Joy is a Net of Love by Which You Can Catch Souls

My first reaction is what beauty? I’ve definitely crossed over to the invisible side. I rather prefer it that way…

My whole life my weight has fluctuated quite a bit and my self-image with it. When I’ve been fat, I’ve been ugly — at least in my mind.

I noticed that the more weight I gained, the less teasing or ogling I’d get from boys and men. Being fat was safer, damn it. I liked being safe. I hid there.

But at different times I would go on diets and lose weight. That happened in my late twenties, when I went down to what I weighted in sixth grade after the summer diet my grandmother put me on.

Connecting the dots

I feel the connection between the colorful visuals and the magical vibrant world I’ve created in my writing. The pictures reflect who I am as a creative spirit.

This process has nudged me back from the ledge of self-loathing, especially where photos are concerned. Going forward in my life necessitates being seen in person, on paper, and perhaps even in some forms of media.

Yes, my beauty is about a lot more than gorgeous photos. But if it took seeing myself through Barbara’s eyes to get on board with my full, vibrant, impish, playful, radiant self, so be it.

Now that I am “out” so to speak, it’s up to me to feed myself with beautiful images and stories of women close to me in age who are enjoying their fine physical selves and letting others see them through their eyes, not vice versa.

Let’s unsubscribe from magazine culture and sign up for honoring ourselves in the full glory of just how good it feels to be alive in our skins, with our eyes, our hair, our unique ways of moving and being and shining.

Every Next Level of Your Life Will Demand a Different You

We bumped along a rutted dirt road in a rented SUV, parking a quarter mile from the trailhead leading to the summit of Mount Democrat. The four of us hoisted backpacks stuffed with water, food, dry socks, and extra clothes onto our backs. The thin, 38-degree air nipped at exposed hands and faces. Winded by the walk from the car to the trailhead, even my more experienced friends worried that our less than 24 hours at altitude had not been enough time for our sea-level dwelling bodies to adjust. I bean to sweat, and not just from the exertion.

The way home

“That was so fun! I’ve got a new addiction!” my athlete friend exclaimed, tired but happy in the car on the way home. “Let’s do it again tomorrow.”

Fun, as you might imagine, was not how I would describe this adventure. Awesome? Yes. Fun? No. N.O. No way

But would I do it again? If I could rewind to that moment when the alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. to throw on clothes, grab our packs and trek up that mountain, would I? You bet your buttons I would. Here’s why: awesome lives at the intersection of fun and scary. One of my companions summed the whole experience up perfectly. He leaned back in his chair at dinner that night, shrimp taco in hand, “These are the kinds of experiences that give something back to you. They show you who you are in a whole new way.”

Humbled but not broken, I experienced both a new awareness of the strength of my will and the vulnerability of my body. My ego lost a bit of ground that day, but my essence — that part of me that connects to something greater — found wordless expression.

At the bottom of the mountain, my legs shaky, my face gritty with dust, I could still enjoy the beauty of the clean mountain stream pooling around me. I could laugh with my friends. Life flows. I flow. A real mountain and a metaphorical one are the same. We go up with a certain understanding of ourselves, and come back down changed.

Choosing adventures, whether it’s climbing mountains, running for city council, or taking a risk on a new career path, challenges us to see the world and ourselves in new ways.

And that, my friends, is awesome.

And a Lonely Stranger Has Spoke to Me Ever Since

When I saw the old man waiting by the pond with his camera my heart fractured a little along the fault lines, already weak, still vulnerable. He was counting on the cormorants, their wings spread wide, and waiting for the mating beavers, swooping under the surface, staying underwater longer than you’d think they could possibly hold their breath.

They trapped the nutria past the dam over there, he said, pulling his camera aside with one hand, pointing across the ponds with the other. They’re trapped between the two ridges of trees. There’s a male beaver with two females. His nicotine-stained mustache didn’t move when he talked.

He tells me the city is monitoring the trees for the Asian jewel beetle — an invasive and ravenously destructive insect outside its native habitat. I wondered how they got here, how any of us get anywhere, and I assumed he could probably tell me if I asked but I didn’t want to stay in this moment much longer. He was kind enough, talkative without being overbearing. And I thought maybe he was one of the lucky loners who preferred being alone. Maybe he even had a loving companion waiting for him at home, someone who would lovingly pour over his photography with curiosity and admiration.

While he was talking about the two female beavers, each of which had had two pups this season, I appreciated this man’s appreciation for nature, the patience to wait for the perfect moment, the sun setting behind the cattails and a woodpecker resting.

Though I suspected he was lonely I wanted to keep walking. I wanted to see the turtles lined up on logs like they do before the sunset. But I also suspected our brief chat about bugs and birds might be his only interaction today. Or this week. I had no way of knowing but I remembered the unexpected moments that pulled me out of my darkest places.

Though not miraculous, maybe a moment, like seeing the iridescent green of a beetle’s wing is enough beauty, even in its brevity, to create a connection. A flash of color not between us but between synapses. A spark of joy, a small whoosh of warmth that tells him to keep going, to keep waiting for the beavers, to get the perfect picture of the cormorants in their Christ-like perches drying their wings for flight.

I knew I couldn’t take away the invasive loneliness of a stranger, especially if it’s lying dormant beneath the bark. But maybe I could distract him from it for that moment like a bird alighting on a branch, catching his photographer’s eye. I remembered that even a little bit of conversation can feel like companionship. And at the very least we could pause from our own lives to acknowledge the parallel lives of the animals not abstractly analyzing each other’s.

I Moved Across the Country and Never Looked Back

There are these moments in your life where you don’t know where the power is coming from, but you find yourself making a choice, a choice you never imagined you would make — even in your bravest daydreams — but somehow, you choose, and everything changes.

Gainesville, Florida is small, but radical — like most college towns — a liberal escape in the part of Florida where people wave Southern accents and racist flags.

I’d been there 6 years, after an entire childhood spent in the same Central Florida house. Never left the country. Never left my comfort zone, if I could help it.

Sure, the winter was impossibly cold. Especially coming from Florida with nothing but a cotton hoodie. And especially with no money for expensive oil heat. And especially because my housemate parked on top of the place we were supposed to refill the oil, then went away for all of December, so heat wasn’t even an option. And especially because when we tried to plug in more than one space heater in the house, we blew a fuse.

So I slept in a sleeping bag all winter, drank a lot of hot tea. And we made a house rule that any time anyone complained,

“It’s so cold in here!”

we all had to get up and dance together. It was almost always me uttering it. Everyone would groan, and then everyone would dance.

Everything fell right into place. It doesn’t always. In 2013, we got priced out of Seattle and moved to the country.

Seattle has changed a lot. Most of the punk houses have been torn down. Tent cities are growing, and so far, the rich aren’t doing near enough to make the city accessible for everyone again.

But as for me, at that time in my life, I was right where I needed to be. I didn’t need to get medicated. I just needed to take a leap, to leave my comfort zone and have an adventure. I came thisclose to accepting a mediocre life. But I made one brave decision, and it changed everything.

No Fixed Abode: Quitting Home Ownership

A little over a year ago, I quit my job, sold my home and gave away 99% of my possessions so that I could travel the world. It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.

To me, quitting a great job was very scary (No more income! A large gap in my employment history! Burning bridges right, left & centre! Throwing away a fabulous career!) but I’ve come to realise that for most people, that isn’t the scary part. The thing that everyone asks about — the part that they can’t quite get their heads around — is that I don’t have anywhere to live.

Then his spiel took a turn to a personal testimony of his experience with IF. He’d burnt more fat than he previously could with any other diet. He felt happier, healthier and more energetic. He’d streamlined his morning routine and was saving money by no longer buying late-night snacks. All because he didn’t eat for 16 hours of the day.

Sitting there, I felt like I was given one of those ‘too good to be true’ offers than lead to you joining a cult. I was sceptical. It sounded great and all that, but I’m a breakfast guy. Besides, it sounds like a fad diet that I wouldn’t be able to maintain. I’d drop some weight while doing it, then I’d put it back on when I realised I couldn’t maintain it.

The Journey Begins

A month later, I conceded that I might as well give it a go. Over the past few years, I had been carrying a few extra kilograms that I had tried to drop. For the six months prior, I had been going to the gym regularly to try and burn it off. In those six months, I had shifted the scales slightly, but not enough considering the work I was putting in. Intermittent fasting became a very tempting option. I thought I’d give it a go.

I spent a lot of time researching the 16:8 approach to fasting. Honestly, there are a lot of mixed things out there, with a lot of evidence supporting it’s proclaimed benefits, while others are not as sold on it. The overarching point I found was to give it a go and see if it works for you.

The first couple of weeks were tough. My body was so conditioned to eat at certain times and I had to fight hard to resist. This was one of the big learning experiences for me. I had to remind myself that I don’t need to eat right now and that it was my body responding to a change in routine. I decided to be as strict as possible in the first month, knowing that it takes about 4–5 weeks to establish a new routine, and it worked.

Developing Self-Control Through The Wonders of Intermittent Fasting

I remember staring at my watch hoping that I could eat now. Had it been 16 hours yet? I imagined my stomach passive-aggressively pretending to digest knowing full well it was empty. I thought I couldn’t wait, but I could. I had waited yesterday and I was fine, I could wait today.

When I First Met Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, IF, first came into my life while I was catching up with a Personal Trainer friend. It was about 10 am and we’d met for coffee, but I was feeling peckish. I asked him if he wanted to order food and he responded by looking down at his watch before politely declining.

Without much of a prompt, he spilt the good news of IF like a true evangelist. He took me on a journey through time, casting our minds back to a simpler generation of hunter and gatherers. Passionately, he explained to me that the ‘three-meal day’ simply isn’t practical and I was simply conditioned to think that I needed it. I could spend all morning hunting and gathering and still not waste away due to starvation, he told me.

The shortest & simplest meditation

You don’t have to get fancy with your meditation, short or long. In fact, the easiest and shortest meditation I know is often the most effective for any reason you might want to meditate.

Simply sit, stand or lie in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Take in a deep breath, inhaling slowly and all the way into your belly. Hold your breath for a moment, then exhale slowly. Repeat for however long you like.

Short or long, meditation has the power to change your mood, your day, and even your life. If you’ve never tried a short meditation, why not do it today? You might be amazed at what happens.

Do You Want Stronger Friendships, a More Balanced Mindset?

I’ve been a runner since college. I took up the sport because, as a result of too much beer and late-night fried food, I’d become a victim of the so-called “Freshman 15.” Running was cheap. No gym membership, just a pair of shoes and you can go straight from your front door.

In the beginning, I was a roadrunner. I ran alone. Well, mostly alone. Sometimes I took my sister’s dog out for runs, but not often because he was decidedly anti-running. We would get about a mile in and he would sit down and refuse to move. I would gently tug, beg and plead. But he was steadfast. Eventually, I gave up, and we would walk home together.

Back in those days, I ran maybe 3 days a week. My individual runs were probably in the 4 to 6 mile range.

So, a few things were critical in order to make sure this was a successful adventure and no one was airlifted out from inside the canyon.

  1. Everyone got along with one another and that had been tested before in difficult conditions.
  2. Everyone had run together before and was confident in each other’s abilities.
  3. Everyone studied the map.
  4. Everyone was briefed on what the adventure would entail — the elevation gain, available water in the canyon, possible weather conditions, etc.

I found these same tenants to be true in building a business. I used many of these criteria (more or less) when choosing the cofounders for my first startup, and when it was time to build our team. What’s the culture, and are these people a fit for that? Is everyone acutely aware of what it’s going to take to get this business off the ground? Have they seen the roadmap? Etc.

In conclusion, ultrarunning is crazy. No doubt about it. But life is also crazy.

In order to prepare yourself for how crazy life will be, I have always found it useful to practice rolling with the punches. For me, this means simulating life’s highs and lows in a controlled environment. Building up my reserves of strength in a place away from the busy hum of life, where there is dirt underfoot (or rocks, if you live in Colorado) no judgment, no pressure, just the sound of my own breathlessness and maybe a friend’s voice.

Now, I am ready when life decides to unexpectedly sucker-punch me in the gut. Are you? If not, may I recommend a long-distance run?

Extreme Athleticism Is the New Midlife Crisis

The last thing I remember before passing out was the pain. It had overtaken everything, hunching my back, and curling my fingers into claws pecking out incoherent thoughts on my laptop before finally collapsing. It was 3 a.m. on the morning of my 43rd birthday, and depression had finally consumed me.

There was no clear reason as to why it was happening. Objectively, my life was good. I had a beautiful family, I owned my house, and I had a dream job covering the NBA. But I have lived with a form of mild chronic depression since I was a teenager, and depression has a way of taking everything that’s good and turning it against you. My job was a pressure cooker with endless travel and sleepless nights in hotels. My house felt like a 30-year millstone. My family tried to give me space, but all I really wanted to do was escape. That a lot of people would eagerly trade places with me only added to the feelings of guilt and negativity. I spiraled. Things had to change. I had to change.

You do not commit to someone because things are perfect, you commit to them in spite of the fact that they’re not.

Commitment is not just an arbitrary word to be found in the dictionary. It is not just a statement of temporary monogamy. It is a pledge, a vow, a way of living that embodies honor and integrity. Commitment is not a rule, or a regulation — it is an action.

Commitment is not the act of losing your freedom; but exercising it to choose who you want to give your most valuable gifts to:

Your time, your emotions, and your heart.

Sorry, you’ll never find the perfect person. But, you will find the right person, once you realize that the two do not have to be the same.

Get Scary With This Vegan Spooky Spider Crackle Cake!

Everyone’s favorite time of year is almost here: Halloween! It’s a wonderful time to share your creative flair, dressing up and bake. Halloween parties and trick-or-treating are oodles of spooky fun, especially for families.

This recipe is from my new vegan cookbook Bake Vegan Stuff: Easy Recipes for Kids (and Adults Too!). It’s a great one to make with the kids because it’s a no-bake recipe that’s super fun and the right kind of messy.

Follow these simple steps to create your very own Spooky Spider Crackle Cake that the whole family can enjoy (or just yourself). I have included photos, so it’s clear what each step entails. Let’s get scary!

Make sure you are VERY careful as it’s going to be hot. I highly recommend wearing food-safe rubber gloves and test the temperature of the marshmallow BEFORE you pick up a large amount of it. Press the marshmallow between your hands and then pull it apart to create web strings. Wrap these strings around your cake to create a spider web. You need to do this quickly before the marshmallow sets. Repeat the process until you have covered your cake in spider webs. It may take a little practice. It’s going to be very messy (sorry, parents!). Once you’re happy with your webs, add your toy spiders.

And there you have it! A Spooky Spider Crackle Cake.

To serve, use a sharp knife cut down the centre, and the cake should crack into pieces. This cake will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, making it an ideal recipe to prepare in advance.

I Thought My Glasses Made Me Unattractive

Itis, unfortunately, not an uncommon Hollywood trope. Pay attention, and you’ll notice it in many films and television shows.

The girl with the glasses is unattractive.

She is described as “frumpy”. She’s called every name from “geek” to “loser”, and it hardly matters whether she is book smart or not. It hardly matters if this is a modern Cinderella or any manner of other contrived boy fixes girl formula.

Glasses are either a sign that you are demonstrably more intelligent than the average village girl or you are a total charity case, worthy only of a makeover and no honest personal consideration beyond just how much prettier you would look without those frames in your face.

And from the moment I got my first pair of glasses in fifth grade, I believed it.

My eyesight is objectively terrible. I’ve gone through eight prescriptions in nearly twenty years. Some jerk tries to play keepaway with the lenses I wear now, I’m calling an Uber simply for the sake of the lives I’ll save by not chancing the road with zero depth perception.

I’d have to squint at the GPS eighteen inches from my face, let’s put it that way.

But aside from the fact that I truly do need real help for my eyes to do their job, I’m not in fifth grade anymore. If I want to resurrect the gold rimmed and purple speckled tragedies of my youth, I will. If I want a pair for day to day and a pair for nights out, I’ll get them. How ridiculous to think that I’m a loser for my medically necessary accessory? How silly to allow a few too many 90’s Rom-Com scenes to control my self perception for so long?

The girl with the glasses isn’t frumpy. She’s myopic.

(And have you seen photos of Kate Beckinsale wearing glasses? Or Rachel Weisz? Be still my beating heart…)

Yes, I’m the girl with the glasses, and I’ve (finally) grown beyond thinking that’s a bad thing.

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