Blue Ridge Parkway Sunset

Saturday night, at 7:45 and kind of on a whim, I took a trip to the top of Richland Balsam, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway to read and watch the sunset.  When I got there, I set up my “soccer” chair, got out my phone, my book and cracked open up a bottle of Hi Wire Brewery’s “Aerialist” and settled in for my front row view of the sun setting from atop the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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I immediately took in the grandness, the beauty, the peace and the serenity of this place; a place i’d been before, just not for a sunset.  At this time of day, there are few cars on the parkway and it is so quite and peaceful.  There are birds chirping all around.  The sun is creeping lower and lower, gently hanging over the mountains of Tennessee.

IMG_20170722_204152I find it amazing that the atmosphere shields so much of the brightness of the sun and you can look at it without harming your eyes when the sun is that far down on the horizon.  The sun appears as a perfect circle, almost like there is a hole in the atmosphere, slowing moving down with a bright light just peering through.

When I arrived at the “overlook” the sky was as “Tarheel” or “Carolina” blue as it could get, the sun still bright in the sky, but slowly descending on the day.  There were some wispy clouds in the sky and some thicker cumulus clouds off to the south to frame my view.  As the sun crept closer to the horizon, the sky started to turn from blue to orange.  Pink tints began to flow out from below the orange glow of the sun and then a stroke of purple lined tops of the distant mountains, which were now deep shades of blues and grays.

The sun slowly disappeared behind the mountains with nothing more than beautiful sun rays left glowing in all colors from below the horizon.  The sun had set on another day here, but is rising on another day somewhere else in the world.

IMG_0419I had no real reason to go up there on Saturday, but the thought crossed my mind after I ate dinner and I thought, as I have a lot lately, “why not?”  I decided to go up, watch the sun set, relax, read, and just to enjoy some time alone to think about my life, my children and all of the many blessings I have, blessings that I never want to take for granted.

I’m so glad I made the short drive up to The Parkway on Saturday.  It was so refreshing and good for my soul.  I’ll be back up there soon!

Are you missing out, or taking something for granted that is right in “your backyard” like I was?  If so, grab your loved ones, a blanket and just go! Why not?

As John Muir said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”

Have a great week everyone!

 

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21 Days and Counting, Then 30

Counting today, there are 21 days until I race in the Lake Lure Triathlon; my first triathlon since 2010 and I am getting really excited about that race.  In fact, I have been so excited about the race and confident in my training, that I just signed up for another triathlon in Washington DC, on Sunday, September 10th (51 days away)!  I have never been that spontaneous, but when I saw the event advertised in Triathlete magazine, I thought, “I’m free that weekend, Why not?” I immediately went online and registered for the “Nation’s Triathlon!”  Plus, it’s also the week after my BIG 40, so it’s going to be a happy birthday road trip to myself in a city where I once lived, worked and can visit some old friends and old clients.

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Training for these races has been tough with early mornings and tired muscles, but I have gotten addicted to the training and I feel really good.  It has also started to become much easier to get up and go to the gym, or to stay there longer, because I’m starting to see the results in better times and distances when I train.  For instance, when I started to specifically train for the Lake Lure Triathlon I was running two to three miles at a time and at a pace of 10 to 10 1/2 minutes per mile.  Just this month alone, I have ran over 50 miles, am averaging over four miles per run, and running at a pace of eight minutes per mile.   That’s at least a six minute time savings on the run portion alone in a sprint triathlon compared to how fast I was running earlier in the year.  My confidence in my training has increased so much and I am having so much fun getting ready for these races.  I do have a goal for the Lake Lure Triathlon and that’s also part of my motivation.  I not only want to improve my times from 2010, but I also want to place in the top three within my age group.  Both of these goals are achievable and are within reach.  Knowing that, I am motivated to go a little bit harder and a little bit longer each time I’m out training.

Training for an endurance sport, such as triathlon, has obviously helped me physically as well. IMG_20170720_171919  Over the past six months with training and a new healthy diet, I have seen incredible changes in my physical well-being, my strength and even my physique.  This is very motivating to me because I finally started noticing more muscle tone and was beginning to feel that increased strength I had gained during runs and swims.  Of course, like many others, I wanted those immediate results when I first started to train, but it didn’t happen very quickly.   However, with continued work and effort, I did start to notice the changes in my strength and began seeing evidence that there is a “something”-pack in my abs.  I had to buy new clothes because my “old” ones were all baggy, bunched and cinched.  Then on Thursday, it really hit me when I wrote down 192.6 lbs on my gym card.  That was down from 224.4 lbs since December 31st.  My goal was not to lose 30 lbs, but I must say, I feel as good physically as I have ever felt, I am motivated to get better and I am having so much fun training for these races!

I am motivated in many ways in my life right now, and it’s not just to train for these races or get stronger and more toned.  I am motivated by my kids to be a better dad each and every day.  At work, I have a great team and a great organization that motivates me to be the best that I can be on my job, for them and our clients.  I have also found motivation in conversations that I’ve had over the past couple of weeks about life and not getting discouraged when things get hard but to keep moving toward the destination of where I want to go and where I want to be.  Have you thought about what motivates you?   I hope you can find motivation to be who you want to be and to go after your wishes and dreams for you and your family!

Alright, it’s Saturday morning and I have some biking and running to do this morning.  Enjoy your day!

 

Sailing and Life

 

The kiddos and I just recently returned from a great trip to Lake Norman, an annual tradition around the 4th of July with family-friends that have a house there.  Ella is one of my mother’s best friends and her and her husband Dennis are also the kids God-parents.  We have been going to visit them at least a few days each year for about 5 years.  We have such a good time getting away and spending time there.  When we’re there, we enjoy swimming, fishing, paddle boating, kayaking, and just relaxing by the water.  They have a great place with a nice size dock, a beach area and plenty of space for the “Circus” as they call the Wells kiddos.

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The last couple of visits there, Christopher and I have enjoyed “learning” to sail.  The girls enjoy it some, but they typically just want us to get them back to shore fairly quickly.  As you can see in the picture below (a little grainy), Julia just wanted to pretend she was “Maona” on the bow.  Plus, it’s a small sail boat and four of us on it is probably a little much.

 

I grew up going to the lake during the summers to enjoy our time on a regular motor boat, where we could ski, knee-board, tube, or just ride around the lake enjoying the wind in our face.  I had never attempted to manually sail a sailboat.  It’s ironic, but I watched “Moana” last night for the first time with the kids.  There’s a scene where Moana “makes” Maui teach her to sail and it reminded me of Dennis coaching Christopher and me on “how to catch the wind” and how to “tack” and “jib.”

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Christopher and I really have fun getting the boat out on the water, but it is not easy to sail, even on the smallest of beginner boats.  We had to learn when to pull the line tight so that the boom (a large aluminum pipe holding the bottom of the sail) would allow the sail to capture the most “air.”  It was important for us to understand the “feel” of when to tack (to zig zag) in order to maintain speed, while at the same time steer the rudder so that we got close to where we wanted to go.  Many times we would get going fast enough to make a small wake and the slightest turn would cause the sail to go flat and we’d stop and just float until we could figure out how to harness even the slightest breeze to get us moving again.  Occasionally, we would catch a large gust of wind and the thrill of the speed and the excitement of having to lean back out over the water to keep the weight balanced was so exhilarating, yet sometimes a little scary.  The boat never turned over, but came close a time or two.

We enjoyed those exhilarating moments immensely, however, a good steady wind was what we preferred.  With a consistent breeze we could pick up good speed, yet also have the opportunity to improve our sailing capabilities without having to worry about flipping the boat.  I do have to admit the air would “go still,” and the emergency oar did have to be used a couple of times to get us back to the dock.

 

Sometimes life can be like sailing.  There are times when you haven’t experienced certain situations that you have to use your “gut,” or “feel” to overcome adversity or figure out a dilemma.  In life, we also have to be determined and patient in waiting for, finding, and going after that breeze or what we’re searching for or what is needed to get us moving again.  When things aren’t going so well, or get hard, we may have to find our oar and start rowing to make things happen.  Finally, many decisions or actions take us to those “oh shit, we’re about to tip” moments.  By digging deep, hanging on tight and fully committing ourselves to find that proper balance, we typically come out unscathed and onto steady and calm waters.  In life, we can’t be afraid to tip, but we have to be ready to bail the water when we do.

Happy sailing!  Have a great week!

 

 

10 Minute Brain Dump

Some call this a Stream of Consciousness, but I’m going to call it a 10 minute brain dump. I’m new at this blogging but have really enjoyed getting my thoughts out, whether it is as a post or on paper for a future post.  I have had some help from a friend that has been very helpful with ideas and insights into this new journey I’m on with my blog.  This exercise is one of her suggestions.  So, the goal of this “Brain Dump” is to just write for 10 minutes.  Let’s see how it goes:

It’s Saturday afternoon and the kids and I are having a “veg” day.  They have their feet up, all on one bed, watching one of their favorite YouTube Channels.  I doubt they will take a nap, but it’s been a very busy week for us with a 5 night visit to Lake Norman and then to Chimney Rock.  We are all spent and need this day to chill.  Hannah does want to go to Goodwill to get some “Large” shirts to lounge in.  We may just do that since I have basically had to buy all new clothes from dropping 25 lbs since Christmas.  I have an entire closet full of clothes that don’t fit anymore and can be of good use in someone else’s closet.  With the kids having their feet up, I am spending my time this afternoon just resting and relaxing myself; a perfect time for writing.

chimney rockSo I’m starting to get a little anxious about this upcoming week.  This past week has been amazing and we have had such a good time.  I took off work and have enjoyed every single minute with the kids at the lake, but I know that Tuesday looms when they are going out west with Amanda and won’t be back for two weeks.  The anxiety of knowing I won’t see them for that long is so tough on me.  Since Amanda and I have been separated, the anxiousness of having to tell the kids goodbye for any length of time has been hard on both of us, but two weeks seems unbearable.  Skype and Facetime just aren’t the same as having them here with me and seeing them daily.  I will say though, it has gotten a little easier for the weekly visits, but I have had to learn to get busy and stay busy when they leave.  The silence without them here is deafening and can really get me down if I don’t find something to do.  I have found myself going to the lake to run, going to the gym, or even going to browse the grocery store aisles just to buy my protein mix.  I’ve also found some consistency with my guitar and something that I’ve gotten really addicted to is writing.  Getting my thoughts out on paper can be so refreshing and healthy for me.

Going through this separation, and the immense changes that come along with it, has motivated me to spend time reflecting on my past and how I’ve lived my life till now.  I give immense thought to who I am, my values and how I can ensure that I’m doing all that I can to be a better dad, a better man, a better friend, and a better husband, when and if that opportunity presents itself again.

My timer is not up.  I’m at 9:19 but I’ve got to call it wrap because there is a knock down drag out happening upstairs between Julia and Christopher…. Dad hat on!

“After My Time Is Up” Note:

I know most of you may ask, “Matt, you only had a little time left and you cut it short?”  I have to say that the floor above me sounded as if Christopher and Julia were body slamming each other to go along with the yelling.  Once I got them seated on the couch, I learned that their argument was over Julia breathing on Christopher and her “twitching.”  Christopher decided it was bothering him so much that he wasn’t going to let her watch his IPad anymore…. Julia did’t take that very well.  “Christopher, wouldn’t it have been easier to say, Julia, you’re breathing on me.  Could you please stop.”  When I asked him if he thought of that, he said, “Yes, I told her a year ago that I don’t want her breathing on me.”  SMH….  There was an admitted hit and a shove to go along with the yelling.  “IPad is mine for the rest of the day! Read, draw, take a nap or play together with the hot wheels.”

 

Sunrise

I woke up this morning with a few topics that I’ve been writing about to share, but the beautiful sunrise this morning pushed those topics aside for another day…..you can probably see why:

 

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It’s Sunday morning, sitting in an Adirondack chair just feet from the shore at Lake Norman watching this amazing sunrise.  “Almost Heaven” is how I’ve described it.  Heaven to me is beautiful, peaceful, awe-inspiring, calm, full of light, joy and happiness….this is almost heaven.

I’m up before everyone else with my cup of coffee, just the sound of some birds welcoming the new day.  Closing my eyes as the sun is rising, feeling the warmth of the rising sun as it moves above the trees on the horizon.  It’s so peaceful as the slight fog drifts along the top of the water so effortlessly.  It’s the start of a new day, a blessing that so many times we take for granted.  Nothing we can do will change what we did yesterday, but the new day gives us an opportunity to do more, to do what we wished we should have done yesterday.  The new day gives us another chance to learn from our pitfalls or the pain we may have caused by words spoken in haste or the actions we made towards others, or even how I got onto one child and not the other one because I didn’t “catch” the entire act.  The sunrise represents a new day to play a little longer with the kids, to make the most of our time together.  It represents a new day to encourage the children to be adventurous, to take risks (not dumb risks), but to try something challenging, to not be afraid of messing up, and owning it when they do, something we all need to do.  This sunrise represents a new opportunity to leave a mark on someone else, to be an inspiration by how we treat others and to live the day to its fullest as if it’s the last sunrise.

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Christopher has started listening to Lecrae on my Spotify account.  Lecrae is a christian rap artist and while I loved 90s hip hop and rap back in the day, I really don’t think I can tell you a song, or maybe even a rapper’s name unless it was one prior to the year 2000.  I listen to so many types of music, including today’s pop, just not rap.  So, a few weeks ago, I turned on my Spotify, put my earbuds in and started out on a run around Lake Junaluska listening to the “This is Lecrae” station thinking, “Let’s listen to what Christopher has been listening to.”  Now, I’m not changing all of my music playlists to rap, or even christian rap, but I have to say, the storytelling in these songs is so well communicated and leave no room for misinterpretation on the meaning or the feelings.  The beat of these songs is great for a 9-minute per mile pace too.  If you see me running around Lake J, waving my hands in the air “like I just don’t care,” or like we use to when we heard “Hip Hop Hooray” back in the day, don’t judge me, because I’m probably just feeling it with Lecrae.  To bring my thoughts full circle, a line in Lecrae’s song “Just Like You” says, “I wanna be like You in every way, So if I gotta die every day, unworthy sacrifice, but the least I can do is give the most of me…”  This sunrise represents a new day for me to give the most of me to God, to my children, my family, my friends, my coworkers; to give the the most I can, of myself, each and every day!

It’s time for another cup of coffee, but I just don’t want to move.  The view, the warm embrace of the sun, my mind just dumping thoughts, memories and emotions out so fast that I just can’t keep up….no paper to write on, just the phone’s note feature to capture all it can take.  I considered doing a video “blog” of my thoughts and the view but I have some serious bedhead and probably even eyeball boogers, plus, I want you to use my thoughts, the descriptions of the sunrise and the emotions felt for you to imagine your own story as if you were sitting in this blue Adirondack by the lake; the sun rising on your new day.

Enjoy your Sunday.  I’m going to refresh my coffee now, peek in on the sleeping kiddos and leave this seat for you to enjoy…..

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