Day 1,190 – Thankful for Small Habit Changes to Start the Year

When you ring in the new year are there usually small habit changes you make? Which seem to be most common? What helps them last?

While I’m not a fan of making New Year’s resolutions I am a fan of finding a concrete way to track my progress. Yes, I know that I don’t need an artificial date stamp to make a change that could be started immediately… but they don’t hurt either.

After all the eating I’ve been doing since Belize in November I’m looking forward to a very sustainable habit change. As of tomorrow I’ll be going back to tracking what I eat.

I haven’t eaten horribly the entire past month and change, but it’s been enough and often enough that I’m excited to get back to eating well. When there’ve been slight gaps between travel and family events I’ve gone right back to eating like I had been and it feels great.

My eating habits throughout 2019 as a whole were much improved from past years and I’ve felt great most of the year. The change of the new year marks the end of the holiday season and a bit of a respite from events that involve huge meals. I’m excited to get back to the normal I worked to make normal back in 2019.


Day 1,189 – Thankful for Lessons from Yoga and Confronting Fear

What is one of your biggest fears? How have you found ways to fight it? When have you successfully conquered fear?

Hot yoga on a frozen day like this is nothing short of amazing. When Becky and I went for our run this morning it felt like Spring had sprung and we both had too many layers on. By the time I drove home it felt like an arctic January night. Going into a room that’s kept over 96 degrees was like wearing a thick and soft hoodie and then wrapping myself in a comfortable quilt.

During practice tonight our instructor asked us to try something new. Usually I’m pretty tentative and wait to watch everyone else before trying something new. It gives me the opportunity to see how they are doing it and then I can better attempt it. Tonight I decided to just trust myself. Before I knew it I was in a new pose and it felt amazing!

The reason I am thankful for this today is that it reminds me to trust myself and not overthink. I can often over analyze and attempt to over control a situation. In many cases I need to remember to let go, take a deep breath, and trust. This was an excellent and tangible example of that for me to quickly recall when needed.

One of my biggest fears is a specific kind of claustrophobia. You should watch my heart rate when the conversation goes to being in a very tight cave and there’s an extremely limited range of motion. Not elevators, groups, or anything like that, but just incredibly confined spaces that don’t allow room for any movement (maybe it’s related to the control thing above?).

I still remember back in college hearing a couple of buddies talk about a caving experience when one of them was in a tight spot. The cave was so tight that he has to slide on his belly, exhale to minimize his height, and then slide through to a spot when he could breath again. Even as I type that my heart is pounding and I’m feeling short of breath. As they told the story I suffered what I believe was my first ever panic attack as I felt flush and had a cold sweat.

Once in a while, like the moron I can occasionally be, I mentally put myself in that spot. I’m crawling in a cave on my stomach with the roof of the cave pressing down on me. I have to go forward and I can feel the space getting tighter and tighter as I slowly slide forward. I know that there’s an opening 15 yards ahead, but to get there I need to expel every square inch of air I have in me. With no air in my lungs I have to hope that I have the strength and space needed to get to the opening before I either pass out or freak out. In that moment I can visualize the entire thing and I swear I can feel the weight of the world literally bearing down on me. It freaks me right the heck out.

Why do I do this? Over the past year it’s been a practice for me to learn to control my fear. I work on keeping calm in spite of the deep fear it pulls out in me. It’s an opportunity to push back on a primal fear and harden myself.

At the end of yoga tonight I didn’t go to one of my normal happy places during final rest. I instead shimmied on my belly into the tightest part of the cave. With the towel over my face it felt almost dark enough with my eyes closed. I imagined the scenario I described above and allowed myself to feel the panic and the fear. Then I practiced taking shallow breaths that barely caused my chest to move. I focused my energy on knowing that I would be okay even though I was in this tight spot. A few times I caught myself starting to freak out but I was able to reel my focus back in.

When we went snorkeling in Australia and I panicked I realized that I have a legitimate gap in who I am and who I want to be when it comes to facing fear. In that situation I had to remove myself from it for a short period of time before I dove back in. The best version of me wouldn’t have needed to do that. The best me would’ve kept calm, focused on his breathing, and taken control of his thoughts.

By finding ways to trick my brains into facing my fears I’m hopeful that I can become better at controlling that emotion when I am exposed to it directly. As I continue to get stronger at taking it on in an imaginary setting I’ll then actively look for ways to reality test it further until I know for a fact that I can stay calm.

Whew, that was a way longer explanation than I was expecting to share today! If I were to sum it up in a Tweet it would be something like, “Today I’m thankful for finding ways to strengthen my soul in response to fear. Eventually I will be able to control my fear response. Facing my fears is an obstacle that will help me become the best version of me I can be.”


Day 1,188 – Thankful for Running On Ice, Starting the Day Outside, and Remembering the Beauty of Good Bye

When you say goodbye to a loved one how do you turn it into a positive? How do you minimize the tears and maximize the joy in those moments? Take a minute to let that one roll through your mind and we’ll come back to that in a bit.

Yesterday morning when Becky and I went for our run we were on a sheet of almost perfectly smooth ice. At times I even put one arm behind me like a speed skater and took off gliding while swinging the other arm. It was so icy I was moving without lifting my feet off the ground. I’ve never run on anything quite like that before, it was more slippery than any broomball rink I’ve ever been on.

What an excellent way to practice choosing my attitude! It was so easy to get frustrated and want to quit. On the flip side it was so easy to relax and enjoy just how crazily different it was. I caught myself vacillating between childlike play and total adult frustration. The ice, the road, and the weather never changed; only my attitude did. The only thing that caused me to feel either was my own mindset. Funny how I had to work harder at smiling and frustration came so easily if I stopped focusing on it.

Running on ice isn’t something I’d recommend, but it was a great way to explore the gap between who I am and who I should be a little more. In those moments I remind myself to learn from the experience and through hard work and focus I will improve myself.

When we got up this morning we headed out for a nice walk. Today I’m reminded just how much more happy i am when i start the day outside. Getting fresh air and losing myself in nature is such a beautiful way to get my head in the right place for the day.

After lunch it was time to say goodbye to family and head home. My mom mentioned that saying goodbye is her least favorite part of the weekend. I disagree in a weird way. For clarity, I enjoy time with my family – I’m not saying it’s my favorite because I get to “escape” or anything like that. There’s a little trick I use to remind me that goodbyes are a very beautiful thing.

Why does saying goodbye seem sad? We’ve just had a great time together. We love each other and have to part ways for the time being. The more the goodbye hurts the more thankful we should be for it. That means we really enjoyed the time together, we love each other, and want to have more of that time.

Instead of continuing to feel sad about it I flip to the positive. I ask myself the following: “Why did I enjoy our time together so much?” “What memories did we create in our time together?” “Why do we not want our time together to end?” As I ask myself these questions they blend beautifully into helping to remind me to be thankful for the time we’ve had together instead of wasting energy and joy wishing for more.

When I feel sadness about a goodbye I’m immediately reminded to take stock of how thankful I should be for the opportunity to create those memories. When I remember those moments in my head I can’t help but smile even though I know we’re parting ways for a while. Goodbyes are a beautiful reminder to choose gratitude and to find joy in that thankfulness. Remember, true joy is wanting what you have and not in having what you want. When we say goodbye and it hurts it is a sign that we truly wanted what we just had.


Day 1,187 – Thankful for Feasting, Exercising, and Holiday Eating Only Happening a Few Times Each Year

What foods do you enjoy only during the holiday season? Which ones cause you to over indulge?

Oh yeah – bring on the food! Christmas dinner at Mom’s is one of my annual favs. Each year we have a delicious meal that leaves us all feeling incredibly full. As if that weren’t enough we spend significant portions of the day snacking on assorted cookies, snacks, & goodies while we talk and play games. The entire weekend is focused on spending time together as a family and there are some significant feasting themes as well.

To help balance out the eating we’ve also focused on finding ways to exercise to burn off some of those excess calories. This morning that took the form of a run (on the ice which was fun in of itself and an experience I’m also very thankful for). This afternoon included a nice walk. Having at least some balance of output to the input has felt great. To truly balance the two I probably need to knock out a marathon before bed 😉.

Days like today remind me how thankful I am to have these awesome holidays meals for not a handful of times throughout the year. The small number helps to keep my weight down and my appreciation of these times together high.


Day 1,186 – Thankful for Concerts and a Drive that Never Gets Old

On my way to work this morning I fired up some music. There were a couple of songs stuck in my head and after I played them the next suggestion was rather intriguing. Without a second thought I was listening to a Third Eye Blind Concert From 2017.

As I listened to the band play and the crowd sing I smiled from ear to ear. It reminded me so much of the Strumbellas concert we went to earlier in the year. There’s an awesome energy when you get hundreds (or thousands) of people together for a concert. So many individuals coming together to enjoy something they love. All synched up with each other and in a great mood. Between the talk of concerts this past weekend and listening to the album today I’m pretty sure there may be a few on the calendar later in the year.

I’m typing this as we head up to my mom’s to celebrate Christmas. Becky volunteered to drive so I’ve had it fairly easy. There’s a stretch of this drive that will never get old to me. From north of Pepin until a few miles north of Maiden Rock is one of the most beautiful and scenic drives in all of Wisconsin.

There are epic views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding bluffs. The view is always a little different. Today it was a beautiful pastel color on the ice. Many bald eagles soared over the ice as well. I’m so thankful for a drive that always takes my breath away.


Day 1,185 – Thankful for Friends Who Feed My Habit (Books & Podcasts)

Which books have you read that we’re recommended by a friend? Wasn’t it fun going back to talk with them afterwards?

On my drive today I paused the book I’m currently reading. I finally gave in and have been reading The Fellowship of the Ring. Yes, I’m one of the few remaining people above the age of thirty who haven’t read it yet. 😉

This morning I was in the mood for something more bite sized so I opted for podcasts. It seems like a few of my favs have been piling up recently and it seemed like a good time to catch up. Before I hit play I remembered that there was one in particular that I hadn’t listened to yet.

Three weeks ago I got a text from my buddy Jeremy asking, “Have you read Adam Grant?” It was followed by a link to Adam’s podcast and another podcast he was interviewed on. I downloaded them immediately but then life grabbed hold and they were set on the back burner. Today I fired the interview of Adam up and it was AWESOME!!! So many cool thoughts and ideas while listening. It even led to a cool and interesting conversation with Becky. All in all it was about the best way I could spend a couple hours of windshield driving. It motivated me to re-read Grant’s last two books.

That’s when I started thinking about how grateful I am to have friends who help to feed my reading and listening habits. Over the past few years I can always count on them for excellent recommendations. They each fill a certain niche which is even cooler.

Jeremy is always good for thought provoking podcasts and books that are right up my alley. From Adam Grant to Malcolm Gladwell we’ve shared several interesting conversations.

Todd’s always got a podcast or two to bounce my way. Just when I think I know him fairly well he throws me a curveball and suggests something I never would’ve expected.

Brian pushed me for the longest time to read this great book that he knew I would love. It took a couple of years and much prodding, but I finally read Ready Player One and loved it. He’d also suggested The Hinger Games long before there was a movie attached. If memory serves he may have also been the one to turn me on to World War Z. Then again he is the sick individual who conned me into reading Out of the Dark by David Weber so I do need to vet out his recommendations just a little better. 😉

Steve has always helped filled my brain with excellent climbing and outdoors stories. Speaking of which, I still have a couple to return to him! All of the books I’ve read about climbing Everest have come directly from his recommendations. Walden has been a struggle, but I’ve found renewed drive to reread it.

Knowing I have these friends (& several others) I know I’ll most likely never run out of fuel for my habit. How awesome is that?

To everyone who’s suggested a book to me over the past year – thank you!!! I haven’t gotten through all of them, but I will eventually. Thank you for caring about me enough to think of me when you read it!


Day 1,184 – Thankful for Appreciating National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation a Little More Each Year

If you could only watch one Christmas movie each year which one would it be?

Our Australian adventure really condensed our Christmas season so we didn’t really watch many of our normal Christmas movies. To wrap up this season we decided to watch one of our favorites, Christmas Vacation.

After watching this almost every year for well over a couple of decades it seems like I have all the lines memorized. As we watch it Becky and I are dropping lines back and forth. The funny thing is that after all these viewings I’m learning to appreciate it more every single year.

Sometimes it’s in noticing some of the finer details that I’ve missed somehow. This year those have included the clip of It’s a Wonderful Life about angles getting their wings when a bell rings only to be directly followed by the doorbell ringing repeatedly as the parents show up. Another one that made me chuckle was the mountain scene in the intro as they go to get their Christmas tree… typical Illinois countryside… 😉

The other way I appreciate it a little more each year is in seeing myself and others in the one liners and jones. Funny how as there’s more life experience to draw from there are so connections and relations to real life. As Becky pointed out, it’s also becoming easier to understand and relate to the older parents in addition to just Sparky and Ellen.

I can’t wait to see what I learn and appreciate from it next year. Merry Christmas everyone!!!


Day 1,183 – Thankful for the Sounds of Winter

When you go outside in the winter what sounds really stick out to you? Today the sound that really struck me was a woodpecker hammering away on a tree.

Winter is a magical time in the woods. With no leaves on the trees and the snow to soak up ambient noise it seems so much easier to hear different noises. Certain sounds seem so much more clear in the winter than at any other time in the wilderness.

This morning Becky and I went for a run and the only sounds were the crunching of our footfalls in the snow. This afternoon we went for a nice walk on the trails behind the cow pasture. As we walked I paused a couple of times to hear a wonderful sound. There were a couple of woodpeckers doing a number on a couple of trees. The sounds of their repeated pecking rang so clearly. I couldn’t help but smile and enjoy the acoustic show they were putting on for us.

So much to be thankful for today, but those sounds in winter really stuck out today. Maybe it has to do with reminding myself to look at the bright side and find positives to things that normally bother or frustrate me. Winter is not my favorite season and I’m still working on finding ways I can enjoy it more.


Day 1,182 – Thankful for Enjoying Some Fresh Air In Wintertime

Which season is your favorite? What tricks do you utilize to help you appreciate that season?

The morning started off with an early morning run. There were still a couple of hours prior to the arrival of the sun. The moon was hanging high in the sky and was lit enough to see the more than just the bright sliver. It was quiet and peaceful. The fresh air in my lungs felt wonderful.

Later in the day I went back outside. The temperature was unseasonably warm yet the cool air going in my lungs felt great. The little bit of sun peaking through the clouds seemed to warm the day even more. Taking some time to stand outside and breathe was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Time outdoors is always amongst my favorite. Experiencing fresh air and natural light always feels better than staying inside. While in Australia it was easy to enjoy the time outside even more as it was summer and hot. I often struggle in the winter as I’m not a fan of the cold and snow. Today reminded me of why I need to remember to go outside more during the colder months of the year. Those two doses of outside time were fantastic!


Day 1,181 – Thankful for Firing Up an Old Album (3EB) and Many Other Things

What was an album that was one of your favorites 20+ years ago?  Yes, I know, I just totally opened myself up to ‘old’ jokes.  You know what I mean though, which album do you have buried in a box in your basement that would be great to listen to from start to finish again?


After hanging out with the Lyons family I had an album that I couldn’t help but bust out an album I bought over two decades ago.  Way back in the day I remember listening to that album from tracks 1 through 14 on repeat.  Today I followed suit and did the same thing.  I’m pretty sure I heard each song at least four times today while working in my shop, driving, and around the house.  The start of each song brought on the thought “why yeah…  I forgot about this one!”  Before I knew it I was occasionally singing along.  How awesome to have an album act as a time machine to remind me of so many moments from when I was 20 years younger.

Throughout the day there were various other things for which I am supremely grateful.  I know, usually I share everything, but in these cases it’s more appropriate to keep them to myself.  The short answer is that today was again proof that I’m closing the gap and have a wonderful partner in Becky who shares many of the same values I live.  Having the opportunity to be the truest version of me with someone who inspires me and has those common values is an incredible combination.  Days like to today remind me that I have so much to be thankful for in my life every minute of each and every day.