LR8: 1st Parkour Injury

I hadn’t planned on blogging about this, but I’ve been told by more than a few people that I should be 100% open and honest, sharing everything along the way, not just the positive milestones. Fair enough.

Last Wednesday, I arrived at the Valhalla Elite Training Center in Santa Barbara, pumped up and ready to go for my 2nd lesson. My abs were still sore from the 2.5 hour parkour marathon the week before, but I’m used to pushing through things with pure tenacity. (Aside: As proof of my high tolerance for pain, my wife often points out that I have had 2 root canals without any anesthetic. Truth is, I don’t have a high tolerance for it, I simply view mentally controlling pain as the ultimate challenge. Don’t judge me.)

Parkour FailJoel took us through a brief set of stretches and then set up an assortment of warm up exercises around the gym. I chose to begin with a simple exercise whereby I would jump over two obstacles (gym mats that were folded in a v-shape), each approximately 2 feet high, with my feet together. Simple, right? I compressed down, bending my knees, lowering my chest down to them and coiling my arms back. I took a deep breath and sprang up with a burst of energy. As soon as my arms stretched above my head, I felt a tear in my lower abdomen, and a searing pain radiate throughout my core. My legs hadn’t even left the mat and already I knew I was done for the night.

The Brain That Changes ItselfI’ve read dozens of books on how the brain works, in fact, it’s become one of my favorite topics, thanks to Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself. Numerous studies have been done through the years which prove that simply visualizing an activity can produce a physical result that mimics up to 1/3 of the actual physical activity. So rather than go home with my torn abdominal muscle and fall behind, I stayed and learned. I watched intently, focused on understanding the intricacies of each move and helped the other students. It was frustrating to be sidelined, and I unsuccessfully attempted more than once to give it a go, but I think I got something out of it nonetheless.

I’ve spent a week simply allowing my abs to rest, and it’s been a successful rehab, except for the occasional sneeze. Luckily, thanks to the July 4th holiday, I have an extra week to recuperate before my next lesson. Joel has already taken note of my early injury and will spend more time on stretching next time. Lesson learned.


LR7: Convenience Drives Consumption

Convenience drives our consumption patterns, which is why, as a society, we are getting fatter and for the first time in human history, our kids have a life expectancy that is shorter than their parents. If I want to successfully alter my consumption pattern and that of my family, I must respect the power of convenience and make the necessary adjustments.

The key is to have healthy, vegan options readily available when my willpower will be at its lowest, ie when I’m hungry or bored. Here is one step in that direction. I cut up a bunch of different color bell peppers, red onion, squash, and russet potatoes, pour a little olive oil on and add some thyme and rosemary from my front yard. Let it roast for 45 minutes in the oven at 325 degrees. I dump it in tupperware and stick it in the fridge right next to some quinoa I also prepared. It’s the perfect snack or lunch, either cold or reheated.20120625-092655.jpg

I also leave bowls of grapes, cherries, and blueberries and mini-containers of cut up canteloupe, watermelon and/or honeydew in the fridge, right out front. Bananas and apples are conveniently located right on the counter and kitchen table.

This strategy makes healthy options even more convenient, thus more susceptible to mindless noshing than a package that needs opening or frozen food that requires cooking.

LR8: 1st Parkour Lesson

Although I’ve seen all the YouTube videos, including the fails, I really had no idea what to expect from a Parkour lesson. Rather than try to describe it, here is a brief video of everything we did over the course of 2.5 hours at the Valhalla Elite Training Center in Santa Barbara. (As an aside, what I got out of this video is a visual of just how much weight I’ve lost since going vegan and that I probably need to buy some new clothes.)

Also for your viewing pleasure, here is The Office’s take on the parkour phenomenon.

LR8: Parkour


ParkourMy son, Jackson, has brought to my attention that you can actually take classes in parkour, which is something I’ve been dying to learn for a long time. I’ll be joining him and his friends for an introductory lesson tomorrow.

For the uninitiated, here’s a video clip of some kids doing parkour at UC Santa Barbara.

LR 8: Parkour Posts

LR7: Barbara, Patron Saint of Veganism

I may go on about how easy it has been to convert to veganism, but the truth is, I’ve got a secret weapon in my war on poor eating habits, and her name is Barbara.

VeggiesWe are creatures of habit. For most of us, that means we have fairly limited menus. Whether you’re eating a burger from McDonald’s, Chili’s or your own bbq, it’s still fundamentally just a burger. Add chicken with (add staple side dish here), maybe grandma’s famous pasta recipe and a few other typical dishes, and you have your biweekly rotation of meals served at dinner. Now, what if I said you can’t eat any dish that contains the key ingredients found in every one of those recipes? You would be forced to find new recipes, go to different aisles in the food store, read the full list of ingredients and likely have to find new grocery stores to do your shopping. Well, all of those tasks fall squarely on the shoulders of my better half.

Following a recipe from

Following a recipe from

Barbara has searched the internet and cookbooks for vegan recipes. She visited numerous new grocery stores to find which have the best selections for vegans. She’s become an expert on how to read ingredient lists and developed a whole new meal rotation for the entire family. I’m no writer so I’m sure I’m not doing a fantastic job of painting a picture of just what a mammoth disruption this has been to her life. Keep in mind, I haven’t become a “substitute vegan”, where I will simply swap out a burger for a veggie burger. I believe the only way to do this long term is to completely change your palate and that requires that the composition of your plate must look and feel as different as the new textures and flavors of your meals. That’s what makes it all the more incredible that she has managed to take it on without so much as a loud sigh. For this I am thankful to have such a fantastic partner in this and all of my endeavors.

Javier's Vegan BreakfastAdd to the mix, Javier, our breakfast chef at the office who makes the greatest veggie burrito with sides of fresh fruit and his secret Guatemalan beans, and you have a pretty sweet setup for conversion to veganism.

I can’t leave out the contribution of my kids. Masie, who has been a vegetarian for over 10 years, has actually benefitted from me becoming a vegan because it has expanded her range of options. Jackson, on the other hand, is an unabashed carnivore, but he’s also a gamer. Up for any challenge (see unicycling, slack lining, jumping stilts, and even yarn bombing), Jackson has been a supporter of the adjustment. Anyone with kids knows how important their contribution has been to a smooth transition.

QuinoaDon’t cry for me, for I suffer not on my path to becoming a healthier person.

GR5: Locked and Loaded

400 Square Feet of YarnAfter defusing the yarn bomb, the 400 square feet of knitted pieces were lugged back down the Cold Spring Trail in four large backpacks and shipped off to North Carolina. When the packages arrive, Warm Up America will convert them into blankets and scarves for those in need.

Warm Up America

LR4: The Hurt Locker

Will and PeterJust three people were waiting for Barbara, Jackson and I to help us defuse the yarn bomb yesterday. Dennis Moran joined the crew to see it for himself. Will Wallin and Peter Biava, have been the unsung heroes on this project. As Peter put it, they were the offensive linemen, doing the heavy lifting with little adoration in return. While the others who had lugged the 14′ ladder up were understandably “unavailable” to bring it down, these guys were in it for the long haul. I will forever be grateful for their totally selfless, back-breaking work.

Just three days from Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, the heat made the 2.6 hike up the mountain much harder than usual. What took over 60 man hours to put up, took just 6 to completely remove. It had to be carefully done because all the material would be donated to Warm Up America in North Carolina where it will become blankets and scarves for those in need.

RemovalHurt Locker

With all the material removed, the tree looked like a sepia version of a bright color photo. As we took some final pictures before heading back down, I breathed a sigh of relief. No more worrying that I wouldn’t pull it off. No more pleading for help. No more sleepless nights worrying that my yarn would somehow be the cause of a forest fire. No more pressure to get the word out so that others might experience the whimsy for themselves. No more panic over how I’d get the ladder back down. As much as I loved every stage of the project, I was happy for it to be coming to a successful conclusion. All that’s left now are the friendships I’ve forged, the photos and memories, and the pride that comes with having pulled off what seemed an impossible task just three months ago. No stress in that.My Hurt Locker Crew

The Aftermath

LR6: Update from the Ballroom

Cassia at Arthur MurrayMy wife, Barbara and I have been taking classes at Arthur Murray for nearly a month now, and I’m loving every minute of it. We signed up for the “Bronze” program which is a total of 30 lessons (10 private, 10 group and 10 party). Our primary dance instructor is Cassia and she has been fantastic. First of all, Barbara likes her, and that’s vital. Second of all, she is incredibly patient, clear with her instructions and very complimentary. In fact, she’s so complimentary, for a while we were beginning to question her sincerity, until we got to the Cha Cha. We had some trouble with it for a while and no compliments were forthcoming. So while I was disappointed we weren’t getting the Cha Cha so quickly, it actually made me feel better about all the accomplishments up to that point.

We have decided to learn a choreographed dance to perform for an audience as a way to mark this resolution as complete. Next week the instructors will be demoing a wide assortment of styles so we can pick those we’d like to include.

Dancing at Arthur MurrayAside: This is a first for me in terms of resolutions, because in the five years I’ve been doing them like this, never have I had to rely on the determination of anyone but myself to pull it off. That’s not an insignificant fact. As we were scheduling our next lessons, Barb wanted just one per week, while I was hoping for at least three. I know from experience that the deeper you immerse yourself in the learning process, the steeper the learning curve and with 12 big things to learn, I need that curve to be extremely steep. We compromised and settled on two per week.

LR4: Yarn Bomb Pics

Yarn BombI hiked to the yarn bomb for the seventh time in 8 days. I spent so much time on this project and in 3 days it will disappear forever. These pictures will be all I have to look back on, so I keep searching for the perfect one that captures it all. The problem is, there are so many facets, so many stories, so many people attached to it, and so many nooks and crannies in the tree, that no single image can possibly capture everything on its own. Between John Wiley’s aerial shots, Kolya Hicker’s artistic interpretations, pics sent to me by visitors and friends plus my own pics and video, hopefully even those who can’t make it out there to see it in person can get a good feel for it. Click on a pic and you can quickly go through all the new ones. I think they give a pretty good feel for what it’s like to be out there on the trail, witnessing it for yourself.

As an aside, each day I have run into people who were shocked as they turned the corner to see this explosion of color suddenly rise up from 2.5 miles of desert scrub, and those who were excitedly anticipating what friends had described to them in texts and emails. Only 2 people had read about it on EdHat or The Independent. Most heard about it via word of mouth. (This is a real source of frustration for me. I just don’t understand why the papers, radio and TV have ignored it. As a hiker and Santa Barbara resident, I’d be pissed if this were up there on the trails and no one brought it to my attention. But I digress.) A couple of them had heard about this guy “Steve” who put it together and when they realized I am Steve, they actually asked to take a picture with me. How cool is that?!?!

The smiles people have when they see it; the anticipatory excitement on their faces and in their voices as they push further on our trails than they’ve ever pushed before; the endless curiosity about who, what, where, when and especially, why; the joy they feel when they hear the stories of Yancey and his knitters in Alabama, Dany & Ivo in London, Marcy, the Crochet Grenade, in San Diego, Michele, the former editor of Crochet Magazine, Lara and her tiny flower, etc, etc, etc, has made this one of the best weeks of my life. It’s so rare to share so many moments with so many strangers filled nothing but pure, unadulterated joy. No ego, no envy, no selfishness, no anger. Just a shared moment of “Wow!”

LR4: Yarn Bomb Photographs courtesy of Kolya Hicker

If you haven’t seen Kolya Hicker‘s work, please check it out on his blog and website. He’s an up and coming photographer/artist studying at the Brook’s Institute in Santa Barbara and specializes in nature and wildlife. I’m a big fan of his and he was kind enough to hike up to the Yarn Bomb with me today to help me capture it in a way only Kolya could. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. If you like his work, please let him, and others, know.

LR4: Aerial Shots courtesy of John Wiley

John Wiley's Pic of the Yarn BombJohn Wiley's Pic of the Yarn Bomb

Check out John’s website for more great aerial pics of Santa Barbara.

Halfway There

12for2012 Ballroom DancingI’m at the halfway point in my quest to learn 12 new things and do 12 charitable things this year.

Unicycling, slack lining, jumping stilts, yarn bombing, and drumming have now been checked off, with ballroom dancing and eating right being works in progress on the learning side. That leaves 5 more to be accomplished. (Paragliding has been tentatively scheduled to begin at the end of July.)

SugarOn the giving side, I’ve built homes, fostered a puppy, volunteered to donate bone marrow, did graphic design work for a mitzvah and next Sunday will donate 400 square feet of knitting to Warm Up America, while having my blood, sperm and hair rejected. That leaves 7 more to be accomplished. (I become eligible again to donate blood on December 25th so that will likely be GR12.)

Duneier SlackliningThis is where you come in. I need suggestions for the remaining 12. Is there something you have been wanting to learn, but aren’t ready to take the leap? Is there something you would like to try, but worried it will be too difficult or time consuming? Use me as your guinea pig. Let me pave the way. Is there something you’ve learned that you think others should try too? Is there a charity you know of that could use a hand? Tell me how I can help.

Send me your suggestions. Share your thoughts.


Chip Off the Old Block

My parents came to town for my daughter’s graduation and I took full advantage of it by bringing my father up to speed on my 12for2012 progress.

Grandpa UnicyclingGrandpa UnicyclingGrandpa DrummingGrandpa Using Jumping StiltsGrandpa Thankful to be done with Jumping Stilts

LR4: Yarn Bomb Complete

The last 81 days have taken me on an incredible journey, beginning with the mundane decision to learn how to knit and ending with the whimsical explosion of a yarn bomb 2.6 miles from and 2,500 feet above civilization. Along the way, I have met numerous incredibly generous and supportive people from around the world. I will never again doubt the benefits of social media. To all of you who knitted/crocheted contributions and sent them at your own expense, who gave me a pep talk when I felt overwhelmed and in over my head, who helped me carry a ladder up a mountain in the scorching heat, who documented the journey with photographs, who promoted my goal with friends and family, who sewed pieces to the tree, who kept us company with wine and music, who offered to carpool… I say “Thank you!!!!” I hoped to reach a goal. I dreamed of hitting a home run. I fantasized about a grand slam. Thanks to all that you did to help, WE pulled off a once-in-a-lifetime, tell-your-grandchildren-about-it, what-legends-are-made-of, knocked-it-outta-the-park dream, that I will forever be trying to match. Thank you for coming this far with me on this journey. I sincerely hope you will continue to come along for the ride.

Enjoy the pics and share them with pride. It is your accomplishment as much as mine. (For those in the area, get up there and witness it for yourself before it comes down on June 16th. Click here for details of the hike, complete with a map, pictures and turn-by-turn directions.)
Santa Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn Bomb

Santa Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn Bomb

Santa Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn BombSanta Barbara Yarn Bomb

I’ll add more pics as I collect them from others who bore witness.

LR4: Da Bomb

I’m exhausted and will post details of the bombing tomorrow, but wanted to post some pics I have from tonight’s work (lots more to follow). It’s not 100% complete so I’ll be heading back up in the morning to finish it off. Huge thanks to Will, Peter, Grace, Curtis, Sean, Mackenzie, Hugh, Ian, Laina, Christine, Kevin, Diane, Chase and most of all, my son, Jackson for coming out to help me pull this off. It looks freakin’ amazing!!!!!!!


123Carrying the ladder456789So far

LR4: Let the Yarn Bombing Commence…

yarn bomb ladderI rented a 14′ A-frame ladder and recruited 3 friends to help me carry it up the 2.6 miles and 2,500 feet along the Cold Spring Trail to the yarn bomb target. Unfortunately, we had just a 3 hour window to get it from the rental place up to the tree. That window coincided with high noon, the hottest part of the hottest day in a very long time. Oh, and that ladder is not just really freakin’ heavy, it’s also very cumbersome. So instead, we took it just past the catway (fire road) or roughly 1.5 miles up today and will finish bringing it up the rest of the way tomorrow when it isn’t quite so hot. All along the way, as I emptied my water bottle and squeezed the sweat out of my shirt, I thought to myself, “What the hell was I thinking,” closely followed by the mantra, “It’s gonna look so cool when it’s done,” repeated over and over again.

Ladder for the Yarn Bomb

LR4: Yarn Bomb Prep Complete

I finished prepping the sections tonight anKruzel System Completed was itching to get started, so I couldn’t resist a practice run. It’s not much, but I used one of the pieces sent to me by Yancey in ‘Bama to cover the post of the Cold Spring Trailhead sign. No one goes out there at 10 o’clock at night, so you can imagine my surprise when as soon as the yarn touched the post, a fire inspector truck creeped by and as we were taking these pictures, a police car flew by, followed closely behind by an ambulance. Can’t wait til Friday!

Yarn Bomb Trail

LR4: Yarn Pumped

After today’s drum recital I went right back to work sewing randomly sized pieces together to form properly sized sections according to the Kruzel System for Three Dimensional Pattern Organization. It’s a lot of freakin’ work, but I’ve now sewn together and packaged 86% of the maximum coverage. I can’t believe it, but thanks to everyone’s help, I am now very confident that I will not only cover every inch of the tree that I can reach with the 14 foot ladder I’ll be carrying up there, but I will likely also be able to wrap all of the Trail signs leading up to the tree! That’s a far cry from being yarn bummed, huh?

Section Sewing

Prepackaging Sections for the Yarn Bomb

LR5: My Drum Recital

Duneier on DrumsI picked up drum sticks for the first time in my life just 83 days ago. It was incredibly foreign to me, focusing on how my two hands and two feet could come together to create beats that my brain has been replicating for decades. I set a goal to play AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” in front of an audience at the next SB Drum Lab recital. Today, that goal and this resolution has been realized.

Duneier Drum RecitalMy son, Jackson, was my inspiration and his initial instruction got me going with the basics. Then I commandeered his weekly lesson with Craig Thatcher at the Santa Barbara Drum Lab, where we would discuss the philosophy of drumming and tricks of the trade. Craig pushed me to play through mistakes, to have fun with it and to challenge myself every time I pick up those sticks.

For 2 1/2 months I played the same song over and over again, practicing every day, except for the 2 weeks when I was in and out of the hospital, and I loved every second of it. I didn’t have to “drag” myself to the garage to practice, but I did have to force myself to step away from the set and take care of things like work, etc at times. I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for what a drummer can do and with the help of Jackson and Craig, I look forward to continuing to develop my skills.

Huge thanks to my wife, Barbara for volunteering to host the recital and my friends Peter, Jeanette and Pam for coming to watch.

Without further ado, for your viewing pleasure, I present me on the drums at my first recital.

LR4: Coast to Coast Bombing

One of my favorite things these days is the moment when I see a stack of packages come in with the mail. I’m going to miss that when the bomb goes off.

TOP: Today I received another incredible, overflowing box from Cathy in Pittsburgh, PA. Cathy, the huge box made me smile, but the colors blew me away!

MIDDLE: Marcy sent this beautifully intricate piece to me from San Diego, CA. I was psyched that she sent me a piece because she’s an experienced bomber herself. (See her blog for details on her Stop Sign Flowers)

BOTTOM: Responding to my plea on Yarn Bombing Los Angeles’ FB page, Sue sent me 3 awesome pieces, made to spec, from Costa Mesa, CA.

I can’t thank you guys enough for helping me. You’ve all gone above and beyond to help a perfect stranger out, and have inspired me to kick my giving resolutions up a notch as I work on putting into action a “Pay It Forward” idea for the rest of the year. Stay tuned….

Cathy PA 12for2012 Yarn BombMarcy CA 12for2012 Yarn BombSue CA 12for2012 Yarn Bomb