And of course I get sick in the middle of a pandemic…

First, before anyone panics, it’s nothing related to COVID. Earlier this week I started getting a bit of a sore throat, and soon after developed a large white blob on one of my tonsils. No fever, no breathing issues, no cough. I talked with a nurse, and they said that I really should have a chat with my doctor. However, they’re not seeing patients in the clinics unless required, so they set up a video conference.

A little after 8am this morning I got on the call with my doctor and we talked through my symptoms. Because it was a video call I was even able to show him inside my mouth and illuminate the back of my throat, and he could directly see the area I was referring to. It’s a simple bacterial infection, so a 10 day course of antibiotics should clear it up. However, it’s never fun to have any type of symptom when everyone is on edge about COVID-19.

Yet, the really cool part of this story is how I was able to talk directly, face-to-face, with my doctor and even show him the issue. Because of the technology that we have available to us today it wasn’t that much different than going in to the doctor’s office. I had a thermometer so I was able to take my temperature, and strangely we also have an Oxygen sensor, so I could let him know those numbers as well. We were able to talk with the same candor that we always do and it felt pretty darn normal. He was able to call in the prescription, which I then picked up at a drive-thru window.

The world is probably going to change a lot when this is all said and done. We’re finally realizing how powerful our technology is. I’m really curious how this is going to change the very nature of work going forward.

So how’s it going?

This is the week where everything changed. At least for a while. Both my wife and I started full-time teleworking. My oldest son was already doing distance learning, so the main adjustment he’s had to deal with is having all of us in the house all day long. We’ve got our office set up with equipment  and have made ourselves as comfortable with our work environments as we can be.

As someone who deals with anxiety this time has certainly had it’s challenges. It’s not because I’m not comfortable working remote (I’ve been a huge advocate of it for years), but because of the reason why. There’s this sense of feeling “trapped” by the situation, and by all of the news around it. As someone who’s an extrovert, and loves to get out and explore and surround myself with the energy of humanity, this is tough.

I have been putting some daily practices in place. I’ve been getting out for a run and bike ride every day (except Friday as a rest day on my body). Plus, I’ve been walking to a local park each day to play my Pokemon Go and Harry Potter games. In many ways I’ve been getting more exercise now than in the past few weeks, so that’s good. The weather is getting nicer each week, so hopefully soon we can open up all the windows and freshen everything up.

I’ve been trying to use technology even more to keep in touch with folks. On Wednesday we did a Beer & Bikes video hangout where we all sat around drinking beer and chatting, much like a typical Wednesday. A friend of mine has opened up himself to chats for folks whenever needed. I’m also planning to do a few YouTube live streams for fun over the coming weeks to connect with folks. I’m also going to try and write more here on the blog as a bit of a discipline to keep myself creating, as well as posting more to Instagram and maybe committing to at least one new photo per day.

I know this will all pass. We’re doing what we need to do to control the spread of something very dangerous. In fact for the first time in history we’re in a position to actually make an impact on a global pandemic like this, because of technology. Although it will be rough on a lot of different parts of the economy, because of the tools we have we can actually keep many businesses up and running as usual. It’s a wild time to be alive.

I hope that you’re doing well in all of this, and I can’t wait to spend more time around people at some point. We’ll all get through this, and hopefully be better to one another on the other side.

Thinking about “stuff”

Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about material things. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I think a lot of it has to do with my changing perspective on materialism. This past week I happened to visit a Wal-Mart for something I needed. Wal-Mart (at least in America) is a bastion of consumerism and materialism gone wild. Everywhere you look are signs advertising the lowest prices on things that you often didn’t even know that you needed. The aisles are filled with bins and pallets of random things that scream, “you need me!”, despite being of questionable quality. Even when you look at electronics, the aisles were filled with ultra-cheap TV’s that are subsidized by systems of data collection that monitor what you watch so that you can be advertised to more effectively.

Years ago I was right on board with a lot of this. Before my divorce, our house was FILLED with more things than you can imagine. Not in a hoarder way, but simply full. We didn’t think twice about buying whatever we wanted (not going to get into the credit card debt issue…), and in many ways we used it as a way to make ourselves feel better. When I look around my house now, the number of those things that still remain is so small, it’s not even funny.

I’ve started to think more about quality. Not just quality of goods, but quality of life. I’m not against having things, and I would never suggest that minimalism is a lifestyle I could ever adopt. However, I’ve been trying to be more and more intentional about the things I purchase, and making sure that they actually are meant to improve the quality of life that I’m trying to live. That means that purchasing outdoor gear (for example) is money well spent, as being outside and exploring has become a major part of who I am and what I want to be about. The things that I buy, I want to mean something to how I’m living my life. Not just something random that makes me feel good.

That also brings up the other side of quality. I’ve really started to appreciate good quality things, and understand the benefit of making something really good last a lot longer. Especially in the world of electronics, it’s so easy to buy cheap garbage that is outdated and doesn’t work for more than a year. Back in 2011 I invested in a good quality desktop computer (iMac), and then a few years ago upgraded it to an SSD. I’m STILL using this machine as my daily driver 9 years later. Sure it cost me a lot of money back when I bought it, but that’s money that I haven’t had to spend again in 11 years. It’s finally getting time where I’m outpacing what this machine can do, and once again I’ll look to make a long-term investment, instead of a short-term disposable one.

As I spend weekends continuing to purge old stuff that we don’t need, I look forward to a world where maybe we tone down our consumerism just a bit. We don’t need to stop buying things, but maybe we can do it with a bit more thought, intention, and eye towards longevity.

Thanksgiving 2019

The house is quiet. The only sounds are of the cats quietly stirring and the low hum of their water fountain pump. As I look out the window the world is covered in a fresh coat of white. The first snowstorm of the season hit yesterday morning. It’s Thanksgiving, and the world outside is quiet and still. Soon a new sound enters the air. Water heating up in my tea kettle for my morning coffee (decaf still… sigh). It’s peaceful this Thanksgiving morning.

The theme of 2019 for my blog was #livingmybestlife. Perhaps the thing that I’m most thankful for this year is that I have had the opportunities to do just that. In 2019 I’ve had opportunities to do incredible things, see beautiful places, and discover more and more of what I want my life to be about. Learning more about myself is the heart and center of my gratitude this year.

I feel like the past few years have been times of self-discovery. When I was younger I thought I knew what I wanted to be and who I was. I spent years trying to be a certain person, living a specific life, and in the end it really wasn’t me. Or at least it’s not who I was able to be now. I’m finally peeling back the layers and feel like I’m coming out of a long tunnel.

None of this self-discovery would be possible without the people I surround myself with. I’m truly grateful for the communities of people who are a part of my life now. Some are still with me from years ago, and they join new friends who are walking the same path as me. As I’ve grown I’ve been supported by friends and family who have given selflessly to encourage me and help me grow. I’ve tried to reciprocate as much as possible.

As we come to the close of another year, I want to thank everyone for their support over the past couple of years. I wouldn’t be the person I am, I wouldn’t have grown, if it wasn’t for all of you. It’ s for that reason that 2019 was my #livingmybestlife year, and I hope to continue that trend. I’m excited for the future, and ready to see what the future holds.

Thank you

September travels means October is here before you know it!

The month of September flew by, and suddenly it’s October 1st today. A big reason that last month disappeared on me was due to our travels out west to help friends with some big races. We were gone from September 12th through the 23rd, which is nearly half the month. During that time we were living out of suitcases and tents, and got a total of three solid nights of sleep over the 12 days we were gone. This is also after Fall Superior weekend where we volunteered for a big chunk of time.

I’m not going to tell the stories of my friends races, as those are their tales to tell. In brief,  I got to pace my friend Julie around Lake Tahoe for 32 miles, and then got to pace my friend Mike around the Sangre de Cristo mountains for 43 miles. Each pacing gig took me around 16 hours, and I got to help them achieve some incredible goals. It was an epic experience for me, and great training for my own future endeavors.

img_5259What I did want to spend a few moments to reflect on was the other parts of the trip that were meaningful to me. First off, I got to visit two states that I’ve never been to before, California and Colorado. Despite being in the tech industry for my career, I’ve never had a chance to visit California. Even if I had, it would have been somewhere in Silicon Valley, and I probably wouldn’t have seen much beyond a convention center. Getting to spend time at Lake Tahoe allowed me to experience a part of Northern California that was different from anywhere I had been. The Ponderosa Pines, with their giant pine cones were beyond anything we get in the Midwest. There were multiple times I was lying in a tent and heard a pine cone crash against the ground nearby. It made me really hope that my tent could withstand that type of impact!

img_5225After our trip at Tahoe we headed by train to Colorado, another State I had never visited. As a trail runner, Colorado is considered mecca, a holy place for lovers of dirt. It’s somewhere that everyone in the trail running world talks about, and opines for visiting or moving to. One of the first things that surprised me though was how far away Denver is from the mountains. When we got in to town I looked off into the distance and realized we were a LONG way away from those hills. We traveled through Colorado Springs, which is much closer, and was much more in line with what I had expected.

img_5371Our final destination in Colorado was Westcliffe, a small town in the far southwest corner of the State, almost to New Mexico. This small town was quaint and quiet, but proud of their outdoor activities. There are a lot of trails around for all types (ATV, horse, bike, foot), and the little outdoor store in town was well supplied. They are also considered a Dark Sky town, due to their minimal amount of artificial light. You can see the night sky like you have never seen it before on the open plains just outside of town. Looking at all of the stars was truly awe-inspiring.

img_5333Another unique aspect of this trip was how we got around. We flew into Reno (after a plane switch in Phoenix), and once we were done around Tahoe we hopped on a train to Denver. The 26 hour train ride was mostly relaxing, however, because we didn’t get a sleeper car the overnight was very restless. Train coach seats are basically like first class airline seats, but it’s still hard to get a real night of sleep in them. Despite the overnight, the train ride was smooth and comfortable. The train takes a very scenic path through the mountains, which does slow it down quite a bit. The final 3-4 hours were done at a leisurely 30 mph pace through mountain passes and tunnels. Although quite beautiful, I was ready to get to our destination when we arrived. If we had been continuing on, I would have for sure gotten a sleeper car.

The trip home from Denver was a quick, uneventful flight. We opt’d to park our car in Downtown Minneapolis for the duration of the trip. For just $66 for 12 days, we were able to park in the “A” ramp on the west side of downtown, and hop the Metro Transit Blue Line train to the airport. It was quick and easy, and a heck of a lot cheaper than the parking lots at the airport.

Coming back to Minnesota was a bit of an environmental shock. Since landing in Reno, we spent almost the entire trip 5500 ft. above sea level. While in Tahoe I made it up to 9100 ft., and our base camp in Westcliffe was at 9200 ft. At one point in Colorado I made it to 10,200 ft above sea level. Thankfully, I had a week of acclimation under my belt, and found my breathing to be pretty solid through my time there. However, the air was incredibly dry, and getting off the plane in MSP immediately felt like I was breathing underwater. Our air here is so damp and rich compared to the mountains.

img_5351In addition to the air, the lack of trees means that we could see forever when we were on top of the hills. Back in Minnesota we’re surrounded by a green canopy. We simply can’t see the distance like you can out west. Yet, one benefit of trees is the lack of dust. The amount of dust in both Tahoe and Westcliffe was insane. Everything we owned was covered in a thin layer of grit that would blow across the mountains and plains. I never felt completely clean until I got home and could soak in a nice shower for as long as I wanted.

Despite how incredible this experience was, I doubt we’ll be doing a trip of this length and complexity any time soon again. There’s a lot of places we want to see, and sometimes trying to cram them all into a “working vacation” means that we don’t get to spend the type of time that we want to. We had an amazing time helping our friends reach their goals, and we’re incredibly proud of them, and honored to have been able to be a part of their journey. Now, it’s time to take that inspiration and decide what’s next for Lisa and I. But first, I think we’ll just enjoy being home for the month of October.