Inspiration

As I stare at my library haul for this week, I am wondering how on Earth I’m going to finish my 3 books in the next 2 weeks. I am normally a non-fiction gal, but this week, I have 2 novels on my queue. And I’m excited about this little change. So, let’s back up first and talk about the library. Our local library is the best arm {in my opinion} of the larger Sonoma County Regional Library. I admit to having been absent from the library scene until about 5 years ago when I began using the library as a rainy day outing for my oldest son, which means we’d visit about 4 – 5 times a year. I admit to largely ignoring the library for myself the majority of my adult life. That certainly doesn’t mean I wasn’t reading books, but in the lifestyle of consumption I was leading I never even thought about checking out a library book instead of buying one on my kindle or at the book store. I LOVE to read and I’m sure I’ve spent a good chunk of change on books in my lifetime. Easier was it to buy when I had my kindle (which I have since given away), as the book simply appears in your queue with the click of a button.  Voila! Instant reading pleasure. I am not slamming anyone who reads on a kindle, ipad or other device – it just wasn’t for me. And once I started paying more attention to my consumption habits, the kindle was a red flag in the book buying department.

The library then became my main source of books and once I discovered the request/hold process, I was back in {the book reading} business, this time without the cost. In the last year, I’ve read more than the previous 3 years combined. {Full disclosure: within the years of 2011 – 2014, we were quite busy – read more about that here.} So, what have I been reading? I’m glad you asked. Below is a list of my top 5 inspirational books of 2015 and how I’ve implemented changes from them into my life.

Everything that Remains: A Memoir by the Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn

This was the first book I read that opened my eyes to my consumption lifestyle. At the time I read it I had been following The Minimalists online, but on a pretty tertiary level, as the changes I thought I “needed” to make seemed pretty daunting. After reading the book my eyes have been opened to the way I view our belongings and lifestyle. A simpler life came into closer view and I began tackling both the physical and mental clutter and making space for experiences vs. stuff.

Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson

While the tone of the book was a bit off for me, I took away so many simple changes in reducing our family’s trash. Many feel that Bea is pretty extreme in her lifestyle and I agree that a zero waste life is not for everyone – including us. But, I have adopted many of her ideas with ease and made huge gains in reducing our family’s footprint. Bulk shopping at our lovely, local Oliver’s store has probably made the biggest impact. Our food bills have been lowered dramatically and the packaging waste has made a huge difference. I have also gotten rid of our plastic plates, cups, bowls, water bottles and food storage containers as well as eliminating the use of ziploc bags for lunches. Items have been replaced with quality glass or stainless steel containers that last far longer than their plastic counterparts without the icky toxins.

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery

 

I so loved this book and the scientific look at what makes people happy in their living environments. This book inspired me to commute via biking or walking more, and to embrace my local community. Ultimately, it was this book that inspired me to experiment with having just 1 car for our family of 5. Read about that here and here.

Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

Reading this book and implementing the changes that Dave suggests has enabled us to radically change how we manage our finances. We’ve paid down debt, cut up our credit cards and are on a road to being debt free  – and yes, that includes the mortgage! The financial side of simplifying our lives has been the most freeing.

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme

Oh how I adore Julia Child! It was a treat to read how she went from a bored housewife to a culinary genius. I loved becoming immersed in her transformation to a chef and cookbook writer. The level of detail in those recipes is truly amazing. This book made me want to cook more and in the months since I’ve read it, I’ve made more meals from scratch than ever before. Bon Appetit!

 

There are so many more books that I drew inspiration in 2015, which ending up being a transformative year for me. You can find the rest of my reviews here.

xo, Lindsey

 

 

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One More Car+

Yes, I know. I never followed up my one less car post and have left you all hanging for months on end. I don’t know if it’s the feeling of failure or that telltale word “busy” that kept me from coming back to this space, but I’ve clearly been ignoring my blog for 3+ months. I could elaborate on all that transpired in Q4 (as us financial minded folks like to call it) or I could start where I am now. So that’s what I’ll do. And yes, we did get another car. More on that later.
So, 2016 – woohoo, right? I have to admit that I’ve approached the New Year with trepidation. I’m excited to try new things and be the “best me” I can be, but I’m also tired. Yes, tired. I may gloss things over in the whole “working mom of 3 young boys” realm, but the reality is that the daily work is exhausting. I say this not out of complaint, but to finally admit to the world (or my 5 blog readers) that I’m not super mom. I am ready to give up that faux title. My number one job will always be mom, but I think I need to clear the air that I’m not perfect. And by that I mean that I’m finally ready to admit to myself that striving for perfection is really exhausting and unattainable (obvious to most, but not to me). So, there it is, I’m working this year on not being such a damn perfectionist. That in itself is just a Virgo, type A, perfectionist’s goal.

So, there’s that. And speaking of the fall of perfectionism, I am to here report that my utopian goal of having just 1 car for our family of 5 did not work out. It failed. There, I said it. I knew at the time that it was an ambitious goal, but when we were constantly borrowing cars from our family, the reality was that we were not able to manage our life with just 1 car. And I’m honestly okay with that. Something I’m really proud of is how we actually did something different when we sought to buy a second car. My MO for buying cars has always been to mosey on down to the dealership and buy a new car with a 5 year loan and make payments until I decide I want a new car. And repeat that about every 3 years. Sometimes I’d buy a used car from a dealer, but the truth is it’s been many years since I’ve not had a car payment. This time, though, Neils and I decided to go about this whole thing differently. The experience of only having 1 car really underscored for us that a vehicle is just a means of getting from point A to point B. And from there we were able to take the ego out of the car search. When you’re borrowing cars from others – to get to an appointment, pick up the kids or go to work – you realize that the type of car really doesn’t matter. So, Neils picked a price point that we could save for within 2 months and bought a used Chevy Tahoe for cash. Cash. I’m just going to go ahead and underline that word, as I have never bought a car with cash in my entire life.

This transaction is just an example of how both Neils and I have morphed our thinking over the past several months. We’re assessing what’s important to us, and it’s a short list – family, having a good home, safety and the ability to travel – and working diligently towards living our daily life to honor and make space for what matters to us. Simplicity is really where I’m finding peace. Simplifying our finances by paying off debt has been a huge shift for our family. No longer are we spending money willy nilly, but setting a monthly budget that we stick to while saving for the unexpected and paying off our debts. Since September, I’m proud to say we’ve paid off 2 credit cards (and cut them up), 2 student loans, bought a car with cash, taken our brood of 5 to Maine to visit family and are building a savings account that will cover emergencies. The last item on the list is paying off my car loan and the tax man (#$#%#) and then we get to tackle the fun stuff like paying down our mortgage. I am listing these here, as these are true accomplishments for us. We already feel lighter. By focusing on experiences and simplicity, we’ve been able to shift from a consumer driven lifestyle to one of more intention. This will always be a battle, being that this type of life is considered counter-culture in a world that screams “MORE! BETTER! FASTER! NEWER!” around every bend. It is truly tough to ignore how we are programmed, but it has been easier than I thought it would be.

What is the ultimate goal of the simple life? Day by day, I’m figuring out what it means to me and I’m finding that the money and time that’s been freed up has put me back in touch with how much I love to help others. I’m going to continue to follow that thread and fill you in along the way. And I promise to visit more often, my friends.

xo, Lindsey

One Less Car.

I must be honest in writing this post, as this one car thing truly is an experiment for us. I began to write about our transportation downsizing about 20 days ago, but I couldn’t get the nerve to finish writing and post it here, mostly because I’m not sure how long we will continue on this path. But, as of now, we are the proud owners of just one car – our 2007 Honda Pilot. Again, this is a trial of sorts for our family of five with school, soccer, client meetings, errands, doctor’s appointments, golf games, and all the transporting that goes into our normal lives. Especially of interest is that we are doing this not while living in San Francisco or even the East Bay where BART and MUNI are easily accessible, but in Sonoma County, where the primary transportation is personal vehicles. Don’t get me wrong – we love where we live, but Sonoma County is a bit behind in the public transportation realm (though we hope to be catching up to our Bay Area brethren soon with the SMART train due to arrive in late 2016). That said, we didn’t go down this road to rely on public transportation, so it’s kind of a moot point for now. Most of what we need is within a few miles of our home and I’m easily able to bike to many of the regular stops around town, with the glaring exception of the boys school. And this is why we’re calling this an experiment.

Our sons' school in it's lovely pastoral setting.

Our sons’ school in it’s lovely pastoral setting.

We love the boys school and community so much – I mean, just look at that beautiful rural setting! The school itself is just 4 miles from our home, so commuting via our Yuba Mundo would be feasible if the roads weren’t so dangerous. You see, the main roads that lead to the school are all high speed limit, quasi-rural roads without a shoulder. Even if we took the longer route, which is partially along a rural highway, the back country roads are just not safe for this mama bird and her 3 little fledglings. And that’s where our conundrum comes in. We’ve been sharing our one car for just about a month now and we’re mostly fine, but we do have to borrow a car from one of our parents on a regular basis. This is the point where I am questioning if we can keep this up. If we’re regularly borrowing someone else’s car doesn’t that mean that we need another car? I honestly don’t know. I dove head first into this experiment with high confidence and now that’s shaken a bit. A simple daily trip to pick up the boys from school now requires more thought, pre-planning and rearranging of schedules. And that’s okay.  More than okay, really, that’s what I set out to do – think more about our daily decisions. But in this capacity it’s becoming pretty tiring, even for a thinker like me.

Our one and only car (for now).

Our one and only car (for now).

So, why, might you ask, are we a one car family anyway? Good question, thank you for asking. This is a multi faceted answer, but in a nutshell this all comes down to environmental issues, smart purchasing and minimalism. In a broad sense, I believe that we, as Americans, are heavily reliant on personal vehicles. It’s not even our fault, as it’s such an integral part of our culture that only when you lose access to a personal vehicle will you begin to understand how deep our relationship is with the automobile. Certainly we all equate our cars to freedom, even if it’s on a subconscious level. And I have definitely seen some of that freedom taken away during this past month of one car-ness. That loss of freedom has actually been enlightening in many ways, and annoying in others. Take for example, last Wednesday, when Neils took the car to work in Petaluma. I also needed to be in Petaluma for back to back work meetings starting at noon. I really wasn’t feeling like riding my bike in that day, but I also needed to do some catch up work at home that morning, so I opted not to ride to Petaluma with Neils. So, around 10 am, I mounted my trusty Yuba Mundo armed with my work bag, huge water bottle and my hot coffee in my newly minted cup holder. I was in a bit of a grumpy mood when I started my way toward Petaluma, but then something happened that always does once I start riding – I began to smile. Smiling for no reason other than I was happy to be outside, active and going somewhere. I made the 10 mile ride in a little under an hour with a couple of stops along the way and felt great once I arrived at IPG HQ {albeit sweaty – it was climbing into the 90s that day} . And also happy that I didn’t have to ride back, as Neils was going to make the return ride home later that afternoon while I used the car to pick up the boys. And this is just the type of day that pushes me along on this one car path. I absolutely loved the feeling of accomplishing many tasks at once while riding to work via bike. Not only did I get my daily dose of exercise, but also saved the air from additional emissions and the best part of all – I was outside in nature for a good hour of my day! Being outside is soul quenching and I can really feel my mood trending toward the negative if I go several days without a hike, bike ride or some sort of outdoor activity.

My new cup holder!

My new cup holder!

For all these positive feelings that transpire during my bike commute, there are also philosophical reasons that I feel we only need one car. Like, why do we feel the need to be always on the go? This is a question I’m directly pointing at me, the ultimate on-the-go gal. Why do I need to be constantly running on to my next activity? Ugh. I hate these questions that I ask myself. But, I think it really comes down to a feeling of boredom that I constantly try to avoid. Bored, boring, boredom – all words that I used too much as a child and now do anything to avoid feeling when I don’t know what to “do” with idle time. And this is tough for me. Very tough. But worth exploring why it is indeed so hard to sit still and just be. I also see that in my little protege, Finn. He is so very smart, but he hates to be bored and even as a baby he seemed so unhappy until he could walk and talk. Talk about a mini-me! He is a mover and a shaker with a lot going on in that head of his, but at four years old he’s already uttering the word I used so often as a child: bored. There it is rearing its ugly head again in my life. So, it appears that this boredom thing is here to stay and I just need to figure out how to deal with it. And having one car is really forcing me look at boredom in the face. Will our transportation downsizing help me to overcome this? Not sure, but it sure is helping me be less “on the go”, because I can’t really go very far, at least, without a car.

And I can’t ignore one of the main reasons we are choosing to do without a second car – debt. This is a touchy subject and feels somewhat raw to talk about here, as I was raised to believe that financial matters are to be kept private. But, I think this topic is worth exploring, as debt is so prevalent here in the good ‘ol USA. Now, we don’t have a ton of debt, but we do have a car payment, small balance on a credit card and an annoying student loan still floating around in addition to our lovely mortgage. A main goal for our family is to live more simply and to accomplish that we feel like reducing and {eventually} eliminating ALL of our debt will lead us to simplicity, and ultimately freedom. Freedom not only from debt, but also from a lifestyle that demands a certain paycheck and the time investment in the work that pays that check. Time is so precious while our kids are young and what I want more than anything is freedom to spend that time living life to its fullest and not what we have to do to keep a certain status quo in our societal circle. So, we are on a tract to pay off all of our debts within the next year {the mortgage will take us a little longer} and that’s a big reason we are choosing to do without a second car and subsequent payment at this time. But, in the meantime we are saving to purchase a truck with cash if this whole “one car thing” doesn’t work out. So, in doing without for the interim is teaching us many lessons – in patience and slowing down, and enjoying our lives as they are now. One month from now, you may see a new post entitled One More Car, but don’t fret – we are still on track and holding onto all that we’re learning in this in between time.

~LBG

Catalyst

So, I’ll be honest and say that I have not had much time to “reflect” on decisions as I’ve been going along these past 5+ years. Of course there are times when I look back and think “wow, that was a great move” and certainly times when I’ve questioned the path we’re on as a family and how decisions I’ve made have affected that path. All in all though, I feel that we are on the path we’re meant to walk. I think sometimes it takes distance from decisions to truly see their impact. For example, at the time we were selling our house 2+ years ago things felt chaotic and urgent, but the reasons we decided to sell seemed to make total sense to us. And they still do. But, in changing our mailing address, while we knew were changing our path a bit, I don’t think we realized how much life would change. Friends who we were close to then are now much harder to coordinate with and thus we don’t see them as often. Routines that were once daily – walking to the park, the daily Starbucks visit – have changed. I am still hitting up my beloved Starbucks (don’t hate) and we certainly still go to the park, just not “the park with the big slides” or “the slowest Starbucks ever”. I’m honestly not sure how the moves we have made have affected our boys other than the fact they have made it known that they prefer a “stairs” house over our singe level mid-century charmer. And that’s actually one of the reasons I wanted a smaller, one level home. Can’t you just envision the broken bones that would ensue after a cool “trick” jump from the top stair or something of the like? If not, I am happy to lend the boys to you for an afternoon.

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Our first home on Lexington Street in Petaluma, CA.

I digress.  The bottom line is that I’m coming to a point of reflection on the decisions we’ve made over the past couple of years. This reflection has led to a feeling of uncertainty of how to proceed. In the past 3 years a lot has happened and of course, a lot more will happen. My feeling in reflecting over the past few years is that I’m proud of the work I’ve done, but also the overwhelmed by how much more there is to do. A catalyst for the changes I started making 3 years ago was something I didn’t even realize I needed until one day it bonked me on the head. Back in 2012, I was searching for a “remote” office (read: coffee shop) that wasn’t located in a strip mall next to my house (AKA the slow Starbucks). I ventured over to downtown Petaluma one summer day to work from ACRE Coffee – the hippest new coffee shop around – and stumbled upon a new business across the street called WORK. Intrigued, I stepped in and was greeted by co-owners Natasha and Matt who explained that this stylish mid-century modern space we were standing in was now home to Petaluma’s first co-working space. What a breath of fresh air.  Since then, I’ve worked off and on from WORK (read more about it here), if for nothing more than to sit along side others who would otherwise be in their own little pods at home or the local coffee typing away.

The lounge at WORK Petaluma

Something that I’ve gained from coming to WORK has been a fresh perspective on what’s going on in the world around me. Previous to finding this place, I had been working at home quite a bit as our twins were only a little over a year old and our older son not quite 3.  I had quit watching the news (too much negativity and fear) and didn’t have time to read the newspaper. WORK began to serve as the news for me. At least while I was there, I could edit out the stuff I didn’t want to hear by simply putting in my earbuds and cranking up the volume of Pandora’s “The Shins” station. But, what I came to realize was that these people were talking about things that actually mattered. Or at least things that began to matter more to me. Not who shot who today or anything of that ilk. More like: how can we produce less waste as a society or how much it costs to make an egg sandwich from scratch at home vs. the cost of a McMuffin. (The later might not seem important, but it is actually a deeply important topic that has to do with socioeconomic status, education, and availability of good, nutritious food in our country.) But, I digress. I haven’t the faintest idea what political party many of my co-WORKers subscribe to or what, if any, religion they practice. And that’s the great part of it. I can go there to listen, talk, do my work and get away from my house all the while learning something new almost each time I visit. I began to feel enlightened.

It’s amazing what starts to happen when you suddenly start looking up and out after years of “head down in the trenches”. My eyes opened to the changing world around me and I began to change too. It began with simple things like riding my bike to commute the 4 ish miles from home to downtown. Next, as Neils and I weighed the decision to sell our home, the idea of what we wanted from our next home began to change. Admittedly, this was not all due to WORK, but it was the catalyst for me to start thinking in a different way. Like, do we really need a 2000+ sq. ft. home just because we have 3 kids? And does that home really need to be brand spankin’ new or even built in the last 20 years? What do we really want for our family and kids? Big questions that required lots of thinking and analyzing (constant analyzing, if you know me). But, what we figured out by asking ourselves some hard questions was that we really wanted a place with ample outdoor space so the kids could be outside the majority of the time we are at home. We also figured out the we preferred an older home with character vs. a newer home with more amenities and space. A very big decision that we made during the year between when we sold/bought (we rented for a year) was that we would share a property with my mom, who lived in a 3 bedroom/3 bathroom townhome about 1/4 mile from us in Petaluma. She was living alone and the space was far more than she needed. In addition, rental rates were rising and we all needed a long term solution that made sense for everyone. So, we embarked on looking for a property we all 3 agreed on. No small task for this group. My mom preferred a less rustic space, whereas Neils and I were fine with a fixer upper. During that year we looked at properties in rural West Petaluma, Penngrove, Santa Rosa and Cotati. It became clear towards the end of our year lease that we might not find something that appealed to my mom, Neils and I collectively. We were frantically look at any new house that came on the market while at the same time trying to figure out where we might be by the Fall so that we could make a decision for our oldest son’s entry into elementary school. To say I was a ball of stress would be a severe understatement. And seemingly overnight things changed.

Don’t know how or why, but we found a lovely charter school for our son on the northwestern edge of Petaluma. It would be a drive from our rental if we still lived there, but it would be worth it as we both felt this was the right school for our son and our family. The following week I saw a house listing pop up on the MLS that looked too good to be true – mid century, 3 bedroom/2 bath house on 1/3 acre lot with a legit granny unit in the back. We made an offer and much to my surprise, it actually all worked out. I was sure that some sort of hiccup would prevent the deal from going through, but it didn’t. Even the hiccups that happened did not delay our closing and we were homeowners again on March 18, 2014!

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Our new home

While we only moved 5 miles from our East Petaluma suburban neighborhood, it was clear that things would be different here. For starters, the first neighbor to greet us was Cowboy Bob who lives next door. Outfitted in wranglers, boots, a cowboy hat and a belt buckle that would impress my late grandpa, Bob moseyed over to introduce himself one afternoon as I was painting the kitchen. As a native Texan, I had to appreciate that we’d landed ourselves next to a real, live cowboy. Next, we discovered our backyard to be laden with fruit trees (plum and fig) and wide open to anything else we might want to plant. This was a vast difference from the tiled patio that served as a backyard in our rental. The reality is that time moves a little bit slower here, just 5 miles from where we started, and we like that. We downright love it. I, more than anyone else in my family, need to have my external surroundings match what I’d like to achieve within myself. I still feel like a spastic chicken the majority of the time, but when I give myself permission and the time and space to relax, I feel so thankful that this is where we landed. It’s been almost 18 months now since we moved and I am still constantly striving to make changes, but I’m also realizing that some of these changes will just have to come in time. My biggest challenge now is to take the advice my mom gave me to settle in to my life and let things marinate. Here’s to trying!

Ruminations

PHEW! Is it seriously mid-July? Really hard to believe and yet, here we are. Summer has been flying by, as it always seems to do and in addition to all the summer fun, swimming, backyard makeover-ing, I’ve been doing a bit of thinking. Okay, more than a bit – as a type A, Virgo, perpetual thinker, “a bit” is a serious understatement. Thinking about what, you might ask. Well, lots. So, last time I wrote here (https://bikefor4.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/quaxing-how-i-got-here/) way back in May, I attempted to summarize how exactly I landed in my current state of mind. Hard to do in one blog post, but I tried.  And what is my current state of mind? Another good question and one which seems to constantly evolve and change. Some things I’ve been ruminating about in the past month or so are, in no particular order or importance: new urbanism, minimalism, gardening, sustainability, zero waste and {seemingly} drastic transportation changes. So, pretty much your basic relaxing summer mindset, right?

But seriously, I am feeling very much like I’m on a journey and not sure where it’s headed, which is both scary and exhilarating! Two books that I’ve been reading that have provided food for thought are Charles Montgomery’s Happy City and Everything that Remains by The Minimalists.

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These 2 books are both works of non-fiction {as I trend towards} and have opened my eyes to some interesting concepts. None of these are really, truly “new” ideas, but more like a breath of fresh air to this recovering uber-consumer. That’s a label I bestow upon myself, as I really love nothing more than the high I get from trolling Target with my Starbucks iced decaf americano in hand and forking over my money for both things we need and the shiny, discounted objects I found on their beckoning endcaps {read: things I definitely don’t need}. In the past several months it seems like things have slowed down in some ways and sped up in others, but my thinking is no longer marred by my former lifestyle of {work} travel of endless miles traversing the highways and airways of the Bay Area, LA, Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City and the places in between. This has really allowed me to focus on things that are important to me and give them more thought rather than the constant push/pull of being on the road while cursing traffic and fighting migraines induced by missed meals and stress while trying to get to that 10 am meeting in Culver City. The first of these thoughts has been transportation. Something that is relatively trivial to most, as most of us tend to get in our personal vehicle and zoom toward our destination without much thought. The ultimate idea of freedom to us Americans! I, for one, have always loved my car…no matter which of the 9 (!) cars I’ve had since getting my driver’s license at age 15. Yep, due to my elderly great-grandmother’s deteriorating eyesight and my mom’s work travel, I was able to obtain a “hardship” license one year earlier than my peers so that I could ferry my great grandmother and sister around our small town when my mom was away. It was heaven on earth for 15 year old Lindsey! From where I began to where I am now is a huge gap and I’m not even sure how I got here. But, slowly, over time my eyes were opened through my experiences to help aid me in thinking differently about not only how I get around, but how I think about the way I walk through this world. I got to thinking and it seemed like I was walking pretty hard. Not lightly imprinting my presence on this Earth, but walking heavily and not really giving much thought to it.

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It is true that we’re all heavily shaped by our upbringing and all that goes with that, but we also have the ability to change and evolve. Don’t you love the pic of my dad {above} with my 3 boys riding to our beloved Target on a Saturday in June? He has lived 99% of his life in Ennis, Texas {where I was born and raised} and yet, he wanted to try out riding this behemoth, no matter my warnings that it’s harder than it looks. It really makes me proud that my dad still has this youthful open mindedness to him, no matter how our lives and views may differ. I have recently found myself {Virgo, all or nothing mindset in full force} getting frustrated internally if I don’t ride my bike to all the places that are within a 3 – 5 mile radius of our house. This is something I’ve long struggled with – perfection. If I’m going to be a bike commuter or someone who transports their children via bike, then I need to do that EVERYWHERE, dammit! This is something I really do struggle with on a daily basis: the movie date with my boys last Wednesday was clouded with me thinking “this is only 2 ish miles from our house – why didn’t I bike here?” No matter that it was a scorcher that day – I still can’t seem to give myself a break. Is there a cure for this type of thinking? Maybe just acknowledging these types of thoughts is a cure in itself. I am trying to be a bit easier on myself, but again, my type A personality doesn’t really allow that either.

I’m not exactly sure what the point of all this ruminating was, but maybe that’s okay. I am feeling like I’m getting somewhere just by writing these thoughts down. If you’ve gained something from this, then there is a point after all. Happy ruminating, friends!

#Quaxing – How I Got Here

What-ing? A funny word that I am fully embracing, quaxing is a new term that is defined as “to shop, in the Western world, by means of walking, cycling or public transit”. Apparently, a council member in Auckland, NZ named Dick Quax accidentally coined the term when in a heated Twitter debate regarding transportation options back in January. Regardless of how it originated, I’ve been seriously and happily overusing the word since I learned it last week.  “Neils, I’m headed to Oliver’s to do some #quaxing” has been said multiple days this week. Did I mention how much I love Oliver’s?

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This concept is not new. I, myself have been using my regular ‘ole bike for errands here and there for years, but not until I discovered the world of cargo bikes have I become truly obsessed. To give you a bit of short history on my relationship with transportation, I’ll start in Texas a few years ago. In the year 2000, I was a Finance major on the huge, 5,200 acre campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. Our lovely duplex was about 3 miles from the building where most of my business classes were held. There were a few options in terms of getting to class: the bus system which was easy to access, cheap (free to us students whose parents paid for the service in our tuition fees) and timely. A second option was to bike, which many students did. Walking was also an option but less likely depending on the time of year, as it’s scorching from May – October in Texas. And of course, driving. The best option in my mind was driving the 3 ish miles and parking at school. I didn’t just park at one of the enormous lots that dotted the campus – no, there were about 20,000 other students fighting it out for those spaces (that’s a conservative estimate, as A&M has 44,000 undergrad students) and the walk could still be a half mile or so away (the dread!). No, I parked at the PAID lot right next to my classes. Yup, instead of using the pass my parents bought for me each semester, I used my (non-parent approved, newly minted and A&M logo’d) credit card to pay EACH TIME I PARKED in this lot – so roughly, 3-4 times/week. Writing this down is kind of freaking me out.

Aerial shot of Texas A&M campus.

Aerial shot of Texas A&M campus.

So, as you can imagine, I was a pretty sedentary individual back then. Not only sedentary, but generally unhealthy – my favorite lunch was a 1/4 pounder with cheese, fries and a large Dr. Pepper. I had that meal about 3 times/week. Literally. Of course, drinking was a favorite past time, as it usually is for college kids. So, yeah, I was pretty healthy back then. How shocked was I that I put on 40 lbs from 1999 – 2001? Shopping for a new wardrobe for my new, corporate job that started 2 weeks after graduation, I was (unpleasantly) surprised to find myself buying the largest size of clothes I had ever worn – size 22.  “Embarrassed” doesn’t quite sum up the way I felt when I started that job and quickly realized I was the largest person (not just woman) in the office. Something finally clicked and thanks to an invite by my cheery co-worker, Sarah, who was trying to lose a few lbs, I joined her at a Weight Watchers meeting the following week. This literally changed my life and I don’t think I ever thanked her properly for it.

Scott, Sarah and I in Florida circa 2002.

Scott, Sarah and I in Florida circa 2002.

I don’t tell you all of this to get a “way to go” or “rah, rah rah” reaction. It’s just that I’ve never properly documented how much my life changed once I began my journey of getting healthy. Over the 2.5 years after college graduation I went on to lose almost 90 lbs, started running and then moved to San Francisco. My life was forever altered and I couldn’t have been happier for that. It’s been 11 years since I’ve moved to the Bay Area, 10.5 years since I began dating my husband, 7 years (this Sunday) that we’ve been married, almost 6 years since our first son was born and 4 years since our twins were born. Changes abounded in every direction but the constant that’s gotten me through it all has been fitness. This has taken many forms over the years from training for and running 10 half marathons, a boot-camp obsession, training for and finishing a sprint triathlon, pilates, yoga, spinning, barre classes, P90x, T25…you get the idea. The goal of all of these various forms of fitness was generally to maintain or achieve a look that I’ve always longed for. The reality is, that look was never to be attainable to me. It took a long time for me to figure it out, but exercising and dieting to “look” a certain way doesn’t seem to last. At least for me. Sure, it does work for the short term and I’ve had great results in the past with all these various forms of fitness. I still love many of the classes and toggle between them when I need a reboot. But, something I’ve realized in these past couple of years is that life is all about working in what’s important to you. If you don’t make time for these things (friends, gardening, yoga, exercise, date nights), they will just disappear…and quickly. That’s something I saw happening to me when I finished my last endurance event – injured and done. Thank God for that injury. It made me truly examine my relationship with these endurance events (which I loved and hated simultaneously) and what they were doing to my “non-runner” body. I started riding my bike more as an exercise that kept me moving but also didn’t hurt, and used pilates to help re-hab my back.

Tri, Girl, Tri Sprint Triathlon - 2013

Tri, Girl, Tri Sprint Triathlon – 2013

Biking has been something I’ve done on and off, but using it for transportation has been truly an awakening. Discovering the Yuba Mundo last year was eye opening. I borrowed a Yuba Mundo from the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition last summer after hearing about the brand locally (they’re based in Petaluma). The maiden voyage was a little unnerving with my 3 wiggly passengers, but I got my bearings after a couple of short trips around our small town. I hated to give the bike back after borrowing it for a month, but my time was up and so we said goodbye to “the fun bike”, as my boys called it. Through the Fall and Winter (if you could call it that here in Northern California), I thought off and on about the bike, but reasoned that we couldn’t afford it or that I wouldn’t actually use it as much as I wanted to, etc. Then in January, I made a career move that really altered my view on what’s possible. After almost 9 years working and traveling for my (former) company as their West Coast Region Manager, I went to work for my friends and (former) clients right in Petaluma! The change was immediate – I felt lighter, happier and more in control of my days. My old company was so great and they’re still like family to me, but this change was more than just a job – it was a lifestyle change once again. This really got me thinking about biking as transportation since I was now totally local and so, I rode my bike to my co-workers house my 2nd month into the job to carpool to a work event. The following week, I biked over to meet our intern for lunch and rode to an education event in Petaluma the following week (an 18 mile roundtrip). All on my bike! Which had me again thinking about the Yuba Mundo that I had borrowed last year. If I can transport myself via bike, why not my boys? I could ride them to school, the park, the store…the list is endless. Not everyone was in favor of this idea – my mom thought the ride down Old Redwood Highway to be a bit dangerous since the speed limit is 45 MPH. So, I borrowed the Yuba again for a test drive of sorts to tote P and F to school and see if I could truly do it without losing a kid, my balance or my sanity. I can’t say for sure that I’ve kept my sanity, but the rides were actually (mostly) pleasant! I was hooked. And apparently, my sweet husband was in favor of the Yuba too.  Success! Two weeks later, as an early Mother’s Day gift, I had my shiny,new, bright blue Mundo delivered, via bike I might add. Yes, the delivery guy for Yuba used his Mundo to TOW my Mundo 9+ miles from Petaluma. Talk about #quaxing!

My very own Yuba Mundo!

My very own Yuba Mundo!

And that’s the (long-ish) but condensed tale of how I got here….#quaxing all the way! Check out my nursery run to grab a bag of compost this weekend. Those compost bags ain’t got nothin’ on 3 wiggly boys!

Nursery #quaxing

Nursery #quaxing

-LBG

Hello!

Friends, it’s been too long. My blog of yesteryear slowly began to take a backseat as time seemingly accelerated during these last 4 years. Quick recap:

  • 2008: got married to my best friend, N.
  • 2009: birth of our first son, C and purchase of our first house in Petaluma, California.
  • 2010: 1 month before C’s 1st birthday, surprise! I’m pregnant again….with twins.
  • 2011: P and F, our twin boys were born one month early and just 18 months after their brother.
  • 2011 and beyond: chaos.

Navigating life as it quickly changed presented lots of challenges, but it also delivered lots of eye opening and life changing experiences. I am now at a place to document what’s been going on with me, us and life. This is a site for me to jot down emerging ideas, as well as explain how we’ve come to some of the larger changes we’ve implemented which include: minimizing our “stuff”, downsizing our home, changing jobs, and most recently, attempting to go “car lite” and make some major transportation changes {more to come on that}.

As chaotic as life is with 3 young sons, it’s truly shown me what’s most important – our family and close friends, community, our health and living life on our terms {which we’re still figuring out}.  Change has been and always will be hard, but what remains when all that upheaval has settled is usually a clearer view of what’s important. I’m here in this space to document the discoveries I’ve made over these past few years and to have a place to share the seeds of new discoveries and changes to come.

‘Til next time.

-LBG