Jan 30, 2015

My New Normal

Hello my friends,

I am hoping this week is closing out well for you and a fun weekend ahead awaits for you. I wanted to spend a moment to share with you a few thoughts on feeling good and feeling pretty. Not my usual images, but I am hoping by opening up what I am going through, maybe someone out there won't feel alone with their struggles. For some of us, needing to feel good or pretty might  just be only a new lipstick, or getting our nails done to get that fix. For others it can be a fresh haircut, a good night's sleep, or fitting in an old pair of jeans to feel good or pretty. Others may claim that being around friends and family make them feel good and pretty...but I am talking more on a personal, one-on-one experience with oneself, not with others, and not a "quick fix," but rather more of an authentic and healthy sense of self-acceptance.

I had my own "aha" moment a few weeks ago when I left the gym. I had gone a few times for two weeks, my first time to the gym in over 27 months after multiple surgeries, hospital stays, 100's of hours of rehab and doctors' appointments due to my knee. I decided that 2015 would be the year of total health and total contentment with "it is what it is" regarding my new self.

I noticed I left every gym visit very depressed, instead of the elated feeling I used to have three years ago. I left unhappy and discouraged and it took me a couple of times to figure out that many of the machines were too demanding on my limited range of motion and I couldn't use several machines that I once loved using, due to my limited knee range. 

Feeling depressed after my "workout" was just not acceptable. 

Then one day, as I went to my car after yet another crappy gym visit, feeling defeated...feeling ugly...and feeling like I would never get my "real" old life back, a bike whizzed past me and pulled me out of my private pity party. As I glared at the rider who nearly missing me (never mind I wasn't paying attention where I was going...you know, it's always their fault...haha), my glare turned to curiosity, then wonderment, then finally excitement. That's it! That is what I what I really miss - being outdoors! 

I have been an avid bike rider my entire life up till my first surgery in Nov 2012. I even raced bikes in three mini triathlons. I decided right then, what I needed, and actually craved, was to be on the open road again - no matter what. I can't run/jog anymore, but biking - I could try that again.

After work, my beloved barber husband scooted down to the most wonderful bike shop in town, Maplewood Bicycle, and scoped out a couple of bikes for me to check out whenever I could "find the time." 

I found the time.

I was filled with mixed emotions as I entered the store - happy to be doing something I loved, but sad that I am now a different person, with different needs and limitations, which meant (to me) I would now need an "old lady's" bike, not a racing bike like I once rode. I discovered the Trek Verve bike, which looked really cool actually, and sat more upright, which is good for my wrists (another ailment that I just don't feel like talking about right now) and the step-through frame allowed me to mount with my limited knee range. Not too bad, I thought.

It looks really cute, so I gave it a try. Boy, this was not for me...I had a very hard time getting my foot on the pedal (due to my knee) and I was riding like a shaky old lady, or a little kid who just got training wheels! What the ...? This really shook me up as I made my way down the sidewalk and I felt myself getting emotional as I began to think, "Can't I do anything I like I used to???" I rode back, and Mike, the great store guy who gives great personal service, raised the seat for me, and I tried again. Better, but still shaky. I was not liking this experience at all. By the time I got back, Mike had a different bike waiting for me, a Trek Allant, a green retro looking bike that had a different personality. He had seat adjusted just for me and so I tried it.

I get on, not sure what to expect from this retro looking bike, and just like that - it was love at first ride. I was very sure, stable, and I felt "normal" again! I didn't want to ride back to the store. The only Allant they had was green, which was cute, but I needed the full gear system to climb hills and such, and the green didn't come with the rack. But, I decided I liked the sleek black better  - reminded me of my European days, where black bikes were rode by stylish Europeans on their way to work, market, or out to eat.

I quickly realized that this little adventure of mine went deeper than just "needing to exercise" again, but rather, it was more of a right of passage from the last 27 months of pretty much, well... hell.

Have you ever been forced to go through something, something you would have never chose, be it a job loss, health issue, a move, or whatever, and when it was finally "over" you didn't really feel like celebrating, but rather just wanted things to get back as they once were? And with time, you came to accept that "as it once was" would never be again? That is how I felt while shopping in the bike store...I saw a bike rider come in, all in his bike gear, and looking like he was ready to race, and I knew that would not be me. I glanced over at the wall of the beautiful race bikes and knew that would never be me. I looked at racing gear, and knew that wasn't me - anymore.

But when I glanced over at the little green bike I had a choice to make: either accept my new normal, or just keep grieving for what once was, but isn't. So what does a girl do when having a bad hair day? Wear a fab hat! What does a girl do when invited to a party - get a new dress! So, just like that, I set about to outfit my Allant with all the "pretties" and to make it really my - my new normal.

It will take my bike a week to come in, which gives me time to get all my fixin's ordered and put on before I go in for my personal fitting of the bike. Maplewood Bicycle has a computer program that measure your stride, size and so on to get the perfect fit. So, first order up - need some saddlebags! I decided to get a vintage French pannier - found these online and they were just shipped from France today! The price was too good to pass up and if they don't work out, then I will pass them along and find ones that will. But I will admit, I love that they are French with a retro look:

I love the retro black accent on them (will highlight the black bike) and I am pretty sure the color will match really close to the English leather saddle I ordered:

If it doesn't match exactly, that's okay...most won't be able to really see the saddle once I'm on it anyway! Ha-Ha. And I got matching leather ring grips from Brooks England as well:

And of course, a front basket is needed as well. This one has a wooden bottom and leather straps by Nantucket - I think the extra light color will look good with the black bike and will age well:

I knew I didn't want a racing helmet like the one I used to wear, this riding experience was more than just exercise by now. It is a little bit of very much needed "just me time." So, when I got home, all excited over my new normal, I decided to embrace it fully and got online to shop around on how to make my riding more about feeling good both outside and INSIDE and I came across the fabulous site: Bike Pretty. This is such a great site!! This woman, Kelly, lives in London and write about all things pretty (vintage and super stylish) related to biking. She has that retro, fashion/hipster look that I took for granted when I lived in Europe. 

Here are some images from Bike Pretty Blog:

Kelly (above) who runs the site.

Okay, must find some very stylish riding gloves. Yes, I have some, but they are racing gloves - time for a stylish leather glove that is made for cycling...love these above! And, will look for a chrome, vintage looking bell - this one is great too. Okay, just need to push this chick off her bike and just mug her.... :-)

When I lived in Europe, it was SO COMMON to see ladies of all ages riding in dresses - I remember thinking how neat that was - and all these years later? I still do.

I loved Kelly's site so much, I am ordering a helmet from her. This is a vented, but a small helmet that I just love, by Bern. There are some really cool "hat" helmets - but it will be warming up in a couple of months, and those hat helmets would be great in cold weather.

I don't know Kelly, owner of Bike Pretty, as I just discovered her. But even if you aren't into biking, her site is really eye candy. One event, I would LOVE , LOVE , LOVE to attend is the Tweed Run in London:

Look at some of the images from this vintage Tweed Run event, click here. And here are some pics I captured online so you could see how cool this event really is:

I don't know if I would be able to ride in this event, as I would want to take pictures - talk about a conundrum! I think there is a Tweed Run in NYC...how cool would that be? But my point is, my new normal with bike riding is no longer about speed and sweating, but rather it's just about me - my new normal. And the Bike Pretty blog has so many great, stylish, articles that inspired me to rethink my new way riding...feeling good and feeling pretty.

I don't get fitted for my new bike until next week. I still have time to find a few more vintage accessories to hunt down to make the bike really mine. But the real me, the new normal me, is discovering that I am more able to accept "it is what it is" when "is" is decked out in chrome, leather, and who knows, maybe even tweed and oxfords someday!

I will definitely be blogging about my new normal biking adventure and show you the real deal when it's a done deal. Thank you for listening, and for being there. And even though I may still grieve now and again for things to be "as they once were," feeling good, and feeling pretty, certainly helps to be content with things as they are

And things are feeling pretty darn (new) normal good right now. I would love it if you shared your "new normal" experience. I learn so much from my dear readers.

from my house to your house,


Jan 22, 2015

Exploring Top Hat - It's all in the details!

Nothing excites me more than a new adventure....

Hello my lovely friends,

A belated very happy 2015! I trust the New Year has started off well for you - at least that is my hope and prayer for you. My new year started with many new adventures and I have lots to share. But today, I think I will begin with how I ended 2014 before I dig into 2015. I hope you enjoy my small adventure.

December 2014, I had a photo shoot to do outside Kansas City, so while in the area, I had to stop and visit my very good and extremely talented friend, Debbie Dusenberry, aka, Curious Sofa. Debbie and I go way back - in fact, we have known each other almost 12 years already - so hard to believe I have been in the Midwest so long. 

Have you ever had a friend, that you really loved and admired, but that friend still amazes you? That friend is Debbie for me. It goes without saying that Debbie is a very talented and gifted person, but she continues to amaze me with her creative talent to this day. But, if she were never to create a thing again in her life, I would still be amazed by her spirit. Because what she (or anyone) produces isn't who they are, but just an expression. And her soul is what I admire the most about her.

Debbie has an online store, which I encourage everyone to check out, if you haven't. But in addition to her online business, she is also part of a very fabulous event that takes place in KS City - First Fridays Vintage Event. The first friday (entire weekend, actually) of each month, there is a whole industrial part of KS City that opens up to sell their vintage wares and goods.

I have been wanting to attend just forever, but the timing was just never right. But, when I pulled over for some gas, I got just a glimpse of what was to come. As the gas pumped gas, I got pumped up at what I saw across the overpass, just waiting for me!

I arrived much later than planned, and was anxious to find my fabulous friend, but as I hunted down her spot, this is the area I encountered...

There were many, many, MANY more old buildings and vendors to see, but I turned around after taking the above pic and BINGO - saw Debbie's new digs:

Her new space is located in Top Hat Mercantile - isn't that just the coolest red truck ever? You MUST click on their website! It is just a fab site, and if you are in a need of creative inspiration, this site is full of great design. This website was designed by my talented friend, Debbie.

You see, most people who know Debbie, or know of her, are VERY familiar with her distinct taste, creative styling, and knack to select only the best of things to sell. But what most people don't realize is that she is a VERY talented graphic designer. (I know...is there anything this woman can't do? If I didn't love her so, I would hate her...) She designed the entire company identity of the Top Hat Mercantile...the website, the logos, the colors, the signs, everything! And there just isn't a thing about this location that isn't short of pure deliciousness.

Top Hat Mercantile is an antique mall like no other. While there are LOTS of great malls and stores in this industrial area to explore, Top Hat Mercantile has a very select group of dealers who "get it." Debbie designed the entry way and had an artist make these FAB rusty tin Top Hat signage (they are huge!). How great are these?

And look at this great light fixture that hangs in the entry way as well. She had someone make this as special. This is one of many things I love about my friend...she is all about the details. Those very details where so many, many shops just miss the opportunity to shine. It is those details that I believe only true artists create, seek, and explore the possibilities. I've been to a lot of shops over the years, and trust me, the shops that shine, are the shops with the creative details. Top Hat Mercantile is Top Choice when it comes to the details in my book.

Right after you enter, Top Hat even has its own gift shop right inside. Vintage displays, great gifts, seasonal items. Remember, I went in Dec, so they were all prepped for Christmas - I can't wait to go back. I have to tell you, I was really impressed with the prices - VERY reasonable, and not even sure how they can sell such great items at such great prices. 

I went on the hunt for my friend and loved everything I was seeing - I knew this would be a "three-lap" visit. Meaning, I would need at least three laps around the store to see it all and take it in. 

I just love "three-lap" stores.

Oh, and those fab lights below? I later discovered this was one of Debbie's spaces.

And TA DA!! I found my beloved friend, working away, as I went around the corner (above) and discovered that the space I love so much (above) is also hers - of course.

And something "ordinary" like a price tag, is anything but when it comes to Debbie's creative mind. Check out these old pics she uses to tag her items.

In addition to her infamous, Curious Sofa space, Debbie has now added a new addition to her business: Tobacco Road. I have to say, this is such a great addition. It is part industrial, part rustic, always vintage, and always well, what can I say...always Debbie. Her select items celebrate textures, worn wearables, and creative comfort lifestyle. Basically, Debbie has a way of selecting and pairing items in such a way that on their own, may seem familiar, but her discerning eye pulls unlikely items together that creates an environment that one just has to be a part of and wants a piece of it to take home. 

Trust me, you will want forge your own familiarity with Tobacco Road. It is a road  that you will definitely want to travel.

I decided to take another "lap" and explore the store...

How cool is the little grotto? The basement in Top Hat is just fabulous! No basement has a right to be this great. GREAT stone walls everywhere, piled with vintage items, displayed creatively. 

This is a HUGE all glass "chain link" chandelier that greets you when you first enter Top Hat. Mesmerizing. 

Like I said, Debbie leaves no stone unturned when it comes to company identity. Not even the loading dock doors go unadorned. Need some light over the stairwell? Well, she hunted down these top hat light fixates - go figure! Nothing is standard with her creative mind...and I just love that.  Even the little directional signs all have style, yet purposeful. (Okay, I think I have a girl crush...:-)

Well, by the time I did my "laps" it was way later when I finally got out to explore other areas. I made it only to one other store, but did get some snaps of a few of the buildings (there are MANY more!) Well, this gives me a reason to head back soon to explore again...

I did manage to sneak inside a store before closing, but honestly can't remember the name, but the interior was fun to see as I zipped about quickly...

And of course, no visit with Debbie isn't complete without kisses and running in circles with Pearl, her (dog) friend, Pearl. She is a living doll...no leash...her own outfits...never far...and never underfoot either. And, if "missing" one will find her on the most comfy sofa or chair in the area - pretty and smart too!

I hope you enjoyed my adventure at Top Hat Mercantile. If ever in the KS City area on First Friday of the month, this is a MUST stop to shop, get inspired, and grab up some goodies. I can't wait to go again, and next time, I am tempted to bring an empty trailer!

I have much to catch you up on, and will be announcing a new venture I am working on. I am so excited about it, and you will be the first to know.

May your 2015 be filled with adventures that bring you joy, inspiration, and a fun-filled lifestyle that will have you running in circles with the likes of a friend like Pearl.

from my house to your house,

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