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Mike Valletta

Storyteller. Photographer. Traveler.

Statement Regarding Orlando Events. 

I am very proud to be a gay man. I am very proud of our community.

After celebrating Boston pride yesterday and seeing the numerous faces from all walks of life celebrating with us, it is clear to me that regardless of what happened today, there is a great amount of love for our community and we thank you for your unconditional love and support.
With that said, let us keep those impacted in our thoughts and prayers and do whatever we can to help out. The world needs more compassion, not hate.

The celebration of Pride events is important. Today, we learned of just how important that is. We are not free. We are still surrounded by so many pockets of hate. It is important to stand together as a community and celebrate who we have become, and where we are as a community today.

I would urge you to not live in fear. Attend Pride events. Attend LGBT nightlife activities. Celebrate who you are. Our community is strong, and our supporters, even stronger.

As I stayed glued to the television today, I did so with tears in my eyes. I am just as hurt to see what unfolded. My heart raced as I saw the numbers escalate from 20 to 50.

How could anyone be so cruel? To take the life of innocent human beings who were just out enjoying their life under the Orlando moonlight.

Our tight knit community is committed to coming together to helping each other out during this terrible tradgedy. I will also be doing what I could in the days ahead.

Stay strong. Stay vigilant. Most importantly, stay true to yourselves. I love you all. Don’t back away from who you are because of hate.

Michael Valletta

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Summertime Agenda: Live.

Summer is coming. What do you have on your summer 2016 bucketlist?

Many people dream of long days on the beach, weekend getaways with the family, or perhaps a few martini parties while hosting a summer BBQ. Burgers anyone? There goes that summer beach body!

This year, I’ve compiled a list of just what I want to accomplish. Being that it is my 30th birthday in August, this summer has got to go out with a bang. No questions asked. (Really, don’t ask questions. You’re better off not knowing some things.)

Plans range from taking part in Pride season parades all the way to vacationing in Provincetown during the infamous Carnival week festival.

Of course, there are things on that list a little more suttle. Vacationing on islands and drinking wine at numerous wineries would account for that, right?

Right. Just agree and humor me.

Past Summer’s for me have always been about connecting with friends who refuse to come out of their bungalos all winter. They sit home until rays of sunshine and men can be splashed all over thier bodies.

Well, I suppose that doesn’t sound too depressing.

This summer, I not only plan to make the most of it with friends, I also plan to take more time out for myself. As I enter the realm of my thirties, I have begun to realize that life isn’t about the constant social aspect, rather being at peace with yourself and your surroundings. However, my surroundings usually include a bottle of wine. That’s where the fun begins.

Carrying on.

Whatever you have planned for this summer, make it memorable. Most importantly, make sure you make it the best summer you can for you. If you want to do something, don’t wait for others. Go out and do it.

After all, summer doesn’t last forever. The memories will.

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Love is a Battlefield

Don’t let love go.

Why do we complicate the simple things in life? These simple things, are the ones we too often take for  granted. We are compelled to keep searching for something better in the world, but is that what we really need?

Recently, I did some research on the topic. To my surprise, I was appalled by the number of people that regret losing out on love that they let go, just so thy could have a chance to see what else could be better in the world. In most cases, their original love was sitting right under their nose the whole time, and they let walk away. They had someone who was dedicated to their needs, their desires, and their future as a couple together. Instead, they abandoned true love and became selfish and absorbed in thier own thoughts of the possibility of finding better. In the end, they regretted and were too ashamed to admit this to the person they walked away from.

As humans, we naturally complicate life. We test each other out. We try to make sense of every situation. When in reality, some situations don’t need explaining, rather just a feeling.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as of late.

If you love someone, why are we so afraid to tell them? If we have a strong desire to see what a relationship can blossom into, why not admit it? Our nerves certainly get the best of us, I’m sure. However, if we were more honest and upfront about our feelings, ideally we would live in that perfect world where we don’t complicate things.

Life is complicated enough. Don’t complicate the most important thing in your life; your love. If there is someone trying to show you the world, but you’re running away from the notion of it, think twice. Don’t lose out on what is possibly the best thing that has ever walked into your life.

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Stop Swiping Left! Why Our Judgemental Society is Letting Us Down.

Prior to judging others, judge yourself first.

It has been a interesting week in the single life of being Mike Valletta. It was the first week that I had not gone on one date. I guess after writing last weeks column and discussing how I needed to slow down and start focusing on my life more, I took my own advice quite literally. It’s not a bad thing. This week has allowed me to take a step back and view the world that is around me, instead of trying to jump in the arms of a new man each day. 

As I studied the world, I also studied the people in it. We are so judgemental. Why is that? Why do we feel the need to constantly judge people before we even get to know them? It’s human nature, and it’s wrong

I was having a discussion about this very topic with one of my very good friends recently. I explained how excited I was to meet some people that I have dates with in the coming weeks, but that I caution myself because they are too young or their actions that they portray through social media are not of my own standards. Guess what I was doing? I was judging. I was literally judging the books by its covers, without first getting to even touch the covers! What poor character that was. I could be missing potential men that actually have a great core, yet I sit and judge them based on what little I see or know. I quickly paused, retrained my brain on being a considerable adult, and was a little more open minded about the possibilities of these men.

Could we be missing out on our future soul mates because we won’t give people chances? Absolutely. Give people a chance and in turn, you’ll be giving love a chance as you let people into your life you otherwise would swipe left to on Tindr.

Think about it.

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Don’t Rush the Love.

Have you ever sat and reflected on what is going on in your life? You know, took a little time out for yourself to recollect your thoughts and bring yourself back to center stage?

Odds are, you have not. I’m also guilty of doing the same. We live in such a fast paced world that often times, we totally forget about our own well being. We constantly thrive to put others first. It’s not a bad thing. I love to put others well being before my own. In fact, it’s something I’ve always done while in a relationship, and that’s not bad either. Being single has taught me that I need to change a little bit, however. Constantly putting others before myself has caused me to scale back operations of my life, and disturb my own well being. 

As I continue to adapt to single life, I’ve realized that I am suddenly finding myself at the gym more than ever. Not only that, I’m also working to accomplish new career paths. These are things I have put aside in order to ensure all the very best energy was given to my partner. Was it wrong? Absolutely not. What was wrong, however, is that I did not mold my own life into the equation as much. It’s been a refreshing lesson to have learned, and as I look toward the future, I’ll know exactly how to mold it all together. I have an agenda, and I am laser focused.

All of these thoughts, however, have brought me to question my dating habits. Am I going on too many dates? Is it what I really need right now as I concentrate on building a solid future? I sat down recently and reflected on this. I had my notebook open and wrote out exactly how going on dates made me feel inside. The answers surprised me. 

Dating, in general, has been very healthy for me. I’ve enjoyed meeting other men, and having the opportunity to learn more about how others live is inspiring. Sometimes. Other times I’m running away from the dinner table in fear of having my mental health poisoned. 

What I have learned, however, is that I do not need to be in a rush to fall in love. I’ve gone on so many dates that after a while, I’ve forgotten who is who and when we even went on a date! This is dangerous. There are weeks I have four men or more lined up. One look at my Outlook calendar as I was writing in my notebook about my dating life taught me a quick lesson; slow down, Michael.

It is said that if you are in the market for love, you should let it come naturally. Why haven’t I been doing that? I have learned that it’s something I need to do as I continue to build my life. We shouldn’t be in such a rush for love. In time, it will come. No where does it state that you should get married by a certain time in your life, right? Right. Slowing down and taking the appropriate time out to take care of yourself is vital to not only you, but to your partner or future partner as well.

Only fools rush in love. 

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Gay. Single. Weekend Warrior.

Weekends were made to set yourself free.

It’s a Saturday night. Evening wear is out and ready to be steam pressed.  Shower is on as a miniature facial is in process to maintain a youthful look for the long evening ahead. What’s planned? Absolutely everything.

Welcome to the single gay mans weekend. A combination of everything you’re currently visioning in your head. It’s the weekend, and I am magnetic. Uber drivers instnstly become my best friends as of 10PM, and bartenders and shot boys take center stage by 11PM at the gay bars. Poles were made to be danced on, and shirts were made to come off. It’s really no wonder as to why so many gays end up staying single. The life is attractive.

If you’ve ever seen me out and about, you would know for all of the above to be true. I am guilty. Should I feel guilty though? Absolutely not. Weekends were made to set yourself free and to let go of the negative energy that consumed you through the week. After all, do we really want to carry the burden of the people who frustrate us at the office into next week? Like a volcano, you’ll eventually explode. Use the weekend as your time to get lost. Though please, not litteraly. I do not want to be responsible for having to send a rescue team searching for you. 

Some ask if a constant string of social events is healthy for someone who is nearly thirty. Live young and have fun. If you don’t live young, you’re only getting older. The clock is ticking. Before it’s too late, live your life with as much energy and passion as you could, and become electrified on the weekends. It is the weekends where the rebalancing of our lives takes place, and we wake up focused and ready to conquer the week ahead on Monday.

I’ll eventually settle back down, after all I’m in the market for a husband not just another boy from the Grindr app, but while I’m single, I will absolutely live my best life possible. One that is surrounded by friends, positive energy, and the occasional pole dancing.

What happens at the clubs, stays at the clubs. It’s the Vegas of the gay world.

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Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

I stumbled upon a book recently. It was a book I had purchased at a Starbucks exactly five years ago, and it had been kicking around the house ever since. The title? “Where do you see yourself in five years?”.

Well, perhaps it’s ironic that I would find it again five years later. As I stared at the cover, I was slightly afraid to open it. Would I be disappointed at what I did not accomplish? What happens if I’m living my life all wrong, and not the way I had hoped I would be living it?

It’s interesting how we instantly shift our minds to the thoughts of failure. Notice how in my questioning I never once mentioned anything positive. I never asked myself if I would be proud or overjoyed of accomplishments. Why is that? The human brain is wired for negativity. We get a high from negative reactions. The news? It’s mostly negative, and we tune to it frequently to see all the bad in the world. See what I did there? Negativity is attractive.

As I flipped through the pages of the five year plan I wrote out for myself five years ago, I began to notice something. Something positive. I shouldn’t have been afraid to open this book. Nearly everything I was reading was already manifested or is currently a work in progress. I had been practically living my five year plan without even knowing it! My career shift to sales from management? Took effect three years ago. Coming out as a gay man to the public? Two years ago. Working on becoming a real estate agent? Work in progress. Marriage? Well, I’ll eventually get there.

The point is, mostly everything I had dreamed and planned was already satisfying me. There was no need to sit and fear this book. My mind wanted me to fear it. It took a shift of thinking in a more positive light in order for me to even open it! Once I did, a smile and a sigh came upon me. I laughed fear in its face.

Five year plans are an essential part of anyone’s life. Think of it as a business plan. You can’t just keep hopping in the car and drive around aimlessly. You have to have a plan for everything you want to do in life. You have to craft a way of just how you’re going to accomplish your dreams. I wouldn’t want to be around anyone that was in business if they didn’t have a business plan. The business wouldn’t even last five years. Same goes for your life. You may live five years, though you won’t live as successfully as you possibly could.

Figure out where you see yourself. Take a moment. Mediate. Reflect. What do you see your future self doing? Be honest with yourself about the plan, and be a bit of a realist. You can’t instnstly dream about owning your own island. Okay, you could, but it’s most likely not the most realistic dream. Think about what your life will look like in five years. What job will you have? Where will you be living? Who surrounds you? Think with a clear mind.

As I write this, I’m currently working on the next five years. It was great to discover the past and see that I am doing well on my path. Where do I see myself over the next five years? Well, you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Go create your own five year plan.

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Don’t Date Down!

You are the average of the five people you surround yourself with.

Have you ever been on a date and sit there wondering what you’re even doing on the date in the first place?

We’ve all been there. That one date that we saw so much potential in while chatting on an app and then suddenly when we make plans to meet, we walk past them in the restaurant because they look nothing like their pictures. Well, there’s red flag number one.

Then comes the conversations. They sounded so intellectual while chatting online, now that you are seated across from them having a conversation, you wonder if they hired a personal assistant to help manifest this date. 

No date is ever perfect, let’s face it. The best thing about a date is, you don’t ever have to connect with that person again if you don’t want to. You can simply create an exit strategy like something the secret service drafted up for you, and then quickly exit stage left, hop in your car and hit the pedal to the metal! Yes. I’m guilty.

When it comes to dating, you should never date down. I recently learned of this from conversations with one of my best friends. If you are a high functioning individual, you need to date someone who is at your level of functionality. Do not settle! If you are settling at what is in front of you because they have a pretty face but not a pretty brain, you are dating down. Don’t do it! 

I feel it is so important to surround yourself with people that will make you a better person. The way you think. The way you act. The way you plan out your future. You are the average of the five people you surround yourself with. Your partner should be of the same caliber level. Dating down will just manifest toxicity, and who needs that in their life. 

Exit stage left and run.

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Kate Hudson is Making Us Pretty Happy. 


You don’t have to be perfect. Pretty happy is pretty great.

Kate Hudson has absolutely nailed it in her latest book approropriatey titled, Pretty Happy. A book geared towards healthy ways to love your body.

As someone who is always on the prowl for the latest self help books, my eyes lit up when I discovered the release on an episode of The View earlier this week. Though the book targets females, I truly believe it is great no matter what gender you are, or what walk of life you come from. 

Being happy with the skin you are in is something I had struggled with for years. Being a gay man in hiding for as long as I was, it was a crisis I didn’t know how to deal with. I turned to the Internet and spent hours researching just how others had come out, but ultimately it wasn’t something that helped. If this book had been out years ago, I would have come out  instantly. It is absolutely refreshing to read about someone who has become more confident of just who they are, and now has the ability to help others do the same. 

It is so important to develop and foster a healthy relationship with yourself. In the book, Kate Hudson talks of the importance of just that and even helps you develop a plan so you too could do the same. I’d like to call this book more of a workbook rather than just a normal chapter book. It is truly a workbook for your life! It helps guide you into being a better you both mentally and physically, with designated pages where you could fill in your answers to different questions that will truly have you reflecting. 

Will this book make you perpetually happy? Come on now. No one is ever always happy. You’ll have your off days as we all do. As the title suggests, you’ll be pretty happy. Being more content with your life is absolutely essential, and Kate Hudson brings you to just that level of content.

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Never Stop Reinventing You.

Practice makes perfect. At least, that’s what we are told in life.

As humans, we are bound to make mistakes over the course of our lifetime. It’s in our DNA. Each day, we aim for absolute perfection, but why? Perfection is boring. Perfection also causes us not to make mistakes, and if we are not making mistakes, we are not learning nor are we embracing everything that life has to offer.

There are many days I look at the people that I have surrounded myself with. Many are on successful paths in their lives, and they didn’t get there by perfection. No, they got there by many beautiful mistakes that ultimately disciplined them to have the high profile career choices that they dreamed of.

When I talk to people on how they have to constantly reinvent themselves, I get some head turners. It’s always that “What do you mean, you don’t think I’m perfect?” look. Again, no one should be perfect so please spare me.

Reinventing yourself simply means that you are training yourself to grow and do better things with your life. Wouldn’t everyone want that? Perhaps it’s time to change our way of thinking. Get crazy. Make mistakes. Practice does not make you perfect. Practice gives you the ability to grow successfully!

At the start of 2016, I promised myself I would work hard on reinventing just who I am and who I am becoming as a person as I enter the next phase of my life. I’m well positioned both mentally and financially to do just that, but I didn’t get to this level because I was perfect. No, I got to this point because I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. Life is too short to be afraid to figure out what could or could not happen.

As I take on 2016, I do so by following a plan that set for myself. I outlined exactly what I want to accomplish and created different route ideas of just how I’m going to get there. Do I smile at where I’m at now in life? Of course I do! I’m reinventing myself for the sole purpose of growing, not because I’m not happy with where I am. Growing is essential. If we don’t grow, we become stagnant and we suddenly catch ourselves sitting back watching others become successful in life while we are in the background scratching our heads at where we suddenly went wrong. Lack of reinventing, that’s where! Do it, or stay in the past.

Smile at your mistakes.Reinvent yourself one mistake at a time, but please stay away from anyone who is a self proclaimed perfectionist. You don’t need anyone that boring ruining your mojo.

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The Gay Dating Game.

Grindr. Scruff. Tinder.

These three magical apps are perhaps the most active on my phone these days. I use the term magical loosely. As a single guy, looking for love requires more than just seeking a one time hook up at a local gay bar. Looking for love requires you to do your research. It has to be more than just a pretty face. Though that doesn’t hurt.

Since becoming single, I’ve been on numerous dates. So much so, I feel like I’m on ABCs “The Bachelor”, and I’m the one handing out roses. I must have gone through more than two dozen. Thank goodness for an over abundance of flowers in the world.

Some dates have been exceptionally well. I’ve seen just about every walk of life. A doctor, a lawyer, a television meteorologist, even the boy next door. (Litteraly. That was a mistake. We’ll just leave him next door.)

For the most part, there is a trend in my dating game; I am in search of a man. Not a boy. Not a college student. Not someone who can’t support themselves. A man. Someone that is established in life and has future goals and ambitions, and knows just how to reach them. While it’s nice to play around occasionally, as I approach my thirties, it is time to start thinking about settling down. My twenties were the years to experiment. I have done more than I would love to publicly admit! No regrets, however. Life is full of experimenting until you find your comfort zone.

The gay dating game is a little different than that of the straight dating game. Straight people don’t hook up nearly as much. Gays love sex. I mean, we’re guys. Wasn’t that obvious? When you’re searching for love, this gets a little harder. One simple log on to Grindr and your screen lights up with notifications with people asking if you’re “Looking?” or “Hey, what are you into?”. Good grief.

Some people that I have met actually have a fantastic head on their shoulders and aren’t always looking for just sex. As soon as I interact with these gentlemen, my heart instantly melts and there’s a sigh of sudden relief. Could it be someone actually wants something with substance?

It’s unheard of in the community these days, but once you find it, you don’t want to let it go. If you do, you are foolish. After spending so much time on the gay dating apps, I can’t express enough how people in our community need to think with their head, and not the one that is below the belt.

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A Singles Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is on its way. I would normally be jumping out of my skin at this point since I’m naturally a very generous person, especially around a holiday aimed around generosity and appreciation.

This year, not so much. As someone who is recently single, the focus has been primarily on me, and not so much on any partner that I have. It’s an odd feeling. One I am certainly getting aquatinted to all over again. It’s a process, and it’s one that is taken one day at a time. We’ve all been there.

I mainly rely on friends to occupy the time, not because I’m seeking attention, but because they are the foundation of my life and my support system. Where would we be in life without good friends and a good bottle of wine? We would be slaving our day away stomping grapes and drinking the fruits of our labor in self pity and sorrow, that’s where. It’s great to have people producing this stuff for you so you can enjoy a couple of bottles in good company. Yes, a couple.

So, what are my intentions this Valentine’s Day, you ask? Focusing on the self for starters. You cannot love others without putting yourself first and foremost. It is imperative that you take the time out to enjoy the skin you’re in. If you don’t have the ability to fall in love with yourself, then your love for others isn’t as significant. There has to be a balance. It’s the way of life.

I’ll also be spending time in good company. I’m looking forward to it. There’s people in your life that truly make you who you are, and it’s important to spend as much time as you can around the people that bring value to your life. What better day than Valentine’s Day to show a little appreciation.

If there’s anything being single has taught me, it is that I don’t constantly need a man to make me happy. I am happy. I am happy with the people that surround me. Life is grand, and it’s just getting started all over again.

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Get Massaged into a Better You.

Have you ever really been in need of a massage? I’m sure you have. After all, many of us live high demanding lives that causes an increased amount of stress on our bodies.

I booked a massage this past week at my local Massage Envy, noting that I have a monthly membership. After a solid week on the slopes up in Vermont, my body was yearning for a treatment!

I decided on a hot stone massage. My therapist assured me that this would release a great deal of tension in the body as well as help to unwind the mind. Fair enough. After a long vacation away from reality, it was nice to be soothed back into the real world again.

The stone massage was amazing. It was everything that I had thought it would be. Hot stones rubbed along the body, along with a series of hot stones on my back and in between my toes. The feeling was absolutely sensational and relaxing.

Next up, a facial. I was in dire need of that. The rough winter skin has been sneaking up on me and causing absolute dryness. Absolute yuck.

My facial therapist and I really connected well. Maybe that was because she told me she would help me look about ten years younger. Anyone that tells you that, you’re going to become best friends!

The facial went extremely well. We diagnosed just how dry my face was, and worked to restore it back to its original shine. After about an hour of treatment, I was impressed. I kept looking in the mirror and wanted to touch my face to see if it was real. Sadly, I got told hands off! The oils on your fingers cause break outs. Duly noted.

Massage Envy offers an incredible experience to each guest, and I could not be anymore pleased with how this past session went. Not only is a massage great to release built up pressure in your body, it’s also great for mental health. Focusing on you and your body can really make you a better, more focused of a person. 

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In a Dry New England Winter, Killington Shines.

It’s no secret that this winter has been a dud here in New England. The lack of snow has caused many local skiers and snowboarders to flock west thanks to this years El Niño. One resort, however, has found a way to make the best of a bad situation.

Killington Resort, in breathtaking Killington, VT is a gem. It’s my second home, and I couldn’t be any more proud of what they have been doing this winter. A struggle to start, they have found a way to produce enough snow to satisfy the cravings of many. With nearly 100 trails open, skiers and riders have been able to enjoy an array of almost limitless adventures.

Arriving up on Wednesday this week, I shrieked like a school girl at the sight of a glorious mountain covered in snow. I instantly got out of my car, latched onto my skis, and hit the trails. With a hint of snow falling from the sky, the day was perfect as I carved down nearly every trail I could in a span of five hours. Conditions? Couldn’t ask for better. Was it a little icy? Yes, but icy conditions are typical for New England resorts. Plus, it really adds to the speed factor. I like speed. It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush.

My adrenaline rush continued on day two as sunny skies softened up the snow a bit and even allowed for a little goggle tanning. Thursday was indeed a skiers paradise.

Indeed it has been a tough season, even Killington can admit to that. However, as New Englanders, we need to embrace what comes our way. No two seasons are ever the same here, and that is the true beauty of living here. Some of us just know how to make the best out of a bad situation, and Killigton Resort has been doing just that.

Sharpen up your skis and hit the hills. They need your support, and they would love to see you. After all, who couldn’t use a little fresh mountain air and some fine apres ski.

For more information about Killington, visit Killington.com or search #Beast365 on Instagram.



 

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The Brand Returns.

It’s been a while.

As I write this, I reflect back to the days I started writing. I was young. I was focused. My energy and passion for all things creative in life drove my writing business. So much so, it landed me several different gigs and multiple partnerships with media outlets. I was a proud young man.

Then, something happened along the way. Life. Life became more complex as I started to grow older and figure my own self out. While previously writing this blog, I was known as a young straight man. I concealed much of my own identity, and did not portray publicly of just who I am; a homosexual man.

During my time off from writing, I focused on my coming out. I’ve relished in new found connections, fell in love with the LGBT community and the endless parties, and even got a shot at love.

Today, I am proud to announce that I am back, and better than ever. Not only have I worked on finding out just who I truly am, I have also made leaps and bounds to move my personal life forward in the direction that I’ve always envisioned myself in, one of which starts with this website.

Mike Valletta. It’s more than just my name, it’s a brand. A brand I am proud to move forward into the future. I invite you all to join back in on the conversations with me as I continue to embark on an incredible journey of storytelling and photography along with future endeavors soon to be announced. (Hey, I can’t let all my secrets out.)

So, what is the brand today? The brand today is centered around the website, a direct link and staging ground. It’s where you’ll get your weekly digest of stories. Next up, we leap out to social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (TheMikeValletta). These sites are considered live streaming, and a direct connection with fans.

As you navigate the site, you’ll notice many of the older articles are still in tact. Some like to leave the past behind, we’ll take the past with us. After all, it’s part of the journey, and a history. New articles will be appear on the site every Friday.

I’m sure you all want to know what’s next for the brand, you’ll just have to be patient. There’s a reason I’m calling it a brand these days. Stay tuned.

I hope all have been well. Let’s get the party started.

Mike Valletta

 

Photo Credit: Pholton Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One World Trade Center Grows as America Grows Stronger

I make a lot of trips down to New York City. Living within a close proximity to it here in Connecticut, we’re often referred to as one big suburb of the Big Apple. All it takes is a look around at how we drive to see just how true that is! When it comes to the road, we’re maniacs, and we get our behavior directly from the city that never sleeps.

It’s a great city, and we’re fortunate enough to live so close to it. Last week, I took a trip down to see the World Trade Center site down in lower Manhattan. I went along with my mother, and though we didn’t have a reservation, it was still fairly easy to get a free ticket from the visitors center to get into the memorial.

On April 30th, One World Trade Center, otherwise known as the Freedom Tower, became the tallest building in NYC, just a week after our visit. It’s quite remarkable to hear that. Many doubted we would we build that high again, but we proved to those who terrorized us that we are not afraid and refuse to live in fear.

During our visit, we entered the memorial with chills. As we walked towards the pools of flowing water cascading into the earth where the towers once stood, all we could visualize is what happened there back on September 11th, 2001. The horror of those two towers collapsing was in the back of my mind as I looked up to the sky and then back down into the pool surrounded by the names of those who perished.

I remember that day. I remember it well. I was sitting in English class at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury, CT. Our teacher turned on the television and the entire class stared in shock and awe of what we were witnessing on screen. At first, it was like a movie, but we soon realized this was real. This was 9/11. We watched as the second plane hit the tower. We watched as the towers came crumbling to the ground, and those below scrambled to save their lives.

Images of that day all came back to me during the visit. It was hard. Very hard. Knowing that so many innocent lives perished on the very ground we stood on was not easy acknowledging.

As we walked around the memorial, we saw visitors who wept, then we saw visitors who didn’t know what kind of expression to wear. It was a silent place, not many voices to listen to other than the bustling sounds of lower Manhattan. My guess is many were lost in thought just as much as I was.

It’s great to have a place to go to where will never forget the images of that very day. It’s clear that New York will never be the same, but in the end, the height of the Freedom Tower signifies just how much stronger we have become.

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Spring is in the Air!

I can’t say enough about the weather this week. As much of a skier as I am, this spring like weather has indeed hit a sweet spot with me. As if there were much of a winter around here anyways, right mother nature? I swear, she has really been some kind of mother this year, not much of one to me! I’ve been begging and begging for snow, dancing my legs off into extreme amounts of pain, only to get a mere few inches that’s gone the next day. Not exactly the kind of snow I was dancing there for oh mother of mine high in the sky!

I’ve made the most of whatever winter we did have. I skied endlessly up north most days in the northern Berkshires and in the Green Mountains of Vermont. This week, however, has made me start getting in shape for my next sport of choice; mountain biking. Yes, from skiing to biking, I’m all about conquering those mountains in some kind of form! I’ve been at the gym faithfully all week long working one on one with my personal trainer who’s getting me in shape for post ski season. There’s a specific line of workouts dedicated to getting you ready for the next season. As a professional skier, its important to maintain good shape.

Today, my personal trainer kicked me square out of the gym. With temperatures climbing close to seventy degrees, and noting that I had already been at the gym for little over three hours, I was kicked to the great outdoors to enjoy an afternoon of mountain biking around Burr Pond in Torrington. Ever been there? It really is quite the place this time of year. For starters, its not as busy as it during the summer months. The tranquility will really reel you in, and so too will those gusty winds kicking about. Burr Pond is one of my favorite Torrington destinations. You can’t beat bliss!

I drove around the entire park trail today which encompasses all of Burr Pond. Normally, this run would take me at least a good 45 minutes, today well over that considering we are in mud season here in the Berkshires! Mud is everywhere from the recent snow melt. Riding through the mud isn’t as bad as it sounds. In fact, its quite entertaining as you’re kicking up the mud and trying to dodge boulders at the same time. I believe I already painted the picture for you of just how entertaining it could be!

So, as all of us around here throw open the windows and gear up for spring, lets not forget to venture out to some awesome Litchfield County destinations to get in touch with the great outdoors again. After all, with the winter we had, we deserve it!

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Discovering the “Y” in Yoga

“Stretch to downward facing dog!” snaps the instructor on my Gaiam Yoga DVD. “Bend farther down!” he continues to bark. “Now, bend even farther, and breathe.” he says so calmly when I’m in the toughest physical position in my life!

There’s just something about Yoga. Most people recommend it. They say it’s most likely one of the most vital physical activities you could partake in. Well, that phrase was all my personal trainer needed to hear when she ordered me to start Yoga twice a day at home. (Are personal trainers hired to kill you?)

“Breathe, just breathe. In and out, feel your breath.” that lovely voice from the DVD says. Yeah, I’ll feel my breath, if I can catch it first!

It’s been nearly a week since I began my now daily yoga routine, once in the morning before work, and then again right before bed. I’ve got to tell ya, the AM Yoga is the one I look forward to the most. As soon as I hop out of bed, I don’t reach for the cell phone or flock to the coffee pot, I run right over to my Yoga mat and begin the half hour exercise. After about two hundred or so in takes of oxygen, twenty or so different stretches, and one deep meditation session, I can’t believe how awesome I feel afterwards. I feel wide awake, without the coffee! Not only that, but I feel eerily calm, and for those who know me, you know I suffer from ADD so calm is usually not in my vocabulary!

As I go throughout my day, I continue to feel revitalized and refreshed. It’s like some sort of super charge. I’m not exactly sure how to explain it, but I know I’m in a good place, even after I get barked at in the morning by some instructor who bends into pretzel figures so calmly!

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The Cow Story: A Secret to Happiness

People often ask me, “Mike, why are you so darn happy all the time?”. I often come back with the response of “Why, should I be miserable or something?”. It’s a question that is posed to me everyday. Some wonder if it’s the gallons of coffee I drink a day.

Sorry, it’s not the coffee, though I guess it helps. There’s no wonder drug I take either. There’s no such thing as happy pills, nor do I plan to market such an item in the future. If you really want to know why I’m so happy, spend a day in my shoes.

I’m naturally an easy going person, that’s a given. Not much bothers me. In fact, there was once a cow who sat right in the middle of the road on my way to work and had me running behind for about fifteen minutes. Most people would be angered. I couldn’t help but laugh uncontrollably. I mean, how often can you tell your boss you’re going to be late because a cow is your traffic jam.

You see, I remain a pretty positive person because of the way that I see things. It’s all a thought process. Oh sure, I could have chosen to yell out a few choice words at that cow, but do you honestly think that cow would have understood a word I said? No! That cow would have just starred at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I don’t speak cow! Instead, I sat and laughed all about the scenario. Yelling would have just stressed me out, but not that cow. No way.

Being perpetually happy isn’t hard work at all. You just have to adjust your thought process. Why should we be negative all the time? Where is it going to get us? Well, for starters, it’s going to give us a one way ticket to the emergency room. Stress kills, but laughter is the best medicine. Nice connection there, right?

We only live once, and it is up to us to live the life that we want. Should we walk around pouting that we have to go to work, or that we have to do other things that we don’t enjoy doing? Not at all. Think about this for a second. Many of us don’t enjoy going to work. We whine all about Monday. What if we changed our thought process. Work pays the bills, which otherwise wouldn’t be able to be paid without a job, then we’ll be begging to work. See! I totally just changed the thought process, and just like that, instant happiness about going to work.

I challenge you to become a better you. I challenge you to change your thought process. Life is what you make of it. Will you be the one yelling at a cow that doesn’t understand you?

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Explore the Great Outdoors, Indoors!

It’s cold. Period. There’s no question in my mind that the place to be is indoors, but am I really the type of person to just stay in my home all day hibernating my life away from the elements? Not at all!

Today, I took a ride out to Cabella’s in nearby East Hartford. Cabella’s, for those of you who don’t know, is the worlds foremost outfitters specializing in outdoor essentials. The store is large and packed with wall to wall merchandise for the outdoorsmen at heart. Everything from hunting equipment to fishing boats and ski jackets can be found in this paradise.

That’s not all. If you’re looking for a day trip to a museum, think Cabella’s! Inside, you’ll find an aquarium packed with some of the largest trout you have ever seen. It’s like spending the day at an aquarium, and the best part about it, it’s absolutely free! Not only can you can you catch a glimpse of fresh water fish, but you can also explore stuffed wildlife statues that will have you thinking you just made a trip out west to the mountains.

In the mood for a hearty meal? Cabella’s has you covered. Sit back and relax as you dive into fresh venison or pulled pork with Cabella’s very own cafe.

If you ever thought a day trip was out of reach, think again. Cabella’s has everything for the perfect day out with the entire family. A store so large, you could not only spend a whole day there, but you could also get lost!

For more information, visit: http://cabelas.com/cabelas/index.do

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The Opportunity of a Lifetime: Covering The Dew Tour

This has got to be one of the best weeks of my life. Not only will I be making my way up to Vermont to check out Killington Resorts winter Dew Tour, I’ll also be covering it!

You see, it all started when an email came to my inbox last week asking if I would like to be a brand ambassador for AT&T at the Dew Tour. AT&T has this cool new tablet from Pantech called the Element, which is essentially like apple’s iPad but waterproof, and they’re looking for people who are social media savvy to give it a whirl at the hottest event in the east.

I just couldn’t say no. The opportunity was much too large to pass up. An all expense paid trip to Vermont AND I get to try out this awesome tablet? An opportunity like this only comes once in a lifetime, and I know I would be kicking myself if I turned it down. It’s like a dream come true!

I’ll be at Killington on the 19th and 20th covering the event live using AT&T’s Element tablet PC. While there, I’ll be using the tablet to capture pictures and video of all the hottest athletes in action, plus even get a few interviews with some of them!

I’m not exactly sure what to expect. It’s a huge deal. I’m eternally grateful for all of it. As they say, all good things come to those who wait. I’m a patient person, but I can’t tell you how much I just want Thursday to be here already!

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Litchfield County Gets a Taste of Winter, Finally

Remember last year when we were buried up to our eyeballs in snow? We would often reference our homes to igloos as we mingled with other Eskimos who braved the elements that was the winter of 2011.

This year, exact opposite. After a shattering Halloween snow storm that left many stranded and without power, snow storms have been far and few in between. In fact, it’s even been rather spring like without people even going as far as to lay out on their decks and sunbathe, in January!

Well, it seems mother nature has finally come to her senses, maybe. We’ve already figured out that she’s in need of a mental evaluation, but now I think she remembers it’s January.

This morning, many of us in Litchfield County woke up to a few inches of of snow, enough to make us realize that it’s still the dead of winter. It’s a nice gesture, but I’m worried about what kinds of tricks mother nature has up her sleeve now that she realizes she has forgotten about Connecticut this winter!

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Daffodil Hill Offers a Sea of Daffodils

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Last night, I was watching one of my trusted news sources, NBC Connecticut, and as I was watching I happened to notice that they were airing a story that took place here in Litchfield County. I was all ears. Anything to do with the local area I immediately want to know about, even if I already know about it! This story, however, I hadn’t known about and I was very excited that I was learning of a new place to discover, and what a place it was indeed. Located in the sprawling countryside in between the rolling hills of Litchfield and Thomaston lies a place called Daffodil Hill which is known to be quite the magical place this time of year as a sea of daffodils take front and center and sprawl themselves across quite a few acres of property that eventually lead to a majestic countryside pond. Daffodil Hill is fairly easy to get to as it lies right off of Route 254 at a place called Laurel Ridge Farm. It is here where people of all ages come to enjoy the beauty that is Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills and it is also here where many photo enthusiasts both professional and non-professionals, come to take in the sights as they work their lenses and capture everything that this landscape has to offer.

It had been my first visit to Daffodil Hill and I was in awe of what lay in front of me. This sea of daffodils came complete with rolling hills, a majestic pond, and a slew of rock walls that bordered the property. This was paradise to me as I can literally sit here for hours on end capturing the essence of daffodils through the lens of my iPhone, which amazingly takes fantastic pictures which you can see for yourself in this column. As I walked through the field and down the hillside, I couldn’t help but reflect on just how special life really is. So often, many of us take it for granted but when you see sights such as this it’s easy to get lost and bask in the glory of life.

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