be out on the dance floor at my side, dancing his heart out. I’m proud to say this first year, we mobbed the dance floor at every wedding we attended, and at every bar with a live band.

Photo Credit Beyond Imagination Photography

As some of you might know, starting a business with your spouse—a nonprofit, no less—is no easy feat. Our friends, Russ and Britt built a strawbale house together soon after they were married, and they did not (emphasis on NOT) recommend building a house together as a “positive post-wedding bonding exercise.” For us, that’s sort of like starting a business together. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as the best “post-wedding bonding,” but if you must—make sure your spouse is supportive and willing to listen and actively pursue a “work relationship” that is functional and efficient. Twelve months later, we’ve found that working relationship and couldn’t be more excited about the future of our organization. (Did you hear about our grant? SO PUMPED!)

And speaking of Riding On Insulin, I want to take a moment today to thank someone who has been behind our journey from the very start. He was cheering us on when we got engaged, he was propelling us forward in our first Ride to Cure in Death Valley, and he answers every time we ask for help, or hear “Don’t Stop Believing” on the radio. Jesse Alswager (along with his mom, Michelle) has been our guiding force throughout everything—especially with Riding On Insulin, and today would have been his 16th birthday. If you’re new here, you might not know the full story of how Sean and I met. In that case, I would encourage you to check out my lasted post on my blog on A Sweet Life, “Married to Diabetes.” The post is called “Don’t Stop Believing,” and it covers the full love story, from lone style editor in Madison Wisconsin to dynamic duo traveling the world and running a nonprofit.

So as we round out our first year with an anniversary celebration tonight, I thank all of you—the readers—for reading my blog and making our story a part of your day. I thank family and friends for their unending support. I thank my husband, Sean—for always accepting me for who I am, and for continually pushing me to be the best I can be. And lastly, I tip my hat to Jesse; the boy who died too young because of a disease without a cure. The boy who always lived his life knowing diabetes—or anything—didn’t have to hold him back. The boy who brought us together to fulfil an important purpose on this earth… and the boy who is watching over us, snowboarding those powdery clouds, always keeping us on our toes with new adventures. GODSPEED JESSE.

Sean, I love you with all of my heart—I’m so proud to have you at my side. [raises coffee cup] To the next chapter in our crazy, adventure-filled lives!

Waking up to mini horses

I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

We stayed at a campground outside Whitefish and Kalispell this weekend, and we woke up to a herd of mini horses, donkeys and llamas (yep—for real) munching on shrubbery outside our tent. We had noticed large piles of poop around the campground the night before, which we chalked up to elk or deer, but it seems the local population of mini horses makes themselves at home all over the place.

Perhaps they ward off the bears with their sweet faces and stout stature…

Straight out of Shrek:

When (sweet, adorable) animals attack!

 

The “Sunday Market,” like you’ve never seen it before

On our first morning in Karakol, Sean and I went to one of the largest livestock markets in Central Asia. The sun was barely up and there was a slight blue tint to the world as the daylight was breaking. I felt it necessary to edit these photos in black and white, because truly, I felt as if we’d taken a step back in time. Couple that with the fact that we were still experiencing culture shock in a big way and you have a formula for an intense first day.

Activity starts in the wee hours of the morning, and people from all over the region, including some who travel down from Kazakstan, come to this market specifically for live animals–sheep, horses, cows, etc. And although Karakol is the country’s third largest city, it is still operating in some instances like it did many years ago with basic bartering of goods and in this case, animals.

They come to the market early, some with the intent to sell and be out, some wanting to buy, and then resell later in the day to someone else for a higher price. Essentially, if you want the best prices, you go early and buy livestock and then sell it for a higher price at some point throughout the day. There are some men who make most of their living using this technique. Our guide from CBT Karakol, Azamat, was very knowledgable on the market although he didn’t accompany us into the thick of it (and after going in and nearly getting trampled by cows and run over by car tires and smashed in crowds of people, we see why!).

I love this photo where you can see this girl has worn a fashionable coat, boots and perhaps a dress or skirt to the livestock market.

The women’s investment in their looks–even at times like this–just blows me away. They’re are so many beautiful women here… And not that I didn’t expect it, but as I said before its just crazy with the dichotomy of fancy clothes with the run down architecture. Another guide of ours, Kas, put it best when he said,”I think it’s in our blood [as nomadic people] to always operate as if we will be moving tomorrow.” When he said that, everything really clicked and made sense for me.