Boring indoor workouts because you are old? No, I don't think so!

So I was watching TV and an infomercial came on for a workout video. The woman selling it said something like "As a woman approaching age 50 I wanted a workout that was low-impact, that doesn't pound on my joints."

And she goes on to explain how this indoor TV workout was low-impact and could help her get into shape. It was this boring-looking workout where you stand in one place in your living room and sort of flail your limbs around -- not even dancing -- but sort of like dancing without the grace and breath work. Basically soft-land aerobics for Baby Boomers.

Ug. This makes me sad and a little mad that people think because you are "older" you have to do a boring workout to save your joints. That you have to workout inside. That you have to work out while watching a screen -- something most Americans already do hours of every day.

Hello. It is never interesting to workout inside to a DVD unless you have a CONSTANT, EVER-CHANGING stream of workout DVDs. Which is expensive, wasteful, and is basically the business model of a large fitness company that shall go unnamed for the time being. Also, don't you want to leave your living room once in a while?

There's a simple workout that gets you outside, that is low impact, and that dramatically increases your mobility, cardio fitness, balance, and strength. It's ideal for men and women who don't want the pounding on their joints that comes with many exercise activities. What's more, it's fun for all ages.

This workout helps you:

  • Get your vitamin D
  • Experience nature
  • Save your joints

It's called riding a bike. But not an old-fashioned bicycle. A new bicycle designed to be easy on the joints, pain-free, and made for joy cycling: A Cruzbike.

On Cruzbike: I sell very few products (I'm a minimalist after all) but Cruzbikes are one of those things set to change the world.  It take these things to change the world:

  • Imagination
  • Creativity
  • Partnership
  • Gratitude
  • Confidence

Especially if you want to change the world while feeling joyful and whole. And Cruzbike as a company has applied all of the above and more. 

Remember this today: With gratitude, you can create beyond what you can imagine.

Cruzbike's Kickstarter Campaign raising over $100,000 in 48 hours was beyond what I imagined. And we are still raising money to change the world through pain-free cycling. I went for a bike ride yesterday on my Cruzbike T50 (production model) and it was such a pleasure to ride. Never before has exercise been so fun and so helpful in terms of meeting my many other goals. I explored our new town, got my vitamin D/sunshine dose, rode to a coffee shop and got some work done, and visited a nail salon. Oh, and I got a workout in that burned calories and made my muscles lean and strong. Each time I ride I feel stronger and healthier. I make better choices about how I treat my body including what I eat.

It's not every day something comes along that can so clearly help you be #simplyhealthy. It's so important to discover what is essential for you to be healthy and feel whole and content. For me, finding a low-impact, fun, easy, healthy workout that doubles as a way to run errands, sunbathe, and explore new places? Amazing. It's like checking off my whole to-do list with one bike.

You're invited to check out the Cruzbike T50 Kickstarter campaign here. Go ahead and join the #Cruzbiketribe. We'd love to have you!
 

2015 in Review (and Favorite Books)

It's time to sum up the year on Packing Lust! This is my fourth year doing this, and it's one of my favorite ways to get the big picture and remember the year as a whole. In 2015, we didn't travel outside of the U.S., however we certainly did some significant traveling and moving within the states. It was a family-focused year as we learned to parent and watch Bump thrive over the course of his first year of life. Our doggie, Jelly Bean, spent a few months living with my parents and then reunited with us in Washington, D.C. in October. At the end of the year we moved again (yes, just a couple days ago) and we're having fun in our new city.

Favorite Books

Of the dozens of books I read this year, my top three favorites were:

      1. Dying to Be Me -- A kind of spiritual-health memoir by Anita Moorjani about her near death experience and subsequent speedy healing from cancer. She shares her unusual experience in vivid and convincing detail and what she learned about the importance of living fearlessly and as true to her self as possible.

2. Me Before You: a Novel -- I've read two Jojo Moyes books and both placed one of their main characters in the type of ethical quandary that most of us will never have to experience. This one is about the relationship between a paralyzed man with a death wish and one of his caretakers. I loved the masterful storytelling and the way it helped me see the central question from several perspectives.

3. Life in Motion: an Unlikely Ballerina -- Misty Copeland's memoir reveals her journey to become the first African-American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre.  I loved the window into the life of an elite dancer driven by the pursuit of excellence. Most of us will never experience being a prodigy in anything; this books lets you share the excitement of being 14 and discovering that you are one of the world's most naturally talented ballerinas. I was also impressed with the storytelling; it manages to be a page-turner even though we already know the happy ending to the story. I laughed; I cried. At one point I had to put the book down and dance alone in the room just to express the triumph I shared with her. This book is for anyone who ever worked hard on a dream and had to overcome unexpected obstacles to achieve excellence.

By Month

January

Having had baby boy Bump in late November 2014, I was two things: A) tired and B) excited to maintain my writing habit and keep the creative juices flowing.

To help out with A) I featured a guest post on creating a digital vision board to inspire your travel dreams and B) I did a 7-day blogging challenge.

February

My only post for February was a 2014 year in review piece. I guess I was still sleep-deprived from those early months as a new parent.

March

This month I launched SimpleLivingToolkit.com where I help people to declutter and join the simple living movement. I kept getting advice to narrow down/focus what I do to help people with my business (it's so hard when I do a variety of things, both to help people and just to express my creativity) so this new website was my answer. Join other simple living enthusiasts by signing up here.

April

This month I felt that it was time to share what I'd learned about about two things. One: self-publishing. Two: keeping things simple (stuff-wise) when you have a baby. Check out the very shareable "Minimalist Baby" list.

MINI BABY

May

This month we took a romantic-foodie trip to Myrtle Beach while my parents took care of Bump. Fun and yummy. 2015-05-22 10.44.53Another fun outing was the Dance of the Spring Moon powwow.

Also this month I launched my "Start a Daily Writing Habit" email coaching series. It's awesome and a great way to kick start yourself if you want to write more in 2016.

June

I posted my first and only packing related piece this year in June. It's about how you pack differently when you become a mommy and how certain things are less glamorous than... I thought they would be. I also blogged about a couple trips I took to Charleston, South Carolina.

Charleston (34)

July

We moved from Lumberton, NC, to Arlington, VA and I wrote about the ups and downs of big city life with a baby.

I reflected on how simple living lets me enjoy textures and details.

August

Though my book on habits to help you make money from your creativity is very behind schedule, I did work on it this year with additional research. I posted this month and later in the year when I found articles about creativity and about the changing landscape of making money as a creative.

Don't worry ; I didn't let the year go by without publishing. Prince Charming and I co-wrote a book called Simple Kitchen and published it this month to Amazon Kindle and Audible. It's a quick read you'll want to check out if you like keeping things simple in the kitchen without sacrificing the cooking experience.

After moving to the Washington, D.C. area last month, we enjoyed exploring our new city including a trip to Teddy Island.

At the end of the month, Bump (his nickname on the blog) turned 9 months old and we took photos in a park in our Rosslyn neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia. I shot more people too.

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September

We explored the Washington, D.C. area. You know us; it was all about the food.

pickles Creative types may enjoy my notes on an interview that Elizabeth Gilbert gave in which she talked about fear and creativity and being a grown-up.

October

We moved within the D.C. metro area from Arlington, Virginia to the Columbia Heights area of Washington.

I traveled to Black Mountain, North Carolina, reuniting with a bunch of family on my mom's side to celebrate my grandmother's 80th's birthday.

sunshine

November

We enjoyed exploring our neighborhood of Washington (Columbia Heights) on foot and living car-free. On the blog, I wrote about a memory of a snow ball fight I had back in Palestine in 2013. Bump turned one this month and started walking just before he hit that milestone birthday.

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December

We moved to Los Angeles on the eve of Christmas Eve. Now, rather unexpectedly, but very happily, we're back in the city where Prince Charming and I met over five and a half years ago. I'm looking forward to what life in this city over the next year brings.

Union Market DC, a Foodie Oasis in a Forlorn Area

pickles Obviously, someone has a plan.

The renewed Union Market in DC is the beginning of a plan to revitalize the surrounding historic area, a thriving market for most of the 1900's, fallen since the 1980's into a state of sad dilapidation.

It's the sparkling, almost-trying-too-hard-to be-cool center of an area filled with falling down warehouses, their alleys perfumed with urine. The site, UnionMarketDC.com says the plan is that the area "surrounding the market will be a vibrant mix of retail, restaurants, hotel, entertainment, incubator space for new food concepts as well as retail and wholesale space."

It hasn't happened yet, though that didn't stop us from pushing the baby stroller through rather pedestrian-unfriendly streets to enjoy the delicious offerings of the restaurants and shops inside on two occasions  - once in August and once in September.

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All the beautiful food inspired a brief but shining period that had me baking bread daily for almost a week and enjoying it like this:

bread

That looks good. Maybe I'll bake bread today. It's been a while.

 

Teddy Island

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I love that we can be in a city that feels so urban with high rise buildings and a constant hum of activity, and then just a few minutes down the road feel like we are deep in the forest, complete with swamp bugs and a green canopy high above.  The green space I'm thinking of is Theodore Roosevelt Island, or Teddy Island as I now think of it, a memorial to our 26th president.

We visited on Saturday. A kind stranger took the top shot of our family gathered at the feet of the impressive statue of Teddy in an energetic pose, almost like he's dunking a basketball. Or preparing to kick a tourist.

statue

 

4 on the shoulders of giants

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The memorial area around the statue has these stone structures with quotes from Teddy on topics like MANHOOD, NATURE, and YOUTH.

 

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manhood

Crossing the Potomac via a pedestrian bridge on the way off the island, we paused to take more family photos.

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New Mama and Sleepy Baby

I took these newborn photos in July 2014, a week after my friend Liz became a mommy for the first time. It's hard to believe this adorable little guy is more than a year old now. When I took these, I was about five months pregnant, and seeing those little hands, lips, ears, and all that newborn perfection made me look forward to meeting our Bump even more.

Summer Family Portraits

I took these photos of family members over the past few months. I love shooting people, in a photographic sense that is. I've been practicing my portrait photography for years (and improving very slowly), especially focusing on these types of shoots:
  • couples
  • engagements
  • families
  • mamas and babies
  • birthdays
  • anniversaries

I love taking pictures to mark special moments, milestones, and celebrations. I love how an image can capture a fleeting expression, a laugh, a moment of delight, thoughtfulness, or mischief. Also, my mom always quotes my grammy as saying, "You'll always look back at photos and think you looked good." Or something like that. The idea being that even if the mirror isn't kind to you today, the passage of time will give you a new outlook on your past attractiveness.

There's also the fun and creativity of doing "just for fun," photo shoots, which I have done with many of my friends since college. It's the grown up equivalent of playing dress up. It is playing dress up, with the addition of photos to remember the fun. I did one of these shoots with my friend Leena, where we did dramatic makeup and tattoo shots. You can see those photos here.

Also, I personally believe there is a bit of magical power in these fun photo shoots. I think seeing beautiful photos of yourself and your family can help us remember and appreciate what is important.

I do love to imagine, whimsical though it may be, that the photos I take of friends, where we play and enjoy and act and pose and dress up, do have some life changing magical power. I think portrait photography can help you see yourself in a new way. You can see your soul when you look at your eyes in a photo in a way you can't when you look into the mirror.

Leena

These are photos I took back in March 2014 of my friend Leena in Palestine. She recently got married. Congratulations to Leena and her groom. We miss you!

Baby in the City: Our New Life in Arlington, Virginia

We moved to Arlington, Virginia on July 15th. This could be temporary, a three month visit to the D.C. area, or we could stay longer. We are here because Prince Charming is doing some consulting for a nonprofit in this area, and of course, because we have wanderlust.

Exploring a new city with a baby (now 8 months old) is a whole new world, a world troubled by fear of poop seeping out of a diaper and onto the varnished oak table of a trendy brunch restaurant. And other concerns, like is it okay if my son licks the glass window of the metro train, and is it better to deal with the sweat and back strain involved in baby wearing or the hassle of maneuvering a stroller into and out of elevators, metros, and through the narrow hallways of a trendy brunch restaurant.

We embraced wanderlust, we embraced packing lust, and now we are embracing the result of all that lust, which is a baby. Primary upside: he's adorable.

Deeply adorable. The world -- when I can sweep away the sheer weight of responsibility, thoughts of the strongly worded letters I may write to all installers and maintainers of baby-changing stations in bathrooms, and concerns about poop, germs, and poop, and poop -- is a different place when I am out with Bump.

When we are outside (and inside, and pretty much all the time except when he is extremely hungry or sleepy), Bump acts as a representative of the office of spreading glorious happiness. I watch the faces of people approaching us on the street, the stressed students, the tired tourists, the careworn business people. Those faces transform when they get a glimpse of Bump's slow sunrise smile. They slow down. They smile. Their shoulders relax just a little bit. They sigh. They say things like,

"He smiles from his heart."

"He adorable. He is like, a model baby. He is the model adorable baby."

"Does he always smile like that?"

"Is he always like this?"

Usually I say, "yes, pretty much" in response to the last two questions, but after giving it some thought, I realize that people are hoping they are special, that Bump is smiling at them, really seeing them, seeing their uniqueness and giving them a smiles that recognizes the best in them. And he is. So I may begin to answer differently, perhaps.

Perhaps sometimes I will say, "No, he's not always like this. It's you. You've got a special soul and he recognizes that and wants to give you the gift of his smile as a way to say thank you for sharing that which is good in you with the world."

Or, maybe I'll keep letting Bump's sweet smile do the talking.

Two Charleston Trips

Charleston (37) There was a little flurry of road trips about 7-8 months ago, before Bump arrived, and one of them was to Charleston, SC.  It was a quick trip. We saw my sister-in-law and niece, and we took one of the carriage tours that the city is famous for. We admired the old fancy homes, took a quick water-view selfie, and ate a beautiful meal.2014-11-08 16.59.09

Having been raised mostly in the South, I am used to the strong connection to Civil War history places like Charleston have, including the display of the Confederate flag and monuments to fallen Confederate soldiers. However, Charming, a California boy at heart, found it strange to be surrounded by what he was educated to view as "symbols of slavery and prejudice."   I tried to explain to him that most Southerners feel a deep connection to a complex and painful history, including the Civil War, but it doesn't mean they don't condemn slavery and racism.

Seven months later, I found myself back in Charleston. This was last weekend and the city was reeling in shock and grief from the murder of nine of its African-American citizens who were killed in cold blood by a maniac who explained his actions by saying he wanted to start a race war.

In the aftermath three days ago, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to be removed from the State House building in Columbia, South Carolina, saying it was a "deeply offensive symbol of a brutally offensive past." Hopefully this act will help create a more inclusive, unified state that can heal from the racially motivated act of violence that rocked the state and the country.

During this recent weekend trip, signs hung all around the city, declaring unity and thoughts of sympathy to the families of the slain and the church they belonged to. The photo at the top of this post shows one of those signs, displayed in the city market and signed by passersby.

I was there with three college friends to celebrate our 30th birthdays, which we did mostly by talking, relaxing by pool and beach, and by going out for fish tacos.

June 19 weekend in Charleston 30ish Bdays (2)

June 19 weekend in Charleston 30ish Bdays (37)

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Charleston (33)

After tacos Saturday night, we walked next door to an outdoor art showing we'd passed by earlier in the day. The large, graffitti-inspired murals had been a backdrop for an inclusive community event earlier that was open to the public. We arrived after the event closed, but walked around the outdoor area to one of the murals that was lit with votive candles lined up under it.

June 19 weekend in Charleston 30ish Bdays (48)

We held hands and said a prayer for Charleston as dusk deepened. A fellow latecomer arrived to the art event on a bicycle and offered to take a group photo for us.

June 19 weekend in Charleston 30ish Bdays (49)

This second Charleston trip was just as beautiful as the first, but marked by a turning point that will hopefully bring good out of evil for the city.

 

30 Hours in Myrtle Beach

Sunrise in Myrtle Beach Prince Charming and I picked a weeknight earlier this month and went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for two days and a night.

We said goodbye to Bump...

b

... who was in good hands with my mom caring for him, then escaped for some much needed couple time.

In Lumberton, NC (where we are now),  if you say "I'm going to the beach" without further elaboration its assumed you are going to Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach is about a two hour drive (or less if you have a lead foot) from Lumberton. It's a kind of Atlantic City of the South without the gambling. The family-friendly getaway is populated with an abundance of mini golf courses, water parks,  and theaters.  Everything is given a fun theme, including most restaurants, all mini golf, and most theater productions (Medieval Times, pirates, etc). And then of course, there's the beach where you can relax between thematic experiences.

It was a fun little romantic getaway. We stayed in an AirBnB condo on the 11th floor of an oceanfront building and woke up to the beautiful sunrise in the top photo. We took sleepy selfies:

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The night before we'd gone to see the The Carolina Opry, a musical variety show at the Calvin Gilmore Theater. A lot of the music was country-western type stuff I wasn't familiar with, but there were also some great covers, including a thrilling rendition of Dolly Parton's made-famous-by-Whitney-Houston I Will Always Love You. We also laughed that the ubiquitous "Let it Go" from Frozen somehow made it into the show as well.

Hungry after sitting in the theater for a couple hours, we made a pit stop at a hole-in-the wall pizza joint. A total gamble that paid off with some of the best pizza I've ever had. Check it out if you're craving pizza in Myrtle Beach. It's in this strip mall:2015-05-21 22.25.46

It's called New York Pizza. Trip Advisor displays love-it-or-hate-it reviews. Maybe they have off-nights. The couple that owns it is Lebanese, so Prince Charming chatted with them about his visit to Lebanon when we lived in the Middle East. I begged for the secret to the pizza, but they wouldn't reveal it, although there were some hints about fresh garlic, thyme, oregano, and how it's all in the crust.

Charming's favorite food experience during the trip was a fried oyster sandwich he had at Noizy Oyster. I was raving equally about my dish of raw oysters there.

For a delicious brunch the next morning we went to Johnny D's Waffles and Bakery where we had eggs Benedict, a large fruit plate, and some sort of banana coconut waffle the server described as "so heavy it kind of condenses on itself." Yeah.

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I don't usually care what a restaurant looks like as long as the food is good and it's not too loud to have a conversation, but Johnny D's interior added icing on the waffle with charming hand-painted seascape murals on each wall.

I ate a lot since that morning we'd woken up early with the aforementioned sunrise and I'd gone for a run on the beach. Charming got a picture of the end of my run as I'm looking for him on our 11th floor balcony.

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It was fun to show Charming around Myrtle Beach, a place I've visited many times growing up Lumberton, but that he'd never been to.

Where We Are Now and The Birth of Our Son

A road race in downtown Lumberton, NC.

Where In the World Are We?

We are currently staying in Lumberton, a small town in southeast North Carolina where my family lives, and where we chose to have our first baby.

The Ecstatic Birth of Our Son

The birth of our son was an incredible experience at the local hospital. We had competent and caring healthcare providers, including a nurse who told us she was leaving her job soon and wished our birth could've been her last because it was so touching.

Prince Charming held me in his arms for the ecstatic final moments (or was it hours?) of my 15 hour overnight labor. He skipped the lavish Thanksgiving feast (that he helped cook) to be there for every moment. I rewarded him by hitting him (apparently, although I have no recollection of that) when he came too close to me with breath smelling of powder-cheese snack crackers.

Magic and Romance

Parenthood has been magical. Our little boy is so deliciously perfect he's almost edible. We delight in snuggling with him and kissing his chubby cheeks. I give him new nicknames every hour. Charming likes to discuss solutions to world hunger and poverty with him.
New parenthood has also been hard. Hard, as in, sleepless and grumpy. The romance has taken a predictable hit. You know things are bad when, asked what he would like for his birthday, your husband says "just be nice to me."
Please keep in mind my sleep-deprived and cranky state as I describe our current location.

Lumberton, The Ugly

Located in Robeson County, NC, Lumberton is known for its violence, drug-trafficking, and obesity.
Parts of the county are considered a food desert. It's franchise fast-food for as far a the eye can see. And the eye can see far, as the land is flat here in this part of the state. My high school cross-country team would go to the man-made byway overpasses to do hill training.
There are no independent coffee shops or bookstores. Two recently opened businesses include a drive-through Starbucks and a large, almost warehouse-sized sex shop.

Lumberton, The Love

There are some things to love about Lumberton. Most importantly, my family is here, and they are immensely loveable.
It's got that slow-paced, small-town friendliness. We were standing in line at the post office, asking the attendant a question about the location of some government offices she didn't know the answer to. Three people in line behind us volunteered answers and other helpful tidbits.
People here are kind, friendly, hospitable, and truly caring. They have time for each other. There isn't much elitism, and, with a population evenly divided into four main ethnicities, the racism is, at least, a fair fight.
The town is also known for its extensive healthcare facilities. It's marketed to retired couples who make use of the healthcare facilities and enjoy relatively low-cost housing.
The landscape can be beautiful, especially if you enjoy lush fields of soft white cotton buds, lanky pines, and tastefully dilapidated tobacco barns. The Lumber River hides secrets in tea-colored water that languidly flows around knobby Cyprus knees.
The weather is mild in the winter. Air conditioning is plentiful in the summer.
The Lumbee Indian tribe here has a compelling history worth reading up on. The local, incomprehensible, deep-country dialect of English has a lilting musicality.
Lumberton isn't a place I would likely choose to spend much time in if my family wasn't here.  Sometimes it feels like I have a love-hate relationship with Lumberton. But the truth is, a place is really all about its people. And if that's the true, then Lumberton is a place to love.

How to Offend Your Neighbors

I had good intentions. I truly did.

how to offend

I wanted to paint every room in my house a different color.  At the paint store, Morgan (my downstairs neighbor) and I chose what we hoped would be a deep, calming blue, like diving into a swimming pool on a hot day. It turned out looking more like Smurf blue. Okay.

Once the blue was done, I decided to paint one of my favorite spiritual quotes on one wall.

I read "Only love is real" in a book about A Course in Miracles, and I thought it would make an inspiring quote for me to contemplate each day during breaks from work.

I began, painting high on a ladder in thick, white block letters.

I soon finished, happy with my wall.

But then Morgan gently noted that I hadn't left much space between the "is" and the "real."

Since I wrote it high on the wall, it was visible from the street below, as we are on the second story.

So to Palestinians passing by -- people affected every day by the brutal Israeli occupation -- it looked like my wall said:

"Only love isreal." Or, to the quickly glancing eye,

Only love Israel.

And I had written the unintentionally political message in white on a blue wall, exactly the colors of the flag of Israel.

Flag

Who does that? Sets out to write an uplifting spiritual quote and ends up reminding her neighbors of the bane of their existence?

Me. I did it. Hahaha.

Although this happened close to when we moved into this apartment back in March of 2013, I thought it blog worthy now, since each time I tell the story it gets funnier. Mistake + time = funny.

Don't worry, I hussled back up that ladder to paint over the "real" with my Smurf blue. I moved it way over to the right and down, at such a safe distance that "is" and "real" could never, ever, be in danger of turning into "Israel."

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Now the wall looks like this:

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Lesson learned. Don't move into the middle of an oppressed people group and write a pro-oppressor message on your wall.

Love is real,

Genevieve